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Barker’s Luck
by [?]

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 recollection of better things. Jerked beef, frizzled with salt pork in a frying-pan, boiled potatoes, biscuit, and coffee composed the repast. The biscuits, however, proving remarkably heavy after the first mouthful, were used as missiles, thrown through the open door at an empty bottle which had previously served as a mark for revolver practice, and a few moments later pipes were lit to counteract the effects of the meal and take the taste out of their mouths. Suddenly they heard the sound of horses’ hoofs, saw the quick passage of a rider in the open space before the cabin, and felt the smart impact upon the table of some small object thrown by him. It was the regular morning delivery of the county newspaper!

“He’s getting to be a mighty sure shot,” said Demorest approvingly, looking at his upset can of coffee as he picked up the paper, rolled into a cylindrical wad as tightly as a cartridge, and began to straighten it out. This was no easy matter, as the sheet had evidently been rolled while yet damp from the press; but Demorest eventually opened it and ensconced himself behind it.

“Nary news?” asked Stacy.

“No. There never is any,” said Demorest scornfully. “We ought to stop the paper.”

“You mean the paper man ought to. WE don’t pay him,” said Barker gently.