Wednesday, October 10, 2007



by Jack London
It was a quiet night in the Shovel. At the bar, which ranged
along one side of the large chinked-log room, leaned half a dozen
men, two of whom were discussing the relative merits of
spruce-tea and lime-juice as remedies for scurvy. They argued
with an air of depression and with intervals of morose silence.
The other men scarcely heeded them. In a row, against the
opposite wall, were the gambling games. The crap-table was
deserted. One lone man was playing at the faro-table. The
roulette-ball was not even spinning, and the gamekeeper stood by
the roaring, red-hot stove, talking with the young, dark-eyed
woman, comely of face and figure, who was known from Juneau to
Fort Yukon as the Virgin. Three men sat in at stud-poker, but
they played with small chips and without enthusiasm, while there
were no onlookers. On the floor of the dancing-room, which
opened out at the rear, three couples were waltzing drearily to
the strains of a violin and a piano.
Circle City was not deserted, nor was money tight. The miners
were in from Moseyed Creek and the other diggings to the west,
the summer washing had been good, and the men's pouches were
heavy with dust and nuggets. The Klondike had not yet been
discovered, nor had the miners of the Yukon learned the
possibilities of deep digging and wood-firing. No work was done
in the winter, and they made a practice of hibernating in the
large camps like Circle City during the long Arctic night. Time
was heavy on their hands, their pouches were well filled, and the
only social diversion to be found was in the saloons. Yet the
Shovel was practically deserted, and the Virgin, standing by the
stove, yawned with uncovered mouth and said to Charley Bates:-
"If something don't happen soon, I'm gin' to bed. What's the
matter with the camp, anyway? Everybody dead?"
Bates did not even trouble to reply, but went on moodily rolling
a cigarette. Dan MacDonald, pioneer saloonman and gambler on the
upper Yukon, owner and proprietor of the Tivoli and all its
games, wandered forlornly across the great vacant space of floor
and joined the two at the stove.
"Anybody dead?" the Virgin asked him.
"Looks like it," was the answer.
"Then it must be the whole camp," she said with an air of
finality and with another yawn.
MacDonald grinned and nodded, and opened his mouth to speak, when
the front door swung wide and a man appeared in the light. A
rush of frost, turned to vapor by the heat of the room, swirled
about him to his knees and poured on across the floor, growing
thinner and thinner, and perishing a dozen feet from the stove.
Taking the wisp broom from its nail inside the door, the newcomer
brushed the snow from his moccasins and high German socks. He
would have appeared a large man had not a huge French-Canadian
stepped up to him from the bar and gripped his hand.
"Hello, Daylight!" was his greeting. "By Gar, you good for sore
"Hello, Louis, when did you-all blow in?" returned the newcomer.
"Come up and have a drink and tell us all about Bone Creek. Why,
dog-gone you-all, shake again. Where's that pardner of yours?
I'm looking for him."
Another huge man detached himself from the bar to shake hands.
Olaf Henderson and French Louis, partners together on Bone Creek,
were the two largest men in the country, and though they were but
half a head taller than the newcomer, between them he was dwarfed
"Hello, Olaf, you're my meat, savvee that," said the one called
Daylight. "To-morrow's my birthday, and I'm going to put you-all
on your back--savvee? And you, too, Louis. I can put you-all on
your back on my birthday--savvee? Come up and drink, Olaf, and
I'll tell you-all about it."
The arrival of the newcomer seemed to send a flood of warmth
through the place. "It's Burning Daylight," the Virgin cried,
the first to recognize him as he came into the light. Charley
Bates' tight features relaxed at the sight, and MacDonald went
over and joined the three at the bar. With the advent of Burning
Daylight the whole place became suddenly brighter and cheerier.
The barkeepers were active. Voices were raised. Somebody
laughed. And when the fiddler, peering into the front room,
remarked to the pianist, "It's Burning Daylight," the waltz-time
perceptibly quickened, and the dancers, catching the contagion,
began to whirl about as if they really enjoyed it. It was known
to them of old time that nothing languished when Burning Daylight
was around.
He turned from the bar and saw the woman by the stove and the
eager look of welcome she extended him.
"Hello, Virgin, old girl," he called. "Hello, Charley. What's
the matter with you-all? Why wear faces like that when coffins
cost only three ounces? Come up, you-all, and drink. Come up,
you unburied dead, and name your poison. Come up, everybody.
This is my night, and I'm going to ride it. To-morrow I'm
thirty, and then I'll be an old man. It's the last fling of
youth. Are you-all with me? Surge along, then. Surge along.
"Hold on there, Davis," he called to the faro-dealer, who had
shoved his chair back from the table. "I'm going you one flutter
to see whether you-all drink with me or we-all drink with you."
Pulling a heavy sack of gold-dust from his coat pocket, he
dropped it on the HIGH CARD.
"Fifty," he said.
The faro-dealer slipped two cards. The high card won. He
scribbled the amount on a pad, and the weigher at the bar
balanced fifty dollars' worth of dust in the gold-scales and
poured it into Burning Daylight's sack. The waltz in the back
room being finished, the three couples, followed by the fiddler
and the pianist and heading for the bar, caught Daylight's eye.
"Surge along, you-all" he cried. "Surge along and name it. This
is my night, and it ain't a night that comes frequent. Surge up,
you Siwashes and Salmon-eaters. It's my night, I tell you-all--"
"A blame mangy night," Charley Bates interpolated.
"You're right, my son," Burning Daylight went on gaily.
"A mangy night, but it's MY night, you see. I'm the mangy old
he-wolf. Listen to me howl."
And howl he did, like a lone gray timber wolf, till the Virgin
thrust her pretty fingers in her ears and shivered. A minute
later she was whirled away in his arms to the dancing-floor,
where, along with the other three women and their partners, a
rollicking Virginia reel was soon in progress. Men and women
danced in moccasins, and the place was soon a-roar, Burning
Daylight the centre of it and the animating spark, with quip and
jest and rough merriment rousing them out of the slough of
despond in which he had found them.
The atmosphere of the place changed with his coming. He seemed
to fill it with his tremendous vitality. Men who entered from
the street felt it immediately, and in response to their queries
the barkeepers nodded at the back room, and said comprehensively,
"Burning Daylight's on the tear." And the men who entered
remained, and kept the barkeepers busy. The gamblers took heart
of life, and soon the tables were filled, the click of chips and
whir of the roulette-ball rising monotonously and imperiously
above the hoarse rumble of men's voices and their oaths and heavy
Few men knew Elam Harnish by any other name than Burning
Daylight, the name which had been given him in the early days in
the land because of his habit of routing his comrades out of
their blankets with the complaint that daylight was burning. Of
the pioneers in that far Arctic wilderness, where all men were
pioneers, he was reckoned among the oldest. Men like Al Mayo and
Jack McQuestion antedated him; but they had entered the land by
crossing the Rockies from the Hudson Bay country to the east.
He, however, had been the pioneer over the Chilcoot and Chilcat
passes. In the spring of 1883, twelve years before, a stripling
of eighteen, he had crossed over the Chilcoot with five comrades.
In the fall he had crossed back with one. Four had perished by
mischance in the bleak, uncharted vastness. And for twelve years
Elam Harnish had continued to grope for gold among the shadows of
the Circle.
And no man had groped so obstinately nor so enduringly. He had
grown up with the land. He knew no other land. Civilization was
a dream of some previous life. Camps like Forty Mile and Circle
City were to him metropolises. And not alone had he grown up
with the land, for, raw as it was, he had helped to make it. He
had made history and geography, and those that followed wrote of
his traverses and charted the trails his feet had broken.
Heroes are seldom given to hero-worship, but among those of that
young land, young as he was, he was accounted an elder hero. In
point of time he was before them. In point of deed he was beyond
them. In point of endurance it was acknowledged that he could
kill the hardiest of them. Furthermore, he was accounted a nervy
man, a square man, and a white man.
In all lands where life is a hazard lightly played with and
lightly flung aside, men turn, almost automatically, to gambling
for diversion and relaxation. In the Yukon men gambled their
lives for gold, and those that won gold from the ground gambled
for it with one another. Nor was Elam Harnish an exception. He
was a man's man primarily, and the instinct in him to play the
game of life was strong. Environment had determined what form
that game should take. He was born on an Iowa farm, and his
father had emigrated to eastern Oregon, in which mining country
Elam's boyhood was lived. He had known nothing but hard knocks
for big stakes. Pluck and endurance counted in the game, but the
great god Chance dealt the cards. Honest work for sure but
meagre returns did not count. A man played big. He risked
everything for everything, and anything less than everything
meant that he was a loser. So for twelve Yukon years, Elam
Harnish had been a loser. True, on Moosehide Creek the past
summer he had taken out twenty thousand dollars, and what was
left in the ground was twenty thousand more. But, as he himself
proclaimed, that was no more than getting his ante back. He had
ante'd his life for a dozen years, and forty thousand was a small
pot for such a stake--the price of a drink and a dance at the
Tivoli, of a winter's flutter at Circle City, and a grubstake for
the year to come.
The men of the Yukon reversed the old maxim till it read: hard
come, easy go. At the end of the reel, Elam Harnish called the
house up to drink again. Drinks were a dollar apiece, gold rated
at sixteen dollars an ounce; there were thirty in the house that
accepted his invitation, and between every dance the house was
Elam's guest. This was his night, and nobody was to be allowed
to pay for anything.
Not that Elam Harnish was a drinking man. Whiskey meant little
to him. He was too vital and robust, too untroubled in mind and
body, to incline to the slavery of alcohol. He spent months at a
time on trail and river when he drank nothing stronger than
coffee, while he had gone a year at a time without even coffee.
But he was gregarious, and since the sole social expression of
the Yukon was the saloon, he expressed himself that way. When he
was a lad in the mining camps of the West, men had always done
that. To him it was the proper way for a man to express himself
socially. He knew no other way.
He was a striking figure of a man, despite his garb being similar
to that of all the men in the Tivoli. Soft-tanned moccasins of
moose-hide, beaded in Indian designs, covered his feet. His
trousers were ordinary overalls, his coat was made from a
blanket. Long-gauntleted leather mittens, lined with wool, hung
by his side. They were connected in the Yukon fashion, by a
leather thong passed around the neck and across the shoulders.
On his head was a fur cap, the ear-flaps raised and the
tying-cords dangling. His face, lean and slightly long, with the
suggestion of hollows under the cheek-bones, seemed almost
Indian. The burnt skin and keen dark eyes contributed to this
effect, though the bronze of the skin and the eyes themselves
were essentially those of a white man. He looked older than
thirty, and yet, smooth-shaven and without wrinkles, he was
almost boyish. This impression of age was based on no tangible
evidence. It came from the abstracter facts of the man, from
what he had endured and survived, which was far beyond that of
ordinary men. He had lived life naked and tensely, and something
of all this smouldered in his eyes, vibrated in his voice, and
seemed forever a-whisper on his lips.
The lips themselves were thin, and prone to close tightly over
the even, white teeth. But their harshness was retrieved by the
upward curl at the corners of his mouth. This curl gave to him
sweetness, as the minute puckers at the corners of the eyes
gave him laughter. These necessary graces saved him from a
nature that was essentially savage and that otherwise would have
been cruel and bitter. The nose was lean, full-nostrilled, and
delicate, and of a size to fit the face; while the high forehead,
as if to atone for its narrowness, was splendidly domed and
symmetrical. In line with the Indian effect was his hair, very
straight and very black, with a gloss to it that only health
could give.
"Burning Daylight's burning candlelight," laughed Dan MacDonald,
as an outburst of exclamations and merriment came from the
"An' he is der boy to do it, eh, Louis?" said Olaf Henderson.
"Yes, by Gar! you bet on dat," said French Louis. "Dat boy is
all gold--"
"And when God Almighty washes Daylight's soul out on the last big
slucin' day," MacDonald interrupted, "why, God Almighty'll have
to shovel gravel along with him into the sluice-boxes."
"Dot iss goot," Olaf Henderson muttered, regarding the gambler
with profound admiration.
"Ver' good," affirmed French Louis. "I t'ink we take a drink on
dat one time, eh?"
It was two in the morning when the dancers, bent on getting
something to eat, adjourned the dancing for half an hour. And it
was at this moment that Jack Kearns suggested poker. Jack Kearns
was a big, bluff-featured man, who, along with Bettles, had made
the disastrous attempt to found a post on the head-reaches of the
Koyokuk, far inside the Arctic Circle. After that, Kearns had
fallen back on his posts at Forty Mile and Sixty Mile and changed
the direction of his ventures by sending out to the States for a
small sawmill and a river steamer. The former was even then
being sledded across Chilcoot Pass by Indians and dogs, and would
come down the Yukon in the early summer after the ice-run. Later
in the summer, when Bering Sea and the mouth of the Yukon cleared
of ice, the steamer, put together at St. Michaels, was to be
expected up the river loaded to the guards with supplies.
Jack Kearns suggested poker. French Louis, Dan MacDonald, and
Hal Campbell (who had make a strike on Moosehide), all three of
whom were not dancing because there were not girls enough to go
around, inclined to the suggestion. They were looking for a
fifth man when Burning Daylight emerged from the rear room, the
Virgin on his arm, the train of dancers in his wake. In response
to the hail of the poker-players, he came over to their table in
the corner.
"Want you to sit in," said Campbell. "How's your luck?"
"I sure got it to-night," Burning Daylight answered with
enthusiasm, and at the same time felt the Virgin press his arm
warningly. She wanted him for the dancing. "I sure got my luck
with me, but I'd sooner dance. I ain't hankerin' to take the
money away from you-all."
Nobody urged. They took his refusal as final, and the Virgin was
pressing his arm to turn him away in pursuit of the
supper-seekers, when he experienced a change of heart. It was
not that he did not want to dance, nor that he wanted to hurt
her; but that insistent pressure on his arm put his free
man-nature in revolt. The thought in his mind was that he did
not want any woman running him. Himself a favorite with women,
nevertheless they did not bulk big with him. They were toys,
playthings, part of the relaxation from the bigger game of life.
He met women along with the whiskey and gambling, and from
observation he had found that it was far easier to break away
from the drink and the cards than from a woman once the man was
properly entangled.
He was a slave to himself, which was natural in one with a
healthy ego, but he rebelled in ways either murderous or panicky
at being a slave to anybody else. Love's sweet servitude was a
thing of which he had no comprehension. Men he had seen in love
impressed him as lunatics, and lunacy was a thing he had never
considered worth analyzing. But comradeship with men was
different from love with women. There was no servitude in
comradeship. It was a business proposition, a square deal
between men who did not pursue each other, but who shared the
risks of trail and river and mountain in the pursuit of life and
treasure. Men and women pursued each other, and one must needs
bend the other to his will or hers. Comradeship was different.
There was no slavery about it; and though he, a strong man beyond
strength's seeming, gave far more than he received, he gave not
something due but in royal largess, his gifts of toil or heroic
effort falling generously from his hands. To pack for days over
the gale-swept passes or across the mosquito-ridden marshes, and
to pack double the weight his comrade packed, did not involve
unfairness or compulsion. Each did his best. That was the
business essence of it. Some men were stronger than
but so long as each man did his best it was fair exchange, the
business spirit was observed, and the square deal obtained.
But with women--no. Women gave little and wanted all. Women had
apron-strings and were prone to tie them about any man who looked
twice in their direction. There was the Virgin, yawning her head
off when he came in and mightily pleased that he asked her to
dance. One dance was all very well, but because he danced twice
and thrice with her and several times more, she squeezed his arm
when they asked him to sit in at poker. It was the obnoxious
apron-string, the first of the many compulsions she would exert
upon him if he gave in. Not that she was not a nice bit of a
woman, healthy and strapping and good to look upon, also a very
excellent dancer, but that she was a woman with all a woman's
desire to rope him with her apron-strings and tie him hand and
foot for the branding. Better poker. Besides, he liked poker as
well as he did dancing.
He resisted the pull on his arm by the mere negative mass of him,
and said:-
"I sort of feel a hankering to give you-all a flutter."
Again came the pull on his arm. She was trying to pass the
apron-string around him. For the fraction of an instant he was a
savage, dominated by the wave of fear and murder that rose up in
him. For that infinitesimal space of time he was to all purposes
a frightened tiger filled with rage and terror at the
apprehension of the trap. Had he been no more than a savage, he
would have leapt wildly from the place or else sprung upon her
and destroyed her. But in that same instant there stirred in him
the generations of discipline by which man had become an
inadequate social animal. Tact and sympathy strove with him, and
he smiled with his eyes into the Virgin's eyes as he said:-
"You-all go and get some grub. I ain't hungry. And we'll dance
some more by and by. The night's young yet. Go to it, old
He released his arm and thrust her playfully on the shoulder, at
the same time turning to the poker-players.
"Take off the limit and I'll go you-all."
"Limit's the roof," said Jack Kearns.
"Take off the roof."
The players glanced at one another, and Kearns announced, "The
roof's off."
Elam Harnish dropped into the waiting chair, started to pull out
his gold-sack, and changed his mind. The Virgin pouted a moment,
then followed in the wake of the other dancers.
"I'll bring you a sandwich, Daylight," she called back over her
He nodded. She was smiling her forgiveness. He had escaped the
apron-string, and without hurting her feelings too severely.
"Let's play markers," he suggested. "Chips do everlastingly
clutter up the table....If it's agreeable to you-all?"
"I'm willing," answered Hal Campbell. "Let mine run at five
"Mine, too," answered Harnish, while the others stated the values
they put on their own markers, French Louis, the most modest,
issuing his at a hundred dollars each.
In Alaska, at that time, there were no rascals and no tin-horn
gamblers. Games were conducted honestly, and men trusted one
another. A man's word was as good as his gold in the blower. A
marker was a flat, oblong composition chip worth, perhaps, a
cent. But when a man betted a marker in a game and said it was
worth five hundred dollars, it was accepted as worth five hundred
dollars. Whoever won it knew that the man who issued it would
redeem it with five hundred dollars' worth of dust weighed out on
the scales. The markers being of different colors, there was no
difficulty in identifying the owners. Also, in that early Yukon
day, no one dreamed of playing table-stakes. A man was good in a
game for all that he possessed, no matter where his possessions
were or what was their nature.
Harnish cut and got the deal. At this good augury, and while
shuffling the deck, he called to the barkeepers to set up the
drinks for the house. As he dealt the first card to Dan
MacDonald, on his left, he called out:
"Get down to the ground, you-all, Malemutes, huskies, and Siwash
purps! Get down and dig in! Tighten up them traces! Put your
weight into the harness and bust the breast-bands! Whoop-la!
Yow! We're off and bound for Helen Breakfast! And I tell
you-all clear and plain there's goin' to be stiff grades and fast
goin' to-night before we win to that same lady. And somebody's
goin' to bump...hard."
Once started, it was a quiet game, with little or no
conversation, though all about the players the place was a-roar.
Elam Harnish had ignited the spark. More and more miners dropped
in to the Tivoli and remained. When Burning Daylight went on the
tear, no man cared to miss it. The dancing-floor was full.
Owing to the shortage of women, many of the men tied bandanna
handkerchiefs around their arms in token of femininity and danced
with other men. All the games were crowded, and the voices of
the men talking at the long bar and grouped about the stove were
accompanied by the steady click of chips and the sharp whir,
rising and falling, of the roulette-ball. All the materials of a
proper Yukon night were at hand and mixing.
The luck at the table varied monotonously, no big hands being
out. As a result, high play went on with small hands though no
play lasted long. A filled straight belonging to French Louis
gave him a pot of five thousand against two sets of threes held
by Campbell and Kearns. One pot of eight hundred dollars was won
by a pair of trays on a showdown. And once Harnish called Kearns
for two thousand dollars on a cold steal. When Kearns laid down
his hand it showed a bobtail flush, while Harnish's hand proved
that he had had the nerve to call on a pair of tens.
But at three in the morning the big combination of hands arrived.
It was the moment of moments that men wait weeks for in a poker
game. The news of it tingled over the Tivoli. The onlookers
became quiet. The men farther away ceased talking and moved over
to the table. The players deserted the other games, and the
dancing-floor was forsaken, so that all stood at last, fivescore
and more, in a compact and silent group, around the poker-table.
The high betting had begun before the draw, and still the high
betting went on, with the draw not in sight. Kearns had dealt,
and French Louis had opened the pot with one marker--in his case
one hundred dollars. Campbell had merely "seen" it, but Elam
Harnish, corning next, had tossed in five hundred dollars, with
the remark to MacDonald that he was letting him in easy.
MacDonald, glancing again at his hand, put in a thousand in
markers. Kearns, debating a long time over his hand, finally
"saw." It then cost French Louis nine hundred to remain in the
game, which he contributed after a similar debate. It cost
Campbell likewise nine hundred to remain and draw cards, but to
the surprise of all he saw the nine hundred and raised another
"You-all are on the grade at last," Harnish remarked, as he saw
the fifteen hundred and raised a thousand in turn. "Helen
Breakfast's sure on top this divide, and you-all had best look
out for bustin' harness."
"Me for that same lady," accompanied MacDonald's markers for two
thousand and for an additional thousand-dollar raise.
It was at this stage that the players sat up and knew beyond
peradventure that big hands were out. Though their features
showed nothing, each man was beginning unconsciously to tense.
Each man strove to appear his natural self, and each natural self
was different. Hal Campbell affected his customary cautiousness.
French Louis betrayed interest. MacDonald retained his
whole-souled benevolence, though it seemed to take on a slightly
exaggerated tone. Kearns was coolly dispassionate and
noncommittal, while Elam Harnish appeared as quizzical and
jocular as ever. Eleven thousand dollars were already in the
pot, and the markers were heaped in a confused pile in the centre
of the table.
"I ain't go no more markers," Kearns remarked plaintively. "We'd
best begin I.O.U.'s."
"Glad you're going to stay," was MacDonald's cordial response.
"I ain't stayed yet. I've got a thousand in already. How's it
stand now?"
"It'll cost you three thousand for a look in, but nobody will
stop you from raising."
"Raise--hell. You must think I got a pat like yourself."
Kearns looked at his hand. "But I'll tell you what I'll do, Mac.
I've got a hunch, and I'll just see that three thousand."
He wrote the sum on a slip of paper, signed his name, and
consigned it to the centre of the table.
French Louis became the focus of all eyes. He fingered his cards
nervously for a space. Then, with a "By Gar! Ah got not one
leetle beet hunch," he regretfully tossed his hand into the
The next moment the hundred and odd pairs of eyes shifted to
"I won't hump you, Jack," he said, contenting himself with
calling the requisite two thousand.
The eyes shifted to Harnish, who scribbled on a piece of paper
and shoved it forward.
"I'll just let you-all know this ain't no Sunday-school society
of philanthropy," he said. "I see you, Jack, and I raise you a
thousand. Here's where you-all get action on your pat, Mac."
"Action's what I fatten on, and I lift another thousand," was
MacDonald's rejoinder. "Still got that hunch, Jack?"
"I still got the hunch." Kearns fingered his cards a long
time. "And I'll play it, but you've got to know how I stand.
There's my steamer, the Bella--worth twenty thousand if she's
worth an ounce. There's Sixty Mile with five thousand in stock
on the shelves. And you know I got a sawmill coming in. It's at
Linderman now, and the scow is building. Am I good?"
"Dig in; you're sure good," was Daylight's answer. "And while
we're about it, I may mention casual that I got twenty thousand
in Mac's safe, there, and there's twenty thousand more in the
ground on Moosehide. You know the ground, Campbell. Is they
that-all in the dirt?"
"There sure is, Daylight."
"How much does it cost now?" Kearns asked.
"Two thousand to see."
"We'll sure hump you if you-all come in," Daylight warned him.
"It's an almighty good hunch," Kearns said, adding his slip for
two thousand to the growing heap. "I can feel her crawlin' up
and down my back."
"I ain't got a hunch, but I got a tolerable likeable hand,"
Campbell announced, as he slid in his slip; "but it's not a
raising hand."
"Mine is," Daylight paused and wrote. "I see that thousand and
raise her the same old thousand."
The Virgin, standing behind him, then did what a man's best
friend was not privileged to do. Reaching over Daylight's
shoulder, she picked up his hand and read it, at the same time
shielding the faces of the five cards close to his chest. What
she saw were three queens and a pair of eights, but nobody
guessed what she saw. Every player's eyes were on her face as
she scanned the cards, but no sign did she give. Her features
might have been carved from ice, for her expression was precisely
the same before, during, and after. Not a muscle quivered; nor
was there the slightest dilation of a nostril, nor the slightest
increase of light in the eyes. She laid the hand face down again
on the table, and slowly the lingering eyes withdrew from her,
having learned nothing.
MacDonald smiled benevolently. "I see you, Daylight, and I hump
this time for two thousand. How's that hunch, Jack?"
"Still a-crawling, Mac. You got me now, but that hunch is a
rip-snorter persuadin' sort of a critter, and it's my plain duty
to ride it. I call for three thousand. And I got another hunch:
Daylight's going to call, too."
"He sure is," Daylight agreed, after Campbell had thrown up his
hand. "He knows when he's up against it, and he plays accordin'.
I see that two thousand, and then I'll see the draw."
In a dead silence, save for the low voices of the three players,
the draw was made. Thirty-four thousand dollars were already in
the pot, and the play possibly not half over. To the Virgin's
amazement, Daylight held up his three queens, discarding his
eights and calling for two cards. And this time not even she
dared look at what he had drawn. She knew her limit of control.
Nor did he look. The two new cards lay face down on the table
where they had been dealt to him.
"Cards?" Kearns asked of MacDonald.
"Got enough," was the reply.
"You can draw if you want to, you know," Kearns warned him.
"Nope; this'll do me."
Kearns himself drew two cards, but did not look at them.
Still Harnish let his cards lie.
"I never bet in the teeth of a pat hand," he said slowly, looking
at the saloon-keeper. "You-all start her rolling, Mac."
MacDonald counted his cards carefully, to make doubles sure it
was not a foul hand, wrote a sum on a paper slip, and slid it
into the pot, with the simple utterance:-
"Five thousand."
Kearns, with every eye upon him, looked at his two-card draw,
counted the other three to dispel any doubt of holding more than
five cards, and wrote on a betting slip.
"I see you, Mac," he said, "and I raise her a little thousand
just so as not to keep Daylight out."
The concentrated gaze shifted to Daylight. He likewise examined
his draw and counted his five cards.
"I see that six thousand, and I raise her five thousand...just to
try and keep you out, Jack."
"And I raise you five thousand just to lend a hand at keeping
Jack out," MacDonald said, in turn.
His voice was slightly husky and strained, and a nervous twitch
in the corner of his mouth followed speech.
Kearns was pale, and those who looked on noted that his hand
trembled as he wrote his slip. But his voice was unchanged.
"I lift her along for five thousand," he said.
Daylight was now the centre. The kerosene lamps above flung high
lights from the rash of sweat on his forehead. The bronze of his
cheeks was darkened by the accession of blood. His black eyes
glittered, and his nostrils were distended and eager. They were
large nostrils, tokening his descent from savage ancestors who
had survived by virtue of deep lungs and generous air-passages.
Yet, unlike MacDonald, his voice was firm and customary, and,
unlike Kearns, his hand did not tremble when he wrote.
"I call, for ten thousand," he said. "Not that I'm afraid of
you-all, Mac. It's that hunch of Jack's."
"I hump his hunch for five thousand just the same," said
MacDonald. "I had the best hand before the draw, and I still
guess I got it."
"Mebbe this is a case where a hunch after the draw is better'n
the hunch before," Kearns remarked; "wherefore duty says, 'Lift
her, Jack, lift her,' and so I lift her another five thousand."
Daylight leaned back in his chair and gazed up at the kerosene
lamps while he computed aloud.
"I was in nine thousand before the draw, and I saw and raised
eleven thousand--that makes thirty. I'm only good for ten more."
He leaned forward and looked at Kearns. "So I call that ten
"You can raise if you want," Kearns answered. "Your dogs are
good for five thousand in this game."
"Nary dawg. You-all can win my dust and dirt, but nary one of my
dawgs. I just call."
MacDonald considered for a long time. No one moved or whispered.
Not a muscle was relaxed on the part of the onlookers. Not the
weight of a body shifted from one leg to the other. It was a
sacred silence. Only could be heard the roaring draft of the
huge stove, and from without, muffled by the log-walls, the
howling of dogs. It was not every night that high stakes were
played on the Yukon, and for that matter, this was the highest in
the history of the country. The saloon-keeper finally spoke.
"If anybody else wins, they'll have to take a mortgage on the
The two other players nodded.
"So I call, too." MacDonald added his slip for five thousand.
Not one of them claimed the pot, and not one of them called the
size of his hand. Simultaneously and in silence they faced their
cards on the table, while a general tiptoeing and craning of
necks took place among the onlookers. Daylight showed four
queens and an ace; MacDonald four jacks and an ace; and Kearns
four kings and a trey. Kearns reached forward with an encircling
movement of his arm and drew the pot in to him, his arm shaking
as he did so.
Daylight picked the ace from his hand and tossed it over
alongside MacDonald's ace, saying:-
"That's what cheered me along, Mac. I knowed it was only kings
that could beat me, and he had them.
"What did you-all have?" he asked, all interest, turning to
"Straight flush of four, open at both ends--a good drawing hand."
"You bet! You could a' made a straight, a straight flush, or a
flush out of it."
"That's what I thought," Campbell said sadly. "It cost me six
thousand before I quit."
"I wisht you-all'd drawn," Daylight laughed. "Then I wouldn't a'
caught that fourth queen. Now I've got to take Billy Rawlins'
mail contract and mush for Dyea. What's the size of the
killing, Jack?"
Kearns attempted to count the pot, but was too excited. Daylight
drew it across to him, with firm fingers separating and stacking
the markers and I.O.U.'s and with clear brain adding the sum.
"One hundred and twenty-seven thousand," he announced. "You-all
can sell out now, Jack, and head for home."
The winner smiled and nodded, but seemed incapable of speech.
"I'd shout the drinks," MacDonald said, "only the house don't
belong to me any more."
"Yes, it does," Kearns replied, first wetting his lips with his
tongue. "Your note's good for any length of time. But the
drinks are on me."
"Name your snake-juice, you-all--the winner pays!" Daylight
out loudly to all about him, at the same time rising from his
and catching the Virgin by the arm. "Come on for a reel, you-all
dancers. The night's young yet, and it's Helen Breakfast and the
mail contract for me in the morning. Here, you-all Rawlins,
hereby do take over that same contract, and I start for salt
at nine A.M.--savvee? Come on, you-all! Where's that fiddler?"
It was Daylight's night. He was the centre and the head of the
revel, unquenchably joyous, a contagion of fun. He multiplied
himself, and in so doing multiplied the excitement. No prank he
suggested was too wild for his followers, and all followed save
those that developed into singing imbeciles and fell warbling by
the wayside. Yet never did trouble intrude. It was known on the
Yukon that when Burning Daylight made a night of it, wrath and
evil were forbidden. On his nights men dared not quarrel. In
the younger days such things had happened, and then men had known
what real wrath was, and been man-handled as only Burning
Daylight could man-handle. On his nights men must laugh and be
happy or go home. Daylight was inexhaustible. In between dances
he paid over to Kearns the twenty thousand in dust and
transferred to him his Moosehide claim. Likewise he arranged the
taking over of Billy Rawlins' mail contract, and made his
preparations for the start. He despatched a messenger to rout
out Kama, his dog-driver--a Tananaw Indian, far-wandered from his
tribal home in the service of the invading whites. Kama entered
the Tivoli, tall, lean, muscular, and fur-clad, the pick of his
barbaric race and barbaric still, unshaken and unabashed by the
revellers that rioted about him while Daylight gave his orders.
"Um," said Kama, tabling his instructions on his fingers. "Get
um letters from Rawlins. Load um on sled. Grub for Selkirk--you
think um plenty dog-grub stop Selkirk?"
"Plenty dog-grub, Kama."
"Um, bring sled this place nine um clock. Bring um snowshoes.
No bring um tent. Mebbe bring um fly? um little fly?"
"No fly," Daylight answered decisively.
"Um much cold."
"We travel light--savvee? We carry plenty letters out, plenty
letters back. You are strong man. Plenty cold, plenty travel,
all right."
"Sure all right," Kama muttered, with resignation.
"Much cold, no care a damn. Um ready nine um clock."
He turned on his moccasined heel and walked out, imperturbable,
sphinx-like, neither giving nor receiving greetings nor looking
to right or left. The Virgin led Daylight away into a corner.
"Look here, Daylight," she said, in a low voice, "you're busted."
"Higher'n a kite."
"I've eight thousand in Mac's safe--" she began.
But Daylight interrupted. The apron-string loomed near and he
shied like an unbroken colt.
"It don't matter," he said. "Busted I came into the world,
busted I go out, and I've been busted most of the time since I
arrived. Come on; let's waltz."
"But listen," she urged. "My money's doing nothing. I could
lend it to you--a grub-stake," she added hurriedly, at sight of
the alarm in his face.
"Nobody grub-stakes me," was the answer. "I stake myself, and
when I make a killing it's sure all mine. No thank you, old
girl. Much obliged. I'll get my stake by running the mail out
and in."
"Daylight," she murmured, in tender protest.
But with a sudden well-assumed ebullition of spirits he drew her
toward the dancing-floor, and as they swung around and around in
a waltz she pondered on the iron heart of the man who held her in
his arms and resisted all her wiles.
At six the next morning, scorching with whiskey, yet ever
himself, he stood at the bar putting every man's hand down. The
way of it was that two men faced each other across a corner,
their right elbows resting on the bar, their right hands gripped
together, while each strove to press the other's hand down. Man
after man came against him, but no man put his hand down, even
Olaf Henderson and French Louis failing despite their hugeness.
When they contended it was a trick, a trained muscular knack, he
challenged them to another test.
"Look here, you-all" he cried. "I'm going to do two things:
first, weigh my sack; and second, bet it that after you-all have
lifted clean from the floor all the sacks of flour you-all are
able, I'll put on two more sacks and lift the whole caboodle
"By Gar! Ah take dat!" French Louis rumbled above the cheers.
"Hold on!" Olaf Henderson cried. "I ban yust as good as you,
Louis. I yump half that bet."
Put on the scales, Daylight's sack was found to balance an even
four hundred dollars, and Louis and Olaf divided the bet between
them. Fifty-pound sacks of flour were brought in from
MacDonald's cache. Other men tested their strength first. They
straddled on two chairs, the flour sacks beneath them on the
floor and held together by rope-lashings. Many of the men were
able, in this manner, to lift four or five hundred pounds, while
some succeeded with as high as six hundred. Then the two giants
took a hand, tying at seven hundred. French Louis then added
another sack, and swung seven hundred and fifty clear. Olaf
duplicated the performance, whereupon both failed to clear eight
hundred. Again and again they strove, their foreheads beaded
with sweat, their frames crackling with the effort. Both were
able to shift the weight and to bump it, but clear the floor with
it they could not.
"By Gar! Daylight, dis tam you mek one beeg meestake," French
Louis said, straightening up and stepping down from the chairs.
"Only one damn iron man can do dat. One hundred pun' more--my
frien', not ten poun' more." The sacks were unlashed, but when
two sacks were added, Kearns interfered. "Only one sack more."
"Two!" some one cried. "Two was the bet."
"They didn't lift that last sack," Kearns protested.
"They only lifted seven hundred and fifty."
But Daylight grandly brushed aside the confusion.
"What's the good of you-all botherin' around that way? What's
one more sack? If I can't lift three more, I sure can't lift
two. Put 'em in."
He stood upon the chairs, squatted, and bent his shoulders down
till his hands closed on the rope. He shifted his feet slightly,
tautened his muscles with a tentative pull, then relaxed again,
questing for a perfect adjustment of all the levers of his body.
French Louis, looking on sceptically, cried out,
"Pool lak hell, Daylight! Pool lak hell!"
Daylight's muscles tautened a second time, and this time in
earnest, until steadily all the energy of his splendid body was
applied, and quite imperceptibly, without jerk or strain, the
bulky nine hundred pounds rose from the door and swung back and
forth, pendulum like, between his legs.
Olaf Henderson sighed a vast audible sigh. The Virgin, who had
tensed unconsciously till her muscles hurt her, relaxed. While
French Louis murmured reverently:-
"M'sieu Daylight, salut! Ay am one beeg baby. You are one beeg
Daylight dropped his burden, leaped to the floor, and headed for
the bar.
"Weigh in!" he cried, tossing his sack to the weigher, who
transferred to it four hundred dollars from the sacks of the two
"Surge up, everybody!" Daylight went on. "Name your
snake-juice! The winner pays!"
"This is my night! " he was shouting, ten minutes later. "I'm
the lone he-wolf, and I've seen thirty winters. This is my
birthday, my one day in the year, and I can put any man on his
back. Come on, you-all! I'm going to put you-all in the snow.
Come on, you chechaquos [1] and sourdoughs[2], and get your
[1] Tenderfeet. [2] Old-timers.
The rout streamed out of doors, all save the barkeepers and the
singing Bacchuses. Some fleeting thought of saving his own
dignity entered MacDonald's head, for he approached Daylight with
outstretched hand.
"What? You first?" Daylight laughed, clasping the other's hand
as if in greeting.
"No, no," the other hurriedly disclaimed. "Just congratulations
on your birthday. Of course you can put me in the snow. What
chance have I against a man that lifts nine hundred pounds?"
MacDonald weighed one hundred and eighty pounds, and Daylight had
him gripped solely by his hand; yet, by a sheer abrupt jerk, he
took the saloon-keeper off his feet and flung him face downward
in the snow. In quick succession, seizing the men nearest him,
he threw half a dozen more. Resistance was useless. They flew
helter-skelter out of his grips, landing in all manner of
attitudes, grotesquely and harmlessly, in the soft snow. It soon
became difficult, in the dim starlight, to distinguish between
those thrown and those waiting their turn, and he began feeling
their backs and shoulders, determining their status by whether or
not he found them powdered with snow.
"Baptized yet?" became his stereotyped question, as he reached
out his terrible hands.
Several score lay down in the snow in a long row, while many
others knelt in mock humility, scooping snow upon their heads and
claiming the rite accomplished. But a group of five stood
upright, backwoodsmen and frontiersmen, they, eager to contest
man's birthday.
Graduates of the hardest of man-handling schools, veterans of
multitudes of rough-and-tumble battles, men of blood and sweat
and endurance, they nevertheless lacked one thing that Daylight
possessed in high degree--namely, an almost perfect brain and
muscular coordination. It was simple, in its way, and no virtue
of his. He had been born with this endowment. His nerves
carried messages more quickly than theirs; his mental processes,
culminating in acts of will, were quicker than theirs; his
muscles themselves, by some immediacy of chemistry, obeyed the
messages of his will quicker than theirs. He was so made, his
muscles were high-power explosives. The levers of his body
snapped into play like the jaws of steel traps. And in addition
to all this, his was that super-strength that is the dower of but
one human in millions--a strength depending not on size but on
degree, a supreme organic excellence residing in the stuff of the
muscles themselves. Thus, so swiftly could he apply a stress,
that, before an opponent could become aware and resist, the aim
of the stress had been accomplished. In turn, so swiftly did he
become aware of a stress applied to him, that he saved himself by
resistance or by delivering a lightning counter-stress.
"It ain't no use you-all standing there," Daylight addressed the
waiting group. "You-all might as well get right down and take
your baptizing. You-all might down me any other day in the year,
but on my birthday I want you-all to know I'm the best man. Is
that Pat Hanrahan's mug looking hungry and willing? Come on,
Pat." Pat Hanrahan, ex-bare-knuckle-prize fighter and
roughhouse-expert, stepped forth. The two men came against each
other in grips, and almost before he had exerted himself the
Irishman found himself in the merciless vise of a half-Nelson
that buried him head and shoulders in the snow. Joe Hines,
ex-lumber-jack, came down with an impact equal to a fall from a
two-story building--his overthrow accomplished by a
delivered, he claimed, before he was ready.
There was nothing exhausting in all this to Daylight. He did
not heave and strain through long minutes. No time, practically,
was occupied. His body exploded abruptly and terrifically in one
instant, and on the next instant was relaxed. Thus, Doc Watson,
the gray-bearded, iron bodied man without a past, a fighting
terror himself, was overthrown in the fraction of a second
preceding his own onslaught. As he was in the act of gathering
himself for a spring, Daylight was upon him, and with such
fearful suddenness as to crush him backward and down. Olaf
Henderson, receiving his cue from this, attempted to take
Daylight unaware, rushing upon him from one side as he stooped
with extended hand to help Doc Watson up. Daylight dropped on
his hands and knees, receiving in his side Olaf's knees. Olaf's
momentum carried him clear over the obstruction in a long, flying
fall. Before he could rise, Daylight had whirled him over on his
back and was rubbing his face and ears with snow and shoving
handfuls down his neck. "Ay ban yust as good a man as you ban,
Daylight," Olaf spluttered, as he pulled himself to his feet;
by Yupiter, I ban navver see a grip like that." French Louis was
the last of the five, and he had seen enough to make him
cautious. He circled and baffled for a full minute before coming
to grips; and for another full minute they strained and reeled
without either winning the advantage. And then, just as the
contest was becoming interesting, Daylight effected one of his
lightning shifts, changing all stresses and leverages and at the
same time delivering one of his muscular explosions. French
Louis resisted till his huge frame crackled, and then, slowly,
was forced over and under and downward.
"The winner pays!" Daylight cried; as he sprang to his feet and
led the way back into the Tivoli. "Surge along you-all! This way
to the snake-room!"
They lined up against the long bar, in places two or three deep,
stamping the frost from their moccasined feet, for outside the
temperature was sixty below. Bettles, himself one of the gamest
of the old-timers in deeds and daring ceased from his drunken lay
of the "Sassafras Root," and titubated over to congratulate
Daylight. But in the midst of it he felt impelled to make a
speech, and raised his voice oratorically.
"I tell you fellers I'm plum proud to call Daylight my friend.
We've hit the trail together afore now, and he's eighteen carat
from his moccasins up, damn his mangy old hide, anyway. He was a
shaver when he first hit this country. When you fellers was his
age, you wa'n't dry behind the ears yet. He never was no kid.
He was born a full-grown man. An' I tell you a man had to be a
man in them days. This wa'n't no effete civilization like it's
come to be now." Bettles paused long enough to put his arm in
a proper bear-hug around Daylight's neck. "When you an' me
mushed into the Yukon in the good ole days, it didn't rain
soup and they wa'n't no free-lunch joints. Our camp fires was
lit where we killed our game, and most of the time we lived on
salmon-tracks and rabbit-bellies--ain't I right?"
But at the roar of laughter that greeted his inversion, Bettles
released the bear-hug and turned fiercely on them. "Laugh, you
mangy short-horns, laugh! But I tell you plain and simple, the
best of you ain't knee-high fit to tie Daylight's moccasin
Ain't I right, Campbell? Ain't I right, Mac? Daylight's one of
the old guard, one of the real sour-doughs. And in them days
wa'n't ary a steamboat or ary a trading-post, and we cusses had
live offen salmon-bellies and rabbit-tracks."
He gazed triumphantly around, and in the applause that followed
arose cries for a speech from Daylight. He signified his
consent. A chair was brought, and he was helped to stand upon
it. He was no more sober than the crowd above which he now
towered--a wild crowd, uncouthly garmented, every foot moccasined
or muc-lucked[3], with mittens dangling from necks and with furry
ear-flaps raised so that they took on the seeming of the winged
helmets of the Norsemen. Daylight's black eyes were flashing,
and the flush of strong drink flooded darkly under the bronze of
his cheeks. He was greeted with round on round of affectionate
cheers, which brought a suspicious moisture to his eyes, albeit
many of the voices were inarticulate and inebriate. And yet, men
have so behaved since the world began, feasting, fighting, and
carousing, whether in the dark cave-mouth or by the fire of the
squatting-place, in the palaces of imperial Rome and the rock
strongholds of robber barons, or in the sky-aspiring hotels of
modern times and in the boozing-kens of sailor-town. Just so
were these men, empire-builders in the Arctic Light, boastful and
drunken and clamorous, winning surcease for a few wild moments
from the grim reality of their heroic toil. Modern heroes they,
and in nowise different from the heroes of old time. "Well,
fellows, I don't know what to say to you-all," Daylight began
lamely, striving still to control his whirling brain. "I think
I'll tell you-all a story. I had a pardner wunst, down in
Juneau. He come from North Caroliney, and he used to tell this
same story to me. It was down in the mountains in his country,
and it was a wedding. There they was, the family and all the
friends. The parson was just puttin' on the last touches, and he
says, 'They as the Lord have joined let no man put asunder.'
[3] Muc-luc: a water-tight, Eskimo boot, made from walrus-hide
and trimmed with fur.
"'Parson,' says the bridegroom, 'I rises to question your
grammar in that there sentence. I want this weddin' done right.'
"When the smoke clears away, the bride she looks around and sees
a dead parson, a dead bridegroom, a dead brother, two dead
uncles, and five dead wedding-guests.
"So she heaves a mighty strong sigh and says, 'Them new-fangled,
self-cocking revolvers sure has played hell with my prospects.'
"And so I say to you-all," Daylight added, as the roar of
laughter died down, "that them four kings of Jack Kearns sure has
played hell with my prospects. I'm busted higher'n a kite, and
I'm hittin' the trail for Dyea--"
"Goin' out?" some one called. A spasm of anger wrought on his
face for a flashing instant, but in the next his good-humor was
back again.
"I know you-all are only pokin' fun asking such a question," he
said, with a smile. "Of course I ain't going out."
"Take the oath again, Daylight," the same voice cried.
"I sure will. I first come over Chilcoot in '83. I went out
over the Pass in a fall blizzard, with a rag of a shirt and a cup
of raw flour. I got my grub-stake in Juneau that winter, and in
the spring I went over the Pass once more. And once more the
famine drew me out. Next spring I went in again, and I swore
then that I'd never come out till I made my stake. Well, I ain't
made it, and here I am. And I ain't going out now. I get the
mail and I come right back. I won't stop the night at Dyea.
I'll hit up Chilcoot soon as I change the dogs and get the mail
and grub. And so I swear once more, by the mill-tails of hell
and the head of John the Baptist, I'll never hit for the Outside
till I make my pile. And I tell you-all, here and now, it's got
to be an almighty big pile."
"How much might you call a pile?" Bettles demanded from beneath,
his arms clutched lovingly around Daylight's legs.
"Yes, how much? What do you call a pile?" others cried.
Daylight steadied himself for a moment and debated. "Four or
five millions," he said slowly, and held up his hand for silence
as his statement was received with derisive yells. "I'll be real
conservative, and put the bottom notch at a million. And for not
an ounce less'n that will I go out of the country."
Again his statement was received with an outburst of derision.
Not only had the total gold output of the Yukon up to date been
below five millions, but no man had ever made a strike of a
hundred thousand, much less of a million.
"You-all listen to me. You seen Jack Kearns get a hunch
to-night. We had him sure beat before the draw. His ornery
three kings was no good. But he just knew there was another king
coming--that was his hunch--and he got it. And I tell you-all I
got a hunch. There's a big strike coming on the Yukon, and it's
just about due. I don't mean no ornery Moosehide, Birch-Creek
kind of a strike. I mean a real rip-snorter hair-raiser. I tell
you-all she's in the air and hell-bent for election. Nothing can
stop her, and she'll come up river. There's where you-all track
my moccasins in the near future if you-all want to find
me--somewhere in the country around Stewart River, Indian River,
and Klondike River. When I get back with the mail, I'll head
that way so fast you-all won't see my trail for smoke. She's
a-coming, fellows, gold from the grass roots down, a hundred
dollars to the pan, and a stampede in from the Outside fifty
thousand strong. You-all'll think all hell's busted loose when
that strike is made."
He raised his glass to his lips. "Here's kindness, and hoping
you-all will be in on it."
He drank and stepped down from the chair, falling into another
one of Bettles' bear-hugs.
"If I was you, Daylight, I wouldn't mush to-day," Joe Hines
counselled, coming in from consulting the spirit thermometer
outside the door. "We're in for a good cold snap. It's
sixty-two below now, and still goin' down. Better wait till she
Daylight laughed, and the old sour-doughs around him laughed.
"Just like you short-horns," Bettles cried, "afeard of a little
frost. And blamed little you know Daylight, if you think frost
kin stop 'm."
"Freeze his lungs if he travels in it," was the reply.
"Freeze pap and lollypop! Look here, Hines, you only ben in this
here country three years. You ain't seasoned yet. I've seen
Daylight do fifty miles up on the Koyokuk on a day when the
thermometer busted at seventy-two."
Hines shook his head dolefully.
"Them's the kind that does freeze their lungs," he lamented. "If
Daylight pulls out before this snap breaks, he'll never get
through--an' him travelin' without tent or fly."
"It's a thousand miles to Dyea," Bettles announced, climbing on
the chair and supporting his swaying body by an arm passed around
Daylight's neck. "It's a thousand miles, I'm sayin' an' most of
the trail unbroke, but I bet any chechaquo--anything he
Daylight makes Dyea in thirty days."
"That's an average of over thirty-three miles a day," Doc Watson
warned, "and I've travelled some myself. A blizzard on Chilcoot
would tie him up for a week."
"Yep," Bettles retorted, "an' Daylight'll do the second thousand
back again on end in thirty days more, and I got five hundred
dollars that says so, and damn the blizzards."
To emphasize his remarks, he pulled out a gold-sack the size of a
bologna sausage and thumped it down on the bar. Doc Watson
thumped his own sack alongside.
"Hold on!" Daylight cried. "Bettles's right, and I want in on
this. I bet five hundred that sixty days from now I pull up at
the Tivoli door with the Dyea mail."
A sceptical roar went up, and a dozen men pulled out their sacks.
Jack Kearns crowded in close and caught Daylight's attention.
"I take you,Daylight," he cried. "Two to one you don't--not in
seventy-five days."
"No charity, Jack," was the reply. "The bettin's even, and the
time is sixty days."
"Seventy-five days, and two to one you don't," Kearns insisted.
"Fifty Mile'll be wide open and the rim-ice rotten."
"What you win from me is yours," Daylight went on. "And, by
thunder, Jack, you can't give it back that way. I won't bet with
you. You're trying to give me money. But I tell you-all one
thing, Jack, I got another hunch. I'm goin' to win it back some
one of these days. You-all just wait till the big strike up
river. Then you and me'll take the roof off and sit in a game
that'll be full man's size. Is it a go?"
They shook hands.
"Of course he'll make it," Kearns whispered in Bettles' ear.
"And there's five hundred Daylight's back in sixty days," he
added aloud.
Billy Rawlins closed with the wager, and Bettles hugged Kearns
"By Yupiter, I ban take that bet," Olaf Henderson said, dragging
Daylight away from Bettles and Kearns.
"Winner pays!" Daylight shouted, closing the wager.
"And I'm sure going to win, and sixty days is a long time between
drinks, so I pay now. Name your brand, you hoochinoos! Name
Bettles, a glass of whiskey in hand, climbed back on his chair,
and swaying back and forth, sang the one song he knew:-
"O, it's Henry Ward Beecher
And Sunday-school teachers
All sing of the sassafras-root;
But you bet all the same,
If it had its right name
It's the juice of the forbidden fruit."
The crowd roared out the chorus:-
"But you bet all the same
If it had its right name
It's the juice of the forbidden fruit."
Somebody opened the outer door. A vague gray light filtered in.
"Burning daylight, burning daylight," some one called warningly.
Daylight paused for nothing, heading for the door and pulling
down his ear-flaps. Kama stood outside by the sled, a long,
narrow affair, sixteen inches wide and seven and a half feet in
length, its slatted bottom raised six inches above the steel-shod
runners. On it, lashed with thongs of moose-hide, were the light
canvas bags that contained the mail, and the food and gear for
dogs and men. In front of it, in a single line, lay curled five
frost-rimed dogs. They were huskies, matched in size and color,
all unusually large and all gray. From their cruel jaws to their
bushy tails they were as like as peas in their likeness to
timber-wolves. Wolves they were, domesticated, it was true, but
wolves in appearance and in all their characteristics. On top
the sled load, thrust under the lashings and ready for immediate
use, were two pairs of snowshoes.
Bettles pointed to a robe of Arctic hare skins, the end of which
showed in the mouth of a bag.
"That's his bed," he said. "Six pounds of rabbit skins. Warmest
thing he ever slept under, but I'm damned if it could keep me
warm, and I can go some myself. Daylight's a hell-fire furnace,
that's what he is."
"I'd hate to be that Indian," Doc Watson remarked.
"He'll kill'm, he'll kill'm sure," Bettles chanted exultantly.
"I know. I've ben with Daylight on trail. That man ain't never
ben tired in his life. Don't know what it means. I seen him
travel all day with wet socks at forty five below. There ain't
another man living can do that."
While this talk went on, Daylight was saying good-by to those
that clustered around him. The Virgin wanted to kiss him, and,
fuddled slightly though he was with the whiskey, he saw his way
out without compromising with the apron-string. He kissed the
Virgin, but he kissed the other three women with equal
partiality. He pulled on his long mittens, roused the dogs to
their feet, and took his Place at the gee pole.[4]
[4] A gee-pole: stout pole projecting forward from one side of
the front end of the sled, by which the sled is steered.
"Mush, you beauties!" he cried.
The animals threw their weights against their breastbands on the
instant, crouching low to the snow, and digging in their claws.
They whined eagerly, and before the sled had gone half a dozen
lengths both Daylight and Kama (in the rear) were running to keep
up. And so, running, man and dogs dipped over the bank and down
to the frozen bed of the Yukon, and in the gray light were gone.
On the river, where was a packed trail and where snowshoes were
unnecessary, the dogs averaged six miles an hour. To keep up
with them, the two men were compelled to run. Daylight and Kama
relieved each other regularly at the gee-pole, for here was the
hard work of steering the flying sled and of keeping in advance
of it. The man relieved dropped behind the sled, occasionally
leaping upon it and resting.
It was severe work, but of the sort that was exhilarating.
They were flying, getting over the ground, making the most of the
packed trail. Later on they would come to the unbroken trail,
where three miles an hour would constitute good going. Then
there would be no riding and resting, and no running. Then the
gee-pole would be the easier task, and a man would come back to
it to rest after having completed his spell to the fore, breaking
trail with the snowshoes for the dogs. Such work was far from
exhilarating also, they must expect places where for miles at a
time they must toil over chaotic ice-jams, where they would be
fortunate if they made two miles an hour. And there would be the
inevitable bad jams, short ones, it was true, but so bad that a
mile an hour would require terrific effort. Kama and Daylight
did not talk. In the nature of the work they could not, nor in
their own natures were they given to talking while they worked.
At rare intervals, when necessary, they addressed each other in
monosyllables, Kama, for the most part, contenting himself with
grunts. Occasionally a dog whined or snarled, but in the main
the team kept silent. Only could be heard the sharp, jarring
grate of the steel runners over the hard surface and the creak of
the straining sled.
As if through a wall, Daylight had passed from the hum and roar
of the Tivoli into another world--a world of silence and
immobility. Nothing stirred. The Yukon slept under a coat of
ice three feet thick. No breath of wind blew. Nor did the sap
move in the hearts of the spruce trees that forested the river
banks on either hand. The trees, burdened with the last
infinitesimal pennyweight of snow their branches could hold,
stood in absolute petrifaction. The slightest tremor would have
dislodged the snow, and no snow was dislodged. The sled was the
one point of life and motion in the midst of the solemn quietude,
and the harsh churn of its runners but emphasized the silence
through which it moved.
It was a dead world, and furthermore, a gray world. The weather
was sharp and clear; there was no moisture in the atmosphere, no
fog nor haze; yet the sky was a gray pall. The reason for this
was that, though there was no cloud in the sky to dim the
brightness of day, there was no sun to give brightness. Far to
the south the sun climbed steadily to meridian, but between it
and the frozen Yukon intervened the bulge of the earth. The
Yukon lay in a night shadow, and the day itself was in reality a
long twilight-light. At a quarter before twelve, where a wide
bend of the river gave a long vista south, the sun showed its
upper rim above the sky-line. But it did not rise
perpendicularly. Instead, it rose on a slant, so that by high
noon it had barely lifted its lower rim clear of the horizon. It
was a dim, wan sun. There was no heat to its rays, and a man
could gaze squarely into the full orb of it without hurt to his
eyes. No sooner had it reached meridian than it began its slant
back beneath the horizon, and at quarter past twelve the earth
threw its shadow again over the land.
The men and dogs raced on. Daylight and Kama were both savages
so far as their stomachs were concerned. They could eat
irregularly in time and quantity, gorging hugely on occasion, and
on occasion going long stretches without eating at all. As for
the dogs, they ate but once a day, and then rarely did they
receive more than a pound each of dried fish. They were
ravenously hungry and at the same time splendidly in condition.
Like the wolves, their forebears, their nutritive processes were
rigidly economical and perfect. There was no waste. The last
least particle of what they consumed was transformed into energy.
And Kama and Daylight were like them. Descended themselves from
the generations that had endured, they, too, endured. Theirs was
the simple, elemental economy. A little food equipped them with
prodigious energy. Nothing was lost. A man of soft
civilization, sitting at a desk, would have grown lean and
woe-begone on the fare that kept Kama and Daylight at the
top-notch of physical efficiency. They knew, as the man at the
desk never knows, what it is to be normally hungry all the time,
so that they could eat any time. Their appetites were always
with them and on edge, so that they bit voraciously into whatever
offered and with an entire innocence of indigestion.
By three in the afternoon the long twilight faded into night.
The stars came out, very near and sharp and bright, and by their
light dogs and men still kept the trail. They were
indefatigable. And this was no record run of a single day, but
the first day of sixty such days. Though Daylight had passed a
night without sleep, a night of dancing and carouse, it seemed to
have left no effect. For this there were two explanations first,
his remarkable vitality; and next, the fact that such nights were
rare in his experience. Again enters the man at the desk, whose
physical efficiency would be more hurt by a cup of coffee at
bedtime than could Daylight's by a whole night long of strong
drink and excitement.
Daylight travelled without a watch, feeling the passage of time
and largely estimating it by subconscious processes. By what he
considered must be six o'clock, he began looking for a
camping-place. The trail, at a bend, plunged out across the
river. Not having found a likely spot, they held on for the
opposite bank a mile away. But midway they encountered an
ice-jam which took an hour of heavy work to cross. At last
Daylight glimpsed what he was looking for, a dead tree close by
the bank. The sled was run in and up. Kama grunted with
satisfaction, and the work of making camp was begun.
The division of labor was excellent. Each knew what he must do.
With one ax Daylight chopped down the dead pine. Kama, with a
snowshoe and the other ax, cleared away the two feet of snow
above the Yukon ice and chopped a supply of ice for cooking
purposes. A piece of dry birch bark started the fire, and
Daylight went ahead with the cooking while the Indian unloaded
the sled and fed the dogs their ration of dried fish. The food
sacks he slung high in the trees beyond leaping-reach of the
huskies. Next, he chopped down a young spruce tree and trimmed
off the boughs. Close to the fire he trampled down the soft snow
and covered the packed space with the boughs. On this flooring
he tossed his own and Daylight's gear-bags, containing dry socks
and underwear and their sleeping-robes. Kama, however, had two
robes of rabbit skin to Daylight's one.
They worked on steadily, without speaking, losing no time. Each
did whatever was needed, without thought of leaving to the other
the least task that presented itself to hand. Thus, Kama saw
when more ice was needed and went and got it, while a snowshoe,
pushed over by the lunge of a dog, was stuck on end again by
Daylight. While coffee was boiling, bacon frying, and flapjacks
were being mixed, Daylight found time to put on a big pot of
beans. Kama came back, sat down on the edge of the spruce
boughs, and in the interval of waiting, mended harness.
"I t'ink dat Skookum and Booga make um plenty fight maybe," Kama
remarked, as they sat down to eat.
"Keep an eye on them," was Daylight's answer.
And this was their sole conversation throughout the meal. Once,
with a muttered imprecation, Kama leaped away, a stick of
firewood in hand, and clubbed apart a tangle of fighting dogs.
Daylight, between mouthfuls, fed chunks of ice into the tin pot,
where it thawed into water. The meal finished, Kama replenished
the fire, cut more wood for the morning, and returned to the
spruce bough bed and his harness-mending. Daylight cut up
generous chunks of bacon and dropped them in the pot of bubbling
beans. The moccasins of both men were wet, and this in spite of
the intense cold; so when there was no further need for them to
leave the oasis of spruce boughs, they took off their moccasins
and hung them on short sticks to dry before the fire, turning
them about from time to time. When the beans were finally
cooked, Daylight ran part of them into a bag of flour-sacking a
foot and a half long and three inches in diameter. This he then
laid on the snow to freeze. The remainder of the beans were left
in the pot for breakfast.
It was past nine o'clock, and they were ready for bed. The
squabbling and bickering among the dogs had long since died down,
and the weary animals were curled in the snow, each with his feet
and nose bunched together and covered by his wolf's brush of a
tail. Kama spread his sleeping-furs and lighted his pipe.
Daylight rolled a brown-paper cigarette, and the second
conversation of the evening took place.
"I think we come near sixty miles," said Daylight.
"Um, I t'ink so," said Kama.
They rolled into their robes, all-standing, each with a woolen
Mackinaw jacket on in place of the parkas[5] they had worn all
day. Swiftly, almost on the instant they closed their eyes, they
were asleep. The stars leaped and danced in the frosty air, and
overhead the colored bars of the aurora borealis were shooting
like great searchlights.
[5] Parka: a light, hooded, smock-like garment made of cotton
In the darkness Daylight awoke and roused Kama. Though the
aurora still flamed, another day had begun. Warmed-over
flapjacks, warmed-over beans, fried bacon, and coffee composed
the breakfast. The dogs got nothing, though they watched with
wistful mien from a distance, sitting up in the snow, their tails
curled around their paws. Occasionally they lifted one fore paw
or the other, with a restless movement, as if the frost tingled
in their feet. It was bitter cold, at least sixty-five below
zero, and when Kama harnessed the dogs with naked hands he was
compelled several times to go over to the fire and warm the
numbing finger-tips. Together the two men loaded and lashed the
sled. They warmed their hands for the last time, pulled on their
mittens, and mushed the dogs over the bank and down to the
river-trail. According to Daylight's estimate, it was around
seven o'clock; but the stars danced just as brilliantly, and
faint, luminous streaks of greenish aurora still pulsed overhead.
Two hours later it became suddenly dark--so dark that they kept
the trail largely by instinct; and Daylight knew that his
time-estimate had been right. It was the darkness before dawn,
never anywhere more conspicuous than on the Alaskan winter-trail.
Slowly the gray light came stealing through the gloom,
imperceptibly at first, so that it was almost with surprise that
they noticed the vague loom of the trail underfoot. Next, they
were able to see the wheel-dog, and then the whole string of
running dogs and snow-stretches on either side. Then the near
bank loomed for a moment and was gone, loomed a second time and
remained. In a few minutes the far bank, a mile away,
unobtrusively came into view, and ahead and behind, the whole
frozen river could be seen, with off to the left a wide-extending
range of sharp-cut, snow-covered mountains. And that was all.
No sun arose. The gray light remained gray.
Once, during the day, a lynx leaped lightly across the trail,
under the very nose of the lead-dog, and vanished in the white
woods. The dogs' wild impulses roused. They raised the
hunting-cry of the pack, surged against their collars, and
swerved aside in pursuit. Daylight, yelling "Whoa!" struggled
with the gee-pole and managed to overturn the sled into the soft
snow. The dogs gave up, the sled was righted, and five minutes
later they were flying along the hard-packed trail again. The
lynx was the only sign of life they had seen in two days, and it,
leaping velvet-footed and vanishing, had been more like an
At twelve o'clock, when the sun peeped over the earth-bulge,
they stopped and built a small fire on the ice. Daylight, with
the ax, chopped chunks off the frozen sausage of beans. These,
thawed and warmed in the frying-pan, constituted their meal.
They had no coffee. He did not believe in the burning of
daylight for such a luxury. The dogs stopped wrangling with one
another, and looked on wistfully. Only at night did they get
their pound of fish. In the meantime they worked.
The cold snap continued. Only men of iron kept the trail at such
low temperatures, and Kama and Daylight were picked men of their
races. But Kama knew the other was the better man, and thus, at
the start, he was himself foredoomed to defeat. Not that he
slackened his effort or willingness by the slightest conscious
degree, but that he was beaten by the burden he carried in his
mind. His attitude toward Daylight was worshipful. Stoical,
taciturn, proud of his physical prowess, he found all these
qualities incarnated in his white companion. Here was one that
excelled in the things worth excelling in, a man-god ready to
hand, and Kama could not but worship--withal he gave no signs of
it. No wonder the race of white men conquered, was his thought,
when it bred men like this man. What chance had the Indian
against such a dogged, enduring breed? Even the Indians did not
travel at such low temperatures, and theirs was the wisdom of
thousands of generations; yet here was this Daylight, from the
soft Southland, harder than they, laughing at their fears, and
swinging along the trail ten and twelve hours a day. And this
Daylight thought that he could keep up a day's pace of
thirty-three miles for sixty days! Wait till a fresh fall of
came down, or they struck the unbroken trail or the rotten
that fringed open water.
In the meantime Kama kept the pace, never grumbling, never
shirking. Sixty-five degrees below zero is very cold. Since
water freezes at thirty-two above, sixty-five below meant
ninety-seven degrees below freezing-point. Some idea of the
significance of this may be gained by conceiving of an equal
difference of temperature in the opposite direction. One hundred
and twenty-nine on the thermometer constitutes a very hot day,
yet such a temperature is but ninety-seven degrees above
freezing. Double this difference, and possibly some slight
conception may be gained of the cold through which Kama and
Daylight travelled between dark and dark and through the dark.
Kama froze the skin on his cheek-bones, despite frequent
rubbings, and the flesh turned black and sore. Also he slightly
froze the edges of his lung-tissues--a dangerous thing, and the
basic reason why a man should not unduly exert himself in the
open at sixty-five below. But Kama never complained, and
Daylight was a furnace of heat, sleeping as warmly under his six
pounds of rabbit skins as the other did under twelve pounds.
On the second night, fifty more miles to the good, they camped in
the vicinity of the boundary between Alaska and the Northwest
Territory. The rest of the journey, save the last short stretch
to Dyea, would be travelled on Canadian territory. With the hard
trail, and in the absence of fresh snow, Daylight planned to make
the camp of Forty Mile on the fourth night. He told Kama as
much, but on the third day the temperature began to rise, and
they knew snow was not far off; for on the Yukon it must get warm
in order to snow. Also, on this day, they encountered ten miles
of chaotic ice-jams, where, a thousand times, they lifted the
loaded sled over the huge cakes by the strength of their arms and
lowered it down again. Here the dogs were well-nigh useless, and
both they and the men were tried excessively by the roughness of
the way. An hour's extra running that night caught up only part
of the lost time.
In the morning they awoke to find ten inches of snow on their
robes. The dogs were buried under it and were loath to leave
their comfortable nests. This new snow meant hard going. The
sled runners would not slide over it so well, while one of the
men must go in advance of the dogs and pack it down with
snowshoes so that they should not wallow. Quite different was it
from the ordinary snow known to those of the Southland. It was
hard, and fine, and dry. It was more like sugar. Kick it, and
it flew with a hissing noise like sand. There was no cohesion
among the particles, and it could not be moulded into snowballs.
It was not composed of flakes, but of crystals--tiny,
geometrical frost-crystals. In truth, it was not snow, but
The weather was warm, as well, barely twenty below zero, and the
two men, with raised ear-flaps and dangling mittens, sweated as
they toiled. They failed to make Forty Mile that night, and when
they passed that camp next day Daylight paused only long enough
to get the mail and additional grub. On the afternoon of the
following day they camped at the mouth of the Klondike River.
Not a soul had they encountered since Forty Mile, and they had
made their own trail. As yet, that winter, no one had travelled
the river south of Forty Mile, and, for that matter, the whole
winter through they might be the only ones to travel it. In that
day the Yukon was a lonely land. Between the Klondike River and
Salt Water at Dyea intervened six hundred miles of snow-covered
wilderness, and in all that distance there were but two places
where Daylight might look forward to meeting men. Both were
isolated trading-posts, Sixty Mile and Fort Selkirk. In the
summer-time Indians might be met with at the mouths of the
Stewart and White rivers, at the Big and Little Salmons, and on
Lake Le Barge; but in the winter, as he well knew, they would be
on the trail of the moose-herds, following them back into the
That night, camped at the mouth of the Klondike, Daylight did not
turn in when the evening's work was done. Had a white man been
present, Daylight would have remarked that he felt his "hunch"
working. As it was, he tied on his snowshoes, left the dogs
curled in the snow and Kama breathing heavily under his rabbit
skins, and climbed up to the big flat above the high earth-bank.
But the spruce trees were too thick for an outlook, and he
threaded his way across the flat and up the first steep slopes of
the mountain at the back. Here, flowing in from the east at
right angles, he could see the Klondike, and, bending grandly
from the south, the Yukon. To the left, and downstream, toward
Moosehide Mountain, the huge splash of white, from which it took
its name, showing clearly in the starlight. Lieutenant Schwatka
had given it its name, but he, Daylight, had first seen it long
before that intrepid explorer had crossed the Chilcoot and rafted
down the Yukon.
But the mountain received only passing notice. Daylight's
interest was centered in the big flat itself, with deep water all
along its edge for steamboat landings.
"A sure enough likely town site," he muttered. "Room for a camp
of forty thousand men. All that's needed is the gold-strike."
He meditated for a space. "Ten dollars to the pan'll do it, and
it'd be the all-firedest stampede Alaska ever seen. And if it
don't come here, it'll come somewhere hereabouts. It's a sure
good idea to keep an eye out for town sites all the way up."
He stood a while longer, gazing out over the lonely flat and
visioning with constructive imagination the scene if the stampede
did come. In fancy, he placed the sawmills, the big trading
stores, the saloons, and dance-halls, and the long streets of
miners' cabins. And along those streets he saw thousands of men
passing up and down, while before the stores were the heavy
freighting-sleds, with long strings of dogs attached. Also he
saw the heavy freighters pulling down the main street and heading
up the frozen Klondike toward the imagined somewhere where the
diggings must be located.
He laughed and shook the vision from his eyes, descended to the
level, and crossed the flat to camp. Five minutes after he had
rolled up in his robe, he opened his eyes and sat up, amazed that
he was not already asleep. He glanced at the Indian sleeping
beside him, at the embers of the dying fire, at the five dogs
beyond, with their wolf's brushes curled over their noses, and at
the four snowshoes standing upright in the snow.
"It's sure hell the way that hunch works on me" he murmured.
His mind reverted to the poker game. "Four kings!" He grinned
reminiscently. "That WAS a hunch!"
He lay down again, pulled the edge of the robe around his neck
and over his ear-flaps, closed his eyes, and this time fell
At Sixty Mile they restocked provisions, added a few pounds of
letters to their load, and held steadily on. From Forty Mile
they had had unbroken trail, and they could look forward only to
unbroken trail clear to Dyea. Daylight stood it magnificently,
but the killing pace was beginning to tell on Kama. His pride
kept his mouth shut, but the result of the chilling of his lungs
in the cold snap could not be concealed. Microscopically small
had been the edges of the lung-tissue touched by the frost, but
they now began to slough off, giving rise to a dry, hacking
cough. Any unusually severe exertion precipitated spells of
coughing, during which he was almost like a man in a fit. The
blood congested in his eyes till they bulged, while the tears ran
down his cheeks. A whiff of the smoke from frying bacon would
start him off for a half-hour's paroxysm, and he kept carefully
to windward when Daylight was cooking.
They plodded days upon days and without end over the soft,
unpacked snow. It was hard, monotonous work, with none of the
joy and blood-stir that went with flying over hard surface. Now
one man to the fore in the snowshoes, and now the other, it was a
case of stubborn, unmitigated plod. A yard of powdery snow had
to be pressed down, and the wide-webbed shoe, under a man's
weight, sank a full dozen inches into the soft surface. Snowshoe
work, under such conditions, called for the use of muscles other
than those used in ordinary walking. From step to step the
rising foot could not come up and forward on a slant. It had to
be raised perpendicularly. When the snowshoe was pressed into
the snow, its nose was confronted by a vertical wall of snow
twelve inches high. If the foot, in rising, slanted forward the
slightest bit, the nose of the shoe penetrated the obstructing
wall and tipped downward till the heel of the shoe struck the
man's leg behind. Thus up, straight up, twelve inches, each foot
must be raised every time and all the time, ere the forward swing
from the knee could begin.
On this partially packed surface followed the dogs, the man at
the gee-pole, and the sled. At the best, toiling as only picked
men could toil, they made no more than three miles an hour. This
meant longer hours of travel, and Daylight, for good measure and
for a margin against accidents, hit the trail for twelve hours a
day. Since three hours were consumed by making camp at night and
cooking beans, by getting breakfast in the morning and breaking
camp, and by thawing beans at the midday halt, nine hours were
left for sleep and recuperation, and neither men nor dogs wasted
many minutes of those nine hours.
At Selkirk, the trading post near Pelly River, Daylight suggested
that Kama lay over, rejoining him on the back trip from Dyea. A
strayed Indian from Lake Le Barge was willing to take his place;
but Kama was obdurate. He grunted with a slight intonation of
resentment, and that was all. The dogs, however, Daylight
changed, leaving his own exhausted team to rest up against his
return, while he went on with six fresh dogs.
They travelled till ten o'clock the night they reached Selkirk,
and at six next morning they plunged ahead into the next stretch
of wilderness of nearly five hundred miles that lay between
Selkirk and Dyea. A second cold snap came on, but cold or warm
it was all the same, an unbroken trail. When the thermometer
went down to fifty below, it was even harder to travel, for at
that low temperature the hard frost-crystals were more like
sand-grains in the resistance they offered to the sled runners.
The dogs had to pull harder than over the same snow at twenty or
thirty below zero. Daylight increased the day's travel to
thirteen hours. He jealously guarded the margin he had gained,
for he knew there were difficult stretches to come.
It was not yet quite midwinter, and the turbulent Fifty Mile
River vindicated his judgment. In many places it ran wide open,
with precarious rim-ice fringing it on either side. In numerous
places, where the water dashed against the steep-sided bluffs,
rim-ice was unable to form. They turned and twisted, now
crossing the river, now coming back again, sometimes making half
a dozen attempts before they found a way over a particularly bad
stretch. It was slow work. The ice-bridges had to be tested,
and either Daylight or Kama went in advance, snowshoes on their
feet, and long poles carried crosswise in their hands. Thus, if
they broke through, they could cling to the pole that bridged the
hole made by their bodies. Several such accidents were the share
of each. At fifty below zero, a man wet to the waist cannot
travel without freezing; so each ducking meant delay. As soon as
rescued, the wet man ran up and down to keep up his circulation,
while his dry companion built a fire. Thus protected, a change
of garments could be made and the wet ones dried against the next
To make matters worse, this dangerous river travel could not be
done in the dark, and their working day was reduced to the six
hours of twilight. Every moment was precious, and they strove
never to lose one. Thus, before the first hint of the coming of
gray day, camp was broken, sled loaded, dogs harnessed, and the
two men crouched waiting over the fire. Nor did they make the
midday halt to eat. As it was, they were running far behind
their schedule, each day eating into the margin they had run up.
There were days when they made fifteen miles, and days when they
made a dozen. And there was one bad stretch where in two days
they covered nine miles, being compelled to turn their backs
three times on the river and to portage sled and outfit over the
At last they cleared the dread Fifty Mile River and came out on
Lake Le Barge. Here was no open water nor jammed ice. For
thirty miles or more the snow lay level as a table; withal it lay
three feet deep and was soft as flour. Three miles an hour was
the best they could make, but Daylight celebrated the passing of
the Fifty Mile by traveling late. At eleven in the morning they
emerged at the foot of the lake. At three in the afternoon, as
the Arctic night closed down, he caught his first sight of the
head of the lake, and with the first stars took his bearings. At
eight in the evening they left the lake behind and entered the
mouth of the Lewes River. Here a halt of half an hour was made,
while chunks of frozen boiled beans were thawed and the dogs
were given an extra ration of fish. Then they pulled on up the
river till one in the morning, when they made their regular camp.
They had hit the trail sixteen hours on end that day, the dogs
had come in too tired to fight among themselves or even snarl,
and Kama had perceptibly limped the last several miles; yet
Daylight was on trail next morning at six o'clock. By eleven he
was at the foot of White Horse, and that night saw him camped
beyond the Box Canon, the last bad river-stretch behind him, the
string of lakes before him.
There was no let up in his pace. Twelve hours a day, six in the
twilight, and six in the dark, they toiled on the trail. Three
hours were consumed in cooking, repairing harnesses, and making
and breaking camp, and the remaining nine hours dogs and men
slept as if dead. The iron strength of Kama broke. Day by day
the terrific toil sapped him. Day by day he consumed more of his
reserves of strength. He became slower of movement, the
resiliency went out of his muscles, and his limp became
permanent. Yet he labored stoically on, never shirking, never
grunting a hint of complaint. Daylight was thin-faced and tired.
He looked tired; yet somehow, with that marvelous mechanism of a
body that was his, he drove on, ever on, remorselessly on. Never
was he more a god in Kama's mind than in the last days of the
south-bound traverse, as the failing Indian watched him, ever to
the fore, pressing onward with urgency of endurance such as Kama
had never seen nor dreamed could thrive in human form.
The time came when Kama was unable to go in the lead and break
trail, and it was a proof that he was far gone when he permitted
Daylight to toil all day at the heavy snowshoe work. Lake by
lake they crossed the string of lakes from Marsh to Linderman,
and began the ascent of Chilcoot. By all rights, Daylight should
have camped below the last pitch of the pass at the dim end of
day; but he kept on and over and down to Sheep Camp, while behind
him raged a snow-storm that would have delayed him twenty-four
This last excessive strain broke Kama completely. In the morning
he could not travel. At five, when called, he sat up after a
struggle, groaned, and sank back again. Daylight did the camp
work of both, harnessed the dogs, and, when ready for the start,
rolled the helpless Indian in all three sleeping robes and lashed
him on top of the sled. The going was good; they were on the
last lap; and he raced the dogs down through Dyea Canon and along
the hard-packed trail that led to Dyea Post. And running still,
Kama groaning on top the load, and Daylight leaping at the
gee-pole to avoid going under the runners of the flying sled,
they arrived at Dyea by the sea.
True to his promise, Daylight did not stop. An hour's time saw
the sled loaded with the ingoing mail and grub, fresh dogs
harnessed, and a fresh Indian engaged. Kama never spoke from the
time of his arrival till the moment Daylight, ready to depart,
stood beside him to say good-by. They shook hands.
"You kill um dat damn Indian," Kama said. "Sawee, Daylight? You
kill um."
"He'll sure last as far as Pelly," Daylight grinned.
Kama shook his head doubtfully, and rolled over on his side,
turning his back in token of farewell.
Daylight won across Chilcoot that same day, dropping down five
hundred feet in the darkness and the flurrying snow to Crater
Lake, where he camped. It was a 'cold' camp, far above the
timber-line, and he had not burdened his sled with firewood.
That night three feet of snow covered them, and in the black
morning, when they dug themselves out, the Indian tried to
desert. He had had enough of traveling with what he considered a
madman. But Daylight persuaded him in grim ways to stay by the
outfit, and they pulled on across Deep Lake and Long Lake and
dropped down to the level-going of Lake Linderman. It was the
same killing pace going in as coming out, and the Indian did not
stand it as well as Kama. He, too, never complained. Nor did he
try again to desert. He toiled on and did his best, while he
renewed his resolve to steer clear of Daylight in the future.
The days slipped into days, nights and twilight's alternating,
cold snaps gave way to snow-falls, and cold snaps came on again,
and all the while, through the long hours, the miles piled up
behind them.
But on the Fifty Mile accident befell them. Crossing an
ice-bridge, the dogs broke through and were swept under the
down-stream ice. The traces that connected the team with the
wheel-dog parted, and the team was never seen again. Only the
one wheel-dog remained, and Daylight harnessed the Indian and
himself to the sled. But a man cannot take the place of a dog at
such work, and the two men were attempting to do the work of five
dogs. At the end of the first hour, Daylight lightened up.
Dog-food, extra gear, and the spare ax were thrown away. Under
the extraordinary exertion the dog snapped a tendon the following
day, and was hopelessly disabled. Daylight shot it, and
abandoned the sled. On his back he took one hundred and sixty
pounds of mail and grub, and on the Indian's put one hundred and
twenty-five pounds. The stripping of gear was remorseless. The
Indian was appalled when he saw every pound of worthless mail
matter retained, while beans, cups, pails, plates, and extra
clothing were thrown by the board. One robe each was kept, one
ax, one tin pail, and a scant supply of bacon and flour. Bacon
could be eaten raw on a pinch, and flour, stirred in hot water,
could keep men going. Even the rifle and the score of rounds of
ammunition were left behind.
And in this fashion they covered the two hundred miles to
Selkirk. Daylight travelled late and early, the hours formerly
used by camp-making and dog-tending being now devoted to the
trail. At night they crouched over a small fire, wrapped in
their robes, drinking flour broth and thawing bacon on the ends
of sticks; and in the morning darkness, without a word, they
arose, slipped on their packs, adjusted head-straps, and hit the
trail. The last miles into Selkirk, Daylight drove the Indian
before him, a hollow-cheeked, gaunt-eyed wraith of a man who else
would have lain down and slept or abandoned his burden of mail.
At Selkirk, the old team of dogs, fresh and in condition, were
harnessed, and the same day saw Daylight plodding on, alternating
places at the gee-pole, as a matter of course, with the Le Barge
Indian who had volunteered on the way out. Daylight was two days
behind his schedule, and falling snow and unpacked trail kept him
two days behind all the way to Forty Mile. And here the weather
favored. It was time for a big cold snap, and he gambled on it,
cutting down the weight of grub for dogs and men. The men of
Forty Mile shook their heads ominously, and demanded to know what
he would do if the snow still fell.
"That cold snap's sure got to come," he laughed, and mushed out
on the trail.
A number of sleds had passed back and forth already that winter
between Forty Mile and Circle City, and the trail was well
packed. And the cold snap came and remained, and Circle City was
only two hundred miles away. The Le Barge Indian was a young
man, unlearned yet in his own limitations, and filled with pride.
He took Daylight's pace with joy, and even dreamed, at first,
that he would play the white man out. The first hundred miles he
looked for signs of weakening, and marveled that he saw them not.
Throughout the second hundred miles he observed signs in himself,
and gritted his teeth and kept up. And ever Daylight flew on
and on, running at the gee-pole or resting his spell on top the
flying sled. The last day, clearer and colder than ever, gave
perfect going, and they covered seventy miles. It was ten at
night when they pulled up the earth-bank and flew along the main
street of Circle City; and the young Indian, though it was his
spell to ride, leaped off and ran behind the sled. It was
honorable braggadocio, and despite the fact that he had found his
limitations and was pressing desperately against them, he ran
gamely on.
A crowd filled the Tivoli--the old crowd that had seen Daylight
depart two months before; for this was the night of the sixtieth
day, and opinion was divided as ever as to whether or not he
would compass the achievement. At ten o'clock bets were still
being made, though the odds rose, bet by bet, against his
success. Down in her heart the Virgin believed he had failed,
yet she made a bet of twenty ounces with Charley Bates, against
forty ounces, that Daylight would arrive before midnight.
She it was who heard the first yelps of the dogs.
"Listen!" she cried. "It's Daylight!"
There was a general stampede for the door; but where the double
storm-doors were thrown wide open, the crowd fell back. They
heard the eager whining of dogs, the snap of a dog-whip, and the
voice of Daylight crying encouragement as the weary animals
capped all they had done by dragging the sled in over the wooden
floor. They came in with a rush, and with them rushed in the
frost, a visible vapor of smoking white, through which their
heads and backs showed, as they strained in the harness, till
they had all the seeming of swimming in a river. Behind them, at
the gee-pole, came Daylight, hidden to the knees by the swirling
frost through which he appeared to wade.
He was the same old Daylight, withal lean and tired-looking, and
his black eyes were sparkling and flashing brighter than ever.
His parka of cotton drill hooded him like a monk, and fell in
straight lines to his knees. Grimed and scorched by camp-smoke
and fire, the garment in itself told the story of his trip. A
two-months' beard covered his face; and the beard, in turn, was
matted with the ice of his breathing through the long
seventy-mile run.
His entry was spectacular, melodramatic; and he knew it. It was
his life, and he was living it at the top of his bent. Among his
fellows he was a great man, an Arctic hero. He was proud of the
fact, and it was a high moment for him, fresh from two thousand
miles of trail, to come surging into that bar-room, dogs, sled,
mail, Indian, paraphernalia, and all. He had performed one more
exploit that would make the Yukon ring with his name--he, Burning
Daylight, the king of travelers and dog-mushers.
He experienced a thrill of surprise as the roar of welcome went
up and as every familiar detail of the Tivoli greeted his
vision--the long bar and the array of bottles, the gambling
the big stove, the weigher at the gold-scales, the musicians, the
men and women, the Virgin, Celia, and Nellie, Dan MacDonald,
Bettles, Billy Rawlins, Olaf Henderson, Doc Watson,--all of them.
It was just as he had left it, and in all seeming it might well
the very day he had left. The sixty days of incessant travel
through the white wilderness suddenly telescoped, and had no
existence in time. They were a moment, an incident. He had
plunged out and into them through the wall of silence, and back
through the wall of silence he had plunged, apparently the next
instant, and into the roar and turmoil of the Tivoli.
A glance down at the sled with its canvas mail-bags was necessary
to reassure him of the reality of those sixty days and the two
thousand miles over the ice. As in a dream, he shook the hands
that were thrust out to him. He felt a vast exaltation. Life
was magnificent. He loved it all. A great sense of humanness
and comradeship swept over him. These were all his, his own
kind. It was immense, tremendous. He felt melting in the heart
of him, and he would have liked to shake hands with them all at
once, to gather them to his breast in one mighty embrace.
He drew a deep breath and cried: "The winner pays, and I'm the
winner, ain't I? Surge up, you-all Malemutes and Siwashes, and
name your poison! There's your Dyea mail, straight from Salt
Water, and no hornswogglin about it! Cast the lashings adrift,
you-all, and wade into it!"
A dozen pairs of hands were at the sled-lashings, when the young
Le Barge Indian, bending at the same task, suddenly and limply
straightened up. In his eyes was a great surprise. He stared
about him wildly, for the thing he was undergoing was new to him.
He was profoundly struck by an unguessed limitation. He shook as
with a palsy, and he gave at the knees, slowly sinking down to
fall suddenly across the sled and to know the smashing blow of
darkness across his consciousness.
"Exhaustion," said Daylight. "Take him off and put him to bed,
some of you-all. He's sure a good Indian."
"Daylight's right," was Doc Watson's verdict, a moment later.
"The man's plumb tuckered out."
The mail was taken charge of, the dogs driven away to quarters
and fed, and Bettles struck up the paean of the sassafras root as
they lined up against the long bar to drink and talk and collect
their debts.
A few minutes later, Daylight was whirling around the
dance-floor, waltzing with the Virgin. He had replaced his parka
with his fur cap and blanket-cloth coat, kicked off his frozen
moccasins, and was dancing in his stocking feet. After wetting
himself to the knees late that afternoon, he had run on without
changing his foot-gear, and to the knees his long German socks
were matted with ice. In the warmth of the room it began to thaw
and to break apart in clinging chunks. These chunks rattled
together as his legs flew around, and every little while they
fell clattering to the floor and were slipped upon by the other
dancers. But everybody forgave Daylight. He, who was one of the
few that made the Law in that far land, who set the ethical pace,
and by conduct gave the standard of right and wrong, was
nevertheless above the Law. He was one of those rare and favored
mortals who can do no wrong. What he did had to be right,
whether others were permitted or not to do the same things. Of
course, such mortals are so favored by virtue of the fact that
they almost always do the right and do it in finer and higher
ways than other men. So Daylight, an elder hero in that young
land and at the same time younger than most of them, moved as a
creature apart, as a man above men, as a man who was greatly man
and all man. And small wonder it was that the Virgin yielded
herself to his arms, as they danced dance after dance, and was
sick at heart at the knowledge that he found nothing in her more
than a good friend and an excellent dancer. Small consolation it
was to know that he had never loved any woman. She was sick with
love of him, and he danced with her as he would dance with any
woman, as he would dance with a man who was a good dancer and
upon whose arm was tied a handkerchief to conventionalize him
into a woman.
One such man Daylight danced with that night. Among frontiersmen
it has always been a test of endurance for one man to whirl
another down; and when Ben Davis, the faro-dealer, a gaudy
bandanna on his arm, got Daylight in a Virginia reel, the fun
began. The reel broke up and all fell back to watch. Around and
around the two men whirled, always in the one direction. Word
was passed on into the big bar-room, and bar and gambling tables
were deserted. Everybody wanted to see, and they packed and
jammed the dance-room. The musicians played on and on, and on
and on the two men whirled. Davis was skilled at the trick, and
on the Yukon he had put many a strong man on his back. But after
a few minutes it was clear that he, and not Daylight, was going.
For a while longer they spun around, and then Daylight suddenly
stood still, released his partner, and stepped back, reeling
himself, and fluttering his hands aimlessly, as if to support
himself against the air. But Davis, a giddy smile of
consternation on his face, gave sideways, turned in an attempt to
recover balance, and pitched headlong to the floor. Still
reeling and staggering and clutching at the air with his hands,
Daylight caught the nearest girl and started on in a waltz.
Again he had done the big thing. Weary from two thousand miles
over the ice and a run that day of seventy miles, he had whirled
a fresh man down, and that man Ben Davis.
Daylight loved the high places, and though few high places there
were in his narrow experience, he had made a point of sitting in
the highest he had ever glimpsed. The great world had never
heard his name, but it was known far and wide in the vast silent
North, by whites and Indians and Eskimos, from Bering Sea to the
Passes, from the head reaches of remotest rivers to the tundra
shore of Point Barrow. Desire for mastery was strong in him, and
it was all one whether wrestling with the elements themselves,
with men, or with luck in a gambling game. It was all a game,
life and its affairs. And he was a gambler to the core. Risk
and chance were meat and drink. True, it was not altogether
blind, for he applied wit and skill and strength; but behind it
all was the everlasting Luck, the thing that at times turned on
its votaries and crushed the wise while it blessed the
fools--Luck, the thing all men sought and dreamed to conquer.
so he. Deep in his life-processes Life itself sang the siren
song of its own majesty, ever a-whisper and urgent, counseling
him that he could achieve more than other men, win out where they
failed, ride to success where they perished. It was the urge of
Life healthy and strong, unaware of frailty and decay, drunken
with sublime complacence, ego-mad, enchanted by its own mighty
And ever in vaguest whisperings and clearest trumpet-calls came
the message that sometime, somewhere, somehow, he would run Luck
down, make himself the master of Luck, and tie it and brand it as
his own. When he played poker, the whisper was of four aces and
royal flushes. When he prospected, it was of gold in the
grass-roots, gold on bed-rock, and gold all the way down. At
the sharpest hazards of trail and river and famine, the message
was that other men might die, but that he would pull through
triumphant. It was the old, old lie of Life fooling itself,
believing itself--immortal and indestructible, bound to achieve
over other lives and win to its heart's desire.
And so, reversing at times, Daylight waltzed off his dizziness
and led the way to the bar. But a united protest went up. His
theory that the winner paid was no longer to be tolerated. It
was contrary to custom and common sense, and while it emphasized
good-fellowship, nevertheless, in the name of good-fellowship it
must cease. The drinks were rightfully on Ben Davis, and Ben
Davis must buy them. Furthermore, all drinks and general treats
that Daylight was guilty of ought to be paid by the house, for
Daylight brought much custom to it whenever he made a night.
Bettles was the spokesman, and his argument, tersely and
offensively vernacular, was unanimously applauded.
Daylight grinned, stepped aside to the roulette-table, and bought
a stack of yellow chips. At the end of ten minutes he weighed in
at the scales, and two thousand dollars in gold-dust was poured
into his own and an extra sack. Luck, a mere flutter of luck,
but it was his. Elation was added to elation. He was living,
and the night was his. He turned upon his well-wishing critics.
"Now the winner sure does pay," he said.
And they surrendered. There was no withstanding Daylight when he
vaulted on the back of life, and rode it bitted and spurred.
At one in the morning he saw Elijah Davis herding Henry Finn and
Joe Hines, the lumber-jack, toward the door. Daylight
"Where are you-all going?" he demanded, attempting to draw them
to the bar.
"Bed," Elijah Davis answered.
He was a lean tobacco-chewing New Englander, the one daring
spirit in his family that had heard and answered the call of the
West shouting through the Mount Desert back odd-lots. "Got to,"
Joe Hines added apologetically. "We're mushing out in the
Daylight still detained them. "Where to? What's the
"No excitement," Elijah explained. "We're just a-goin' to play
your hunch, an' tackle the Upper Country. Don't you want to come
"I sure do," Daylight affirmed.
But the question had been put in fun, and Elijah ignored the
"We're tacklin' the Stewart," he went on. "Al Mayo told me he
seen some likely lookin' bars first time he come down the
Stewart, and we're goin' to sample 'em while the river's froze.
You listen, Daylight, an' mark my words, the time's comin' when
winter diggin's'll be all the go. There'll be men in them days
that'll laugh at our summer stratchin' an' ground-wallerin'."
At that time, winter mining was undreamed of on the Yukon. From
the moss and grass the land was frozen to bed-rock, and frozen
gravel, hard as granite, defied pick and shovel. In the summer
the men stripped the earth down as fast as the sun thawed it.
Then was the time they did their mining. During the winter they
freighted their provisions, went moose-hunting, got all ready for
the summer's work, and then loafed the bleak, dark months through
in the big central camps such as Circle City and Forty Mile.
"Winter diggin's sure comin'," Daylight agreed. "Wait till that
big strike is made up river. Then you-all'll see a new kind of
mining. What's to prevent wood-burning and sinking shafts and
drifting along bed-rock? Won't need to timber. That frozen muck
and gravel'll stand till hell is froze and its mill-tails is
turned to ice-cream. Why, they'll be working pay-streaks a
hundred feet deep in them days that's comin'. I'm sure going
along with you-all, Elijah."
Elijah laughed, gathered his two partners up, and was making a
second attempt to reach the door
"Hold on," Daylight called. "I sure mean it."
The three men turned back suddenly upon him, in their faces
surprise, delight, and incredulity.
"G'wan, you're foolin'," said Finn, the other lumberjack, a
quiet, steady, Wisconsin man.
"There's my dawgs and sled," Daylight answered. "That'll make
teams and halve the loads--though we-all'll have to travel easy
a spell, for them dawgs is sure tired."
The three men were overjoyed, but still a trifle incredulous.
"Now look here," Joe Hines blurted out, "none of your foolin,
Daylight. We mean business. Will you come?"
Daylight extended his hand and shook.
"Then you'd best be gettin' to bed," Elijah advised. "We're
out at six, and four hours' sleep is none so long."
"Mebbe we ought to lay over a day and let him rest up," Finn
Daylight's pride was touched.
"No you don't," he cried. "We all start at six. What time do
you-all want to be called? Five? All right, I'll rouse you-all
"You oughter have some sleep," Elijah counselled gravely. "You
can't go on forever."
Daylight was tired, profoundly tired. Even his iron body
acknowledged weariness. Every muscle was clamoring for bed and
rest, was appalled at continuance of exertion and at thought of
the trail again. All this physical protest welled up into his
brain in a wave of revolt. But deeper down, scornful and
defiant, was Life itself, the essential fire of it, whispering
that all Daylight's fellows were looking on, that now was the
time to pile deed upon deed, to flaunt his strength in the face
of strength. It was merely Life, whispering its ancient lies.
And in league with it was whiskey, with all its consummate
effrontery and vain-glory.
"Mebbe you-all think I ain't weaned yet?" Daylight demanded.
"Why, I ain't had a drink, or a dance, or seen a soul in two
months. You-all get to bed. I'll call you-all at five."
And for the rest of the night he danced on in his stocking feet,
and at five in the morning, rapping thunderously on the door of
his new partners' cabin, he could be heard singing the song that
had given him his name:--
"Burning daylight, you-all Stewart River hunchers! Burning
daylight! Burning daylight! Burning daylight!"
This time the trail was easier. It was better packed, and they
were not carrying mail against time. The day's run was shorter,
and likewise the hours on trail. On his mail run Daylight had
played out three Indians; but his present partners knew that they
must not be played out when they arrived at the Stewart bars, so
they set the slower pace. And under this milder toil, where his
companions nevertheless grew weary, Daylight recuperated and
rested up. At Forty Mile they laid over two days for the sake of
the dogs, and at Sixty Mile Daylight's team was left with the
trader. Unlike Daylight, after the terrible run from Selkirk to
Circle City, they had been unable to recuperate on the back
trail. So the four men pulled on from Sixty Mile with a fresh
team of dogs on Daylight's sled.
The following night they camped in the cluster of islands at the
mouth of the Stewart. Daylight talked town sites, and, though
the others laughed at him, he staked the whole maze of high,
wooded islands.
"Just supposing the big strike does come on the Stewart," he
argued. "Mebbe you-all'll be in on it, and then again mebbe
you-all won't. But I sure will. You-all'd better reconsider
and go in with me on it."
But they were stubborn.
"You're as bad as Harper and Joe Ladue," said Joe Hines.
"They're always at that game. You know that big flat jest below
the Klondike and under Moosehide Mountain? Well, the recorder at
Forty Mile was tellin' me they staked that not a month ago--The
Harper & Ladue Town Site. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Elijah and Finn joined him in his laughter; but Daylight was
gravely in earnest.
"There she is!" he cried. "The hunch is working! It's in the
air, I tell you-all! What'd they-all stake the big flat for if
they-all didn't get the hunch? Wish I'd staked it."
The regret in his voice was provocative of a second burst of
"Laugh, you-all, laugh! That's what's the trouble with you-all.
You-all think gold-hunting is the only way to make a stake. But
let me tell you-all that when the big strike sure does come,
you-all'll do a little surface-scratchin' and muck-raking, but
danged little you-all'll have to show for it. You-all laugh at
quicksilver in the riffles and think flour gold was manufactured
by God Almighty for the express purpose of fooling suckers and
chechaquos. Nothing but coarse gold for you-all, that's your
way, not getting half of it out of the ground and losing into the
tailings half of what you-all do get.
"But the men that land big will be them that stake the town
sites, organize the tradin' companies, start the banks--"
Here the explosion of mirth drowned him out. Banks in Alaska!
The idea of it was excruciating.
"Yep, and start the stock exchanges-"
Again they were convulsed. Joe Hines rolled over on his
sleeping-robe, holding his sides.
"And after them will come the big mining sharks that buy whole
creeks where you-all have been scratching like a lot of picayune
hens, and they-all will go to hydraulicking in summer and
steam-thawing in winter--"
Steam-thawing! That was the limit. Daylight was certainly
exceeding himself in his consummate fun-making.
Steam-thawing--when even wood-burning was an untried experiment,
a dream in the air!
"Laugh, dang you, laugh! Why your eyes ain't open yet. You-all
are a bunch of little mewing kittens. I tell you-all if that
strike comes on Klondike, Harper and Ladue will be millionaires.
And if it comes on Stewart, you-all watch the Elam Harnish town
site boom. In them days, when you-all come around makin' poor
mouths..." He heaved a sigh of resignation. "Well, I
suppose I'll have to give you-all a grub-stake or soup, or
something or other."
Daylight had vision. His scope had been rigidly limited, yet
whatever he saw, he saw big. His mind was orderly, his
imagination practical, and he never dreamed idly. When he
superimposed a feverish metropolis on a waste of timbered,
snow-covered flat, he predicated first the gold-strike that made
the city possible, and next he had an eye for steamboat landings,
sawmill and warehouse locations, and all the needs of a
far-northern mining city. But this, in turn, was the mere
setting for something bigger, namely, the play of temperament.
Opportunities swarmed in the streets and buildings and human and
economic relations of the city of his dream. It was a larger
table for gambling. The limit was the sky, with the Southland on
one side and the aurora borealis on the other. The play would be
big, bigger than any Yukoner had ever imagined, and he, Burning
Daylight, would see that he got in on that play.
In the meantime there was naught to show for it but the hunch.
But it was coming. As he would stake his last ounce on a good
poker hand, so he staked his life and effort on the hunch that
the future held in store a big strike on the Upper River. So he
and his three companions, with dogs, and sleds, and snowshoes,
toiled up the frozen breast of the Stewart, toiled on and on
through the white wilderness where the unending stillness was
never broken by the voices of men, the stroke of an ax, or the
distant crack of a rifle. They alone moved through the vast and
frozen quiet, little mites of earth-men, crawling their score of
miles a day, melting the ice that they might have water to drink,
camping in the snow at night, their wolf-dogs curled in
frost-rimed, hairy bunches, their eight snowshoes stuck on end in
the snow beside the sleds.
No signs of other men did they see, though once they passed a
rude poling-boat, cached on a platform by the river bank.
Whoever had cached it had never come back for it; and they
wondered and mushed on. Another time they chanced upon the site
of an Indian village, but the Indians had disappeared;
undoubtedly they were on the higher reaches of the Stewart in
pursuit of the moose-herds. Two hundred miles up from the Yukon,
they came upon what Elijah decided were the bars mentioned by Al
Mayo. A permanent camp was made, their outfit of food cached on
a high platform to keep it from the dogs, and they started work
on the bars, cutting their way down to gravel through the rim of
It was a hard and simple life. Breakfast over, and they were at
work by the first gray light; and when night descended, they did
their cooking and camp-chores, smoked and yarned for a while,
then rolled up in their sleeping-robes, and slept while the
aurora borealis flamed overhead and the stars leaped and danced
in the great cold. Their fare was monotonous: sour-dough bread,
bacon, beans, and an occasional dish of rice cooked along with a
handful of prunes. Fresh meat they failed to obtain. There was
an unwonted absence of animal life. At rare intervals they
chanced upon the trail of a snowshoe rabbit or an ermine; but in
the main it seemed that all life had fled the land. It was a
condition not unknown to them, for in all their experience, at
one time or another, they had travelled one year through a region
teeming with game, where, a year or two or three years later, no
game at all would be found.
Gold they found on the bars, but not in paying quantities.
Elijah, while on a hunt for moose fifty miles away, had panned
the surface gravel of a large creek and found good colors. They
harnessed their dogs, and with light outfits sledded to the
place. Here, and possibly for the first time in the history of
the Yukon, wood-burning, in sinking a shaft, was tried. It was
Daylight's initiative. After clearing away the moss and grass, a
fire of dry spruce was built. Six hours of burning thawed eight
inches of muck. Their picks drove full depth into it, and, when
they had shoveled out, another fire was started. They worked
early and late, excited over the success of the experiment. Six
feet of frozen muck brought them to gravel, likewise frozen.
Here progress was slower. But they learned to handle their fires
better, and were soon able to thaw five and six inches at a
burning. Flour gold was in this gravel, and after two feet it
gave away again to muck. At seventeen feet they struck a thin
streak of gravel, and in it coarse gold, testpans running as high
as six and eight dollars. Unfortunately, this streak of gravel
was not more than an inch thick. Beneath it was more muck,
tangled with the trunks of ancient trees and containing fossil
bones of forgotten monsters. But gold they had found--coarse
gold; and what more likely than that the big deposit would be
found on bed-rock? Down to bed-rock they would go, if it were
forty feet away. They divided into two shifts, working day and
night, on two shafts, and the smoke of their burning rose
It was at this time that they ran short of beans and that Elijah
was despatched to the main camp to bring up more grub. Elijah
was one of the hard-bitten old-time travelers himself. The round
trip was a hundred miles, but he promised to be back on the third
day, one day going light, two days returning heavy. Instead, he
arrived on the night of the second day. They had just gone to
bed when they heard him coming.
"What in hell's the matter now?" Henry Finn demanded, as the
empty sled came into the circle of firelight and as he noted that
Elijah's long, serious face was longer and even more serious.
Joe Hines threw wood on the fire, and the three men, wrapped in
their robes, huddled up close to the warmth. Elijah's whiskered
face was matted with ice, as were his eyebrows, so that, what of
his fur garb, he looked like a New England caricature of Father
"You recollect that big spruce that held up the corner of the
cache next to the river?" Elijah began.
The disaster was quickly told. The big tree, with all the
seeming of hardihood, promising to stand for centuries to come,
had suffered from a hidden decay. In some way its rooted grip on
the earth had weakened. The added burden of the cache and the
winter snow had been too much for it; the balance it had so long
maintained with the forces of its environment had been
overthrown; it had toppled and crashed to the ground, wrecking
the cache and, in turn, overthrowing the balance with environment
that the four men and eleven dogs had been maintaining. Their
supply of grub was gone. The wolverines had got into the wrecked
cache, and what they had not eaten they had destroyed.
"They plumb e't all the bacon and prunes and sugar and dog-food,"
Elijah reported, "and gosh darn my buttons, if they didn't gnaw
open the sacks and scatter the flour and beans and rice from Dan
to Beersheba. I found empty sacks where they'd dragged them a
quarter of a mile away."
Nobody spoke for a long minute. It was nothing less than a
catastrophe, in the dead of an Arctic winter and in a
game-abandoned land, to lose their grub. They were not
panic-stricken, but they were busy looking the situation squarely
in the face and considering. Joe Hines was the first to speak.
"We can pan the snow for the beans and rice... though there
more'n eight or ten pounds of rice left."
"And somebody will have to take a team and pull for Sixty Mile,"
Daylight said next.
"I'll go," said Finn.
They considered a while longer.
"But how are we going to feed the other team and three men till
he gets back?" Hines demanded.
"Only one thing to it," was Elijah's contribution. "You'll have
to take the other team, Joe, and pull up the Stewart till you
find them Indians. Then you come back with a load of meat.
You'll get here long before Henry can make it from Sixty Mile,
and while you're gone there'll only be Daylight and me to feed,
and we'll feed good and small."
"And in the morning we-all'll pull for the cache and pan snow to
find what grub we've got." Daylight lay back, as he spoke, and
rolled in his robe to sleep, then added: "Better turn in for an
early start. Two of you can take the dogs down. Elijah and
me'll skin out on both sides and see if we-all can scare up a
moose on the way down."
No time was lost. Hines and Finn, with the dogs, already on
short rations, were two days in pulling down. At noon of the
third day Elijah arrived, reporting no moose sign. That night
Daylight came in with a similar report. As fast as they arrived,
the men had started careful panning of the snow all around the
cache. It was a large task, for they found stray beans fully a
hundred yards from the cache. One more day all the men toiled.
The result was pitiful, and the four showed their caliber in the
division of the few pounds of food that had been recovered.
Little as it was, the lion's share was left with Daylight and
Elijah. The men who pulled on with the dogs, one up the Stewart
and one down, would come more quickly to grub. The two who
remained would have to last out till the others returned.
Furthermore, while the dogs, on several ounces each of beans a
day, would travel slowly, nevertheless, the men who travelled
with them, on a pinch, would have the dogs themselves to eat.
But the men who remained, when the pinch came, would have no
dogs. It was for this reason that Daylight and Elijah took the
more desperate chance. They could not do less, nor did they care
to do less. The days passed, and the winter began merging
imperceptibly into the Northland spring that comes like a
thunderbolt of suddenness. It was the spring of 1896 that was
preparing. Each day the sun rose farther east of south, remained
longer in the sky, and set farther to the west. March ended and
April began, and Daylight and Elijah, lean and hungry, wondered
what had become of their two comrades. Granting every delay, and
throwing in generous margins for good measure, the time was long
since passed when they should have returned. Without doubt they
had met with disaster. The party had considered the possibility
of disaster for one man, and that had been the principal reason
for despatching the two in different directions. But that
disaster should have come to both of them was the final blow.
In the meantime, hoping against hope, Daylight and Elija eked out
a meagre existence. The thaw had not yet begun, so they were
able to gather the snow about the ruined cache and melt it in
pots and pails and gold pans. Allowed to stand for a while, when
poured off, a thin deposit of slime was found on the bottoms of
the vessels. This was the flour, the infinitesimal trace of it
scattered through thousands of cubic yards of snow. Also, in
this slime occurred at intervals a water-soaked tea-leaf or
coffee-ground, and there were in it fragments of earth and
litter. But the farther they worked away from the site of the
cache, the thinner became the trace of flour, the smaller the
deposit of slime.
Elijah was the older man, and he weakened first, so that he came
to lie up most of the time in his furs. An occasional treesquirrel
kept them alive. The hunting fell upon Daylight, and it
was hard work. With but thirty rounds of ammunition, he dared
not risk a miss; and, since his rifle was a 45-90, he was
compelled to shoot the small creatures through the head. There
were very few of them, and days went by without seeing one. When
he did see one, he took infinite precautions. He would stalk it
for hours. A score of times, with arms that shook from weakness,
he would draw a sight on the animal and refrain from pulling the
trigger. His inhibition was a thing of iron. He was the master.
Not til absolute certitude was his did he shoot. No matter how
sharp the pangs of hunger and desire for that palpitating morsel
of chattering life, he refused to take the slightest risk of a
miss. He, born gambler, was gambling in the bigger way. His
life was the stake, his cards were the cartridges, and he played
as only a big gambler could play, with infinite precaution, with
infinite consideration. Each shot meant a squirrel, and though
days elapsed between shots, it never changed his method of play.
Of the squirrels, nothing was lost. Even the skins were boiled
to make broth, the bones pounded into fragments that could be
chewed and swallowed. Daylight prospected through the snow, and
found occasional patches of mossberries. At the best,
mossberries were composed practically of seeds and water, with a
tough rind of skin about them; but the berries he found were of
the preceding year, dry and shrivelled, and the nourishment they
contained verged on the minus quality. Scarcely better was the
bark of young saplings, stewed for an hour and swallowed after
prodigious chewing.
April drew toward its close, and spring smote the land. The days
stretched out their length. Under the heat of the sun, the snow
began to melt, while from down under the snow arose the trickling
of tiny streams. For twenty-four hours the Chinook wind blew,
and in that twenty-four hours the snow was diminished fully a
foot in depth. In the late afternoons the melting snow froze
again, so that its surface became ice capable of supporting a
man's weight. Tiny white snow-birds appeared from the south,
lingered a day, and resumed their journey into the north. Once,
high in the air, looking for open water and ahead of the season,
a wedged squadron of wild geese honked northwards. And down by
the river bank a clump of dwarf willows burst into bud. These
young buds, stewed, seemed to posess an encouraging nutrition.
Elijah took heart of hope, though he was cast down again when
Daylight failed to find another clump of willows.
The sap was rising in the trees, and daily the trickle of unseen
streamlets became louder as the frozen land came back to life.
But the river held in its bonds of frost. Winter had been long
months in riveting them, and not in a day were they to be broken,
not even by the thunderbolt of spring. May came, and stray
last-year's mosquitoes, full-grown but harmless, crawled out of
rock crevices and rotten logs. Crickets began to chirp, and more
geese and ducks flew overhead. And still the river held. By May
tenth, the ice of the Stewart, with a great rending and snapping,
tore loose from the banks and rose three feet. But it did not go
down-stream. The lower Yukon, up to where the Stewart flowed
into it, must first break and move on. Until then the ice of the
Stewart could only rise higher and higher on the increasing flood
beneath. When the Yukon would break was problematical. Two
thousand miles away it flowed into Bering Sea, and it was the ice
conditions of Bering Sea that would determine when the Yukon
could rid itself of the millions of tons of ice that cluttered
its breast.
On the twelfth of May, carrying their sleeping-robes, a pail, an
ax, and the precious rifle, the two men started down the river on
the ice. Their plan was to gain to the cached poling-boat they
had seen, so that at the first open water they could launch it
and drift with the stream to Sixty Mile. In their weak
condition, without food, the going was slow and difficult.
Elijah developed a habit of falling down and being unable to
rise. Daylight gave of his own strength to lift him to his feet,
whereupon the older man would stagger automatically on until he
stumbled and fell again.
On the day they should have reached the boat, Elijah collapsed
utterly. When Daylight raised him, he fell again. Daylight
essayed to walk with him, supporting him, but such was Daylight's
own weakness that they fell together.
Dragging Elijah to the bank, a rude camp was made, and Daylight
started out in search of squirrels. It was at this time that he
likewise developed the falling habit. In the evening he found
his first squirrel, but darkness came on without his getting a
certain shot. With primitive patience he waited till next day,
and then, within the hour, the squirrel was his.
The major portion he fed to Elijah, reserving for himself the
tougher parts and the bones. But such is the chemistry of life,
that this small creature, this trifle of meat that moved, by
being eaten, transmuted to the meat of the men the same power to
move. No longer did the squirrel run up spruce trees, leap from
branch to branch, or cling chattering to giddy perches. Instead,
the same energy that had done these things flowed into the wasted
muscles and reeling wills of the men, making them move--nay,
moving them--till they tottered the several intervening miles to
the cached boat, underneath which they fell together and lay
motionless a long time.
Light as the task would have been for a strong man to lower the
small boat to the ground, it took Daylight hours. And many hours
more, day by day, he dragged himself around it, lying on his side
to calk the gaping seams with moss. Yet, when this was done, the
river still held. Its ice had risen many feet, but would not
start down-stream. And one more task waited, the launching of
the boat when the river ran water to receive it. Vainly Daylight
staggered and stumbled and fell and crept through the snow that
was wet with thaw, or across it when the night's frost still
crusted it beyond the weight of a man, searching for one more
squirrel, striving to achieve one more transmutation of furry
leap and scolding chatter into the lifts and tugs of a man's body
that would hoist the boat over the rim of shore-ice and slide it
down into the stream.
Not till the twentieth of May did the river break. The
down-stream movement began at five in the morning, and already
were the days so long that Daylight sat up and watched the
ice-run. Elijah was too far gone to be interested in the
spectacle. Though vaguely conscious, he lay without movement
while the ice tore by, great cakes of it caroming against the
bank, uprooting trees, and gouging out earth by hundreds of tons.
All about them the land shook and reeled from the shock of these
tremendous collisions. At the end of an hour the run stopped.
Somewhere below it was blocked by a jam. Then the river began to
rise, lifting the ice on its breast till it was higher than the
bank. From behind ever more water bore down, and ever more
millions of tons of ice added their weight to the congestion.
The pressures and stresses became terrific. Huge cakes of ice
were squeezed out till they popped into the air like melon seeds
squeezed from between the thumb and forefinger of a child, while
all along the banks a wall of ice was forced up. When the jam
broke, the noise of grinding and smashing redoubled. For another
hour the run continued. The river fell rapidly. But the wall of
ice on top the bank, and extending down into the falling water,
The tail of the ice-run passed, and for the first time in six
months Daylight saw open water. He knew that the ice had not yet
passed out from the upper reaches of the Stewart, that it lay in
packs and jams in those upper reaches, and that it might break
loose and come down in a second run any time; but the need was
too desperate for him to linger. Elijah was so far gone that he
might pass at any moment. As for himself, he was not sure that
enough strength remained in his wasted muscles to launch the
boat. It was all a gamble. If he waited for the second ice-run,
Elijah would surely die, and most probably himself. If he
succeeded in launching the boat, if he kept ahead of the second
ice-run, if he did not get caught by some of the runs from the
upper Yukon; if luck favored in all these essential particulars,
as well as in a score of minor ones, they would reach Sixty Mile
and be saved, if--and again the if--he had strength enough to
the boat at Sixty Mile and not go by.
He set to work. The wall of ice was five feet above the ground
on which the boat rested. First prospecting for the best
launching-place, he found where a huge cake of ice shelved upward
from the river that ran fifteen feet below to the top of the
wall. This was a score of feet away, and at the end of an hour
he had managed to get the boat that far. He was sick with nausea
from his exertions, and at times it seemed that blindness smote
him, for he could not see, his eyes vexed with spots and points
of light that were as excruciating as diamond-dust, his heart
pounding up in his throat and suffocating him. Elijah betrayed
no interest, did not move nor open his eyes; and Daylight fought
out his battle alone. At last, falling on his knees from the
shock of exertion, he got the boat poised on a secure balance on
top the wall. Crawling on hands and knees, he placed in the boat
his rabbit-skin robe, the rifle, and the pail. He did not bother
with the ax. It meant an additional crawl of twenty feet and
back, and if the need for it should arise he well knew he would
be past all need.
Elijah proved a bigger task than he had anticipated. A few
inches at a time, resting in between, he dragged him over the
ground and up a broken rubble of ice to the side of the boat.
But into the boat he could not get him. Elijah's limp body was
far more difficult to lift and handle than an equal weight of
like dimensions but rigid. Daylight failed to hoist him, for the
body collapsed at the middle like a part-empty sack of corn.
Getting into the boat, Daylight tried vainly to drag his comrade
in after him. The best he could do was to get Elijah's head and
shoulders on top the gunwale. When he released his hold, to
heave from farther down the body, Elijah promptly gave at the
middle and came down on the ice.
In despair, Daylight changed his tactics. He struck the other in
the face.
"God Almighty, ain't you-all a man?" he cried. "There! damn
you-all! there! "
At each curse he struck him on the cheeks, the nose, the mouth,
striving, by the shock of the hurt, to bring back the sinking
soul and far-wandering will of the man. The eyes fluttered open.
"Now listen!" he shouted hoarsely. "When I get your head to the
gunwale, hang on! Hear me? Hang on! Bite into it with your
teeth, but HANG ON! "
The eyes fluttered down, but Daylight knew the message had been
received. Again he got the helpless man's head and shoulders on
the gunwale.
"Hang on, damn you! Bite in" he shouted, as he shifted his grip
lower down.
One weak hand slipped off the gunwale, the fingers of the other
hand relaxed, but Elijah obeyed, and his teeth held on. When the
lift came, his face ground forward, and the splintery wood tore
and crushed the skin from nose, lips, and chin; and, face
downward, he slipped on and down to the bottom of the boat till
his limp middle collapsed across the gunwale and his legs hung
down outside. But they were only his legs, and Daylight shoved
them in; after him. Breathing heavily, he turned Elijah over on
his back, and covered him with his robes.
The final task remained--the launching of the boat. This, of
necessity, was the severest of all, for he had been compelled to
load his comrade in aft of the balance. It meant a supreme
effort at lifting. Daylight steeled himself and began.
Something must have snapped, for, though he was unaware of it,
the next he knew he was lying doubled on his stomach across the
sharp stern of the boat. Evidently, and for the first time in
his life, he had fainted. Furthermore, it seemed to him that he
was finished, that he had not one more movement left in him, and
that, strangest of all, he did not care. Visions came to him,
clear-cut and real, and concepts sharp as steel cutting-edges.
He, who all his days had looked on naked Life, had never seen so
much of Life's nakedness before. For the first time he
experienced a doubt of his own glorious personality. For the
moment Life faltered and forgot to lie. After all, he was a
little earth-maggot, just like all the other earth-maggots, like
the squirrel he had eaten, like the other men he had seen fail
and die, like Joe Hines and Henry Finn, who had already failed
and were surely dead, like Elijah lying there uncaring, with his
skinned face, in the bottom of the boat. Daylight's position was
such that from where he lay he could look up river to the bend,
around which, sooner or later, the next ice-run would come. And
as he looked he seemed to see back through the past to a time
when neither white man nor Indian was in the land, and ever he
saw the same Stewart River, winter upon winter, breasted with
ice, and spring upon spring bursting that ice asunder and running
free. And he saw also into an illimitable future, when the last
generations of men were gone from off the face of Alaska, when
he, too, would be gone, and he saw, ever remaining, that river,
freezing and fresheting, and running on and on.
Life was a liar and a cheat. It fooled all creatures. It had
fooled him, Burning Daylight, one of its chiefest and most joyous
exponents. He was nothing--a mere bunch of flesh and nerves and
sensitiveness that crawled in the muck for gold, that dreamed and
aspired and gambled, and that passed and was gone. Only the dead
things remained, the things that were not flesh and nerves and
sensitiveness, the sand and muck and gravel, the stretching
flats, the mountains, the river itself, freezing and breaking,
year by year, down all the years. When all was said and done, it
was a scurvy game. The dice were loaded. Those that died did
not win, and all died. Who won? Not even Life, the
stool-pigeon, the arch-capper for the game--Life, the ever
flourishing graveyard, the everlasting funeral procession.
He drifted back to the immediate present for a moment and noted
that the river still ran wide open, and that a moose-bird,
perched on the bow of the boat, was surveying him impudently.
Then he drifted dreamily back to his meditations.
There was no escaping the end of the game. He was doomed surely
to be out of it all. And what of it? He pondered that question
again and again.
Conventional religion had passed Daylight by. He had lived a
sort of religion in his square dealing and right playing with
other men, and he had not indulged in vain metaphysics about
future life. Death ended all. He had always believed that, and
been unafraid. And at this moment, the boat fifteen feet above
the water and immovable, himself fainting with weakness and
without a particle of strength left in him, he still believed
that death ended all, and he was still unafraid. His views were
too simply and solidly based to be overthrown by the first
squirm, or the last, of death-fearing life.
He had seen men and animals die, and into the field of his
vision, by scores, came such deaths. He saw them over again,
just as he had seen them at the time, and they did not shake him.
What of it? They were dead, and dead long since. They weren't
bothering about it. They weren't lying on their bellies across a
boat and waiting to die. Death was easy--easier than he had ever
imagined; and, now that it was near, the thought of it made him
A new vision came to him. He saw the feverish city of his
dream--the gold metropolis of the North, perched above the Yukon
on a high earth-bank and far-spreading across the flat. He saw
the river steamers tied to the bank and lined against it three
deep; he saw the sawmills working and the long dog-teams, with
double sleds behind, freighting supplies to the diggings. And he
saw, further, the gambling-houses, banks, stock-exchanges, and
all the gear and chips and markers, the chances and
opportunities, of a vastly bigger gambling game than any he had
ever seen. It was sure hell, he thought, with the hunch
a-working and that big strike coming, to be out of it all. Life
thrilled and stirred at the thought and once more began uttering
his ancient lies.
Daylight rolled over and off the boat, leaning against it as he
sat on the ice. He wanted to be in on that strike. And why
shouldn't he? Somewhere in all those wasted muscles of his was
enough strength, if he could gather it all at once, to up-end the
boat and launch it. Quite irrelevantly the idea suggested itself
of buying a share in the Klondike town site from Harper and Joe
Ladue. They would surely sell a third interest cheap. Then, if
the strike came on the Stewart, he would be well in on it with
the Elam Harnish town site; if on the Klondike, he would not be
quite out of it.
In the meantime, he would gather strength. He stretched out on
the ice full length, face downward, and for half an hour he lay
and rested. Then he arose, shook the flashing blindness from his
eyes, and took hold of the boat. He knew his condition
accurately. If the first effort failed, the following efforts
were doomed to fail. He must pull all his rallied strength into
the one effort, and so thoroughly must he put all of it in that
there would be none left for other attempts.
He lifted, and he lifted with the soul of him as well as with the
body, consuming himself, body and spirit, in the effort. The
boat rose. He thought he was going to faint, but he continued to
lift. He felt the boat give, as it started on its downward
slide. With the last shred of his strength he precipitated
himself into it, landing in a sick heap on Elijah's legs. He was
beyond attempting to rise, and as he lay he heard and felt the
boat take the water. By watching the tree-tops he knew it was
whirling. A smashing shock and flying fragments of ice told him
that it had struck the bank. A dozen times it whirled and
struck, and then it floated easily and free.
Daylight came to, and decided he had been asleep. The sun
denoted that several hours had passed. It was early afternoon.
He dragged himself into the stern and sat up. The boat was in
the middle of the stream. The wooded banks, with their
base-lines of flashing ice, were slipping by. Near him floated a
huge, uprooted pine. A freak of the current brought the boat
against it. Crawling forward, he fastened the painter to a root.
The tree, deeper in the water, was travelling faster, and the
painter tautened as the boat took the tow. Then, with a last
giddy look around, wherein he saw the banks tilting and swaying
and the sun swinging in pendulum-sweep across the sky, Daylight
wrapped himself in his rabbit-skin robe, lay down in the bottom,
and fell asleep.
When he awoke, it was dark night. He was lying on his back, and
he could see the stars shining. A subdued murmur of swollen
waters could be heard. A sharp jerk informed him that the boat,
swerving slack into the painter, had been straightened out by the
swifter-moving pine tree. A piece of stray drift-ice thumped
against the boat and grated along its side. Well, the following
jam hadn't caught him yet, was his thought, as he closed his eyes
and slept again.
It was bright day when next he opened his eyes. The sun showed
it to be midday. A glance around at the far-away banks, and he
knew that he was on the mighty Yukon. Sixty Mile could not be
far away. He was abominably weak. His movements were slow,
fumbling, and inaccurate, accompanied by panting and
head-swimming, as he dragged himself into a sitting-up position
in the stern, his rifle beside him. He looked a long time at
Elijah, but could not see whether he breathed or not, and he was
too immeasurably far away to make an investigation.
He fell to dreaming and meditating again, dreams and thoughts
being often broken by sketches of blankness, wherein he neither
slept, nor was unconscious, nor was aware of anything. It seemed
to him more like cogs slipping in his brain. And in this
intermittent way he reviewed the situation. He was still alive,
and most likely would be saved, but how came it that he was not
lying dead across the boat on top the ice-rim? Then he
recollected the great final effort he had made. But why had he
made it? he asked himself. It had not been fear of death. He
had not been afraid, that was sure. Then he remembered the hunch
and the big strike he believed was coming, and he knew that the
spur had been his desire to sit in for a hand at that big game.
And again why? What if he made his million? He would die, just
the same as those that never won more than grub-stakes. Then
again why? But the blank stretches in his thinking process began
to come more frequently, and he surrendered to the delightful
lassitude that was creeping over him.
He roused with a start. Something had whispered in him that he
must awake. Abruptly he saw Sixty Mile, not a hundred feet away.
The current had brought him to the very door. But the same
current was now sweeping him past and on into the down-river
wilderness. No one was in sight. The place might have been
deserted, save for the smoke he saw rising from the kitchen
chimney. He tried to call, but found he had no voice left. An
unearthly guttural hiss alternately rattled and wheezed in his
throat. He fumbled for the rifle, got it to his shoulder, and
pulled the trigger. The recoil of the discharge tore through his
frame, racking it with a thousand agonies. The rifle had fallen
across his knees, and an attempt to lift it to his shoulder
failed. He knew he must be quick, and felt that he was fainting,
so he pulled the trigger of the gun where it lay. This time it
kicked off and overboard. But just before darkness rushed over
him, he saw the kitchen door open, and a woman look out of the
big log house that was dancing a monstrous jig among the trees.
Ten days later, Harper and Joe Ladue arrived at Sixty Mile, and
Daylight, still a trifle weak, but strong enough to obey the
hunch that had come to him, traded a third interest in his
Stewart town site for a third interest in theirs on the Klondike.
They had faith in the Upper Country, and Harper left down-stream,
with a raft-load of supplies, to start a small post at the mouth
of the Klondike.
"Why don't you tackle Indian River, Daylight?" Harper advised, at
parting. "There's whole slathers of creeks and draws draining in
up there, and somewhere gold just crying to be found. That's my
hunch. There's a big strike coming, and Indian River ain't going
to be a million miles away."
"And the place is swarming with moose," Joe Ladue added. "Bob
Henderson's up there somewhere, been there three years now,
swearing something big is going to happen, living off'n straight
moose and prospecting around like a crazy man."
Daylight decided to go Indian River a flutter, as he expressed
it; but Elijah could not be persuaded into accompanying him.
Elijah's soul had been seared by famine, and he was obsessed by
fear of repeating the experience.
"I jest can't bear to separate from grub," he explained. "I know
it's downright foolishness, but I jest can't help it. It's all I
can do to tear myself away from the table when I know I'm full to
bustin' and ain't got storage for another bite. I'm going back
to Circle to camp by a cache until I get cured."
Daylight lingered a few days longer, gathering strength and
arranging his meagre outfit. He planned to go in light, carrying
a pack of seventy-five pounds and making his five dogs pack as
well, Indian fashion, loading them with thirty pounds each.
Depending on the report of Ladue, he intended to follow Bob
Henderson's example and live practically on straight meat. When
Jack Kearns' scow, laden with the sawmill from Lake Linderman,
tied up at Sixty Mile, Daylight bundled his outfit and dogs on
board, turned his town-site application over to Elijah to be
filed, and the same day was landed at the mouth of Indian River.
Forty miles up the river, at what had been described to him as
Quartz Creek, he came upon signs of Bob Henderson's work, and
also at Australia Creek, thirty miles farther on. The weeks came
and went, but Daylight never encountered the other man. However,
he found moose plentiful, and he and his dogs prospered on the
meat diet. He found "pay" that was no more than "wages" on a
dozen surface bars, and from the generous spread of flour gold in
the muck and gravel of a score of creeks, he was more confident
than ever that coarse gold in quantity was waiting to be
unearthed. Often he turned his eyes to the northward ridge of
hills, and pondered if the gold came from them. In the end, he
ascended Dominion Creek to its head, crossed the divide, and came
down on the tributary to the Klondike that was later to be called
Hunker Creek. While on the divide, had he kept the big dome on
his right, he would have come down on the Gold Bottom, so named
by Bob Henderson, whom he would have found at work on it, taking
out the first pay-gold ever panned on the Klondike. Instead,
Daylight continued down Hunker to the Klondike, and on to the
summer fishing camp of the Indians on the Yukon.
Here for a day he camped with Carmack, a squaw-man, and his
Indian brother-in-law, Skookum Jim, bought a boat, and, with his
dogs on board, drifted down the Yukon to Forty Mile. August was
drawing to a close, the days were growing shorter, and winter was
coming on. Still with unbounded faith in his hunch that a strike
was coming in the Upper Country, his plan was to get together a
party of four or five, and, if that was impossible, at least a
partner, and to pole back up the river before the freeze-up to do
winter prospecting. But the men of Forty Mile were without
faith. The diggings to the westward were good enough for them.
Then it was that Carmack, his brother-in-law, Skookum Jim, and
Cultus Charlie, another Indian, arrived in a canoe at Forty Mile,
went straight to the gold commissioner, and recorded three claims
and a discovery claim on Bonanza Creek. After that, in the
Sourdough Saloon, that night, they exhibited coarse gold to the
sceptical crowd. Men grinned and shook their heads. They had
seen the motions of a gold strike gone through before. This was
too patently a scheme of Harper's and Joe Ladue's, trying to
entice prospecting in the vicinity of their town site and trading
post. And who was Carmack? A squaw-man. And who ever heard of
a squaw-man striking anything? And what was Bonanza Creek?
Merely a moose pasture, entering the Klondike just above its
mouth, and known to old-timers as Rabbit Creek. Now if Daylight
or Bob Henderson had recorded claims and shown coarse gold,
they'd known there was something in it. But Carmack, the
squaw-man! And Skookum Jim! And Cultus Charlie! No, no; that
asking too much.
Daylight, too, was sceptical, and this despite his faith in the
Upper Country. Had he not, only a few days before, seen Carmack
loafing with his Indians and with never a thought of prospecting?
But at eleven that night, sitting on the edge of his bunk and
unlacing his moccasins, a thought came to him. He put on his
coat and hat and went back to the Sourdough. Carmack was still
there, flashing his coarse gold in the eyes of an unbelieving
generation. Daylight ranged alongside of him and emptied
Carmack's sack into a blower. This he studied for a long time.
Then, from his own sack, into another blower, he emptied several
ounces of Circle City and Forty Mile gold. Again, for a long
time, he studied and compared. Finally, he pocketed his own
gold, returned Carmack's, and held up his hand for silence.
"Boys, I want to tell you-all something," he said. "She's sure
come--the up-river strike. And I tell you-all, clear and
forcible, this is it. There ain't never been gold like that in a
blower in this country before. It's new gold. It's got more
silver in it. You-all can see it by the color. Carmack's sure
made a strike. Who-all's got faith to come along with me?"
There were no volunteers. Instead, laughter and jeers went up.
"Mebbe you got a town site up there," some one suggested.
"I sure have," was the retort, "and a third interest in Harper
and Ladue's. And I can see my corner lots selling out for more
than your hen-scratching ever turned up on Birch Creek."
"That's all right, Daylight," one Curly Parson interposed
soothingly. "You've got a reputation, and we know you're dead
sure on the square. But you're as likely as any to be mistook on
a flimflam game, such as these loafers is putting up. I ask you
straight: When did Carmack do this here prospecting? You said
yourself he was lying in camp, fishing salmon along with his
Siwash relations, and that was only the other day."
"And Daylight told the truth," Carmack interrupted excitedly.
"And I'm telling the truth, the gospel truth. I wasn't
prospecting. Hadn't no idea of it. But when Daylight pulls out,
the very same day, who drifts in, down river, on a raft-load of
supplies, but Bob Henderson. He'd come out to Sixty Mile,
planning to go back up Indian River and portage the grub across
the divide between Quartz Creek and Gold Bottom-"
"Where in hell's Gold Bottom?" Curly Parsons demanded.
"Over beyond Bonanza that was Rabbit Creek," the squaw-man went
on. "It's a draw of a big creek that runs into the Klondike.
That's the way I went up, but I come back by crossing the divide,
keeping along the crest several miles, and dropping down into
Bonanza. 'Come along with me, Carmack, and get staked,' says Bob
Henderson to me. 'I've hit it this time, on Gold Bottom. I've
took out forty-five ounces already.' And I went along, Skookum
Jim and Cultus Charlie, too. And we all staked on Gold Bottom.
I come back by Bonanza on the chance of finding a moose. Along
down Bonanza we stopped and cooked grub. I went to sleep, and
what does Skookum Jim do but try his hand at prospecting. He'd
been watching Henderson, you see. He goes right slap up to the
foot of a birch tree, first pan, fills it with dirt, and washes
out more'n a dollar coarse gold. Then he wakes me up, and I goes
at it. I got two and a half the first lick. Then I named the
creek 'Bonanza,' staked Discovery, and we come here and
He looked about him anxiously for signs of belief, but found
himself in a circle of incredulous faces--all save Daylight, who
had studied his countenance while he told his story.
"How much is Harper and Ladue givin' you for manufacturing a
stampede?" some one asked.
"They don't know nothing about it," Carmack answered. "I tell
you it's the God Almighty's truth. I washed out three ounces in
an hour."
"And there's the gold," Daylight said. "I tell you-all boys they
ain't never been gold like that in the blower before. Look at
the color of it."
"A trifle darker," Curly Parson said. "Most likely Carmack's
been carrying a couple of silver dollars along in the same sack.
And what's more, if there's anything in it, why ain't Bob
Henderson smoking along to record?"
"He's up on Gold Bottom," Carmack explained. "We made the strike
coming back."
A burst of laughter was his reward.
"Who-all'll go pardners with me and pull out in a poling-boat
to-morrow for this here Bonanza?" Daylight asked.
No one volunteered.
"Then who-all'll take a job from me, cash wages in advance, to
pole up a thousand pounds of grub?"
Curly Parsons and another, Pat Monahan, accepted, and, with his
customary speed, Daylight paid them their wages in advance and
arranged the purchase of the supplies, though he emptied his sack
in doing so. He was leaving the Sourdough, when he suddenly
turned back to the bar from the door.
"Got another hunch?" was the query.
"I sure have," he answered. "Flour's sure going to be worth what
a man will pay for it this winter up on the Klondike. Who'll
lend me some money?"
On the instant a score of the men who had declined to accompany
him on the wild-goose chase were crowding about him with
proffered gold-sacks.
"How much flour do you want?" asked the Alaska Commercial
Company's storekeeper.
"About two ton."
The proffered gold-sacks were not withdrawn, though their owners
were guilty of an outrageous burst of merriment.
"What are you going to do with two tons?" the store-keeper
"Son," Daylight made reply, "you-all ain't been in this country
long enough to know all its curves. I'm going to start a
sauerkraut factory and combined dandruff remedy."
He borrowed money right and left, engaging and paying six other
men to bring up the flour in half as many more poling-boats.
Again his sack was empty, and he was heavily in debt.
Curly Parsons bowed his head on the bar with a gesture of
"What gets me," he moaned, "is what you're going to do with it
"I'll tell you-all in simple A, B, C and one, two, three."
Daylight held up one finger and began checking off. "Hunch
number one: a big strike coming in Upper Country. Hunch number
two: Carmack's made it. Hunch number three: ain't no hunch at
all. It's a cinch. If one and two is right, then flour just has
to go sky-high. If I'm riding hunches one and two, I just got to
ride this cinch, which is number three. If I'm right, flour'll
balance gold on the scales this winter. I tell you-all boys,
when you-all got a hunch, play it for all it's worth. What's
luck good for, if you-all ain't to ride it? And when you-all
ride it, ride like hell. I've been years in this country, just
waiting for the right hunch to come along. And here she is.
Well, I'm going to play her, that's all. Good night, you-all;
good night."
Still men were without faith in the strike. When Daylight,
with his heavy outfit of flour, arrived at the mouth of the
Klondike, he found the big flat as desolate and tenantless as
ever. Down close by the river, Chief Isaac and his Indians were
camped beside the frames on which they were drying salmon.
Several old-timers were also in camp there. Having finished
their summer work on Ten Mile Creek, they had come down the
Yukon, bound for Circle City. But at Sixty Mile they had learned
of the strike, and stopped off to look over the ground. They had
just returned to their boat when Daylight landed his flour, and
their report was pessimistic.
"Damned moose-pasture," quoth one, Long Jim Harney, pausing to
blow into his tin mug of tea. "Don't you have nothin' to do with
it, Daylight. It's a blamed rotten sell. They're just going
through the motions of a strike. Harper and Ladue's behind it,
and Carmack's the stool-pigeon. Whoever heard of mining a
moose-pasture half a mile between rim-rock and God alone knows
how far to bed-rock!"
Daylight nodded sympathetically, and considered for a space.
"Did you-all pan any?" he asked finally.
"Pan hell!" was the indignant answer. "Think I was born
yesterday! Only a chechaquo'd fool around that pasture long
enough to fill a pan of dirt. You don't catch me at any such
foolishness. One look was enough for me. We're pulling on in
the morning for Circle City. I ain't never had faith in this
Upper Country. Head-reaches of the Tanana is good enough for me
from now on, and mark my words, when the big strike comes, she'll
come down river. Johnny, here, staked a couple of miles below
Discovery, but he don't know no better." Johnny looked
"I just did it for fun," he explained. "I'd give my chance in
the creek for a pound of Star plug."
"I'll go you," Daylight said promptly. "But don't you-all come
squealing if I take twenty or thirty thousand out of it."
Johnny grinned cheerfully.
"Gimme the tobacco," he said.
"Wish I'd staked alongside," Long Jim murmured plaintively.
"It ain't too late," Daylight replied.
"But it's a twenty-mile walk there and back."
"I'll stake it for you to-morrow when I go up," Daylight offered.
"Then you do the same as Johnny. Get the fees from Tim Logan.
He's tending bar in the Sourdough, and he'll lend it to me. Then
fill in your own name, transfer to me, and turn the papers over
to Tim."
"Me, too," chimed in the third old-timer.
And for three pounds of Star plug chewing tobacco, Daylight
bought outright three five-hundred-foot claims on Bonanza. He
could still stake another claim in his own name, the others being
merely transfers.
"Must say you're almighty brash with your chewin' tobacco," Long
Jim grinned. "Got a factory somewheres?"
"Nope, but I got a hunch," was the retort, "and I tell you-all
it's cheaper than dirt to ride her at the rate of three plugs for
three claims."
But an hour later, at his own camp, Joe Ladue strode in, fresh
from Bonanza Creek. At first, non-committal over Carmack's
strike, then, later, dubious, he finally offered Daylight a
hundred dollars for his share in the town site.
"Cash?" Daylight queried.
"Sure. There she is."
So saying, Ladue pulled out his gold-sack. Daylight hefted it
absent-mindedly, and, still absent-mindedly, untied the strings
and ran some of the gold-dust out on his palm. It showed darker
than any dust he had ever seen, with the exception of Carmack's.
He ran the gold back tied the mouth of the sack, and returned it
to Ladue.
"I guess you-all need it more'n I do," was Daylight's comment.
"Nope; got plenty more," the other assured him.
"Where that come from?"
Daylight was all innocence as he asked the question, and Ladue
received the question as stolidly as an Indian. Yet for a swift
instant they looked into each other's eyes, and in that instant
an intangible something seemed to flash out from all the body and
spirit of Joe Ladue. And it seemed to Daylight that he had
caught this flash, sensed a secret something in the knowledge and
plans behind the other's eyes.
"You-all know the creek better'n me," Daylight went on. "And if
my share in the town site's worth a hundred to you-all with what
you-all know, it's worth a hundred to me whether I know it or
"I'll give you three hundred," Ladue offered desperately.
"Still the same reasoning. No matter what I don't know, it's
worth to me whatever you-all are willing to pay for it."
Then it was that Joe Ladue shamelessly gave over. He led
Daylight away from the camp and men and told him things in
"She's sure there," he said in conclusion. "I didn't sluice it,
or cradle it. I panned it, all in that sack, yesterday, on the
rim-rock. I tell you, you can shake it out of the grassroots.
And what's on bed-rock down in the bottom of the creek they ain't
no way of tellin'. But she's big, I tell you, big. Keep it
quiet, and locate all you can. It's in spots, but I wouldn't be
none surprised if some of them claims yielded as high as fifty
thousand. The only trouble is that it's spotted."
* * *
A month passed by, and Bonanza Creek remained quiet. A
sprinkling of men had staked; but most of them, after staking,
had gone on down to Forty Mile and Circle City. The few that
possessed sufficient faith to remain were busy building log
cabins against the coming of winter. Carmack and his Indian
relatives were occupied in building a sluice box and getting a
head of water. The work was slow, for they had to saw their
lumber by hand from the standing forest. But farther down
Bonanza were four men who had drifted in from up river, Dan
McGilvary, Dave McKay, Dave Edwards, and Harry Waugh. They were
a quiet party, neither asking nor giving confidences, and they
herded by themselves. But Daylight, who had panned the spotted
rim of Carmack's claim and shaken coarse gold from the
grass-roots, and who had panned the rim at a hundred other places
up and down the length of the creek and found nothing, was
curious to know what lay on bed-rock. He had noted the four
quiet men sinking a shaft close by the stream, and he had heard
their whip-saw going as they made lumber for the sluice boxes.
He did not wait for an invitation, but he was present the first
day they sluiced. And at the end of five hours' shovelling for
one man, he saw them take out thirteen ounces and a half of gold.
It was coarse gold, running from pinheads to a twelve-dollar
nugget, and it had come from off bed-rock. The first fall snow
was flying that day, and the Arctic winter was closing down; but
Daylight had no eyes for the bleak-gray sadness of the dying,
short-lived summer. He saw his vision coming true, and on the
big flat was upreared anew his golden city of the snows. Gold
had been found on bed-rock. That was the big thing. Carmack's
strike was assured. Daylight staked a claim in his own name
adjoining the three he had purchased with his plug tobacco. This
gave him a block of property two thousand feet long and extending
in width from rim-rock to rim-rock.
Returning that night to his camp at the mouth of Klondike, he
found in it Kama, the Indian he had left at Dyea. Kama was
travelling by canoe, bringing in the last mail of the year. In
his possession was some two hundred dollars in gold-dust, which
Daylight immediately borrowed. In return, he arranged to stake a
claim for him, which he was to record when he passed through
Forty Mile. When Kama departed next morning, he carried a number
of letters for Daylight, addressed to all the old-timers down
river, in which they were urged to come up immediately and stake.
Also Kama carried letters of similar import, given him by the
other men on Bonanza.
"It will sure be the gosh-dangdest stampede that ever was,"
Daylight chuckled, as he tried to vision the excited populations
of Forty Mile and Circle City tumbling into poling-boats and
racing the hundreds of miles up the Yukon; for he knew that his
word would be unquestioningly accepted.
With the arrival of the first stampeders, Bonanza Creek woke up,
and thereupon began a long-distance race between unveracity and
truth, wherein, lie no matter how fast, men were continually
overtaken and passed by truth. When men who doubted Carmack's
report of two and a half to the pan, themselves panned two and a
half, they lied and said that they were getting an ounce. And
long ere the lie was fairly on its way, they were getting not one
ounce but five ounces. This they claimed was ten ounces; but
when they filled a pan of dirt to prove the lie, they washed out
twelve ounces. And so it went. They continued valiantly to lie,
but the truth continued to outrun them.
One day in December Daylight filled a pan from bed rock on his
own claim and carried it into his cabin. Here a fire burned and
enabled him to keep water unfrozen in a canvas tank. He squatted
over the tank and began to wash. Earth and gravel seemed to fill
the pan. As he imparted to it a circular movement, the lighter,
coarser particles washed out over the edge. At times he combed
the surface with his fingers, raking out handfuls of gravel. The
contents of the pan diminished. As it drew near to the bottom,
for the purpose of fleeting and tentative examination, he gave
the pan a sudden sloshing movement, emptying it of water. And
the whole bottom showed as if covered with butter. Thus the
yellow gold flashed up as the muddy water was flirted away. It
was gold--gold-dust, coarse gold, nuggets, large nuggets. He was
all alone. He set the pan down for a moment and thought long
thoughts. Then he finished the washing, and weighed the result
in his scales. At the rate of sixteen dollars to the ounce, the
pan had contained seven hundred and odd dollars. It was beyond
anything that even he had dreamed. His fondest anticipation's
had gone no farther than twenty or thirty thousand dollars to a
claim; but here were claims worth half a million each at the
least, even if they were spotted.
He did not go back to work in the shaft that day, nor the next,
nor the next. Instead, capped and mittened, a light stampeding
outfit, including his rabbit skin robe, strapped on his back, he
was out and away on a many-days' tramp over creeks and divides,
inspecting the whole neighboring territory. On each creek he was
entitled to locate one claim, but he was chary in thus
surrendering up his chances. On Hunker Creek only did he stake a
claim. Bonanza Creek he found staked from mouth to source, while
every little draw and pup and gulch that drained into it was
like-wise staked. Little faith was had in these side-streams.
They had been staked by the hundreds of men who had failed to get
in on Bonanza. The most popular of these creeks was Adams. The
one least fancied was Eldorado, which flowed into Bonanza, just
above Karmack's Discovery claim. Even Daylight disliked the
looks of Eldorado; but, still riding his hunch, he bought a half
share in one claim on it for half a sack of flour. A month later
he paid eight hundred dollars for the adjoining claim. Three
months later, enlarging this block of property, he paid forty
thousand for a third claim; and, though it was concealed in the
future, he was destined, not long after, to pay one hundred and
fifty thousand for a fourth claim on the creek that had been the
least liked of all the creeks.
In the meantime, and from the day he washed seven hundred dollars
from a single pan and squatted over it and thought a long
thought, he never again touched hand to pick and shovel. As he
said to Joe Ladue the night of that wonderful washing:-
"Joe, I ain't never going to work hard again. Here's where I
begin to use my brains. I'm going to farm gold. Gold will grow
gold if you-all have the savvee and can get hold of some for
seed. When I seen them seven hundred dollars in the bottom of
the pan, I knew I had the seed at last."
"Where are you going to plant it?" Joe Ladue had asked.
And Daylight, with a wave of his hand, definitely indicated the
whole landscape and the creeks that lay beyond the divides.
"There she is," he said, "and you-all just watch my smoke.
There's millions here for the man who can see them. And I seen
all them millions this afternoon when them seven hundred dollars
peeped up at me from the bottom of the pan and chirruped, 'Well,
if here ain't Burning Daylight come at last.'"
The hero of the Yukon in the younger days before the Carmack
strike, Burning Daylight now became the hero of the strike. The
story of his hunch and how he rode it was told up and down the
land. Certainly he had ridden it far and away beyond the
boldest, for no five of the luckiest held the value in claims
that he held. And, furthermore, he was still riding the hunch,
and with no diminution of daring. The wise ones shook their
heads and prophesied that he would lose every ounce he had won.
He was speculating, they contended, as if the whole country was
made of gold, and no man could win who played a placer strike in
that fashion.
On the other hand, his holdings were reckoned as worth millions,
and there were men so sanguine that they held the man a fool who
coppered[6] any bet Daylight laid. Behind his magnificent
free-handedness and careless disregard for money were hard,
practical judgment, imagination and vision, and the daring of the
big gambler. He foresaw what with his own eyes he had never
seen, and he played to win much or lose all.
[6] To copper: a term in faro, meaning to play a card to lose.
"There's too much gold here in Bonanza to be just a pocket," he
argued. "It's sure come from a mother-lode somewhere, and other
creeks will show up. You-all keep your eyes on Indian River.
The creeks that drain that side the Klondike watershed are just
as likely to have gold as the creeks that drain this side."
And he backed this opinion to the extent of grub-staking half a
dozen parties of prospectors across the big divide into the
Indian River region. Other men, themselves failing to stake on
lucky creeks, he put to work on his Bonanza claims. And he paid
them well--sixteen dollars a day for an eight-hour shift, and he
ran three shifts. He had grub to start them on, and when, on the
last water, the Bella arrived loaded with provisions, he traded a
warehouse site to Jack Kearns for a supply of grub that lasted
all his men through the winter of 1896. And that winter, when
famine pinched, and flour sold for two dollars a pound, he kept
three shifts of men at work on all four of the Bonanza claims.
Other mine-owners paid fifteen dollars a day to their men; but he
had been the first to put men to work, and from the first he paid
them a full ounce a day. One result was that his were picked
men, and they more than earned their higher pay.
One of his wildest plays took place in the early winter after the
freeze-up. Hundreds of stampeders, after staking on other creeks
than Bonanza, had gone on disgruntled down river to Forty Mile
and Circle City. Daylight mortgaged one of his Bonanza dumps
with the Alaska Commercial Company, and tucked a letter of credit
into his pouch. Then he harnessed his dogs and went down on the
ice at a pace that only he could travel. One Indian down,
another Indian back, and four teams of dogs was his record. And
at Forty Mile and Circle City he bought claims by the score.
Many of these were to prove utterly worthless, but some few of
them were to show up more astoundingly than any on Bonanza. He
bought right and left, paying as low as fifty dollars and as high
as five thousand. This highest one he bought in the Tivoli
Saloon. It was an upper claim on Eldorado, and when he agreed to
the price, Jacob Wilkins, an old-timer just returned from a look
at the moose-pasture, got up and left the room, saying:-
"Daylight, I've known you seven year, and you've always seemed
sensible till now. And now you're just letting them rob you
right and left. That's what it is--robbery. Five thousand for a
claim on that damned moose-pasture is bunco. I just can't stay
in the room and see you buncoed that way."
"I tell you-all," Daylight answered, "Wilkins, Carmack's strike's
so big that we-all can't see it all. It's a lottery. Every
claim I buy is a ticket. And there's sure going to be some
capital prizes."
Jacob Wilkins, standing in the open door, sniffed incredulously.
"Now supposing, Wilkins," Daylight went on, "supposing you-all
knew it was going to rain soup. What'd you-all do? Buy spoons,
of course. Well, I'm sure buying spoons. She's going to rain
soup up there on the Klondike, and them that has forks won't be
catching none of it."
But Wilkins here slammed the door behind him, and Daylight broke
off to finish the purchase of the claim.
Back in Dawson, though he remained true to his word and never
touched hand to pick and shovel, he worked as hard as ever in his
life. He had a thousand irons in the fire, and they kept him
busy. Representation work was expensive, and he was compelled to
travel often over the various creeks in order to decide which
claims should lapse and which should be retained. A quartz miner
himself in his early youth, before coming to Alaska, he dreamed
of finding the mother-lode. A placer camp he knew was ephemeral,
while a quartz camp abided, and he kept a score of men in the
quest for months. The mother-lode was never found, and, years
afterward, he estimated that the search for it had cost him fifty
thousand dollars.
But he was playing big. Heavy as were his expenses, he won more
heavily. He took lays, bought half shares, shared with the men
he grub-staked, and made personal locations. Day and night his
dogs were ready, and he owned the fastest teams; so that when a
stampede to a new discovery was on, it was Burning Daylight to
the fore through the longest, coldest nights till he blazed his
stakes next to Discovery. In one way or another (to say nothing
of the many worthless creeks) he came into possession of
properties on the good creeks, such as Sulphur, Dominion,
Excelsis, Siwash, Cristo, Alhambra, and Doolittle. The thousands
he poured out flowed back in tens of thousands. Forty Mile men
told the story of his two tons of flour, and made calculations of
what it had returned him that ranged from half a million to a
million. One thing was known beyond all doubt, namely, that the
half share in the first Eldorado claim, bought by him for a half
sack of flour, was worth five hundred thousand. On the other
hand, it was told that when Freda, the dancer, arrived from over
the passes in a Peterborough canoe in the midst of a drive of
mush-ice on the Yukon, and when she offered a thousand dollars
for ten sacks and could find no sellers, he sent the flour to her
as a present without ever seeing her. In the same way ten sacks
were sent to the lone Catholic priest who was starting the first
His generosity was lavish. Others called it insane. At a time
when, riding his hunch, he was getting half a million for half a
sack of flour, it was nothing less than insanity to give twenty
whole sacks to a dancing-girl and a priest. But it was his way.
Money was only a marker. It was the game that counted with him.
The possession of millions made little change in him, except that
he played the game more passionately. Temperate as he had always
been, save on rare occasions, now that he had the wherewithal for
unlimited drinks and had daily access to them, he drank even
less. The most radical change lay in that, except when on trail,
he no longer did his own cooking. A broken-down miner lived in
his log cabin with him and now cooked for him. But it was the
same food: bacon, beans, flour, prunes, dried fruits, and rice.
He still dressed as formerly: overalls, German socks, moccasins,
flannel shirt, fur cap, and blanket coat. He did not take up
with cigars, which cost, the cheapest, from half a dollar to a
dollar each. The same Bull Durham and brown-paper cigarette,
hand-rolled, contented him. It was true that he kept more dogs,
and paid enormous prices for them. They were not a luxury, but a
matter of business. He needed speed in his travelling and
stampeding. And by the same token, he hired a cook. He was too
busy to cook for himself, that was all. It was poor business,
playing for millions, to spend time building fires and boiling
Dawson grew rapidly that winter of 1896. Money poured in on
Daylight from the sale of town lots. He promptly invested it
where it would gather more. In fact, he played the dangerous
game of pyramiding, and no more perilous pyramiding than in a
placer camp could be imagined. But he played with his eyes wide
"You-all just wait till the news of this strike reaches the
Outside," he told his old-timer cronies in the Moosehorn Saloon.
"The news won't get out till next spring. Then there's going to
be three rushes. A summer rush of men coming in light; a fall
rush of men with outfits; and a spring rush, the next year after
that, of fifty thousand. You-all won't be able to see the
landscape for chechaquos. Well, there's the summer and fall rush
of 1897 to commence with. What are you-all going to do about
"What are you going to do about it?" a friend demanded.
"Nothing," he answered. "I've sure already done it. I've got a
dozen gangs strung out up the Yukon getting out logs. You-all'll
see their rafts coming down after the river breaks. Cabins!
They sure will be worth what a man can pay for them next fall.
Lumber! It will sure go to top- notch. I've got two sawmills
freighting in over the passes. They'll come down as soon as the
lakes open up. And if you-all are thinking of needing lumber,
I'll make you-all contracts right nowthree hundred dollars a
thousand, undressed."
Corner lots in desirable locations sold that winter for from ten
to thirty thousand dollars. Daylight sent word out over the
trails and passes for the newcomers to bring down log-rafts, and,
as a result, the summer of 1897 saw his sawmills working day and
night, on three shifts, and still he had logs left over with
which to build cabins. These cabins, land included, sold at from
one to several thousand dollars. Two-story log buildings, in the
business part of town, brought him from forty to fifty thousand
dollars apiece. These fresh accretions of capital were
immediately invested in other ventures. He turned gold over and
over, until everything that he touched seemed to turn to gold.
But that first wild winter of Carmack's strike taught Daylight
many things. Despite the prodigality of his nature, he had
poise. He watched the lavish waste of the mushroom millionaires,
and failed quite to understand it. According to his nature and
outlook, it was all very well to toss an ante away in a night's
frolic. That was what he had done the night of the poker-game in
Circle City when he lost fifty thousand--all that he possessed.
But he had looked on that fifty thousand as a mere ante. When it
came to millions, it was different. Such a fortune was a stake,
and was not to be sown on bar-room floors, literally sown, flung
broadcast out of the moosehide sacks by drunken millionaires
who had lost all sense of proportion. There was McMann, who ran
up a single bar-room bill of thirty-eight thousand dollars; and
Jimmie the Rough, who spent one hundred thousand a month for four
months in riotous living, and then fell down drunk in the snow
one March night and was frozen to death; and Swiftwater Bill,
who, after spending three valuable claims in an extravagance of
debauchery, borrowed three thousand dollars with which to leave
the country, and who, out of this sum, because the lady-love that
had jilted him liked eggs, cornered the one hundred and ten dozen
eggs on the Dawson market, paying twenty-four dollars a dozen for
them and promptly feeding them to the wolf-dogs.
Champagne sold at from forty to fifty dollars a quart, and
canned oyster stew at fifteen dollars. Daylight indulged in no
such luxuries. He did not mind treating a bar-room of men to
whiskey at fifty cents a drink, but there was somewhere in his
own extravagant nature a sense of fitness and arithmetic that
revolted against paying fifteen dollars for the contents of an
oyster can. On the other hand, he possibly spent more money in
relieving hard-luck cases than did the wildest of the new
millionaires on insane debauchery. Father Judge, of the
hospital, could have told of far more important donations than
that first ten sacks of flour. And old-timers who came to
Daylight invariably went away relieved according to their need.
But fifty dollars for a quart of fizzy champagne! That was
And yet he still, on occasion, made one of his old-time
hell-roaring nights. But he did so for different reasons.
First, it was expected of him because it had been his way in the
old days. And second, he could afford it. But he no longer
cared quite so much for that form of diversion. He had
developed, in a new way, the taste for power. It had become a
lust with him. By far the wealthiest miner in Alaska, he wanted
to be still wealthier. It was a big game he was playing in, and
he liked it better than any other game. In a way, the part he
played was creative. He was doing something. And at no time,
striking another chord of his nature, could he take the joy in a
million-dollar Eldorado dump that was at all equivalent to the
joy he took in watching his two sawmills working and the big down
river log-rafts swinging into the bank in the big eddy just above
Moosehide Mountain. Gold, even on the scales, was, after all, an
abstraction. It represented things and the power to do. But the
sawmills were the things themselves, concrete and tangible, and
they were things that were a means to the doing of more things.
They were dreams come true, hard and indubitable realizations of
fairy gossamers.
With the summer rush from the Outside came special correspondents
for the big newspapers and magazines, and one and all, using
unlimited space, they wrote Daylight up; so that, so far as the
world was concerned, Daylight loomed the largest figure in
Alaska. Of course, after several months, the world became
interested in the Spanish War, and forgot all about him; but in
the Klondike itself Daylight still remained the most prominent
figure. Passing along the streets of Dawson, all heads turned to
follow him, and in the saloons chechaquos watched him awesomely,
scarcely taking their eyes from him as long as he remained in
their range of vision. Not alone was he the richest man in the
country, but he was Burning Daylight, the pioneer, the man who,
almost in the midst of antiquity of that young land, had crossed
the Chilcoot and drifted down the Yukon to meet those elder
giants, Al Mayo and Jack McQuestion. He was the Burning Daylight
of scores of wild adventures, the man who carried word to the
ice-bound whaling fleet across the tundra wilderness to the
Arctic Sea, who raced the mail from Circle to Salt Water and back
again in sixty days, who saved the whole Tanana tribe from
perishing in the winter of '91--in short, the man who smote the
chechaquos' imaginations more violently than any other dozen men
rolled into one.
He had the fatal facility for self-advertisement. Things he did,
no matter how adventitious or spontaneous, struck the popular
imagination as remarkable. And the latest thing he had done was
always on men's lips, whether it was being first in the
heartbreaking stampede to Danish Creek, in killing the record
baldface grizzly over on Sulphur Creek, or in winning the
single-paddle canoe race on the Queen's Birthday, after being
forced to participate at the last moment by the failure of the
sourdough representative to appear. Thus, one night in the
Moosehorn, he locked horns with Jack Kearns in the long-promised
return game of poker. The sky and eight o'clock in the morning
were made the limits, and at the close of the game Daylight's
winnings were two hundred and thirty thousand dollars. To Jack
Kearns, already a several-times millionaire, this loss was not
vital. But the whole community was thrilled by the size of the
stakes, and each one of the dozen correspondents in the field
sent out a sensational article.
Despite his many sources of revenue, Daylight's pyramiding kept
him pinched for cash throughout the first winter. The
pay-gravel, thawed on bed-rock and hoisted to the surface,
immediately froze again. Thus his dumps, containing several
millions of gold, were inaccessible. Not until the returning sun
thawed the dumps and melted the water to wash them was he able to
handle the gold they contained. And then he found himself with a
surplus of gold, deposited in the two newly organized banks; and
he was promptly besieged by men and groups of men to enlist his
capital in their enterprises.
But he elected to play his own game, and he entered combinations
only when they were generally defensive or offensive. Thus,
though he had paid the highest wages, he joined the Mine-owners'
Association, engineered the fight, and effectually curbed the
growing insubordination of the wage-earners. Times had changed.
The old days were gone forever. This was a new era, and
Daylight, the wealthy mine-owner, was loyal to his class
affiliations. It was true, the old-timers who worked for him, in
order to be saved from the club of the organized owners, were
made foremen over the gang of chechaquos; but this, with
Daylight, was a matter of heart, not head. In his heart he could
not forget the old days, while with his head he played the
economic game according to the latest and most practical methods.
But outside of such group-combinations of exploiters, he refused
to bind himself to any man's game. He was playing a great lone
hand, and he needed all his money for his own backing. The newly
founded stock-exchange interested him keenly. He had never
before seen such an institution, but he was quick to see its
virtues and to utilize it. Most of all, it was gambling, and on
many an occasion not necessary for the advancement of his own
schemes, he, as he called it, went the stock-exchange a flutter,
out of sheer wantonness and fun.
"It sure beats faro," was his comment one day, when, after
keeping the Dawson speculators in a fever for a week by alternate
bulling and bearing, he showed his hand and cleaned up what would
have been a fortune to any other man.
Other men, having made their strike, had headed south for the
States, taking a furlough from the grim Arctic battle. But,
asked when he was going Outside, Daylight always laughed and said
when he had finished playing his hand. He also added that a man
was a fool to quit a game just when a winning hand had been dealt
It was held by the thousands of hero-worshipping chechaquos that
Daylight was a man absolutely without fear. But Bettles and Dan
MacDonald and other sourdoughs shook their heads and laughed as
they mentioned women. And they were right. He had always been
afraid of them from the time, himself a lad of seventeen, when
Queen Anne, of Juneau, made open and ridiculous love to him. For
that matter, he never had known women. Born in a mining-camp
where they were rare and mysterious, having no sisters, his
mother dying while he was an infant, he had never been in contact
with them. True, running away from Queen Anne, he had later
encountered them on the Yukon and cultivated an acquaintance with
them--the pioneer ones who crossed the passes on the trail of the
men who had opened up the first diggings. But no lamb had ever
walked with a wolf in greater fear and trembling than had he
walked with them. It was a matter of masculine pride that he
should walk with them, and he had done so in fair seeming; but
women had remained to him a closed book, and he preferred a game
of solo or seven-up any time.
And now, known as the King of the Klondike, carrying several
other royal titles, such as Eldorado King, Bonanza King, the
Lumber Baron, and the Prince of the Stampeders, not to omit the
proudest appellation of all, namely, the Father of the
Sourdoughs, he was more afraid of women than ever. As never
before they held out their arms to him, and more women were
flocking into the country day by day. It mattered not whether he
sat at dinner in the gold commissioner's house, called for the
drinks in a dancehall, or submitted to an interview from the
woman representative of the New York Sun, one and all of them
held out their arms.
There was one exception, and that was Freda, the girl that
danced, and to whom he had given the flour. She was the only
woman in whose company he felt at ease, for she alone never
reached out her arms. And yet it was from her that he was
destined to receive next to his severest fright. It came about
in the fall of 1897. He was returning from one of his dashes,
this time to inspect Henderson, a creek that entered the Yukon
just below the Stewart. Winter had come on with a rush, and he
fought his way down the Yukon seventy miles in a frail
Peterborough canoe in the midst of a run of mush-ice. Hugging
the rim-ice that had already solidly formed, he shot across the
ice-spewing mouth of the Klondike just in time to see a lone man
dancing excitedly on the rim and pointing into the water. Next,
he saw the fur-clad body of a woman, face under, sinking in the
midst of the driving mush-ice. A lane opening in the swirl of
the current, it was a matter of seconds to drive the canoe to the
spot, reach to the shoulder in the water, and draw the woman
gingerly to the canoe's side. It was Freda. And all might yet
have been well with him, had she not, later, when brought back to
consciousness, blazed at him with angry blue eyes and demanded:
"Why did you? Oh, why did you?"
This worried him. In the nights that followed, instead of
sinking immediately to sleep as was his wont, he lay awake,
visioning her face and that blue blaze of wrath, and conning her
words over and over. They rang with sincerity. The reproach was
genuine. She had meant just what she said. And still he
The next time he encountered her she had turned away from him
angrily and contemptuously. And yet again, she came to him to
beg his pardon, and she dropped a hint of a man somewhere,
sometime,--she said not how,--who had left her with no desire to
live. Her speech was frank, but incoherent, and all he gleaned
from it was that the event, whatever it was, had happened years
before. Also, he gleaned that she had loved the man.
That was the thing--love. It caused the trouble. It was more
terrible than frost or famine. Women were all very well, in
themselves good to look upon and likable; but along came this
thing called love, and they were seared to the bone by it, made
so irrational that one could never guess what they would do next.
This Freda-woman was a splendid creature, full-bodied, beautiful,
and nobody's fool; but love had come along and soured her on the
world, driving her to the Klondike and to suicide so compellingly
that she was made to hate the man that saved her life.
Well, he had escaped love so far, just as he had escaped
smallpox; yet there it was, as contagious as smallpox, and a
whole lot worse in running its course. It made men and women do
such fearful and unreasonable things. It was like delirium
tremens, only worse. And if he, Daylight, caught it, he might
have it as badly as any of them. It was lunacy, stark lunacy,
and contagious on top of it all. A half dozen young fellows were
crazy over Freda. They all wanted to marry her. Yet she, in
turn, was crazy over that some other fellow on the other side of
the world, and would have nothing to do with them.
But it was left to the Virgin to give him his final fright. She
was found one morning dead in her cabin. A shot through the head
had done it, and she had left no message, no explanation. Then
came the talk. Some wit, voicing public opinion, called it a
case of too much Daylight. She had killed herself because of
him. Everybody knew this, and said so. The correspondents wrote
it up, and once more Burning Daylight, King of the Klondike, was
sensationally featured in the Sunday supplements of the United
States. The Virgin had straightened up, so the feature-stories
ran, and correctly so. Never had she entered a Dawson City
dance-hall. When she first arrived from Circle City, she had
earned her living by washing clothes. Next, she had bought a
sewing-machine and made men's drill parkas, fur caps, and
moosehide mittens. Then she had gone as a clerk into the First
Yukon Bank. All this, and more, was known and told, though one
and all were agreed that Daylight, while the cause, had been the
innocent cause of her untimely end.
And the worst of it was that Daylight knew it was true. Always
would he remember that last night he had seen her. He had
thought nothing of it at the time; but, looking back, he was
haunted by every little thing that had happened. In the light of
the tragic event, he could understand everything--her quietness,
that calm certitude as if all vexing questions of living had been
smoothed out and were gone, and that certain ethereal sweetness
about all that she had said and done that had been almost
maternal. He remembered the way she had looked at him, how she
had laughed when he narrated Mickey Dolan's mistake in staking
the fraction on Skookum Gulch. Her laughter had been lightly
joyous, while at the same time it had lacked its oldtime
robustness. Not that she had been grave or subdued. On the
contrary, she had been so patently content, so filled with peace.
She had fooled him, fool that he was. He had even thought that
night that her feeling for him had passed, and he had taken
delight in the thought, and caught visions of the satisfying
future friendship that would be theirs with this perturbing love
out of the way.
And then, when he stood at the door, cap in hand, and said good
night. It had struck him at the time as a funny and embarrassing
thing, her bending over his hand and kissing it. He had felt
like a fool, but he shivered now when he looked back on it and
felt again the touch of her lips on his hand. She was saying
good-by, an eternal good-by, and he had never guessed. At that
very moment, and for all the moments of the evening, coolly and
deliberately, as he well knew her way, she had been resolved to
die. If he had only known it! Untouched by the contagious
malady himself, nevertheless he would have married her if he had
had the slightest inkling of what she contemplated. And yet he
knew, furthermore, that hers was a certain stiff-kneed pride that
would not have permitted her to accept marriage as an act of
philanthropy. There had really been no saving her, after all.
The love-disease had fastened upon her, and she had been doomed
from the first to perish of it.
Her one possible chance had been that he, too, should have caught
it. And he had failed to catch it. Most likely, if he had, it
would have been from Freda or some other woman. There was
Dartworthy, the college man who had staked the rich fraction on
Bonanza above Discovery. Everybody knew that old Doolittle's
daughter, Bertha, was madly in love with him. Yet, when he
contracted the disease, of all women, it had been with the wife
of Colonel Walthstone, the great Guggenhammer mining expert.
Result, three lunacy cases: Dartworthy selling out his mine for
one-tenth its value; the poor woman sacrificing her
respectability and sheltered nook in society to flee with him in
an open boat down the Yukon; and Colonel Walthstone, breathing
murder and destruction, taking out after them in another open
boat. The whole impending tragedy had moved on down the muddy
Yukon, passing Forty Mile and Circle and losing itself in the
wilderness beyond. But there it was, love, disorganizing men's
and women's lives, driving toward destruction and death, turning
topsy-turvy everything that was sensible and considerate, making
bawds or suicides out of virtuous women, and scoundrels and
murderers out of men who had always been clean and square.
For the first time in his life Daylight lost his nerve. He was
badly and avowedly frightened. Women were terrible creatures,
and the love-germ was especially plentiful in their neighborhood.
And they were so reckless, so devoid of fear. THEY were not
frightened by what had happened to the Virgin. They held out
their arms to him more seductively than ever. Even without his
fortune, reckoned as a mere man, just past thirty, magnificently
strong and equally good-looking and good-natured, he was a prize
for most normal women. But when to his natural excellences were
added the romance that linked with his name and the enormous
wealth that was his, practically every free woman he encountered
measured him with an appraising and delighted eye, to say nothing
of more than one woman who was not free. Other men might have
been spoiled by this and led to lose their heads; but the only
effect on him was to increase his fright. As a result he refused
most invitations to houses where women might be met, and
frequented bachelor boards and the Moosehorn Saloon, which had no
dance-hall attached.
Six thousand spent the winter of 1897 in Dawson, work on the
creeks went on apace, while beyond the passes it was reported
that one hundred thousand more were waiting for the spring. Late
one brief afternoon, Daylight, on the benches between French Hill
and Skookum Hill, caught a wider vision of things. Beneath him
lay the richest part of Eldorado Creek, while up and down Bonanza
he could see for miles. It was a scene of a vast devastation.
The hills, to their tops, had been shorn of trees, and their
naked sides showed signs of goring and perforating that even the
mantle of snow could not hide. Beneath him, in every direction
were the cabins of men. But not many men were visible. A
blanket of smoke filled the valleys and turned the gray day to
melancholy twilight. Smoke arose from a thousand holes in the
snow, where, deep down on bed-rock, in the frozen muck and
gravel, men crept and scratched and dug, and ever built more
fires to break the grip of the frost. Here and there, where new
shafts were starting, these fires flamed redly. Figures of men
crawled out of the holes, or disappeared into them, or, on raised
platforms of hand-hewn timber, windlassed the thawed gravel to
the surface, where it immediately froze. The wreckage of the
spring washing appeared everywhere--piles of sluice-boxes,
sections of elevated flumes, huge water-wheels,--all the debris
of an army of gold-mad men.
"It-all's plain gophering," Daylight muttered aloud.
He looked at the naked hills and realized the enormous wastage of
wood that had taken place. From this bird's-eye view he
realized the monstrous confusion of their excited workings. It
was a gigantic inadequacy. Each worked for himself, and the
result was chaos. In this richest of diggings it cost out by
their feverish, unthinking methods another dollar was left
hopelessly in the earth. Given another year, and most of the
claims would be worked out, and the sum of the gold taken out
would no more than equal what was left behind.
Organization was what was needed, he decided; and his quick
imagination sketched Eldorado Creek, from mouth to source, and
from mountain top to mountain top, in the hands of one capable
management. Even steam-thawing, as yet untried, but bound to
come, he saw would be a makeshift. What should be done was to
hydraulic the valley sides and benches, and then, on the creek
bottom, to use gold-dredges such as he had heard described as
operating in California.
There was the very chance for another big killing. He had
wondered just what was precisely the reason for the Guggenhammers
and the big English concerns sending in their high-salaried
experts. That was their scheme. That was why they had
approached him for the sale of worked-out claims and tailings.
They were content to let the small mine-owners gopher out what
they could, for there would be millions in the leavings.
And, gazing down on the smoky inferno of crude effort, Daylight
outlined the new game he would play, a game in which the
Guggenhammers and the rest would have to reckon with him. Cut
along with the delight in the new conception came a weariness.
He was tired of the long Arctic years, and he was curious about
the Outside--the great world of which he had heard other men talk
and of which he was as ignorant as a child. There were games out
there to play. It was a larger table, and there was no reason
why he with his millions should not sit in and take a hand. So
it was, that afternoon on Skookum Hill, that he resolved to play
this last best Klondike hand and pull for the Outside.
It took time, however. He put trusted agents to work on the
heels of great experts, and on the creeks where they began to buy
he likewise bought. Wherever they tried to corner a worked-out
creek, they found him standing in the way, owning blocks of
claims or artfully scattered claims that put all their plans to
"I play you-all wide open to win--am I right" he told them once,
in a heated conference.
Followed wars, truces, compromises, victories, and defeats. By
1898, sixty thousand men were on the Klondike and all their
fortunes and affairs rocked back and forth and were affected by
the battles Daylight fought. And more and more the taste for the
larger game urged in Daylight's mouth. Here he was already
locked in grapples with the great Guggenhammers, and winning,
fiercely winning. Possibly the severest struggle was waged on
Ophir, the veriest of moose-pastures, whose low-grade dirt was
valuable only because of its vastness. The ownership of a block
of seven claims in the heart of it gave Daylight his grip and
they could not come to terms. The Guggenhammer experts concluded
that it was too big for him to handle, and when they gave him an
ultimatum to that effect he accepted and bought them out.
The plan was his own, but he sent down to the States for
competent engineers to carry it out. In the Rinkabilly
watershed, eighty miles away, he built his reservoir, and for
eighty miles the huge wooden conduit carried the water across
country to Ophir. Estimated at three millions, the reservoir and
conduit cost nearer four. Nor did he stop with this. Electric
power plants were installed, and his workings were lighted as
well as run by electricity. Other sourdoughs, who had struck it
rich in excess of all their dreams, shook their heads gloomily,
warned him that he would go broke, and declined to invest in so
extravagant a venture.
But Daylight smiled, and sold out the remainder of his town-site
holdings. He sold at the right time, at the height of the placer
boom. When he prophesied to his old cronies, in the Moosehorn
Saloon, that within five years town lots in Dawson could not be
given away, while the cabins would be chopped up for firewood, he
was laughed at roundly, and assured that the mother-lode would be
found ere that time. But he went ahead, when his need for lumber
was finished, selling out his sawmills as well. Likewise, he
to get rid of his scattered holdings on the various creeks, and
without thanks to any one he finished his conduit, built his
dredges, imported his machinery, and made the gold of Ophir
immediately accessible. And he, who five years before had
over the divide from Indian River and threaded the silent
wilderness, his dogs packing Indian fashion, himself living
fashion on straight moose meat, now heard the hoarse whistles
calling his hundreds of laborers to work, and watched them toil
under the white glare of the arc-lamps.
But having done the thing, he was ready to depart. And when he
let the word go out, the Guggenhammers vied with the English
concerns and with a new French company in bidding for Ophir and
all its plant. The Guggenhammers bid highest, and the price they
paid netted Daylight a clean million. It was current rumor that
he was worth anywhere from twenty to thirty millions. But he
alone knew just how he stood, and that, with his last claim sold
and the table swept clean of his winnings, he had ridden his
hunch to the tune of just a trifle over eleven millions.
His departure was a thing that passed into the history of the
Yukon along with his other deeds. All the Yukon was his guest,
Dawson the seat of the festivity. On that one last night no
man's dust save his own was good. Drinks were not to be
purchased. Every saloon ran open, with extra relays of exhausted
bartenders, and the drinks were given away. A man who refused
this hospitality, and persisted in paying, found a dozen fights
on his hands. The veriest chechaquos rose up to defend the name
of Daylight from such insult. And through it all, on moccasined
feet, moved Daylight, hell-roaring Burning Daylight,
over-spilling with good nature and camaraderie, howling his
he-wolf howl and claiming the night as his, bending men's arms
down on the bars, performing feats of strength, his bronzed face
flushed with drink, his black eyes flashing, clad in overalls and
blanket coat, his ear-flaps dangling and his gauntleted mittens
swinging from the cord across the shoulders. But this time it
was neither an ante nor a stake that he threw away, but a mere
marker in the game that he who held so many markers would not
As a night, it eclipsed anything that Dawson had ever seen. It
was Daylight's desire to make it memorable, and his attempt was a
success. A goodly portion of Dawson got drunk that night. The
fall weather was on, and, though the freeze-up of the Yukon still
delayed, the thermometer was down to twenty-five below zero and
falling. Wherefore, it was necessary to organize gangs of
life-savers, who patrolled the streets to pick up drunken men
from where they fell in the snow and where an hour's sleep would
be fatal. Daylight, whose whim it was to make them drunk by
hundreds and by thousands, was the one who initiated this life
saving. He wanted Dawson to have its night, but, in his deeper
processes never careless nor wanton, he saw to it that it was a
night without accident. And, like his olden nights, his ukase
went forth that there should be no quarrelling nor fighting,
offenders to be dealt with by him personally. Nor did he have to
deal with any. Hundreds of devoted followers saw to it that the
evilly disposed were rolled in the snow and hustled off to bed.
In the great world, where great captains of industry die, all
wheels under their erstwhile management are stopped for a minute.
But in the Klondike, such was its hilarious sorrow at the
departure of its captain, that for twenty-four hours no wheels
revolved. Even great Ophir, with its thousand men on the
pay-roll, closed down. On the day after the night there were no
men present or fit to go to work.
Next morning, at break of day, Dawson said good-by. The
thousands that lined the bank wore mittens and their ear-flaps
pulled down and tied. It was thirty below zero, the rim-ice was
thickening, and the Yukon carried a run of mush-ice. From the
deck of the Seattle, Daylight waved and called his farewells. As
the lines were cast off and the steamer swung out into the
current, those near him saw the moisture well up in Daylight's
eyes. In a way, it was to him departure from his native land,
this grim Arctic region which was practically the only land he
had known. He tore off his cap and waved it.
"Good-by, you-all!" he called. "Good-by, you-all!"
In no blaze of glory did Burning Daylight descend upon San
Francisco. Not only had he been forgotten, but the Klondike
along with him. The world was interested in other things, and
Alaskan adventure, like the Spanish War, was an old story. Many
things had happened since then. Exciting things were happening
every day, and the sensation-space of newspapers was limited.
effect of being ignored, however, was an exhilaration. Big man
he had been in the Arctic game, it merely showed how much bigger
was this new game, when a man worth eleven millions, and with a
history such as his, passed unnoticed.
He settled down in St. Francis Hotel, was interviewed by the
cub-reporters on the hotel-run, and received brief paragraphs of
notice for twenty-four hours. He grinned to himself, and began
to look around and get acquainted with the new order of beings
and things. He was very awkward and very self-possessed. In
addition to the stiffening afforded his backbone by the conscious
ownership of eleven millions, he possessed an enormous certitude.
Nothing abashed him, nor was he appalled by the display and
culture and power around him. It was another kind of wilderness,
that was all; and it was for him to learn the ways of it, the
signs and trails and water-holes where good hunting lay, and the
bad stretches of field and flood to be avoided. As usual, he
fought shy of the women. He was still too badly scared to come
to close quarters with the dazzling and resplendent creatures his
own millions made accessible.
They looked and longed, but he so concealed his timidity that he
had all the seeming of moving boldly among them. Nor was it his
wealth alone that attracted them. He was too much a man, and too
much an unusual type of man. Young yet, barely thirty-six,
eminently handsome, magnificently strong, almost bursting with a
splendid virility, his free trail-stride, never learned on
pavements, and his black eyes, hinting of great spaces and
unwearied with the close perspective of the city dwellers, drew
many a curious and wayward feminine glance. He saw, grinned
knowingly to himself, and faced them as so many dangers, with a
cool demeanor that was a far greater personal achievement than
had they been famine, frost, or flood.
He had come down to the States to play the man's game, not the
woman's game; and the men he had not yet learned. They struck
him as soft--soft physically; yet he divined them hard in their
dealings, but hard under an exterior of supple softness. It
struck him that there was something cat-like about them. He met
them in the clubs, and wondered how real was the good-fellowship
they displayed and how quickly they would unsheathe their claws
and gouge and rend. "That's the proposition," he repeated to
himself; "what will they-all do when the play is close and down
to brass tacks?" He felt unwarrantably suspicious of them.
"They're sure slick," was his secret judgment; and from bits of
gossip dropped now and again he felt his judgment well
buttressed. On the other hand, they radiated an atmosphere of
manliness and the fair play that goes with manliness. They might
gouge and rend in a fight--which was no more than natural; but he
felt, somehow, that they would gouge and rend according to rule.
This was the impression he got of them--a generalization tempered
by knowledge that there was bound to be a certain percentage of
scoundrels among them.
Several months passed in San Francisco during which time he
studied the game and its rules, and prepared himself to take a
hand. He even took private instruction in English, and succeeded
in eliminating his worst faults, though in moments of excitement
he was prone to lapse into "you-all," "knowed," "sure," and
similar solecisms. He learned to eat and dress and generally
comport himself after the manner of civilized man; but through it
all he remained himself, not unduly reverential nor
considerative, and never hesitating to stride rough-shod over any
soft-faced convention if it got in his way and the provocation
were great enough. Also, and unlike the average run of weaker
men coming from back countries and far places, he failed to
reverence the particular tin gods worshipped variously by the
civilized tribes of men. He had seen totems before, and knew
them for what they were.
Tiring of being merely an onlooker, he ran up to Nevada, where
the new gold-mining boom was fairly started--"just to try a
flutter," as he phrased it to himself. The flutter on the
Tonopah Stock Exchange lasted just ten days, during which time
his smashing, wild-bull game played ducks and drakes with the
more stereotyped gamblers, and at the end of which time, having
gambled Floridel into his fist, he let go for a net profit of
half a million. Whereupon, smacking his lips, he departed for
San Francisco and the St. Francis Hotel. It tasted good, and
his hunger for the game became more acute.
And once more the papers sensationalized him. BURNING DAYLIGHT
was a big-letter headline again. Interviewers flocked about him.
Old files of magazines and newspapers were searched through, and
the romantic and historic Elam Harnish, Adventurer of the Frost,
King of the Klondike, and father of the Sourdoughs, strode upon
the breakfast table of a million homes along with the toast and
breakfast foods. Even before his elected time, he was forcibly
launched into the game. Financiers and promoters, and all the
flotsam and jetsam of the sea of speculation surged upon the
shores of his eleven millions. In self-defence he was
compelled to open offices. He had made them sit up and take
notice, and now, willy-nilly, they were dealing him hands and
clamoring for him to play. Well, play he would; he'd show 'em;
even despite the elated prophesies made of how swiftly he would
be trimmed--prophesies coupled with descriptions of the bucolic
game he would play and of his wild and woolly appearance.
He dabbled in little things at first--"stalling for time," as he
explained it to Holdsworthy, a friend he had made at the
Alta-Pacific Club. Daylight himself was a member of the club,
and Holdsworthy had proposed him. And it was well that Daylight
played closely at first, for he was astounded by the multitudes
of sharks--"ground-sharks," he called them--that flocked about
He saw through their schemes readily enough, and even marveled
that such numbers of them could find sufficient prey to keep them
going. Their rascality and general dubiousness was so
transparent that he could not understand how any one could be
taken in by them.
And then he found that there were sharks and sharks. Holdsworthy
treated him more like a brother than a mere fellow-clubman,
watching over him, advising him, and introducing him to the
magnates of the local financial world. Holdsworthy's family
lived in a delightful bungalow near Menlo Park, and here Daylight
spent a number of weekends, seeing a fineness and kindness of
home life of which he had never dreamed. Holdsworthy was an
enthusiast over flowers, and a half lunatic over raising prize
poultry; and these engrossing madnesses were a source of
perpetual joy to Daylight, who looked on in tolerant good humor.
Such amiable weaknesses tokened the healthfulness of the man, and
drew Daylight closer to him. A prosperous, successful business
man without great ambition, was Daylight's estimate of him--a man
too easily satisfied with the small stakes of the game ever to
launch out in big play.
On one such week-end visit, Holdsworthy let him in on a good
thing, a good little thing, a brickyard at Glen Ellen. Daylight
listened closely to the other's description of the situation. It
was a most reasonable venture, and Daylight's one objection was
that it was so small a matter and so far out of his line; and he
went into it only as a matter of friendship, Holdsworthy
explaining that he was himself already in a bit, and that while
it was a good thing, he would be compelled to make sacrifices in
other directions in order to develop it. Daylight advanced the
capital, fifty thousand dollars, and, as he laughingly explained
afterward, "I was stung, all right, but it wasn't Holdsworthy
that did it half as much as those blamed chickens and fruit-trees
of his."
It was a good lesson, however, for he learned that there were few
faiths in the business world, and that even the simple, homely
faith of breaking bread and eating salt counted for little in the
face of a worthless brickyard and fifty thousand dollars in cash.
But the sharks and sharks of various orders and degrees, he
concluded, were on the surface. Deep down, he divined, were the
integrities and the stabilities. These big captains of industry
and masters of finance, he decided, were the men to work with.
By the very nature of their huge deals and enterprises they had
to play fair. No room there for little sharpers' tricks and
bunco games. It was to be expected that little men should salt
gold-mines with a shotgun and work off worthless brick-yards on
their friends, but in high finance such methods were not worth
while. There the men were engaged in developing the country,
organizing its railroads, opening up its mines, making accessible
its vast natural resources. Their play was bound to be big and
stable. "They sure can't afford tin-horn tactics," was his
summing up.
So it was that he resolved to leave the little men, the
Holdsworthys, alone; and, while he met them in good-fellowship,
he chummed with none, and formed no deep friendships. He did not
dislike the little men, the men of the Alta-Pacific, for
instance. He merely did not elect to choose them for partners in
the big game in which he intended to play. What that big game
was, even he did not know. He was waiting to find it. And in
the meantime he played small hands, investing in several
arid-lands reclamation projects and keeping his eyes open for the
big chance when it should come along.
And then he met John Dowsett, the great John Dowsett. The whole
thing was fortuitous. This cannot be doubted, as Daylight
himself knew, it was by the merest chance, when in Los Angeles,
that he heard the tuna were running strong at Santa Catalina,
and went over to the island instead of returning directly to San
Francisco as he had planned. There he met John Dowsett, resting
off for several days in the middle of a flying western trip.
Dowsett had of course heard of the spectacular Klondike King and
his rumored thirty millions, and he certainly found himself
interested by the man in the acquaintance that was formed.
Somewhere along in this acquaintanceship the idea must have
popped into his brain. But he did not broach it, preferring to
mature it carefully. So he talked in large general ways, and did
his best to be agreeable and win Daylight's friendship.
It was the first big magnate Daylight had met face to face, and
he was pleased and charmed. There was such a kindly humanness
about the man, such a genial democraticness, that Daylight found
it hard to realize that this was THE John Dowsett, president of
a string of banks, insurance manipulator, reputed ally of the
lieutenants of Standard Oil, and known ally of the Guggenhammers.
Nor did his looks belie his reputation and his manner.
Physically, he guaranteed all that Daylight knew of him. Despite
his sixty years and snow-white hair, his hand-shake was firmly
hearty, and he showed no signs of decrepitude, walking with a
quick, snappy step, making all movements definitely and
decisively. His skin was a healthy pink, and his thin, clean
lips knew the way to writhe heartily over a joke. He had honest
blue eyes of palest blue; they looked out at one keenly and
frankly from under shaggy gray brows. His mind showed itself
disciplined and orderly, and its workings struck Daylight as
having all the certitude of a steel trap. He was a man who
KNEW and who never decorated his knowledge with foolish frills
of sentiment or emotion. That he was accustomed to command was
patent, and every word and gesture tingled with power. Combined
with this was his sympathy and tact, and Daylight could note
easily enough all the earmarks that distinguished him from a
little man of the Holdsworthy caliber. Daylight knew also his
history, the prime old American stock from which he had
descended, his own war record, the John Dowsett before him who
had been one of the banking buttresses of the Cause of the Union,
the Commodore Dowsett of the War of 1812 the General Dowsett of
Revolutionary fame, and that first far Dowsett, owner of lands
and slaves in early New England.
"He's sure the real thing," he told one of his fellow-clubmen
afterwards, in the smoking-room of the Alta-Pacific. "I tell
you, Gallon, he was a genuine surprise to me. I knew the big
ones had to be like that, but I had to see him to really know it.
He's one of the fellows that does things. You can see it
sticking out all over him. He's one in a thousand, that's
straight, a man to tie to. There's no limit to any game he
plays, and you can stack on it that he plays right up to the
handle. I bet he can lose or win half a dozen million without
batting an eye."
Gallon puffed at his cigar, and at the conclusion of the
panegyric regarded the other curiously; but Daylight, ordering
cocktails, failed to note this curious stare.
"Going in with him on some deal, I suppose," Gallon remarked.
"Nope, not the slightest idea. Here's kindness. I was just
explaining that I'd come to understand how these big fellows do
big things. Why, dye know, he gave me such a feeling that he
knew everything, that I was plumb ashamed of myself."
"I guess I could give him cards and spades when it comes to
driving a dog-team, though," Daylight observed, after a
meditative pause. "And I really believe I could put him on to a
few wrinkles in poker and placer mining, and maybe in paddling a
birch canoe. And maybe I stand a better chance to learn the game
he's been playing all his life than he would stand of learning
the game I played up North."
It was not long afterward that Daylight came on to New York. A
letter from John Dowsett had been the cause--a simple little
typewritten letter of several lines. But Daylight had thrilled
as he read it. He remembered the thrill that was his, a callow
youth of fifteen, when, in Tempas Butte, through lack of a fourth
man, Tom Galsworthy, the gambler, had said, "Get in, Kid; take a
hand." That thrill was his now. The bald, typewritten
sentences seemed gorged with mystery. "Our Mr. Howison will
call upon you at your hotel. He is to be trusted. We must not
be seen together. You will understand after we have had our
talk." Daylight conned the words over and over. That was it.
The big game had arrived, and it looked as if he were being
invited to sit in and take a hand. Surely, for no other reason
would one man so peremptorily invite another man to make a
journey across the continent.
They met--thanks to "our" Mr. Howison,--up the Hudson, in a
magnificent country home. Daylight, according to instructions,
arrived in a private motor-car which had been furnished him.
Whose car it was he did not know any more than did he know the
owner of the house, with its generous, rolling, tree-studded
lawns. Dowsett was already there, and another man whom Daylight
recognized before the introduction was begun. It was Nathaniel
Letton, and none other. Daylight had seen his face a score of
times in the magazines and newspapers, and read about his
standing in the financial world and about his endowed University
of Daratona. He, likewise, struck Daylight as a man of power,
though he was puzzled in that he could find no likeness to
Dowsett. Except in the matter of cleanness,--a cleanness that
seemed to go down to the deepest fibers of him,--Nathaniel Letton
was unlike the other in every particular. Thin to emaciation, he
seemed a cold flame of a man, a man of a mysterious, chemic sort
of flame, who, under a glacier-like exterior, conveyed, somehow,
the impression of the ardent heat of a thousand suns. His large
gray eyes were mainly responsible for this feeling, and they
blazed out feverishly from what was almost a death's-head, so
thin was the face, the skin of which was a ghastly, dull, dead
white. Not more than fifty, thatched with a sparse growth of
iron-gray hair, he looked several times the age of Dowsett. Yet
Nathaniel Letton possessed control--Daylight could see that
plainly. He was a thin-faced ascetic, living in a state of high,
attenuated calm--a molten planet under a transcontinental ice
sheet. And yet, above all most of all, Daylight was impressed by
the terrific and almost awful cleanness of the man. There was
no dross in him. He had all the seeming of having been purged by
fire. Daylight had the feeling that a healthy man-oath would be
a deadly offence to his ears, a sacrilege and a blasphemy.
They drank--that is, Nathaniel Letton took mineral water served
by the smoothly operating machine of a lackey who inhabited the
place, while Dowsett took Scotch and soda and Daylight a
cocktail. Nobody seemed to notice the unusualness of a Martini
at midnight, though Daylight looked sharply for that very thing;
for he had long since learned that Martinis had their strictly
appointed times and places. But he liked Martinis, and, being a
natural man, he chose deliberately to drink when and how he
pleased. Others had noticed this peculiar habit of his, but not
so Dowsett and Letton; and Daylight's secret thought was: "They
sure wouldn't bat an eye if I called for a glass of corrosive
Leon Guggenhammer arrived in the midst of the drink, and ordered
Scotch. Daylight studied him curiously. This was one of the
great Guggenhammer family; a younger one, but nevertheless one of
the crowd with which he had locked grapples in the North. Nor
did Leon Guggenhammer fail to mention cognizance of that old
affair. He complimented Daylight on his prowess-"The echoes of
Ophir came down to us, you know. And I must say, Mr.
Mr. Harnish, that you whipped us roundly in that affair."
Echoes! Daylight could not escape the shock of the
had come down to them of the fight into which he had flung all
strength and the strength of his Klondike millions. The
Guggenhammers sure must go some when a fight of that dimension
was no more than a skirmish of which they deigned to hear echoes.
"They sure play an almighty big game down here," was his
conclusion, accompanied by a corresponding elation that it was
just precisely that almighty big game in which he was about to be
invited to play a hand. For the moment he poignantly regretted
that rumor was not true, and that his eleven millions were not
in reality thirty millions. Well, that much he would be frank
about; he would let them know exactly how many stacks of chips he
could buy.
Leon Guggenhammer was young and fat. Not a day more than thirty,
his face, save for the adumbrated puff sacks under the eyes, was
as smooth and lineless as a boy's. He, too, gave the impression
of cleanness. He showed in the pink of health; his unblemished,
smooth-shaven skin shouted advertisement of his splendid physical
condition. In the face of that perfect skin, his very fatness
and mature, rotund paunch could be nothing other than normal. He
was constituted to be prone to fatness, that was all.
The talk soon centred down to business, though Guggenhammer had
first to say his say about the forthcoming international yacht
race and about his own palatial steam yacht, the Electra, whose
recent engines were already antiquated. Dowsett broached the
plan, aided by an occasional remark from the other two, while
Daylight asked questions. Whatever the proposition was, he was
going into it with his eyes open. And they filled his eyes with
the practical vision of what they had in mind.
"They will never dream you are with us," Guggenhammer
interjected, as the outlining of the matter drew to a close, his
handsome Jewish eyes flashing enthusiastically. "They'll think
you are raiding on your own in proper buccaneer style."
"Of course, you understand, Mr. Harnish, the absolute need for
keeping our alliance in the dark," Nathaniel Letton warned
Daylight nodded his head. "And you also understand," Letton went
on, "that the result can only be productive of good. The thing
is legitimate and right, and the only ones who may be hurt are
the stock gamblers themselves. It is not an attempt to smash the
market. As you see yourself, you are to bull the market. The
honest investor will be the gainer."
"Yes, that's the very thing," Dowsett said. "The commercial need
for copper is continually increasing. Ward Valley Copper, and
all that it stands for,--practically one-quarter of the world's
supply, as I have shown you,--is a big thing, how big, even we
scarcely estimate. Our arrangements are made. We have plenty of
capital ourselves, and yet we want more. Also, there is too much
Ward Valley out to suit our present plans. Thus we kill both
with one stone-"
"And I am the stone," Daylight broke in with a smile.
"Yes, just that. Not only will you bull Ward Valley, but you
will at the same time gather Ward Valley in. This will be of
inestimable advantage to us, while you and all of us will profit
by it as well. And as Mr. Letton has pointed out, the thing is
legitimate and square. On the eighteenth the directors meet,
and, instead of the customary dividend, a double dividend will be
"And where will the shorts be then?" Leon Guggenhammer cried
"The shorts will be the speculators," Nathaniel Letton explained,
"the gamblers, the froth of Wall Street--you understand. The
genuine investors will not be hurt. Furthermore, they will have
learned for the thousandth time to have confidence in Ward
Valley. And with their confidence we can carry through the large
developments we have outlined to you."
"There will be all sorts of rumors on the street," Dowsett warned
Daylight, "but do not let them frighten you. These rumors may
even originate with us. You can see how and why clearly. But
rumors are to be no concern of yours. You are on the inside.
All you have to do is buy, buy, buy, and keep on buying to the
last stroke, when the directors declare the double dividend.
Ward Valley will jump so that it won't be feasible to buy after
"What we want," Letton took up the strain, pausing significantly
to sip his mineral water, "what we want is to take large blocks
of Ward Valley off the hands of the public. We could do this
easily enough by depressing the market and frightening the
holders. And we could do it more cheaply in such fashion. But
we are absolute masters of the situation, and we are fair enough
to buy Ward Valley on a rising market. Not that we are
philanthropists, but that we need the investors in our big
development scheme. Nor do we lose directly by the transaction.
The instant the action of the directors becomes known, Ward
Valley will rush heavenward. In addition, and outside the
legitimate field of the transaction, we will pinch the shorts for
a very large sum. But that is only incidental, you understand,
and in a way, unavoidable. On the other hand, we shall not turn
up our noses at that phase of it. The shorts shall be the
veriest gamblers, of course, and they will get no more than they
"And one other thing, Mr. Harnish," Guggenhammer said, "if you
exceed your available cash, or the amount you care to invest in
the venture, don't fail immediately to call on us. Remember, we
are behind you."
"Yes, we are behind you," Dowsett repeated.
Nathaniel Letton nodded his head in affirmation.
"Now about that double dividend on the eighteenth-" John Dowsett
drew a slip of paper from his note-book and adjusted his glasses.
"Let me show you the figures. Here, you see..."
And thereupon he entered into a long technical and historical
explanation of the earnings and dividends of Ward Valley from the
day of its organization.
The whole conference lasted not more than an hour, during which
time Daylight lived at the topmost of the highest peak of life
that he had ever scaled. These men were big players. They were
powers. True, as he knew himself, they were not the real inner
circle. They did not rank with the Morgans and Harrimans. And
yet they were in touch with those giants and were themselves
lesser giants. He was pleased, too, with their attitude toward
him. They met him deferentially, but not patronizingly. It was
the deference of equality, and Daylight could not escape the
subtle flattery of it; for he was fully aware that in experience
as well as wealth they were far and away beyond him.
"We'll shake up the speculating crowd," Leon Guggenhammer
proclaimed jubilantly, as they rose to go. "And you are the man
to do it, Mr. Harnish. They are bound to think you are on your
own, and their shears are all sharpened for the trimming of
newcomers like you."
"They will certainly be misled," Letton agreed, his eerie gray
eyes blazing out from the voluminous folds of the huge Mueller
with which he was swathing his neck to the ears. "Their minds
run in ruts. It is the unexpected that upsets their stereotyped
calculations--any new combination, any strange factor, any fresh
variant. And you will be all that to them, Mr. Harnish. And I
repeat, they are gamblers, and they will deserve all that befalls
them. They clog and cumber all legitimate enterprise. You have
no idea of the trouble they cause men like us--sometimes, by
gambling tactics, upsetting the soundest plans, even overturning
the stablest institutions."
Dowsett and young Guggenhammer went away in one motor-car, and
Letton by himself in another. Daylight, with still in the
forefront of his consciousness all that had occurred in the
preceding hour, was deeply impressed by the scene at the moment
of departure. The three machines stood like weird night monsters
at the gravelled foot of the wide stairway under the unlighted
porte-cochere. It was a dark night, and the lights of the
motor-cars cut as sharply through the blackness as knives would
cut through solid substance. The obsequious lackey--the
automatic genie of the house which belonged to none of the three
men,--stood like a graven statue after having helped them in.
The fur-coated chauffeurs bulked dimly in their seats. One after
the other, like spurred steeds, the cars leaped into the
blackness, took the curve of the driveway, and were gone.
Daylight's car was the last, and, peering out, he caught a
glimpse of the unlighted house that loomed hugely through the
darkness like a mountain. Whose was it? he wondered. How came
they to use it for their secret conference? Would the lackey
talk? How about the chauffeurs? Were they trusted men like
"our" Mr. Howison? Mystery? The affair was alive with it. And
hand in hand with mystery walked Power. He leaned back and
inhaled his cigarette. Big things were afoot. The cards were
shuffled even the for a mighty deal, and he was in on it. He
remembered back to his poker games with Jack Kearns, and laughed
aloud. He had played for thousands in those days on the turn of
a card; but now he was playing for millions. And on the
eighteenth, when that dividend was declared, he chuckled at the
confusion that would inevitably descend upon the men with the
sharpened shears waiting to trim him--him, Burning Daylight.
Back at his hotel, though nearly two in the morning, he found
the reporters waiting to interview him. Next morning there were
more. And thus, with blare of paper trumpet, was he received by
New York. Once more, with beating of toms-toms and wild
hullaballoo, his picturesque figure strode across the printed
sheet. The King of the Klondike, the hero of the Arctic, the
thirty-million-dollar millionaire of the North, had come to New
York. What had he come for? To trim the New Yorkers as he had
trimmed the Tonopah crowd in Nevada? Wall Street had best watch
out, for the wild man of Klondike had just come to town. Or,
perchance, would Wall Street trim him? Wall Street had trimmed
many wild men; would this be Burning Daylight's fate? Daylight
grinned to himself, and gave out ambiguous interviews. It helped
the game, and he grinned again, as he meditated that Wall Street
would sure have to go some before it trimmed him.
They were prepared for him to play, and, when heavy buying of
Ward Valley began, it was quickly decided that he was the
operator. Financial gossip buzzed and hummed. He was after the
Guggenhammers once more. The story of Ophir was told over again
and sensationalized until even Daylight scarcely recognized it.
Still, it was all grist to his mill. The stock gamblers were
clearly befooled. Each day he increased his buying, and so eager
were the sellers that Ward Valley rose but slowly. "It sure
beats poker," Daylight whispered gleefully to himself, as he
noted the perturbation he was causing. The newspapers hazarded
countless guesses and surmises, and Daylight was constantly
dogged by a small battalion of reporters. His own interviews
were gems. Discovering the delight the newspapers took in his
vernacular, in his "you-alls," and "sures," and "surge-ups," he
even exaggerated these particularities of speech, exploiting the
phrases he had heard other frontiersmen use, and inventing
occasionally a new one of his own.
A wildly exciting time was his during the week preceding Thursday
the eighteenth. Not only was he gambling as he had never gambled
before, but he was gambling at the biggest table in the world and
for stakes so large that even the case-hardened habitues of that
table were compelled to sit up. In spite of the unlimited
selling, his persistent buying compelled Ward Valley steadily to
rise, and as Thursday approached, the situation became acute.
Something had to smash. How much Ward Valley was this Klondike
gambler going to buy? How much could he buy? What was the Ward
Valley crowd doing all this time? Daylight appreciated the
interviews with them that appeared--interviews delightfully
and non-committal. Leon Guggenhammer even hazarded the opinion
that this Northland Croesus might possibly be making a mistake.
But not that they cared, John Dowsett explained. Nor did they
object. While in the dark regarding his intentions, of one thing
they were certain; namely, that he was bulling Ward Valley. And
they did not mind that. No matter what happened to him and his
spectacular operations, Ward Valley was all right, and would
all right, as firm as the Rock of Gibraltar. No; they had no
Valley to sell, thank you. This purely fictitious state of the
market was bound shortly to pass, and Ward Valley was not to be
induced to change the even tenor of its way by any insane stock
exchange flurry. "It is purely gambling from beginning to end,"
were Nathaniel Letton's words; "and we refuse to have anything to
do with it or to take notice of it in any way."
During this time Daylight had several secret meetings with his
partners--one with Leon Guggenhammer, one with John Dowsett, and
two with Mr. Howison. Beyond congratulations, they really
amounted to nothing; for, as he was informed, everything was
going satisfactorily.
But on Tuesday morning a rumor that was disconcerting came to
Daylight's ears. It was also published in the Wall Street
Journal, and it was to the effect, on apparently straight inside
information, that on Thursday, when the directors of Ward Valley
met, instead of the customary dividend being declared, an
assessment would be levied. It was the first check Daylight had
received. It came to him with a shock that if the thing were so
he was a broken man. And it also came to him that all this
colossal operating of his was being done on his own money.
Dowsett, Guggenhammer, and Letton were risking nothing. It was a
panic, short-lived, it was true, but sharp enough while it lasted
to make him remember Holdsworthy and the brick-yard, and to
impel him to cancel all buying orders while he rushed to a
"Nothing in it--only a rumor," came Leon Guggenhammer's throaty
voice in the receiver. "As you know," said Nathaniel Letton, "I
am one of the directors, and I should certainly be aware of it
were such action contemplated. And John Dowsett: "I warned you
against just such rumors. There is not an iota of truth in
it--certainly not. I tell you on my honor as a gentleman."
Heartily ashamed of himself for his temporary loss of nerve,
Daylight returned to his task. The cessation of buying had
turned the Stock Exchange into a bedlam, and down all the line of
stocks the bears were smashing. Ward Valley, as the ape,
received the brunt of the shock, and was already beginning to
tumble. Daylight calmly doubled his buying orders. And all
through Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday morning, he went on
buying, while Ward Valley rose triumphantly higher. Still they
sold, and still he bought, exceeding his power to buy many times
over, when delivery was taken into account. What of that? On
this day the double dividend would be declared, he assured
himself. The pinch of delivery would be on the shorts. They
would be making terms with him.
And then the thunderbolt struck. True to the rumor, Ward Valley
levied the assessment. Daylight threw up his arms. He verified
the report and quit. Not alone Ward Valley, but all securities
were being hammered down by the triumphant bears. As for Ward
Valley, Daylight did not even trouble to learn if it had fetched
bottom or was still tumbling. Not stunned, not even bewildered,
while Wall Street went mad, Daylight withdrew from the field to
think it over. After a short conference with his brokers, he
proceeded to his hotel, on the way picking up the evening papers
and glancing at the head-lines. BURNING DAYLIGHT CLEANED OUT, he
MONEY. As he entered his hotel, a later edition announced the
suicide of a young man, a lamb, who had followed Daylight's play.
What in hell did he want to kill himself for? was Daylight's
muttered comment.
He passed up to his rooms, ordered a Martini cocktail, took off
his shoes, and sat down to think. After half an hour he roused
himself to take the drink, and as he felt the liquor pass
warmingly through his body, his features relaxed into a slow,
deliberate, yet genuine grin. He was laughing at himself.
"Buncoed, by gosh!" he muttered.
Then the grin died away, and his face grew bleak and serious.
Leaving out his interests in the several Western reclamation
projects (which were still assessing heavily), he was a ruined
man. But harder hit than this was his pride. He had been so
easy. They had gold-bricked him, and he had nothing to show for
it. The simplest farmer would have had documents, while he had
nothing but a gentleman's agreement, and a verbal one at that.
Gentleman's agreement. He snorted over it. John Dowsett's
just as he had heard it in the telephone receiver, sounded in his
ears the words, "On my honor as a gentleman." They were
sneak-thieves and swindlers, that was what they were, and they
had given him the double-cross. The newspapers were right. He
had come to New York to be trimmed, and Messrs. Dowsett, Letton,
and Guggenhammer had done it. He was a little fish, and they had
played with him ten days--ample time in which to swallow him,
along with his eleven millions. Of course, they had been
unloading on him all the time, and now they were buying Ward
Valley back for a song ere the market righted itself. Most
probably, out of his share of the swag, Nathaniel Letton would
erect a couple of new buildings for that university of his. Leon
Guggenhammer would buy new engines for that yacht, or a whole
fleet of yachts. But what the devil Dowsett would do with his
whack, was beyond him--most likely start another string of banks.
And Daylight sat and consumed cocktails and saw back in his life
to Alaska, and lived over the grim years in which he had battled
for his eleven millions. For a while murder ate at his heart,
and wild ideas and sketchy plans of killing his betrayers flashed
through his mind. That was what that young man should have done
instead of killing himself. He should have gone gunning.
Daylight unlocked his grip and took out his automatic pistol--a
big Colt's .44. He released the safety catch with his thumb, and
operating the sliding outer barrel, ran the contents of the clip
through the mechanism. The eight cartridges slid out in a
stream. He refilled the clip, threw a cartridge into the
chamber, and, with the trigger at full cock, thrust up the safety
ratchet. He shoved the weapon into the side pocket of his coat,
ordered another Martini, and resumed his seat.
He thought steadily for an hour, but he grinned no more. Lines
formed in his face, and in those lines were the travail of the
North, the bite of the frost, all that he had achieved and
suffered--the long, unending weeks of trail, the bleak tundra
shore of Point Barrow, the smashing ice-jam of the Yukon, the
battles with animals and men, the lean-dragged days of famine,
the long months of stinging hell among the mosquitoes of the
Koyokuk, the toil of pick and shovel, the scars and mars of
pack-strap and tump-line, the straight meat diet with the dogs,
and all the long procession of twenty full years of toil and
sweat and endeavor.
At ten o'clock he arose and pored over the city directory. Then
he put on his shoes, took a cab, and departed into the night.
Twice he changed cabs, and finally fetched up at the night office
of a detective agency. He superintended the thing himself, laid
down money in advance in profuse quantities, selected the six men
he needed, and gave them their instructions. Never, for so
simple a task, had they been so well paid; for, to each, in
addition to office charges, he gave a five-hundred-dollar bill,
with the promise of another if he succeeded. Some time next day,
he was convinced, if not sooner, his three silent partners would
come together. To each one two of his detectives were to be
attached. Time and place was all he wanted to learn.
"Stop at nothing, boys," were his final instructions. "I must
have this information. Whatever you do, whatever happens, I'll
sure see you through."
Returning to his hotel, he changed cabs as before, went up to his
room, and with one more cocktail for a nightcap, went to bed and
to sleep. In the morning he dressed and shaved, ordered
breakfast and the newspapers sent up, and waited. But he did not
drink. By nine o'clock his telephone began to ring and the
reports to come in. Nathaniel Letton was taking the train at
Tarrytown. John Dowsett was coming down by the subway. Leon
Guggenhammer had not stirred out yet, though he was assuredly
within. And in this fashion, with a map of the city spread out
before him, Daylight followed the movements of his three men as
they drew together. Nathaniel Letton was at his offices in the
Mutual-Solander Building. Next arrived Guggenhammer. Dowsett
was still in his own offices. But at eleven came the word that
he also had arrived, and several minutes later Daylight was in a
hired motor-car and speeding for the Mutual-Solander Building.
Nathaniel Letton was talking when the door opened; he ceased,
and with his two companions gazed with controlled perturbation at
Burning Daylight striding into the room. The free, swinging
movements of the trail-traveler were unconsciously exaggerated in
that stride of his. In truth, it seemed to him that he felt the
trail beneath his feet.
"Howdy, gentlemen, howdy," he remarked, ignoring the unnatural
calm with which they greeted his entrance. He shook hands with
them in turn, striding from one to another and gripping their
hands so heartily that Nathaniel Letton could not forbear to
wince. Daylight flung himself into a massive chair and sprawled
lazily, with an appearance of fatigue. The leather grip he had
brought into the room he dropped carelessly beside him on the
"Goddle mighty, but I've sure been going some," he sighed. "We
sure trimmed them beautiful. It was real slick. And the beauty
of the play never dawned on me till the very end. It was pure
and simple knock down and drag out. And the way they fell for it
was amazin'."
The geniality in his lazy Western drawl reassured them. He was
not so formidable, after all. Despite the act that he had
effected an entrance in the face of Letton's instructions to the
outer office, he showed no indication of making a scene or
playing rough.
"Well," Daylight demanded good-humoredly, "ain't you-all got a
good word for your pardner? Or has his sure enough brilliance
plumb dazzled you-all?"
Letton made a dry sound in his throat. Dowsett sat quietly and
waited, while Leon Guggenhammer struggled into articulation.
"You have certainly raised Cain," he said.
Daylight's black eyes flashed in a pleased way.
"Didn't I, though!" he proclaimed jubilantly. "And didn't we
fool'em! I was totally surprised. I never dreamed they would be
that easy.
"And now," he went on, not permitting the pause to grow awkward,
"we-all might as well have an accounting. I'm pullin' West this
afternoon on that blamed Twentieth Century." He tugged at his
grip, got it open, and dipped into it with both his hands. "But
don't forget, boys, when you-all want me to hornswoggle Wall
Street another flutter, all you-all have to do is whisper the
word. I'll sure be right there with the goods."
His hands emerged, clutching a great mass of stubs, check-books,
and broker's receipts. These he deposited in a heap on the big
table, and dipping again, he fished out the stragglers and added
them to the pile. He consulted a slip of paper, drawn from his
coat pocket, and read aloud:-
"Ten million twenty-seven thousand and forty-two dollars and
sixty-eight cents is my figurin' on my expenses. Of course
that-all's taken from the winnings before we-all get to figurin'
on the whack-up. Where's your figures? It must a' been a Goddle
mighty big clean-up."
The three men looked their bepuzzlement at one another. The man
was a bigger fool than they had imagined, or else he was playing
a game which they could not divine.
Nathaniel Letton moistened his lips and spoke up.
"It will take some hours yet, Mr. Harnish, before the full
accounting can be made. Mr. Howison is at work upon it now.
We--ah--as you say, it has been a gratifying clean-up. Suppose
have lunch together and talk it over. I'll have the clerks work
through the noon hour, so that you will have ample time to catch
your train."
Dowsett and Guggenhammer manifested a relief that was almost
obvious. The situation was clearing. It was disconcerting,
under the circumstances, to be pent in the same room with this
heavy-muscled, Indian-like man whom they had robbed. They
remembered unpleasantly the many stories of his strength and
recklessness. If Letton could only put him off long enough for
them to escape into the policed world outside the office door,
all would be well; and Daylight showed all the signs of being put
"I'm real glad to hear that," he said. "I don't want to miss
that train, and you-all have done me proud, gentlemen, letting me
in on this deal. I just do appreciate it without being able to
express my feelings. But I am sure almighty curious, and I'd
like terrible to know, Mr. Letton, what your figures of our
winning is. Can you-all give me a rough estimate?"
Nathaniel Letton did not look appealingly at his two friends, but
in the brief pause they felt that appeal pass out from him.
Dowsett, of sterner mould than the others, began to divine that
the Klondiker was playing. But the other two were still older
the blandishment of his child-like innocence.
"It is extremely--er--difficult," Leon Guggenhammer began. "You
see, Ward Valley has fluctuated so, er--"
"That no estimate can possibly be made in advance," Letton
"Approximate it, approximate it," Daylight counselled cheerfully.
"It don't hurt if you-all are a million or so out one side or the
other. The figures'll straighten that up. But I'm that curious
I'm just itching all over. What d'ye say?"
"Why continue to play at cross purposes?" Dowsett demanded
abruptly and coldly. "Let us have the explanation here and now.
Mr. Harnish is laboring under a false impression, and he should
be set straight. In this deal--"
But Daylight interrupted. He had played too much poker to be
unaware or unappreciative of the psychological factor, and he
headed Dowsett off in order to play the denouncement of the
present game in his own way.
"Speaking of deals," he said, "reminds me of a poker game I once
seen in Reno, Nevada. It wa'n't what you-all would call a
square game. They-all was tin-horns that sat in. But they was a
tenderfoot--short-horns they-all are called out there. He stands
behind the dealer and sees that same dealer give hisself four
aces offen the bottom of the deck. The tenderfoot is sure
shocked. He slides around to the player facin' the dealer across
the table.
"'Say,' he whispers, 'I seen the dealer deal hisself four aces.'
"'Well, an' what of it?" says the player.
"'I'm tryin' to tell you-all because I thought you-all ought to
know,' says the tenderfoot. 'I tell you-all I seen him deal
hisself four aces.'
"'Say, mister,' says the player, 'you-all'd better get outa
here. You-all don't understand the game. It's his deal, ain't
The laughter that greeted his story was hollow and perfunctory,
but Daylight appeared not to notice it.
"Your story has some meaning, I suppose," Dowsett said pointedly.
Daylight looked at him innocently and did not reply. He turned
jovially to Nathaniel Letton.
"Fire away," he said. "Give us an approximation of our winning.
As I said before, a million out one way or the other won't
matter, it's bound to be such an almighty big winning." By
this time Letton was stiffened by the attitude Dowsett had taken,
and his answer was prompt and definite.
"I fear you are under a misapprehension, Mr. Harnish. There are
no winnings to be divided with you. Now don't get excited, I beg
of you. I have but to press this button..."
Far from excited, Daylight had all the seeming of being stunned.
He felt absently in his vest pocket for a match, lighted it, and
discovered that he had no cigarette. The three men watched him
with the tense closeness of cats. Now that it had come, they
knew that they had a nasty few minutes before them.
"Do you-all mind saying that over again?" Daylight said. "Seems
to me I ain't got it just exactly right. You-all said...?"
He hung with painful expectancy on Nathaniel Letton's utterance.
"I said you were under a misapprehension, Mr. Harnish, that was
all. You have been stock gambling, and you have been hard hit.
But neither Ward Valley, nor I, nor my associates, feel that we
owe you anything."
Daylight pointed at the heap of receipts and stubs on the table.
"That-all represents ten million twenty-seven thousand and
forty-two dollars and sixty-eight cents, hard cash. Ain't it
good for anything here?"
Letton smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
Daylight looked at Dowsett and murmured:--
"I guess that story of mine had some meaning, after all." He
laughed in a sickly fashion. "It was your deal all right, and
you-all dole them right, too. Well, I ain't kicking. I'm like
the player in that poker game. It was your deal, and you-all had
a right to do your best. And you d-one it-cleaned me out
slicker'n a whistle."
He gazed at the heap on the table with an air of stupefaction.
"And that-all ain't worth the paper it's written on. Gol dast it,
you-all can sure deal 'em 'round when you get a chance.
Oh, no, I ain't a-kicking. It was your deal, and you-all
certainly done me, and a man ain't half a man that squeals on
another man's deal. And now the hand is played out, and the
cards are on the table, and the deal's over, but..."
His hand, dipping swiftly into his inside breast pocket, appeared
with the big Colt's automatic.
"As I was saying, the old deal's finished. Now it's MY deal, and
I'm a-going to see if I can hold them four aces-
"Take your hand away, you whited sepulchre!" he cried sharply.
Nathaniel Letton's hand, creeping toward the push-button on the
desk, was abruptly arrested.
"Change chairs," Daylight commanded. "Take that chair over
there, you gangrene-livered skunk. Jump! By God! or I'll make
you leak till folks'll think your father was a water hydrant and
your mother a sprinkling-cart. You-all move your chair
alongside, Guggenhammer; and you-all Dowsett, sit right there,
while I just irrelevantly explain the virtues of this here
automatic. She's loaded for big game and she goes off eight
times. She's a sure hummer when she gets started.
"Preliminary remarks being over, I now proceed to deal.
Remember, I ain't making no remarks about your deal. You done
your darndest, and it was all right. But this is my deal, and
it's up to me to do my darndest. In the first place, you-all
know me. I'm Burning Daylight--savvee? Ain't afraid of God,
devil, death, nor destruction. Them's my four aces, and they
sure copper your bets. Look at that there living skeleton.
Letton, you're sure afraid to die. Your bones is all rattling
together you're that scared. And look at that fat Jew there.
This little weapon's sure put the fear of God in his heart. He's
yellow as a sick persimmon. Dowsett, you're a cool one. You-all
ain't batted an eye nor turned a hair. That's because you're
great on arithmetic. And that makes you-all dead easy in this
deal of mine. You're sitting there and adding two and two
together, and you-all know I sure got you skinned. You know me,
and that I ain't afraid of nothing. And you-all adds up all your
money and knows you ain't a-going to die if you can help it."
"I'll see you hanged," was Dowsett's retort.
"Not by a damned sight. When the fun starts, you're the first I
plug. I'll hang all right, but you-all won't live to see it.
You-all die here and now while I'll die subject to the law's
delay--savvee? Being dead, with grass growing out of your
carcasses, you won't know when I hang, but I'll sure have the
pleasure a long time of knowing you-all beat me to it."
Daylight paused.
"You surely wouldn't kill us?" Letton asked in a queer, thin
Daylight shook his head.
"It's sure too expensive. You-all ain't worth it. I'd sooner
have my chips back. And I guess you-all'd sooner give my chips
back than go to the dead-house."
A long silence followed.
"Well, I've done dealt. It's up to you-all to play. But while
you're deliberating, I want to give you-all a warning: if that
door opens and any one of you cusses lets on there's anything
unusual, right here and then I sure start plugging. They ain't a
soul'll get out the room except feet first."
A long session of three hours followed. The deciding factor was
not the big automatic pistol, but the certitude that Daylight
would use it. Not alone were the three men convinced of this,
but Daylight himself was convinced. He was firmly resolved to
kill the men if his money was not forthcoming. It was not an
easy matter, on the spur of the moment, to raise ten millions in
paper currency, and there were vexatious delays. A dozen times
Mr. Howison and the head clerk were summoned into the room. On
these occasions the pistol lay on Daylight's lap, covered
carelessly by a newspaper, while he was usually engaged in
rolling or lighting his brown-paper cigarettes. But in the end,
the thing was accomplished. A suit-case was brought up by one of
the clerks from the waiting motor-car, and Daylight snapped it
shut on the last package of bills. He paused at the door to make
his final remarks.
"There's three several things I sure want to tell you-all. When
I get outside this door, you-all'll be set free to act, and I
just want to warn you-all about what to do. In the first place,
no warrants for my arrest--savvee? This money's mine, and I
robbed you of it. If it gets out how you gave me the
and how I done you back again, the laugh'll be on you, and it'll
sure be an almighty big laugh. You-all can't afford that laugh.
Besides, having got back my stake that you-all robbed me of, if
arrest me and try to rob me a second time, I'll go gunning for
you-all, and I'll sure get you. No little fraid-cat shrimps like
you-all can skin Burning Daylight. If you win you lose, and
there'll sure be some several unexpected funerals around this
Just look me in the eye, and you-all'll savvee I mean business.
Them stubs and receipts on the table is all yourn. Good day."
As the door shut behind him, Nathaniel Letton sprang for the
telephone, and Dowsett intercepted him.
"What are you going to do?" Dowsett demanded.
"The police. It's downright robbery. I won't stand it. I tell
you I won't stand it."
Dowsett smiled grimly, but at the same time bore the slender
financier back and down into his chair.
"We'll talk it over," he said; and in Leon Guggenhammer he found
an anxious ally.
And nothing ever came of it. The thing remained a secret with
the three men. Nor did Daylight ever give the secret away,
though that afternoon, leaning back in his stateroom on the
Twentieth Century, his shoes off, and feet on a chair, he
chuckled long and heartily. New York remained forever puzzled
over the affair; nor could it hit upon a rational explanation.
By all rights, Burning Daylight should have gone broke, yet it
was known that he immediately reappeared in San Francisco
possessing an apparently unimpaired capital. This was evidenced
by the magnitude of the enterprises he engaged in, such as, for
instance, Panama Mail, by sheer weight of money and fighting
power wresting the control away from Shiftily and selling out in
two months to the Harriman interests at a rumored enormous
Back in San Francisco, Daylight quickly added to his reputation
In ways it was not an enviable reputation. Men were afraid of
him. He became known as a fighter, a fiend, a tiger. His play
was a ripping and smashing one, and no one knew where or how his
next blow would fall. The element of surprise was large. He
balked on the unexpected, and, fresh from the wild North, his
mind not operating in stereotyped channels, he was able in
unusual degree to devise new tricks and stratagems. And once he
won the advantage, he pressed it remorselessly. "As relentless
as a Red Indian," was said of him, and it was said truly.
On the other hand, he was known as "square." His word was as
good as his bond, and this despite the fact that he accepted
nobody's word. He always shied at propositions based on
gentlemen's agreements, and a man who ventured his honor as a
gentleman, in dealing with Daylight, inevitably was treated to an
unpleasant time. Daylight never gave his own word unless he held
the whip-hand. It was a case with the other fellow taking it or
Legitimate investment had no place in Daylight's play. It tied
up his money, and reduced the element of risk. It was the
gambling side of business that fascinated him, and to play in his
slashing manner required that his money must be ready to hand.
It was never tied up save for short intervals, for he was
principally engaged in turning it over and over, raiding here,
there, and everywhere, a veritable pirate of the financial main.
A five-per cent safe investment had no attraction for him; but to
risk millions in sharp, harsh skirmish, standing to lose
everything or to win fifty or a hundred per cent, was the savor
of life to him. He played according to the rules of the game,
he played mercilessly. When he got a man or a corporation down
they squealed, he gouged no less hard. Appeals for financial
fell on deaf ears. He was a free lance, and had no friendly
business associations. Such alliances as were formed
from time to time were purely affairs of expediency, and he
regarded his allies as men who would give him the double-cross or
ruin him if a profitable chance presented. In spite of this
point of view, he was faithful to his allies. But he was
faithful just as long as they were and no longer. The treason
had to come from them, and then it was 'Ware Daylight.
The business men and financiers of the Pacific coast never forgot
the lesson of Charles Klinkner and the California & Altamont
Trust Company. Klinkner was the president. In partnership with
Daylight, the pair raided the San Jose Interurban. The powerful
Lake Power & Electric Lighting corporation came to the rescue,
and Klinkner, seeing what he thought was the opportunity, went
over to the enemy in the thick of the pitched battle. Daylight
lost three millions before he was done with it, and before he was
done with it he saw the California & Altamont Trust Company
hopelessly wrecked, and Charles Klinkner a suicide in a felon's
cell. Not only did Daylight lose his grip on San Jose
Interurban, but in the crash of his battle front he lost heavily
all along the line. It was conceded by those competent to judge
that he could have compromised and saved much. But, instead, he
deliberately threw up the battle with San Jose Interurban and
Lake Power, and, apparently defeated, with Napoleonic suddenness
struck at Klinkner. It was the last unexpected thing Klinkner
would have dreamed of, and Daylight knew it. He knew, further,
that the California & Altamont Trust Company has an intrinsically
sound institution, but that just then it was in a precarious
condition due to Klinkner's speculations with its money. He
knew, also, that in a few months the Trust Company would be more
firmly on its feet than ever, thanks to those same speculations,
and that if he were to strike he must strike immediately. "It's
just that much money in pocket and a whole lot more," he was
reported to have said in connection with his heavy losses. "It's
just so much insurance against the future. Henceforth, men who
go in with me on deals will think twice before they try to
double-cross me, and then some."
The reason for his savageness was that he despised the men with
whom he played. He had a conviction that not one in a hundred of
them was intrinsically square; and as for the square ones, he
prophesied that, playing in a crooked game, they were sure to
lose and in the long run go broke. His New York experience had
opened his eyes. He tore the veils of illusion from the business
game, and saw its nakedness. He generalized upon industry and
society somewhat as follows:--
Society, as organized, was a vast bunco game. There were many
hereditary inefficients--men and women who were not weak enough
be confined in feeble-minded homes, but who were not strong
enough to be ought else than hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Then there were the fools who took the organized bunco game
seriously, honoring and respecting it. They were easy game for
the others, who saw clearly and knew the bunco game for what it
Work, legitimate work, was the source of all wealth. That was to
say, whether it was a sack of potatoes, a grand piano, or a
seven-passenger touring car, it came into being only by the
performance of work. Where the bunco came in was in the
distribution of these things after labor had created them. He
failed to see the horny-handed sons of toil enjoying grand pianos
or riding in automobiles. How this came about was explained by
the bunco. By tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands men
sat up nights and schemed how they could get between the workers
and the things the workers produced. These schemers were the
business men. When they got between the worker and his product,
they took a whack out of it for themselves The size of the whack
was determined by no rule of equity; but by their own strength
and swinishness. It was always a case of "all the traffic can
bear." He saw all men in the business game doing this.
One day, in a mellow mood (induced by a string of cocktails and
a hearty lunch), he started a conversation with Jones, the
elevator boy. Jones was a slender, mop-headed, man-grown,
truculent flame of an individual who seemed to go out of his way
to insult his passengers. It was this that attracted Daylight's
interest, and he was not long in finding out what was the matter
with Jones. He was a proletarian, according to his own
aggressive classification, and he had wanted to write for a
living. Failing to win with the magazines, and compelled to find
himself in food and shelter, he had gone to the little valley of
Petacha, not a hundred miles from Los Angeles. Here, toiling in
the day-time, he planned to write and study at night. But the
railroad charged all the traffic would bear. Petacha was a
desert valley, and produced only three things: cattle, fire-wood,
and charcoal. For freight to Los Angeles on a carload of
cattle the railroad charged eight dollars. This, Jones
explained, was due to the fact that the cattle had legs and could
be driven to Los Angeles at a cost equivalent to the charge per
car load. But firewood had no legs, and the railroad charged
just precisely twenty-four dollars a carload.
This was a fine adjustment, for by working hammer-and- tongs
through a twelve-hour day, after freight had been deducted from
the selling price of the wood in Los Angeles, the wood-chopper
received one dollar and sixty cents. Jones had thought to get
ahead of the game by turning his wood into charcoa. His
were satisfactory. But the railroad also made estimates. It
issued a rate of forty-two dollars a car on charcoal. At the end
of three months, Jones went over his figures, and found that he
still making one dollar and sixty cents a day.
"So I quit," Jones concluded. "I went hobbling for a year, and I
got back at the railroads. Leaving out the little things, I came
across the Sierras in the summer and touched a match to the
snow-sheds. They only had a little thirty- thousand-dollar fire.
I guess that squared up all balances due on Petacha."
"Son, ain't you afraid to be turning loose such information?"
Daylight gravely demanded.
"Not on your life," quoth Jones. "They can't prove it. You
could say I said so, and I could say I didn't say so, and a hell
of a lot that evidence would amount to with a jury."
Daylight went into his office and meditated awhile. That was it:
all the traffic would bear. From top to bottom, that was the
rule of the game; and what kept the game going was the fact that
a sucker was born every minute. If a Jones were born every
minute, the game wouldn't last very long. Lucky for the players
that the workers weren't Joneses.
But there were other and larger phases of the game. Little
business men, shopkeepers, and such ilk took what whack they
could out of the product of the worker; but, after all, it was
the large business men who formed the workers through the little
business men. When all was said and done, the latter, like Jones
in Petacha Valley, got no more than wages out of their whack. In
truth, they were hired men for the large business men. Still
again, higher up, were the big fellows. They used vast and
complicated paraphernalia for the purpose, on a large scale of
getting between hundreds of thousands of workers and their
products. These men were not so much mere robbers as gamblers.
And, not content with their direct winnings, being essentially
gamblers, they raided one another. They called this feature of
the game HIGH FINANCE. They were all engaged primarily in
robbing the worker, but every little while they formed
combinations and robbed one another of the accumulated loot.
This explained the fifty-thousand-dollar raid on him by
Holdsworthy and the ten-million-dollar raid on him by Dowsett,
Letton, and Guggenhammer. And when he raided Panama Mail he had
done exactly the same thing. Well, he concluded, it was finer
sport robbing the robbers than robbing the poor stupid workers.
Thus, all unread in philosophy, Daylight preempted for himself
the position and vocation of a twentieth-century superman. He
found, with rare and mythical exceptions, that there was no
noblesse oblige among the business and financial supermen. As
a clever traveler had announced in an after-dinner speech at the
Alta-Pacific, "There was honor amongst thieves, and this was what
distinguished thieves from honest men." That was it. It hit
the nail on the head. These modern supermen were a lot of sordid
banditti who had the successful effrontery to preach a code of
right and wrong to their victims which they themselves did not
practise. With them, a man's word was good just as long as he
was compelled to keep it. THOU SHALT NOT STEAL was only
applicable to the honest worker. They, the supermen, were above
such commandments. They certainly stole and were honored by
their fellows according to the magnitude of their stealings.
The more Daylight played the game, the clearer the situation
grew. Despite the fact that every robber was keen to rob every
other robber, the band was well organized. It practically
controlled the political machinery of society, from the ward
politician up to the Senate of the United States. It passed laws
that gave it privilege to rob. It enforced these laws by means
of the police, the marshals, the militia and regular army, and
the courts. And it was a snap. A superman's chiefest danger was
his fellow-superman. The great stupid mass of the people did not
count. They were constituted of such inferior clay that the
veriest chicanery fooled them. The superman manipulated the
strings, and when robbery of the workers became too slow or
monotonous, they turned loose and robbed one another.
Daylight was philosophical, but not a philosopher. He had never
read the books. He was a hard-headed, practical man, and
farthest from him was any intention of ever reading the books.
He had lived life in the simple, where books were not necessary
for an understanding of life, and now life in the complex
appeared just as simple. He saw through its frauds and fictions,
and found it as elemental as on the Yukon. Men were made of the
same stuff. They had the same passions and desires. Finance was
poker on a larger scale. The men who played were the men who had
stakes. The workers were the fellows toiling for grubstakes. He
saw the game played out according to the everlasting rules, and
he played a hand himself. The gigantic futility of humanity
organized and befuddled by the bandits did not shock him. It was
the natural order. Practically all human endeavors were futile.
He had seen so much of it. His partners had starved and died on
the Stewart. Hundreds of old-timers had failed to locate on
Bonanza and Eldorado, while Swedes and chechaquos had come in
on the moose-pasture and blindly staked millions. It was life,
and life was a savage proposition at best. Men in civilization
robbed because they were so made. They robbed just as cats
scratched, famine pinched, and frost bit.
So it was that Daylight became a successful financier. He did
go in for swindling the workers. Not only did he not have the
heart for it, but it did not strike him as a sporting
proposition. The workers were so easy, so stupid. It was more
like slaughtering fat hand-reared pheasants on the English
preserves he had heard about. The sport to him, was in waylaying
the successful robbers and taking their spoils from them. There
was fun and excitement in that, and sometimes they put up the
very devil of a fight. Like Robin Hood of old, Daylight proceeded
to rob the rich; and, in a small way, to distribute to the needy.
But he was charitable after his own fashion. The great mass of
human misery meant nothing to him. That was part of the
everlasting order. He had no patience with the organized
charities and the professional charity mongers. Nor, on the
other hand, was what he gave a conscience dole. He owed no man,
and restitution was unthinkable. What he gave was a largess, a
free, spontaneous gift; and it was for those about him. He never
contributed to an earthquake fund in Japan nor to an open-air
fund in New York City. Instead, he financed Jones, the elevator
boy, for a year that he might write a book. When he learned that
the wife of his waiter at the St. Francis was suffering from
tuberculosis, he sent her to Arizona, and later, when her case
was declared hopeless, he sent the husband, too, to be with her
to the end. Likewise, he bought a string of horse-hair bridles
from a convict in a Western penitentiary, who spread the good
news until it seemed to Daylight that half the convicts in that
institution were making bridles for him. He bought them all,
paying from twenty to fifty dollars each for them. They were
beautiful and honest things, and he decorated all the available
wall-space of his bedroom with them.
The grim Yukon life had failed to make Daylight hard. It
required civilization to produce this result. In the fierce,
savage game he now played, his habitual geniality imperceptibly
slipped away from him, as did his lazy Western drawl. As his
speech became sharp and nervous, so did his mental processes. In
the swift rush of the game he found less and less time to spend
on being merely good-natured. The change marked his face itself.
The lines grew sterner. Less often appeared the playful curl of
his lips, the smile in the wrinkling corners of his eyes. The
eyes themselves, black and flashing, like an Indian's, betrayed
glints of cruelty and brutal consciousness of power. His
tremendous vitality remained, and radiated from all his being,
but it was vitality under the new aspect of the man-trampling
man-conqueror. His battles with elemental nature had been, in a
way, impersonal; his present battles were wholly with the males
of his species, and the hardships of the trail, the river, and
the frost marred him far less than the bitter keenness of the
struggle with his fellows.
He still had recrudescence of geniality, but they were largely
periodical and forced, and they were usually due to the cocktails
he took prior to meal-time. In the North, he had drunk deeply
and at irregular intervals; but now his drinking became
systematic and disciplined. It was an unconscious development,
but it was based upon physical and mental condition. The
cocktails served as an inhibition. Without reasoning or thinking
about it, the strain of the office, which was essentially due to
the daring and audacity of his ventures, required check or
cessation; and he found, through the weeks and months, that the
cocktails supplied this very thing. They constituted a stone
wall. He never drank during the morning, nor in office hours;
but the instant he left the office he proceeded to rear this wall
of alcoholic inhibition athwart his consciousness. The office
became immediately a closed affair. It ceased to exist. In the
afternoon, after lunch, it lived again for one or two hours,
when, leaving it, he rebuilt the wall of inhibition. Of course,
there were exceptions to this; and, such was the rigor of his
discipline, that if he had a dinner or a conference before him in
which, in a business way, he encountered enemies or allies and
planned or prosecuted campaigns, he abstained from drinking. But
the instant the business was settled, his everlasting call went
out for a Martini, and for a double-Martini at that, served in a
long glass so as not to excite comment.
Into Daylight's life came Dede Mason. She came rather
imperceptibly. He had accepted her impersonally along with the
office furnishing, the office boy, Morrison, the chief,
confidential, and only clerk, and all the rest of the accessories
of a superman's gambling place of business. Had he been asked
time during the first months she was in his employ, he would have
been unable to tell the color of her eyes. From the fact that
was a demiblonde, there resided dimly in his subconsciousness a
conception that she was a brunette. Likewise he had an idea that
she was not thin, while there was an absence in his mind of any
idea that she was fat. As to how she dressed, he had no ideas at
all. He had no trained eye in such matters, nor was he
He took it for granted, in the lack of any impression to the
contrary, that she was dressed some how. He knew her as "Miss
Mason," and that was all, though he was aware that as a
stenographer she seemed quick and accurate. This
impression, however, was quite vague, for he had had no
experience with other stenographers, and naturally believed that
they were all quick and accurate.
One morning, signing up letters, he came upon an I shall.
Glancing quickly over the page for similar constructions, he
found a number of I wills. The I shall was alone. It stood out
conspicuously. He pressed the call-bell twice, and a moment
later Dede Mason entered. "Did I say that, Miss Mason?" he
asked, extending the letter to her and pointing out the criminal
phrase. A shade of annoyance crossed her face. She stood
"My mistake," she said. "I am sorry. But it's not a mistake,
you know," she added quickly.
"How do you make that out?" challenged Daylight. "It sure don't
sound right, in my way of thinking."
She had reached the door by this time, and now turned the
letter in her hand. "It's right just the same."
"But that would make all those I wills wrong, then," he argued.
"It does," was her audacious answer. "Shall I change them?"
"I shall be over to look that affair up on Monday." Daylight
repeated the sentence from the letter aloud. He did it with a
grave, serious air, listening intently to the sound of his own
voice. He shook his head. "It don't sound right, Miss Mason.
It just don't sound right. Why, nobody writes to me that way.
They all say I will--educated men, too, some of them. Ain't that
"Yes," she acknowledged, and passed out to her machine to make
It chanced that day that among the several men with whom he sat
at luncheon was a young Englishman, a mining engineer. Had it
happened any other time it would have passed unnoticed, but,
fresh from the tilt with his stenographer, Daylight was struck
immediately by the Englishman's I shall. Several times, in the
course of the meal, the phrase was repeated, and Daylight was
certain there was no mistake about it.
After luncheon he cornered Macintosh, one of the members whom he
knew to have been a college man, because of his football
"Look here, Bunny," Daylight demanded, "which is right, I shall
be over to look that affair up on Monday, or I will be over to
look that affair up on Monday?"
The ex-football captain debated painfully for a minute. "Blessed
if I know," he confessed. "Which way do I say it?
"Oh, I will, of course."
"Then the other is right, depend upon it. I always was rotten on
On the way back to the office, Daylight dropped into a bookstore
and bought a grammar; and for a solid hour, his feet up on the
desk, he toiled through its pages. "Knock off my head with
little apples if the girl ain't right," he communed aloud at the
end of the session. For the first time it struck him that there
was something about his stenographer. He had accepted her up to
then, as a female creature and a bit of office furnishing. But
now, having demonstrated that she knew more grammar than did
business men and college graduates, she became an individual.
She seemed to stand out in his consciousness as conspicuously as
the I shall had stood out on the typed page, and he began to take
He managed to watch her leaving that afternoon, and he was aware
for the first time that she was well-formed, and that her manner
of dress was satisfying. He knew none of the details of women's
dress, and he saw none of the details of her neat shirt-waist and
well-cut tailor suit. He saw only the effect in a general,
sketchy way. She looked right. This was in the absence of
anything wrong or out of the way.
"She's a trim little good-looker," was his verdict, when the
outer office door closed on her.
The next morning, dictating, he concluded that he liked the way
she did her hair, though for the life of him he could have given
no description of it. The impression was pleasing, that was all.
She sat between him and the window, and he noted that her hair
was light brown, with hints of golden bronze. A pale sun,
shining in, touched the golden bronze into smouldering fires that
were very pleasing to behold. Funny, he thought, that he had
never observed this phenomenon before.
In the midst of the letter he came to the construction which had
caused the trouble the day before. He remembered his wrestle
with the grammar, and dictated.
"I shall meet you halfway this proposition--"
Miss Mason gave a quick look up at him. The action was purely
involuntary, and, in fact, had been half a startle of surprise.
The next instant her eyes had dropped again, and she sat waiting
to go on with the dictation. But in that moment of her glance
Daylight had noted that her eyes were gray. He was later to
learn that at times there were golden lights in those same gray
eyes; but he had seen enough, as it was, to surprise him, for he
became suddenly aware that he had always taken her for a brunette
with brown eyes, as a matter of course.
"You were right, after all," he confessed, with a sheepish grin
that sat incongruously on his stern, Indian-like features.
Again he was rewarded by an upward glance and an acknowledging
smile, and this time he verified the fact that her eyes were
"But it don't sound right, just the same," he complained. At
this she laughed outright.
"I beg your pardon," she hastened to make amends, and then
it by adding, "but you are so funny."
Daylight began to feel a slight awkwardness, and the sun would
persist in setting her hair a-smouldering.
"I didn't mean to be funny," he said.
"That was why I laughed. But it is right, and perfectly good
"All right," he sighed--"I shall meet you halfway in this
proposition--got that?" And the dictation went on. He discovered
that in the intervals, when she had nothing to do, she read books
and magazines, or worked on some sort of feminine fancy work.
Passing her desk, once, he picked up a volume of Kipling's poems
and glanced bepuzzled through the pages. "You like reading, Miss
Mason?" he said, laying the book down.
"Oh, yes," was her answer; "very much."
Another time it was a book of Wells', The Wheels of Change.
"What's it all about?" Daylight asked.
"Oh, it's just a novel, a love-story." She stopped, but he still
stood waiting, and she felt it incumbent to go on.
"It's about a little Cockney draper's assistant, who takes a
vacation on his bicycle, and falls in with a young girl very much
above him. Her mother is a popular writer and all that. And the
situation is very curious, and sad, too, and tragic. Would you
care to read it?"
"Does he get her?" Daylight demanded.
"No; that's the point of it. He wasn't--"
"And he doesn't get her, and you've read all them pages, hundreds
of them, to find that out?" Daylight muttered in amazement.
Miss Mason was nettled as well as amused.
"But you read the mining and financial news by the hour," she
"But I sure get something out of that. It's business, and it's
different. I get money out of it. What do you get out of
"Points of view, new ideas, life."
"Not worth a cent cash."
"But life's worth more than cash," she argued.
"Oh, well," he said, with easy masculine tolerance, "so long as
you enjoy it. That's what counts, I suppose; and there's no
accounting for taste."
Despite his own superior point of view, he had an idea that she
knew a lot, and he experienced a fleeting feeling like that of a
barbarian face to face with the evidence of some tremendous
culture. To Daylight culture was a worthless thing, and yet,
somehow, he was vaguely troubled by a sense that there was more
in culture than he imagined.
Again, on her desk, in passing, he noticed a book with which he
was familiar. This time he did not stop, for he had recognized
the cover. It was a magazine correspondent's book on the
Klondike, and he knew that he and his photograph figured in it
and he knew, also, of a certain sensational chapter concerned
with a woman's suicide, and with one "Too much Daylight."
After that he did not talk with her again about books. He
what erroneous conclusions she had drawn from that particular
chapter, and it stung him the more in that they were undeserved.
Of all unlikely things, to have the reputation of being a
lady-killer,--he, Burning Daylight,--and to have a woman kill
herself out of love for him. He felt that he was a most
unfortunate man and wondered by what luck that one book of all
the thousands of books should have fallen into his stenographer's
hands. For some days afterward he had an uncomfortable sensation
of guiltiness whenever he was in Miss Mason's presence; and once
he was positive that he caught her looking at him with a curious,
intent gaze, as if studying what manner of man he was.
He pumped Morrison, the clerk, who had first to vent his personal
grievance against Miss Mason before he could tell what little he
knew of her.
"She comes from Siskiyou County. She's very nice to work with in
the office, of course, but she's rather stuck on herself--
exclusive, you know."
"How do you make that out?" Daylight queried.
"Well, she thinks too much of herself to associate with those she
works with, in the office here, for instance. She won't have
anything to do with a fellow, you see. I've asked her out
repeatedly, to the theatre and the chutes and such things. But
nothing doing. Says she likes plenty of sleep, and can't stay up
late, and has to go all the way to Berkeley--that's where she
This phase of the report gave Daylight a distinct satisfaction.
She was a bit above the ordinary, and no doubt about it. But
Morrison's next words carried a hurt.
"But that's all hot air. She's running with the University boys,
that's what she's doing. She needs lots of sleep and can't go to
the theatre with me, but she can dance all hours with them. I've
heard it pretty straight that she goes to all their hops and such
things. Rather stylish and high-toned for a stenographer, I'd
say. And she keeps a horse, too. She rides astride all over
those hills out there. I saw her one Sunday myself. Oh, she's a
high-flyer, and I wonder how she does it. Sixty-five a month
don't go far. Then she has a sick brother, too."
"Live with her people?" Daylight asked.
"No; hasn't got any. They were well to do, I've heard. They
must have been, or that brother of hers couldn't have gone to the
University of California. Her father had a big cattle-ranch, but
he got to fooling with mines or something, and went broke before
he died. Her mother died long before that. Her brother must
cost a lot of money. He was a husky once, played football, was
great on hunting and being out in the mountains and such things.
He got his accident breaking horses, and then rheumatism or
something got into him. One leg is shorter than the other and
withered up some. He has to walk on crutches. I saw her out
with him once--crossing the ferry. The doctors have been
experimenting on him for years, and he's in the French Hospital
now, I think."
All of which side-lights on Miss Mason went to increase
Daylight's interest in her. Yet, much as he desired, he failed
to get acquainted with her. He had thoughts of asking her to
luncheon, but his was the innate chivalry of the frontiersman,
and the thoughts never came to anything. He knew a
self-respecting, square-dealing man was not supposed to take his
stenographer to luncheon. Such things did happen, he knew, for
he heard the chaffing gossip of the club; but he did not think
much of such men and felt sorry for the girls. He had a strange
notion that a man had less rights over those he employed than
over mere acquaintances or strangers. Thus, had Miss Mason not
been his employee, he was confident that he would have had her to
luncheon or the theatre in no time. But he felt that it was an
imposition for an employer, because he bought the time of an
employee in working hours, to presume in any way upon any of the
rest of that employee's time. To do so was to act like a bully.
The situation was unfair. It was taking advantage of the fact
that the employee was dependent on one for a livelihood. The
employee might permit the imposition through fear of angering the
employer and not through any personal inclination at all.
In his own case he felt that such an imposition would be
peculiarly obnoxious, for had she not read that cursed Klondike
correspondent's book? A pretty idea she must have of him, a girl
that was too high-toned to have anything to do with a
good-looking, gentlemanly fellow like Morrison. Also, and down
under all his other reasons, Daylight was timid. The only thing
he had ever been afraid of in his life was woman, and he had been
afraid all his life. Nor was that timidity to be put easily to
flight now that he felt the first glimmering need and desire for
woman. The specter of the apron-string still haunted him, and
helped him to find excuses for getting on no forwarder with Dede
Not being favored by chance in getting acquainted with Dede
Mason, Daylight's interest in her slowly waned. This was but
natural, for he was plunged deep in hazardous operations, and the
fascinations of the game and the magnitude of it accounted for
all the energy that even his magnificent organism could generate.
Such was his absorption that the pretty stenographer slowly and
imperceptibly faded from the forefront of his consciousness.
Thus, the first faint spur, in the best sense, of his need for
woman ceased to prod. So far as Dede Mason was concerned, he
possessed no more than a complacent feeling of satisfaction in
that he had a very nice stenographer. And, completely to put the
quietus on any last lingering hopes he might have had of her, he
was in the thick of his spectacular and intensely bitter fight
with the Coastwise Steam Navigation Company, and the Hawaiian,
Nicaraguan, and Pacific-Mexican Steamship-Company. He stirred
up a bigger muss than he had anticipated, and even he was
astounded at the wide ramifications of the struggle and at the
unexpected and incongruous interests that were drawn into it.
Every newspaper in San Francisco turned upon him. It was true,
one or two of them had first intimated that they were open to
subsidization, but Daylight's judgment was that the situation did
not warrant such expenditure. Up to this time the press had been
amusingly tolerant and good-naturedly sensational about him, but
now he was to learn what virulent scrupulousness an antagonized
press was capable of. Every episode of his life was resurrected
to serve as foundations for malicious fabrications. Daylight was
frankly amazed at the new interpretation put upon all he had
accomplished and the deeds he had done. From an Alaskan hero he
was metamorphosed into an Alaskan bully, liar, desperado, and all
around "bad Man." Not content with this, lies upon lies, out of
whole cloth, were manufactured about him. He never replied,
though once he went to the extent of disburdening his mind to
half a dozen reporters. "Do your damnedest," he told them.
"Burning Daylight's bucked bigger things than your dirty, lying
sheets. And I don't blame you, boys... that is, not much.
You can't help it. You've got to live. There's a mighty lot of
women in this world that make their living in similar fashion to
yours, because they're not able to do anything better.
Somebody's got to do the dirty work, and it might as well be you.
You're paid for it, and you ain't got the backbone to rustle
cleaner jobs."
The socialist press of the city jubilantly exploited this
utterance, scattering it broadcast over San Francisco in tens of
thousands of paper dodgers. And the journalists, stung to the
quick, retaliated with the only means in their power-printer's
ink abuse. The attack became bitterer than ever. The whole
affair sank to the deeper deeps of rancor and savageness. The
poor woman who had killed herself was dragged out of her grave
and paraded on thousands of reams of paper as a martyr and a
victim to Daylight's ferocious brutality. Staid, statistical
articles were published, proving that he had made his start by
robbing poor miners of their claims, and that the capstone to his
fortune had been put in place by his treacherous violation of
faith with the Guggenhammers in the deal on Ophir. And there
were editorials written in which he was called an enemy of
society, possessed of the manners and culture of a caveman, a
fomenter of wasteful business troubles, the destroyer of the
city's prosperity in commerce and trade, an anarchist of dire
menace; and one editorial gravely recommended that hanging would
be a lesson to him and his ilk, and concluded with the fervent
hope that some day his big motor-car would smash up and smash him
with it.
He was like a big bear raiding a bee-hive and, regardless of the
stings, he obstinately persisted in pawing for the honey. He
gritted his teeth and struck back. Beginning with a raid on two
steamship companies, it developed into a pitched battle with a
city, a state, and a continental coastline. Very well; they
wanted fight, and they would get it. It was what he wanted, and
he felt justified in having come down from the Klondike, for here
he was gambling at a bigger table than ever the Yukon had
supplied. Allied with him, on a splendid salary, with princely
pickings thrown in, was a lawyer, Larry Hegan, a young Irishman
with a reputation to make, and whose peculiar genius had been
unrecognized until Daylight picked up with him. Hegan had Celtic
imagination and daring, and to such degree that Daylight's cooler
head was necessary as a check on his wilder visions. Hegan's was
a Napoleonic legal mind, without balance, and it was just this
balance that Daylight supplied. Alone, the Irishman was doomed
to failure, but directed by Daylight, he was on the highroad to
fortune and recognition. Also, he was possessed of no more
personal or civic conscience than Napoleon.
It was Hegan who guided Daylight through the intricacies of
modern politics, labor organization, and commercial and
corporation law. It was Hegan, prolific of resource and
suggestion, who opened Daylight's eyes to undreamed possibilities
in twentieth-century warfare; and it was Daylight, rejecting,
accepting, and elaborating, who planned the campaigns and
prosecuted them. With the Pacific coast from Peugeot Sound to
Panama, buzzing and humming, and with San Francisco furiously
about his ears, the two big steamship companies had all the
appearance of winning. It looked as if Burning Daylight was
being beaten slowly to his knees. And then he struck--at the
steamship companies, at San Francisco, at the whole Pacific
It was not much of a blow at first. A Christian Endeavor
convention being held in San Francisco, a row was started by
Express Drivers' Union No. 927 over the handling of a small heap
of baggage at the Ferry Building. A few heads were broken, a
score of arrests made, and the baggage was delivered. No one
would have guessed that behind this petty wrangle was the fine
Irish hand of Hegan, made potent by the Klondike gold of Burning
Daylight. It was an insignificant affair at best--or so it
seemed. But the Teamsters' Union took up the quarrel, backed by
the whole Water Front Federation. Step by step, the strike
became involved. A refusal of cooks and waiters to serve scab
teamsters or teamsters' employers brought out the cooks and
waiters. The butchers and meat-cutters refused to handle meat
destined for unfair restaurants. The combined Employers'
Associations put up a solid front, and found facing them the
40,000 organized laborers of San Francisco. The restaurant
bakers and the bakery wagon drivers struck, followed by the
milkers, milk drivers, and chicken pickers. The building trades
asserted its position in unambiguous terms, and all San Francisco
was in turmoil.
But still, it was only San Francisco. Hegan's intrigues were
masterly, and Daylight's campaign steadily developed. The
powerful fighting organization known as the Pacific Slope
Seaman's Union refused to work vessels the cargoes of which were
to be handled by scab longshoremen and freight-handlers. The
union presented its ultimatum, and then called a strike. This
had been Daylight's objective all the time. Every incoming
coastwise vessel was boarded by the union officials and its crew
sent ashore. And with the Seamen went the firemen, the
engineers, and the sea cooks and waiters. Daily the number of
idle steamers increased. It was impossible to get scab crews,
for the men of the Seaman's Union were fighters trained in the
hard school of the sea, and when they went out it meant blood and
death to scabs. This phase of the strike spread up and down the
entire Pacific coast, until all the ports were filled with idle
ships, and sea transportation was at a standstill. The days and
weeks dragged out, and the strike held. The Coastwise Steam
Navigation Company, and the Hawaiian, Nicaraguan, and
Pacific-Mexican Steamship Company were tied up completely. The
expenses of combating the strike were tremendous, and they were
earning nothing, while daily the situation went from bad to
worse, until "peace at any price" became the cry. And still
there was no peace, until Daylight and his allies played out
their hand, raked in the winnings, and allowed a goodly portion
of a continent to resume business.
It was noted, in following years, that several leaders of workmen
built themselves houses and blocks of renting flats and took
trips to the old countries, while, more immediately, other
leaders and "dark horses" came to political preferment and the
control of the municipal government and the municipal moneys. In
fact, San Francisco's boss-ridden condition was due in greater
degree to Daylight's widespreading battle than even San Francisco
ever dreamed. For the part he had played, the details of which
were practically all rumor and guesswork, quickly leaked out, and
in consequence he became a much-execrated and well-hated man.
Nor had Daylight himself dreamed that his raid on the steamship
companies would have grown to such colossal proportions.
But he had got what he was after. He had played an exciting hand
and won, beating the steamship companies down into the dust and
mercilessly robbing the stockholders by perfectly legal methods
before he let go. Of course, in addition to the large sums of
money he had paid over, his allies had rewarded themselves by
gobbling the advantages which later enabled them to loot the
city. His alliance with a gang of cutthroats had brought about a
lot of cutthroating. But his conscience suffered no twinges. He
remembered what he had once heard an old preacher utter, namely,
that they who rose by the sword perished by the sword. One took
his chances when he played with cutting throats, and his,
Daylight's, throat was still intact. That was it! And he had
won. It was all gamble and war between the strong men. The
fools did not count. They were always getting hurt; and that
they always had been getting hurt was the conclusion he drew from
what little he knew of history. San Francisco had wanted war,
and he had given it war. It was the game. All the big fellows
did the same, and they did much worse, too.
"Don't talk to me about morality and civic duty," he replied to a
persistent interviewer. "If you quit your job tomorrow and went
to work on another paper, you would write just what you were told
to write. It's morality and civic duty now with you; on the new
job it would be backing up a thieving railroad with... morality
and civic duty, I suppose. Your price, my son, is just about
thirty per week. That's what you sell for. But your paper would
sell for a bit more. Pay its price to-day, and it would shift
its present rotten policy to some other rotten policy; but it
would never let up on morality and civic duty.
"And all because a sucker is born every minute. So long as the
people stand for it, they'll get it good and plenty, my son. And
the shareholders and business interests might as well shut up
squawking about how much they've been hurt. You never hear ary
squeal out of them when they've got the other fellow down and are
gouging him. This is the time THEY got gouged, and that's all
there is to it. Talk about mollycoddles! Son, those same
fellows would steal crusts from starving men and pull gold
fillings from the mouths of corpses, yep, and squawk like Sam
Scratch if some blamed corpse hit back. They're all tarred with
the same brush, little and big. Look at your Sugar Trust--with
all its millions stealing water like a common thief from New York
City, and short-weighing the government on its phoney scales.
Morality and civic duty! Son, forget it."
Daylight's coming to civilization had not improved him. True,
he wore better clothes, had learned slightly better manners, and
spoke better English. As a gambler and a man-trampler he had
developed remarkable efficiency. Also, he had become used to a
higher standard of living, and he had whetted his wits to razor
sharpness in the fierce, complicated struggle of fighting males.
But he had hardened, and at the expense of his old-time,
whole-souled geniality. Of the essential refinements of
civilization he knew nothing. He did not know they existed. He
had become cynical, bitter, and brutal. Power had its effect on
him that it had on all men. Suspicious of the big exploiters,
despising the fools of the exploited herd, he had faith only in
himself. This led to an undue and erroneous exaltation of his
ego, while kindly consideration of others--nay, even simple
respect--was destroyed, until naught was left for him but to
worship at the shrine of self. Physically, he was not the man of
iron muscles who had come down out of the Arctic. He did not
exercise sufficiently, ate more than was good for him, and drank
altogether too much. His muscles were getting flabby, and his
tailor called attention to his increasing waistband. In fact,
Daylight was developing a definite paunch. This physical
deterioration was manifest likewise in his face. The lean Indian
visage was suffering a city change. The slight hollows in the
cheeks under the high cheek-bones had filled out. The beginning
of puff-sacks under the eyes was faintly visible. The girth of
the neck had increased, and the first crease and fold of a double
chin were becoming plainly discernible. The old effect of
asceticism, bred of terrific hardships and toil, had vanished;
the features had become broader and heavier, betraying all the
stigmata of the life he lived, advertising the man's
self-indulgence, harshness, and brutality.
Even his human affiliations were descending. Playing a lone
hand, contemptuous of most of the men with whom he played,
lacking in sympathy or understanding of them, and certainly
independent of them, he found little in common with those to be
encountered, say at the Alta-Pacific. In point of fact, when the
battle with the steamship companies was at its height and his
raid was inflicting incalculable damage on all business
interests, he had been asked to resign from the Alta-Pacific.
The idea had been rather to his liking, and he had found new
quarters in clubs like the Riverside, organized and practically
maintained by the city bosses. He found that he really liked
such men better. They were more primitive and simple, and they
did not put on airs. They were honest buccaneers, frankly in the
game for what they could get out of it, on the surface more raw
and savage, but at least not glossed over with oily or graceful
hypocrisy. The Alta-Pacific had suggested that his resignation
be kept a private matter, and then had privily informed the
newspapers. The latter had made great capital out of the forced
resignation, but Daylight had grinned and silently gone his way,
though registering a black mark against more than one club member
who was destined to feel, in the days to come, the crushing
weight of the Klondiker's financial paw.
The storm-centre of a combined newspaper attack lasting for
months, Daylight's character had been torn to shreds. There was
no fact in his history that had not been distorted into a
criminality or a vice. This public making of him over into an
iniquitous monster had pretty well crushed any lingering hope he
had of getting acquainted with Dede Mason. He felt that there
was no chance for her ever to look kindly on a man of his
caliber, and, beyond increasing her salary to seventy-five
dollars a month, he proceeded gradually to forget about her. The
increase was made known to her through Morrison, and later she
thanked Daylight, and that was the end of it.
One week-end, feeling heavy and depressed and tired of the city
and its ways, he obeyed the impulse of a whim that was later to
play an important part in his life. The desire to get out of the
city for a whiff of country air and for a change of scene was the
cause. Yet, to himself, he made the excuse of going to Glen
Ellen for the purpose of inspecting the brickyard with which
Holdsworthy had goldbricked him.
He spent the night in the little country hotel, and on Sunday
morning, astride a saddle-horse rented from the Glen Ellen
butcher, rode out of the village. The brickyard was close at
hand on the flat beside the Sonoma Creek. The kilns were visible
among the trees, when he glanced to the left and caught sight of
a cluster of wooded knolls half a mile away, perched on the
rolling slopes of Sonoma Mountain. The mountain, itself wooded,
towered behind. The trees on the knolls seemed to beckon to him.
The dry, early-summer air, shot through with sunshine, was wine
to him. Unconsciously he drank it in deep breaths. The prospect
of the brickyard was uninviting. He was jaded with all things
business, and the wooded knolls were calling to him. A horse was
between his legs--a good horse, he decided; one that sent him
to the cayuses he had ridden during his eastern Oregon boyhood.
had been somewhat of a rider in those early days, and the champ
bit and creak of saddle-leather sounded good to him now.
Resolving to have his fun first, and to look over the brickyard
afterward, he rode on up the hill, prospecting for a way across
country to get to the knolls. He left the country road at the
first gate he came to and cantered through a hayfield. The grain
was waist-high on either side the wagon road, and he sniffed the
warm aroma of it with delighted nostrils. Larks flew up before
him, and from everywhere came mellow notes. From the appearance
of the road it was patent that it had been used for hauling clay
to the now idle brickyard. Salving his conscience with the idea
that this was part of the inspection, he rode on to the
clay-pit--a huge scar in a hillside. But he did not linger long,
swinging off again to the left and leaving the road. Not a
farm-house was in sight, and the change from the city crowding
was essentially satisfying. He rode now through open woods,
across little flower-scattered glades, till he came upon a
spring. Flat on the ground, he drank deeply of the clear water,
and, looking about him, felt with a shock the beauty of the
world. It came to him like a discovery; he had never realized it
before, he concluded, and also, he had forgotten much. One could
not sit in at high finance and keep track of such things. As he
drank in the air, the scene, and the distant song of larks, he
felt like a poker-player rising from a night-long table and
coming forth from the pent atmosphere to taste the freshness of
the morn.
At the base of the knolls he encountered a tumble-down
stake-and-rider fence. From the look of it he judged it must be
forty years old at least--the work of some first pioneer who had
taken up the land when the days of gold had ended. The woods
were very thick here, yet fairly clear of underbrush, so that,
while the blue sky was screened by the arched branches, he was
able to ride beneath. He now found himself in a nook of several
acres, where the oak and manzanita and madrono gave way to
clusters of stately redwoods. Against the foot of a steep-sloped
knoll he came upon a magnificent group of redwoods that seemed to
have gathered about a tiny gurgling spring.
He halted his horse, for beside the spring uprose a wild
California lily. It was a wonderful flower, growing there in the
cathedral nave of lofty trees. At least eight feet in height,
its stem rose straight and slender, green and bare for two-thirds
its length, and then burst into a shower of snow-white waxen
bells. There were hundreds of these blossoms, all from the one
stem, delicately poised and ethereally frail. Daylight had never
seen anything like it. Slowly his gaze wandered from it to all
that was about him. He took off his hat, with almost a vague
religious feeling. This was different. No room for contempt and
evil here. This was clean and fresh and beautiful-something he
could respect. It was like a church. The atmosphere was one of
holy calm. Here man felt the prompting of nobler things. Much
of this and more was in Daylight's heart as he looked about him.
But it was not a concept of his mind. He merely felt it without
thinking about it at all.
On the steep incline above the spring grew tiny maidenhair ferns,
while higher up were larger ferns and brakes. Great,
moss-covered trunks of fallen trees lay here and there, slowly
sinking back and merging into the level of the forest mould.
Beyond, in a slightly clearer space, wild grape and honeysuckle
swung in green riot from gnarled old oak trees. A gray Douglas
squirrel crept out on a branch and watched him. From somewhere
came the distant knocking of a woodpecker. This sound did not
disturb the hush and awe of the place. Quiet woods, noises
belonged there and made the solitude complete. The tiny bubbling
ripple of the spring and the gray flash of tree-squirrel were as
yardsticks with which to measure the silence and motionless
"Might be a million miles from anywhere," Daylight whispered to
But ever his gaze returned to the wonderful lily beside the
bubbling spring.
He tethered the horse and wandered on foot among the knolls.
Their tops were crowned with century-old spruce trees, and their
sides clothed with oaks and madronos and native holly. But to
the perfect redwoods belonged the small but deep canon that
threaded its way among the knolls. Here he found no passage out
for his horse, and he returned to the lily beside the spring. On
foot, tripping, stumbling, leading the animal, he forced his way
up the hillside. And ever the ferns carpeted the way of his
feet, ever the forest climbed with him and arched overhead, and
ever the clean joy and sweetness stole in upon his senses.
On the crest he came through an amazing thicket of velvet-trunked
young madronos, and emerged on an open hillside that led down
a tiny valley. The sunshine was at first dazzling in its
brightness, and he paused and rested, for he was panting from the
exertion. Not of old had he known shortness of breath such as
this, and muscles that so easily tired at a stiff climb. A tiny
stream ran down the tiny valley through a tiny meadow that was
carpeted knee-high with grass and blue and white nemophila. The
hillside was covered with Mariposa lilies and wild hyacinth, down
through which his horse dropped slowly, with circumspect feet and
reluctant gait.
Crossing the stream, Daylight followed a faint cattle trail over
a low, rocky hill and through a wine-wooded forest of manzanita,
and emerged upon another tiny valley, down which filtered another
spring-fed, meadow-bordered streamlet. A jack-rabbit bounded
from a bush under his horse's nose, leaped the stream, and
vanished up the opposite hillside of scrub-oak. Daylight watched
it admiringly as he rode on to the head of the meadow. Here he
startled up a many-pronged buck, that seemed to soar across the
meadow, and to soar over the stake-and-rider fence, and, still
soaring, disappeared in a friendly copse beyond.
Daylight's delight was unbounded. It seemed to him that he had
never been so happy. His old woods' training was aroused, and he
was keenly interested in everything in the moss on the trees and
branches; in the bunches of mistletoe hanging in the oaks; in the
nest of a wood-rat; in the water-cress growing in the sheltered
eddies of the little stream; in the butterflies drifting through
the rifted sunshine and shadow; in the blue jays that flashed in
splashes of gorgeous color across the forest aisles; in the tiny
birds, like wrens, that hopped among the bushes and imitated
certain minor quail-calls; and in the crimson-crested woodpecker
that ceased its knocking and cocked its head on one side to
survey him. Crossing the stream, he struck faint vestiges of a
wood-road, used, evidently, a generation back, when the meadow
had been cleared of its oaks. He found a hawk's nest on the
lightning-shattered tipmost top of a six-foot redwood. And to
complete it all his horse stumbled upon several large broods of
half-grown quail, and the air was filled with the thrum of their
flight. He halted and watched the young ones "petrifying" and
disappearing on the ground before his eyes, and listening to the
anxious calls of the old ones hidden in the thickets.
"It sure beats country places and bungalows at Menlo Park," he
communed aloud; "and if ever I get the hankering for country
life, it's me for this every time."
The old wood-road led him to a clearing, where a dozen acres of
grapes grew on wine-red soil. A cow-path, more trees and
thickets, and he dropped down a hillside to the southeast
exposure. Here, poised above a big forested canon, and looking
out upon Sonoma Valley, was a small farm-house. With its barn
and outhouses it snuggled into a nook in the hillside, which
protected it from west and north. It was the erosion from this
hillside, he judged, that had formed the little level stretch of
vegetable garden. The soil was fat and black, and there was
water in plenty, for he saw several faucets running wide open.
Forgotten was the brickyard. Nobody was at home, but Daylight
dismounted and ranged the vegetable garden, eating strawberries
and green peas, inspecting the old adobe barn and the rusty
plough and harrow, and rolling and smoking cigarettes while he
watched the antics of several broods of young chickens and the
mother hens. A foottrail that led down the wall of the big
canyon invited him, and he proceeded to follow it. A
water-pipe, usually above ground, paralleled the trail, which he
concluded led upstream to the bed of the creek. The wall of the
canon was several hundred feet from top to bottom, and
magnificent were the untouched trees that the place was plunged
in perpetual shade. He measured with his eye spruces five and
six feet in diameter and redwoods even larger. One such he
passed, a twister that was at least ten or eleven feet through.
The trail led straight to a small dam where was the intake for
the pipe that watered the vegetable garden. Here, beside the
stream, were alders and laurel trees, and he walked through
fern-brakes higher than his head. Velvety moss was everywhere,
out of which grew maiden-hair and gold-back ferns.
Save for the dam, it was a virgin wild. No ax had invaded, and
the trees died only of old age and stress of winter storm. The
huge trunks of those that had fallen lay moss-covered, slowly
resolving back into the soil from which they sprang. Some had
lain so long that they were quite gone, though their faint
outlines, level with the mould, could still be seen. Others
bridged the stream, and from beneath the bulk of one monster half
a dozen younger trees, overthrown and crushed by the fall,
growing out along the ground, still lived and prospered, their
roots bathed by the stream, their upshooting branches catching
the sunlight through the gap that had been made in the forest
Back at the farm-house, Daylight mounted and rode on away from
the ranch and into the wilder canons and steeper steeps beyond.
Nothing could satisfy his holiday spirit now but the ascent of
Sonoma Mountain. And here on the crest, three hours afterward,
he emerged, tired and sweaty, garments torn and face and hands
scratched, but with sparkling eyes and an unwonted zestfulness of
expression. He felt the illicit pleasure of a schoolboy playing
truant. The big gambling table of San Francisco seemed very far
away. But there was more than illicit pleasure in his mood. It
was as though he were going through a sort of cleansing bath. No
room here for all the sordidness, meanness, and viciousness that
filled the dirty pool of city existence. Without pondering in
detail upon the matter at all, his sensations were of
purification and uplift. Had he been asked to state how he felt,
he would merely have said that he was having a good time; for he
was unaware in his self-consciousness of the potent charm of
nature that was percolating through his city-rotted body and
brain--potent, in that he came of an abysmal past of wilderness
dwellers, while he was himself coated with but the thinnest rind
of crowded civilization.
There were no houses in the summit of Sonoma Mountain, and, all
alone under the azure California sky, he reined in on the
southern edge of the peak. He saw open pasture country,
intersected with wooded canons, descending to the south and west
from his feet, crease on crease and roll on roll, from lower
level to lower level, to the floor of Petaluma Valley, flat as a
billiard-table, a cardboard affair, all patches and squares of
geometrical regularity where the fat freeholds were farmed.
Beyond, to the west, rose range on range of mountains cuddling
purple mists of atmosphere in their valleys; and still beyond,
over the last range of all, he saw the silver sheen of the
Pacific. Swinging his horse, he surveyed the west and north,
from Santa Rosa to St. Helena, and on to the east, across Sonoma
to the chaparral-covered range that shut off the view of Napa
Valley. Here, part way up the eastern wall of Sonoma Valley, in
range of a line intersecting the little village of Glen Ellen, he
made out a scar upon a hillside. His first thought was that it
was the dump of a mine tunnel, but remembering that he was not in
gold-bearing country, he dismissed the scar from his mind and
continued the circle of his survey to the southeast, where,
across the waters of San Pablo Bay, he could see, sharp and
distant, the twin peaks of Mount Diablo. To the south was Mount
Tamalpais, and, yes, he was right, fifty miles away, where the
draughty winds of the Pacific blew in the Golden Gate, the smoke
of San Francisco made a low-lying haze against the sky.
"I ain't seen so much country all at once in many a day," he
thought aloud.
He was loath to depart, and it was not for an hour that he was
able to tear himself away and take the descent of the mountain.
Working out a new route just for the fun of it, late afternoon
was upon him when he arrived back at the wooded knolls. Here, on
the top of one of them, his keen eyes caught a glimpse of a shade
of green sharply differentiated from any he had seen all day.
Studying it for a minute, he concluded that it was composed of
three cypress trees, and he knew that nothing else than the hand
of man could have planted them there. Impelled by curiosity
purely boyish, he made up his mind to investigate. So densely
wooded was the knoll, and so steep, that he had to dismount and
go up on foot, at times even on hands and knees struggling hard
to force a way through the thicker underbrush. He came out
abruptly upon the cypresses. They were enclosed in a small
square of ancient fence; the pickets he could plainly see had
been hewn and sharpened by hand. Inside were the mounds of two
children's graves. Two wooden headboards, likewise hand-hewn,
told the state Little David, born 1855, died 1859; and Little
Roy, born 1853, died 1860.
"The poor little kids," Daylight muttered. The graves showed
signs of recent care. Withered bouquets of wild flowers were on
the mounds, and the lettering on the headboards was freshly
painted. Guided by these clews, Daylight cast about for a trail,
and found one leading down the side opposite to his ascent.
Circling the base of the knoll, he picked up with his horse and
rode on to the farm-house. Smoke was rising from the chimney and
he was quickly in conversation with a nervous, slender young man,
who, he learned, was only a tenant on the ranch. How large was
it? A matter of one hundred and eighty acres, though it seemed
much larger. This was because it was so irregularly shaped.
Yes, it included the clay-pit and all the knolls, and its
boundary that ran along the big canon was over a mile long.
"You see," the young man said, "it was so rough and broken that
when they began to farm this country the farmers bought in the
good land to the edge of it. That's why its boundaries are all
gouged and jagged."
"Oh, yes, he and his wife managed to scratch a living without
working too hard. They didn't have to pay much rent. Hillard,
the owner, depended on the income from the clay-pit. Hillard was
well off, and had big ranches and vineyards down on the flat of
the valley. The brickyard paid ten cents a cubic yard for the
clay. As for the rest of the ranch, the land was good in
patches, where it was cleared, like the vegetable garden and the
vineyard, but the rest of it was too much up-and-down.
"You're not a farmer," Daylight said. The young man laughed and
shook his head. "No; I'm a telegraph operator. But the wife and
I decided to take a two years' vacation, and... here we are
But the time's about up. I'm going back into the office this
fall after I get the grapes off."
Yes, there were about eleven acres in the vineyard--wine grapes.
The price was usually good. He grew most of what they ate. If
he owned the place, he'd clear a patch of land on the side-hill
above the vineyard and plant a small home orchard. The soil was
good. There was plenty of pasturage all over the ranch, and
there were several cleared patches, amounting to about fifteen
acres in all, where he grew as much mountain hay as could be
found. It sold for three to five dollars more a ton than the
rank-stalked valley hay.
Daylight listened, there came to him a sudden envy of this young
fellow living right in the midst of all this which Daylight had
travelled through the last few hours.
"What in thunder are you going back to the telegraph office for?"
he demanded.
The young man smiled with a certain wistfulness. "Because we
can't get ahead here..." (he hesitated an instant), "and
because there are added expenses coming. The rent, small as it
is, counts; and besides, I'm not strong enough to effectually
farm the place. If I owned it, or if I were a real husky like
you, I'd ask nothing better. Nor would the wife." Again the
wistful smile hovered on his face. "You see, we're country born,
and after bucking with cities for a few years, we kind of feel we
like the country best. We've planned to get ahead, though, and
then some day we'll buy a patch of land and stay with it."
The graves of the children? Yes, he had relettered them and hoed
the weeds out. It had become the custom. Whoever lived on the
ranch did that. For years, the story ran, the father and mother
had returned each summer to the graves. But there had come a
time when they came no more, and then old Hillard started the
custom. The scar across the valley? An old mine. It had never
paid. The men had worked on it, off and on, for years, for the
indications had been good. But that was years and years ago. No
paying mine had ever been struck in the valley, though there had
been no end of prospect-holes put down and there had been a sort
of rush there thirty years back.
A frail-looking young woman came to the door to call the young
man to supper. Daylight's first thought was that city living had
not agreed with her. And then he noted the slight tan and
healthy glow that seemed added to her face, and he decided that
the country was the place for her. Declining an invitation to
supper, he rode on for Glen Ellen sitting slack-kneed in the
saddle and softly humming forgotten songs. He dropped down the
rough, winding road through covered pasture, with here and
there thickets of manzanita and vistas of open glades. He
listened greedily to the quail calling, and laughed outright,
once, in sheer joy, at a tiny chipmunk that fled scolding up a
bank, slipping on the crumbly surface and falling down, then
dashing across the road under his horse's nose and, still
scolding, scrabbling up a protecting oak.
Daylight could not persuade himself to keep to the travelled
roads that day, and another cut across country to Glen Ellen
brought him upon a canon that so blocked his way that he was glad
to follow a friendly cow-path. This led him to a small frame
cabin. The doors and windows were open, and a cat was nursing a
litter of kittens in the doorway, but no one seemed at home. He
descended the trail that evidently crossed the canon. Part way
down, he met an old man coming up through the sunset. In his
hand he carried a pail of foamy milk. He wore no hat, and in his
face, framed with snow-white hair and beard, was the ruddy glow
and content of the passing summer day. Daylight thought that he
had never seen so contented-looking a being.
"How old are you, daddy?" he queried.
"Eighty-four," was the reply. "Yes, sirree, eighty-four,and
than most."
"You must a' taken good care of yourself," Daylight suggested.
"I don't know about that. I ain't loafed none. I walked across
the Plains with an ox-team and fit Injuns in '51, and I was a
family man then with seven youngsters. I reckon I was as old
then as you are now, or pretty nigh on to it."
"Don't you find it lonely here?"
The old man shifted the pail of milk and reflected. "That all
depends," he said oracularly. "I ain't never been lonely except
when the old wife died. Some fellers are lonely in a crowd, and
I'm one of them. That's the only time I'm lonely, is when I go
to 'Frisco. But I don't go no more, thank you 'most to death.
This is good enough for me. I've ben right here in this valley
since '54--one of the first settlers after the Spaniards."
Daylight started his horse, saying:-
"Well, good night, daddy. Stick with it. You got all the young
bloods skinned, and I guess you've sure buried a mighty sight of
The old man chuckled, and Daylight rode on, singularly at peace
with himself and all the world. It seemed that the old
contentment of trail and camp he had known on the Yukon had come
back to him. He could not shake from his eyes the picture of the
old pioneer coming up the trail through the sunset light. He was
certainly going some for eighty-four. The thought of following
his example entered Daylight's mind, but the big game of San
Francisco vetoed the idea.
"Well, anyway," he decided, "when I get old and quit the game,
I'll settle down in a place something like this, and the city can
go to hell."
Instead of returning to the city on Monday, Daylight rented the
butcher's horse for another day and crossed the bed of the valley
to its eastern hills to look at the mine. It was dryer and
here than where he had been the day before, and the ascending
slopes supported mainly chaparral, scrubby and dense and
to penetrate on horseback. But in the canyons water was
and also a luxuriant forest growth. The mine was an abandoned
affair, but he enjoyed the half-hour's scramble
around. He had had experience in quartz-mining before he went to
Alaska, and he enjoyed the recrudescence of his old wisdom in
such matters. The story was simple to him: good prospects that
warranted the starting of the tunnel into the sidehill; the three
months' work and the getting short of money; the lay-off while
the men went away and got jobs; then the return and a new stretch
of work, with the "pay" ever luring and ever receding into the
mountain, until, after years of hope, the men had given up and
vanished. Most likely they were dead by now, Daylight thought,
he turned in the saddle and looked back across the canyon at the
ancient dump and dark mouth of the tunnel.
As on the previous day, just for the joy of it, he followed
cattle-trails at haphazard and worked his way up toward the
summits. Coming out on a wagon road that led upward, he followed
it for several miles, emerging in a small, mountain-encircled
valley, where half a dozen poor ranchers farmed the wine-grapes
on the steep slopes. Beyond, the road pitched upward. Dense
chaparral covered the exposed hillsides but in the creases of the
canons huge spruce trees grew, and wild oats and flowers.
Half an hour later, sheltering under the summits themselves, he
came out on a clearing. Here and there, in irregular patches
where the steep and the soil favored, wine grapes were growing.
Daylight could see that it had been a stiff struggle, and that
wild nature showed fresh signs of winning--chaparral that had
invaded the clearings; patches and parts of patches of vineyard,
unpruned, grassgrown, and abandoned; and everywhere old
stake-and-rider fences vainly striving to remain intact. Here,
at a small farm-house surrounded by large outbuildings, the road
ended. Beyond, the chaparral blocked the way.
He came upon an old woman forking manure in the barnyard, and
reined in by the fence.
"Hello, mother," was his greeting; "ain't you got any men-folk
around to do that for you?"
She leaned on her pitchfork, hitched her skirt in at the waist,
and regarded him cheerfully. He saw that her toil-worn,
weather-exposed hands were like a man's, callused,
large-knuckled, and gnarled, and that her stockingless feet were
thrust into heavy man's brogans.
"Nary a man," she answered. "And where be you from, and all the
way up here? Won't you stop and hitch and have a glass of wine?"
Striding clumsily but efficiently, like a laboring-man, she led
him into the largest building, where Daylight saw a hand-press
and all the paraphernalia on a small scale for the making of
wine. It was too far and too bad a road to haul the grapes to
the valley wineries, she explained, and so they were compelled to
do it themselves. "They," he learned, were she and her daughter,
the latter a widow of forty-odd. It had been easier before the
grandson died and before he went away to fight savages in the
Philippines. He had died out there in battle.
Daylight drank a full tumbler of excellent Riesling, talked a few
minutes, and accounted for a second tumbler. Yes, they just
managed not to starve. Her husband and she had taken up this
government land in '57 and cleared it and farmed it ever since,
until he died, when she had carried it on. It actually didn't
pay for the toil, but what were they to do? There was the wine
trust, and wine was down. That Riesling? She delivered it to
railroad down in the valley for twenty-two cents a gallon. And
it was a long haul. It took a day for the round trip. Her
daughter was gone now with a load.
Daylight knew that in the hotels, Riesling, not quite so good
even, was charged for at from a dollar and a half to two dollars
a quart. And she got twenty-two cents a gallon. That was the
game. She was one of the stupid lowly, she and her people before
her--the ones that did the work, drove their oxen across the
Plains, cleared and broke the virgin land, toiled all days and
all hours, paid their taxes, and sent their sons and grandsons
out to fight and die for the flag that gave them such ample
protection that they were able to sell their wine for twenty-two
cents. The same wine was served to him at the St. Francis for
two dollars a quart, or eight dollars a short gallon. That was
Between her and her hand-press on the mountain clearing and him
ordering his wine in the hotel was a difference of seven dollars
and seventy-eight cents. A clique of sleek men in the city got
between her and him to just about that amount. And, besides
them, there was a horde of others that took their whack. They
called it railroading, high finance, banking, wholesaling, real
estate, and such things, but the point was that they got it,
while she got what was left,--twenty-two cents. Oh, well, a
sucker was born every minute, he sighed to himself, and nobody
was to blame; it was all a game, and only a few could win, but it
was damned hard on the suckers.
"How old are you, mother?" he asked.
"Seventy-nine come next January."
"Worked pretty hard, I suppose?"
"Sense I was seven. I was bound out in Michigan state until I
was woman-grown. Then I married, and I reckon the work got
harder and harder."
"When are you going to take a rest?"
She looked at him, as though she chose to think his question
facetious, and did not reply.
"Do you believe in God?"
She nodded her head.
"Then you get it all back," he assured her; but in his heart he
was wondering about God, that allowed so many suckers to be born
and that did not break up the gambling game by which they were
robbed from the cradle to the grave.
"How much of that Riesling you got?"
She ran her eyes over the casks and calculated. "Just short of
eight hundred gallons."
He wondered what he could do with all of it, and speculated as to
whom he could give it away.
"What would you do if you got a dollar a gallon for it?" he
"Drop dead, I suppose."
"No; speaking seriously."
"Get me some false teeth, shingle the house, and buy a new wagon.
The road's mighty hard on wagons."
"And after that?"
"Buy me a coffin."
"Well, they're yours, mother, coffin and all."
She looked her incredulity.
"No; I mean it. And there's fifty to bind the bargain. Never
the receipt. It's the rich ones that need watching, their
being so infernal short, you know. Here's my address. You've
to deliver it to the railroad. And now, show me the way out of
here. I want to get up to the top."
On through the chaparral he went, following faint cattle.
trails and working slowly upward till he came out on the divide
and gazed down into Napa Valley and back across to Sonoma
Mountain... "A sweet land," he muttered, "an almighty sweet
Circling around to the right and dropping down along the
cattle-trails, he quested for another way back to Sonoma Valley;
but the cattle-trails seemed to fade out, and the chaparral to
grow thicker with a deliberate viciousness and even when he won
through in places, the canon and small feeders were too
precipitous for his horse, and turned him back. But there was no
irritation about it. He enjoyed it all, for he was back at his
old game of bucking nature. Late in the afternoon he broke
through, and followed a well-defined trail down a dry canon.
Here he got a fresh thrill. He had heard the baying of the hound
some minutes before, and suddenly, across the bare face of the
hill above him, he saw a large buck in flight. And not far
behind came the deer-hound, a magnificent animal. Daylight sat
tense in his saddle and watched until they disappeared, his
breath just a trifle shorter, as if he, too, were in the chase,
his nostrils distended, and in his bones the old hunting ache and
memories of the days before he came to live in cities.
The dry canon gave place to one with a slender ribbon of running
water. The trail ran into a wood-road, and the wood-road emerged
across a small flat upon a slightly travelled county road. There
were no farms in this immediate section, and no houses. The soil
was meagre, the bed-rock either close to the surface or
constituting the surface itself. Manzanita and scrub-oak,
however, flourished and walled the road on either side with a
jungle growth. And out a runway through this growth a man
suddenly scuttled in a way that reminded Daylight of a rabbit.
He was a little man, in patched overalls; bareheaded, with a
cotton shirt open at the throat and down the chest. The sun was
ruddy-brown in his face, and by it his sandy hair was bleached on
the ends to peroxide blond. He signed to Daylight to halt, and
held up a letter. "If you're going to town, I'd be obliged if
you mail this."
"I sure will." Daylight put it into his coat pocket.
"Do you live hereabouts, stranger?"
But the little man did not answer. He was gazing at Daylight in
a surprised and steadfast fashion.
"I know you," the little man announced. "You're Elam
Harnish--Burning Daylight, the papers call you. Am I right?"
Daylight nodded.
"But what under the sun are you doing here in the chaparral?"
Daylight grinned as he answered, "Drumming up trade for a free
rural delivery route."
"Well, I'm glad I wrote that letter this afternoon," the little
man went on, "or else I'd have missed seeing you. I've seen your
photo in the papers many a time, and I've a good memory for
faces. I recognized you at once. My name's Ferguson."
"Do you live hereabouts?" Daylight repeated his query.
"Oh, yes. I've got a little shack back here in the bush a hundred
yards, and a pretty spring, and a few fruit trees and berry
Come in and take a look. And that spring is a dandy. You never
tasted water like it. Come in and try it."
Walking and leading his horse, Daylight followed the
quick-stepping eager little man through the green tunnel and
emerged abruptly upon the clearing, if clearing it might be
called, where wild nature and man's earth-scratching were
inextricably blended. It was a tiny nook in the hills, protected
by the steep walls of a canon mouth. Here were several large
oaks, evidencing a richer soil. The erosion of ages from the
hillside had slowly formed this deposit of fat earth. Under the
oaks, almost buried in them, stood a rough, unpainted cabin, the
wide verandah of which, with chairs and hammocks, advertised an
out-of doors bedchamber. Daylight's keen eyes took in every
thing. The clearing was irregular, following the patches of the
best soil, and every fruit tree and berry bush, and even each
vegetable plant, had the water personally conducted to it. The
tiny irrigation channels were every where, and along some of them
the water was running.
Ferguson looked eagerly into his visitor's face for signs of
"What do you think of it, eh?"
"Hand-reared and manicured, every blessed tree," Daylight
laughed, but the joy and satisfaction that shone in his eyes
contented the little man.
"Why, d'ye know, I know every one of those trees as if they were
sons of mine. I planted them, nursed them, fed them, and brought
them up. Come on and peep at the spring."
"It's sure a hummer," was Daylight's verdict, after due
inspection and sampling, as they turned back for the house.
The interior was a surprise. The cooking being done in the
small, lean-to kitchen, the whole cabin formed a large living
room. A great table in the middle was comfortably littered with
books and magazines. All the available wall space, from floor to
ceiling, was occupied by filled bookshelves. It seemed to
Daylight that he had never seen so many books assembled in one
place. Skins of wildcat, 'coon, and deer lay about on the
pine-board floor.
"Shot them myself, and tanned them, too," Ferguson proudly
The crowning feature of the room was a huge fireplace of rough
stones and boulders.
"Built it myself," Ferguson proclaimed, "and, by God, she drew!
Never a wisp of smoke anywhere save in the pointed channel, and
that during the big southeasters.
Daylight found himself charmed and made curious by the little
man. Why was he hiding away here in the chaparral, he and his
books? He was nobody's fool, anybody could see that. Then why?
The whole affair had a tinge of adventure, and Daylight accepted
an invitation to supper, half prepared to find his host a
raw-fruit-and-nut-eater or some similar sort of health faddest.
At table, while eating rice and jack-rabbit curry (the latter
shot by Ferguson), they talked it over, and Daylight found the
little man had no food "views." He ate whatever he liked, and
all he wanted, avoiding only such combinations that experience
had taught him disagreed with his digestion.
Next, Daylight surmised that he might be touched with religion;
but, quest about as he would, in a conversation covering the most
divergent topics, he could find no hint of queerness or
unusualness. So it was, when between them they had washed and
wiped the dishes and put them away, and had settled down to a
comfortable smoke, that Daylight put his question.
"Look here, Ferguson. Ever since we got together, I've been
casting about to find out what's wrong with you, to locate a
screw loose somewhere, but I'll be danged if I've succeeded.
What are you doing here, anyway? What made you come here? What
were you doing for a living before you came here? Go ahead and
elucidate yourself."
Ferguson frankly showed his pleasure at the questions.
"First of all," he began, "the doctors wound up by losing all
hope for me. Gave me a few months at best, and that, after a
course in sanatoriums and a trip to Europe and another to
Hawaii. They tried electricity, and forced feeding, and fasting.
I was a graduate of about everything in the curriculum. They
kept me poor with their bills while I went from bad to worse.
The trouble with me was two fold: first, I was a born weakling;
and next, I was living unnaturally--too much work, and
responsibility, and strain. I was managing editor of the
Daylight gasped mentally, for the Times-Tribune was the biggest
and most influential paper in San Francisco, and always had been
"--and I wasn't strong enough for the strain. Of course my body
went back on me, and my mind, too, for that matter. It had to be
bolstered up with whiskey, which wasn't good for it any more than
was the living in clubs and hotels good for my stomach and the
rest of me. That was what ailed me; I was living all wrong."
He shrugged his shoulders and drew at his pipe.
"When the doctors gave me up, I wound up my affairs and gave the
doctors up. That was fifteen years ago. I'd been hunting
through here when I was a boy, on vacations from college, and
when I was all down and out it seemed a yearning came to me to go
back to the country. So I quit, quit everything, absolutely, and
came to live in the Valley of the Moon--that's the Indian name,
you know, for Sonoma Valley. I lived in the lean-to the first
year; then I built the cabin and sent for my books. I never knew
what happiness was before, nor health. Look at me now and dare
to tell me that I look forty-seven."
"I wouldn't give a day over forty," Daylight confessed.
"Yet the day I came here I looked nearer sixty, and that was
fifteen years ago."
They talked along, and Daylight looked at the world from new
angles. Here was a man, neither bitter nor cynical, who laughed
at the city-dwellers and called them lunatics; a man who did not
care for money, and in whom the lust for power had long since
died. As for the friendship of the city-dwellers, his host spoke
in no uncertain terms.
"What did they do, all the chaps I knew, the chaps in the clubs
with whom I'd been cheek by jowl for heaven knows how long? I
was not beholden to them for anything, and when I slipped out
there was not one of them to drop me a line and say, 'How are
you, old man? Anything I can do for you?' For several weeks it
was: 'What's become of Ferguson?" After that I became a
reminiscence and a memory. Yet every last one of them knew I had
nothing but my salary and that I'd always lived a lap ahead of
"But what do you do now?" was Daylight's query. "You must need
cash to buy clothes and magazines?"
"A week's work or a month's work, now and again, ploughing in the
winter, or picking grapes in the fall, and there's always odd
jobs with the farmers through the summer. I don't need much, so
I don't have to work much. Most of my time I spend fooling
around the place. I could do hack work for the magazines and
newspapers; but I prefer the ploughing and the grape picking.
Just look at me and you can see why. I'm hard as rocks. And I
like the work. But I tell you a chap's got to break in to it.
It's a great thing when he's learned to pick grapes a whole long
day and come home at the end of it with that tired happy feeling,
instead of being in a state of physical collapse. That
fireplace--those big stones--I was soft, then, a little, anemic,
alcoholic degenerate, with the spunk of a rabbit and about one
per cent as much stamina, and some of those big stones nearly
broke my back and my heart. But I persevered, and used my body
in the way Nature intended it should be used--not bending over a
desk and swilling whiskey... and, well, here I am, a better man
it, and there's the fireplace, fine and dandy, eh?
"And now tell me about the Klondike, and how you turned San
Francisco upside down with that last raid of yours. You're a
bonny fighter, you know, and you touch my imagination, though my
cooler reason tells me that you are a lunatic like the rest. The
lust for power! It's a dreadful affliction. Why didn't you stay
in your Klondike? Or why don't you clear out and live a natural
life, for instance, like mine? You see, I can ask questions,
too. Now you talk and let me listen for a while."
It was not until ten o'clock that Daylight parted from Ferguson.
As he rode along through the starlight, the idea came to him of
buying the ranch on the other side of the valley. There was no
thought in his mind of ever intending to live on it. His game
in San Francisco. But he liked the ranch, and as soon as he got
back to the office he would open up negotiations with Hillard.
Besides, the ranch included the clay-pit, and it would give him
whip-hand over Holdsworthy if he ever tried to cut up any didoes.
The time passed, and Daylight played on at the game. But the
game had entered upon a new phase. The lust for power in the
mere gambling and winning was metamorphosing into the lust for
power in order to revenge. There were many men in San Francisco
against whom he had registered black marks, and now and again,
with one of his lightning strokes, he erased such a mark. He
asked no quarter; he gave no quarter. Men feared and hated him,
and no one loved him, except Larry Hegan, his lawyer, who would
have laid down his life for him. But he was the only man with
whom Daylight was really intimate, though he was on terms of
friendliest camaraderie with the rough and unprincipled following
of the bosses who ruled the Riverside Club.
On the other hand, San Francisco's attitude toward Daylight had
undergone a change. While he, with his slashing buccaneer
methods, was a distinct menace to the more orthodox financial
gamblers, he was nevertheless so grave a menace that they were
glad enough to leave him alone. He had already taught them the
excellence of letting a sleeping dog lie. Many of the men, who
knew that they were in danger of his big bear-paw when it reached
out for the honey vats, even made efforts to placate him, to get
on the friendly side of him. The Alta-Pacific approached him
confidentially with an offer of reinstatement, which he promptly
declined. He was after a number of men in that club, and,
whenever opportunity offered, he reached out for them and mangled
them. Even the newspapers, with one or two blackmailing
exceptions, ceased abusing him and became respectful. In short,
he was looked upon as a bald-faced grizzly from the Arctic wilds
to whom it was considered expedient to give the trail. At the
time he raided the steamship companies, they had yapped at him
and worried him, the whole pack of them, only to have him whirl
around and whip them in the fiercest pitched battle San Francisco
had ever known. Not easily forgotten was the Pacific Slope
Seaman's strike and the giving over of the municipal government
to the labor bosses and grafters. The destruction of Charles
Klinkner and the California and Altamont Trust Company had been a
warning. But it was an isolated case; they had been confident in
strength in numbers--until he taught them better.
Daylight still engaged in daring speculations, as, for instance,
at the impending outbreak of the Japanese-Russian War, when, in
the face of the experience and power of the shipping gamblers, he
reached out and clutched practically a monopoly of available
steamer-charters. There was scarcely a battered tramp on the
Seven Seas that was not his on time charter. As usual, his
position was, "You've got to come and see me"; which they did,
and, to use another of his phrases, they "paid through the nose"
for the privilege. And all his venturing and fighting had now
one motive. Some day, as he confided to Hegan, when he'd made a
sufficient stake, he was going back to New York and knock the
out of Messrs. Dowsett, Letton, and Guggenhammer. He'd
show them what an all-around general buzz-saw he was and what a
mistake they'd made ever to monkey with him. But he never lost
his head, and he knew that he was not yet strong enough to go
into death-grapples with those three early enemies. In the
meantime the black marks against them remained for a future
easement day.
Dede Mason was still in the office. He had made no more
overtures, discussed no more books and no more grammar. He had
no active interest in her, and she was to him a pleasant memory
of what had never happened, a joy, which, by his essential
nature, he was barred from ever knowing. Yet, while his interest
had gone to sleep and his energy was consumed in the endless
battles he waged, he knew every trick of the light on her hair,
every quick denote mannerism of movement, every line of her
figure as expounded by her tailor-made gowns. Several times, six
months or so apart, he had increased her salary, until now she
was receiving ninety dollars a month. Beyond this he dared not
go, though he had got around it by making the work easier. This
he had accomplished after her return from a vacation, by
retaining her substitute as an assistant. Also, he had changed
his office suite, so that now the two girls had a room by
His eye had become quite critical wherever Dede Mason was
concerned. He had long since noted her pride of carriage. It
was unobtrusive, yet it was there. He decided, from the way she
carried it, that she deemed her body a thing to be proud of, to
be cared for as a beautiful and valued possession. In this, and
in the way she carried her clothes, he compared her with her
assistant, with the stenographers he encountered in other
offices, with the women he saw on the sidewalks. "She's sure
well put up," he communed with himself; "and she sure knows how
to dress and carry it off without being stuck on herself and
without laying it on thick."
The more he saw of her, and the more he thought he knew of her,
the more unapproachable did she seem to him. But since he had no
intention of approaching her, this was anything but an
unsatisfactory fact. He was glad he had her in his office, and
hoped she'd stay, and that was about all.
Daylight did not improve with the passing years. The life was
not good for him. He was growing stout and soft, and there was
unwonted flabbiness in his muscles. The more he drank cocktails,
the more he was compelled to drink in order to get the desired
result, the inhibitions that eased him down from the concert
pitch of his operations. And with this went wine, too, at meals,
and the long drinks after dinner of Scotch and soda at the
Riverside. Then, too, his body suffered from lack of exercise;
and, from lack of decent human associations, his moral fibres
were weakening. Never a man to hide anything, some of his
escapades became public, such as speeding, and of joy-rides in
his big red motor-car down to San Jose with companions distinctly
sporty--incidents that were narrated as good fun and comically in
the newspapers.
Nor was there anything to save him. Religion had passed him by.
"A long time dead" was his epitome of that phase of speculation.
He was not interested in humanity. According to his rough-hewn
sociology, it was all a gamble. God was a whimsical, abstract,
mad thing called Luck. As to how one happened to be
a sucker or a robber--was a gamble to begin with; Luck dealt out
the cards, and the little babies picked up the hands allotted
Protest was vain. Those were their cards and they had to play
them, willy-nilly, hunchbacked or straight backed, crippled or
clean-limbed, addle-pated or clear- headed. There was no
in it. The cards most picked up put them into the sucker class;
the cards of a few enabled them to become robbers. The playing
the cards was life--the crowd of players, society.
The table was the earth, and the earth, in lumps and chunks, from
loaves of bread to big red motor-cars, was the stake. And in the
end, lucky and unlucky, they were all a long time dead.
It was hard on the stupid lowly, for they were coppered to lose
from the start; but the more he saw of the others, the apparent
winners, the less it seemed to him that they had anything to brag
about. They, too, were a long time dead, and their living did
not amount to much. It was a wild animal fight; the strong
trampled the weak, and the strong, he had already
like Dowsett, and Letton, and Guggenhammer,--were not necessarily
the best. He remembered his miner comrades of the Arctic. They
were the stupid lowly, they did the hard work and were robbed of
the fruit of their toil just as was the old woman making wine in
the Sonoma hills; and yet they had finer qualities of truth, and
loyalty, and square-dealing than did the men who robbed them.
winners seemed to be the crooked ones, the unfaithful ones, the
wicked ones. And even they had no say in the matter. They
the cards that were given them; and Luck, the monstrous, mad-god
thing, the owner of the whole shebang, looked on and grinned. It
was he who stacked the universal card-deck of existence.
There was no justice in the deal. The little men that came, the
little pulpy babies, were not even asked if they wanted to try a
flutter at the game. They had no choice. Luck jerked them into
life, slammed them up against the jostling table, and told them:
"Now play, damn you, play!" And they did their best, poor little
devils. The play of some led to steam yachts and mansions; of
others, to the asylum or the pauper's ward. Some played the one
same card, over and over, and made wine all their days in the
chaparral, hoping, at the end, to pull down a set of false teeth
and a coffin. Others quit the game early, having drawn cards
that called for violent death, or famine in the Barrens, or
loathsome and lingering disease. The hands of some called for
kingship and irresponsible and numerated power; other hands
called for ambition, for wealth in untold sums, for disgrace and
shame, or for women and wine.
As for himself, he had drawn a lucky hand, though he could not
see all the cards. Somebody or something might get him yet. The
mad god, Luck, might be tricking him along to some such end. An
unfortunate set of circumstances, and in a month's time the
robber gang might be war-dancing around his financial carcass.
This very day a street-car might run him down, or a sign fall
from a building and smash in his skull. Or there was disease,
ever rampant, one of Luck's grimmest whims. Who could say?
To-morrow, or some other day, a ptomaine bug, or some other of a
thousand bugs, might jump out upon him and drag him down. There
was Doctor Bascom, Lee Bascom who had stood beside him a week ago
and talked and argued, a picture of magnificent youth, and
strength, and health. And in three days he was dead--pneumonia,
rheumatism of the heart, and heaven knew what else--at the end
screaming in agony that could be heard a block away. That had
been terrible. It was a fresh, raw stroke in Daylight's
consciousness. And when would his own turn come? Who could say?
In the meantime there was nothing to do but play the cards he
could see in his hand, and they were BATTLE, REVENGE, AND
COCKTAILS. And Luck sat over all and grinned.
One Sunday, late in the afternoon, found Daylight across the bay
in the Piedmont hills back of Oakland. As usual, he was in a big
motor-car, though not his own, the guest of Swiftwater Bill,
Luck's own darling, who had come down to spend the clean-up of
the seventh fortune wrung from the frozen Arctic gravel. A
notorious spender, his latest pile was already on the fair road
to follow the previous six. He it was, in the first year of
Dawson, who had cracked an ocean of champagne at fifty dollars a
quart; who, with the bottom of his gold-sack in sight, had
cornered the egg-market, at twenty-four dollars per dozen, to the
tune of one hundred and ten dozen, in order to pique the
lady-love who had jilted him; and he it was, paying like a prince
for speed, who had chartered special trains and broken all
records between San Francisco and New York. And here he was once
more, the "luck-pup of hell," as Daylight called him, throwing
his latest fortune away with the same old-time facility.
It was a merry party, and they had made a merry day of it,
circling the bay from San Francisco around by San Jose and up to
Oakland, having been thrice arrested for speeding, the third
time, however, on the Haywards stretch, running away with their
captor. Fearing that a telephone message to arrest them had been
flashed ahead, they had turned into the back-road through the
hills, and now, rushing in upon Oakland by a new route, were
boisterously discussing what disposition they should make of the
"We'll come out at Blair Park in ten minutes," one of the men
announced. "Look here, Swiftwater, there's a crossroads right
ahead, with lots of gates, but it'll take us backcountry clear
into Berkeley. Then we can come back into Oakland from the other
side, sneak across on the ferry, and send the machine back around
to-night with the chauffeur."
But Swiftwater Bill failed to see why he should not go into
Oakland by way of Blair Park, and so decided.
The next moment, flying around a bend, the back-road they were
not going to take appeared. Inside the gate leaning out from her
saddle and just closing it, was a young woman on a chestnut
sorrel. With his first glimpse, Daylight felt there was
something strangely familiar about her. The next moment,
straightening up in the saddle with a movement he could not fail
to identify, she put the horse into a gallop, riding away with
her back toward them. It was Dede Mason--he remembered what
Morrison had told him about her keeping a riding horse, and he
was glad she had not seen him in this riotous company.
Swiftwater Bill stood up, clinging with one hand to the back of
the front seat and waving the other to attract her attention.
His lips were pursed for the piercing whistle for which he was
famous and which Daylight knew of old, when Daylight, with a hook
of his leg and a yank on the shoulder, slammed the startled Bill
down into his seat.
"You m-m-must know the lady," Swiftwater Bill spluttered.
"I sure do," Daylight answered, "so shut up."
"Well, I congratulate your good taste, Daylight. She's a peach,
and she rides like one, too."
Intervening trees at that moment shut her from view, and
Swiftwater Bill plunged into the problem of disposing of their
constable, while Daylight, leaning back with closed eyes, was
still seeing Dede Mason gallop off down the country road.
Swiftwater Bill was right. She certainly could ride. And,
sitting astride, her seat was perfect. Good for Dede! That was
an added point, her having the courage to ride in the only
natural and logical manner. Her head as screwed on right, that
was one thing sure.
On Monday morning, coming in for dictation, he looked at her with
new interest, though he gave no sign of it; and the stereotyped
business passed off in the stereotyped way. But the following
Sunday found him on a horse himself, across the bay and riding
through the Piedmont hills. He made a long day of it, but no
glimpse did he catch of Dede Mason, though he even took the
back-road of many gates and rode on into Berkeley. Here, along
the lines of multitudinous houses, up one street and down
another, he wondered which of them might be occupied by her.
Morrison had said long ago that she lived in Berkeley, and she
had been headed that way in the late afternoon of the previous
Sunday--evidently returning home.
It had been a fruitless day, so far as she was concerned; and yet
not entirely fruitless, for he had enjoyed the open air and the
horse under him to such purpose that, on Monday, his instructions
were out to the dealers to look for the best chestnut sorrel that
money could buy. At odd times during the week he examined
numbers of chestnut sorrels, tried several, and was unsatisfied.
It was not till Saturday that he came upon Bob. Daylight knew
him for what he wanted the moment he laid eyes on him. A large
horse for a riding animal, he was none too large for a big man
like Daylight. In splendid condition, Bob's coat in the sunlight
was a flame of fire, his arched neck a jeweled conflagration.
"He's a sure winner," was Daylight's comment; but the dealer was
not so sanguine. He was selling the horse on commission, and its
owner had insisted on Bob's true charactor being given. The
dealer gave it.
"Not what you'd call a real vicious horse, but a dangerous one.
Full of vinegar and all-round cussedness, but without malice.
Just as soon kill you as not, but in a playful sort of way, you
understand, without meaning to at all. Personally, I wouldn't
think of riding him. But he's a stayer. Look at them lungs.
And look at them legs. Not a blemish. He's never been hurt or
worked. Nobody ever succeeded in taking it out of him. Mountain
horse, too, trail-broke and all that, being raised in rough
country. Sure-footed as a goat, so long as he don't get it into
his head to cut up. Don't shy. Ain't really afraid, but makes
believe. Don't buck, but rears. Got to ride him with a
martingale. Has a bad trick of whirling around without cause
It's his idea of a joke on his rider. It's all just how he feels
One day he'll ride along peaceable and pleasant for twenty miles.
Next day, before you get started, he's well-nigh unmanageable.
Knows automobiles so he can lay down alongside of one and sleep
or eat hay out of it. He'll let nineteen go by without batting
an eye, and mebbe the twentieth, just because he's feeling
he'll cut up over like a range cayuse. Generally
speaking, too lively for a gentleman, and too unexpected.
Present owner nicknamed him Judas Iscariot, and refuses to sell
without the buyer knowing all about him first. There, that's
about all I know, except look at that mane and tail. Ever see
anything like it? Hair as fine as a baby's."
The dealer was right. Daylight examined the mane and found it
finer than any horse's hair he had ever seen. Also, its color
was unusual in that it was almost auburn. While he ran his
fingers through it, Bob turned his head and playfully nuzzled
Daylight's shoulder
"Saddle him up, and I'll try him," he told the dealer. "I wonder
if he's used to spurs. No English saddle, mind. Give me a good
Mexican and a curb bit--not too severe, seeing as he likes to
Daylight superintended the preparations, adjusting the curb strap
and the stirrup length, and doing the cinching. He shook his
head at the martingale, but yielded to the dealer's advice and
allowed it to go on. And Bob, beyond spirited restlessness and a
few playful attempts, gave no trouble. Nor in the hour's ride
that followed, save for some permissible curveting and prancing,
did he misbehave. Daylight was delighted; the purchase was
immediately made; and Bob, with riding gear and personal
equipment, was despatched across the bay forthwith to take up his
quarters in the stables of the Oakland Riding Academy.
The next day being Sunday, Daylight was away early, crossing on
the ferry and taking with him Wolf, the leader of his sled team,
the one dog which he had selected to bring with him when he left
Alaska. Quest as he would through the Piedmont hills and along
the many-gated back-road to Berkeley, Daylight saw nothing of
Dede Mason and her chestnut sorrel. But he had little time for
disappointment, for his own chestnut sorrel kept him busy. Bob
proved a handful of impishness and contrariety, and he tried out
his rider as much as his rider tried him out. All of Daylight's
horse knowledge and horse sense was called into play, while Bob,
in turn, worked every trick in his lexicon. Discovering that his
martingale had more slack in it than usual, he proceeded to give
an exhibition of rearing and hind-leg walking. After ten
hopeless minutes of it, Daylight slipped off and tightened the
martingale, whereupon Bob gave an exhibition of angelic goodness.
He fooled Daylight completely. At the end of half an hour of
goodness, Daylight, lured into confidence, was riding along at a
walk and rolling a cigarette, with slack knees and relaxed seat,
the reins lying on the animal's neck. Bob whirled abruptly and
with lightning swiftness, pivoting on his hind legs, his fore
legs just lifted clear of the ground. Daylight found himself
with his right foot out of the stirrup and his arms around the
animal's neck; and Bob took advantage of the situation to bolt
down the road. With a hope that he should not encounter Dede
Mason at that moment, Daylight regained his seat and checked in
the horse.
Arrived back at the same spot, Bob whirled again. This time
Daylight kept his seat, but, beyond a futile rein across the
neck, did nothing to prevent the evolution. He noted that Bob
whirled to the right, and resolved to keep him straightened out
by a spur on the left. But so abrupt and swift was the whirl
that warning and accomplishment were practically simultaneous.
"Well, Bob," he addressed the animal, at the same time wiping the
sweat from his own eyes, "I'm free to confess that you're sure
the blamedest all-fired quickest creature I ever saw. I guess
the way to fix you is to keep the spur just a-touching--ah! you
For, the moment the spur touched him, his left hind leg had
reached forward in a kick that struck the stirrup a smart blow.
Several times, out of curiosity, Daylight attempted the spur,
and each time Bob's hoof landed the stirrup. Then Daylight,
following the horse's example of the unexpected, suddenly drove
both spurs into him and reached him underneath with the quirt.
"You ain't never had a real licking before," he muttered as Bob,
thus rudely jerked out of the circle of his own impish mental
processes, shot ahead.
Half a dozen times spurs and quirt bit into him, and then
Daylight settled down to enjoy the mad magnificent gallop. No
longer punished, at the end of a half mile Bob eased down into a
fast canter. Wolf, toiling in the rear, was catching up, and
everything was going nicely.
"I'll give you a few pointers on this whirling game, my boy,"
Daylight was saying to him, when Bob whirled.
He did it on a gallop, breaking the gallop off short by fore legs
stiffly planted. Daylight fetched up against his steed's neck
with clasped arms, and at the same instant, with fore feet clear
of the ground, Bob whirled around. Only an excellent rider could
have escaped being unhorsed, and as it was, Daylight was nastily
near to it. By the time he recovered his seat, Bob was in full
career, bolting the way he had come, and making Wolf side-jump to
the bushes.
"All right, darn you!" Daylight grunted, driving in spurs and
quirt again and again. "Back-track you want to go, and
back-track you sure will go till you're dead sick of it."
When, after a time, Bob attempted to ease down the mad pace,
spurs and quirt went into him again with undiminished vim and put
him to renewed effort. And when, at last, Daylight decided
that the horse had had enough, he turned him around abruptly and
put him into a gentle canter on the forward track. After a time
he reined him in to a stop to see if he were breathing painfully.
Standing for a minute, Bob turned his head and nuzzled his
rider's stirrup in a roguish, impatient way, as much as to
intimate that it was time they were going on.
"Well, I'll be plumb gosh darned!" was Daylight's comment. "No
ill-will, no grudge, no nothing-and after that lambasting! You're
sure a hummer, Bob."
Once again Daylight was lulled into fancied security. For an
hour Bob was all that could be desired of a spirited mount, when,
and as usual without warning, he took to whirling and bolting.
Daylight put a stop to this with spurs and quirt, running him
several punishing miles in the direction of his bolt. But when
he turned him around and started forward, Bob proceeded to feign
fright at trees, cows, bushes, Wolf, his own shadow--in short, at
every ridiculously conceivable object. At such times, Wolf lay
down in the shade and looked on, while Daylight wrestled it out.
So the day passed. Among other things, Bob developed a trick of
making believe to whirl and not whirling. This was as
exasperating as the real thing, for each time Daylight was fooled
into tightening his leg grip and into a general muscular tensing
of all his body. And then, after a few make-believe attempts,
Bob actually did whirl and caught Daylight napping again and
landed him in the old position with clasped arms around the neck.
And to the end of the day, Bob continued to be up to one trick or
another; after passing a dozen automobiles on the way into
Oakland, suddenly electing to go mad with fright at a most
ordinary little runabout. And just before he arrived back at the
stable he capped the day with a combined whirling and rearing
broke the martingale and enabled him to gain a perpendicular
position on his hind legs. At this juncture a rotten stirrup
leather parted, and Daylight was all but unhorsed.
But he had taken a liking to the animal, and repented not of his
bargain. He realized that Bob was not vicious nor mean, the
trouble being that he was bursting with high spirits and was
endowed with more than the average horse's intelligence. It was
the spirits and the intelligence, combined with inordinate
roguishness, that made him what he was. What was required to
control him was a strong hand, with tempered sternness and yet
with the requisite touch of brutal dominance.
"It's you or me, Bob," Daylight told him more than once that day.
And to the stableman, that night:--
"My, but ain't he a looker! Ever see anything like him? Best
piece of horseflesh I ever straddled, and I've seen a few in my
And to Bob, who had turned his head and was up to his playful
"Good-by, you little bit of all right. See you again next Sunday
A.M., and just you bring along your whole basket of tricks, you
old son-of-a-gun."
Throughout the week Daylight found himself almost as much
interested in Bob as in Dede; and, not being in the thick of any
big deals, he was probably more interested in both of them than
in the business game. Bob's trick of whirling was of especial
moment to him. How to overcome it,--that was the thing. Suppose
he did meet with Dede out in the hills; and suppose, by some
lucky stroke of fate, he should manage to be riding alongside of
her; then that whirl of Bob's would be most disconcerting and
embarrassing. He was not particularly anxious for her to see him
thrown forward on Bob's neck. On the other hand, suddenly to
leave her and go dashing down the back-track, plying quirt and
spurs, wouldn't do, either.
What was wanted was a method wherewith to prevent that lightning
whirl. He must stop the animal before it got around. The reins
would not do this. Neither would the spurs. Remained the quirt.
But how to accomplish it? Absent-minded moments were many that
week, when, sitting in his office chair, in fancy he was astride
the wonderful chestnut sorrel and trying to prevent an
whirl. One such moment, toward the end of the week,
occurred in the middle of a conference with Hegan. Hegan,
elaborating a new and dazzling legal vision, became aware that
Daylight was not listening. His eyes had gone lack-lustre, and
he, too, was seeing with inner vision.
"Got it" he cried suddenly. "Hegan, congratulate me. It's as
simple as rolling off a log. All I've got to do is hit him on
the nose, and hit him hard."
Then he explained to the startled Hegan, and became a good
listener again, though he could not refrain now and again from
making audible chuckles of satisfaction and delight. That was
the scheme. Bob always whirled to the right. Very well. He
would double the quirt in his hand and, the instant of the whirl,
that doubled quirt would rap Bob on the nose. The horse didn't
live, after it had once learned the lesson, that would whirl in
the face of the doubled quirt.
More keenly than ever, during that week in the office did
Daylight realize that he had no social, nor even human contacts
with Dede. The situation was such that he could not ask her the
simple question whether or not she was going riding next Sunday.
It was a hardship of a new sort, this being the employer of a
pretty girl. He looked at her often, when the routine work of
the day was going on, the question he could not ask her tickling
at the founts of speech--Was she going riding next Sunday? And
he looked, he wondered how old she was, and what love passages
she had had, must have had, with those college whippersnappers
with whom, according to Morrison, she herded and danced. His
mind was very full of her, those six days between the Sundays,
and one thing he came to know thoroughly well; he wanted her.
And so much did he want her that his old timidity of the
apron-string was put to rout. He, who had run away from women
most of his life, had now grown so courageous as to pursue. Some
Sunday, sooner or later, he would meet her outside the office,
somewhere in the hills, and then, if they did not get acquainted,
it would be because she did not care to get acquainted.
Thus he found another card in the hand the mad god had dealt him.
How important that card was to become he did not dream, yet he
decided that it was a pretty good card. In turn, he doubted.
Maybe it was a trick of Luck to bring calamity and disaster upon
him. Suppose Dede wouldn't have him, and suppose he went on
loving her more and more, harder and harder? All his old
generalized terrors of love revived. He remembered the
disastrous love affairs of men and women he had known in the
past. There was Bertha Doolittle, old Doolittle's daughter, who
had been madly in love with Dartworthy, the rich Bonanza fraction
owner; and Dartworthy, in turn, not loving Bertha at all, but
madly loving Colonel Walthstone's wife and eloping down the Yukon
with her; and Colonel Walthstone himself, madly loving his own
wife and lighting out in pursuit of the fleeing couple. And what
had been the outcome? Certainly Bertha's love had been
unfortunate and tragic, and so had the love of the other three.
Down below Minook, Colonel Walthstone and Dartworthy had fought
it out. Dartworthy had been killed. A bullet through the
Colonel's lungs had so weakened him that he died of pneumonia the
following spring. And the Colonel's wife had no one left alive
on earth to love.
And then there was Freda, drowning herself in the running
mush-ice because of some man on the other side of the world, and
hating him, Daylight, because he had happened along and pulled
her out of the mush-ice and back to life. And the Virgin....
The old memories frightened him. If this love-germ gripped him
good and hard, and if Dede wouldn't have him, it might be almost
as bad as being gouged out of all he had by Dowsett, Letton, and
Guggenhammer. Had his nascent desire for Dede been less, he
might well have been frightened out of all thought of her. As it
was, he found consolation in the thought that some love affairs
did come out right. And for all he knew, maybe Luck had stacked
the cards for him to win. Some men were born lucky, lived lucky
all their days, and died lucky. Perhaps, too, he was such a man,
a born luck-pup who could not lose.
Sunday came, and Bob, out in the Piedmont hills, behaved like an
angel. His goodness, at times, was of the spirited prancing
order, but otherwise he was a lamb. Daylight, with doubled quirt
ready in his right hand, ached for a whirl, just one whirl, which
Bob, with an excellence of conduct that was tantalizing, refused
to perform. But no Dede did Daylight encounter. He vainly
circled about among the hill roads and in the afternoon took the
steep grade over the divide of the second range and dropped into
Maraga Valley. Just after passing the foot of the descent, he
heard the hoof beats of a cantering horse. It was from ahead and
coming toward him. What if it were Dede? He turned Bob around
and started to return at a walk. If it were Dede, he was born to
luck, he decided; for the meeting couldn't have occurred under
better circumstances. Here they were, both going in the same
direction, and the canter would bring her up to him just where
the stiff grade would compel a walk. There would be nothing else
for her to do than ride with him to the top of the divide; and,
once there, the equally stiff descent on the other side would
compel more walking.
The canter came nearer, but he faced straight ahead until he
heard the horse behind check to a walk. Then he glanced over his
shoulder. It was Dede. The recognition was quick, and, with
her, accompanied by surprise. What more natural thing than that,
partly turning his horse, he should wait till she caught up with
him; and that, when abreast they should continue abreast on up
the grade? He could have sighed with relief. The thing was
accomplished, and so easily. Greetings had been exchanged; here
they were side by side and going in the same direction with miles
and miles ahead of them.
He noted that her eye was first for the horse and next for him.
"Oh, what a beauty" she had cried at sight of Bob. From the
shining light in her eyes, and the face filled with delight, he
would scarcely have believed that it belonged to a young woman he
had known in the office, the young woman with the controlled,
subdued office face
"I didn't know you rode," was one of her first remarks. "I
imagined you were wedded to get-there-quick machines."
"I've just taken it up lately," was his answer. "Beginning to
get stout; you know, and had to take it off somehow."
She gave a quick sidewise glance that embraced him from head to
heel, including seat and saddle, and said:--
"But you've ridden before."
She certainly had an eye for horses and things connected with
horses was his thought, as he replied:-
"Not for many years. But I used to think I was a regular
rip-snorter when I was a youngster up in Eastern Oregon, sneaking
away from camp to ride with the cattle and break cayuses and
that sort of thing."
Thus, and to his great relief, were they launched on a topic of
mutual interest. He told her about Bob's tricks, and of the
whirl and his scheme to overcome it; and she agreed that horses
had to be handled with a certain rational severity, no matter how
much one loved them. There was her Mab, which she had for eight
years and which she had had break of stall-kicking. The process
had been painful for Mab, but it had cured her.
"You've ridden a lot," Daylight said.
"I really can't remember the first time I was on a horse," she
told him. "I was born on a ranch, you know, and they couldn't
keep me away from the horses. I must have been born with the
love for them. I had my first pony, all my own, when I was six.
When I was eight I knew what it was to be all day in the saddle
along with Daddy. By the time I was eleven he was taking me on
my first deer hunts. I'd be lost without a horse. I hate
indoors, and without Mab here I suppose I'd have been sick and
dead long ago."
"You like the country?" he queried, at the same moment catching
his first glimpse of a light in her eyes other than gray. "As
much as I detest the city," she answered. "But a woman can't
earn a living in the country. So I make the best of it--along
with Mab."
And thereat she told him more of her ranch life in the days
before her father died. And Daylight was hugely pleased with
himself. They were getting acquainted. The conversation had not
lagged in the full half hour they had been together.
"We come pretty close from the same part of the country," he
said. "I was raised in Eastern Oregon, and that's none so far
from Siskiyou."
The next moment he could have bitten out his tongue for her quick
question was:--
"How did you know I came from Siskiyou? I'm sure I never
mentioned it."
"I don't know," he floundered temporarily. "I heard somewhere
that you were from thereabouts."
Wolf, sliding up at that moment, sleek-footed and like a shadow,
caused her horse to shy and passed the awkwardness off, for they
talked Alaskan dogs until the conversation drifted back to
horses. And horses it was, all up the grade and down the other
When she talked, he listened and followed her, and yet all the
while he was following his own thoughts and impressions as well.
It was a nervy thing for her to do, this riding astride, and he
didn't know, after all, whether he liked it or not. His ideas of
women were prone to be old-fashioned; they were the ones he had
imbibed in the early-day, frontier life of his youth, when no
woman was seen on anything but a side-saddle. He had grown up to
the tacit fiction that women on horseback were not bipeds. It
came to him with a shock, this sight of her so manlike in her
saddle. But he had to confess that the sight looked good to him
Two other immediate things about her struck him. First, there
were the golden spots in her eyes. Queer that he had never
noticed them before. Perhaps the light in the office had not
been right, and perhaps they came and went. No; they were glows
of color--a sort of diffused, golden light. Nor was it golden,
either, but it was nearer that than any color he knew. It
certainly was not any shade of yellow. A lover's thoughts are
ever colored, and it is to be doubted if any one else in the
world would have called Dede's eyes golden. But Daylight's mood
verged on the tender and melting, and he preferred to think of
them as golden, and therefore they were golden.
And then she was so natural. He had been prepared to find her a
most difficult young woman to get acquainted with. Yet here it
was proving so simple. There was nothing highfalutin about her
company manners--it was by this homely phrase that he
differentiated this Dede on horseback from the Dede with the
office manners whom he had always known. And yet, while he was
delighted with the smoothness with which everything was going,
and with the fact that they had found plenty to talk about, he
was aware of an irk under it all. After all, this talk was empty
and idle. He was a man of action, and he wanted her, Dede Mason,
the woman; he wanted her to love him and to be loved by him; and
he wanted all this glorious consummation then and there. Used to
forcing issues used to gripping men and things and bending them
to his will, he felt, now, the same compulsive prod of mastery.
He wanted to tell her that he loved her and that there was
nothing else for her to do but marry him. And yet he did not
obey the prod. Women were fluttery creatures, and here mere
mastery would prove a bungle. He remembered all his hunting
guile, the long patience of shooting meat in famine when a hit or
a miss meant life or death. Truly, though this girl did not yet
mean quite that, nevertheless she meant much to him--more, now,
than ever, as he rode beside her, glancing at her as often as he
dared, she in her corduroy riding-habit, so bravely manlike, yet
so essentially and revealingly woman, smiling, laughing, talking,
her eyes sparkling, the flush of a day of sun and summer breeze
warm in her cheeks.
Another Sunday man and horse and dog roved the Piedmont hills.
And again Daylight and Dede rode together. But this time her
surprise at meeting him was tinctured with suspicion; or rather,
her surprise was of another order. The previous Sunday had been
quite accidental, but his appearing a second time among her
favorite haunts hinted of more than the fortuitous. Daylight was
made to feel that she suspected him, and he, remembering that he
had seen a big rock quarry near Blair Park, stated offhand that
he was thinking of buying it. His one-time investment in a
brickyard had put the idea into his head--an idea that he decided
was a good one, for it enabled him to suggest that she ride along
with him to inspect the quarry.
So several hours he spent in her company, in which she was much
the same girl as before, natural, unaffected, lighthearted,
smiling and laughing, a good fellow, talking horses with
unflagging enthusiasm, making friends with the crusty-tempered
Wolf, and expressing the desire to ride Bob, whom she declared
she was more in love with than ever. At this last Daylight
demurred. Bob was full of dangerous tricks, and he wouldn't
trust any one on him except his worst enemy.
"You think, because I'm a girl, that I don't know anything
about horses," she flashed back. "But I've been thrown off and
bucked off enough not to be over-confident. And I'm not a fool.
I wouldn't get on a bucking horse. I've learned better. And I'm
not afraid of any other kind. And you say yourself that Bob
doesn't buck."
"But you've never seen him cutting up didoes," Daylight
"But you must remember I've seen a few others, and I've been on
several of them myself. I brought Mab here to electric cars,
locomotives, and automobiles. She was a raw range colt when she
came to me. Broken to saddle that was all. Besides, I won't
hurt your horse."
Against his better judgment, Daylight gave in, and, on an
unfrequented stretch of road, changed saddles and bridles.
"Remember, he's greased lightning," he warned, as he helped her
to mount.
She nodded, while Bob pricked up his ears to the knowledge that
he had a strange rider on his back. The fun came quickly
enough--too quickly for Dede, who found herself against Bob's
as he pivoted around and bolted the other way. Daylight followed
on her horse and watched. He saw her check the animal quickly to
a standstill, and immediately, with rein across neck and a
prod of the left spur, whirl him back the way he had come and
almost as swiftly.
"Get ready to give him the quirt on the nose," Daylight called.
But, too quickly for her, Bob whirled again, though this time, by
a severe effort, she saved herself from the undignified position
against his neck. His bolt was more determined, but she pulled
him into a prancing walk, and turned him roughly back with her
spurred heel. There was nothing feminine in the way she handled
him; her method was imperative and masculine. Had this not been
so, Daylight would have expected her to say she had had enough.
But that little preliminary exhibition had taught him something
of Dede's quality. And if it had not, a glance at her gray eyes,
just perceptibly angry with herself, and at her firm-set mouth,
would have told him the same thing. Daylight did not suggest
anything, while he hung almost gleefully upon her actions in
anticipation of what the fractious Bob was going to get. And Bob
got it, on his next whirl, or attempt, rather, for he was no more
than halfway around when the quirt met him smack on his tender
nose. There and then, in his bewilderment, surprise, and pain,
his fore feet, just skimming above the road, dropped down.
"Great!" Daylight applauded. "A couple more will fix him. He's
too smart not to know when he's beaten."
Again Bob tried. But this time he was barely quarter around when
the doubled quirt on his nose compelled him to drop his fore feet
to the road. Then, with neither rein nor spur, but by the mere
threat of the quirt, she straightened him out.
Dede looked triumphantly at Daylight.
"Let me give him a run?" she asked.
Daylight nodded, and she shot down the road. He watched her out
of sight around the bend, and watched till she came into sight
returning. She certainly could sit her horse, was his thought,
and she was a sure enough hummer. God, she was the wife for a
man! Made most of them look pretty slim. And to think of her
hammering all week at a typewriter. That was no place for her.
She should be a man's wife, taking it easy, with silks and satins
and diamonds (his frontier notion of what befitted a wife
beloved), and dogs, and horses, and such things--"And we'll see,
Mr. Burning Daylight, what you and me can do about it," he
murmured to himself! and aloud to her:--
"You'll do, Miss Mason; you'll do. There's nothing too good in
horseflesh you don't deserve, a woman who can ride like that.
No; stay with him, and we'll jog along to the quarry." He
chuckled. "Say, he actually gave just the least mite of a
groan that last time you fetched him. Did you hear it? And did
you see the way he dropped his feet to the road--just like he'd
struck a stone wall. And he's got savvee enough to know from now
on that that same stone wall will be always there ready for him
to lam into."
When he parted from her that afternoon, at the gate of the road
that led to Berkeley, he drew off to the edge of the intervening
clump of trees, where, unobserved, he watched her out of sight.
Then, turning to ride back into Oakland, a thought came to him
that made him grin ruefully as he muttered: "And now it's up to
me to make good and buy that blamed quarry. Nothing less than
that can give me an excuse for snooping around these hills."
But the quarry was doomed to pass out of his plans for a time,
for on the following Sunday he rode alone. No Dede on a chestnut
sorrel came across the back-road from Berkeley that day, nor the
day a week later. Daylight was beside himself with impatience
and apprehension, though in the office he contained himself. He
noted no change in her, and strove to let none show in himself.
The same old monotonous routine went on, though now it was
irritating and maddening. Daylight found a big quarrel on his
hands with a world that wouldn't let a man behave toward his
stenographer after the way of all men and women. What was the
good of owning millions anyway? he demanded one day of the
desk-calendar, as she passed out after receiving his dictation.
As the third week drew to a close and another desolate Sunday
confronted him, Daylight resolved to speak, office or no office.
And as was his nature, he went simply and directly to the point
She had finished her work with him, and was gathering her note
pad and pencils together to depart, when he said:--
"Oh, one thing more, Miss Mason, and I hope you won't mind my
being frank and straight out. You've struck me right along as a
sensible-minded girl, and I don't think you'll take offence at
what I'm going to say. You know how long you've been in the
office--it's years, now, several of them, anyway; and you know
I've always been straight and aboveboard with you. I've never
what you call--presumed. Because you were in my office I've
tried to be more careful than if--if you wasn't in my office--you
understand. But just the same, it don't make me any the less
human. I'm a lonely sort of a fellow--don't take that as a bid
for kindness. What I mean by it is to try and tell you just how
much those two rides with you have meant. And now I hope you
won't mind my just asking why you haven't been out riding the
last two Sundays?"
He came to a stop and waited, feeling very warm and awkward, the
perspiration starting in tiny beads on his forehead. She did not
speak immediately, and he stepped across the room and raised the
window higher.
"I have been riding," she answered; "in other directions."
"But why...?" He failed somehow to complete the question. "Go
ahead and be frank with me," he urged. "Just as frank as I am
you. Why didn't you ride in the Piedmont hills? I hunted for
"And that is just why." She smiled, and looked him straight in
the eyes for a moment, then dropped her own. "Surely, you
understand, Mr. Harnish."
He shook his head glumly.
"I do, and I don't. I ain't used to city ways by a long shot.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?