“Most all the old quotations need fixing,” said Joyce in tones forbidding dispute. “For instance, the guy that alluded to marriages germinating in heaven certainly got off on the wrong foot. He meant pardnerships. The same works ain’t got capacity for both, no more’n you can build a split-second stop-watch in a stone quarry. No, sir! A true pardnership is the sanctifiedest relation that grows, is, and has its beans, while any two folks of opposite sect can marry and peg the game out some way. Of course, all pardnerships ain’t divine. To every one that’s heaven borned there’s a thousand made in ——. There goes them cussed dogs again!”
He dove abruptly at the tent flap, disappearing like a palmed coin, while our canvas structure reeled drunkenly at his impact. The sounds of strife without rose shrilly into blended agony, and the yelps of Keno melted away down the gulch in a rapid and rabid diminuendo.
Inasmuch as I had just packed out from camp in a loose pair of rubber boots, and was nursing two gall blisters, I did not feel called upon to emulate this energy of arbitration, particularly in bare feet.
“That black malamoot is a walking delegate for strife,” he remarked, returning. “Sometime I’ll lose my temper—and that’s the kind of pardners me and Justus Morrow was.”
Never more do I interrupt the allegory of my mate, no matter how startling its structure. He adventures orally when and in the manner the spirit calls, without rote, form, or tone production. Therefore I kicked my blistered heels in the air and grunted aimless encouragement.
“I was prospectin’ a claim on Caribou Creek, and had her punched as full of holes as a sponge cake, when the necessity of a change appealed to me. I was out of everything more nourishing than hope and one slab of pay-streaked bacon, when two tenderfeet ‘mushed’ up the gulch, and invited themselves into my cabin to watch me pan. It’s the simplest thing known to science to salt a tenderfoot, so I didn’t have no trouble in selling out for three thousand dollars.
“You see, they couldn’t kick, ’cause some of us ‘old timers’ was bound to get their money anyhow—just a question of time; and their inexperience was cheap at the price. Also, they was real nice boys, and I hated to see ’em fall amongst them crooks at Dawson. It was a short-horned triumph, though. Like the Dead Sea biscuits of Scripture, it turned to ashes in my mouth. It wasn’t three days later that they struck it; right in my last shaft, within a foot of where I quit diggin’. They rocked out fifty ounces first day. When the news filtered to me, of course, I never made no holler. I couldn’t—that is, honestly—but I bought a six hundred dollar grub stake, loaded it aboard a dory, and—having instructed the trader regarding the disposition of my mortal, drunken remains, I fanned through that camp like a prairie fire shot in the sirloin with a hot wind.