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Notes by Flood and Field
by [?]

I had spoken mechanically, for I was preoccupied in connecting other public lines with private surveys as I looked in his face. It was certainly a hard face, and reminded me of the singular effect of that mining operation known as “ground sluicing”; the harder lines of underlying character were exposed, and what were once plastic curves and soft outlines were obliterated by some powerful agency.

There was a dryness in his voice not unlike the prevailing atmosphere of the valley, as he launched into an EX PARTE statement of the contest, with a fluency, which, like the wind without, showed frequent and unrestrained expression. He told me–what I had already learned–that the boundary line of the old Spanish grant was a creek, described in the loose phraseology of the DESENO as beginning in the VALDA or skirt of the hill, its precise location long the subject of litigation. I listened and answered with little interest, for my mind was still distracted by the wind which swept violently by the house, as well as by his odd face, which was again reflected in the resemblance that the silent group by the fire bore toward him. He was still talking, and the wind was yet blowing, when my confused attention was aroused by a remark addressed to the recumbent figures.

“Now, then, which on ye’ll see the stranger up the creek to Altascar’s, tomorrow?”

There was a general movement of opposition in the group, but no decided answer.

“Kin you go, Kerg?”

“Who’s to look up stock in Strarberry perar-ie?”

This seemed to imply a negative, and the old man turned to another hopeful, who was pulling the fur from a mangy bearskin on which he was lying, with an expression as though it were somebody’s hair.

“Well, Tom, wot’s to hinder you from goin’?”

“Mam’s goin’ to Brown’s store at sunup, and I s’pose I’ve got to pack her and the baby agin.”

I think the expression of scorn this unfortunate youth exhibited for the filial duty into which he had been evidently beguiled was one of the finest things I had ever seen.


Wise deigned no verbal reply, but figuratively thrust a worn and patched boot into the discourse. The old man flushed quickly.

“I told ye to get Brown to give you a pair the last time you war down the river.”

“Said he wouldn’t without’en order. Said it was like pulling gum teeth to get the money from you even then.”

There was a grim smile at this local hit at the old man’s parsimony, and Wise, who was clearly the privileged wit of the family, sank back in honorable retirement.

“Well, Joe, ef your boots are new, and you aren’t pestered with wimmin and children, p’r’aps you’ll go,” said Tryan, with a nervous twitching, intended for a smile, about a mouth not remarkably mirthful.

Tom lifted a pair of bushy eyebrows, and said shortly:

“Got no saddle.”

“Wot’s gone of your saddle?”

“Kerg, there”–indicating his brother with a look such as Cain might have worn at the sacrifice.

“You lie!” returned Kerg, cheerfully.

Tryan sprang to his feet, seizing the chair, flourishing it around his head and gazing furiously in the hard young faces which fearlessly met his own. But it was only for a moment; his arm soon dropped by his side, and a look of hopeless fatality crossed his face. He allowed me to take the chair from his hand, and I was trying to pacify him by the assurance that I required no guide when the irrepressible Wise again lifted his voice:

“Theer’s George comin’! why don’t ye ask him? He’ll go and introduce you to Don Fernandy’s darter, too, ef you ain’t pertickler.”

The laugh which followed this joke, which evidently had some domestic allusion (the general tendency of rural pleasantry), was followed by a light step on the platform, and the young man entered. Seeing a stranger present, he stopped and colored, made a shy salute and colored again, and then, drawing a box from the corner, sat down, his hands clasped lightly together and his very handsome bright blue eyes turned frankly on mine.