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Fool’s Gold
by [?]

Andy Green, unshaven as to face and haggard as to eyes, leaned upon his stout, willow stick and looked gloomily away to the west. He was a good deal given to looking to the west, these days when a leg new-healed kept him at the ranch, though habit and inclination would have sent him riding fast and far over prairies untamed. Inaction comes hard when a man has lived his life mostly in the open, doing those things which keep brain and muscle keyed alike to alertness and leave no time for brooding.

If Andy had not broken his leg but had gone with the others on roundup, he would never have spent the days glooming unavailingly because a girl with a blond pompadour and teasing eyes had gone away and taken with her a false impression of his morals, and left behind her the sting of a harsh judgment against which there seemed no appeal. As it was, he spent the time going carefully over his past in self-justification, and in remembering every moment that he had spent with Mary Johnson in those four weeks when she stayed with her father and petted the black lamb and the white.

In his prejudiced view, he had never done anything to make a girl hate him. He had not always told the truth–he would admit that with candid, gray eyes looking straight into your own–but he had never lied to harm a man, which, it seemed to him, makes all the difference in the world.

If he could once have told her how he felt about it, and showed her how the wide West breeds wider morals–he did not quite know how you would put these things, but he felt them very keenly. He wanted to make her feel the difference; to see that little things do not count in a man’s life, after all, except when they affect him as a man when big things are wanted of him. A little cowardice would count, for instance, because it would show that the man would fail at the test; but a little lie? just a harmless sort of lie that was only a “josh” and was taken as such by one’s fellows? Andy was not analytic by nature, and he would have stumbled vaguely among words to explain his views, but he felt very strongly the injustice of the girl’s condemnation, and he would scarcely speak to Jack Bates and Irish when they came around making overtures for peace and goodwill.

“If she hadn’t gone home so sudden, I could uh squared it all right,” he told the Little Doctor, whenever her sympathetic attitude won him to speech upon the subject.

“Yes, I believe you could,” she would agree cheeringly. “If she’s the right sort, and cared, you could.”

“She’s the right sort–I know that,” Andy would assert with much decision, though modesty forbade his telling the Little Doctor that he was also sure she cared. She did care, if a girl’s actions count for anything, or her looks and smiles. Of course she cared! Else why did she rush off home like that, a good month before she had intended to go? They had planned that Andy would get a “lay-off” and go with her as far as Butte, because she would have to wait there several hours, and Andy wanted to take her out to the Columbia Gardens and see if she didn’t think they were almost as nice as anything California could show. Then she had gone off without any warning because Jack Bates and Irish had told her a lot of stuff about him, Andy; if that didn’t prove she cared, argued Andy to himself, what the dickens would you want for proof?

It was from thinking these things over and over while he lay in bed, that Andy formed the habit of looking often towards the west when his hurt permitted him to hobble around the house. And when a man looks often enough in any direction, his feet will, unless hindered by fate itself, surely follow his gaze if you give them time enough.