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The Unexpected
by [?]

All went well in the cabin. Their gold-dust had weighed up something like eight thousand dollars, and they could not but be contented. The men made snowshoes, hunted fresh meat for the larder, and in the long evenings played endless games of whist and pedro. Now that the mining had ceased, Edith Nelson turned over the fire-building and the dish-washing to the men, while she darned their socks and mended their clothes.

There was no grumbling, no bickering, nor petty quarrelling in the little cabin, and they often congratulated one another on the general happiness of the party. Hans Nelson was stolid and easy- going, while Edith had long before won his unbounded admiration by her capacity for getting on with people. Harkey, a long, lank Texan, was unusually friendly for one with a saturnine disposition, and, as long as his theory that gold grew was not challenged, was quite companionable. The fourth member of the party, Michael Dennin, contributed his Irish wit to the gayety of the cabin. He was a large, powerful man, prone to sudden rushes of anger over little things, and of unfailing good-humor under the stress and strain of big things. The fifth and last member, Dutchy, was the willing butt of the party. He even went out of his way to raise a laugh at his own expense in order to keep things cheerful. His deliberate aim in life seemed to be that of a maker of laughter. No serious quarrel had ever vexed the serenity of the party; and, now that each had sixteen hundred dollars to show for a short summer’s work, there reigned the well-fed, contented spirit of prosperity.

And then the unexpected happened. They had just sat down to the breakfast table. Though it was already eight o’clock (late breakfasts had followed naturally upon cessation of the steady work at mining) a candle in the neck of a bottle lighted the meal. Edith and Hans sat at each end of the table. On one side, with their backs to the door, sat Harkey and Dutchy. The place on the other side was vacant. Dennin had not yet come in.

Hans Nelson looked at the empty chair, shook his head slowly, and, with a ponderous attempt at humor, said: “Always is he first at the grub. It is very strange. Maybe he is sick.”

“Where is Michael?” Edith asked.

“Got up a little ahead of us and went outside,” Harkey answered.

Dutchy’s face beamed mischievously. He pretended knowledge of Dennin’s absence, and affected a mysterious air, while they clamored for information. Edith, after a peep into the men’s bunk- room, returned to the table. Hans looked at her, and she shook her head.

“He was never late at meal-time before,” she remarked.

“I cannot understand,” said Hans. “Always has he the great appetite like the horse.”

“It is too bad,” Dutchy said, with a sad shake of his head.

They were beginning to make merry over their comrade’s absence.

“It is a great pity!” Dutchy volunteered.

“What?” they demanded in chorus.

“Poor Michael,” was the mournful reply.

“Well, what’s wrong with Michael?” Harkey asked.

“He is not hungry no more,” wailed Dutchy. “He has lost der appetite. He do not like der grub.”

“Not from the way he pitches into it up to his ears,” remarked Harkey.

“He does dot shust to be politeful to Mrs. Nelson,” was Dutchy’s quick retort. “I know, I know, and it is too pad. Why is he not here? Pecause he haf gone out. Why haf he gone out? For der defelopment of der appetite. How does he defelop der appetite? He walks barefoots in der snow. Ach! don’t I know? It is der way der rich peoples chases after der appetite when it is no more and is running away. Michael haf sixteen hundred dollars. He is rich peoples. He haf no appetite. Derefore, pecause, he is chasing der appetite. Shust you open der door und you will see his barefoots in der snow. No, you will not see der appetite. Dot is shust his trouble. When he sees der appetite he will catch it und come to preak-fast.”