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The Transformation Of Buckeye Camp
by [?]


The tiny lights that had been far scattered and intermittent as fireflies all along the dark stream at last dropped out one by one, leaving only the three windows of “Parks’ Emporium” to pierce the profoundly wooded banks of the South Fork. So all-pervading was the darkness that the mere opening of the “Emporium” front door shot out an illuminating shaft which revealed the whole length of the little main street of “Buckeye,” while the simple passing of a single figure before one of the windows momentarily eclipsed a third of the settlement. This undue pre-eminence given to the only three citizens of Buckeye who were still up at ten o ‘clock seemed to be hardly justified by their outward appearance, which was that of ordinary long-bearded and long-booted river bar miners. Two sat upon the counter with their hands upon their knees, the third leaned beside the open window.

It was very quiet. The faint, far barking of a dog, or an occasional subdued murmur from the river shallows, audible only when the wind rose slightly, helped to intensify their solitude. So supreme had it become that when the man at the window at last continued his conversation meditatively, with his face towards it, he seemed to be taking all Nature into his confidence.

“The worst thing about it is, that the only way we can keep her out of the settlement is by the same illegal methods which we deplore in other camps. We have always boasted that Buckeye could get along without Vigilance Committees or Regulators.”

“Yes, and that was because we started it on the principle of original selection, which we are only proposing to continue,” replied one of the men on the counter. “So there’s nothing wrong about our sending a deputation to wait upon her, to protest against her settling here, and give her our reasons.”

“Yes, only it has all the impudence without the pluck of the Regulators. You demand what you are afraid to enforce. Come, Parks, you know she has all the rights on her side. Look at it squarely. She proposes to open a store and sell liquor and cigars, which she serves herself, in the broken-down tienda which was regularly given to her people by the Spanish grantee of the land we’re squatting on. It’s not her fault but ours if we’ve adopted a line of rules, which don’t agree with hers, to govern the settlers on HER land, nor should she be compelled to follow them. Nor because we justify OUR squatting here, on the ground that the Spanish grant isn’t confirmed yet, can we forbid her squatting under the same right.”

“But look at the moral question, Brace. Consider the example; the influence of such a shop, kept by such a woman, on the community! We have the right to protect ourselves–the majority.”

“That’s the way the lynchers talk,” returned Brace. “And I’m not so sure about there being any moral question yet. You are assuming too much. There is no reason why she shouldn’t run the tienda as decently–barring the liquor sale, which, however, is legal, and for which she can get a license–as a man could, and without interfering with our morals.”

“Then what is the use of our rules?”

“They were made for those who consented to adopt them, as we all did. They still bind US, and if we don’t choose to buy her liquor or cigars that will dispose of her and her tienda much more effectually than your protest. It’s a pity she’s a lone unprotected woman. Now if she only had a husband”–

“She carries a dagger in her garter.”

This apparently irrelevant remark came from the man who had not yet spoken, but who had been listening with the languid unconcern of one who, relinquishing the labor of argument to others, had consented to abide by their decision. It was met with a scornful smile from each of the disputants, perhaps even by an added shrug of the shoulders from the woman’s previous defender! HE was evidently not to be taken in by extraneous sentiment. Nevertheless, both listened as the speaker, slowly feeling his knees as if they were his way to a difficult subject, continued with the same suggestion of stating general fact, but waiving any argument himself. “Clarkson of Angels allows she’s got a free, gaudy, picter-covered style with the boys, but that she can be gilt-edged when she wants to. Rowley Meade–him ez hed his skelp pulled over his eyes at one stroke, foolin’ with a she bear over on Black Mountain–allows it would be rather monotonous in him attemptin’ any familiarities with her. Bulstrode’s brother, ez was in Marysville, said there was a woman–like to her, but not her–ez made it lively for the boys with a game called ‘Little Monte,’ and he dropped a hundred dollars there afore he came away. They do say that about seven men got shot in Marysville on account o’ this one, or from some oneasiness that happened at her shop. But then,” he went on slowly and deferentially as the faces of the two others were lowered and became fixed, “SHE says she tired o’ drunken rowdies,–there’s a sameness about ’em, and it don’t sell her pipes and cigars, and that’s WHY she’s coming here. Thompson over at Dry Creek sez that THAT’S where our reputation is playin’ us! ‘We’ve got her as a reward o’ virtoo, and be d—-d to us.’ But,” cautiously, “Thompson ain’t drawed a sober breath since Christmas.”