He stopped in the doorway and looked up and down the street with open disgust. “Come on down to Picardo’s, Jack; what the deuce is there here to hold you? How a man that knows horses and the range, can stand for this—” he waved a gloved hand at the squalid street—“is something I can’t understand. To me, it’s like hell with the lid off. What’s holding you anyway? Another senorita?”
“I’m making more money here lately than I did in the mine.” Jack evaded smoothly. “I won a lot last night. Whee-ee! Say, you played in some luck yourself, old man, when you bought that outfit. That saddle and bridle’s worth all you paid for the whole thing. White Surry, eh? He has got a neck—and, Lord, look at those legs!”
“Climb on and try him out once!” invited Dade guilefully. If he could stir the horseman’s blood in Jack’s veins, he thought he might get him away from town.
“Haven’t time right now, Dade. I promised to meet a friend—”
Dade shrugged his shoulders and painstakingly smoothed the hair tassel which dangled from the browband. The Spaniard had owned a fine eye for effect when he chose jet black trappings for Surry, who was white to his shining hoofs.
“All right; I’ll put him in somewhere till after dinner. Then I’m going to pull out again. I can’t stand this hell-pot of a town—not after the Picardo hacienda.”
“I wonder,” grinned Jack slyly, “if there isn’t a senorita at Palo Alto?”
He got no answer of any sort. Dade was combing with his fingers the crinkled mane which fell to the very chest of his new horse, and if he heard he made no betraying sign.
Bill Wilson came to the door of his saloon and stood with his hands on his hips, looking out upon the heterogeneous assembly of virile manhood that formed the bulk of San Francisco’s population a year or two after the first gold cry had been raised. Above his head flapped the great cloth sign tacked quite across the rough building, heralding to all who could read the words that this was Bill Wilson’s place. A flaunting bit of information it was, and quite superfluous; since practically every man in San Francisco drifted towards it, soon or late, as the place where the most whisky was drunk and the most gold lost and won, with the most beautiful women to smile or frown upon the lucky, in all the town.
The trade wind knew that Bill Wilson’s place needed no sign save its presence there, and was loosening a corner in the hope of carrying it quite away as a trophy. Bill glanced up, promised the resisting cloth an extra nail or two, and let his thoughts and his eyes wander again to the sweeping tide of humanity that flowed up and down the straggling street of sand and threatened to engulf the store which men spoke of simply as “Smith’s.”
A shipload of supplies had lately been carted there, and miners were feverishly buying bacon, beans, “self-rising” flour, matches, tea—everything within the limits of their gold dust and their carrying capacity—which they needed for hurried trips to the hills where was hidden the gold they dreamed of night and day.