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The Stampede
by [?]

From their vantage on the dump, the red gravel of which ran like a raw scar down the mountainside, the men looked out across the gulch, above the western range of hills to the yellow setting sun. Far below them the creek was dotted with other tiny pay dumps of the same red gravel over which men crawled, antlike, or upon which they labored at windlass. Thin wisps of smoke rose from the cabin roofs, bespeaking the supper hour.

They had done a hard day’s work, these two, and wearily descended to their shack, which hugged the hillside beneath.

Ten hours with pick and shovel in a drift where the charcoal-gas flickers a candle-flame will reduce one’s artistic keenness, and together they slouched along the path, heedless alike of view or color.

As Crowley built the fire Buck scoured himself in the wet snow beside the door, emerging from his ablutions as cook. The former stretched upon the bunk with growing luxury. “Gee whiz! I’m tuckered out. Twelve hours in that air is too much for anybody.”

“Sure,” growled the other. “Bet I sleep good to-night, all right, all right. What’s the use, anyhow?” he continued, disgustedly. “I’m sore on the whole works. If the Yukon was open I’d chuck it all.”

“What! Go back to the States? Give up?”

“Well, yes, if you want to call it that, though I think I’ve shown I ain’t a quitter. Lord! I’ve rustled steady for two years, and what have I got? Nothing–except my interest in this pauperized hill claim.”

“If two years of hard luck gives you cold feet, you ain’t worthy of the dignity of ‘prospector.’ This here is the only honorable calling there is. There’s no competition and cuttin’ throats in our business, nor we don’t rob the widders and orphans. A prospector is defined as a semi-human being with a low forehead but a high sense of honor, a stummick that shies at salads, but a heart that’s full of grit. They don’t never lay down, and the very beauty of the business is that you never know when you’re due. Some day a guy comes along: ‘I hit her over yonder, bo,’ says he, whereupon you insert yourself into a pack-strap, pound the trail, and the next you know you’re a millionaire or two.”

“Bah! No more stampedes for me. I’ve killed myself too often–there’s nothing in ’em. I’m sick of it, I tell you, and I’m going out to God’s country. No more wild scrambles and hardships for Buck.”

A step sounded on the chips without, and a slender, sallow man entered.

“Hello, Maynard!” they chorused, and welcomed him to a seat.

“What are you doing out here?”

“D’you bring any chewing with you?”

Evidently he labored under excitement, for his face was flushed and his eyes danced nervously. He panted from his climb, ignoring their questions.

“There’s been a big strike–over on the Tanana–four bits to the pan.”

Forgetting fatigue, Crowley scrambled out of his bunk while the cook left his steaming skillet.


“How d’you know?”

“It’s this way. I met a fellow as I came out from town–he’d just come over–one of the discoverers. He showed me the gold. It’s coarse; one nugget weighed three hundred dollars and there’s only six men in the party. They went up the Tanana last fall, prospecting, and only just struck it. Three of ’em are down with scurvy, so this one came over the mountains for fresh grub. It’ll be the biggest stampede this camp ever saw.” Maynard became incoherent.

“How long ago did you meet him?” Crowley inquired, excitedly.

“About an hour. I came on the run, because he’ll get into camp by eleven, and midnight will see five hundred men on the trail. Look at this–he gave me a map.” The speaker gloatingly produced a scrap of writing-paper and continued, “Boys, you’ve got five hours’ start of them.”

“We can’t go; we haven’t got any dogs,” said Buck. “Those people from town would catch us in twenty miles.”