**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Jack and Jill of the Sierras
by [?]

It was four o’clock in the afternoon, and the hottest hour of the day on that Sierran foothill. The western sun, streaming down the mile-long slope of close-set pine crests, had been caught on an outlying ledge of glaring white quartz, covered with mining tools and debris, and seemed to have been thrown into an incandescent rage. The air above it shimmered and became visible. A white canvas tent on it was an object not to be borne; the steel-tipped picks and shovels, intolerable to touch and eyesight, and a tilted tin prospecting pan, falling over, flashed out as another sun of insufferable effulgence. At such moments the five members of the “Eureka Mining Company” prudently withdrew to the nearest pine-tree, which cast a shadow so sharply defined on the glistening sand that the impingement of a hand or finger beyond that line cut like a knife. The men lay, or squatted, in this shadow, feverishly puffing their pipes and waiting for the sun to slip beyond the burning ledge. Yet so irritating was the dry air, fragrant with the aroma of the heated pines, that occasionally one would start up and walk about until he had brought on that profuse perspiration which gave a momentary relief, and, as he believed, saved him from sunstroke. Suddenly a voice exclaimed querulously:–

“Derned if the blasted bucket ain’t empty ag’in! Not a drop left, by Jimminy!”

A stare of helpless disgust was exchanged by the momentarily uplifted heads; then every man lay down again, as if trying to erase himself.

“Who brought the last?” demanded the foreman.

“I did,” said a reflective voice coming from a partner lying comfortably on his back, “and if anybody reckons I’m going to face Tophet ag’in down that slope, he’s mistaken!” The speaker was thirsty–but he had principles.

“We must throw round for it,” said the foreman, taking the dice from his pocket.

He cast; the lowest number fell to Parkhurst, a florid, full-blooded Texan. “All right, gentlemen,” he said, wiping his forehead, and lifting the tin pail with a resigned air, “only EF anything comes to me on that bare stretch o’ stage road,–and I’m kinder seein’ things spotty and black now, remember you ain’t anywhar NEARER the water than you were! I ain’t sayin’ it for myself–but it mout be rough on YOU–and”–

“Give ME the pail,” interrupted a tall young fellow, rising. “I’ll risk it.”

Cries of “Good old Ned,” and “Hunky boy!” greeted him as he took the pail from the perspiring Parkhurst, who at once lay down again. “You mayn’t be a professin’ Christian, in good standin’, Ned Bray,” continued Parkhurst from the ground, “but you’re about as white as they make ’em, and you’re goin’ to do a Heavenly Act! I repeat it, gents–a Heavenly Act!”

Without a reply Bray walked off with the pail, stopping only in the underbrush to pluck a few soft fronds of fern, part of which he put within the crown of his hat, and stuck the rest in its band around the outer brim, making a parasol-like shade above his shoulders. Thus equipped he passed through the outer fringe of pines to a rocky trail which began to descend towards the stage road. Here he was in the full glare of the sun and its reflection from the heated rocks, which scorched his feet and pricked his bent face into a rash. The descent was steep and necessarily slow from the slipperiness of the desiccated pine needles that had fallen from above. Nor were his troubles over when, a few rods further, he came upon the stage road, which here swept in a sharp curve round the flank of the mountain, its red dust, ground by heavy wagons and pack-trains into a fine powder, was nevertheless so heavy with some metallic substance that it scarcely lifted with the foot, and he was obliged to literally wade through it. Yet there were two hundred yards of this road to be passed before he could reach that point of its bank where a narrow and precipitous trail dropped diagonally from it, to creep along the mountain side to the spring he was seeking.