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In The Cabin

From: The Gold Girl

For a long time after the departure of her visitors, Patty Sinclair
sat thinking. Was it true, all this man had told her? She remembered
vividly the beautiful tribute he had paid her father and the emotion
that had gripped him as he finished. Surely his words rang true. They
were true, or else the man was a consummate actor as well as an
unscrupulous knave. She recalled the boyish smile, the story of Lord
Clendenning's terrible journey, and the impatience with which he had
silenced the Englishman's self-criticism. What would be more natural
than that two men thrown together in the middle of the hill country,
as her father and Bethune had been thrown together, should have pooled
their interests, especially if each possessed an essential that the
other did not. There had been somehow a sincerity about the man that
carried conviction. She liked his ready admission that her father's
knowledge of mining greatly exceeded his own. And the assertion that
he had advanced sums of money for the carrying on of the work sounded
plausible enough, for the girl knew that her father's income had been
small--pitiably small, but enough, he had always insisted, for his
meager needs. Unquestionably, up to that point the man's words had
carried the ring of truth. Then came the false notes; the open
accusation of Vil Holland, and the warning as to the concealment of
the map and photos which she had twice purposely refused to admit that
she possessed. This was the second time he had gone out of his way to
warn her against Vil Holland. On occasion of their previous meeting,
he had hinted that Holland might pose as a friend of her father--a
pose Bethune, himself, boldly assumed. Perhaps Vil Holland had been a
friend of her father. In the matter of the pack sack, to whom would a
man intrust his belongings, if not to a friend? Surely not to an
enemy, nor to one he had reason to suspect. And now Bethune openly
accused him of cutting the pack sack, and intimated that he would not
hesitate to rob her of her secret.

For a long time she sat with her elbow on the table and her chin
resting in her palm, staring out at the overshadowing hills. "If there
was only somebody," she muttered. "Somebody I could--" Suddenly she
leaped to her feet. "No, I'm glad there isn't! I'll play the game
alone! I came out here to do it, and I'll do it, in spite of forty Vil
Hollands, and Bethunes, and Lord Clendennings! I'll find the mine
myself--and I'll call it a mine, too, if I want to! And then, after I
find it, if Mr. Monk Bethune can show me that he is entitled to a
share in it, I'll give it to him--and not before. I'll stay right here
till I find it, or till my money gives out, and when it does, I'll
earn some more and come back again till that's gone!" Crossing the
room, she stamped determinedly out the door, threw the saddle onto her
cayuse, and rode rapidly down the creek. Horseback riding always
exhilarated her, even back home where she had been obliged to keep to
roads, or the well-worn courses of the hunt club. But here in the
hills where the very air was a tonic that sent the blood coursing
through her veins, and where tier after tier, the mighty mountains
rolled away into the distance, as if flaunting a challenge to come and
explore their secrets, and unscarred valleys gave glimpses of alluring
vistas, the exhilaration amounted almost to intoxication. As her
horse's feet thudded the ground, and splashed in and out of the
shallows of the creek, she laughed aloud for the very joy of living.
She pulled her horse to a walk as she skirted the fence of Watts's
upper pasture, and her eyes rested with approval upon the straightened
posts and taut wire. "At last Mr. Watts has bestirred himself. I hope
he will keep on, now, that he's got the habit, and fix up the rest of
the ranch. I wonder why that Vil Holland disapproved when he mentioned
that he had leased his pasture. It seems as though nothing can happen
in this country unless Vil Holland is mixed up in it someway. And, now
I'm down this far, I'll just find out whether Vil Holland did take
that pack down here for daddy. And if he did I'll let him know mighty
quick, the next time I see him, that I know all about it's being cut

With her tubs on a bench, and the baby propped and tied securely in an
old wooden rocker, Ma Watts was up to her elbows in her "week's
worsh." Watts sat in his accustomed place, his chair tilted against
the shady side of the house. "Laws sakes, ef hit hain't Mr. Sinclair's
darter!" cried the woman, shaking the suds from her bare arms, "How be
yo', honey? An' how's the sheep camp? Microby Dandeline tellen us how
yo'-all scrubbed, an' scraped, an' cleaned 'til hit shined like a
nigger's heel. Hit's nice to be clean, that-a-way ef yo' got time, but
with five er six young-uns to take keer of, an' a passel of chickens
a-runnin' in under foot all day, seems like a body cain't keep clean
nohow. Microby says how yo' got a rale curtin' in yo' winder, an' all
kinds of pert doin' an' fixin's. That's hit, git right down off yer
horse. Land! I wus so busy hearin' 'bout yo' fixin' up the sheep camp,
thet I plumb fergot my manners. Watts, get a cheer! An' 'pears like
yo' could say 'Howdy' when anyone comes a visitin'."

"I aimed to," mumbled Watts apologetically, as he dragged a chair from
the kitchen, "I wus jest a-aidgin' 'round fer a chanct."

"I can't stay but a minute, see, the shadows are already half way
across the valley. I just thought I'd take a little ride before

"Law, yes, some folks likes to ride hossback, but fer me, I'd a heap
ruther go in a jolt wagon. Beats all the dif'fence in folks. Seems
like the folks out yere jist take to hit nachel. Yo' be'n huntin' yo'
pa's location yet?"

"No, I've been getting things in shape around the cabin. I'm going to
start prospecting to-morrow." She glanced back along the valley, "I
suppose my father came along this way when he left his pack on his way
East," she said.

"No, mom," Watts rubbed his chin, reflectively. "Hit wus Vil Holland
brung in his pack. Seems like yo' pa wus in a right smart of a hurry
when he left, so Vil taken his pack down yere an' me an' the boys put
hit in the barn fer to keep hit saft. Then Vil he rud on down the
crick, hell bent fer 'lection----"

"Watts! Hain't yo' shamed a-cussin'?" cried his scandalized spouse.

"Why was he in such a hurry?" asked the girl.

"I dunno. He jes' turned the mewl loost an' says to keep the pack till
yo' pa come back, an' larruped off."

Patty rose from the chair and gathered up her bridle reins. "I must be
going, really. You see, I've got my chores to do, and supper to get,
and I want to go to bed early so I'll be fresh in the morning." She
mounted, and turned to Ma Watts: "Can't you come up some day and bring
the children? I'd love to have you. Let's arrange the day now, so I
will be sure to be home."

"Lawzie, I'd give a purty! Listen at thet, now, Watts. Cain't we fix
to go?"

Watts fumbled his beard: "Why, yas, I reckon, some day, mebbe."

"What day can you come?" asked Patty.

"Well, le's see, this yere's about a Tuesday." He paused, glanced up
at the sky, and gave careful scrutiny to the horizon. "How'd Sunday a
week suit yo'--ef hit don't rain?"

"Fine," agreed the girl, smiling. "And, by the way, I came down past
the upper pasture. The fence looks grand. It didn't take long to fix
it, did it?"

"Well, hit tuk quite a spell--all day yeste'day, an' up 'til noon
to-day. We only got one side an' halft another done, an' they's two
sides an' a halft yet. But Mr. Bethune came by this noon, him an'
Lord, an' 'lowed he worn't in no gret hurry fer hit, causen he heerd
from Schultz thet the hoss business 'ud haf to wait over a spell----"

"An' Lord, he come down an' boughten a lot of aigs offen me. Him an'
Mr. Bethune is both got manners."

"Women folks likes 'em better'n what men does, seems like," opined
Watts, reflectively.

"Why don't men like them?" asked the girl eagerly.

"I dunno. Seems like they jes' nachelly mistrust 'em someways."

"Did my father like him--Mr. Bethune?"

"'Cordin' to Mr. Bethune they wus gret buddies, but when I'd run
acrost yo' pa in the hills, 'pears like he wus allus alone er elsen
Vil Holland was along. But, Mr. Bethune claims he set a heap by yo'
pa, like the time he come an' 'lowed to take away his pack. I wouldn't
let hit go, 'cause thet hain't the way Vil said, an' Mr. Bethune, he
started in to git mad, but then he laffed, an' said hit didn't make no
diff'ence, 'cause all he wanted wus to be shore hit wus saft kep."

"An' Pa mos' hed to shoot him, though, 'fore he laffed. I done tol' Pa
he hadn't ort to. Lessen yo' runnin' a still, yo' hain't no call to
shoot folks comin' 'round."

"Shoot him!" exclaimed Patty, staring in surprise at the easy-going

"Yas, he aimed to take thet pack anyways. So I went in an' got down
the ol' rifle-gun an' pintedly tole him I'd shoot him dead ef he laid
holt o' thet pack, an' then he laffed an' rud off."

"But, would you have shot him, really?"

"Yas," answered the mountaineer, in a matter-of-fact tone, "I'd of hed

Patty rode home slowly and in silence--thinking. And that evening, by
the light of her coal-oil lamp she puzzled over the roughly sketched
map with its cryptic signs and notations. There were a half-dozen
samples, too--chips of rough, heavy rock that didn't look a bit like
gold. "High grade," her daddy had called them as he babbled
incessantly upon his death-bed. But they looked dull and unpromising
to the girl as they lay upon the table. She returned to the sketch.
With the exception of a single small dot, placed beside what was
evidently the principal creek of the locality, the map consisted only
of lines and shadings which evidently indicated creeks and
mountains--no cross, no letter, no number--nothing to indicate
landmark or location, only a confusing network of creeks and feeders
branching out like the limbs of a tree. Along the bottom of the paper
the girl read the following line:

"SC 1 S1 1/2 E 1 S [up arrow] to [union symbol] 2 W to a. to b. stake L.C.
[zigzag symbol] centre."

"I suppose that was all clear as daylight to daddy, and maybe it would
be to anyone who is used to maps, but as for doing me any good, he
might as well have copied a line from the Chinese dictionary."

She stared hopelessly at the unintelligible line, and then at the two
photographs. One, taken evidently from a point well up the side of a
hill, showed a narrow valley, flanked upon the opposite side by a high
rock wall. Toward the upper end of the wall an irregular crack or
cleft split it from top to bottom. The other was a "close up" taken at
the very base of the cleft, and showed only the narrow aperture in the
rock, and the ground at its base. For a long time she sat studying the
photographs, memorizing every feature and line of them; the
conformation of the valley, the contour of the rock wall, the position
and shapes of the trees and rock fragments. "That must be the mine,"
she concluded, at length, "right there at the bottom of that crack."
She closed her eyes and conjured a mental picture of the little
valley, of the rock wall, and of the cleft that would mark the
location. "I'd know it if I should see it," she muttered, "let's see:
big broken rocks strewn along the floor of the valley, and a tiny
creek, and then the rock cliff, it must be about as high as--about
twice as tall as the trees that grow along the foot of it, and it's
highest at the upper end, then there's a big tree standing alone
almost in the middle of the valley, and the gnarled, scraggly trees
that grow along the top of the rocks, and the valley must be as wide
as from here to that clump of trees beyond my wood-pile--about a
block, I guess. And there's the big crack in the cliff that starts
straight," she traced the course of the crack with her finger upon the
table top, "and then zigzags to the ground." Her glance returned to
the map, and she frowned. "I don't think that's a bit of good to me.
But I don't care as long as I have the photographs. I'll just ride,
and ride, and ride through these hills till I find that valley, and
then--" The little clock on the shelf beside the mirror ticked loudly.
Her thoughts strayed far beyond the confines of the little cabin on
Monte's Creek, as she planned how she would spend the golden stream
that was to flow from the foot of the rock ledge.

Gradually her vision became confused, the incessant ticking of the
little clock sounded farther, and farther away, her head settled to
rest upon her folded arms, and she was in the midst of a struggle of
some kind, in which a belted cowboy and a suave, sloe-eyed
quarter-breed were fighting to gain possession of her mine--or, were
they trying to help her locate it? And what was it daddy was trying to
tell her? She couldn't quite hear. She wished he would talk
louder--but it was something about the mine, and the men who were
struggling.... She awoke with a start, and glanced swiftly about the
cabin. The roots of her hair along the back of her neck tingled
uncomfortably. She felt she was not alone--that somewhere eyes were
watching her. The chintz curtain that screened the open window swayed
lightly in the night breeze and she jumped nervously. "I'm a perfect
fool!" she exclaimed, aloud: "As if any 'Jack the Peeper' would be
prowling around these mountains! It's just nerves, that's all it is."

Slipping the map and the photographs beneath a plate, she crossed to
the door and made sure the bar was in place, took the white butted
revolver from its holster, and with a determined tightening of the
lips, stepped to the window, drew the curtain aside, and stood peering
out into the dark. The only sounds were the ticking of the clock, and
the purling of the water as it rushed among the stones of the shallow
ford. Overhead the stars winked brightly, in sharp contrast to the
velvet blackness of the pines. The sound of the water soothed her, and
she laughed--a forced little laugh, but it made her feel better.
Crossing to the table she blew out the lamp and, placing her revolver
at the head of her bunk, undressed in the darkness. She raised the
plate, took the map and the two precious photographs, placed them in
their envelope, and slipped the chain about her neck.

For a long time she lay between her blankets, wide awake, conscious
that she was straining her ears to catch some faint sound. A half
dozen times she caught herself listening with nerves on edge and
muscles taut, and each time forced herself to relax. But always she
came back to that horrible, tense listening. She charged herself with
cowardice, and pooh-poohed her fears, but it was no use, and she wound
up by covering her head with her blanket. "I don't care, there was
somebody watching, but if he thinks he's going to find out where I
keep these," her hand clutched the little oiled packet, "he'll have to
come again, that's all."

It was nearly an hour later that Monk Bethune quitted his post close
against the cabin wall, at the point where the chinking had fallen
away from the logs, and slipped silently into the timber.

Next: Prospecting

Previous: Bethune Pays A Call

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