BRUVVER JIM'S BABY
PHILIP VERRILL MIGHELS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER & BROTHERS
Copyright, 1904, by HARPER & BROTHERS.
All rights reserved.
Published May, 1904.
This Volume is
Dedicated, with much affection, to
I. A MIGHTY LITTLE HUNTER
II. JIM MAKES DISCOVERIES
III. THE WAY TO MAKE A DOLL
IV. PLANNING A NEW CELEBRATION
V. VISITORS AT THE CABIN
VI. THE BELL FOR CHURCH
VII. THE SUNDAY HAPPENINGS
VIII. OLD JIM DISTRAUGHT
IX. THE GUILTY MISS DOC
X. PREPARATIONS FOR CHRISTMAS
XI. TROUBLES AND DISCOVERIES
XII. THE MAKING OF A CHRISTMAS-TREE
XIII. THEIR CHRISTMAS-DAY
XIV. "IF ONLY I HAD THE RESOLUTION"
XV. THE GOLD IN BOREALIS
XVI. ARRIVALS IN CAMP
XVII. SKEEZUCKS GETS A NAME
XVIII. WHEN THE PARSON DEPARTED
XIX. OLD JIM'S RESOLUTION
XX. IN THE TOILS OF THE BLIZZARD
XXI. A BED IN THE SNOW
XXII. CLEANING THEIR SLATE
XXIII. A DAY OF JOY
BRUVVER JIM'S BABY
A MIGHTY LITTLE HUNTER
It all commenced that bright November day of the Indian rabbit drive
and hunt. The motley army of the Piute tribe was sweeping tremendously
across a sage-brush valley of Nevada, their force two hundred braves in
number. They marched abreast, some thirty yards apart, and formed a
line that was more than two miles long.
The spectacle presented was wonderful to see. Red, yellow, and indigo
in their blankets and trappings, the hunters dotted out a line of color
as far as sight could reach. Through the knee-high brush they swept
ahead like a firing-line of battle, their guns incessantly booming,
their advance never halted, their purpose as grim and inexorable as
fate itself. Indeed, Death, the Reaper, multiplied two-hundred-fold
and mowing a swath of incredible proportions, could scarcely have
pillaged the land of its conies more thoroughly.
Before the on-press of the two-mile wall of red men with their smoking
weapons, the panic-stricken rabbits scurried helplessly. Soon or late
they must double back to their burrows, soon or late they must
Behind the army, fully twenty Indian ponies, ridden by the
youngster-braves of the cavalcade, were bearing great white burdens of
the slaughtered hares.
The glint of gun-barrels, shining in the sun, flung back the light,
from end to end of the undulating column. Billows of smoke,
out-puffing unexpectedly, anywhere and everywhere along the line,
marked down the tragedies where desperate bunnies, scudding from cover
and racing up or down before the red men, were targets for fiercely
biting hail of lead from two or three or more of the guns at once.
And nearly as frightened as the helpless creatures of the brush was a
tiny little pony-rider, back of the army, mounted on a plodding horse
that was all but hidden by its load of furry game. He was riding
double, this odd little bit of a youngster, with a sturdy Indian boy
who was on in front. That such a timid little dot of manhood should
have been permitted to join the hunt was a wonder. He was apparently
not more than three years old at the most. With funny little trousers
that reached to his heels, with big brown eyes all eloquent of doubt,
and with round, little, copper-colored cheeks, impinged upon by an old
fur cap he wore, pulled down over forehead and ears, he appeared about
as quaint a little man as one could readily discover.
But he seemed distressed. And how he did hang on! The rabbits secured
upon the pony were crowding him backward most alarmingly. At first he
had clung to the back of his fellow-rider's shirt with all the might
and main of his tiny hands. As the burden of the rabbits had
increased, however, the Indian hunters had piled them in between the
timid little scamp and his sturdier companion, till now he was almost
out on the horse's tail. His alarm had, therefore, become
overwhelming. No fondness for the nice warm fur of the bunnies, no
faith in the larger boy in front, could suffice to drive from his tiny
face the look of woe unutterable, expressed by his eyes and his
trembling little mouth.
The Indians, marching steadily onward, had come to the mountain that
bounded the plain. Already a score were across the road that led to
the mining-camp of Borealis, and were swarming up the sandy slope to
complete the mighty swing of the army, deploying anew to sweep far
westward through the farther half of the valley, and so at length
backward whence they came.
The tiny chap of a game-bearer, gripping the long, velvet ears of one
of the jack-rabbits tied to his horse, felt a horrid new sensation of
sliding backward when the pony began to follow the hunters up the hill.
Not only did the animal's rump seem to sink beneath him as they took
the slope, but perspiration had made it amazingly smooth and insecure.
The big fat rabbits rolled against the desperate little man in a
ponderous heap. The feet of one fell plump in his face, and seemed to
kick, with the motion of the horse. Then a buckskin thong abruptly
snapped in twain, somewhere deep in the bundle, and instantly the ears
to which the tiny man was clinging, together with the head and body of
that particular rabbit, and those of several others as well, parted
company with the pony. Gracefully they slid across the tail of the
much-relieved creature, and, pushing the tiny rider from his seat, they
landed with him plump upon the earth, and were left behind.
Unhurt, but nearly buried by the four or five rabbits thus pulled from
the load by his sudden descent from his perch, the dazed little fellow
sat up in the sand and solemnly noted the rapid departure of the Indian
army—pony, companion, and all.
Not only had his fall been unobserved by the marching braves, but the
boy with whom he had just been riding was blissfully unaware of the
fact that something behind had dismounted. The whole vast line of
Piute braves pressed swiftly on. The shots boomed and clattered, as
the hill-sides were startled by the echoes. Red, yellow, indigo—the
blankets and trappings were momentarily growing less and less distinct.
More distant became the firing. Onward, ever onward, swung the great,
long column of the hunters. Dully, then even faintly, came the noise
of the guns.
At last the firing could be heard no more. The two hundred warriors,
the ponies, the boys that rode—all were gone. Even the rabbits, that
an hour before had scampered here and there in the brush with their
furry feet, would never again go pattering through the sand. The sun
shone warmly down. The great world of valley and mountains, gray,
severe, unpeopled, was profoundly still, in that wonderful way of the
dying year, when even the crickets and locusts have ceased to sing.
Clinging in silence to the long, soft ears of his motionless bunny, the
timid little game-bearer sat there alone, big-eyed and dumb with wonder
and childish alarm. He could see not far, unless it might be up the
hill, for the sage-brush grew above his head and circumscribed his
view. Miles and miles away, however, the mountains, in majesty of rock
and snow, were sharply lifting upward into blue so deep and cloudless
that its intimate proximity to the infinite was impressively manifest.
The day was sweet of the ripeness of the year, and virginal as all that
mighty land itself.
With two of the rabbits across his lap, the tiny hunter made no effort
to rise. It was certainly secure to be sitting here in the sand, for
at least a fellow could fall no farther, and the good, big mountain was
not so impetuous or nervous as the pony.
An hour went by and the mere little mite of a man had scarcely moved.
The sun was slanting towards the southwest corner of the universe. A
flock of geese, in a great changing V, flew slowly over the valley,
their wings beating gold from the sunlight, their honk! honk! honk! the
note of the end of the year.
How soon they were gone! Then indeed all the earth was abandoned to
the quiet little youngster and his still more quiet company of rabbits.
There was no particular reason for moving. Where should he go, and how
could he go, did he wish to leave? To carry his bunny would be quite
beyond his strength; to leave him here would be equally beyond his
But the sun was edging swiftly towards its hiding place; the frost of
the mountain air was quietly sharpening its teeth. Already the long,
gray shadow of the sage-brush fell like a cooling film across the
little fellow's form and face.
Homeless, unmissed, and deserted, the tiny man could do nothing but sit
there and wait. The day would go, the twilight come, and the night
descend—the night with its darkness, its whispered mysteries, its
wailing coyotes, cruising in solitary melancholy hither and thither in
their search for food.
But the sun was still wheeling, like a brazen disk, on the rim of the
hills, when something occurred. A tall, lanky man, something over
forty years of age, as thin as a hammer and dusty as the road itself—a
man with a beard and a long, gray, drooping mustache, and with drooping
clothes—a man selected by shiftlessness to be its sign and mark—a
miner in boots and overalls and great slouch hat—came tramping down a
trail of the mountain. He was holding in his dusty arms a yellowish
pup, that squirmed and wriggled and tried to lap his face, and
comported himself in pup-wise antics, till his master was presently
obliged to put him down in self-defence.
The pup knew his duty, as to racing about, bumping into bushes,
snorting in places where game might abide, and thumping everything he
touched with his super-active tail. Almost immediately he scented
mysteries in plenty, for Indian ponies and hunters had left a fine,
large assortment of trails in the sand, that no wise pup could consent
With yelps of gladness and appreciation, the pup went awkwardly
knocking through the brush, and presently halted—bracing abruptly with
his clumsy paws—amazed and confounded by the sight of a frightened
little red-man, sitting with his rabbits in the sand.
For a second the dog was voiceless. Then he let out a bark that made
things jump, especially the tiny man and himself.
"Here, come here, Tintoretto," drawlingly called the man from the
trail. "Come back here, you young tenderfoot."
But Tintoretto answered that he wouldn't. He also said, in the
language of puppy barks, that important discoveries demanded not only
his but his master's attention where he was, forthwith.
There was nothing else for it; the mountain was obliged to come to
Mohammed—or the man to the pup. Then the miner, no less than
Tintoretto, was astonished.
To ward off the barking, the red little hunter had raised his arm
across his face, but his big brown eyes were visible above his hand,
and their childish seriousness appealed to the man at once.
"Well, cut my diamonds if it ain't a kid!" drawled he. "Injun
pappoose, or I'm an elk! Young feller, where'd you come from, hey?
What in mischief do you think you're doin' here?"
The tiny "Injun" made no reply. Tintoretto tried some puppy addresses.
He gave a little growl of friendship, and, clambering over rabbits and
all, began to lick the helpless child on the face and hands with
unmistakable cordiality. One of the rabbits fell and rolled over.
Tintoretto bounded backward in consternation, only to gather his
courage almost instantly upon him and bark with lusty defiance.
"Shut up, you anermated disturbance," commanded his owner, mildly.
"You're enough to scare the hair off an elephant," and, squatting in
front of the wondering child, he looked at him pleasantly. "What you
up to, young feller, sittin' here by yourself?" he inquired. "Scared?
Needn't be scared of brother Jim, I reckon. Say, you 'ain't been left
here for good? I saw the gang of Injuns, clean across the country,
from up on the ridge. It must be the last of their drives. That it?
And you got left?"
The little chap looked up at him seriously and winked his big, brown
eyes, but he shut his tiny mouth perhaps a trifle tighter than before.
As a matter of fact, the miner expected some such stoical silence.
The pup, for his part, was making advances of friendship towards the
"Wal, say, Piute," added Jim, after scanning the country with his
kindly eyes, "I reckon you'd better go home with me to Borealis. The
Injuns wouldn't look to find you now, and you can't go on settin' here
a waitin' for pudding and gravy to pass up the road for dinner. What
do you say? Want to come with me and ride on the outside seat to
Considerably to the man's amazement the youngster nodded a timid
"By honky, Tintoretto, I'll bet he savvies English as well as you,"
said Jim. "All right, Borealis or bust! I reckon a man who travels
twenty miles to git him a pup, and comes back home with you and this
here young Piute, is as good as elected to office. Injun, what's your
The tiny man apparently had nothing to impart by way of an answer.
"'Ain't got any, maybe," commented Jim. "What's the matter with me
namin' you, hey? Suppose I call you Aborigineezer? All in favor, ay!
Contrary minded? Carried unanimously and the motion prevails."
The child, for some unaccountable reason, seemed appalled.
"We can't freight all them rabbits," decided the miner. "And,
Tintoretto, you are way-billed to do some walkin'."
He took up the child, who continued to cling to the ears of his one
particular hare. As all the jacks were tied together, all were lifted
and were dangling down against the miner's legs.
"Huh! you can tell what some people want by the way they hang right
on," said Jim. "Wal, no harm in lettin' you stick to one. We can eat
him for dinner to-morrow, I guess, and save his hide in the bargain."
He therefore cut the buckskin thong and all but one of the rabbits fell
to the earth, on top of Tintoretto, who thought he was climbed upon by
half a dozen bears. He let out a yowp that scared himself half into
fits, and, scooting from under the danger, turned about and flung a
fearful challenge of barking at the prostrate enemy.
"Come on, unlettered ignoramus," said his master, and, holding the
wondering little foundling on his arm, with his rabbit still clutched
by the ears, he proceeded down to the roadway, scored like a narrow
gray streak through the brush, and plodded onward towards the
mining-camp of Borealis.
JIM MAKES DISCOVERIES
It was dark and there were five miles of boot-tracks and seven miles of
pup-tracks left in the sand of the road when Jim, Tintoretto, and
Aborigineezer came at length to a point above the small constellation
of lights that marked the spot where threescore of men had builded a
From the top of the ridge they had climbed, the man and the pup alone
looked down on the camp, for the weary little "Injun" had fallen
asleep. Had he been awake, the all to be seen would have been of
little promise. Great, sombre mountains towered darkly up on every
side, roofed over by an arch of sky amazingly brilliant with stars.
Below, the darkness was the denser for the depth of the hollow in the
hills. Vaguely the one straight street of Borealis was indicated by
the lamps, like a thin Milky Way in a meagre universe of lesser lights,
dimly glowing and sparsely scattered on the rock-strewn acclivities.
From down there came the sounds of life. Half-muffled music, raucous
singing, blows of a hammer, yelpings of a dog, hissing of steam
escaping somewhere from a boiler—all these and many other disturbances
of the night furnished a microcosmic medley of the toiling, playing,
hoping, and fearing, where men abide, creating that frailest and yet
most enduring of frailties—a human community.
The sight of his town could furnish no novelties to the miner on top of
the final rise, and feeling somewhat tired by the weight of his small
companion, as well as hungry from his walking, old Jim skirted the
rocky slope as best he might, and so came at length to an isolated
This dark little house was built in the brush, quite up on the hill
above the town, and not far away from a shallow ravine where a trickle
of water from a spring had encouraged a straggling growth of willows,
alders, and scrub. Some four or five acres of hill-side about the
place constituted the "Babylonian Glory" mining-claim, which Jim
accounted his, and which had seen about as much of his labor as might
be developed by digging for gold in a barrel.
"Nobody home," said the owner to his dog, as he came to the door and
shouldered it open. "Wal, all the more for us."
That any one might have been at home in the place was accounted for
simply by the fact that certain worthies, playing in and out of luck,
as the wheel of fate might turn them down or up, sometimes lived with
Jim for a month at a time, and sometimes left him in solitude for
weeks. One such transient partner he had left at the cabin when he
started off to get the pup now tagging at his heels. This
house-partner, having departed, might and might not return, either now,
a week from now, or ever.
The miner felt his way across the one big room which the shack
afforded, and came to a series of bunks, built like a pantry against
the wall. Into one of these he rolled his tiny foundling, after which
he lighted a candle that stood in a bottle, and revealed the smoky
interior of the place.
Three more of the bunks were built in the eastern end of the room; a
fireplace occupied a portion of the wall against the hill; a table
stood in the centre of the floor, and a number of mining tools littered
a corner. Cooking utensils were strewn on the table liberally, while
others hung against the wall or depended from hooks in the chimney.
This was practically all there was, but the place was home.
Tintoretto, beholding his master preparing a fire to heat up some food,
delved at once into everything and every place where a wet little nose
could be thrust. Having snorted in the dusty corners, he trotted to
the bench whereon the water-bucket stood, and, standing on his hind
legs, gratefully lapped up a drink from the pail. His thirst appeased,
he clambered ambitiously into one of the bunks, discovered a nice pair
of boots, and, dragging one out on the floor, proceeded to carry it
under the table and to chew it as heartily as possible.
There was presently savory smoke, sufficient for an army, in the place,
while sounds of things sizzling made music for the hungry. The miner
laid bare a section of the table, which he set with cups, plates, and
iron tools for eating. He then dished up two huge supplies of steaming
beans and bacon, two monster cups of coffee, black as tar, and cut a
giant pile of dun-colored bread.
"Aborigineezer," he said, "the banquet waits."
Thereupon he fetched his weary little guest to the board and attempted
to seat him on a stool. The tiny man tried to open his eyes, but the
effort failed. Had he been awake and sitting erect on the seat
provided for his use, his head could hardly have come to the level of
"Can't you come to, long enough to eat?" inquired the much-concerned
miner. "No? Wal, that's too bad. Couldn't drink the coffee or go the
beans? H'm, I guess I can't take you down to show you off to the boys
to-night. You'll have to git to your downy couch." He returned the
slumbering child to the bunk, where he tucked him into the blankets.
Tintoretto did ample justice to the meal, however, and filled in so
thoroughly that his round little pod of a stomach was a burden to
carry. He therefore dropped himself down on the floor, breathed out a
sigh of contentment, and shut his two bright eyes.
Old Jim concluded a feast that made those steaming heaps of food
diminish to the point of vanishing. He sat there afterwards, leaning
his grizzled head upon his hand and looking towards the bunk where the
tiny little chap he had found was peacefully sleeping. The fire burned
low in the chimney; the candle sank down in its socket. On the floor
the pup was twitching in his dreams. Outside the peace, too vast to be
ruffled by puny man, had settled on all that tremendous expanse of
When his candle was about to expire the miner deliberately prepared
himself for bed, and crawled in the bunk with his tiny guest, where he
slept like the pup and the child, so soundly that nothing could suffice
to disturb his dreams.
The arrows of the sun itself, flung from the ridge of the opposite
hills, alone dispelled the slumbers in the cabin.
The hardy old Jim arose from his blankets, and presently flung the door
"Come in," he said to the day. "Come in."
The pup awoke, and, running out, barked in a crazy way of gladness.
His master washed his face and hands at a basin just outside the door,
and soon had breakfast piping hot. By then it was time to look to
Aborigineezer. To Jim's delight the little man was wide awake and
looking at him gravely from the blankets, his funny old cap still in
place on his head, pulled down over his ears.
"Time to wash for breakfast," announced the miner. "But I don't
guarantee the washin' will be the kind that mother used to give," and
taking his tiny foundling in his arms he carried him out to the basin
by the door.
For a moment he looked in doubt at the only apology for a wash-rag the
"Wal, it's an awful dirty cloth that you can't put a little more
blackness on, I reckon," he drawled, and dipping it into the water he
rubbed it vigorously across the gasping little fellow's face.
Then, indeed, the man was astounded. A wide streak, white as milk, had
appeared on the baby countenance.
"Pierce my pearls!" exclaimed the miner, "if ever I saw a rag in my
shack before that would leave a white mark on anything! Say!" And he
took off the youngster's old fur cap.
He was speechless for a moment, for the little fellow's hair was as
brown as a nut.
"I snum!" said Jim, wiping the wondering little face in a sort of fever
of discovery and taking off color at every daub with the rag. "White
kid—painted! Ain't an Injun by a thousand miles!"
And this was the truth. A timid little paleface, fair as dawn itself,
but smeared with color that was coming away in blotches, emerged from
the process of washing and gazed with his big, brown eyes at his
foster-parent, in a way that made the miner weak with surprise. Such a
pretty and wistful little armful of a boy he was certain had never been
seen before in all the world.
"I snum! I certainly snum!" he said again. "I'll have to take you
right straight down to the boys!"
At this the little fellow looked at him appealingly. His lip began to
"No-body—wants—me," he said, in baby accents,
THE WAY TO MAKE A DOLL
For a moment after the quaint little pilgrim had spoken, the miner
stared at him almost in awe. Had a gold nugget dropped at his feet
from the sky his amazement could scarcely have been greater.
"What's that?" he said. "Nobody wants you, little boy? What's the
matter with me and the pup?" And taking the tiny chap up in his arms
he sat in the doorway and held him snugly to his rough, old heart and
rocked back and forth, in a tumult of feeling that nothing could
"Little pard," he said, "you bet me and Tintoretto want you, right
For his part, Tintoretto thumped the house and the step and the miner's
shins with the clumsy tail that was wagging his whole puppy body. Then
he clambered up and pushed his awkward paws in the little youngster's
face, and licked his ear and otherwise overwhelmed him with attentions,
till his master pushed him off. At this he growled and began to chew
the big, rough hand that suppressed his demonstrations.
In lieu of the ears of the rabbit to which he had clung throughout the
night, the silent little man on the miner's knee was holding now to
Jim's enormous fist, which he found conveniently supplied. He said
nothing more, and for quite a time old Jim was content to watch his
"A white little kid—that nobody wants—but me and Tintoretto," he
mused, aloud, but to himself. "Where did you come from, pardner,
The tiny foundling made no reply. He simply looked at the thin, kindly
face of his big protector in his quaint, baby way, but kept his solemn
little mouth peculiarly closed.
The miner tried a score of questions, tenderly, coaxingly, but never a
thing save that confident clinging to his hand and a nod or a shake of
the head resulted.
By some means, quite his own, the man appeared to realize that the
grave little fellow had never prattled as children usually do, and that
what he had said had been spoken with difficulties, only overcome by
stress of emotion. The mystery of whence a bit of a boy so tiny could
have come, and who he was, especially after his baby statement that
nobody wanted him, anywhere, remained unbroken, after all the miner's
queries. Jim was at length obliged to give it up.
"Do you like that little dog?" he said, as Tintoretto renewed his
overtures of companionship. "Do you like old brother Jim and the pup?"
Solemnly the little pilgrim nodded.
"Want some breakfast, all pretty, in our own little house?"
Once more the quaint and grave little nod was forthcoming.
"All right. We'll have it bustin' hot in the shake of a crockery
animal's tail," announced the miner.
He carried the mite of a man inside and placed him again in the bunk,
where the little fellow found his rabbit and drew it into his arms.
The banquet proved to be a repetition of the supper of the night
before, except that two great flapjacks were added to the menu, greased
with fat from the bacon and sprinkled a half-inch thick with soft brown
When the cook fetched his hungry little guest to the board the rabbit
came as well.
"You ought to have a dolly," decided Jim, with a knowing nod. "If only
I had the ingenuity I could make one, sure," and throughout the meal he
was planning the manufacture of something that should beat the whole
wide world for cleverness.
The result of his cogitation was that he took no time for washing the
dishes after breakfast, but went to work at once to make a doll. The
initial step was to take the hide from the rabbit. Sadly but
unresistingly the little pilgrim resigned his pet, and never expected
again to possess the comfort of its fur against his face.
With the skin presently rolled up in a nice light form, however, the
miner was back in the cabin, looking for something of which to fashion
a body and head for the lady-to-be. There seemed to be nothing handy,
till he thought of a peeled potato for the lady's head and a big metal
powder-flask to supply the body.
Unfortunately, as potatoes were costly, the only tuber they had in the
house was a weazened old thing that parted with its wrinkled skin
reluctantly and was not very white when partially peeled. However, Jim
pared off enough of its surface on which to make a countenance, and
left the darker hide above to form the dolly's hair. He bored two
eyes, a nose, and a mouth in the toughened substance, and blackened
them vividly with soot from the chimney. After this he bored a larger
hole, beneath the chin, and pushed the head thus created upon the metal
spout of the flask, where it certainly stuck with firmness.
With a bit of cord the skin of the rabbit was now secured about the
neck and body of the lady's form, and her beauty was complete. That
certain particles of powder rattled lightly about in her graceful
interior only served to render her manners more animated and her person
more like good, lively company, for Jim so decided himself.
"There you are. That's the prettiest dolly you ever saw anywhere,"
said he, as he handed it over to the willing little chap. "And she all
belongs to you."
The mite of a boy took her hungrily to his arms, and Jim was peculiarly
"Do you want to give her a name?" he said.
Slowly the quaint little pilgrim shook his head.
"Have you got a name?" the miner inquired, as he had a dozen times
This time a timid nod was forthcoming.
"Oh," said Jim, in suppressed delight. "What is your nice little name?"
For a moment coyness overtook the tiny man. Then he faintly replied,
"Nuisance?" repeated the miner, and again he saw the timid little nod.
"But that ain't a name," said Jim. "Is 'Nuisance' all the name the
His bit of a guest seemed to think very hard, but at last he nodded as
"Well, string my pearls," said the miner to himself, "if somebody
'ain't been mean and low!" He added, cheerfully, "Wal, it's easier to
live down a poor name than it is to live up to a fine one, any day, but
we'll name you somethin' else, I reckon, right away. And ain't that
The two were in the midst of appreciating the charms of her ladyship
when the cabin door was abruptly opened and in came a coatless, fat,
little, red-headed man, puffing like a bellows and pulling down his
shirtsleeves with a great expenditure of energy, only to have them
immediately crawl back to his elbows.
"Hullo, Keno," drawled the lanky Jim. "I thought you was mad and gone
away and died."
"Me? Not me!" puffed the visitor.
"What's that?" and he nodded himself nearly off his balance towards the
tiny guest he saw upon a stool.
With a somewhat belated bark, Tintoretto suddenly came out from his
boot-chewing contest underneath the table and gave the new-comer an
"Hey!" he cried. "Hey! By jinks! a whole menajry!"
"That's the pup," said Jim. "And, Keno, here's a poor little skeezucks
that I found a-sittin' in the brush, 'way over to Coyote Valley. I
fetched him home last night, and I was just about to take him down to
camp and show him to the boys."
"By jinks!" said Keno. "Alive!"
"Alive and smart as mustard," said the suddenly proud possessor of a
genuine surprise. "You bet he's smart! I've often noticed how there
never yet was any other kind of a baby. That's one consolation left to
every fool man livin'—he was once the smartest baby in the world,"
"Alive!" repeated Keno, as before. "I'm goin' right down and tell the
He bolted out at the door like a shot, and ran down the hill to
Borealis with all his might.
Aware that the news would be spread like a sprinkle of rain, the lanky
Jim put on his hat with a certain jaunty air of importance, and taking
the grave little man on his arm, with the new-made doll and the pup for
company, he followed, where Keno had just disappeared from view, down
A moment later the town was in sight, and groups of flannel-shirted,
dusty-booted, slouchily attired citizens were discernible coming out of
Running up the hill again, puffing with added explosiveness, Keno could
hardly contain his excitement.
"I've told em!" he panted. "They know he's alive and smart as mustard!"
PLANNING A NEW CELEBRATION
The cream, as it were, of the population of the mining-camp were ready
to receive the group from up on the hill. There were nearly twenty men
in the delegation, representing every shade of inelegance. Indeed,
they demonstrated beyond all argument that the ways of looking rough
and unkempt are infinite. There were tall and short who were rough,
bearded and shaved who were rougher, and washed and unwashed who were
roughest. And there were still many denizens of Borealis not then on
Webber, the blacksmith; Lufkins, the teamster; Bone, the "barkeep";
Dunn, the carpenter, and Field, who had first discovered precious ore
at Borealis, and sold out his claims for a gold watch and chain—which
subsequently proved to be brass—all these and many another shining
light of the camp could be counted in the modest assemblage gathered
together to have a look at the "kid" just reported by Keno.
Surprise had been laid on double, in the town, by the news of what had
occurred. In the first place, it was almost incredible that old
"If-only" Jim had actually made his long-threatened pilgrimage to fetch
his promised pup, but to have him back here, not only with the dog in
question, but also with a tiny youngster found at the edge of the
wilderness, was far too much to comprehend.
In a single bound, old Jim had been elevated to a starry firmament of
importance, from wellnigh the lowest position of insignificance in the
camp, attained by his general worthlessness and shiftlessness—of mind
and demeanor—which qualities had passed into a proverb of the place.
Procrastination, like a cuckoo, had made its nest in his pockets, where
the hands of Jim would hatch its progeny. Labor and he abhorred each
other mightily. He had never been known to strike a lick of work till
larder and stomach were both of them empty and credit had taken to the
hills. He drawled in his speech till the opening parts of the good
resolutions he frequently uttered were old and forgotten before the
remainders were spoken. He loitered in his walk, said the boys, till
he clean forgot whether he was going up hill or down. "Hurry," he had
always said, by way of a motto, "is an awful waste of time that a
feller could go easy in."
Yet in his shambling, easy-going way, old Jim had drifted into nearly
every heart in the camp. His townsmen knew he had once had a good
education, for outcroppings thereof jutted from his personality even as
his cheek-bones jutted out of his russet old countenance.
Not by any means consenting to permit old Jim to understand how
astonishment was oozing from their every pore, the men brought forth by
Keno's news could not, however, entirely mask their incredulity and
interest. As Jim came deliberately down the trail, with the pale
little foundling on his arm, he was greeted with every possible term of
familiarity, to all of which he drawled a response in kind.
Not a few in the group of citizens pulled off their hats at the nearer
approach of the child, then somewhat sheepishly put them on again.
With stoical resolutions almost immediately upset, they gathered
closely in about the miner and his tiny companion, crowding the
red-headed Keno away from his place of honor next to the child.
The quaint little pilgrim, in his old, fur cap and long, "man's"
trousers, looked at the men in a grave way of doubt and questioning.
"It's a sure enough kid, all the same," said one of the men, as if he
had previously entertained some doubts of the matter. "And ain't he
"Of course a white kid's white," answered the barkeep, scornfully.
"Awful cute little shaver," said another. "By cracky, Jim, you must
have had him up yer sleeve for a week! He don't look more'n about one
"Aw, listen to the man afraid to know anything about anything!" broke
in the blacksmith. "One week! He's four or five months, or I'm a
"You kin tell by his teeth," suggested a leathery individual, stroking
his bony jaw knowingly. "I used to be up on the game myself, but I'm a
little out of practice jest at present."
"Shut up, you scare him, Shaky," admonished the teamster. "He's a
pretty little chipmunk. Jim, wherever did you git him?"
Jim explained every detail of his trip to fetch the pup, stretching out
his story of finding the child and bringing him hither, with pride in
every item of his wonderful performance. His audience listened with
profound attention, broken only by an occasional exclamation.
"Old If-only Jim! Old son-of-a-sea-cook!" repeated one, time after
Meanwhile the silent little man himself was clinging to the miner's
flannel collar with all his baby strength. With shy little glances he
scanned the members of the group, and held the tighter to the one safe
anchorage in which he seemed to feel a confidence. A number of the
rough men furtively attempted a bit of coquetry, to win the favor of a
"You don't mean, Jim, you found him jest a-settin' right in the bresh,
with them dead jack-rabbits lyin' all 'round?" insisted the carpenter.
"That's what," said Jim, and reluctantly he brought the tale to its
final conclusion, adding his theory of the loss of the child by the
Indians on their hunt, and bearing down hard on the one little speech
that the tiny foundling had made just this morning.
The rough men were silenced by this. One by one they took off their
hats again, smoothed their hair, and otherwise made themselves a trifle
prettier to look upon.
"Well, what you goin' to do with him, Jim?" inquired Field, after a
"Oh, I'll grow him up," said Jim. "And some day I'll send him to
"College be hanged!" said Field. "A lot of us best men in Borealis
never went to college—and we're proud of it!"
"So the little feller said nobody wanted him, did he?" asked the
blacksmith. "Well, I wouldn't mind his stayin' 'round the shop. Where
do you s'pose he come from first? And painted like a little Piute
Injun! No wonder he's a scared little tike."
"I ain't the one which scares him," announced a man whose hair, beard,
and eyes all stuck out amazingly. "If I'd 'a' found him first he'd
like me same as he takes to Jim."
"Speakin' of catfish, where the little feller come from original is
what gits to me," said Field, the father of Borealis, reflectively.
"You see, if he's four or five months old, why he's sure undergrowed.
You could drink him up in a cupful of coffee and never even cough. And
bein' undergrowed, why, how could he go on a rabbit-drive along with
the Injuns? I'll bet you there's somethin' mysterious about his
"Huh! Don't you jump onto no little shaver's origin when you 'ain't
got any too much to speak of yourself," the blacksmith commanded.
"He's as big as any little skeezucks of his size!"
"Kin he read an' write?" asked a person of thirty-six, who had "picked
up" the mentioned accomplishments at the age of thirty-five.
"He's alive and smart as mustard!" put in Keno, a champion by right of
prior acquaintance with the timid little man.
"Wal, that's all right, but mustard don't do no sums in 'rithmetic,"
said the bar-keep. "I'm kind of stuck, myself, on this here pup."
Tintoretto had been busily engaged making friends in any direction most
handily presented. He wound sinuously out of the barkeep's reach,
however, with pup-wise discrimination. The attention of the company
was momentarily directed to the small dog, who came in for not a few of
the camp's outspoken compliments.
"He's mebbe all right, but he's homely as Aunt Marier comin' through
the thrashin'-machine," decided the teamster.
The carpenter added: "He's so all-fired awkward he can't keep step with
"Wal, he ain't so rank in his judgment as some I could indicate,"
drawled Jim, prepared to defend both pup and foundling to the last
extent. "At least, he never thought he was smart, abscondin' with a
little free sample of a brain."
"What kind of a mongrel is he, anyway?" inquired Bone.
"Thorough-breed," replied old Jim. "There ain't nothing in him but
The blacksmith was still somewhat longingly regarding the pale little
man who continued to cling to the miner's collar. "What's his name?"
"Tintoretto," answered Jim, still on the subject of his yellowish pup.
"Tintoretto?" said the company, and they variously attacked the
appropriateness of any such a "handle."
"What fer did you ever call him that?" asked Bone.
"Wal, I thought he deserved it," Jim confessed.
"Poor little kid—that's all I've got to say," replied the
"That ain't the kid's name," corrected Jim, with alacrity. "That's
what I call the pup."
"That's worse," said Field. "For he's a dumb critter and can't say
"But what's the little youngster's name?" inquired the smith, once
"Yes, what's the little shaver's name?" echoed the teamster. "If it's
as long as the pup's, why, give us only a mile or two at first, and the
"I was goin' to name him 'Aborigineezer,'" Jim admitted, somewhat
sheepishly. "But he ain't no Piute Injun, so I can't."
"Hard-hearted ole sea-serpent!" ejaculated Field. "No wonder he looks
"Oh, he ain't goin' to cry," said the blacksmith, roughly patting the
frightened little pilgrim's cheek with his great, smutty hand. "What's
he got to cry about, now he's here in Borealis?"
"Well, leave him cry, if he wants to," said the fat little Keno. "I
'ain't heard a baby cry fer six or seven years."
"Go off in a corner and cry in your pocket, and leave it come out as
you want it," suggested Bone. "Jim, you said the little feller kin
"Like a greasy dictionary," said Jim, proudly.
"Well, start him off on somethin' stirrin'."
"You can't start a little youngster off a-talkin' when you want to, any
more than you can start a turtle runnin' to a fire," drawled Jim,
"Then, kin he walk?" insisted the bar-keep.
Jim said, "What do you s'pose he's wearin' pants for, if he couldn't?"
"Put him down and leave us see him, then."
"This ain't no place for a child to be walkin' 'round loose," objected
the gray old miner. "He'll walk some other time."
"Aw, put him down," coaxed the smith. "We'd like to see a little
feller walk. There's never bin no such a sight in Borealis."
"Yes, put him down!" chorused the crowd.
"We'll give him plenty of elbow-room," added Webber. "Git back there,
boys, and give him a show."
As the group could be satisfied with nothing less, and Jim was aware of
their softer feelings, he disengaged the tiny hand that was closed on
his collar and placed his tiny charge upon his feet in the road.
How very small, indeed, he looked in his quaint little trousers and his
old fur cap!
Instantly he threw the one little arm not engaged with the furry doll
about the big, dusty knee of his known protector, and buried his face
in the folds of the rough, blue overalls.
"Aw, poor little tike!" said one of the men. "Take him back up, Jim.
Anyway, you 'ain't yet told us his name, and how kin any little shaver
walk which ain't got a name?"
Jim took the mere little toy of a man again in his arms and held him
close against his heart.
"He 'ain't really got any name," he confessed. "If only I had the
poetic vocabulary I'd give him a high-class out-and-outer."
"What's the matter with a good old home-made name like Si or Hank or
Zeke?" inquired Field, who had once been known as Hank himself.
"They ain't good enough," objected Jim. "If only I can git an
inspiration I'll fit him out like a barn with a bran'-new coat of
"Well, s'pose—" started Keno, but what he intended to say was never
"What's the fight?" interrupted a voice, and the men shuffled aside to
give room to a well-dressed, dapper-looking man. It was Parky, the
gambler. He was tall, and easy of carriage, and cultivated a curving
black mustache. In his scarf he wore a diamond as large as a marble.
At his heels a shivering little black-and-tan dog, with legs no larger
than pencils and with a skull of secondary importance to its eyes,
followed him mincingly into the circle and stood beside his feet with
its tail curved in under its body.
"What have you got? Huh! Nothing but a kid!" said the gambler, in
"And a pup!" said Keno, aggressively.
The gambler ignored the presence of the child, especially as Tintoretto
bounded clumsily forward and bowled his own shaking effigy of a canine
endways in one glad burst of friendship.
The black-and-tan let out a feeble yelp. With his boot the gambler
threw Tintoretto six feet away, where he landed on his feet and turned
about growling and barking in puppywise questioning of this sudden
manoeuvre. With a few more staccato yelps, the shivering black-and-tan
retreated behind the gambler's legs.
"Of all the ugly brutes I ever seen," said Parky, "that's the worst
yellow flea-trap of the whole caboose."
"Wal, I don't know," drawled Jim, as he patted his timid little pilgrim
on the back in a way of comfort. "All dogs look alike to a flea, and I
reckon Tintoretto is as good flea-feed as the next. And, anyhow, I
wouldn't have a dog the fleas had deserted. When the fleas desert a
dog, it's the same as when the rats desert a ship. About that time a
dog has lost his doghood, and then he ain't no better than a man who's
lost his manhood."
"Aw, I'd thump you and the cur together if you didn't have that kid on
deck," sneered the gambler.
"You couldn't thump a drum," answered Jim, easily. "Come back here,
Tintoretto. Don't you touch that skinny little critter with the
shakes. I wouldn't let you eat no such a sugar-coated insect."
The crowd was enjoying the set-to of words immensely. They now looked
to Parky for something hot. But the man of card-skill had little wit
"Don't git too funny, old boy," he cautioned. "I'd just as soon have
you for breakfast as not."
"I wish the fleas could say as much for you or your imitation dog,"
retorted Jim. "There's just three things in Borealis that go around
smellin' thick of perfume, and you and that little two-ounce package of
dog-degeneration are maybe some worse than the other."
Parky made a belligerent motion, but Webber, the blacksmith, caught his
arm in a powerful grip.
"Not to-day," he said. "The boys don't want no gun-play here this
"You're a lot of old women and babies," said Parky, and pushing through
the group he walked away, a certain graceful insolence in his bearing.
"Speakin' of catfish," said Field, "we ought to git up some kind of a
celebration to welcome Jim's little skeezucks to the camp."
"That's the ticket," agreed Bone. "What's the matter with repeatin'
the programme we had for the Fourth of July?"
"No, we want somethin' new," objected the smith. "It ought to be
somethin' we never had before."
"Why not wait till Christmas and git good and ready?" said Jim.
The argument was that Christmas was something more than four weeks away.
"We've got to have a rousin' big Christmas fer little Skeezucks,
anyhow," suggested Bone. "What sort of a celebration is there that we
'ain't never had in Borealis?"
"Church," said Keno, promptly.
This caused a silence for a moment.
"Guess that's so, but—who wants church?" inquired the teamster.
"We might git up somethin' worse," said a voice in the crowd.
"How?" demanded another.
"It wouldn't be so far off the mark for a little kid like him,"
tentatively asserted Field, the father of the camp, "S'pose we give it
"Anything suits me," agreed the carpenter. "Church might be kind of
decent, after all. Jim, what you got to say 'bout the subject?"
Jim was still patting the timid little foundling on the back with a
"Who'd be preacher?" said he.
They were stumped for a moment.
"Why—you," said Keno. "Didn't you find little Skeezucks?"
"Kerrect," said Bone. "Jim kin talk like a steam fire-engine squirtin'
"If only I had the application," said Jim, modestly, "I might git up
somethin' passable. Where could we have it?"
This was a stumper again. No building in the camp had ever been
consecrated to the uses of religious worship.
Bone came to the rescue without delay.
"You kin have my saloon, and not a cent of cost," said he.
"Bully fer Bone!" said several of the men.
"Y-e-s, but would it be just the tip-toppest, tippe-bob-royal of a
place?" inquired Field, a little cautiously.
"What's the matter with it?" said Bone. "When it's church it's church,
and I guess it would know the way to behave! If there's anything
better, trot it out."
"You can come to the shop if it suits any better," said the blacksmith.
"It 'ain't got no floor of gold, and there ain't nothing like wings,
exceptin' wheels, but the fire kin be kept all day to warm her up, and
there's plenty of room fer all which wants to come."
"If I'm goin' to do the preachin',' I'd like the shop first rate," said
Jim. "What day is to-day?"
"Friday," replied the teamster.
"All right. Then we'll say on Sunday we celebrate with church in
Webber's blacksmith shop," agreed old Jim, secretly delighted beyond
expression. "We won't git gay with anything too high-falootin', but
we'd ought to git Shorty Hobb to show up with his fiddle."
"Certain!" assented the barkeep. "You kin leave that part of the game
"If we've got it all settled, I reckon I'll go back up to the shack,"
said Jim. "The little feller 'ain't had a chance yet to play with his
"Is that a doll?" inquired the teamster, regarding the grave little
pilgrim's bundle of fur in curiosity. "How does he know it's a doll?"
"He knows a good sight more than lots of older people," answered Jim.
"And if only I've got the gumption I'll make him a whole slough of toys
"Well, leave us say good-bye to him 'fore you go," said the blacksmith.
"Does he savvy shakin' hands?"
He gave a little grip to the tiny hand that held the doll, and all the
others did the same. Little Skeezucks looked at them gravely, his
quaint baby face playing havoc with their rough hearts.
"Softest little fingers I ever felt," said Webber. "I'd give twenty
dollars if he'd laugh at me once."
"Awful nice little shaver," said another.
"I once had a mighty touchin' story happen to me, myself," said Keno,
"What was it?" inquired a sympathetic miner.
"Couldn't bear to tell it—not this mornin'," said Keno. "Too
"Good-bye fer just at present, little Skeezucks," said Field, and,
suddenly divesting himself of his brazen watch and chain, he offered it
up as a gift, with spontaneous generosity. "Want it, Skeezucks?" said
he. "Don't you want to hear it go?"
The little man would relax neither his clutch on Jim's collar nor his
hold of his doll, wherefore he had no hand with which to accept the
"Do you think he runs a pawn-shop, Field?" said the teamster. "Put it
The men all guffawed in their raucous way.
"Keeps mighty good time, all the same," said Field, and he re-swung the
chain, like a hammock, from the parted wings of his vest, and dropped
the huskily ticking guardian of the minutes back to its place in his
"Watches that don't keep perfect time," drawled Jim, "are scarcer than
wimmin who tell their age on the square."
"Better come over, Jim, and have a drink," suggested the barkeep.
"You're sure one of the movin' spirits of Borealis."
"No, I don't think I'll start the little feller off with the drinkin'
example," replied the miller. "You'll often notice that the men who
git the name of bein' movin' spirits is them that move a good deal of
whiskey into their interior department. I reckon we'll mosey home the
way we are."
"I guess I'll join you up above," said the fat little Keno, pulling
stoutly at his sleeves. "You'll need me, anyway, to cut some brush fer
With tiny Skeezucks gravely looking backward at the group of men all
waving their hats in a rough farewell, old Jim started proudly up the
trail that led to the Babylonian Glory claim, with Tintoretto romping
awkwardly at his heels.
Suddenly, Webber, the blacksmith, left the groups and ran quickly after
them up the slope.
"Say, Jim," he said. "I thought, perhaps, if you reckoned little
Skeezucks ought to bunk down here in town—why—I wouldn't mind if you
fetched him over to the house. There's plenty of room."
"Wal, not to-day I won't," said Jim. "But thank you, Webber, all the
"All right, but if you change your mind it won't be no trouble at all,"
and, not a little disappointed, the smith waved once more to the little
pilgrim on the miner's arm and went back down the hill.
Then up spoke Keno.
"Bone and Lufkins both wanted me to tell you, Jim, if you happen to
want a change fer little Skeezucks, you can fetch him down to them," he
said. "But of course we ain't agoin' to let 'em have our little kid in
no great shakes of a hurry."
VISITORS AT THE CABIN
When Jim and his company had disappeared from view up the rock-strewn
slope, the men left below remained in a group, to discuss not only the
marvellous advent of a genuine youngster in Borealis, but likewise the
fitness of old If-only Jim as a foster-parent.
"I wouldn't leave him raise a baby rattlesnake of mine," said Field,
whose watch had not been accepted by the foundling. "In fact, there
ain't but a few of us here into camp which knows the funderments of
"I don't mind givin' Jim a few little pointers on the racket,"
responded Bone. "Never knew Jim yet to chuck out my advice.
"He's too lazy to chuck it," vouchsafed the teamster. "He just lets it
trickle out and drip."
"Well, we'll watch him, that's all," Field remarked, with a knowing
squint in his eyes, and employing a style he would not have dared to
parade in the hearing of Jim. "Borealis has come to her formaline
period, and she can't afford to leave this child be raised extraneous.
It's got to be done with honor and glory to the camp, even if we have
to take the kid away from Jim complete."
"He found the little skeezucks, all the same," the blacksmith reminded
them. "That counts for somethin'. He's got a right to keep him for a
while, at least, unless the mother should heave into town."
"Or the dad," added Lufkins.
"Shoot the dad!" answered Bone. "A dad which would let a little feller
small as him git lost in the brush don't deserve to git him back."
"Mysterious case, sure as lizards is insects," said an individual
heretofore silent. "I guess I'll go and tell Miss Doc Dennihan."
"'Ain't Miss Doc bin told—and her the only decent woman in the camp?"
inquired Field. "I'll go along and see you git it right."
"No Miss Doc in mine," said the smith.
"I'll git back and blow my fire up before she's plump dead out.
Fearful vinegar Miss Doc would make if ever she melted."
Miss Dennihan, sister of "Doc" Dennihan, was undeniably If-only Jim's
exact antithesis—a scrupulously tidy, exacting lady, so severe in her
virtues and so acrid in denunciations of the lack of down-east
circumspection that nearly every man in camp shied off from her abode
as he might have shied from a bath in nitric acid. Six months prior to
this time she had come to Borealis from the East, unexpectedly plumping
down upon her brother "Doc" with all her moral fixity of purpose, not
only to his great distress of mind, but also to that of all his
acquaintances as well. She had raided the ethical standing of miners,
teamsters, and men-about-town; she had outwardly and inwardly condemned
the loose and indecorous practices of the camp; she had made herself an
accusing hand, as it were, pointing out the road to perdition which all
and sundry of the citizens of Borealis, including "Doc," were
travelling. If-only Jim had promptly responded to her natural
antipathy to all that he represented, and the strained relations
between the pair had furnished much amusement for the male population
of the place.
It was now to this lady that Field and his friend proposed a visit.
The group of men broke up, and the news that each one had to tell of
the doings of Jim was widely spread; and the wonder increased till it
stretched to the farthest confines of the place. Then as fast as the
miners and other laborers, who were busy with work, could get away for
a time sufficiently long, they made the pilgrimage up the slope to the
cabin where the tiny foundling had domicile. They found the timid
little man seated, with his doll, on the floor, from which he watched
them gravely, in his baby way.
Half the honors of receiving the groups and showing off the quaint
little Skeezucks were assumed by Keno, with a grace that might have
been easy had he not been obliged to pull down his shirt-sleeves with
such exasperating frequency.
But Jim was the hero of the hour, as he very well knew. Time after
time, and ever with thrilling new detail and added incident, he
recounted the story of his find, gradually robbing even Tintoretto, the
pup, of such of the glory as he really had earned.
The pup, however, was recklessly indifferent. He could pile up fresh
glories every minute by bowling the little pilgrim on his back and
walking on his chest to lap his ear. This he proceeded to do, in his
clumsy way of being friendly, with a regularity only possible to an
enthusiast. And every time he did it anew, either Keno or Jim or a
visitor would shy something at him and call him names. This, however,
only served to incite him to livelier antics of licking everybody's
face, wagging himself against the furniture, and dragging the various
bombarding missiles between the legs of all the company.
There were men, who apparently had nothing else to do, who returned to
the cabin on the hill with every new visiting deputation. A series of
ownership in and familiarity with the grave little chap and his story
came upon them rapidly. Field, the father of Borealis, was the most
assiduous guide the camp afforded. By afternoon he knew more about the
child than even Jim himself.
For his part, the lanky Jim sat on a stool, looking wiser than Solomon
and Moses rolled in one, and greeted his wondering acquaintances with a
calm and dignity that his oneness in the great event was magnifying
hourly. That such an achievement as finding a lost little pilgrim in
the wilderness might be expected of his genius every day was firmly
impressed upon himself, if not on all who came.
"Speakin' of catfish, Jim thinks he's hoein' some potatoes." said Field
to a group of his friends. "If one of us real live spirits of Borealis
had bin in his place, it's ten to one we'd 'a' found a pair of twins."
All the remainder of the day, and even after dinner, and up to eight
o'clock in the evening, the new arrivals, or the old ones over again,
made the cabin on the hill their Mecca.
"Shut the door, Keno, and sit outside, and tell any more that come
along, the show is over for the day," instructed Jim, at last. "The
boy is goin' to bed."
"Did he bring a nightie?" said Keno.
"Forgot it, I reckon," answered Jim, as he took the tired little chap
in his arms. "If only I had the enterprise I'd make him one to-night."
But it never got made. The pretty little armful of a boy went to sleep
with all his baby garments on, the long "man's" trousers and all, and
Jim permitted all to remain in place, for the warmth thereof, he said.
Into the bunk went the tiny bundle of humanity, his doll tightly held
to his breast.
Then Jim sat down and watched the bunk, till Keno had come inside and
climbed in a bed and begun a serenade. At twelve o'clock the miner was
still awake. He went to his door, and, throwing it open, looked out at
the great, dark mountains and the brilliant sky.
"If only I had the steam I'd open up the claim and make the little
feller rich," he drawled to himself. Then he closed the door, and,
removing his clothing, got into the berth where his tiny guest was
sleeping, and knew no more till the morning came and a violent knocking
on his window prodded his senses into something that answered for
"Come in!" he called. "Come in, and don't waste all that noise."
The pup awoke and let out a bark.
In response to the miner's invitation the caller opened the door and
entered. Jim and Keno had their heads thrust out of their bunks, but
the two popped in abruptly at the sight of a tall female figure. She
was homely, a little sharp as to features, and a little near together
and piercing as to eyes. Her teeth were prominent, her mouth
unquestionably generous in dimensions, and a mole grew conspicuously
upon her chin. Nevertheless, she looked, as Jim had once confessed,
"remarkly human." On her head she wore a sun-bonnet. Her black alpaca
dress was as styleless and as shiny as a stovepipe. It was short,
moreover, and therefore permitted a view of a large, flat pair of shoes
on which polish for the stovepipe aforesaid had been lavishly coated.
It was Miss Doc Dennihan. Having duly heard of the advent of a quaint
little boy, found in the brush by the miner, she had come thus early in
the morning to gratify a certain hunger that her nature felt for the
sight of a child. But always one of the good woman's prides had been
concealment of her feelings, desires, and appetites. She had formed a
habit, likewise, of hiding not a few of her intentions. Instead of
inquiring now for what she sought, she glanced swiftly about the
interior of the cabin and said:
"Ain't you lazy-joints got up yet in this here cabin?"
"Been up and hoisted the sun and went back to bed," drawled Jim, while
Keno drew far back in his berth and fortified himself behind his
blankets. "Glad to see you, but sorry you've got to be goin' again so
"I 'ain't got to be goin'," corrected the visitor, with decision. "I
jest thought I'd call in and see if your clothin' and kitchen truck was
needin' a woman's hand. Breakfast over to our house is finished and
John has went to work, and everything has bin did up complete, so
'tain't as if I was takin' the time away from John; and this here place
is disgraceful dirty, as I could see with nuthin' but a store eye. Is
these here over-halls your'n?"
"When I'm in 'em I reckon they are," drawled Jim, in some disquietude
of mind. "But don't you touch 'em! Them pants is heirlooms. Wouldn't
have anybody fool with them for a million dollars."
"They don't look worth no such a figger," said Miss Dennihan, as she
held them up and scanned them with a critical eye. "They're wantin' a
patch in the knee. It's lucky fer you I toted my bag. I kin always
match overhalls, new or faded."
Keno slyly ventured to put forth his head, but instantly drew it back
Jim, in his bunk, was beginning to sweat. He held his little foundling
by the hand and piled up a barrier of blankets before them. That many
another of the male residents of Borealis had been honored by similar
visitations on the part of Miss Doc was quite the opposite of
reassuring. That the lady generally came as a matter of curiosity, and
remained in response to a passion for making things glisten with
cleanliness, he had heard from a score of her victims. He knew she was
here to get her eyes on the grave little chap he was cuddling from
sight, but he had no intention of sharing the tiny pilgrim with any one
whose attentions would, he deemed, afford a trial to the nerves.
"Seems to me the last time I saw old Doc his shirt needed stitchin' in
the sleeve," he said. "How about that, Keno?"
Keno was dumb as a clam.
"You never seen nuthin' of the sort," corrected Miss Doc, with
asperity, and, removing her bonnet, she sat down on a stool, Jim's
overalls in hand and her bag in her lap. "John's mended regular, all
but his hair, and if soap-suds and bear's-grease would patch his top he
wouldn't be bald another day."
"He ain't exactly bald," drawled the uncomfortable miner. "His hair
was parted down the middle by a stroke of lightnin'. Or maybe you
combed it yourself."
"Don't you try to git comical with me!" she answered. "I didn't come
here for triflin'."
Her back being turned towards the end of the room wherein the redheaded
Keno was ensconced, that diffident individual furtively put forth his
hand and clutched up his boots and trousers from the floor. The latter
he managed to adjust as he wormed about in the berth. Then silently,
stealthily, trembling with excitement, he put out his feet, and
suddenly bolting for the door, with his boots in hand, let out a yell
and shot from the house like a demon, the pup at his heels, loudly
"Keno! Keno! come back here and stand your share!" bawled Jim,
lustily, but to no avail.
"Mercy in us!" Miss Doc exclaimed. "That man must be crazy."
Jim sank back in his bunk hopelessly.
"It's only his clothes makes him look foolish," he answered. "He's
saner than I am, plain as day."
"Then it's lucky I came," decided the visitor, vigorously sewing at the
trousers. "The looks of this house is enough to drive any man insane.
You're an ornary, shiftless pack of lazy-joints as ever I seen. Why
don't you git up and cook your breakfast?"
Perspiration oozed from the modest Jim afresh.
"I never eat breakfast in the presence of ladies," said he.
"Well, you needn't mind me. I'm jest a plain, sensible woman," replied
Miss Dennihan. "I don't want to see no feller-critter starve."
Jim writhed in the blankets. "I didn't s'pose you could stay all day,"
"I kin stay till I mend all your garmints and tidy up this here cabin,"
she announced, calmly. "So let your mind rest easy." She meant to see
that child if it took till evening to do so.
"Maybe I can go to sleep again and dream I'm dead," said Jim, in
"If you kin, and me around, you can beat brother John all to cream,"
she responded, smoothing out the mended overalls and laying them down
on a stool. "Now you kin give me your shirt."
Jim galvanically gathered the blankets in a tightened noose about his
"Hold on!" he said. "Hold on! This shirt is a bran'-new article, and
you'd spoil it if you come within twenty-five yards of it with a
"Where's your old one?" she demanded, atilt for something more to
repair. Her gaze searched the bunks swiftly, and Jim was sure she was
looking for the little man behind him. "Where's your old one went?"
"I turned it over on a friend of mine," drawled Jim, who meant he had
deftly reversed it on himself. "It's a poor shirt that won't work both
"Ain't there nuthin' more I kin mend?" she asked.
"Not unless it's somethin' of Doc's down to your lovely little home."
"Oh, I ain't agoin' to go, if that's what you're drivin' at," she
answered, as she swiftly assembled the soiled utensils of the cuisine.
"I'll tidy up this here pig-pen if it takes a week, and you kin hop up
and come down easy."
"I wouldn't have you go for nothing," drawled Jim, squirming with
abnormal impatience to be up and doing. "Angel's visits are comin'
fewer and fewer in a box every day."
"That's bogus," answered the lady. "I sense your oilin' me over. You
git up and go and git a fresh pail of water."
"I'd like to," Jim said, convincingly, "but the only time I ever broke
my arm was when I went out for a bucket of water before breakfast."
"You ain't agoin' is what you mean, with all them come-a-long-way-round
excuses," she conjectured. "You've got the name of bein' the
laziest-jointed, mos' shiftless man into camp."
"Wal," drawled the helpless miner, "a town without a horrible example
is deader than the spikes in Adam's coffin. And the next best thing to
being a livin' example is to hang around the house where one of 'em
stays in his bunk all mornin'."
"If that's another of them underhanded hints of your'n, you might as
well save your breath," she replied. "I'll go and git the water
myself, fer them dishes is goin' to git cleaned."
She took up the bucket at once. Outside, the sounds of some one
scooting rapidly away brought to Jim a thought of Keno's recently
demonstrated presence of mind.
Cautiously sitting up in the berth, so soon as Miss Doc had disappeared
with the pail, he hurriedly drew on his boots. A sound of returning
footsteps came to his startled ears. He leaped back up in the bunk,
boots and all, and covered himself with the blanket, to the startlement
of the timid little chap, who was sitting there to watch developments.
Both drew down as Miss Doc reappeared in the door.
"I might as well tote a kettleful, too," she said, and taking that
soot-plated article from its hook in the chimney she once more started
for the spring.
This time, like a guilty burglar, old Jim crept out to the door. Then
with one quick resolve he caught up his trousers, and snatching his
pale little guest from the berth, flung a blanket about them, sneaked
swiftly out of the cabin, stole around to its rear, and ran with
long-legged awkwardness down through a shallow ravine to the cover of a
huge heap of bowlders, where he paused to finish his toilet.
"Hoot! Hoot!" sounded furtively from somewhere near. Then Keno came
ducking towards him from below, with Tintoretto in his wake, so
rampantly glad in his puppy heart that he instantly climbed on the
timid little Skeezucks, sitting for convenience on the earth, and
bowled him head over heels.
"Here, pup, you abate yourself," said Jim. "Be solemnly glad and let
it go at that." And he took up the gasping little chap, whose doll
was, as ever, clasped fondly to his heart.
"How'd you make it?" inquired Keno. "Has she gone for good?"
"No, she's gone for water," answered the miner, ruefully. "She's set
on cleanin' up the cabin. I'll bet when she's finished we'll have to
pan the gravel mighty careful to find even a color of our once happy
"Well, you got away, anyhow," said Keno, consolingly. "You can't have
your cake and eat it too."
"No, that's the one nasty thing about cake," said Jim. He sat on a
rock and addressed the wondering little pilgrim, who was watching his
face with baby gravity. "Did she scare the boy?" he asked. "Is he
gittin' hungry? Does pardner want some breakfast?"
The little fellow nodded.
"What would little Skeezucks like old brother Jim to make for
The quaint bit of a man drew a trifle closer to the rough old coat and
The two men started mildly.
"By jinks!" said the awe-smitten Keno. "By jinks!—talkin'!"
"I told you so," said Jim, suppressing his excitement. "Bread and
milk?" he repeated. "Just bread and milk. You poor little shaver!
Wal, that's as easy as oyster stew or apple-dumplin'. Baby want
The small boy shook a negative.
"By jinks!" said Keno, as before. "Look at him go it!"
"I'll make some bread to-day, if ever we git back into Eden," said Jim.
"And I'll make him a lot of things. If only I had the stuff in me I'd
make him a Noah's ark and a train of cars and a fat mince-pie. Would
little Skeezucks like a train of cars?"
Again the little pilgrim shook his head.
"Then what more would the baby like?" coaxed the miner.
Again with his shy little cuddling up the wee man answered,
"By jinks!" repeated the flabbergasted Keno, and he pulled at his
sleeves with all his strength.
"Say, Keno," said Jim, "go find Miss Doc's goat and milk him for the
"Miss Doc may be home by now," objected Keno, apprehensively.
"Well, then, sneak up and see if she has gone off real mad."
"S'posen she 'ain't?" Keno promptly hedged. "S'posen she seen me?"
"You've got all out-doors to skedaddle in, I reckon."
Keno, however, had many objections to any manner of venture with the
wily Miss Dennihan. It took nearly half an hour of argument to get him
up to the brow of the slope. Then, to his uncontainable delight, he
beheld the disgusted and somewhat defeated Miss Doc more than half-way
down the trail to Borealis, and making shoe-tracks with assuring
"Hoot! Hoot!" he called, in a cautious utterance. "She's went, and
the cabin looks just the same—from here."
But Jim, when he came there, with his tiny guest upon his arm, looked
long at the well-scrubbed floor and the tidy array of pots, pans,
plates, and cups.
"We'll never find the salt, or nothin', for a week," he drawled. "It
does take some people an awful long time to learn not to meddle with
the divine order of things."
THE BELL FOR CHURCH
What with telling little Skeezucks of all the things he meant to make,
and fondling the grave bit of babyhood, and trying to work out the
story of how he came to be utterly unsought for, deserted, and
parentless, Jim had hardly more than time enough remaining, that day,
in which to entertain the visiting men, who continued to climb the hill
to the house.
Throughout that Saturday there was never more than fifteen minutes when
some of the big, rough citizens of Borealis were not on hand,
attempting always to get the solemn little foundling to answer some
word to their efforts at baby conversation. But neither to them, for
the strange array of presents they offered, nor to Jim himself, for all
his gentle coaxing, would the tiny chap vouchsafe the slightest hint of
who he was or whence he had come.
It is doubtful if he knew. By the hour he sat where they placed him,
holding his doll with something more deep and hungry than affection,
and looking at Jim or the visitors in his pretty, baby way of gravity
When he sat on old Jim's knee, however, he leaned in confidence against
him, and sighed with a sweet little sound of contentment, as poignant
to reinspire a certain ecstasy of sadness in the miner's breast as it
was to excite an envy in the hearts of the others.
Next to Jim, he loved Tintoretto—that joyous, irresponsible bit of
pup-wise gladness whose tail was so utterly inadequate to express his
enthusiasm that he wagged his whole fuzzy self in the manner of an
awkward fish. Never was the tiny man seated with his doll on the floor
that the pup failed to pounce upon him and push him over, half a dozen
times. Never did this happen that one of the men, or Jim himself, did
not at once haul Tintoretto, growling, away by the tail or the ear and
restore their tiny guest to his upright position. Never did such a
good Samaritan fail to raise his hand for a cuff at the pup, nor ever
did one of them actually strike. It ended nearly always in the pup's
attack on the hand in question, which he chewed and pawed at and
otherwise befriended as only a pup, in his freedom from worries and
cares, can do.
With absolutely nothing prepared, and with nothing but promises made
and forgotten, old Jim beheld the glory of Sunday morning come, with
the bite and crystalline sunshine of the season in the mountain air.
God's thoughts must be made in Nevada, so lofty and flawless is the
azure sky, so utterly transparent is the atmosphere, so huge, gray, and
passionless the mighty reach of mountains!
Man's little thought was expressed in the camp of Borealis, which
appeared like a herd of small, brown houses, pitifully insignificant in
all that immensity, and gathered together as if for company, trustfully
nestling in the hand of the earth-mother, known to be so gentle with
her children. On the hill-sides, smaller mining houses stood, each one
emphasized by the blue-gray heap of earth and granite—the dump—formed
by the labors of the restless men who burrowed in the rock for precious
metal. The road, which seemed to have no ending-place, was blazed
through the brush and through the hills in either direction across the
miles and miles of this land without a people. The houses of Borealis
stood to right and left of this path through the wilderness, as if by
common consent to let it through.
Meagre, unknown, unimportant Borealis, with her threescore men and one
decent woman, shared, like the weightiest empire, in the smile, the
care, the yearning of the ever All-Pitiful, greeting the earth with
another perfect day.
Intelligence of what could be expected, in the way of a celebration at
the blacksmith-shop of Webber, had been more than merely spread; it had
almost been flooded over town. Long before the hour of ten, scheduled
by common consent for church to commence, Webber was sweeping sundry
parings of horse-hoof and scraps of iron to either side of his hard
earth floor, and sprinkling the dust with water that he flirted from
his barrel. He likewise wiped off the anvil with his leathern apron,
and making a fire in the forge to take off the chill, thrust in a huge
hunk of iron to irradiate the heat.
Many of the denizens of Borealis came and laid siege to the barber-shop
as early as six in the morning. Hardly a man in the place, except
Parky, the gambler, had been dressed in extravagance so imposing since
the 4th of July as was early apparent in the street. Bright new
shirts, red, blue, and even white, came proudly to the front. Trousers
were dropped outside of boots, and the boots themselves were polished.
A run on bear's-grease and hair-oil lent a shining halo to nearly every
head the camp could boast. Then the groups began to gather near the
open shop of the smith.
"We'd ought to have a bell," suggested Lufkins, the teamster.
"Churches always ring the bell to let the parson know it's time he was
showin' up to start the ball."
"Well, I'll string up a bar of steel," said Webber. "You can get a
crackin' fine lot of noise out of that."
He strung it up in a framework just outside the door, ordinarily
employed for hoisting heavy wagons from the earth. Then with a hammer
he struck it sharply.
The clear, ringing tone that vibrated all through the hills was a
stirring note indeed. So the bell-ringer struck his steel again.
"That ain't the way to do the job," objected Field. "That sounds like
scarin' up voters at a measly political rally."
"Can you do it any better?" said the smith, and he offered his hammer.
"Here comes Doc Dennihan," interrupted the barkeep. "Ask Doc how it's
done. If he don't know, we'll have to wait for old If-only Jim
The brother of the tall Miss Doc was a small man with outstanding ears,
the palest gray eyes, and the quietest of manners. He was not a doctor
of anything, hence his title. Perhaps the fact that the year before he
had quietly shot all six of the bullets of his Colt revolver into the
body of a murderous assailant before that distinguished person could
fall to the earth had invested his townsmen and admirers with a modest
desire to do him a titular honor. Howsoever that might have been, he
had always subsequently found himself addressed with sincere respect,
while his counsel had been sought on every topic, possible, impossible,
and otherwise, mooted in all Borealis. The fact that his sister was
the "boss of his shack," and that he, indeed, was a henpecked man, was
never, by any slip of courtesy, conversationally paraded, especially in
Appealed to now concerning the method of ringing the bar of steel for
worshipful purposes, he took a bite at his nails before replying. Then
"Well, I'd ring it a little bit faster than you would for a funeral and
a little bit slower than you would for a fire."
"That's the stuff!" said Field. "I knowed that Doc would know."
But Doc refused them, nevertheless, when they asked if he would deign
to do the ringing himself. Consequently Field, the father of the camp,
made a gallant attempt at the work, only to miss the "bell" with his
hammer and strike himself on the knee, after which he limped to a seat,
declaring they didn't need a bell-ringing anyhow. Upon the blacksmith
the duty devolved by natural selection.
He rang a lusty summons from the steel, that fetched all the dressed-up
congregation of the town hastening to the scene. Still, old Jim, the
faithful Keno, little Skeezucks, and Tintoretto failed to appear. A
deputation was therefore sent up the hill, where Jim was found
informing his household that if only he had the celerity of action he
would certainly make a Sunday suit of clothing for the tiny little man.
For himself, he had washed and re-turned his shirt, combed his hair,
and put on a better pair of boots, which the pup had been chewing to
occupy his leisure time.
The small but impressive procession came slowly down the trail at last,
Jim in the lead, with the grave little foundling on his arm.
"Boys," said he, as at last he entered the dingy shop and sat his
quaint bit of a man on the anvil, over which he had thoughtfully thrown
his coat—"boys, if only I'd had about fifteen minutes more of time I'd
have thought up all the tricks you ever saw in a church."
The men filed in, awkwardly taking off their hats, and began to seat
themselves as best they could, on anything they found available.
Webber, the smith, went stoutly at his bellows, and blew up a fire that
flamed two feet above the forge, fountaining fiercely with sparks of
the iron in the coal, and tossing a ruddy light to the darkest corners
of the place. The incense of labor—that homely fragrance of the
smithy all over the world—spread fresh and new to the very door
itself. Old Jim edged closer to the anvil and placed his hand on the
somewhat frightened little foundling, sitting there so gravely, and
clasping his doll in fondness to his heart.
Outside, it was noted, Field had halted the red-headed Keno for a
moment's whispered conversation. Keno nodded knowingly. Then he came
inside, and, addressing them all, but principally Jim, he said:
"Say, before we open up, Miss Doc would like to know if she kin come."
A silence fell on all the men. Webber went hurriedly and closed the
"Wal, she wouldn't be apt to like it till we get a little practised
up," said the diplomatic Jim, who knew the tenor of his auditors.
"Tell her maybe she kin—some other time."
"This ain't no regular elemercenary institution," added the teamster.
"Why not now?" demanded Field. "Why can't she come?"
"Becuz," said the smith, "this church ain't no place for a woman,
A general murmur of assent came from all the men save Field and Doc
"Leave the show commence," said a voice.
"Start her up," said another.
"Wal, now," drawled Jim, as he nervously stroked his beard, "let's take
it easy. Which opening do all you fellers prefer?"
No one answered.
One man finally inquired. "How many kinds is there?"
Jim said, "Wal, there's the Methodist, the Baptist, the Graeco-Roman,
Episcopalian, and—the catch-as-catch-can."
"Give us the ketch-and-kin-ketch-as-you-kin," responded the spokesman.
"Mebbe we ought to begin with Sunday-school," suggested the blacksmith.
"That would sort of get us ready for the real she-bang."
"How do you do it?" inquired Lufkins, the teamster.
"Oh, it's just mostly catechism," Jim imparted, sagely.
"And what's catechism?" said Bone.
"Catechism," drawled the miner, "is where you ask a lot of questions
that only the children can answer."
"I know," responded the blacksmith, squatting down before the anvil.
"Little Skeezucks, who made you?"
The quaint little fellow looked at the brawny man timidly. How pale,
how wee he appeared in all that company, as he sat on the great lump of
iron, solemnly winking his big, brown eyes and clinging to his
make-shift of a doll!
"Aw, say, give him something easy," said Lufkins.
"That's what they used to bang at me," said the smith, defending his
position. "But I'll ask him the easiest one of the lot. Baby boy," he
said, in a gentle way of his own, "who is it makes everything?—who
makes all the lovely things in the world?"
Shyly the tiny man leaned back on the arm he felt he knew, and gravely,
to the utter astonishment of the big, rough men, in his sweet baby
utterance, he said:
A roar of laughter instantly followed, giving the youngster a start
that almost shook him from his seat.
"By jinks!" said Keno. "That's all right. You bet he knows."
But the Sunday-school programme was not again attempted. When
something like calm had settled once more on the audience, If-only Jim
remarked that he guessed they would have to quit their fooling and get
down to the business of church.
THE SUNDAY HAPPENINGS
But to open the service when quiet reigned again and expectation was
once more concentrated upon him afforded something of a poser still to
the lanky old Jim, elected to perform the offices of leading.
"Where's Shorty Hobb with his fiddle?" said he.
"Parky wouldn't leave him come," answered Bone. "He loaned him money
on his vierlin, and he says he owns it and won't leave him play in no
church that ever got invented."
"Parky, hey?" said Jim, drawlingly. "Wal, bless his little home'pathic
pill of a soul!"
"He says he's fed more poor and done more fer charity than any man in
town," informed a voice.
"Does, hey?" said the miner. "I'll bet his belly's the only poor thing
he feeds regular. His hand ain't got callous cutting bread for the
orphans. But he ain't a subject for church. If only I'd 'a' known
what he was agoin' to do I'd made a harp. But let it go. We'll start
off with roll-call and follow that up with a song."
He therefore began with the name of Webber, who responded "Here," and
proceeding to note who was present, he drawled the name or familiar
sobriquet of each in turn, till all had admitted they were personally
"Ahem," said Jim, at the end of this impressive ceremony. "Now we'll
sing a hymn. What hymn do you fellows prefer?"
There was not a great confusion of replies; in fact, the confusion
resulted from a lack thereof.
"As no one indicates a preference," announced the miner, "we'll tackle
'Darling, I am growing old.' Are there any objections? All in
favor?—contrary minded?—the motion prevails. Now, then, all
together—'Darling—'Why don't you all git in?"
"How does she go?" inquired Webber.
"She goes like this," Jim replied, clearing his throat:
"'Darling, I am growing o-old,
Silver bars among the gold;
Shine upon—te dum te dumpty—
Far from the old folks at home.'"
"Don't know it," said a voice.
"Neither do I."
The sheep of the flock all followed in a chorus of "Nor I's."
"What's the matter with 'Swing Low, Sweet Cheery O'?" inquired Lufkins.
"Suits me," Jim replied. "Steam up."
He and the teamster, in duet, joined very soon by all the congregation,
sang over and over the only lines they could conjure back to memory,
and even these came forth in remarkable variety. For the greater part,
however, the rough men were fairly well united on the simple version:
"'Swing low, sweet cheery O,
Comin' for to carry me home;
Swing low, sweet cheery O,
Comin' for to carry me home.'"
This was sung no less than seven times, when Jim at length lifted his
hand for the end.
"We'll follow this up with the Lord's Prayer," he said.
Laying his big, freckled hand on the shoulder of the wondering little
pilgrim, seated so quietly upon the anvil, he closed his eyes and bowed
his head. How thin, but kindly, was his rugged face as the lines were
softened by his attitude!
He began with hesitation. The prayer, indeed, was a stumbling towards
the long-forgotten—the wellnigh unattainable.
"'Our Father which art in heaven . . .
Our Father which art in heaven—'
"Now, hold on, just a minute," and he paused to think before resuming
and wiped his suddenly sweating brow.
"'Our Father which art in heaven—
If I should die before I wake . . .
Give us our daily bread. Amen.'"
The men all sat in silence. Then Keno whispered, so loudly that every
one could hear;
"By jinks! I didn't think he could do it!"
"We'll now have another hymn," announced the leader, "There used to be
one that went on something about, 'I'm lost and far away from the
shack, and it's dark, and lead me—somewhere—kindly light.' Any one
remember the words all straight?"
"I don't," replied the blacksmith, "but I might come in on the chorus."
"Seems to me," said Bone, "a candle or just a plain, unvarnished light,
would 'a' went out. It must have bin a lantern."
"Objection well taken," responded Jim, gravely. "I reckon I got it
turned 'round a minute ago. It was more like:
"'Lead me on, kindly lantern,
For I am far from home,
And the night is dark.'"
"It don't sound like a song—not exactly," ventured Lufkins. "Why not
give 'em 'Down on the Swanee River'?"
"All right," agreed the "parson," and therefore they were all presently
singing at the one perennial "hymn" of the heart, universal in its
application, sweetly religious in its humanism. They sang it with a
woful lack of its own original lines; they put in string on string of
"dum te dums," but it came from their better natures and it sanctified
the dingy shop.
When it was ended, which was not until it had gone through persistent
repetitions, old Jim was prepared for almost anything.
"I s'pose you boys want a regular sermon," said he, "and if only I'd
'a' had the time—wal, I won't say what a torch-light procession of a
sermon you'd have got, but I'll do the best I can."
He cleared his throat, struck an attitude inseparable from American
elocution, and began:
"Fellow-citizens—and ladies and gentlemen—we—we're an ornary lot of
backwoods fellers, livin' away out here in the mountains and the brush,
but God Almighty 'ain't forgot us, all the same. He sent a little
youngster once to put a heartful of happiness into men, and He's sent
this little skeezucks here to show us boys we ain't shut off from
everything. He didn't send us no bonanza—like they say they've got in
Silver Treasury—but I wouldn't trade the little kid for all the
bullion they will ever melt. We ain't the prettiest lot of ducks I
ever saw, and we maybe blow the ten commandants all over the camp with
giant powder once in a while, lookin' 'round for gold, but, boys, we
ain't throwed out complete. We've got the love and pity of God
Almighty, sure, when he gives us, all to ourselves, a little helpless
feller for to raise. I know you boys all want me to thank the Father
of us all, and that's what I do. And I hope He'll let us know the way
to give the little kid a good square show, for Christ's sake. Amen."
The men would have listened to more. They expected more, indeed, and
waited to hear old Jim resume.
"That's about all," he said, as no one spoke, "except, of course, we'll
sing some more of the hymns and take up collection. I guess we'd
better take collection first."
The congregation stirred. Big hands went down into pockets.
"Who gets the collection?" queried Field.
Jim drawled, "When it ain't buttons, it goes to the parson; when it is,
the parson's wife gits in."
"You 'ain't got no wife," objected Bone.
"That's why there ain't goin' to be no buttons," sagely answered the
miner. "On the square, though, boys, this is all for the little
skeezucks, to buy some genuine milk, from Miss Doc Dennihan's goat."
"What we goin' to put our offerings into?" asked the blacksmith, as the
boys made ready with their contributions. "They used to hand around a
pie-plate when I was a boy."
"We'll try to get along with a hat," responded Jim, "and Keno here can
pass it 'round. I've often observed that a hat is a handy thing to
collect things in, especially brains."
So the hat went quickly from one to another, sagging more and more in
the crown as it travelled.
The men had come forward to surround the anvil, with the tiny little
chap upon its massive top, and not one in all the groups was there who
did not feel that, left alone with the timid bit of a pilgrim, he could
get him to talking and laughing in the briefest of moments.
The hymns with which old Jim had promised the meeting should conclude
were all but forgotten. Two or three miners, whose hunger for song was
not to be readily appeased, kept bringing the subject to the fore
again, however, till at length they were heard.
"We're scarin' little Skeezucks, anyhow," said the brawny smith, once
more reviving the fire in the forge.
"Let's sing 'In the Sweet By-and-By,' if all of us know it," suggested
a young fellow scarcely more than a lad. "It's awful easy."
"Wal, you start her bilin'," replied the teamster.
The young fellow blushed, but he nerved himself to the point and sang
out, nervously at first, and then, when his confidence increased, in a
clear, ringing tenor of remarkable purity, recalling the old-time words
that once were so widely known and treasured:
"'There's a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar,
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling-place there.'"
Then the chorus of voices, husky from neglect and crude from lack of
culture, joined in the chorus, with a heartiness that shook the dingy
"'In the sweet by-and-by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by-and-by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.'"
They followed this with what they knew of "Home, Sweet Home," and so at
last strolled out into the sunshine of the street, and surrounded the
quaint little foundling, as he looked from one to another in baby
gravity and sat in his timid way on the arm of "Bruvver Jim."
"I'll tell you what," said the blacksmith, "now that we've found that
we can do the job all right, we'll get up a Christmas for little
Skeezucks that will lift the mountains clean up off the earth!"
"Good suggestion," Jim agreed. "But the little feller feels tired now.
I am goin' to take him home."
And this he did. But after lunch no fewer than twenty of the men of
Borealis climbed up the trail to get another look at the quiet little
man who glorified the cabin.
But the darkness had only begun to creep through the lowermost channels
of the canyons when Skeezucks fell asleep. By then old Jim, the pup,
and Keno were alone with the child.
"Keno, I reckon I'll wander quietly down and see if Doc will let me buy
a little milk," said Jim. "You'd better come along to see that his
sister don't interfere."
Keno expressed his doubts immediately, not only as to the excellence of
goat's milk generally, but likewise as to any good that he could do by
joining Jim in the enterprise suggested.
"Anyway," he concluded, "Doc has maybe went on shift by this time.
He's workin' nights this week again."
Jim, however, prevailed. "You don't get another bite of grub in this
shack, nor another look at the little boy, if you don't come ahead and
do your share."
Therefore they presently departed, shutting Tintoretto in the cabin to
In half an hour, having interviewed Doc Dennihan himself on the
hill-side quite removed from his cabin, the two worthies came climbing
up towards their home once again, Jim most carefully holding in his
hands a large tin cup with half an inch of goat's milk at the bottom.
While still a hundred yards from the house, they were suddenly startled
by the mad descent upon them of the pup they had recently left behind.
"Huh! you young galoot," said Jim. "You got out, I see!"
When he entered the cabin it was dark. Keno lighted the candle and Jim
put his cup on the table. Then he went to the berth to awaken the tiny
foundling and give him a supper of bread and milk.
Keno heard him make a sound as of one in terrible pain.
The miner turned a face, deadly white, towards the table.
"Keno," he cried, "he's gone!"
OLD JIM DISTRAUGHT
For a moment Keno failed to comprehend. Then for a second after that
he refused to believe. He ran to the bunk where Jim was desperately
turning down the blankets and made a quick examination of that as well
as of the other beds.
They were empty.
Hastening across the cabin, the two men searched in the berths at the
farther end with parental eagerness, but all in vain, the pup meantime
dodging between their legs and chewing at their trousers.
"Tintoretto!" said Jim, in a flash of deduction. "He must have got out
when somebody opened the door. Somebody's been here and stole my
"By jinks!" said Keno, hauling at his sleeves in excess of emotion.
"Come on," answered Jim, distraught and wild. "Come down to camp!
Somebody's playin' us a trick!"
Again they shut the pup inside, and then they fairly ran down the
trail, through the darkness, to the town below.
A number of men were standing in the street, among them the teamster
and Field, the father of Borealis. They were joking, laughing, wasting
"Boys," cried Jim, as he hastened towards the group, "has any one seen
little Skeezucks? Some one's played a trick and took him off!
Somebody's been to the cabin and stole my little boy!"
"Stole him?" said Field. "Why, where was you and Keno?"
"Down to Doc's to get some milk. He wanted bread and milk," Jim
explained, in evident anguish. "You fellows might have seen, if any
one fetched him down the trail. You're foolin'. Some of you took him
for a joke!"
"It wouldn't be no joke," answered Lufkins, the teamster. "We 'ain't
got him, Jim, on the square."
"Of course we 'ain't got him. We 'ain't took him for no joke," said
Field. "Nobody'd take him away like that."
"Why don't we ring the bar of steel we used for a bell," suggested one
of the miners. "That would fetch the men—all who 'ain't gone back on
"Good idea," said Field. "But I ought to get back home and eat some
He did not, however, depart. That Jim was in a fever of excitement and
despair they could all of them see. He hastened ahead of the group to
the shop of Webber. and taking a short length of iron chain, which he
found on the earth, he slashed and beat at the bar of steel with
The sharp, metallic notes rang out with every stroke. The bar was
swaying like a pendulum. Blow after blow the man delivered, filling
all the hollows of the hills with wild alarm.
Out of saloons and houses men came sauntering, or running, according to
the tension of their nerves. Many thought some house must be afire.
At least thirty men were presently gathered at the place of summons.
With five or six informers to tell the news of Jim's bereavement, all
were soon aware of what was making the trouble. But none had seen the
tiny foundling since they bade him good-bye in the charge of Jim
"Are you plum dead sure he's went?" said Webber, the smith. "Did you
look all over the cabin?"
"Everywhere," said Jim. "He's gone!"
"Wal, maybe some mystery got him," suggested Bone. "Jim, you don't
suppose his father, or some one who lost him, come and nabbed him while
you was gone?"
They saw old Jim turn pale in the light that came from across the
Keno broke in with an answer.
"By jinks! Jim was his mother! Jim had more good rights to the little
feller than anybody, livin' or dead!"
"You bet!" agreed a voice.
Jim spoke with difficulty.
"If any one did that"—he faltered—"why, boys, he never should have
let me find him in the brush."
"Are you plum dead sure he's went?" insisted the blacksmith, whom the
news had somewhat stunned.
"I thought perhaps you fellows might have played a joke—taken him off
to see me run around," said Jim, with a faint attempt at a smile.
"'Ain't you got him, boys—all the time?"
"Aw, no, he'd be too scared," said Bone. "We know he'd be scared of
any one of us."
"It ain't so much that," said Field, "but I shouldn't wonder if his
father, or some other feller just as good, came and took him off."
"Of course his father would have the right," said Jim, haltingly,
"but—I wish he hadn't let me find him first. You fellows are sure you
"We couldn't have done it—not on Sunday—after church," said Lufkins.
"No, Jim, we wouldn't fool that way."
"You don't s'pose that Parky might have took him, out of spite?" said
Jim, eager for hope in any direction whatsoever.
"No! He hates kids worse than pizen," said the barkeep, decisively.
"He's been a-gamblin' since four this afternoon, dealin' faro-bank."
"We could go and search every shack in camp," suggested a listener.
"What would be the good of that?" inquired Field. "If the father came
and took the little shaver, do you think he'd hide him 'round here in
The blacksmith said: "It don't seem as if you could have looked all
over the house. He's such a little bit of a skeezucks."
Keno told him how they had searched in every bunk, and how the milk was
waiting on the table, and how the pup had escaped when some one opened
The men all volunteered to go up on the hill with torches and lanterns,
to see if the trail of the some one who had done this deed might not be
discovered. Accordingly, the lights were secured and the party climbed
the slope. All of them entered the cabin and heard the explanation of
exactly how old Jim had found that the little chap was gone.
Webber was one of the number. To satisfy his incredulous mind, he
searched every possible and impossible lurking-place where an object as
small as a ball could be concealed.
"I guess he's went," he agreed, at last.
Then out on the hill-side went the crowd, and breaking up in groups,
each with its lanterns and torches, they searched the rock-strewn slope
In every direction. The wavering lights went hither and yon, revealing
now the faces of the anxious men, and then prodigious features of a
clump of granite bowlders, jewelled with mica, sparkling in the light.
Intensely the darkness hedged the groups about. The sounds of their
voices and of rocks that crunched beneath their boots alone disturbed
the great, eternal calm; but the search was vain. The searchers had
known it could be of no avail, for the puny foot of man could have made
no track upon the slanted floor of granite fragments that constituted
the hill-side. It was something to do for Jim, and that was all.
At length, about midnight, it came to an end. They lingered on the
slope, however, to offer their theories, invariably hopeful, and to say
that Monday morning would accomplish miracles in the way of setting
Many were supperless when all save Jim and little Keno had again
returned to Borealis and left the two alone at the cabin.
"We'll save the milk in case he might come home by any chance," said
the gray old miner, and he placed the cup on a shelf against the wall.
In silence he cooked the humble dinner, which he placed on the table in
front of his equally voiceless companion. Keno and the pup went at the
meal with unpoetic vigor, but Jim could do no eating. He went to the
door from time to time to listen. Then he once more searched the
blankets in the bunks.
"Wal, anyway," said he, at last, "he took his doll."
THE GUILTY MISS DOC
That Keno and Tintoretto should sleep was inevitable, after the way
they had eaten. Old Jim then took his lantern and went out alone.
Perhaps his tiny foundling had wandered away by himself, he thought.
Searching and searching, up hill and down, lighting his way through the
brush, the miner went on and on, to leave no spot unvisited. He was
out all night, wandering here and climbing there on the hillside,
pausing now and again to listen and to look about, almost expectantly,
where naught could be seen save the mighty procession of the stars, and
naught could be heard save the ringing of the inter-stellar silence as
the earth swung steadily onward in her course.
Hour after hour of the darkness went by and found him searching still.
With the coming of the morning he suddenly grasped at a startling
Miss Doc!—Miss Dennihan! She must have stolen his foundling!
Her recent climb to his cabin, her protracted stay, her baffled
curiosity—these were ample explanation for the trick she must have
played! How easily she might have watched the place, slipped in the
moment the cabin was left unguarded, and carried off the little pilgrim!
Jim knew she would glory in such a revenge. She probably cared not a
whit for the child, but to score against himself, for defeating her
purpose when she called, she would doubtless have gone to any possible
The miner was enraged, but a second later a great gush of thankfulness
and relief surged upward in his heart. At least, the little man would
not have been out all night in the hills! Then growing sick in turn,
he thought this explanation would be too good to be true. It was
madness—only a hope! He clung to it tenaciously, however, then gave
it up, only to snatch it back again in desperation as he hastened home
to his cabin.
"Keno, wake up," he cried to his lodger, shaking him briskly by the
shoulder. "Keno! Keno!"
"What's the matter? Time for breakfast?" asked Keno, drowsily, risking
only half an eye with which to look about. "Why not call me gently?"
"Get up!" commanded Jim. "I have thought of where little Skeezucks has
"Where?" cried Keno, suddenly aroused. "I'll go and kill the cuss that
took him off!"
"Miss Doc!" replied the miner. "Miss Doc!"
"Miss Doc?" repeated Keno, weakly, pausing in the act of pulling on his
boots. "By jinks! Say, I couldn't kill no woman, Jim. How do you
"Stands to reason," Jim replied, and explaining his premises rapidly
and clearly, he punched poor Keno into something almost as good as
"By jinks! I can't believe it," said Keno, who did believe it with
fearful thoroughness. "Jim, she wouldn't dare, an' us two fellers
liable to bust her house to pieces."
"Don't you know she'd be dead sure to play a trick like that?" said
Jim, who could not bear to listen to a doubt. "Don't you see she
couldn't do anything else, bein' a woman?"
"Maybe—maybe," answered Keno, with a sort of acquiescence that is
deadlier than an out-and-out denial. "But—I wouldn't want to see you
disappointed, Jim—I wouldn't want to see it."
"Wal, you come on, that's all," said Jim. "If it ain't so—I want to
know it early in the day!"
"But—what can I do?" still objected Keno. "Wouldn't you rather I'd
stay home and git the breakfast?"
"We don't want any breakfast if she 'ain't got the little boy. You
Keno came; so did Tintoretto. The three went down the slope as the sun
looked over the rim of the mountains. The chill and crispness of the
air seemed a part of those early rays of light.
In sight of the home of Doc and Miss Dennihan, they paused and stepped
behind a fence, for the door of the neat little house was open and the
lady herself was sweeping off the steps, with the briskness inseparable
from her character.
She presently disappeared, but the door, to Jim's relief, was left
standing open. He proceeded boldly on his course.
"Now, I'll stay outside and hold the pup," said Keno.
"If anything goes wrong, you let the pup go loose," instructed Jim.
"He might distract her attention."
Thereupon he went in at the creaking little garden gate, and, leaving
it open, knocked on the door and entered the house. He had hardly more
than come within the room when Miss Doc appeared from her kitchen.
"Mercy in us, if you ain't up before your breakfast!" she said.
"Whatever do you want in my house at this time of mornin', you Jim
"You know what I came for," said Jim. "I want my little boy."
"Your little boy?" she echoed. "I never knowed you had no little boy.
You never said nuthin' 'bout no little boy when I was up to your cabin."
Jim's heart, despite his utmost efforts to be hopeful, was sinking.
"You know I found a little kid," he said, less aggressively. "And some
one's taken him off—stole him—that's what they've done, and I'll bet
a bit it's you!"
"Wal, if I ever!" cried Miss Doc, her eyes lighting up dangerously.
"Did you come down here to tell me right to my face I stole from your
dirty little shanty?"
"I want my little boy," said Jim.
"Wal, you git out of my house," commanded Miss Doc. "If John was up
you'd never dare to stay here another minute. You clear out!
A-callin' me a thief!"
Jim's hope collapsed in his bosom. The taking of the child he could
gladly have forgiven. Any excuse would have satisfied his
anger—anything was bearable, save to know that he had come on a false
"Miss Doc," he said, "I only want the little kid. Don't say he ain't
"Tellin' me I'd steal!" she said, in her indignation. "You shiftless,
good-for-nothin'—" But she left her string of epithets incompleted,
all on account of an interruption in the shape of Tintoretto.
Keno had made up his mind that everything was going wrong, and he had
loosed the pup.
Bounding in at the door, that enthusiastic bit of awkwardness and good
intentions jumped on the front of Miss Doc's dress, gave a lick at her
hand, scooted back to his master, and wagged himself against the
tables, chairs, and walls with clumsy dexterity. Sniffing and bumping
his nose on the carpet, he pranced through the door to the kitchen.
Almost immediately Jim heard the sound of something being bowled over
on the floor—something being licked—something vainly striving with
the over-affectionate pup, and then there came a coo of joy.
"There he is!" cried Jim, and before Miss Doc could lift so much as
hand or voice to restrain him, he had followed Tintoretto and fallen on
his knees by the side of his lost little foundling, who was helplessly
straddled by the pup, and who, for the first time, dropped his doll as
he held out his tiny arms to be taken.
"My little boy!" said the miner—"my little boy!" and taking both doll
and little man in his arms he held them in passionate tenderness
against his heart.
"How da'st you come in my kitchen with your dirty boots?" demanded Miss
Dennihan, in all her unabashed pugnacity.
"It's all right, little Skeezucks," said Jim to the timid little
pilgrim, who was clinging to his collar with all the strength of a
baby's new confidence and hope. "Did you think old brother Jim was
lost? Did you want to go home and get some bread and milk?"
"He ain't a bit hungry. He didn't want nuthin' to eat," said Miss Doc,
in self-defence. "And you ain't no more fit to have that there child
"Goin' to have him all the same," old Jim interrupted, starting for the
door. "You stole him—that's what you did!"
"I didn't do no sech thing," said the housewife. "I jest nachelly
borrowed him—jest for over night. And now you've got him, I hope
you're satisfied. And you kin jest clear out o' my house, do you hear?
And I can't scrub and sweep too soon where your lazy, dirty old boots
has been on the floor!"
"Wal," drawled Jim, "I can't throw away these boots any too soon,
neither. I wouldn't wear a pair of boots which had stepped on any
floor of yours."
He therefore left the house at once, even as the lady began her violent
sweeping. Interrupting Keno's mad chortles of joy at sight of little
Skeezucks, Jim gave him the tiny man for a moment's keeping, and,
taking off his boots, threw them down before Miss Dennihan's gate in
Then once more he took his little man on his arm and started away. But
when he had walked a half-dozen rods, on the rocks that indented the
tender soles of his stockinged feet, he was stepping with gingerly
uncertainty. He presently came to a halt. The ground was not only
lumpy, it was cold.
"I'll tell you what," he slowly drawled, "in this little world there's
about one chance in a million for a man to make a President of himself,
and about nine hundred and ninety-nine chances in a thousand for him to
make a fool of himself."
"That's what I thought," said Keno.
"All the same, if only I had the resolution I'd leave them boots there
"What for?" said Keno.
"Wal," drawled Jim, "a man can't always tell he comes of a proud family
by the cut of his clothes. But, Keno, you ain't troubled with pride,
so you go back and fetch me the boots."
Then, when he presently drew his cowhide casings on, he sat for a
moment enjoying the comfort of those soles beneath his feet. For the
time that they halted where they were, he held his rescued little boy
to his heart in an ecstasy such as he never had dreamed could be given
to a man.
PREPARATIONS FOR CHRISTMAS
When the word spread 'round that Jim and the quaint little foundling
were once more united, the story of the episode at Miss Doc's home
necessarily followed to make the tale complete. Immensely relieved and
grateful, to know that no dire calamity had befallen the camp's first
and only child, the rough men nevertheless lost no time in conceiving
the outcome to be fairly amusing.
"You kin bet that Doc was awake all the time, and listenin', as long as
Jim was there," said Bone, "but six yoke of oxen couldn't 'a' dragged
his two eyes open, or him out of bed, to mingle in the ceremonies."
To prevent a recurrence of similar descents upon his household, Jim
arranged his plans in such a manner that the timid little Skeezucks
should never again be left alone. Indeed, the gray old miner hardly
ever permitted the little chap to be out of his sight. Hour by hour,
day by day, he remained at his cabin, playing with the child, telling
him stories, asking him questions, making him promises of all the
wonderful toys and playthings he would manufacture soon.
Once in a while the little fellow spoke. That utterance came with
difficulty to his lips was obvious. He must always have been a silent,
backward little fellow, and sad, as children rarely become at an age so
tender. Of who or what he was he gave no clew. He seemed to have no
real name, to remember no parents, to feel no confidence in anything
save "Bruvver Jim" and Tintoretto.
In the course of a week a number of names had been suggested for the
tiny bit of a stranger, but none could suit the taste of Jim. He
waited still for a truant inspiration, and meanwhile "Skeezucks" came
daily more and more into use among the men of Borealis.
It was during this time that a parcel arrived at the cabin from the
home of Miss Doc. It was fetched to the hill by Doc himself, who said
it was sent by his sister. He departed at once, to avoid the
discussion which he felt its contents might occasion.
On tearing it open old Jim was not a little amazed to discover a lot of
little garments, fashioned to the size of tiny Skeezucks, with all the
skill which lies—at nature's second thought—in the hand of woman.
Neat little undergarments, white little frocks, a something that the
miner felt by instinct was a "nightie," and two pairs of the smallest
of stockings rewarded the overhauling of the package, and left Jim
"By jinks!" said Keno, pulling down his sleeves, "them are awful small
"If only I had the time," drawled Jim, "I'd take 'em back to Miss Doc
and throw them in her yard. We don't need anybody sewin' for little
Skeezucks. I was meanin' to make him somethin' better than these
"Oh!" said Keno. "Well, we could give 'em to the pup. He'd like to
play with them little duds."
"No; I'll try 'em on the little boy tonight," reflected Jim, "and then,
if we find they ain't a fit, why, I'll either send 'em back or cut 'em
apart and sew 'em all over and make 'em do."
But once he had tried them on, their fate was sealed. They remained as
much a part of the tiny man as did his furry doll. Indeed, they were
presently almost forgotten, for December being well advanced, the one
great topic of conversation now was the Christmas celebration to be
held for the camp's one little child.
Ten of the big, rough citizens had come one evening to the cabin on the
hill, to settle on some of the details of what they should do. The
tiny pilgrim, whom they all regarded so fondly, had gone to sleep and
Jim had placed him in his bunk. In the chimney a glowing fire drove
away the chill of the wintry air.
"Speakin' of catfish, of course we'll hang up his stockin'," said
Field. "Christmas wouldn't be no Christmas without a stockin'."
"Stockin'!" echoed the blacksmith. "We'll have to hang up a
minin'-shaft, I reckon, for to hold all the things."
"I'm goin' to make him a kind of kaliderscope myself, or maybe two or
three," said one modest individual, stroking his chin.
Dunn, the most unworkman-like carpenter that ever built a crooked
house, declared it was his intention to fashion a whole set of
alphabetical blocks of prodigious size and unearthly beauty.
"Well, I can't make so much in the way of fancy fixin's, but you jest
wait and see," said another.
The blacksmith darkly hinted at wonders evolving beneath the curly
abundance of his hair, and Lufkins likewise kept his purposes to
"I s'pose we'd ought to have a tree," said Jim. "We could make a
Christmas-tree look like the Garden of Eden before Mrs. Adam began to
eat the ornaments."
"That's the ticket," Webber agreed. "That's sure the boss racket of
"We couldn't git no tree into this shanty," objected Field. "This
place ain't big enough to hold a Christmas puddin'."
"Of course it is," said the carpenter. "It's ten foot ten by eighteen
foot six inches, or I can't do no guessin'."
"That 'mount of space couldn't hold jest me, on Christmas," estimated
"And the whole camp sure will want to come," added another.
"'Ceptin' Miss Doc," suggested Webber.
"'Ceptin' Miss Doc," agreed the previous speaker.
"Then why not have the tree down yonder, into Webber's shop, same as
church?" asked Field. "We could git the whole camp in there."
This was acclaimed a thought of genius.
"It suits me down to the ground," said Jim, with whom all ultimate
decision lay, by right of his foster-parenthood of little Skeezucks,
"only I don't see so plain where we're goin' to git the tree. We're
burnin' all the biggest brush around Borealis, and there ain't a
genuine Christmas-tree in forty miles."
The truth of this observation fell like a dampened blanket on all the
"That's so," said Webber. "That's just the luck!"
"There's a bunch of willers and alders by the spring," suggested a
"You pore, pitiful cuss," said Field. "You couldn't have seen no
Christmas-tree in all your infancy."
"If only I had the time," drawled Jim, "I'd go across to the Pinyon
mountains and git a tree. Perhaps I can do that yet."
"If you'd do that, Jim, that would be the biggest present of the lot,"
said Webber. "You wouldn't have to do nuthin' more."'
"Wal, I'm goin' to make a Noah's ark full of animals, anyway," said
Jim. "Also a few cars and boats and a big tin horn—if only I've got
"But we'll reckon on you for the tree," insisted the blacksmith.
"Then, of course, we want a great big Christmas dinner."
"What are you goin' to do fer a turkey?" inquired Field.
"And rich brown gravy?" added the carpenter.
"And cranberry sauce and mince-pie?" supplemented Lufkins.
"Well, maybe we could git a rabbit for the turkey," answered the smith.
"And, by jinks! I kin make a lemon-pie that tastes like a chunk
dropped out of heaven," volunteered Keno, pulling at his sleeves.
"But what about that rich brown gravy?" queried the carpenter.
"Smoky White can dish up the slickest dough-nuts you ever slapped your
lip onto," informed the modest individual who stroked his chin.
"We can have pertatoes and beans and slapjacks on the side," a hopeful
miner reminded the company.
"You bet. Don't you worry; we can trot out a regular banquet," Field
assured them, optimistically. "S'posen we don't have turkey and
cranberry sauce and a big mince-pie?"
"I'd like that rich brown gravy," murmured the carpenter—"good and
thick and rich and brown."
"We could rig up a big, long table in the shop," planned the
blacksmith, "and put a hundred candles everywhere, and have the tree
all blazin' with lights, and you bet things would be gorgeous."
"If we git the tree," said Lufkins.
"And the rabbit fer a turkey," added a friend.
"Well, by jinks! you'll git the lemon-pie all right, if you don't git
nuthin' else," declared little Keno.
"If only I can plan it out I'll fetch the tree," said Jim. "I'd like
to do that for the little boy."
"Jim's an awful clever ole cuss," said Field, trusting to work some
benefit by a judicious application of flattery. "It ain't every man
which knows the kind of a tree to chop. Not all trees is
Christmas-trees. But ole Jim is a clever ole duck, you bet."
"Wal," drawled Jim, "I never suspect my own intelligence till a man
begins to tell me I'm a clever old duck. Still, I reckon I ain't
over-likely to cut no cherry-trees over to the Pinyon hills."
"The celebration's comin' to a head in bully style, that's the main
concern," said the teamster. "I s'pose we'd better begin to invite all
"If all of 'em come," suggested a listener, "that one jack-rabbit
settin' up playin' turkey will look awful sick."
"I'd hate to git left on the gravy," added the carpenter—"if there's
goin' to be any gravy."
"Aw, we'll have buckets of grub," said the smith. "We'll ask 'em all
to 'please bring refreshments,' same as they do in families where they
never git a good square meal except at surprise-parties and birthday
blow-outs. Don't you fear about the feed."
"Well, we ought to git the jig to goin'," suggested Field. "Lots of
the boys needs a good fair warnin' when they're goin' to tackle cookin'
grub for a Christmas dinner. I vote we git out of here and go down
hill and talk the racket up."
This motion was carried at once. The boys filed out with hearty
good-nights, and wended their way down the slope, with the bite of the
frosted air at their ears.
Then Jim, at the very thought of travelling forty miles to fetch a tree
for Christmas gayeties, sat down before his fire to take a rest.
TROUBLES AND DISCOVERIES
For the next ten days the talk of the camp was the coming celebration.
Moreover, man after man was surrounding himself with mystery
impenetrable, as he drew away in his shell, so to speak, to undergo
certain throes of invention and secret manufacture of presents for the
tiny boy at the cabin on the hill. Knowing nods, sly winks, and
jealous guarding of their cleverness marked the big, rough fellows one
by one. And yet some of the most secretive felt a necessity for
consulting Jim as to what was appropriate, what would please little
Skeezucks, and what was worthy to be tied upon the tree.
That each and every individual thus laboring to produce his offering
should be eager to excel his neighbor, and to win the greatest
appreciation from the all-unknowing little pilgrim for his own
particular toy or trinket, was a natural outcome of the Christmas
spirit actuating the manoeuvres. And all the things they could give
would have to be made, since there was not a shop in a radius of a
hundred miles where baubles for youngsters could be purchased, while
Borealis, having never had a baby boy before in all its sudden annals
of being, had neglected all provision for the advent of tiny Skeezucks.
The carpenter came to the cabin first, with a barley-sack filled with
the blocks he had made for the small foundling's Christmas ecstasy.
Before he would show them, however, Keno was obliged to leave the house
and the tiny pilgrim himself was placed in a bunk from which he could
"I want to surprise him," explained the carpenter.
He then dumped out his blocks.
As lumber was a luxury in Borealis, he had been obliged to make what
shift he could. In consequence of this the blocks were of several
sizes, a number were constructed of several pieces of board nailed
together—and split in the process—no two were shaped alike, except
for generalities, and no one was straight. However, they were larger
than a man's two fists, they were gaudily painted, and the alphabet was
sprinkled upon them with prodigal generosity. There were even
hieroglyphics upon them, which the carpenter described as birds and
animals. They were certainly more than any timid child could ever have
"Them's it," said Dunn, watching the face of Jim with what modest pride
the situation would permit. "Now, what I want you to do is to give me
a genuine, candid opinion of the work."
"Wal, I'll tell you," drawled the miner, "whenever a man asks you for a
candid opinion, that's the time to fill your shovel with guff. It's
the only safe proceedin'. So I won't fool around with candid opinions,
Dunn, I'll just admit they are jewels. Cut my diamonds if they ain't!"
"I kind of thought so myself," confessed the carpenter. "But I thought
as you was a first-class critic, why, I'd like to hear what you'd say."
"No, I ain't no critic," Jim replied. "A critic is a feller who can
say nastier things than anybody else about things that anybody else can
do a heap sight better than he can himself."
"Well, I do reckon, as who shouldn't say so, that nobody livin' into
Borealis but me could 'a' made them blocks," agreed Dunn, returning the
lot to his sack. "But I jest wanted to hear you say so, Jim, fer you
and me has had an eddication which lots of cusses into camp 'ain't
never got. Not that it's anything agin 'em, but—you know how it is.
I'll bet the little shaver will like them better'n anything else he'll
"Oh, he'll like 'em in a different way," agreed the miner. "No doubt
And when the carpenter had gone old Jim took his little foundling from
the berth and sat him on his knee.
In the tiny chap's arms the powder-flask-and-potato doll was firmly
held. The face of the lady had wrinkled with a premature descent of
age upon her being. One of her eyes had disappeared, while her
soot-made mouth had been wiped across her entire countenance.
The quaint bit of a boy was dressed, as usual, in the funny little
trousers that came to his heels, while his old fur cap had been kept in
requisition for the warmth it afforded his ears. He cuddled
confidingly against his big, rough protector, but he made no sound of
speaking, nor did anything suggestive of a smile come to play upon his
grave little features.
Jim had told him of Christmas by the hour—all the beauty of the story,
so old, so appealing to the race of man, who yearns towards everything
affording a brightness of hope and a faith in anything human.
"What would little Skeezucks like for his Christmas?" the man inquired,
for the twentieth time.
The little fellow pressed closer against him, in baby shyness and
The miner clasped him tenderly against his heart. Yet he had but
scanty intimation of the all the tiny pilgrim meant.
He sat with him throughout that day, however, as he had so many of
these fleeting days. The larder was neglected; the money contributed
at "church" had gone at once, to score against a bill at the store, as
large as the cabin itself, and only the labors of Keno, chopping brush
for fuel, kept the home supplied even with a fire. Jim had been born
beneath the weight of some star too slow to move along.
When Keno came back to the cabin from his work in the brush it was well
along in the afternoon. Jim decided to go below and stock up the
pantry with food. On arriving at the store, however, he met a new
manner of reception.
The gambler, Parky, was in charge, as a recent purchaser of the whole
"You can't git no more grub-stake here without the cash," he said to
Jim. "And now you've come, you can pony up on the bill you 'ain't yet
"So?" said Jim.
"You bet your boots it's so, and you can't begin to pungle up a minute
too soon!" was the answer.
"I reckon you'd ask a chicken to pungle up the gravel in his gizzard if
you thought he'd picked up a sliver of gold," Jim drawled, in his lazy
utterance. "And an ordinary chicken, with the pip thrown in, could
pungle twice to my once."
"Ain't got the stuff, hey?" said Parky. "Broke, I s'pose? Then maybe
you'll git to work, you old galoot, and stop playin' parson and
goody-goody games. You don't git nothing here without the chink. So
perhaps you'll git to work at last."
A red-nosed henchman of the gambler's put in a word.
"I don't see why you 'ain't gone to work," he said.
"Don't you?" drawled Jim, leaning on the counter to survey the speaker.
"Well, it looks to me as if you found out, long ago, that all work and
no play makes a man a Yankee."
"I ain't no Yankee, you kin bet on that!" said the man.
"That's pretty near incredible," drawled Jim.
"And I ain't neither," declared the gambler, who boasted of being
Canadian. "Don't you forget that, old boy."
"No," Jim slowly replied, "I've often noticed that all that glitters
"Well, you can clear out of here and notice how things look outside,"
Jim was slowly straightening up when the blacksmith and the teamster
entered the place. They had heard the gambler's order and were
thoroughly astounded. No man, howsoever poor and unprepared to pay a
wretched bill, had ever been treated thus in Borealis before.
"What's the matter?" said Webber.
"Nuthin', particularly," answered Jim, in his slow, monotonous way,
"only a difference of opinion. Parky thinks he's brainy, and a
"I can see you don't git another snack of grub in here, my friend,"
retorted Parky, adding a number of oaths. "And for just two cents I'd
break your jaw and pitch you out in the street."
"Not with your present flow of language," answered Jim.
The teamster inquired, "Why don't Jim git any more grub?"
"Because I'm running this joint and he 'ain't got the cash," said
Parky. "You got anything to say about the biz?"
"Jim's got a call on me and my cash," replied the brawny Webber. "Jim,
you tell him what you need, and I'll foot the bill."
"I'll settle half, myself," added Lufkins.
"Thanks, boys, not this evenin'," said Jim, whose pride had singular
moments for coming to the surface. "There's only one time of day when
it's safe to deal with a gambler, and that's thirteen o'clock."
"I wouldn't sell you nothing, anyway," said Parky, with a swagger. "He
couldn't git grub here now for no money—savvy?"
"I wonder why you call it grub, now that it's come into your greasy
hands!" drawled the miner, as he slowly started to leave the store.
"I'd be afraid you'd deal me a dirty ace of spades instead of a decent
slice of bacon." And, hands in pockets, he sauntered away, vaguely
wondering what he should do.
The blacksmith hung for a moment in the balance of indecision, rapidly
thinking. Then he followed where the gray old Jim had gone, and
presently overtook him in the road.
"Jim," he said, "what about poor little Skeezucks? Say, I'll tell you
what we'll do: I'll wait a little, and then send Field to the store and
have him git whatever you need, and pretend it's all for himself. Then
we'll lug it up the hill and slide it into the cabin slick as a lead
"Can't let you do it," said Jim.
"Why not?" demanded Webber.
Jim hesitated before he drawled his reply.
"If only I had the resolution," said he, "I wouldn't take nothing that
Parky could sell."
"When we git you once talkin' 'if-only,' the bluff is called," replied
the smith, with a grin. "Now what are you needin' at the shack?"
"You rich fellers want to run the whole shebang," objected Jim, by way
of an easy capitulation. "There never yet was a feller born with a
silver spoon in his mouth that didn't want to put it in every other
feller's puddin'. . . . I was goin' to buy a can or two of condensed
milk and a slab of bacon and a sack of flour and a bean or two and a
little 'baccy, and a few things about like that."
"All right," said the blacksmith, tabulating all these items on his
fingers. "And Field kin look around and see if there ain't some extrys
for little Skeezucks."
"If only I had the determination I wouldn't accept a thing from Parky's
stock," drawled the miner, as before. "I'll go to work on the claim
and pay you back right off."
"Kerrect," answered Webber, as gravely as possible, thinking of the
hundred gaudy promises old Jim had made concerning his undeveloped and
so far worthless claim. "I hope you'll strike it good and rich."
"Wal," drawled Jim; "bad luck has to associate with a little good luck
once in a while, to appear sort of half-way respectable. And my
luck—same as any tired feller's—'ain't been right good Sunday-school
company for several years."
So he climbed back up the hill once more, and, coming to his cabin, had
a long, earnest look at the picks, bars, drills, and other implements
of mining, heavy with dust, in the corner.
"If only the day wasn't practically gone," said he, "I'd start to work
on the claim this afternoon."
But he touched no tools, and presently instead he took the grave little
foundling on his knee and told him, all over, the tales the little
fellow seemed most to enjoy.
When the stock of provisions was finally fetched to the house by Webber
himself, the worthy smith was obliged to explain that part of the money
supplied to Field for the purchase of the food had been confiscated for
debt at the store. In consequence of this the quantity had been cut to
a half its intended dimensions.
"And the worst of it is," said the blacksmith, in conclusion, "we all
owe a little at the store, and Parky's got suspicious that we're
sneakin' things to you."
Indeed, as he left the house, he saw that certain red-nosed microbe of
a human being attached to the gambler, spying on his visit to the hill.
Stopping for a moment to reflect upon the nearness of Christmas and the
needless worry that he might inflict by informing Jim of his discovery,
Webber shook his head and went his way, keeping the matter to himself.
But with food in the house old Jim was again at ease, so much so,
indeed, that he quite forgot to begin that promised work upon his
claim. He had never worked except when dire necessity made resting no
longer possible, and then only long enough to secure the wherewithal
for sufficient food to last him through another period of sitting
around to think. If thinking upon subjects of no importance whatsoever
had been a lucrative employment, Jim would certainly have accumulated
the wealth of the whole wide world.
He took his pick in his hands the following day, but placed it again in
its corner, slowly, after a moment's examination of its blunted steel.
Three days went by. The weather was colder. Bitter winds and frowning
clouds were hastening somewhere to a conclave of the wintry elements.
It was four days only to Christmas. Neither the promised Noah's ark to
present to tiny Skeezucks nor the Christmas-tree on which the men had
planned to hang their gifts was one whit nearer to realization than as
if they had never been suggested.
Meantime, once again the food-supply was nearly gone. Keno kept the
pile of fuel reasonably high, but cheer was not so prevalent in the
cabin as to ask for further room. The grave little pilgrim was just a
trifle quieter and less inclined to eat. He caught a cold, as tiny as
himself, but bore its miseries uncomplainingly. In fact, he had never
cried so much as once since his coming to the cabin; and neither had he
In sheer concern old Jim went forth that cold and windy afternoon of
the day but four removed from Christmas, to make at least a show of
working on his claim. Keno, Skeezucks, and the pup remained behind,
the little red-headed man being busily engaged in some great culinary
mystery from which he said his lemon-pie for Christmas should evolve.
When presently Jim stood beside the meagre post-hole he had made once
upon a time, as a starter for a mining-shaft, he looked at it ruefully.
How horridly hard that rock appeared! What a wretched little scar it
was he had made with all that labor he remembered so vividly! What was
the good of digging here? Nothing!
Dragging his pick, he looked for a softer spot in which to sink the
steel. There were no softer spots. And the pick helve grew so
intensely cold! Jim dropped it to the ground, and with hands thrust
into his armpits, for the warmth afforded, he hunched himself dismally
and scanned the prospect with doleful eyes. Why couldn't the hill
break open, anyhow, and show whether anything worth the having were
contained in its bulk or not?
A last summer's mullen stock, beating incessantly in the wind, seemed
the only thing alive on all that vast outbulging of the earth. The
stunted brush stiffly carded the breeze that blew so persistently.
From rock to rock the gray old miner's gaze went wandering. So
undisturbed had been the surface of the earth since he had owned the
claim that a shallow channel, sluiced in the earth by a freshet of the
spring long past, remained as the waters had cut it. Slowly up the
course of this insignificant cicatrice old Jim ascended, his hands
still held beneath his arms, his long mustache and his grizzled beard
blown awry in the breeze. The pick he left behind.
Coming thus to a deeper gouge in the sand of the hill, he halted and
gazed attentively at a thick seam of rock outcropping sharply where the
long-gone freshet had laid it bare. In mining parlance it was
"quartzy." To Jim it appeared even more. He stooped above it and
attempted to break away a fragment with his fingers. At this he
failed. Rubbing off the dust and sand wherewith old mother nature was
beginning to cover it anew, he saw little spots, at which he scratched
with his nails.
"Awful cold it's gittin'," he drawled to himself, and sitting down on
the meagre bank of earth he once more thrust his hands beneath his coat
and looked at the outcropping dismally.
He had doubtless been gone from the cabin half an hour, and not a
stroke had he given with his pick, when, as he sat there looking at the
ground, the voice of Keno came on the wind from the door of the shack.
Arising, Jim started at once towards his home, leaving his pick on the
hill-side a rod or two below.
"What is it?" he called, as he neared the house.
"Calamerty!" yelled Keno, and he disappeared within the door.
Jim almost made haste.
"What kind of a calamity?" said he, as he entered the room. "What's
"The lemon-pie!" said Keno, whose face was a study in the art of
"Oh," said Jim, instantly relieved, "is that all?"
"All?" echoed Keno. "By jinks! I can't make another before it's
Christmas, to save my neck, and I used all the sugar and nearly all the
flour we had."
"Is it a hopeless case?" inquired Jim.
"Some might not think so," poor Keno replied. "I scoured out the old
Dutch oven and I've got her in a-bakin', but—"
"Well, maybe she ain't so worse."
"Jim," answered Keno, tragically, "I didn't find out till I had her
bakin' fine. Then I looked at the bottle I thought was the lemon
extract, and, by jinks! what do you think?"
"I don't feel up to the arts of creatin' lemon-pies," confessed the
miner, warming himself before the fire. "What happened?"
"You have to have lemon extract—you know that?" said Keno.
"Well, by jinks, Jim, it wasn't lemon extract after all! It was
A terrible moment of silence ensued.
Then Jim said, "Was it all the hair-oil I had?"
"Every drop," said Keno.
"Wal," drawled the miner, sagely, "don't take on too hard. Into each
picnic some rain must fall."
"But the boys won't eat it," answered Keno, inconsolably.
"You don't know," replied Jim. "You never can tell what people will
eat on Christmas till the follerin' day. They'll take to anything that
looks real pretty and smells seasonable. What did I do with my pick?"
"You must have left it behind," said Keno. "You ain't goin' to hit the
pie with your pick?"
"Wal, not till Christmas, anyway, Keno, and only then in case we've
busted all the knives and saws trying to git it apart," said Jim,
"Would you keep it, sure, and feed it to 'em all the same?" inquired
Keno, forlornly, eager for a ray of hope.
"I certainly would," replied the miner. "They won't know the diff
between a lemon-pie and a can of tomatoes. So I guess I'll go and git
my pick. It may come on to snow, and then I couldn't find it till the
Without the slightest intention of working any more, Jim sauntered back
to the place where the pick was lying on the hill and took it up. By
chance he thought of the ledge of quartz above in the rain-sluiced
"Might as well hit her a lick," he drawled to himself, and climbing to
the spot he drove the point of his implement into a crevice of the rock
and broke away a piece of two or three pounds in weight. This he took
in his big, red hands, which were numbing in the cold.
For a moment he looked at the fragment of quartz with unbelieving eyes.
He wet it with his tongue. Then a something that answered in Jim to
excitement pumped from his heart abruptly.
The rock was flecked all through with tiny specks of metal that the
miner knew unerringly.
It was gold.
THE MAKING OF A CHRISTMAS-TREE
Despite the snow that fell that night, despite the near approach of
Christmas, old Jim's discovery aroused a great excitement in the camp.
That very evening the news was known throughout all Borealis, and all
next day, in the driving storm, the hill was visited, the ledge was
viewed, and the topic was discussed at length in all its amazing
Teamsters, miners, loiterers—all, even including the gambler—came to
pay their homage at the hiding-place of one of Mammon's family. All
the mountain-side was taken up in claims. The calmest man in all the
hills was Jim himself.
Parky made him an offer without the slightest hesitation.
"I'll square off your bill at the store," he said, "and give you a
hundred dollars' worth of grub for the claim and prospect just as she
"Not to-day," old Jim replied. "I never do no swapping at the other's
feller's terms when I'm busy. We've got to get ready for Christmas,
and you don't look to me like Santy Claus hunting 'round for lovely
things to do."
"Anyway, I'll send up a lot of grub," declared the gambler, with a
wonderful softening of the heart. "I was foolin'—just havin' a
joke—the last time you was down to the store. You know you can have
the best we've got in the deck."
"Wal, I 'ain't washed the taste of your joke clean out of my mouth just
yet, so I won't bother you to-day," drawled Jim; and with muttered
curses the gambler left, determined to have that ledge of gold-bearing
rock, let the cost be what it might.
"I guess we'll have to quit on that there Christmas-tree," said the
blacksmith, who was present with others at the cabin. "Seems you
didn't have time to go to the Pinyon hills and fetch one back."
"If only I hadn't puttered 'round with the work on the claim," said
Jim, "we might have had that tree as well as not. But I'll tell you
what we can do. We can cut down the alders and willows at the spring,
and bind a lot together and tie on some branches of mountain-tea and
make a tree. That is, you fellers can, for little Skeezucks ain't
a-feelin' right well to-day, and I reckon I'll stay close beside him
till he spruces up."
"What about your mine?" inquired Lufkins.
"It ain't agoin' to run away," said the old philosopher, calmly. "I'll
let it set there for a few more days, as long as I can't hang it up on
the tree. It's just my little present to the boy, anyhow."
If anything had been needed to inject new enthusiasm into the plans for
a Christmas celebration or to fire anew the boyhood in the men, the
find of gold at Jim's very door would have done the trick a dozen times
With hearts new-created for the simple joys of their labor, the big
rough fellows cut the meagre growth of leafless trees at the spring in
the small ravine, and gathered evergreen mountain-tea that grew in
scrawny clusters here and there on the mountains.
Armful after armful of this, their only possible material, they carried
to the blacksmith's shop below, and there wrought long and hard and
earnestly, tying together the wisps of green and the boughs and trunks
of tender saplings.
Four of the stalks, the size of a lady's wrist, they fastened together
with twisted wire to form the main support, or body, of their tree, To
this the reconstructed, enlarged, and strengthened branches were
likewise wired. Lastly, the long, green spikes of the mountain shrub
were tied on, in bunches, like so many worn-out brooms. The tree, when
completed and standing in its glory in the shop, was a marvellous
creation, fully as much like a fir from the forest as a hair-brush is
like a palm.
Then began the scheme of its decoration. One of the geniuses broke up
countless bottles, for the red and green glass they afforded, and,
tying the pieces in slings of cord, hung them in great profusion from
the tree's peculiar arms. From the ceiling of his place of business,
Bone, the barkeep, cut down a fluffy lot of colored paper, stuck there
in a great rosette, and with this he added much original beauty to the
pile. Out of cigar-boxes came a great heap of bright tin-foil that
went on the branches in a way that only men could invent.
The carpenter loaded the structure with his gaudy blocks. The man who
had promised to make a "kind of kaliderscope" made four or five instead
of one. They were white-glass bottles filled with painted pebbles,
buttons, dimes, chopped-up pencils, scraps of shiny tin, and anything
or everything that would lend confusion or color to the bottle's
interior as the thing was rolled about or shaken in the hands. These
were so heavy as to threaten the tree's stability. Therefore, they had
to be placed about its base on the floor.
The blacksmith had made a lot of little axes, shovels, picks, and
hammers, all of which had been filed and polished with the greatest
care and affectionate regard for the tiny man whose tree and Christmas
all desired to make the finest in the world.
The teamster had evolved, from the inside lining of his winter coat, a
hybrid duck-dog-bear that he called a "woolly sheep."
One of the men had whittled out no less than four fat tops, all ringed
with colors and truly beautiful to see, that he said were the best he
had ever beheld, despite the fact that something was in them that
seemed to prevent them from spinning.
Another old fellow brought a pair of rusty skates which were large
enough for a six-foot man. He told of the wonderful feats he had once
performed on the ice as he hung them on the tree for little Skeezucks.
The envy of all was awakened, however, by Field, the father of the
camp, who fetched a drum that would actually make a noise. He had
built this wonder out of genuine sheep-skin, stretched over both of the
ends of a bright tin can of exceptional size, from which he had eaten
the contents solely with the purpose in view of procuring the metal
There were wooden animals, cut-out guns, swords and daggers,
wagons—some of them made with spools for wheels—a sled on which the
paint was still wet, and dolls suspiciously suggestive of
potato-mashers and iron spoons, notwithstanding their clothing. There
were balls of every size and color, coins of gold and silver, and books
made up of pasted pictures, culled for the greater part from cans of
peaches, oysters, tomatoes, lobsters, and salmon.
Nearly every man had fashioned something, and hardly anything had been
left unpainted. The clumsy old "boys" of the town had labored with
untold patience to perfect their gifts. Their earnestness over the
child and the day was a beautiful thing to see. Never were presents
more impressive as to weight. The men had made them splendidly strong.
The gifts had been ticketed variously, many being marked "For Little
Skeezucks," but by far the greatest number bore the inscription: "For
Bruvver Jim's Baby—Merry Christmas."
The tree, by the time the things had been lashed upon its branches,
needed propping and guying in every direction. The placing of big,
white candles upon it, however, strained the skill and self-control of
the men to the last degree. If a candle prefers one set of antics to
another, that set is certainly embodied in the versatile schemes for
lopping over, which the wretched thing will develop on the
best-behaving tree in the world. On a home-made tree the opportunities
for a candle's enjoyment of this, its most diverting of
accomplishments, are increased remarkably. The day was cold, but the
men perspired from every pore, and even then the night came on before
the work was completed.
When at length they ceased their labors for the day, there was still
before them the appalling task of preparing the Christmas banquet.
In the general worry incident to all such preparations throughout the
world, Parky, the gambler, fired an unexpected shot. He announced his
intention of giving the camp a grand celebration of his own. The
"Palace" saloon would be thrown wide open for the holiday, and food,
drink, music, and dancing would be the order of the memorable occasion.
"It's a game to knock our tree and banquet into a cocked hat," said the
blacksmith, grimly. "Well—he may get some to come, but none of old
Jim's friends or the fellers which likes little Skeezucks is goin' to
desert our own little festival."
Nevertheless, the glitter of the home-made tree in the dingy shop was
The day before Christmas should, by right of delights about to blossom,
be nearly as happy as the sweet old carnival itself, but up at the
cabin on the hill it was far from being joyous.
The tiny mite of a foundling was not so well as when his friends had
left him on the previous afternoon.
He was up and dressed, sitting, in his grave little way, on the miner's
knee, weakly holding his crushed-looking doll, but his cold had
increased, his sweet baby face was paler, the sad, dumb look in his
eyes was deeper in its questioning, the breakfast that the fond old Jim
had prepared was quite untasted.
"He ain't agoin' to be right down sick, of course?" said the
blacksmith, come to report all the progress made. "Natchelly, we'd
better go on, gittin' ready fer the banquet? He'll be all right fer
"Oh yes," said Jim. "There never yet was a Christmas that wouldn't get
a little youngster well. He'll come to the tree, you bet. It's goin'
to be the happiest time he ever had."
Outside, the red-headed Keno was chopping at the brush. The weather
was cold and windy, the sky gray and forbidding. When the smith had
gone, old Jim, little Skeezucks, and the pup were alone. Tintoretto,
the joyous, was prancing about with a boot in his jaws. He stumbled
constantly over its bulk, and growled anew at every interference with
"Does little pardner like the pup?" said Jim, patting the sick little
man on the back with his clumsy but comforting hand. "Do you want him
to come here and play?"
The wee bit of a parentless, deserted boy slowly shook his head.
"Don't you like him any more?" said Jim.
A weak little nod was the answer.
"Is there anything the baby wants?" inquired the miner, tenderly.
"What would little Skeezucks like?"
For the very first time since his coming to the camp the little
fellow's brown eyes abruptly filled with tears. His tiny lip began to
"Bruv-ver Jim," he said, and, leaning against the rough old coat of the
miner, he cried in his silent way of passionate longing, far too deep
in his childish nature for the man to comprehend.
"Poor little man ain't well," said Jim, in a gentle way of soothing.
"Bruvver Jim is here all right, and goin' to stay," and, holding the
quiet little figure to his heart, he stood up and walked with him up
and down the dingy cabin's length, till the shaking little sobs had
ceased and the sad little man had gone to sleep.
All day the miner watched the sleeping or the waking of the tiny
pilgrim. The men who came to tell of the final completion of the tree
and the greater preparations for the feast were assured that the one
tiny guest for whom their labors of love were being expended would
surely be ready to enjoy the celebration.
The afternoon gave way to night in the manner common to wintry days.
From time to time a gust of wind tore the fleece from the clouds and
hurled it in snow upon the silent earth. Dimly the lights of the
cabins shone through the darkness and the chill.
At the blacksmith's shop the wind went in as if to warm itself before
the forge, only to find it chill and black, wherefore it crept out
again at the creaking door. A long, straight pencil of snow was flung
through a chink, across the earthen floor and against the swaying
Christmas-tree, on which the, presents, hanging in readiness for little
Skeezucks, beat out a dull, monotonous clatter of tin and wood as they
collided in the draught.
The morning—Christmas morning—broke with one bright gleam of
sunlight, shining through the leaden banks before the cover of clouds
was once more dropped upon the broken rim of mountains all about.
Old Jim was out of his bunk betimes, cooking a breakfast fit, he said,
"to tempt a skeleton to feast."
True to his scheme of ensnaring the gray old miner in an idleness with
regard to his mine which should soon prove a fatal mistake, Parky, the
gambler, had sent a load of the choicest provisions from the store to
the cabin on the hill. Only too glad of the daintier morsels thus
supplied for his ailing little guest, old Jim had made but feeble
protest when the things arrived, and now was preparing a meal from the
nicest of the packages.
Little Skeezucks, however, waked in a mood of lethargy not to be
fathomed by mere affection. Not only did he turn away at the mere
suggestion of eating, but he feebly hid his face and gave a little moan.
"He ain't no better," Jim announced, putting down a breakfast-dish with
its cargo quite untasted. "I wish we had a little bit of medicine."
"What kind?" said the worried Keno.
"It wouldn't make much difference," answered the miner. "Anything is
medicine that a doctor prescribes, even if it's only sugar-and-water."
"But there ain't a doctor into camp," objected Keno, hauling at his
sleeves. "And the one they had in Bullionville has went away, and he
was fifty miles from here."
"I know," said Jim.
"You don't think he's sick?" inquired Keno, anxiously.
Jim looked long at his tiny foundling dressed in the nightie that came
below his feet. A dull, heavy look was in the little fellow's eyes,
half closed and listless.
"He ain't no better," the miner repeated. "I don't know what to do."
Keno hesitated, coughed once or twice, and stirred the fire fiercely
before he spoke again. Then he said, "Miss Doc is a sort of female
doctor. She knows lots of female things."
"Yes, but she can't work 'em off on the boy," said Jim. "He ain't big
enough to stand it."
"No, I don't suppose he is," agreed Keno, going to the window, on which
he breathed, to melt away the frosty foliage of ice. "I think there's
some of the boys a-comin'—yep—three or four."
The boots of the men could be heard, as they creaked on the crisply
frozen snow, before the visitors arrived at the door. Keno let them
in, and with them an oreole of chill and freshness flavored spicily of
winter. There were three—the carpenter, Bone, and Lufkins.
"How's the little shaver?" Bone inquired at once.
"About the same," said Jim. "And how's the tree?"
"All ready," answered Lufkins. "Old Webber's got a bully fire, and
iron melting hot, to warm the shop. The tree looks great. She's all
lit up, and the doors all shut to make it dark, and you bet she's a
gem—a gorgeous gem—ain't she, fellers?"
The others agreed that it was.
"And the boys are nearly all on deck," resumed the teamster, "and
Webber wanted to know if the morning—Christmas morning—ain't the time
for to fetch the boy."
"Wal, some might think so," Jim replied, unwilling to concede that the
tiny man in the bunk was far too ill to join in the cheer so early in
the day. "But the afternoon is the regular parliamentary time, and,
anyway, little Skeezucks 'ain't had his breakfast, boys, and—we want
to be sure the shop is good and warm."
"The boys is all waitin' fer to give three cheers," said the carpenter,
"and we're goin' to surprise you with a Christmas song called 'Massa's
in the Cole, Cole Ground.'"
"Shut up!" said Bone; "you're givin' it all away. So you won't bring
him down this mornin'?"
"Well, we'll tell 'em," agreed the disappointed Lufkins. "What time do
you think you'll fetch the little shaver, then, this afternoon?"
"I guess about twelve," said Jim.
"How's he feelin'?" inquired the carpenter.
"Wal, he don't know how to feel on Christmas yet," answered the miner,
evasively. "He doesn't know what's a-comin'."
"Wait till he sees them blocks," said the carpenter, with a knowing
"I ain't sayin' nothin'," added Lufkins, with the most significant
smile, "but you jest wait."
"Nor me ain't doin' any talkin'," said Bone.
"Well, the boys will all be waitin'," was the teamster's last remark,
and slowly down the whitened hill they went, to join their fellows at
the shop of the smith.
The big, rough men did wait patiently, expectantly, loyally. Blowing
out the candles, to save them for the moment when the tiny child should
come, they sat around, or stood about, or wandered back and forth, each
togged out in his very best, each with a new touch of Christmas meaning
in his heart.
Behind the tree a goodly portion of the banquet was in readiness.
Keno's pie was there, together with a mighty stack of doughnuts, plates
on plates of pickles, cans of fruit preserves, a mighty pan of cold
baked beans, and a fine array of biscuits big as a man's two fists.
From time to time the carpenter, who had saved up his appetite for
nearly twenty-four hours, went back to the table and feasted his eyes
on the spread. At length he took and ate a pickle. From that, at
length, his gaze went longingly to Keno's pie. How one little pie
could do any good to a score or so of men he failed to see. At last,
in his hunger, he could bear the temptation no longer. He descended on
the pie. But how it came to be shied through the window, practically
intact, half a moment later, was never explained to the waiting crowd.
By the time gray noon had come across the mountain desolation to the
group of little shanties in the snow, old Jim was thoroughly alarmed.
Little Skeezucks was helplessly lying in his arms, inert, breathing
with difficulty, and now and again moaning, as only a sick little mite
of humanity can.
"We can't take him down," said the miner, at last. "He ought to have a
Keno was startled; his worry suddenly engulfed him.
"What kin we do?" he asked, in helplessness.
"Miss Doc's a decent woman," answered Jim, in despair. "She might know
what to do."
"You couldn't bring yourself to that?" asked Keno, thoroughly amazed.
"I could bring myself to anything," said Jim, "if only my little boy
could be well and happy."
"Then you ain't agoin' to take him down to the tree?"
"How can I?" answered Jim. "He's awful sick. He needs something more
than I can give. He needs—a mother. I didn't know how sick he was
gettin'. He won't look up. He couldn't see the tree. He can't be
like the most of little kids, for he don't even seem to know it's
"Aw, poor little feller!" said Keno. "Jim, what we goin' to do?"
"You go down and ask Miss Doc if I can fetch him there," instructed
Jim. "I think she likes him, or she wouldn't have made his little
clothes. She's a decent woman, and I know she's got a heart. Go on
the run! I'm sorry I didn't give in before."
The fat little Keno ran, in his shirt-sleeves, and without his hat.
Jim was afraid the motionless little foundling was dying in his arms.
He could presently wait no longer, either for Keno's return or for
anything else. He caught up two of the blankets from the bed, and,
wrapping them eagerly, swiftly about the moaning little man, left his
cabin standing open and hastened down the white declivity as fast as he
could go, Tintoretto, with puppy whinings of concern, closely tagging
at his heels.
Lufkins, starting to climb once more to the cabin, beheld him from
afar. With all his speed he darted back to the blacksmith-shop and the
"He coming!" he cried, when fifty yards away. "Light the
In a fever of joy and excitement the rough fellows lighted up their
home-made tree. The forge flung a largess of heat and light, as red as
holly, through the gloom of the place. All the men were prepared with
a cheer, their faces wreathed with smiles, in a new sort of joy. But
the moments sped away in silence and nothing of Jim and the one small
cause of their happiness appeared. Indeed, the gray old miner was at
Dennihan's already. Keno had met him on the hill with an eager cry
that welcome and refuge were gladly prepared.
With her face oddly softened by the news and appeal, Miss Doc herself
came running to the gate, her hungry arms outstretched to take the
"Just make him well," was Jim's one cry. "I know a woman can make him
And all afternoon the men at the blacksmith's-shop kept up their hope.
Keno had come to them, telling of the altered plans by which little
Skeezucks had found his way to Miss Doc, but by special instruction he
added that Jim was certain that improvement was coming already.
"He told me that evenin' is the customary hour fer to have a tree,
anyhow," concluded Keno, hopefully. "He says he was off when he said
to turn it loose at noon."
"Does he think Miss Doc can git the little feller fixed all up to
celebrate to-night?" inquired Bone. "Is that the bill of fare?"
"That's about it," said Keno, importantly. "I'm to come and let you
know when we're ready."
Impatient for the night to arrive, excited anew, when at last it closed
in on the world of snow and mountains, the celebrators once more
gathered at the shop and lighted up their tree. The wind was rushing
brusquely up the street; the snow began once more to fall. From the
"Palace" saloon came the sounds of music, laughter, song, and revelry.
Light streamed forth from the window in glowing invitation. All day
long its flow of steaming drinks and its endless succession of savory
dishes had laded the air with temptation.
Not a few of the citizens of Borealis had succumbed to the gayer
attractions of Parky's festival, but the men who had builded a
Christmas-tree and loaded its branches with presents waited and waited
for tiny Skeezucks in the dingy shop.
The evening passed. Night aged in the way that wintry storm and
lowering skies compel. Dismally creaked the door on its rusted hinges.
Into the chink shot the particles of snow, and formed again that icy
mark across the floor of the shop. One by one the candles burned away
on the tree, gave a gasp, a flare, and expired.
Silently, loyally the group of big, rough miners and toilers sat in the
cheerless gloom, hearing that music, in its soullessness, come on the
gusts of the storm—waiting, waiting for their tiny guest.
At length a single candle alone illumined their pitiful tree, standing
with its meagre branches of greenery stiffly upheld on its scrawny
frame, while the darkness closed sombrely in upon the glint of the toys
they had labored to make.
Then finally Keno came, downcast, pale, and worried.
"The little feller's awful sick," he said. "I guess he can't come to
His statement was greeted in silence.
"Then, maybe he'll see it to-morrow," said the blacksmith, after a
moment. "It wouldn't make so very much odds to us old cusses.
Christmas is for kids, of course. So we'll leave her standing jest as
Slowly they gave up their final hopes. Slowly they all went out in the
storm and night, shutting the door on the Christmas celebration now
abandoned to darkness, the creak of the hinges, the long line of snow
inside that pointed to the tree.
One by one they bade good-night to Webber, the smith, and so went home
to many a cold little cabin, seemingly hunched like a freezing thing in
the driving storm.
"IF ONLY I HAD THE RESOLUTION"
For the next three or four days the tiny bit of a man at Miss Doc's
seemed neither to be worse nor better of his ailment. The hand of
lethargy lay with dulling weight upon him. Old Jim and Miss Dennihan
were baffled, though their tenderness increased and their old animosity
disappeared, forgotten in the stress of care.
That the sister of Doc could develop such a spirit of motherhood
astounded nearly every man in the camp. Accustomed to acerbities of
criticism for their many shortcomings from her ever-pointed tongue,
they marvelled the more at her semi-partnership with Jim, whom of all
the population of the town she had scorned and verbally castigated most
Resupplying their tree with candles, the patient fellows had kept alive
their hope of a great day of joy and celebration, only to see it
steadily receding from their view. At length they decided to carry
their presents to the house where the wan little foundling lay,
trusting the sight of their labors of love might cheer him to recovery.
To the utter amazement of her brother, Miss Doc not only permitted the
big, rough men to track the snow through her house, when they came with
their gifts, but she gave them kindly welcome. In her face that day
they readily saw some faint, illusive sign of beauty heretofore
unnoticed, or perhaps concealed.
"He'll come along all right," she told them, with a smile they found to
be singularly sweet, "for Jim do seem a comfort to the poor little
Old Jim would surely have been glad to believe that he or anything
supplied a comfort to the grave little sick man lying so quietly in
bed. The miner sat by him all day long, and far into every night, only
climbing to his cabin on the hill when necessity drove him away. Then
he was back there in the morning by daylight, eager, but cheerful
The presents were heaped on the floor in sight of the pale little
Skeezucks, who clung unfailingly, through it all, to the funny
makeshift of a doll that "Bruvver Jim" had placed in his keeping. He
appeared not at all to comprehend the meaning of the gifts the men had
brought, or to know their purpose. That never a genuinely happy
Christmas had brightened his little, mysterious life, Miss Dennihan
knew by a swift, keen process of womanly intuition.
"I wisht he wasn't so sad," she said, from time to time. "I expect
he's maybe pinin'."
On the following day there came a change. The little fellow tossed in
his bed with a fever that rose with every hour. With eyes now burning
bright, he scanned the face of the gray old miner and begged for
"This is Bruvver Jim," the man assured him repeatedly. "What does baby
want old Jim to do?"
"Bruv-ver—Jim," came the half-sobbed little answer. "Bruv-ver—Jim."
Jim took him up and held him fast in his arms. The weary little mind
had gone to some tragic baby past.
"No-body—wants me—anywhere," he said.
The heart in old Jim was breaking. He crooned a hundred tender
declarations of his foster-parenthood, of his care, of his wish to be a
comfort and a "pard."
But something of the fever now had come between the tiny ears and any
voice of tenderness.
"Bruv-ver—Jim; Bruv-ver—Jim," the little fellow called, time and time
With the countless remedies which her lore embraced, the almost
despairing Miss Doc attempted to allay the rising fever. She made
little drinks, she studied all the bottles in her case of simples with
Keno, the always-faithful, was sent to every house in camp, seeking for
anything and everything that might be called a medicine. It was all of
no avail. By the time another day had dawned little Skeezucks was
flaming hot with the fever. He rolled his tiny body in baby delirium,
his feeble little call for "Bruvver Jim" endlessly repeated, with his
sad little cry that no one wanted him anywhere in the world.
In his desperation, Jim was undergoing changes. His face was haggard;
his eyes were ablaze with parental anguish.
"I know a shrub the Injuns sometimes use for fever," he said to Miss
Doc, at last, when he suddenly thought of the aboriginal medicine. "It
grows in the mountains. Perhaps it would do him good."
"I don't know," she answered, at the end of her resources, and she
clasped her hands. "I don't know."
"If only I can git a horse," said Jim, "I might be able to find the
He waited, however, by the side of the moaning little pilgrim.
Then, half an hour later, Bone, the bar-keep, came up to see him, in
haste and excitement. They stood outside, where the visitor had called
him for a talk.
"Jim," said Bone, "you're in fer trouble. Parky is goin' to jump your
claim to-night—it bein' New Year's eve, you know—at twelve o'clock.
He told me so himself. He says you 'ain't done assessment, nor you
can't—not now—and you 'ain't got no more right than anybody else to
hold the ground. And so he's meanin' to slap a new location on the
claim the minute this here year is up."
"Wal, the little feller's awful sick," said Jim. "I'm thinkin' of
goin' up in the mountains for some stuff the Injuns sometimes use for
"You can't go and leave your claim unprotected," said Bone.
"How did Parky happen to tell you his intentions?" said Jim.
"He wanted me to go in with him," Bone replied, flushing hotly at the
bare suggestion of being involved in a trick so mean. "He made me
promise, first, I wouldn't give the game away, but I've got to tell it
to you. I couldn't stand by and see you lose that gold-ledge now."
"To-morrow is New Year's, sure enough," Jim replied, reflectively.
"That mine belongs to little Skeezucks."
"But Parky's goin' to jump it, and he's got a gang of toughs to back
"I'd hate to lose it, Bone. It would seem hard," said Jim. "But I
ought to go up in the hills to find that shrub. If only I had a horse.
I could go and git back in time to watch the claim."
Bone was clearly impatient.
"Don't git down to the old 'if only' racket now," he said, with heat.
"I busted my word to warn you, Jim, and the claim is worth a fortune to
you and little Skeezucks."
Jim's eyes took on a look of pain.
"But, Bone, if he don't git well," he said—"if he don't git well,
think how I'd feel! Couldn't you get me a horse? If only—"
"Hold on," interrupted Bone, "I'll do all I kin for the poor little
shaver, but I don't expect I can git no horse. I'll go and see, but
the teams has all got the extry stock in harness, fer the roads is
mighty tough, and snow, down the cañon, is up to the hubs of the
wheels. You've got to be back before too late or your claim goes up,
fer, Jim, you know as well as me that Parky's got the right of law!"
"If only I could git that shrub," said Jim, as his friend departed, and
back to the tossing little man he went, worried to the last degree.
Bone was right. The extra horses were all in requisition to haul the
ore to the quartz-mill through a stretch of ten long miles of drifted
snow. Moreover, Jim had once too often sung his old "if-only" cry.
The men of Borealis smiled sadly, as they thought of tiny Skeezucks,
but with doubt of Jim, whose resolutions, statements, promises, had
long before been estimated at their final worth.
"There ain't no horse he could have," said Lufkins, making ready
himself to drive his team of twenty animals through wind and snow to
the mill, "and even if we had a mule, old Jim would never start. It's
comin' on to snow again to-night, and that's too much for Jim."
Bone was not at once discouraged, but in truth he believed, with all
the others, that Jim would no more leave the camp to go forth and
breast the oncoming snow to search the mountains for a shrub than he
would fetch a tree for the Christmas celebration or work good and hard
at his claim.
The bar-keep found no horse. He expected none to be offered, and felt
his labors were wasted. The afternoon was well advanced when he came
again to the home of Miss Doc, where Jim was sitting by the bed whereon
the little wanderer was burning out his life.
"Jim," he said, in his way of bluntness, "there ain't no horse you can
git, but I warned you 'bout the claim, and I don't want to see you lose
it, all fer nothin'."
"He's worse," said Jim, his eyes wildly blazing with love for the
fatherless, motherless little man. "If only I had the resolution,
Bone, I'd go and git that shrub on foot."
"You'd lose yer claim," said Bone.
Miss Doc came out to the door where they stood. She was wringing her
"Jim," she said, "if you think you kin, anyhow, git that Injun stuff,
why don't you go and git it?"
Jim looked at her fixedly. Not before had he known that she felt the
case to be so nearly hopeless. Despair took a grip on his vitals. A
something of sympathy leaped from the woman's heart to his—a something
common to them both—in the yearning that a helpless child had stirred.
"I'll get my hat and go," he said, and he went in the house, to appear
almost instantly, putting on the battered hat, but clothed far too
thinly for the rigors of the weather.
"But, Jim, it's beginning to snow, right now," objected Bone.
"I may get back before it's dark," old Jim replied.
"I can see you're goin' to lose the claim," insisted Bone.
"I'm goin' to git that shrub!" said Jim. "I won't come back till I git
He started off through the gate at the back of the house, his long,
lank figure darkly cut against the background of the white that lay
upon the slope. A flurry of blinding snow came suddenly flying on the
wind. It wrapped him all about and hid him in its fury, and when the
calmer falling of the flakes commenced he had disappeared around the
shoulder of the hill.
THE GOLD IN BOREALIS
The men to whom the bar-keep told the story of Jim and his start into
the mountains smiled again. The light in their eyes was half of
affection and half of concern. They could not believe the shiftless
old miner would long remain away in the snow and wind, where more than
simple resolution was required to keep a man afoot. They would see him
back before the darkness settled on the world, perhaps with something
in his hand by way of a weed, if not precisely the "Injun" thing he
But the darkness came and Jim was not at hand. The night and the snow
seemed swirling down together in the gorge, from every lofty uprise of
the hills. It was not so cold as the previous storm, yet it stung with
its biting force.
At six o'clock the blacksmith called at the Dennihans', in some
anxiety. Doc himself threw open the door, in response to the knock.
How small and quiet he appeared, here at home!
"No, he 'ain't showed up," he said of Jim. "I don't know when he'll
Webber reported to the boys.
"Well, mebbe he's gone, after all," said Field.
"He looked kind of funny 'round the eyes when he started," Bone
informed them. "I hope he'll git his stuff," and they wandered down
the street again.
At eight o'clock the bar-keep returned once more to Miss Doc's.
No Jim was there. The sick little foundling was feebly calling in his
baby way for "Bruvver Jim."
The fever had him in its furnace. Restlessly, but now more weakly
weaving, the tiny bit of a man continued as ever to cling to his doll,
which he held to his breast with all that remained of his strength. It
seemed as if his tired baby brain was somehow aware that Jim was gone,
for he begged to have him back in a sweet little way of entreaty,
"Bruvver Jim?" he would say, in his questioning little voice—"Bruvver
Jim?" And at last he added, "Bruvver Jim—do—yike—'ittle Nu—thans."
At this Miss Doc felt her heart give a stroke of pain, for something
that was almost divination of things desolate in the little fellow's
short years of babyhood was granted to her woman's understanding.
"Bruvver Jim will come," she said, as she knelt beside the bed. "He'll
come back home to the baby."
But nine o'clock and ten went by, and only the storm outside came down
from the hills to the house.
Hour after hour the lamp was burning in the window as a beacon for the
traveller; hour after hour Miss Dennihan watched the fever and the
weary little fellow in its toils. At half-past ten the blacksmith, the
carpenter, and Kew came, Tintoretto, the pup, coldly trembling, at
their heels. Jim was not yet back, and the rough men made no
concealment of their worry.
"Not home?" said Webber. "Out in the hills—in this?"
"You don't s'pose mebbe he's lost?" inquired the carpenter.
"No, Jim knows his mountains," replied the smith, "but any man could
fall and break his leg or somethin'."
"I wisht he'd come," said Miss Doc. "I wisht that he was home."
The three men waited near the house for half an hour more, but in vain.
It was then within an hour of midnight. Slowly, at last, they turned
away, but had gone no more than half a dozen rods when they met the
bar-keep, Doc Dennihan, Lufkins the teamster, and four other men of the
camp, who were coming to see if Jim had yet returned.
"I thought he mebbe hadn't come," said Bone, when Webber gave his
report, "but Parky's goin' to try to jump his claim at twelve o'clock,
and we ain't goin' fer to stand it! Come on down to my saloon fer
extry guns and ammunition. We're soon goin' up on the hill to hold the
ledge fer Jim and the poor little kid."
With ominous coupling of the gambler's name with rough and emphatic
language, the ten men marched in a body down the street.
The wind was howling, a door of some deserted shed was dully,
Helplessly Miss Dennihan sat by the bed whereon the tiny pilgrim lay,
now absolutely motionless. The fever had come to its final stage. Dry
of skin, burning through and through, his little mouth parched despite
the touch of cooling water on his lips, the wee mite of a man without a
name, without a home, or a mother, or a single one of the baby things
that make the little folks so joyous, had ceased to struggle, and
ceased at last to call for "Bruvver Jim."
Then, at a quarter-past eleven, the outside door was suddenly thrown
open, and in there staggered Jim, a haggard, wild-eyed being, ghastly
white, utterly exhausted, and holding in his hand a wretched, scrawny
branch of the mountain shrub he had gone to seek.
"Oh, Jim! Jim!" cried Miss Doc, and, running forward, she threw her
arm around his waist to keep him up, for she thought he must fall at
"He's—alive?" he asked her, hoarsely. "He's alive? I only asked to
have him wait! Hot water!—get the stuff in water—quick!" and he
thrust the branch into her hand.
Beside the bed, on his great, rough knees, he fairly fell, crooning
incoherently, and by a mighty effort keeping his stiff, cold hands from
the tiny form.
Miss Doc had kept a plate of biscuit warm in the stove. One of these
and a piece of meat she gave to the man, bidding him eat it for the
warmth his body required.
"Fix the shrub in the water," he begged.
"It's nearly ready now," she answered. "Take a bite to eat."
Then, presently, she came again to his side. "I've got the stuff," she
said, awed by the look of anguish on the miner's face, and into his
hands she placed a steaming pitcher, a cup, and a spoon, after which
she threw across his shoulders a warm, thick blanket, dry and
Already the shrub had formed a dark, pungent liquor of the water poured
upon it. Turning out a cupful in his haste, old Jim flowed the
scalding stuff across his hands. It burned, but he felt no pain. The
spoonful that he dipped from the cup he placed to his own cold lips, to
test. He blew upon it as a mother might, and tried it again.
Then tenderly he fed the tea through the dry little lips. Dully the
tiny man's unseeing eyes were fixed on his face.
"Take it, for old Bruvver Jim," the man gently coaxed, and spoonful
after spoonful, touched every time to his own mouth first, to try its
heat, he urged upon the little patient.
Then Miss Doc did a singular thing. She put on a shawl and, abruptly
leaving the house, ran with all her might down the street, through the
snow, to Bone's saloon. For the very first time in her life she
entered this detested place, a blazing light of joy in her eyes. Six
of the men, about to join the four already gone to the hill above,
where Jim had found the gold, were about to leave for the claim.
"He's come!" cried Miss Doc. "He's home—and got the weed! I thought
you boys would like to know!"
Then backing out, with a singular smile upon her face, she hastened to
return to her home with all the speed the snow would permit.
Alone in the house with the silent little pilgrim, who seemed beyond
all human aid, the gray old miner knew not what he should do. The
shrub tea was failing, it seemed to him. The sight of the drooping
child was too much to be borne. The man threw back his head as he
knelt there on the floor, and his stiffened arms were appealingly
uplifted in prayer.
"God Almighty," he said, in his broken voice of entreaty, "don't take
this little boy away from me! Let him stay. Let him stay with me and
the boys. You've got so many little youngsters there. For Christ's
sake, let me have this one!"
When Miss Doc came quietly in, old Jim had not apparently moved. He
was once more dipping the pungent liquor from the cup and murmuring
words of endearment and coaxing, to the all-unhearing little patient.
The eager woman took off her shawl and stood behind him, watching
"Oh, Jim!" she said, from time to time—"oh, Jim!"
With a new supply of boiling water, constantly heated on her stove, she
kept the steaming concoction fresh and hot.
Midnight came. The New Year was blown across those mighty peaks in
storm and fury. Presently out of the howling gale came the sound of
half a dozen shots, and then of a fusillade. But Jim, if he heard
them, did not guess the all they meant to him.
For an hour he had only moved his hands to take the pitcher, or to put
it down, or to feed the drink to the tiny foundling, still so
motionless and dull with the fever.
One o'clock was finally gone, and two, and three. Jim and the yearning
Miss Doc still battled on, like two united parents.
Then at last the miner made a half-stifled sound in his throat.
"You—can go and git a rest," he said, brokenly. "The sweat has come."
All night the wind and the storm continued. All through the long, long
darkness, the bitter cold and snow were searching through the hills.
But when, at last, the morning broke, there on the slope, where old
Jim's claim was staked, stood ten grim figures, white with snow, and
scattered here and there around the ledge of gold. They were Bone and
Webber, Keno and Field, Doc Dennihan, the carpenter, the teamster, and
other rough but faithful men who had guarded the claim against invasion
in the night.
ARRIVALS IN CAMP
There is something fine in a party of men when no one brags of a fight
brought sternly to victory.
Parky, the gambler, was badly shot through the arm; Bone, the bar-keep,
had a long, straight track through his hair, cleaned by a ball of lead.
And this was deemed enough of a story when the ten half-frozen men had
secured the claim to Jim and his that New-Year's morning.
But the camp regretted on the whole that, instead of being shelved at
his house, the gambler had not been slain.
For nearly a week the wan little foundling, emerging from the vale of
shadows at the home of Miss Dennihan, lay as if debating, in his grave,
baby way, the pros and cons of existence. And even when, at last, he
was well on the road to recovery, he somehow seemed more quiet than
The rough old "boys" of the town could not, by any process of their
fertile brains, find an adequate means of expressing their relief and
delight when they knew at last the quaint little fellow was again
They came to Miss Dennihan's in groups, with brand-new presents and
with wonderful spirits. They played on the floor like so many
well-meaning bears; they threatened to fetch their poor, neglected
Christmas-tree from the blacksmith-shop; they urged Miss Doc to start a
candy-pull, a night-school, a dancing-class, and a game of
blindman's-buff forthwith. Moreover, not a few discovered traces of
beauty and sweetness in the face of the formerly plain, severe old
maid, and slyly one or two began a species of courtship.
On all their manoeuvres the little convalescent looked with grave
curiosity. Such antics he had surely never seen. Pale and silent, as
he sat on Jim's big knee one evening, he watched the men intently,
their crude attempts at his entertainment furnishing an obvious puzzle
to his tiny mind. Then presently he looked with wonder and awe at the
presents, unable to understand that all this wealth of bottles, cubes,
tops, balls, and wagons was his own.
The carpenter was spelling "cat" and "dog" and "Jim" with the blocks,
while Field was rolling the balls on the floor and others were
demonstrating the beauties and functions of kaleidoscopes and endless
other offerings; but through it all the pale little guest of the camp
still held with undiminished fervor to the doll that Jim had made when
first he came to Borealis.
"We'd ought to git up another big Christmas," said the blacksmith,
standing with his arms akimbo. "He didn't have no holidays worth a
"We could roll 'em all into one," suggested Field—"Christmas, New
Year's, St. Valentine's, and Fourth of July."
"What's the matter with Washington's birthday?" Bone inquired.
"And mine?" added Keno, pulling down his sleeves. "By jinks! it comes
"Aw, you never had a birthday," answered the teamster. "You was jest
mixed up and baked, like gingerbread."
"Or a lemon pie," said the carpenter, with obvious sarcasm.
"Wal, holidays are awful hard for some little folks to digest," said
Jim. "I'm kind of scared to see another come along."
"I should think to-night is pretty near holiday enough," said the
altered Miss Doc. "Our little boy has come 'round delightful."
"Kerrect," said Bone. "But if us old cusses could see him sort of
laughin' and crowin' it would do us heaps of good."
"Give him time," said the teamster. "Some of the sickenest crowin' I
ever heard was let out too soon."
The carpenter said, "You jest leave him alone with these here blocks
for a day or two, if you want to hear him laugh."
"'Ain't we all laughed at them things enough to suit you yit?" inquired
Bone. "Some people would want you to laugh at their funeral, I reckon."
"Wal, laughin' ain't everything there is worth the havin'," Jim
drawled. "Some people's laughin' has made me ashamed, and some has
made me walk with a limp, and some has made me fightin' mad. When
little Skeezucks starts it off—I reckon it's goin' to make me a boy
again, goin' in swimmin' and eatin' bread-and-molasses."
For the next few days, however, Jim and the others were content to see
the signs of returning baby strength that came to little Skeezucks.
That the clearing away of the leaden clouds, and the coming of beauty
and sunshine, pure and dazzling, had a magical effect upon the tiny
chap, as well as on themselves, the men were all convinced. And the
camp, one afternoon, underwent a wholly novel and unexpected sensation
A man, with his sweet, young wife and three small, bright-faced
children, came driving to Borealis. With two big horses steaming in
the crystal air and blowing great, white clouds of mist from their
nostrils, with wheels rimmed deeply by the snow between the spokes,
with colored wraps and mittened hands, and three red worsted caps upon
the children's heads, the vision coming up the one straight street was
quite enough to warm up every heart in town.
The rig drew up in front of the blacksmith-shop, and twenty men came
walking there to give it welcome.
"Howdy, stranger?" said the blacksmith, as he came from his forge,
bareheaded, his leathern apron tied about his waist, his sleeves rolled
up, and his big, hairy arms akimbo. "Pleasant day. You're needin'
somethin' fixed, I see," and he nodded quietly towards a road-side job
of mending at the doubletree, which was roughly wrapped about with rope.
"Yes. Good-morning," said the driver of the rig, a clear-eyed,
wholesome-looking man of clerical appearance. "We had a little
accident. We've come from Bullionville. How long do you think it will
take you to put us in shape?"
The smith was looking at the children.
Such a trio of blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked, unalarmed little girls had
never before been seen in Borealis; and they all looked back at him and
the others with the most engaging frankness.
"Well, about how far you goin'?" said the smith, by way of answer.
"To Fremont," replied the stranger. "I'm a preacher, but they thought
they couldn't support a church at Bullionville," he added, with a look,
half mirth, half worry, in his eyes. "However, a man from Fremont
loaned us the horses and carriage, so we thought we'd move before the
snow fell any deeper. I'd like to go on without great delay, if the
mending can be hastened."
"Your off horse needs shoein'," said Webber, quickly scanning every
detail of the animals and vehicle with his practised eye. "It's a long
pull to Fremont. I reckon you can't git started before the day after
To a preacher who had found himself superfluous, the thought of the
bill of expenses that would heap up so swiftly here in Borealis was
distressing. He was poor; he was worried. Like many of the miners, he
had worked at a claim that proved to be worthless in the end.
"I—hoped it wouldn't take so long," he answered, slowly, "but then I
suppose we shall be obliged to make the best of the situation. There
are stables where I can put up the horses, of course?"
"You kin use two stalls of mine," said the teamster, who liked the
looks of the three little girls as well as those of the somewhat shy
little mother and the preacher himself. "Boys, unhitch his stock."
Field, Bone, and the carpenter, recently made tender over all of
youngster-kind, proceeded at once to unfasten the harness.
"But—where are we likely to find accommodations?" faltered the
preacher, doubtfully. "Is there any hotel or boarding-house in camp?"
"Well, not exactly—is there, Webber?" replied the teamster. "The
boardin'-house is over to the mill—the quartz-mill, ten miles down the
"But I reckon they could stop at Doc's," replied the smith, who had
instantly determined that three bright-eyed little girls in red worsted
caps should not be permitted to leave Borealis without a visit first to
Jim and tiny Skeezucks. "Miss Doc could sure make room, even if Doc
had to bunk up at Jim's. One of you fellers jest run up and ask her,
quick! And, anyway," he added, "Mr. Preacher, you and the three little
girls ought to see our little boy."
Field, who had recently developed a tender admiration for the
heretofore repellent Miss Doc, started immediately.
He found old Jim and the pup already at the house where the tiny, pale
little Skeezucks still had domicile. Quickly relating the news of the
hour, the messenger delivered his query as to room to be had, in one
long gasp of breath.
Miss Doc flushed prettily, to think of entertaining a preacher and his
family. The thought of the three little girls set her heart to beating
in a way she could not take the time to analyze.
"Of course, they kin come, and welcome," she said. "I'll give 'em all
a bite to eat directly, but I don't jest see where I'll put so many.
If John and the preacher could both go up on the hill with you, Jim, I
'low I could manage."
"Room there for six," said Jim, who felt some singular stirring of
excitement in his veins at the thought of having the grave little
foundling meet three other children here in the camp. "I'd give him a
bunk if Keno and me had to take to the floor."
"All right, I'll skedaddle right back there, lickety-split, and let 'em
know," said Field. "I knowed you'd do it, Miss Doc," and away he went.
By the time he returned to the blacksmith-shop the horses were gone to
the stable, and all the preacher's family and all their bundles were
out of the carriage. What plump-legged, healthy, inquisitive
youngsters those three small girls appeared as they stood there in the
"All right!" said Field, as he came to the group, where everybody
seemed already acquainted and friendly. "Fixed up royal, and ye're all
expected right away."
"We couldn't leave the little gals to walk," said the blacksmith.
"I'll carry this one myself," and, taking the largest of the children
in his big, bare arms, he swung her up with a certain gesture of
yearning not wholly under control.
"And I'll—" came quickly from the group, while six or eight big
fellows suddenly jostled each other in their haste to carry a
youngster. There being but two remaining, however, only two of the men
got prizes, and Field felt particularly injured because he had earned
such an honor, he felt, by running up to Doc's to make arrangements.
He and several others were obliged to be contented with the bundles,
not a few of which were threatened with destruction in the eagerness of
all to be of use.
But presently everything was adjusted, and, deserting the carriage, the
shop, and everything else, the whole assemblage moved in procession on
the home of the Dennihans.
A few minutes later little Skeezucks, Jim, and the pup—all of them
looking from the window of the house—saw those three small caps of
red, and felt that New-Year's day had really come at last.
SKEEZUCKS GETS A NAME
When the three small girls, so rosy of cheek and so sparkling of eye,
confronted the grave little pilgrim he could only gaze upon them with
timid yearning as he clung to his doll and to old "Bruvver Jim." There
never had been in all his life a vision so beautiful. Old Jim himself
was affected almost as much as the quaint, wee man so quietly standing
at his side. Even Tintoretto was experiencing ecstasies heretofore
unknown in his youthful career.
Indeed, no one could have determined by any known system of calculation
whether Jim or tiny Skeezucks or the pup most enjoyed the coming of the
preacher and his family. Old Jim had certainly never before undergone
emotions so deeply stirring. Tintoretto had never before beheld four
youngsters affording such a wealth of opportunity for puppy-wise
manoeuvres; indeed, he had never before seen but one little playfellow
since his advent in the world. He was fairly crazed with optimism. As
for Skeezucks—starving for even so much as the sight of children,
hungering beyond expression for the sound of youngster voices, for the
laughter and over-bubblings of the little folk with whom by rights he
belonged—nothing in the way of words will ever tell of the almost
overpowering excitement and joy that presently leaped in his lonely
Honesty is the children's policy. There was nothing artificial in the
way those little girls fell in love with tiny Skeezucks; and with
equally engaging frankness the tiny man instantly revealed his fondness
for them all.
They were introduced as Susie and Rachie and Ellie. Their other name
was Stowe. This much being soon made known, the three regarded their
rights to the house, to little Skeezucks, and to Tintoretto as
established. They secured the pup by two of his paws and his tail,
and, with him thus in hand, employed him to assist in surrounding tiny
Skeezucks, whom they promptly kissed and adopted.
"Girls," said the father, mildly, "don't be rude."
"They're all right," drawled Jim, in a new sort of pleasure. "There
are some kinds of rudeness a whole lot nicer than politeness."
"What's his name?" said Susie, lifting her piquant little face up to
Jim, whom all the Stowe family had liked at once. "Has he got any
In a desperate groping for his inspiration, Jim thought instantly of
all his favorites—Diogenes, Plutarch, Endymion, Socrates, Kit Carson,
and Daniel Boone.
"Wal, yes. His name—" and there old Jim halted, while "Di" and "Plu"
and "Indy" and "Soc" all clamored in his brain for the honor. "His
name—I reckon his name is Carson Boone."
"Little Carson," said Rachie. "Isn't Carson a sweet little boy, mammy?
What's he got—a rabbit?"
"That's his doll," said Jim.
"Oh, papa, look!" said Rachie.
"Oh, papa, look!" echoed Susie.
"Papa, yook!" piped Ellie, the youngest, who wanted the dolly for
herself, and, therefore, hauled at it lustily.
The others endeavored to prevent her depredations. Between them they
tore the precious creation from the hands of the tiny man, and released
the pup, who immediately leaped up and fastened a hold on the doll
himself, to the horror of the preacher, Miss Doc, old Jim, Mrs. Stowe,
and Skeezucks, all of whom, save the newly christened little Carson,
pounced upon the children, the doll, and Tintoretto, with one accord.
And there is nothing like a pounce upon a lot of children or a pup to
make folks well acquainted.
Her "powder-flask" ladyship being duly rescued, her raiment smoothed,
and her head readjusted on her body, the three small, healthy girls
were perpetually enjoined from another such exhibition of coveting
their neighbor's doll, whereupon all conceived that new diversion must
be forthwith invented.
"You can have a lot of fun with all them Christmas presents in the
corner," Jim informed them, in the great relief he felt himself to see
the quaint little foundling once more in undisputed possession of his
one beloved toy. "They 'ain't got any feelin's."
Miss Doc had carefully piled the presents in a tidy pyramid against the
wall, in the corner designated, after which she had covered the pile
with a sheet. This sheet came off in a hurry. The pup filled his
mouth with a yard of the white material, and, growling in joy, shook it
madly and raced away with it streaming in his wake. Miss Doc and Mrs.
Stowe gave chase immediately. Tintoretto tripped at once, but even
when the women had caught the sheet in their hands he hung on
prodigiously, and shook the thing, and growled and braced his weight
against their strength, to the uncontainable delight of all the little
Then they fell on the presents, to which they conveyed little Carson,
in the intimate way of hugging in transit that only small mothers-to-be
have ever been known to develop.
"Oh, papa, look at the funny old bottle!" said Susie, taking up one of
the "sort of kaliderscopes" in her hand.
"Papa, mamma, look!" added Rachie.
"Papa—yook!" piped Ellie, as before, laying violent hands of
possession on the toy.
"You can have it," said Susie; "I'm goin' to have the red wagon."
"Oh, papa, look at the pretty red wagon!", said Rachie, dropping
another of the kaleidoscopes with commendable promptness.
"Me!—yed yaggon!" cried Ellie.
"Children, children!" said the preacher, secretly amused and
entertained. "Don't you know the presents all belong to little Carson?"
"Well, we didn't get anything but mittens and caps," said Rachie, in
the baldest of candor.
"Go ahead and enjoy the things," instructed Jim. "Skeezucks, do you
want the little girls to play with all the things?"
The little fellow nodded. He was happier far than ever he had been in
all his life.
"But they ought to play with one thing at a time, and not drop one
after another," said the mild Mrs. Stowe, blushing girlishly.
"I like to see them practise at changin' their minds," drawled the
miner, philosophically. "I'd be afraid of a little gal that didn't
begin to show the symptoms."
But all three of the bright-eyed embryos of motherhood had united on a
plan. They sat the grave little Carson in the red-painted wagon, with
his doll held tightly to his heart, and began to haul him about.
Tintoretto, who had dragged off an alphabetical block, was engrossed in
the task of eating off and absorbing the paint and elements of
education, with a gusto that savored of something that might and might
not have been ambition. He abandoned this at once, however, to race
beside or behind or before the wagon, and to help in the pulling by
laying hold of any of the children's dresses that came most readily
within reach of his jaws.
The ride became a romp, for the pup was barking, the wheels were
creaking, and the three small girls were crying out and laughing at the
tops of their voices. They drew their royal coach through every room
in the house—which rooms were five in number—and then began anew.
Back and forth and up and down they hastened, the pup and tiny
Skeezucks growing more and more delighted as their lively little
friends alternately rearranged him, kissed him, crept on all fours
beside him, and otherwise added adornments to the pageant. In an
outburst of enthusiasm, Tintoretto made a gulp at the off hind-wheel of
the wagon, and, sinking his teeth in the wood thereof, not only
prevented its revolutions, but braced so hard that the smallest girl,
who was pulling at the moment, found herself suddenly stalled. To her
aid her two sturdy little sisters darted, and the three gave a mighty
tug, to haul the pup and all.
But the unexpected happened. The wheel came off. The pup let out a
yell of consternation and turned a back somersault; the three little
Stowes went down in a heap of legs and heads, while the wagon lurched
abruptly and gave the tiny passenger a jolt that astonished him
mightily. The three small girls scrambled to their feet, awed into
silence by their breaking of the wagon.
For a moment the hush was impressive. Then the gravity began to go
from the face of little Carson. Something was dancing in his eyes.
His quaint little face wrinkled oddly in mirth. His head went back,
and the sweetest conceivable chuckle of baby laughter came from his
lips. Like joy of bubbling water in a brook, it rippled in music never
before awakened. Old Jim and Miss Doc looked at each other in complete
amazement, but the little fellow laughed and laughed and laughed. His
heart was overflowing, suddenly, with all the laughing and joy that had
never before been invited to his heart. The other youngsters joined
him in his merriment, and so did the preacher and pretty Mrs. Stowe;
and so did Jim and Miss Doc, but these two laughed with tears warmly
welling from their eyes.
It seemed as if the fatherless and motherless little foundling laughed
for all the days and weeks and months of sadness gone beyond his baby
recall. And this was the opening only of his frolic and fun with the
children. They kissed him in fondness, and planted him promptly in a
second of the wagons. They knew a hundred devices for bringing him joy
and merriment, not the least important of which was the irresistible
march of destruction on the rough-made Christmas treasures.
That evening a dozen rough and awkward men of the camp came casually in
to visit Miss Doc, whose old-time set of thoughts and ideas had been
shattered, till in sheer despair of getting them all in proper order
once again she let them go and joined in the general outbreak of
There were games of hide-and-seek, in which the four happy children and
the men all joined with equal irresponsibility, and games of
blind-man's-buff, that threatened the breaking to pieces of the house.
Through it all, old Jim and the preacher, Mrs. Stowe and Miss Doc were
becoming more and more friendly.
At last the day and the evening, too, were gone. The tired youngsters,
all but little Skeezucks, fell asleep, and were tucked into bed. Even
the pup was exhausted. Field and the blacksmith, Lufkins, Bone, Keno,
and the others thought eagerly of the morrow, which would come so soon,
and go so swiftly, and leave them with no little trio of girls romping
with their finally joyous bit of a boy.
When at length they were ready to say good-night to tiny Carson, he was
sitting again on the knee of the gray old miner. To every one he gave
a sweet little smile, as they took his soft, baby hand for a shake.
And when they were gone, and sleep was coming to hover him softly in
her wings, he held out both his little arms in a gesture of longing
that seemed to embrace the three red caps and all this happier world he
began to understand.
"Somebody—wants 'ittle—Nu-thans," he sighed, and his tiny mouth was
smiling when his eyes had closed.
WHEN THE PARSON DEPARTED
In the morning the preacher rolled up his sleeves and assisted Jim in
preparing breakfast in the cabin on the hill, where he and Doc, in
addition to Keno and the miner, had spent the night. Doc had departed
at an early hour to take his morning meal at home. Keno was out in the
brush securing additional fuel, the supply of which was low.
"Jim," said Stowe, in the easy way so quickly adopted in the mines,
"how does the camp happen to have this one little child? There seem to
be no families, and that I can understand, for Bullionville is much the
same; but where did you get the pretty little boy?"
"I found him out in the brush, way over to Coyote Valley," Jim replied.
"He was painted up to look like a little Piute, and the Injuns must
have lost him when they went through the valley hunting rabbits."
"Found him—out in the brush?" repeated the preacher. "Was he all
"Not quite. He had several dead rabbits for company," Jim drawled in
reply, and he told all that was known, and all that the camp had
conjectured, concerning the finding of the grave little chap, and his
brief and none too happy sojourn in Borealis.
The preacher listened with sympathetic attention.
"Poor little fellow," he said, at the end. "It someway makes me think
of a thing that occurred near Bullionville. I was called to
Giant-Powder Gulch to give a man a decent burial. He had been on a
three-days' spree, and then had lain all night in the wet where the
horse-trough overflowed, and he died of quick pneumonia. Well, a man
there told me the fellow was a stranger to the Gulch. He said the
dissolute creature had appeared, on the first occasion, with a very
small child, a little boy, who he said had belonged to his sister, who
was dead. My informant said that just as soon as the fellow could
learn the location of a near-by Indian camp he had carried the little
boy away. The man who told me of it never heard of the child again,
and, in fact, had not been aware of the drunkard's return to the Gulch,
till he heard the man had died, in the rear of a highly notorious
saloon. I wonder if it's possible this quiet little chap is the same
"It don't seem possible a livin' man—a white man—could have done a
thing like that," said Jim.
"No—it doesn't," Stowe agreed.
"And yet, it must have been in some such way little Skeezucks came to
be among the Injuns," Jim reflected, aloud. Then in a moment he added;
"I'm glad you told me, parson. I know now the low-down brute that sent
him off with the Piute hunters can't never come to Borealis and take
And yet, all through their homely breakfast old Jim was silently
thinking. A newer tenderness for the innocent, deserted little pilgrim
was welling in his heart.
Keno, having declared his intention of shovelling off the snow and
opening up a trench to uncover the gold-ledge of the miner's claim,
departed briskly when the meal was presently finished. Jim and the
preacher, with the pup, however, went at once to the home of Miss
Dennihan, where the children were all thus early engaged in starting
off the day of romping and fun.
The lunch that came along at noon, and the dinner that the happy Miss
Doc prepared at dusk, were mere interruptions in the play of the tiny
Carson and the lively little girls.
There never has been, and there never can be, a measure of childish
happiness, but surely never was a child in the world more happy than
the quaint little waif who had sat all alone that bright November
afternoon in the brush where the Indian pony had dropped him. All the
games they had tried on the previous day were repeated anew by the
youngsters, and many freshly invented were enjoyed, including a romp in
the snow, with the sled that one of the miners had fashioned for the
That evening a larger contingent of the men who hungered for the
atmosphere of home came early to the little house and joined in the
games. Laughter made them all one human family, and songs were sung
that took them back to farms and clearings and villages, far away in
the Eastern States, where sweethearts, mothers, wives, and sisters
ofttimes waited and waited for news of a wanderer, lured far away by
the glint of silver and gold. The notes of birds, the chatter of
brooks, the tinkle of cow-bells came again, with the dreams of a
Something of calm and a newer hope and fresher resolution was
vouchsafed to them all when the wholesome young preacher held a homely
service, in response to their earnest request.
"Life is a mining for gold," said he, "and every human breast is a
mother-lode of the precious metal—if only some one can find the
out-croppings, locate a claim, and come upon the ledge. There are
toils, privations, and sufferings, which the search for gold brings
forever in its train. There are pains and miseries and woe in the
search for the gold in men, but, boys, it's a glorious life! There is
something so honest, so splendid, in taking the metal from the earth!
No one is injured, every one is helped. And when the gold in a man is
found, think what a gift it is to the world and to God! I am a miner
myself, but I make no gold. It is there, in the hill, or in the man,
where God has put it away, and all that you and I can do is to work,
though our hands be blistered and our hearts be sore, until we come
upon the treasure at the last. We hasten here, and we scramble there,
wheresoever the glint seems brightest, the field most promising; but
the gold I seek is everywhere, and, boys, there is gold on gold in
"In the depth of the tunnel or the shaft you need a candle, throwing
out its welcome rays, to show you how to work the best and where to
dig, as you follow the lead. In the search for gold the way is very
often dark, so we'll sing a hymn that I think you will like, and then
we'll conclude with a prayer.
"Children—girls—we will all start it off together, you and your
mother and me."
The three little, bright-faced girls, the pretty mother, and the father
of the little flock stood there together to sing. They sang the hymn
old Jim had attempted to recall at his own little service that Sunday,
"Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on.
The night is dark and I am far from home.
Lead Thou me on.
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me."
The fresh, sweet voices of the three little girls sent a thrill of
pleasure through the hearts of the big, rough men, and the lumps arose
in their throats. One after another they joined in the singing, those
who knew no words as well as those who were quick to catch a line or
Then at last the preacher held up his hand in his earnest supplication.
"Father," he said, in his simple way, "we are only a few of Thy
children, here in the hollow of Thy mountains, but we wish to share in
the beauty of Thy smile. We want to hear the comfort of Thy voice.
Away out here in the sage-brush we pray that Thou wilt find us and take
us home to Thy heart and love. Father, when Thou sendest Thy blessing
for this little child, send enough for all the boys. Amen."
And so the evening ended, and the night moved in majesty across the
In the morning, soon after breakfasts were eaten, and Jim and the
preacher had come again to the home of the Dennihans, Webber, the
blacksmith, and Lufkins, the teamster, presently arrived with the
horses and carriage.
A large group of men swiftly gathered to bid good-bye to the children,
the shy little mother, and the fine young preacher.
"I'm sorry to go," he told them, honestly. "I like your little camp."
"It's goin' to be a rousin' town pretty soon, by jinks!" said Keno,
pulling at his sleeves. "I'm showin' up a great big ledge, on Jim's
"Mebbe you'll some day come back here, parson," said the smith.
"Perhaps I shall," he answered. Then a faint look of worry came on his
face as he thrust his hand in his pocket. "Before I forget it, you
must let me know what my bill is for board of the horses and also for
the work you've done."
Webber flushed crimson.
"There ain't no bill," he said. "What do you take us fellers
fer—since little Skeezucks came to camp? All we want is to shake
hands all 'round, with you and the missus and the little girls."
Old Jim, little Skeezucks, the pup, and Miss Doc, with Mrs. Stowe, came
out through the snow to the road in front of the gate. Not a penny had
the preacher been able to force upon the Dennihans for their lodging
The man tried to speak—to thank them all, but he failed. He shook
hands "all around," however, and then his shy little wife and the three
little girls did the same. Preacher and all, they kissed tiny Carson,
sitting on the arm he knew so well, and holding fast to his doll; and
he placed his wee bit of a hand on the face of each of his bright-faced
little friends. He understood almost nothing of what it meant to have
his visitors clamber into the carriage, nevertheless a grave little
query came into his eyes.
"Well, Jim, good-bye again," said Stowe, and he shook the old miner's
hand a final time. "Good-bye, Miss Dennihan—good-bye, boys."
With all the little youngsters in their bright red caps waving their
mittened hands and calling out good-bye, the awkward men, Miss Doc, old
Jim, and tiny Skeezucks saw them drive away. Till they came to the
bend of the road the children continued to wave, and then the great
ravine received them as if to the arms of the mountains.
OLD JIM'S RESOLUTION
All that day little Skeezucks and the pup were waiting, listening,
expecting the door to open and the three small girls to reappear. They
went to the window time after time and searched the landscape of
mountains and snow, Tintoretto standing on his hind-legs for the
purpose, and emitting little sounds of puppy-wise worry at the long
delay of their three little friends.
A number of the men of the camp came to visit there again that evening.
"We thought little Skeezucks might be lonesome," they explained.
So often as the door was opened, the pup and the grave little
pilgrim—clothed these days in the little white frock Miss Dennihan had
made—looked up, ever in the hope, of espying again those three red
caps. The men saw the wistfulness increase in the baby's face.
"We've got to keep him amused," said Field.
The awkward fellows, therefore, began the games, and romped about, and
rode the lonely little foundling in the wagon, to the great delight of
poor Miss Doc, who felt, as much as the pup or Skeezucks, the singular
emptiness of her house.
Having learned to laugh, little Carson tried to repeat the delights of
a mirthful emotion. The faint baby smile that resulted made the men
all quiet and sober.
"He's tired, that's what the matter," the blacksmith explained. "We'd
better be goin', boys, and come to see him to-morrow."
"Of course he must be tired," agreed the teamster.
But Jim, sitting silently watching, and the fond Miss Doc, whom nothing
concerning the child escaped, knew better. It was not, however, till
the boys were gone and silence had settled on the house that even Jim
was made aware of the all that the tiny mite of a man was undergoing.
Miss Doc had gone to the kitchen. Jim, Tintoretto, and little
Skeezucks were alone. The little fellow and the pup were standing in
the centre of the floor, intently listening. Together they went to the
door. There little Carson stretched his tiny arms across the panels in
"Bruv-ver—Jim," he begged. "Bruv-ver—Jim."
Then, at last, the gray old miner understood the whole significance of
the baby words. "Bruvver Jim" meant more than just himself; it meant
the three little girls—associates—children—all that is dear to a
childish heart—all that is indispensable to baby happiness—all that a
lonely little heart must have or starve.
Jim groaned, for the utmost he could do was done when he took the
sobbing little fellow in his arms and murmured him words of comfort as
he carried him up and down the room.
The day that followed, and the day after that, served only to deepen
the longing in the childish breast. The worried men of Borealis played
on the floor in desperation. They fashioned new wagons, sleds, and
dolls; they exhausted every device their natures prompted; but beyond a
sad little smile and the call for "Bruvver Jim" they received no answer
from the baby heart,
At the end of a week the little fellow smiled no more, not even in his
faint, sweet way of yearning. His heart was starving; his grave, baby
thought was far away, with the small red caps and the laughing voices
The fond Miss Doc and the gray old Jim alone knew what the end must be,
inevitably, unless some change should speedily come to pass.
Meantime, Keno had quietly opened up a mighty ledge of gold-bearing ore
on the hill. It lay between walls of slate and granite. Its hugeness
was assured. That the camp would boom in the spring was foreordained.
And that ledge all belonged to Jim. But he heard them excitedly tell
what the find would do for him and the camp as one in a dream. He
could not care while his tiny waif was starving in his lonely little
"Boys," he said at last, one night, when the smith and Bone had called
to see the tiny man, who had sadly gone to sleep—"boys, he's pinin'.
He's goin' to die if he don't have little kids for company. I've made
up my mind. I'm goin' to take him to Fremont right away."
Miss Doc, who was knitting a tiny pair of mittens and planning a tiny
red cap and woollen leggings, dropped a stitch and lost a shade of
color from her face.
"Ain't there no other way?" inquired the blacksmith, a poignant regret
already at his heart. "You don't really think he'd up and die?"
"Children have got to be happy," Jim replied. "If they don't get their
fun when they're little, why, when is it ever goin' to come? I know
he'll die, all alone with us old cusses, and I ain't a-goin' to wait."
"But the claim is goin' to be a fortune," said Bone. "Couldn't you
hold on jest a week or two and see if he won't get over thinkin' 'bout
the little gals?"
"If I kept him here and he died, like that—just pinin' away for other
little kids—I couldn't look fortune in the face," answered Jim, to
which, in a moment, he added, slowly, "Boys, he's more to me than all
the claims in Nevada."
"But—you'll bring him back in the spring, of course?" said the
blacksmith, with a worried look about his eyes. "We'd miss him, Jim,
almost as much as you."
"By that time," supplemented Bone, "the camp's agoin' to be boomin'.
Probably we'll have lots of wimmen and kids and schools and everything,
fer the gold up yonder is goin' to make Borealis some consid'rable
"I'll bring him back in the spring, all right," said the miner; "but
none of you boys would want to see me keep him here and have him die."
Miss Doc had been a silent listener to all their conversation. She was
knitting again, with doubled speed.
"Jim, how you goin'?" she now inquired.
"I want to get a horse," answered Jim. "We could ride there horseback
quicker than any other way. If only I can get the horse."
"It may be stormin' in the mornin'," Webber suggested. "A few clouds
is comin' up from the West. What about the horse, Jim, if it starts to
"Riding in a saddle, I can git through," said the miner. "If it snows
at all, it won't storm bad. Storms that come up sudden never last very
long, and it's been good and bright all day. I'll start unless it's
Miss Doc had been feeling, since the subject first was broached, that
something in her heart would snap. But she worked on, her emotions,
yearnings, and fears all rigorously knitted into the tiny mittens.
"You'll let me wrap him up real warm?" she said.
Jim knew her thoughts were all on little Skeezucks.
"If you didn't do it, who would?" he asked, in a kindness of heart that
set her pulse to faster beating.
"But—s'pose you don't git any job in Fremont," Bone inquired. "Will
you let us know?"
"I'll git it, don't you fear," said Jim. "I know there ain't no one so
blind as the feller who's always lookin' for a job, but the little kid
has fetched me a sort of second sight."
"Well, if anything was goin' hard, we'd like for to know," insisted
Bone. "I guess we'd better start along, though, now, if we're goin' to
scare up a bronch to-night."
He and the blacksmith departed. Jim and the lorn Miss Doc sat silently
together in the warm little house. Jim looked at her quietly, and saw
many phases of womanly beauty in her homely face.
"Wal," he drawled, at last, "I'll go up home, on the hill." He
hesitated for a moment, and then added, quietly, "Miss Doc, you've been
awful kind to the little boy—and me."
"It wasn't nuthin'," she said.
They stood there together, beside the table.
"Yes, it was," said Jim, "and it's set me to thinkin' a heap." He was
silent for a moment, as before, and then, somewhat shyly for him, he
said, "When we come back home here, in the spring, Miss Doc, I'm
thinkin' the little feller ought to have a mother. Do you think you
could put up with him—and with me?"
"Jim," she said, in a voice that shook with emotion, "do you think I'm
a kind enough woman?"
"Too kind—for such as me," said Jim, thickly. He took her hand in his
own, and with something of a courtliness and grace, reminiscent of his
youth, he raised it to his lips. "Good-night," he said. "Good-night,
"Good-night, Jim," she answered, and he saw in her eyes the beauty that
God in his wisdom gives alone to mother-kind.
And when he had gone she sat there long, forgetting to keep up the
fire, forgetting that Doc himself would come home early in the morning
from his night-employment, forgetting everything personal save the
words old Jim had spoken, as she knitted and knitted, to finish that
tiny pair of mittens.
The night was spent, and her heart was at once glad and sore when, at
last, she concluded her labor of love. Nevertheless, in the morning
she was up in time to prepare a luncheon for Jim to take along, and to
delve in her trunk for precious wraps and woollens in which to bundle
the grave little pilgrim, long before old Jim or the horse he would
ride had appeared before the house.
Little Skeezucks was early awake and dressed. A score of times Miss
Doc caught him up in her hungering arms, to hold him in fervor to her
heart and to kiss his baby cheek. If she cried a little, she made it
sound and look like laughter to the child. He patted her face with his
tiny hand, even as he begged for "Bruvver Jim."
"You're goin' to find Bruvver Jim," she said. "You're goin' away from
fussy old me to where you'll be right happy."
At least a dozen men of the camp came plodding along behind the horse,
that arrived at the same time Jim, the pup, and Keno appeared at the
Doc Dennihan had cut off his customary period of rest and sleep, to say
good-bye, with the others, to the pilgrims about to depart.
Jim was dressed about as usual for the ride, save that he wore an extra
pair of trousers beneath his overalls and a great blanket-coat upon his
back. He was hardy, and he looked it, big as he was and solidly
planted in his wrinkled boots.
The sky, despite Webber's predictions of a storm, was practically free
from clouds, but a breeze was sweeping through the gorge with
increasing strength. It was cold, and the men who stood about in
groups kept their hands in their pockets and their feet on the move for
the sake of the slight degree of warmth thereby afforded.
As their spokesman, Webber, the blacksmith, took the miner aside.
"Jim," said he, producing a buckskin bag, which he dropped in the
miner's pocket, "the boys can't do nuthin' fer little Skeezucks when
he's 'way off up to Fremont, so they've chipped in a little and wanted
you to have it in case of need."
"But, Webber—" started Jim.
"Ain't no buts," interrupted the smith. "You'll hurt their feelin's if
you go to buttin' and gittin' ornary."
Wherefore the heavy little bag of coins remained where Webber had
There were sober words of caution and advice, modest requests for a
line now and then, and many an evidence of the hold old Jim had secured
on their hearts before the miner finally received the grave and
carefully bundled little Carson from the arms of Miss Doc and came to
the gate to mount his horse and ride away.
"Jest buckle this strap around me and the little boy," instructed Jim,
as he gave a wide leather belt to the teamster; "then if I happen for
to need both hands, he won't be able to git a fall."
The strap was adjusted about the two in the manner suggested.
"Good scheme," commented Field, and the others agreed that it was.
Then all the rough and awkward big fellows soberly shook the pretty
little pilgrim's hand in its mitten, and said good-bye to the tiny
chap, who was clinging, as always, to his doll.
"What you goin' to do with Tinterretter?" inquired the teamster as he
looked at the pup, while Jim, with an active swing, mounted to the
"Take him along," said Jim. "I'll put him in the sack I've got, and
tie him on behind the saddle when he gits too much of runnin' on foot.
He wouldn't like it to be left behind and Skeezucks gone."
"Guess that's kerrect," agreed the teamster. "He's a bully pup, you
Poor Miss Doc remained inside the gate. Her one mad impulse was to run
to Jim, clasp him and the grave little waif in her arms, and beg to be
taken on the horse. But repression had long been her habit of life.
She smiled, and did not even speak, though the eyes of the fond little
pilgrim were turned upon her in baby affection.
"Well—you'll git there all right," said the blacksmith, voicing the
hope that swelled in his heart. "So long, and let us know how the
little feller makes it with the children."
"By jinks!—so long," said Keno, striving tremendously to keep down his
rising emotions. "So long. I'll stay by the claim."
"And give our love to them three little gals," said Bone. "So long."
One after another they wrung the big, rough hand, and said "So long" in
their easy way.
"Bye, Miss Doc," said Jim, at the last. "Skeezucks—say good-bye—to
Miss Doc—and all the boys. Say good-bye."
The little fellow had heard "good-bye" when the three little caps of
red departed. It came as a word that hurt his tiny heart. But,
obediently, he looked about at all his friends.
"Dood-bye," he said, in baby accents. "Dood-bye."
IN THE TOILS OF THE BLIZZARD
Something was tugged and wrenched mighty hard as Jim rode finally
around the hill, and so out of sight of the meagre little camp he
called his home, but resolution was strong within him. Up and up
through the narrow canon, winding tortuously towards the summit, like
the trail of a most prodigious serpent channelled in the snow, the
horse slowly climbed, with Tintoretto, the joyous, busily visiting each
and every portion of the road, behind, before, and at the sides.
What a world of white it was! The wind had increased, and a few
scattered specks of snow that sped before it seemed trying to muster
the force of a storm, from the sky in which the sun was still shining,
between huge rents and spaces that separated scudding clouds.
It was not, however, until an hour had gone that the flakes began to
swirl in fitful flurries. By then the travellers were making better
time, and Jim was convinced the blotted sun would soon again assert its
mastery over clouds so abruptly accumulated in the sky. The wind,
however, had veered about. It came directly in their faces, causing
the horse to lower his head and the pup to sniff in displeasure.
Little Skeezucks, with his back to the slanting fire of small, hard
flakes, nestled in comfort on the big, protecting shoulder, where he
felt secure against all manner of attack.
For two more hours they rode ahead, while the snow came down somewhat
"It can't last," old Jim said, cheerily, to the child and horse and
pup. "Just a blowout. Too fierce and sudden to hold."
Yet, when they came to the great level valley beyond the second range
of hills, the biting gale appeared to greet them with a fury pent up
for the purpose. Unobstructed it swept across the desert of snow,
flinging not only the shotlike particles from the sky, but also the
loose, roving drift, as dry as salt, that lay four inches deep upon the
solider snow that floored the plain. And such miles and miles of the
frozen waste were there! The distant mountains looked like huge
windrows of snow wearing away in the rush of the gale.
Confident still it was only a flurry, Jim rode on. The pup by now was
trailing behind, his tail less high, his fuzzy coat beginning to fill
with snow, his eyes so pelted that he sneezed to keep them clear.
The air was cold and piercing as it drove upon them. Jim felt his feet
begin to ache in his hard, leather boots. Beneath his clothing the
chill lay thinly against his body, save for the place where little
Carson was strapped to his breast.
"It can't last," the man insisted. "Never yet saw a blusterin' storm
that didn't blow itself to nothin' in a hurry."
But a darkness was flung about them with the thicker snow that flew.
Indeed, the flakes were multiplying tremendously. The wind was
becoming a hurricane. With a roar it rushed across the valley. The
world of storm suddenly closed in upon them and narrowed down the
visible circle of desolation. Like hurrying troops of incalculable
units, the dots of frozen stuff went sweeping past in a blinding swarm.
The thing had become a blizzard. Jim halted his horse, convinced that
wisdom prompted them to turn their backs upon the fury and flee again
to Borealis, to await a calmer day for travelling. A fiercer buffeting
of wind puffed from the west, fiercely toothed with shot of snow. As
if in fear unnamable, a gaunt coyote suddenly appeared scurrying onward
before the hail and snow, and was quickly gone.
The horse shied violently out of the road. The girth of the saddle was
loosened. With a superhuman effort old Jim remained in his seat, but
he knew he must tighten the cinch. Dismounting, he permitted the horse
to face away from the gale. The pup came gladly to the shelter of the
miner's boots and clambered stiffly up on his leg, for a word of
companionship and comfort.
"All right," said Jim, giving him a pat on the head when the saddle was
once more secure in its place; "but I reckon we'll turn back homeward,
and I'll walk myself, for a spell, to warm me up. It may let up, and
if it does we can head for Fremont again without much loss of time."
With the bridle-rein over his shoulder, he led the horse back the way
they had come, his own head low on his breast, to avoid the particles
of snow that searched him out persistently.
They had not plodded homeward far when the miner presently discovered
they were floundering about in snow-covered brush. He quickly lifted
his head to look about. He could see for a distance of less than
twenty feet in any direction. Mountains, plain—the world of
white—had disappeared in the blinding onrush of snow and wind. A
chaos of driving particles comprised the universe. And by the token of
the brush underfoot they had wandered from the road. There had been no
attempt on the miner's part to follow any tracks they had left on their
westward course, for the gale and drift had obliterated every sign,
almost as soon as the horse's hoofs had ploughed them in the snow.
Believing that the narrow road across the desolation of the valley lay
to the right, he forged ahead in that direction. Soon they came upon
smoother walking, which he thought was an indication that the road they
sought was underfoot. It was not. He plodded onward for fifteen
minutes, however, before he knew he had made a mistake.
The storm was, if possible, more furious. The snow flew thicker; it
stung more sharply, and seemed to come from every direction.
"We'll stand right here behind the horse till it quits," he said. "It
can't keep up a lick like this."
But turning about, in an effort to face the animal away from the worst
of the blizzard, he kicked a clump of sage brush arched fairly over by
its burden of snow. Instantly a startled rabbit leaped from beneath
the shrub and bounded against the horse's legs, and then away in the
storm. In affright the horse jerked madly backward. The bridle was
broken. It held for a second, then tore away from the animal's head
and fell in a heap in the snow.
"Whoa, boy!—whoa!" said the miner, in a quiet way, but the horse, in
his terror, snorted at the brush and galloped away, to be lost from
sight on the instant.
For a moment the miner, with his bundled little burden in his arms,
started in pursuit of the bronco. But even the animal's tracks in the
snow were being already effaced by the sweep of the powdery gale. The
utter futility of searching for anything was harshly thrust upon the
They were lost in that valley of snow, cold, and blizzard.
"We'll have to make a shelter the best we can," he said, "and wait
here, maybe half an hour, till the storm has quit."
He kicked the snow from a cluster of sagebrush shrubs, and behind this
flimsy barrier presently crouched, with the shivering pup, and with the
silent little foundling in his arms.
What hours that merciless blizzard raged, no annals of Nevada tell.
What struggles the gray old miner made to find his way homeward before
its wrath, what a fight it was he waged against the elements till night
came on and the worst of the storm had ceased, could never be known in
But early that night the teamster, Lufkins, was startled by the
neighing of a horse, and when he came to the stable, there was the
half-blinded animal on which old Jim and tiny Skeezucks had ridden away
in the morning—the empty saddle still upon his back.
A BED IN THE SNOW
The great stout ore-wagons stood in the snow that lay on the Borealis
street, with never a horse or a mule to keep them company. Not an
animal fit to bear a man had been left in the camp. But the twenty men
who rode far off in the white desolation out beyond were losing hope as
they searched and searched in the drifts and mounds that lay so deep
upon the earth.
By feeble lantern glows at first, and later by the cold, gray light of
dawn, they scanned the road and the country for miles and miles. It
was five o'clock, and six in the morning, and still the scattered
company of men and horses pushed onward through the snow.
The quest became one of dread. They almost feared to find the little
group. The wind had ceased to blow, but the air was cold. Gray
ribbons of cloud were stretched across the sky. Desolation was
everywhere—in the heavens, on the plain, on the distant mountains.
All the world was snow, dotted only where the mounted men made
insignificant spots against the waste of white.
Aching with the cold, aching more in their hearts, the men from
Borealis knew a hundred ways to fear the worst.
Then at last a shout, and a shot from a pistol, sped to the farthest
limits of the line of searching riders and prodded every drop of
sluggish blood within them to a swift activity.
The shout and signal had come from Webber, the blacksmith, riding a
big, bay mare. Instantly Field, Bone, and Lufkins galloped to where he
was swinging out of his saddle.
There in the snow, where at last he had floundered down after making an
effort truly heroic to return to Borealis, lay the gray old Jim, with
tiny Skeezucks strapped to his breast and hovered by his motionless
arms. In his hands the little mite of a pilgrim held his furry doll.
On the snow lay the luncheon Miss Doc had so lovingly prepared. And
Tintoretto, the pup, whom nature had made to be joyous and glad, was
prostrate at the miner's feet, with flakes of white all blown through
the hair of his coat. A narrow little track around the two he loved so
well was beaten in the snow, where time after time the worried little
animal had circled and circled about the silent forms, in some brave,
puppy-wise service of watching and guarding, faithfully maintained till
he could move no more.
For a moment after Bone and Lufkins joined him at the spot, the
blacksmith stood looking at the half-buried three. The whole tale of
struggle with the chill, of toiling onward through the heavy snow, of
falling over hidden shrubs, of battling for their lives, was somehow
revealed to the silent men by the haggard, death-white face of Jim.
"They can't—be dead," said the smith, in a broken voice.
"He—couldn't, and—us all—his friends."
But when he knelt and pushed away some of the snow, the others thought
his heart had lost all hope.
It was Field, however, who thought to feel for a pulse. The eager
searchers from farther away had come to the place. A dozen pair of
eyes or more were focussed on the man as he held his breath and felt
for a sign of life.
"Alive!—He's alive!" he cried, excitedly. "And little Skeezucks, too!
For God's sake, boys, let's get them back to camp!"
In a leap of gladness the men let out a mighty cheer. From every
saddle a rolled-up blanket was swiftly cut, and rough but tender hands
swept off the snow that clung to the forms of the miner, the child, and
CLEANING THEIR SLATE
Never could castle or mansion contain more of gladness and joy of the
heart than was crowded into the modest little home of Miss Doc when at
last the prayers and ministrations of a score of men and the one
"decent" woman of the camp were rewarded by the Father all-pitiful.
"I'm goin' to bawl, and I'll lick any feller that calls me a baby!"
said the blacksmith, but he laughed and "bawled" together.
They had saved them all, but a mighty quiet Jim and a quieter little
Skeezucks and a wholly subdued little pup lay helpless still in the
care of the awkward squad of nurses.
And then a council of citizens got together at the dingy shop of Webber
for a talk. "We mustn't fergit," said the smith, "that Jim was a
takin' the poor little feller to Fremont 'cause he thought he was
pinin' away fer children's company; and I guess Jim knowed. Now, the
question is, what we goin' for to do? Little Skeezucks ain't a goin'
to be no livelier unless he gits that company—and maybe he'll up and
die of loneliness, after all. Do you fellers think we'd ought to git
up a party and take 'em all to Fremont, as soon as they're able to
stand the trip?"
Bone, the bar-keep answered: "What's the matter with gittin' the
preacher and his wife and three little gals to come back here and
settle in Borealis? I'm goin' in for minin', after a while, myself,
and I'll—and I'll give my saloon from eight to two on Sundays to be
fixed all up fer a church; and I reckon we kin support Parson Stowe as
slick as any town in all Navady."
For a moment this astonishing speech was followed by absolute silence.
Then, as if with one accord, the men all cheered in admiration.
"Let's git the parson back right off," cried the carpenter. "I kin
build the finest steeple ever was!"
"Send a gang to fetch him here to-day!" said Webber.
"I wouldn't lose no time, or he may git stuck on Fremont, and never
want to budge," added Lufkins.
Field and half a dozen more concurred.
"I'll be one to go myself," said the blacksmith, promptly. "Two or
three others can come along, and we'll git him if we have to steal
him—wife, little gals, and all!"
But the party was yet unformed for the trip when the news of the
council's intentions was spread throughout the camp, and an ugly
feature of the life in the mines was revealed.
The gambler, Parky, sufficiently recovered from the wound in his arm to
be out of his house, and planning a secret revenge against old Jim and
his friends, was more than merely opposed to the plan which had come
from the shop of Webber.
"It don't go down," said he to a crowd, with a sneer at the parson and
with oaths for Bone. "I own some Borealis property myself, and don't
you fergit I'll make things too hot for any preacher to settle in the
camp. And I 'ain't yet finished with the gang that thought they was
smart on New-Year's eve—just chew that up with your cud of tobacker!"
With half a dozen ruffians at his back—the scum of prisons,
gambling-dens, and low resorts—he summed up a menace not to be
estimated lightly. Many citizens feared to incur his wrath; many were
weak, and therefore as likely to gather to his side as not, under the
pressure he could put upon them.
The camp was suddenly ripe for a struggle. Right and decency, or
lawlessness and violence would speedily conquer. There could be no
half-way measures. If Webber and his following had been persuaded
before that Parson Stowe should have a place in the town, they were
grimly determined on the project now.
The blacksmith it was who strung up once again a bar of steel before
his shop and rang it with his hammer.
There were forty men who answered to the summons. And when they had
finished the council of war within the shop, the work of an upward lift
had been accomplished. A supplement was added to the work of signing a
short petition requesting Parson Stowe to come among them, and this
latter took the form of a mandate addressed to the gambler and his
backing of outlaws, thieves, and roughs. It was brief, but the weight
of its words was mighty.
"The space you're using in Borealis is wanted for decenter purposes,"
it read. "We give you twenty-four hours to clear out. Git!—and then
God have mercy on your souls if any one of the gang is found in
This was all there was, except for a fearful drawing of a coffin and a
skull. And such an array of inky names, scrawled with obvious pains
and distinctness, was on the paper that argument itself was plainly
hand in hand with a noose of rope.
Opposition to an army of forty wrathful and determined men would have
been but suicide. Parky nodded when he read the note. He knew the
game was closed. He sold all his interests in the camp for what they
would bring and bought a pair of horses and a carriage.
In groups and pairs his henchmen—suddenly thrown over by their leader
to hustle for themselves—sneaked away from the town, many of them
leaving immediately in their dread of the grim reign of law now come
upon the camp. Parky, for his part, waited in some deliberation, and
then drove away with a sneer upon his lips when at last his time was
growing uncomfortably short.
Decency had won—the moral slate of the camp was clean!
A DAY OF JOY
There came a day—never to be forgotten in the annals of
Borealis—when, to the ringing of the bar of steel, Parson Stowe, with
his pretty little wife and the three little red-capped youngsters, rode
once more into town to make their home with their big, rough friends.
Fifty awkward men of the mines roared lustily with cheering. Fifty
great voices then combined in a sweet, old song that rang through the
"Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on.
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on."
And the first official acts of the wholesome young parson were
conducted in the "church" that Bone had given to the town when the
happy little Skeezucks was christened "Carson Boone" and the drawling
old Jim and the fond Miss Doc were united as man and wife.
"If only I'd known what a heart she's got, I'd asked her before," the
miner drawled. "But, boys, it's never too late to pray for sense."
The moment of it all, however, which the men would remember till the
final call of the trumpet was that in which the three little girls, in
their bright-red caps, came in at the door of the Dennihan home. They
would never forget the look on the face of their motherless, quaint
little waif as he held forth both his tiny arms to the vision and cried