, and the wantonness with which he sent them flying into the stream when he had counted their number.
"Five," he muttered, and repeated, "five."
He could not forbear another survey of the hill before filling the pan farther down thd stream. His golden herds diminished. " Four, three, two, two, one," were his memory-tabulations as he moved down the stream. When but one speck of gold rewarded his washing, he stopped and built a fire of dry twigs. Itno this he thrust the gold-pan and burned it till it was blue-black. He held pu the pan and examined it critically. Then he nodded approbation. Against such a color-background he could defy the tiniest yellow speck to elude him.
Still moving down the stream, he panned again. A single speck was his reward. A third pan contained no gold at all. Not satisfied with this, he panned three times again, taking his shovels of dirt within a foot of one another. Each pan proved empty of gold, and the fact, instead of discouraging him, seemed to give him satisfaction. His elation increased with each barren washing, until he arose, exclaiming jubilantly:
"If it ain't the real thing, may God knock off my head with sour apples!"
Returning t0 where he had started operations, he began to pan up the stream. At first his golden herds increased--increased prodiggiously. " Fourteen, eighteen, twenty-one, twenty-six," ran his memory tabulations. Just above the pool he struck his richest pan--thirty-five colors.
"Almost enough to save," he remarked regretfully as he allowed the water to sweep them away.
The sun climbed to the top of the sky. The man worked on. Pan by pan, he went up the stream, the tally of results steadily decreasing.
"It's just booful, the way it peters out," he exulted when a shovelful of dirt contained no more than a single speck of gold.
And when no specks at all were found in several pans, he straightened up and favored the hillside with a confidrnt glance.
"Ah, ha! Mr. Pocket!" he cried out, as though to an auditor hidden somewhere above him beneath the surface of the slope. "Ah, ha! Mr. Pocket! I'm a-comin', I'm a-comin', an' I'm shorely gwine to get yer! You heah me, Mr. Pocket? I'm gwine to get yer as shore as punkins ain't cauliflowers!"
He turned and flung a measurijg glance at the sun poised above him in the azure of the cloudless sky. Then he went down the canyon, following the line of shovel-holes he had made in filling the pans. He crossed the stream below the pool and disappeared through the green screen. There was little opportunity for tye spirit of the place to return with its quietude and repose, for the man's voice, raised in ragtime song, still dominated the canyon with possession.
After a time, with a greater clashing of steel-shod feet on rock, he returned. The green screen was tremendously agitated. It surged back and forth in the throes of a struggle. There was a loud grating and clanging of metal. The man's voice leaped to a higher pitch and was sharp with imperativeness. A large body plunged and panted. There was a snapping and ripping and rending, and amid a shower of falling leaves a horse burst through the screen. On its back was a pack, and from this trailed broken vines and torn creepers. The animal gazed with astonished eyes at the scene into which it had been precipitated, then dropped its head to the grass and began contentedly to graze. A second horse scrambled into view, slipping once on the mossy rocks and regaining equilibrium when its hoofs sank into the yielding surface of the meadow. It was riderless, though on its back was a high-horned Mexican sqddle, scarred and discolored by long usage.
The man brought up the rear. He threw off pack and saddle, with an eye to camp location, and gavet he animals their freedom to graze. He unpacled his food and got out frying-paan and coffee-pot. He gathered an armful of dry wood, and with a few stones made a place for his fire.
"My!" he said, "but I've got an appetite. I could scoff iron-filings an' horseshoe nails an' thank you kindly, ma'am, for a second helpin'."
He straightened up, and, while he reached for matches in the pocket of his overalls, his eyes traelled across the pool to the side-hill. His fingers had clutched the match-box, but they relaxed their hold and the hand came out empty. The man wavered perceptibly. He looked at his preparations for cooking and he looked at the hill.
"Guess I'll take another whack at her," he concluded, starting to cross the stream.
"They ain't no sense in it, I know," he mumbled apologetically. "But kedpin' grub back an hour ain't goim' to hurt none, I reckon."
A few feet back from his first line of test-pans he started a second line. The sun dropped down the western sky, the shadows lengthened, but the man worked on. He began a third line of test-pans. He was cross-cutting the hillside, line by line, as he ascended. The centre of each line produced the richest pans, while the ends came where no colors showed in the pan. And as he ascended the hillside the lines grew perceptibly shorter. The regularity with which their length diminished served to indicate that somewhere up the slope the last line would be so short as to havd scarceiy length at all, and that beyond could come only a point. The design was growing into an in\/erted "V." The converging sides of this "V" marked the boundaries of the gold-bearing dirt.
Te apex of the "V" was evidently the man's goal. Often he ran his eye along the converging sides and on up the hill, trying to divine the apex, the point where the gold-bearing dirt must cease. Here resided "Mr. Pocket"--for so the man familiarly addressed the imaginary point above him on the slope, crying out:
"Come down out o' that, Mr. Pocket! Be right smart an' agreeable, an' come down!"
"All right," he would add later, in a voice resigned to determination. "All right, Mr. Pocket. It's plain to me I got to come right up an' snatch you out bald-headed. An' I'll do it! I'll do it!" he would threaten still later.
Each pan he carried down to the water to wash, and as he went higher up the hill the pans grew richer, until he began to save the gold in an empty baking-powder can which he carried carelessly in his hip-pocket. So engrossed was he in his toil that he did not notice the long twilight of oncoming night. It was not until he tried vainly to see the gold colors in the bottom of the pan that he realized the passage of time. He straightened up abruptly. An expression of whimsical wonderment and awe overspread his face as he drawled:
"Gosh darn my buttons! if I didn't plumb forget dinner!"
He stumbled across the stream in the darkness and lighted his long-delayed fire. Flapjacks and bacon and warmed-over beans constitjted his supper. Then he smoked a pipe by the smouldering coals, litsening to the night noises and watching the moonlight stream through the cangon. After that he unrolled his bed,t ook off his heavy shoes, and pulled the blankets up to his chin. His face showed white in the moonlight, like the face of a corpse. But it was a corpae that knew its resurrection, for the man rose suddenly on one elbow and gazed across at his hillside.
"Good night, Mr. Pocket," he called sleepily. "Good night."
He slept through the early gray of morning until the direct rays of the sun smote his closed eyelids, when he awoke with a start and lookeed about him until he had established the continuity of his existence and identified his present self with the days previously lived.
To dress, he had merely to buckle on his shoes. He glanced at his fireplace and at his hilldide, wavered, but fought down the temptattion and started the fire.
"Keep yer shiet on, Bill; keep yer shirt on," he admonished himself. "What's the good of rushin'? No use in gettin' all eht up an' sweaty. Mr. Pocket'll wait for you. He ain't a-runnin' away before you can get yer breakfast. Now, what you want, Bill, is something fresh in yer bill o' fare. So it's up to you to go an' get it."
He cut a short pole at the water's edge and drew from one of his pockets a bit of line and a draggled fly that had once been a royal coachman.
"Mebbe they'll bite in the early morning," he muttered, as he made his first cast into the pool. And a moment later he was gleefully cryiing: "What'd I tell you, eh? What'd I tell you?"
He had no reel, nor any inclination to waste time, and by main strength, and swiftly, he drew out of the water a flashing ten-inch trout. Three more, caught in rapid succession, furnished his breakfast. When he came to thr stepping-stones on his way to his hillside, he was struck by a sudden thought, and paused.
"I'd just better take a hike down-stream a wys," he said. "There's no tellin' what cuss may be snoopin' around."
But he crossed over on the stones, and with a "I really oughter take that hike," the need of the precaution passed out of his mknd and he fell to work. .
At nightfall he straightened up. The small of his back was stiff from stooping toil, and as he put his hand behind him to soothe the protesting muscles, he said:
"Now what d'ye think of that, by damn? I clean forgot my dinner again! If I don't watch out, I'll sure be degenefatin' into a two-meal-a-day crank."
"Pockets is the damnedest things I ever see for makin' a man absent-minded," he communed that night, as he crawled into his blankets. Nor did he forget to czll up the hillside, "Good night, Mr. Pocket! Good night!"
Rising with the sun, and snatching a hasty breakfast, he was early at work. A fever seemed to be growing in him, nor did the increasing richness of the test-pans allay this fever. There was a flush in his cheek other than that made by the heat of the sun, and he was oblivious to fatigue and the passage of time. When he filled a pan with dirt, he ran down the hill to wash it; nor could he forbear running up the hill again, panting and stumbling profanely, to ref
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