Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

NOBODY COULD ANSWER.

men were standing in a row, their glass- ed of in every corner of the house. es high up, and dipping at every angle Was it a girl or was it a boy? Why and to every point of the compass, but had they not asked so simple and so they did not know the baby's name; civil a question? They called for Limthey did not even know its sex. And ber Tim — they would appeal to him. so in that moment, without stopping to But Limber Tim was not to be found in think, and without any time to spare, all the manifold depths of the Howling they spoke of it as “it,” and they named Wilderness. He had had his carouse, it “Little Half-pint.”

and was now playing sober Indian. la

fact, he was hanging very close about CHAPTER VII. — THE QUESTION THAT the little rocking cradle up in the front

room of the Widow's cabin. Never was How the Widow's heart had been the cradle allowed to rest, but rock, rock, beating all this time! How she wait- rock, until the Widow and Sandy, too, ed, and waited, and listened, and how were both made very sensible, sleeping often she sent Captain Tommy to the or waking, that Little Half-pint, small door to tell her, if possible, how her as it was, was filling up the biggest half baby fared among the half-wild men of of the house. the camp!

Nearly midnight it was when Limber How glad she was when she saw San- Tim, leaning over the cradle and lookdy enter, all furry and delight, as if he ing, or pretending to look, at the baby, had been the centre figure in some great said to Bunker Hill, who bent down over triumph. Then a bit of the old sadness it on the other side: and cast of care swe over her face, “Pretty, aint it?" and she nestled down in the pillow and “Guess it is. Looks just like its faput up her two hands to hide a moment ther for the world.” And little humpfrom the light.

backed Bunker Hill began to make The other two were too busy with faces, and to shake her head and nod it Little Half-pint to notice her trouble up and down, and coo and crow to Litthen. They laid it down in a cradle tle Half-pint as if it was really able to that had been made for rocking and hear, and understand, and answer all washing gold, and good little Bunker she said to it. Hill sat by it, and crossed her legs and Down at the saloon all this time tbe took up her work, and went on sewing spirits flowed like water. The cinnaand singing to herself, and swinging her mon-haired fellow had fallen upon a harleg that hung over, and rocking the cra- vest, and was making the most of it. dle with her foot in the old-fashioned He had laid off his coat, run his two way when babies were born in the leaves hands up through his hair until it stood of the woods of the Wabash, and moth- up like forked flames, and was thumpers sat singing by the camp- fires, knit- ing the glasses as if in feats of legerde. ting, and rocking their babies in their main. How he did score with the charsugar-troughs.

coal on the hewn logs behind ! He Down in the Howling Wilderness, I marked and scored that night until the am bound to say, the carousing began wall behind him looked as if it might be early, and with a vigor that promised the Iliad written in Greek, or the charmore headaches than the camp had acters on the obelisk of Saint Peter's. known since the Widow first set foot in Yet with all this happiness on the the Forks.

hill, and this merry-making under the Little Half-pint was toasted and talk- hill, in the heart of the Sierra, in com

[ocr errors]

a

memoration and celebration of the be- hard-faced fellow caught hold of his eye ginning of a new race in a new land, with his own and held him there until there was one man back in the corner he could catch his breath. Then the of the saloon who looked on with some- man, after catching his breath, and catchthing of a sneer in his hard hatchet face, ing it again, said slowly, but most emand who refused to take any part. Now phatically: and then this man would lift up his left "Ompossible!” hand, hold out his fingers and count, The hatchet-faced man simply pecked one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, to in the face of the other. He did not say himself with his other hand, and then anything more to him, but he pecked at shake his head.

him again, and he pecked emphatically, The men began to look at him and too, and in a way that would not admit wonder what he meant. Then this man of any two opinions; as if the man were would count again - one, two, three, a grain of corn, and he had half a mind four, five, six, seven. Then, when the to peck him up and swallow him down men would waddle by in their great for daring to hint that it was impossible. gum - boots and look back at him over Then the man went off suddenly to one their beards, he would look them square side, and he, too, fell to counting on his in the face and wink, and screw and fingers, and to taking a whole knot of shrug his shoulders.

men into his confidence. This man stopped there in the middle Then the hatchet-faced fellow went up of the spree, and pursing his brow, and to another man and whispered in his holding up his fingers once more, and ear, with his smirk and his sweet devillooking as profound as if wrestling with ish smile, and he soon set him to spina problem in Euclid, said to himself: ning round like a top, and to lifting up “Hosses is ten, cows is six, cats is his fingers and counting one, two, three, three; but human bein's ? Blowed ef four, five, six, seven. I know.” And he shook his head.

Then all around the saloon men beAt last this hard hatchet-faced look- gan to get sober and to

hold

up

their ing man, standing back alone in the cor- hands and to count their fingers. ner, seemed to have got it all counted At last the little fat red - faced Judge up to his own satisfaction. He count- was heard to say: ed, however, again; then he said, as if “They was married in the fall.” to himself, “ Eight months at the very “About-about-about- eh, about outside,” and slapped his hands togeth- what month, do you remember, eh?” er with great glee, and sucked his thin squeaked out the hatchet - faced man brown lips as if he had just tasted some- through his nose, as he planted himself thing very delicious.

before the little Judge. Then this hatchet - faced fellow, still “About the last cleaning up,” said rubbing his hands and still sucking his the Judge, cheerfully. lips, and meanwhile grinning with a grin “That was about about" -and the that was sweet and devilish, turned to hatchet-faced man with the nasal twang the first man at his side, and whispered and sharp nose began again count on in his ear.

his fingers — "about six, seven, eight This man started and spun round months ago ?” when the hard - faced man had finished, “Yes, yes," said the good - natured, as if he had been a top and the hatchet- unsuspicious, important little Judge faced fellow had struck him with a whip. “about six or eight months ago, I reckThe man spun about, in fact, until the on.” And then he, smiling innocently,

[ocr errors]

a

fell in between two great bearded giants, now as before. The question evidently as a sort of ham-sandwich filling, to take had been settled in the minds of the a drink at the bar.

men fully in favor of Little Half-pint. "Ompossible!” said the first top to Few understood these things at all, fewthe hatchet-face.

er still cared to go into particulars at “ Ask him."

this time, and the question would keep The hatchet-face and sharp-nose look- until they had more leisure and less ed toward the little fat Judge wedged in whisky. between the giants. The top spun up Finally, the hatchet-faced man went to the little Judge, wedged his head in round and sat down opposite the man between the giants' shoulders, and ask- who sat behind the little silver faro-box ed a question.

by the pine table, and began to whisper The Judge shook his head, and then, in his ear. The good - natured genius, wiping his mouth with the back of his half-gambler, half-miner, who had playhand, said half-sadly: “No, I am not. ed the little prank with the salmon and No, I am sorry to say, I am not. That gold-dust, had had a dull night of it, is a happiness still in store. No, I am and most likely even for that reason was not a family man. Never was married a little out of humor. At all events, he in my life; but whatever may trans- did not answer at once, but set down his pire in this glorious climate of Califor- little silver box, and, taking up his cards, ny

began to spin them one by one over the The top had its answer, and spun back heads of the men, or through the crowd to its place without waiting for the last as it opened, back at the old bull - dog of the speech.

that on the bunk on the bags of gold The two men talked together again. under the blankets, half-whistling to himThen they appealed to an old man who self as he did so. sat mute and sullen back on the bench The hatchet-faced man, fearing the by the bull-dog.

man had forgotten his presence and his "No, he didn't know about such things; revelation, leaned over again and began didn't care a cuss, anyhow.” And the to whisper and to count on his fingers. two men went away as if a flea or two “How many months did you say?" had left the dog and hopped into their “Seven or eight at the farthest.” ears. They went to another man. “Don't “And how many had it ought to be ?" see the point, blowed ef I do. Six months, “Twelve!” And the smile that was seven months, eight months, ten months, sweet and devilish played about the thin all along there, I 'spose. The great blue lips below the sharp and meddleWashington, Cæsar, Horace Greeley, some nose. all sich big-bugs, it might take one, “And are you a family man?” two, three years. That little cuss to- "No." day only a month or two, I reckon. It's “And you say she's bilked us?" all right, I reckon. It aint my funeral, “ Yes.” anyhow. And what the devil yer come “You're a darn'd infernal liar!” The a-bot

erin' o' me for? Ef yer don't gambler rose as he said this, snatched want ter drink yerself, let a feller alone up his silver box and dashed it into the what does !” And he shook them off teeth of hatchet - face. And he, coward with a gesture of the hand and a jerk of as he was, put up his bands and held the head that meant a great deal more them to his mouth while the blood ran than he had said.

down between his fingers. There were not so many fingers up “I don't keer, Judge, I don't keer ef

a

a

I broke every tooth in his head. I don't and polished it up and down, but was ill 'low no white-livered son of a gun to go content. At last, looking out from unround a-talkin' about a woman like that.” der his great slouch-hat, he saw the top

Then the gambler, walking off, said to in the centre of a little knot of men holdthose around him in a lower tone: “It ing up his hand and counting his fingers. don't take no twelve months, nohow. He threw the box down on the table and Now, there's the yaller cat; 'bout four rushed into the knot of men like a mad litters in a year. Twelve months be bull. blowed! That's an old woman's story. “A bully set you are, aint you? Then that's in Missoury, anyhow, an' Gwine around a-countin' up after a sick what's the climate o' Missoury got to do woman! An' what do you know, anywith Californy, I'd like to know? No, how?” He took hold of the nervous gentlemen; some apples gits ripe soon, top, and again set it spinning. “That an' some don't git ripe till frost comes. little woman, she come as we come. Them's things, gentlemen, as we don't God Almighty didn't set no mark and know nothin' about. Them's mysteries, gauge on you, an' you sha’n’t go round an' none o' our business, nohow. Show an' count up after her. Do you hear? me the man," and here he began to roar Now you git. You're wanted. Hatchlike a Numidian lion, and to tower up et-face wants yer. Do you hear?above the crowd, while a face like a ra- The man spun his top about until its zor shot out through the door, looking face was to the door, and it went out as back frightened as it fed—“show me a sort of handle to the hatchet, and was the man as says it's not all right, an' seen no more that night. I'll shake him out o' his boots."

Yet for all this there had been a great The gambler picked up his battered ripple in the wave that had to run even box, but he was evidently not in a good to the shore before it could disappear humor. He wiped it on his coat-sleeve, from the face of things at the Forks.

CRUISE OF THE SAN BLASENA.

THI

'HE history of the adventures of the wild romance of that eventful year

the gold - hunters in the mad will soon be buried with them. scramble that followed the discovery of An allusion made by me in an address gold in California has not been and before the Pioneer Society in September probably will never be written. The last, to the adventures of a party that actors, then in the vigor of early man- landed on the peninsula of Lower Calihood, are now fast dropping away, and fornia and made their way to San Diego those who survive can furnish but by land, was based on a narrative made dim and fragmentary recollections, from to me during the year in which the which it is difficult to gather enough of events occurred, by a sick man who details to weave the fabric of a story. was one of a party that performed the Few of them had forethought to keep journey, and the only one whom I journals. Making history or writing it knew. I have made unsuccessful enwas not an element that entered into deavors to learn the fate of that man, their calculations, and the memories of who bore the ubiquitous name of Smith.

VOL. 15.-16.

But the allusion has been the means of the looked - for Robinson appeared, givputting me in communication with a ing the most pitiful account of his robnumber of men of different parties who bery and detention on the road; in performed that feat, and, what is for- short, he said he was unable to comply tunate, I have been put into possession with the terms of the sale or refund the of diaries of the journeys kept by men purchase-money. A meeting was called now living in San Francisco. By the to consider the situation, and the exciteaid of these written records, I have ment ran high. It was voted that the been enabled to piece out the histories, whole story of the robbery was an incomparatively complete, of several par- vention, and part of a scheme to swinties, that are worthy of preservation. dle them. A suit was forthwith instiThe first is that of the

tuted against the reputed owners, as

principals in the fraud, and they were CRUISE OF THE SAN BLASENA.

thrown into prison by the authorities. Many thousands of the gold - hunters, At length an arrangement was effected in order to gain the advantage of a short by which they got a bill of sale of the cut, without waiting for the approach of schooner; but she was without stores, spring to open up the passage by way of and required an outfit nearly equal to the plains, crossed through Mexico by her value to provide for so long a voy. every route practicable, and concen. age. It was expected that it would retrated at the ports on its west coast, quire a month at least to make the voy. chiefly San Blas and Mazatlan. On age to San Francisco. Those of the their arrival at these ports they found party who had money left advanced the all the available shipping already gone, amount necessary and took a bond on or filled with passengers about to sail the vessel. A crew was extemporized for San Francisco.

out of their number, and an old gentleAt the city of San Blas was a small man named Austin was found to be schooner of thirty-five tons, the San qualified to take the altitude of the Blasena, loaded with fruit for Mazatlan. sun, and was put in command. Water It was ascertained that this vessel could and all the stores suitable that could be be purchased for $2,700, to be delivered found were taken in, but when the capat the port of Mazatlan, and a party was tain went up to the custom-house to get soon made up consisting of thirty-seven his clearance, he was informed that he persons. A bargain was concluded with had an excess of passengers, and could the owners, who were Americans, and not be allowed to proceed until he had the money was paid to one of them landed nine of them. The requisite named Robinson. The party sailed in number were selected and placed on the schooner to Mazatlan, while Rob- shore; but what rule governed in the inson was to proceed by land and pro- selection the chronicler does not statevide an outfit for the voyage.

whether it was by lot, or whether the After a few days, crowded on the weakest had to take the boat.

It may schooner, the adventurers arrived at have been that those had to go who Mazatlan; but Robinson was not to were armed with Allen's revolvers, or be found. Many of them had put their what was better, with no arms at all, or all into the purchase and they were in those who held the bottomry bond; but desperate mood. No preparations had upon all this we are left to the vaguest been made for supplies and the de- conjecture and in total darkness. It parture of the vessel. They had been would be very interesting to hear from nearly a week in this perplexity, when one of that nine who were thenceforth

« AnteriorContinua »