“Down from Dawson?” asked the bartender hurrying forward, a magnificent creature in a check waistcoat, shirt-sleeves, four-in-hand tie, and a diamond pin.
“No, t’other way about. Up from the Lower River.”
“Oh! May West or Muckluck crew? Anyhow, I guess you got a thirst on you,” said the man in the mackinaws. “Come and licker up.”
The bartender mixed the drinks in style, shooting the liquor from a height into the small gin-sling glasses with the dexterity that had made him famous.
When their tired eyes had got accustomed to the mingled smoke and glare, the travellers could see that in the space beyond the card tables, in those back regions where the pianola reigned, there were several couples twirling about—the clumsily-dressed miners pirouetting with an astonishing lightness on their moccasined feet. And women! White women!
They stopped dancing and came forward to see the new arrivals.
The mackinaw man was congratulating the Colonel on “gettin’ back to civilization.”
“See that plate-glass mirror?” He pointed behind the bar, below the moose antlers. “See them ladies? You’ve got to a place where you can rake in the dust all day, and dance all night, and go buckin’ the tiger between whiles. Great place, Minook. Here’s luck!” He took up the last of the gin slings set in a row before the party.
“Have you got some property here?” asked the Boy.
The man, without putting down his glass, simply closed one eye over the rim.
“We’ve heard some bad accounts of these diggin’s,” said the Colonel.
“I ain’t sayin’ there’s millions for everybody. You’ve got to get the inside track. See that feller talkin’ to the girl? Billy Nebrasky tipped him the wink in time to git the inside track, just before the Fall Stampede up the gulch.”
He only motioned with his head. “Through havin’ that tip, he got there in time to stake number three Below Discovery. He’s had to hang up drinks all winter, but he’s a millionaire all right. He’s got a hundred thousand dollars in sight, only waitin’ for runnin’ water to wash it out.”
“Then there is gold about here?”
“There is gold? Say, Maudie,” he remarked in a humourous half-aside to the young woman who was passing with No—thumb-Jack, “this fellow wants to know if there is gold here.”
She laughed. “Guess he ain’t been here long.”
Now it is not to be denied that this rejoinder was susceptible of more than one interpretation, but the mackinaw man seemed satisfied, so much so that he offered Maudie the second gin-sling which the Colonel had ordered “all round.” She eyed the strangers over the glass. On the hand that held it a fine diamond sparkled. You would say she was twenty-six, but you wouldn’t have been sure. She had seemed at least that at a distance. Now she looked rather younger. The face wore an impudent look, yet it was delicate, too. Her skin showed very white and fine under the dabs of rouge. The blueness was not yet faded out of her restless eyes.