“When do you leave for home, Maudie?” he said gently.
But at the flattering implication the oddest thing happened. As she stood there, with her fists full of gold, Maudie’s eyes filled. She turned abruptly and went out. The crowd began to melt away. In half an hour only those remained who had more hootch than they could carry off the premises. They made themselves comfortable on the floor, near the stove, and the greatest night Minook had known was ended.
A MINERS’ MEETING
“Leiden oder triumphiren Hammer oder Amboss sein.”—Goethe.
In a good-sized cabin, owned by Bonsor, down near the A. C., Judge Corey was administering Miners’ Law. The chief magistrate was already a familiar figure, standing on his dump at Little Minook, speculatively chewing and discussing “glayshal action,” but most of the time at the Gold Nugget, chewing still, and discussing more guardedly the action some Minook man was threatening to bring against another. You may treat a glacier cavalierly, but Miners’ Law is a serious matter. Corey was sitting before a deal table, littered with papers strewn round a central bottle of ink, in which a steel pen stuck upright. The Judge wore his usual dilapidated business suit of brown cheviot that had once been snuff-coloured and was now a streaky drab. On his feet, stretched out under the magisterial table till they joined the jury, a pair of moccasins; on his grizzled head a cowboy hat, set well back. He could spit farther than any man in Minook, and by the same token was a better shot. They had unanimously elected him Judge.
The first-comers had taken possession of the chairs and wooden stools round the stove. All the later arrivals, including Keith and his friends, sat on the floor.
“There’s a good many here.”
“They’ll keep comin’ as long as a lean man can scrouge in.”
“Yes,” said Keith, “everybody’s got to come, even if it’s only the usual row between pardners, who want to part and can’t agree about dividing the outfit.”
“Got to come?”
Keith laughed. “That’s the way everybody feels. There’ll be a debate and a chance to cast a vote. Isn’t your true-born American always itching to hold a meeting about something?”
“Don’t know about that,” said McGinty, “but I do know there’s more things happens in a minute to make a man mad in Alaska, than happens in a year anywhere else.” And his sentiment was loudly applauded. The plaintiff had scored a hit.
“I don’t know but two partnerships,” the ex-Governor was saying, “of all those on my ship and on the Muckluck and the May West—just two, that have stood the Alaska strain. Everyone that didn’t break on the boats, or in camp, went to smash on the trail.”
They all admitted that the trail was the final test. While they smoked and spat into or at the stove, and told trail yarns, the chief magistrate arranged papers, conferred with the clerk and another man, wrinkled deeply his leathery forehead, consulted his Waterbury, and shot tobacco-juice under the table.