“I did n’t care very much, for my greatest desire just then was to get away from everybody I had known. I wanted to put behind me and forget everything that would remind me of my wife, and her ruin, and my disaster.
“So I started out alone with a prospector’s outfit, and finally brought up here. I ’ve been here now, I guess, about ten years, and it’s very likely that I ’ll stay here all the rest of my life. I ’ve got a prospect hole over on the other side of that hill that may amount to something some time. But I don’t care whether it does or not. I like to work in it and think about whether or not I ’m going to strike anything, but I don’t care two bits one way or the other.
“No, I ’m not lonely. My cats and dogs and burros are pretty good company, and then I have my violin. But just these hills, and the sky, and the breezes, and the birds and beasts that come around, are as much company as any man needs to wish for.
“When I came here I was tired of the world, dead tired of it. And I have n’t got rested yet. I shall not leave here until I do. And I don’t suppose that will ever be. For my time will soon come. It’s all I have to look forward to, and I just sit here and wait for it and wonder what shape Death will have when he does finally find me out. That is the only thing in the world I have any curiosity about, now; and I often think about it in much the same way that I used to wonder, when I was a youth, what the woman would be like whom I was to love.”
The next summer we camped at the mouth of a canyon near the foot of Monte Pinos, but one day we drove across the hills to pay a visit to Old Dan, and learned at the stage station that he was no more. He had sickened and died alone, in the early spring, and his body had been found, after many days, in his cabin by his nearest “neighbor,” another lone man living ten miles away. We drove on to his deserted little ranch and found that they had made a grave for him on the side of the hill above the cabin—a grave marked only by its settling mound of earth and one poor piece of board, cracked, aslant, and weather-beaten, and bearing neither name nor date.
Doubtless it is as well so. For he that lies beneath was only a piece of wreckage, with a past that was dead and a future that was empty. The memory of all those turbulent years was heavy upon his gray head, and he wished only that the hills might cover him and give him rest and concealment.
And away on the other side of the continent there is a grave that has known the tears of love and the hand of remembrance. Its flowers are bright and its shining marble is graven fair with name and date and words of praise.
THE STORY, OF A CHINEE KID
Was a Chinee Kid,
A cute little cuss, you ’d declare,
With eyes full of fun
And a nose that begun
Right up at the roots of his hair.”
—M. C. SPEER.