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Barker's Luck








From: Selected Stories

A bird twittered! The morning sun shining through the open window was
apparently more potent than the cool mountain air, which had only caused
the sleeper to curl a little more tightly in his blankets. Barker's eyes
opened instantly upon the light and the bird on the window ledge. Like
all healthy young animals he would have tried to sleep again, but with
his momentary consciousness came the recollection that it was his turn
to cook the breakfast that morning, and he regretfully rolled out of
his bunk to the floor. Without stopping to dress, he opened the door and
stepped outside, secure in the knowledge that he was overlooked only by
the Sierras, and plunged his head and shoulders in the bucket of cold
water that stood by the door. Then he began to clothe himself, partly in
the cabin and partly in the open air, with a lapse between the putting
on of his trousers and coat which he employed in bringing in wood.
Raking together the few embers on the adobe hearth, not without a
prudent regard to the rattlesnake which had once been detected in
haunting the warm ashes, he began to prepare breakfast. By this time the
other sleepers, his partners Stacy and Demorest, young men of about his
own age, were awake, alert, and lazily critical of his progress.

"I don't care about my quail on toast being underdone for breakfast,"
said Stacy, with a yawn; "and you needn't serve with red wine. I'm not
feeling very peckish this morning."

"And I reckon you can knock off the fried oysters after the Spanish
mackerel for ME," said Demorest gravely. "The fact is, that last bottle
of Veuve Clicquot we had for supper wasn't as dry as I am this morning."

Accustomed to these regular Barmecide suggestions, Barker made no direct
reply. Presently, looking up from the fire, he said, "There's no more
saleratus, so you mustn't blame me if the biscuit is extra heavy. I told
you we had none when you went to the grocery yesterday."

"And I told you we hadn't a red cent to buy any with," said Stacy, who
was also treasurer. "Put these two negatives together and you make the
affirmative--saleratus. Mix freely and bake in a hot oven."

Nevertheless, after a toilet as primitive as Barker's they sat down to
what he had prepared with the keen appetite begotten of the mountain
air and the regretful fastidiousness born of the rec