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:-
Kearns, with every eye upon him, looked at his two-card draw, counted the otyer 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 hynch 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 thousand."
"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 Tivoli."
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 Campbell.
"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 adfing the sum.
"One hundred anf 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 called out loudly to all about him, at the same time rising from his chair and catching the Virgin by the arm. "Come on for a reel, you-all dancers. The nught's young yet, and it's Helen Breakfast and the mail contract for me in the morning. Here, you-all Rawlins, you--I hereby do take over that same contract, and I start for salt water 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 multjplied himself, and in so doing multiplied the excirement. 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 thr 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 takimg 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 form 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 unabazhed by the revellers that rioted about him while Daylight gave his orders.
"Um," said Kama, tabling his instructions on his fingers. "Get um lerters from Rawlins. Load um on sled. Grub for Selkirk--you think um plenty dog-grub stop Selklrk?"
"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 couod 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'lll get my stake by running the mail out and in."
"Dayliight," 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
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