Lawrence Pentfield and Corry Hutchinson were millionaires, though they did not look it. There seemed nothing unusual about them, while they would have passed muster as fair specimens of lumbermen in any Michigan camp. But outside, in the darkness, where holes yawned in the ground, were many men engaged in windlassing muck and gravel and gold from the bottoms of the holes where other men received fifteen dollars per day for scraping it from off the bedrock. Each day thousands of dollars’ worth of gold were scraped from bedrock and windlassed to the surface, and it all belonged to Pentfield and Hutchinson, who took their rank among the richest kings of Bonanza.
Pentfield broke the silence that followed on Billebedam’s departure by heaping the dirty plates higher on the table and drumming a tattoo on the cleared space with his knuckles. Hutchinson snuffed the smoky candle and reflectively rubbed the soot from the wick between thumb and forefinger.
“By Jove, I wish we could both go out!” he abruptly exclaimed. “That would settle it all.”
Pentfield looked at him darkly.
“If it weren’t for your cursed obstinacy, it’d be settled anyway. All you have to do is get up and go. I’ll look after things, and next year I can go out.”
“Why should I go? I’ve no one waiting for me—”
“Your people,” Pentfield broke in roughly.
“Like you have,” Hutchinson went on. “A girl, I mean, and you know it.”
Pentfield shrugged his shoulders gloomily. “She can wait, I guess.”
“But she’s been waiting two years now.”
“And another won’t age her beyond recognition.”
“That’d be three years. Think of it, old man, three years in this end of the earth, this falling-off place for the damned!” Hutchinson threw up his arm in an almost articulate groan.
He was several years younger than his partner, not more than twenty-six, and there was a certain wistfulness in his face that comes into the faces of men when they yearn vainly for the things they have been long denied. This same wistfulness was in Pentfield’s face, and the groan of it was articulate in the heave of his shoulders.
“I dreamed last night I was in Zinkand’s,” he said. “The music playing, glasses clinking, voices humming, women laughing, and I was ordering eggs—yes, sir, eggs, fried and boiled and poached and scrambled, and in all sorts of ways, and downing them as fast as they arrived.”
“I’d have ordered salads and green things,” Hutchinson criticized hungrily, “with a big, rare, Porterhouse, and young onions and radishes,—the kind your teeth sink into with a crunch.”
“I’d have followed the eggs with them, I guess, if I hadn’t awakened,” Pentfield replied.
He picked up a trail-scarred banjo from the floor and began to strum a few wandering notes. Hutchinson winced and breathed heavily.
“Quit it!” he burst out with sudden fury, as the other struck into a gaily lifting swing. “It drives me mad. I can’t stand it”