Bartley felt suddenly sleepy and he drowsed and nodded, realizing that Scott and Cheyenne were talking, and that the faint aroma of coffee drifted toward him, mingling with the chill, fresh air of morning. He pulled himself together and drank the coffee and ate some bacon. From time to time he glanced at Scott, fascinated by the miner’s tremendous forearms, his mighty chest and shoulders. Even Cheyenne, who was a fair-sized man, appeared like a boy beside the miner. Bartley wondered that such tremendous strength should be isolated, hidden back there behind the foothills. Yet Scott himself, easy-going and dryly humorous, was evidently content right where he was.
Later the miner showed Bartley about the diggings, quietly proud of his establishment, and enthusiastic about the unfailing supply of water—in fact, Scott talked more about water than he did about gold. Bartley realized that the big miner would have been a misfit in town, that he belonged in the rugged hills from which he wrested a scant six dollars a day by herculean toil.
In a past age, Scott would have been a master builder of castles or of triremes or a maker of armor, but never a fighting man. It was evident that the miner was, despite his great strength, a man of peace. Bartley rather regretted, for some romantic reason or other, that the big miner was not a fighting man.
Yet when they returned to the shack, where Cheyenne sat smoking, Bartley learned that Big Joe Scott had a reputation in his own country. That was when Scott suggested that they needed sleep. He spread a blanket-roll on the cabin floor for Cheyenne and offered Bartley his bunk. Then Scott picked up his rifle and strode across to a shed. Cheyenne pulled off his boots, stretched out on the blanket-roll, and sighed comfortably. Bartley could see the big miner busily twisting something in his hands, something that looked like a leather bag from which occasional tiny spurts of silver gleamed and trickled. Bartley wondered what Scott was doing. He asked Cheyenne.
“He’s squeezin’ ‘quick.’” And Cheyenne explained the process of squeezing quicksilver through a chamois skin. “And I’m glad it ain’t my neck,” added Cheyenne. “Joe killed a man, with his bare hands, onct. That’s why he never gets in a fight, nowadays. He dassn’t. ’Course, he had to kill that man, or get killed.”
“I noticed he picked up his rifle,” said Bartley.
“Nobody’ll disturb our sleep,” said Cheyenne drowsily.
* * * * *
The afternoon shadows were long when Bartley awakened. Through the doorway he could see Cheyenne out in the shed, talking with Joe Scott.
“Hello!” called Bartley, sitting up. “Lost any horses, Cheyenne?”
Presently Scott and Cheyenne came over to the cabin.
“I’m cook, this trip,” stated Cheyenne as he bustled about the kitchen. “I reckon Joe needs a rest. He ain’t lookin’ right strong.”