ON a bit of “ No Man’s Land,” three miles from the top of Gray’s Peak, in Colorado, stands a little old log house called Kelso’s Cabin. Travelers going from Georgetown, to make the ascent of Gray’s Peak, climb twelve miles up to this cabin, and sleep there ; setting off for the peak early the next morning. The climb to the cabin is the best part of the ascent of the peak. The road zigzags and tacks on precipice edges up the mountain sides, with a foaming little river below, under, and across it, at convenience. Past Silver Flume, a nest of miners’ houses, in the nook made by a sudden halt of the stream ; past Brownsville, another miners’ hamlet, tucked in on rims of the shore and ledges of the canyon ; past lonely cabins, high up like eagles’ eyries in crannies of stone ; past deserted smelting works and abandoned shanties, where some poor soul was lured to bootless trial at making a living off a hand’s-breadth of meadow and a hole in the rock ; past mounds and miniature mountains of shining gray ore, thrown out of myriads of mine shafts high up on the mountain sides, with tramways of glistening wire, shining down through the air like a sort of supernatural cobweb, from them to the mills on the banks of the stream ; past great basins and slopes of solid fir forests, grand in their solitude and beauty ; past picture after picture of majestic circles and ranges of snow-topped peaks, at each turn opening new vistas, revealing new horizons ; past all these climbs the road, steadily higher and higher, steeper and steeper, till at last, rounding the north front of Kelso’s Mountain, leaving Gray and Erwin hidden in the south, it comes to abrupt ending in a rock-walled amphitheatre, so strange and startling that it reminds one of fairy tale descriptions of the uncanny spots to which brave princes and princesses are sent in search of enchanted lovers and knights.
On two sides, a bare ridge, thousands of feet high, stony, steep, forbidding; gravelly slides from top to bottom, here and there, only add to its appearance of inaccessibility. On the third side stand the glittering snow peaks of Gray and Erwin, and the solid brown front of Kelso. Only one narrow opening to the northwest gives a way into and out of the place. A little stream dashes through; firs and spruces grow on its banks, and alders, with yellow cowslips under them, bine gentians and white daisies, and harebells and asters. Two miles and a half up in the air, they have to wait long for their summer, and drink it quick; but they make a splendid carouse of it while it lasts.
Here, close to the brook, facing east, to get what it may of the late sunrise over the rocky wall, stands Kelso’s Cabin. It was built twenty years ago, by the Sonora Mining Company; and a man named Kelso, superintending their mines, lived in it. Whose cabin it is now, it would be hard to say; latitudes and longitudes and possession and ownership being such indefinite terms, twelve thousand feet up, in a new mining country. Probably it is nobody’s cabin ; but when Kelso left it, ten years ago, he gave it to “Aunty Lane,” and there she has lived from June to October, every summer since, — “ the happiest summers of her life,” she says ; and as she has more than half a century of other summers to compare them with, she does not use her superlative hastily. But it is really less tribute to the happiness of the summers in Kelso’s Cabin than it might seem, for the half century of summers before had held small joy for Aunty Lane.
The story of her life is worth telling, as an illustration of what our pioneer women endure, even in this nineteenth century. The wilderness and the frontier have retreated so far to our West, and comfort, luxury, and self-satisfaction are so fast crystallizing into irnlifferentism and selfishness in our East, that it is well to be brought now and then sharply face to face with the facts of a life like Aunty Lane’s, — a life not exceptional in its experiences, except in so far as the experiences were modified by the remarkable temperament of a woman whom nothing could daunt or cast down. So long as there remain in America wildernesses to be conquered and men to conquer them, there will be hundreds and thousands of American women leading just such lives : working side by side with men, uncomplaining, unknown ; doing the hardest part of the work ; laying the best foundation of all that the next generation will have to build on. There is a heroism in such lives far greater than most of the heroisms which are accounted as such by the world. It is not of a sort often suited to the setting of song, or the blazonry of picture ; but its meed is above both song and picture.
“I’ve been often asked to write my life out,” said Aunty Lane, “ and I’ve often thought I would do it; but I have n’t ever kept a journal, or anything of the kind, and I ’ve seen so much I should n’t know where to begin, if I was to set out to tell it. But I ’d be glad to have folks know what there is gone through with by women that have to live in such places as I’ve lived in. It would do folks good.”
“ I should like to try to tell it for you, aunty,” I said. We were sitting side by side, on a great rock, looking towards Gray’s Peak, whose snowy summit shone in the sun as if it were hewn out of ice. Great drifts of snow lay in all the ravines and furrows of the other mountains, and in the seams and crevices of the eastern wall of the valley. Blue gentians and daisies were blooming around us, and in every hollow of the rock lay mats of flowering mosses, with pink, white, and turquoiseblue blossoms, star-shaped, tiny ; a score of their infinitesimal disks could have been laid on one cowslip petal.
The old lady picked a handful of the blue ones, and, looking at them thoughtfully, said, " These forget-me-nots are the prettiest of all, I think. I keep them in the house all summer.”
I had noticed a low dish filled with them, on her little work-table.
“They are forget-me-nots, ain’t they ? ” she continued. “ I’ve heard a good many people call them so. But I don’t know why one flower’s any more to do with remembering than any other. They all of them remind me of lots of things. There’s always been lots of flowers everywhere I ’ve ever lived, and I’ve always been fond of them.
“ Yes, I’m willing you should write out anything I ’ve told you. There is n’t anything ever I did I’ve got any objection to people’s knowing. Everybody knows me, round here, I’ve been ‘ aunty ’ to everybody, these twenty years. If you was to send me anything in the Georgetown post-office, you would n’t need to put on anything but ' Aunty Lane ’ on it. They’d send it right up here to me.”
The story will lose much in my telling. I wish I could have taken it down, word for word, as it fell from Aunty Lane’s lips. Part of it she told me as we sat on the mossy rock; part of it after nightfall, in the little cabin. It seemed strangest in the cabin. The small, low room, its walls covered with scraps and bits of a dozen different papers, its furniture poor and scanty, the dim light flickering over her line old face, and her gentle, sensitive, changeful voice sounding almost loud in the stillness of the spot, — all made a scene not to be forgotten, and one strangely foreign to the narrative I was hearing.
Aunty Lane’s hard times began early in life. Left an orphan at the age of four, she was " taken,” as the phrase is among rural people, by a cousin, who lived on a farm adjoining her father’s, in Western New York. There is a chance for no end of miseries in the experience of unprotected little waifs who fall into this sort of semi-adoption niche among relatives. It usually means being inadequately clothed and fed, with some begrudging, and authority as absolute as if it were parental, exercised with little love and small courtesy. This part of Aunty Lane’s life site passed over with curt mention, and it was more by instinctive inference than by any statement of hers that I understood how it came about that in her twentieth year she married, hastily and unwisely, the man whose unstable and wandering nature cost her so dear before she was done with him. He was a worker in iron, had had experience in foundries, and was of so ingenious a turn that no sort of mechanical work came amiss to him. But his very versatility of capacity was his ruin. That, joined to a restless, insatiable liking for change, and an easy faith in new schemes of big promise, made his whole life a chase after birds in the bush. Their first six years wore spent in Michigan, winch was then little more than a wilderness; Ann Arbor, where they first lived, being at that time a small village, with only three or four hundred inhabitants. Here, sometimes, they moved three times in a year. Jobbing, contracting, and at odd intervals farming, the restless man tried his hand at. In 1839 they pushed on to Wisconsin. Here he added hotel keeping to his previous list of occupations. In Wisconsin they lived thirteen years, and in six different places. In these thirteen years, eight children were born to them. When, in 1852, they decided to try their fortunes in California, the youngest of these children was sixteen months old.
One good fortune never deserted Aunty Lane ; wherever she went she made friends. This it is easy to understand, to-day. Even in her old age she retains the charm of a sympathetic, outspoken, sensitive, and enthusiastic temperament, full of affections, quick of impression, and swift to act. When she decided to go with her husband to California, there were enough friends around her to provide homes for all eight of her little children.
“ I ’ve always been lucky in my friends,” she said. “ I’d a good home to leave each of the children in ; else I could n’t have gone, no ways, for we could n’t take them with us. I felt worst about leaving the baby. He was n’t quite sixteen months old, and I knew he would n’t know me when I came back, if I ever did.”
Early in April, 1852, she set off for California by the overland journey. To undertake that journey then required more courage than to have sailed with Columbus.
“ I just expected we’d both of us he killed by the Indians before we got across,” said Aunty Lane ; “ but I was n’t going to have him go alone. I believe in a woman sticking to her husband— just as long as she can,” she added, after a pause and sigh, which I understood later.
The emigrant train which Aunty Lane and her husband joined started from Chicago. There were about forty persons, all told, but only five women in the party. There were seven wagons: some of the men rode ; others walked, driving the stock. A girl child was born and a woman died on the journey, which lasted over four months. On the 12th of May they crossed the Missouri River, in Nebraska. Not a house nor a sign of human habitation there. The last of July they crossed the Rocky Mountain range, through the Devil’s Gate in a pass called the South Pass, in Nevada. On the Fourth of July they had camped on Green River. It was Sunday, and “ we kept both days to once,
I remember,” she said. “ It snowed hard that night, and the next morning the ice in the river was an inch thick.”
They saw Indians every day, sometimes great bands of them, four and five hundred at a time ; but, much to their surprise and relief, found them uniformly friendly. " The worst there was to those Indians on the plains was that they were thievish; they would drive off our stock, nights, all we could do. But I never blamed them for that,” said Aunty Lane. “ I guess we’d have done as much as that in their place ; and anyhow we were mighty glad to get off so easy. A steer now and then did n’t amount to much, if it would keep our heads on our shoulders. We women used to be real glad when the men came in, in the morning, and said there was some more cattle gone. We told them they 'd better not swear much, if nothing worse ’n that came to us.”
They followed the “ old trail ” all the way. I have myself seen many miles of this old trail. It is in sight at intervals, often, from the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, and there is something of unspeakable pathos in its deep-trodden, mute line: so slender a thread to have first linked ocean to ocean; so short-lived sign and record of untold toils and woes. Before the generation which trod it shall all have passed beyond this life, its last trace will have disappeared, swallowed up again in the wilderness which took no heed of its presence, or lost in the thoroughfares of new towns which will not remember its place.
“ When we went down the Pacific slope, the rocks and the mountains all stood that way,” said Aunty Lane, interlocking her fingers, and throwing up the joints and knuckles. A better figure could not he made out of small things for great than this is, for the confused overlapping, interlapping upheavals of the rocks and mountain peaks of this continent’s great backbone.
Weaver, a little town four miles from the famous Placerville, was the first California town they entered. It was a wild spot, — the gulches and streams “ lined thick with Chinamen, as thick as they could stand, all washing for gold ! ” The sight reminded Aunty Lane of “ nothing in the world but black ants, a-swarmiug every which way,” she said, and she never forgot that “ first sight of them.” They never looked the same to her after that, she got so used to them ; but that first time they did n’t look like human beings ; they looked just like ants, as she had seen them “ going up and down on the bark of the pine-trees.”
Placer mining is too hard work and yields too small returns for restless men to follow it long. In a few mouths Lane threw it up, and pushed on to Sacramento. where he got a contract for building a big dam in Sacramento River. This took the better part of a year ; and then he pulled up stakes again, this time moving to the spot which Aunty Lane loved best of all she had ever seen, except her last home, the eyrie on Gray’s Peak. It was a cabin high up on the Coast Range, only seven miles from the ocean, looking down over vast tracts of redwood forests. Here she lived for one year, the only woman on the mountain. Her husband had a large force of men under him, cutting down and shipping redwood logs to San Francisco. She did all the cooking and washing for these men, working many days from sunrise till midnight. Nevertheless she often found time to jump on the back of her pony, dash down alone to the beach, watch the sea-lions playing on reefs of rocks, get a dip in the water, and be back again to her cabin, without being missed. From her doorstep she could see San Francisco, San Jose, and many miles of shining sea, with the white ships coming and going. She, never wearied of the picture, and except for the yearning, heart-sick desire to see her children, her lonely days in this mountain cabin would have been the happiest she had known for many a year. But this desire strengthened and grew, till it refused to be longer denied ; and on the last day of September, 1854, she set sail from San Francisco for New York, leaving her husband alone in the redwood forest.
“I never knew if I done right to leave him,” she said, “ but I reckoned that I’d die if I stayed there another year without seeing how the children got along ; and he said I might bring one back with me. I don’t know how I’d ever have picked out which one to take ; but it wa’n’t to be. It’s lucky we don’t ever know what we ’re going into.”
There were over one thousand passengers on the steamer in which Aunty Lane left San Francisco. In less than twenty-four hours, four hundred of them were drowned. Off the Santa Barbara shore, the steamer, going at full speed, in broad day, ran on a rock and snapped in two. Six hundred people clung to the wreck all that afternoon and night; the two halves of the boat lifting and beating on the reef with every wave that broke. Aunty Lane was helped up to a place high on the bows, by a man whose face she could not see, and whose voice she did not know. There the two sat, hour after hour, holding tight to each other, expecting every moment to be washed away. “ He asked me if I was n’t afraid,” she said; “ and I told him, ‘ No, I did n’t feel afraid, whichever way it went.’ Then he said, ‘ Do you think we ’ll get ashore ? ’ And I said, ‘If it’s God’s will, we shall; and if it is n’t, it’s all right.’ I don’t know how it was, but I never felt more composed in my life. He told afterwards in San Francisco that he never thought anybody could be so composed as I was; he said it most made him think we wa’n’t in any kind o’ danger.”
All night the boats pulled to and fro between the black shore and the tossing wreck; and before morning all who were left alive of the shipwrecked creatures were landed. It was an uninhabited, barren coast, some hundred miles below Santa Barbara : sage brush and bare rocks were all that could be seen ; a blinding fog drove in, through which they groped helplessly from rock to rock. They had literally nothing except the torn and dripping clothes in which they had escaped. When the fog lifted, there was not a trace to be seen of the steamer. She must have gone down, they thought, in a very few minutes after the last boat had pulled away. Before noon a small coasting vessel, bound for San Diego, came along, and took on board about five hundred, all that she could safely carry. At San Diego Aunty Lane refused to land, but waited on board the coaster for her return voyage to San Francisco.
“ They all thought it was so strange of me to be willing to go right back by sea. Some of the women said they’d walk every step of the way first. But I told them I never heard of anybody’s being shipwrecked two voyages running ; and I’d as soon take my chances on water as on land. Besides, the captain said he’d take anybody back free to San Francisco that wanted to go, and I wanted to go bad enough, I expected my husband would be almost crazy ; for there would n’t be any way of knowing who was drowned and who was n’t, till our coaster got back. We heard there was another coaster took the rest back to San Francisco, the day we came off; but it was all such confusion nobody could tell much about the names, and of course the lists were all lost. I expect there were lots of people that were drowned that night, that nobody ever knew what become of them, owing to the lists being lost.”
It was ten days before the coaster got back to San Francisco. It arrived just one hour after the news of the wreck and rescue had reached the city. Aunty Lane’s friends were thrown into great anxiety, but some of them who knew her best felt a presentiment that she was still alive. The first face she saw on the wharf was that of a little boy, the son of one of her dearest friends, who had been sent down to learn her fate.
“ Oh, Mrs. Lane! ” he exclaimed. “ Mother and Mrs. Beals, they 're both crving good ; they did cry good, I tell you.”
But when Aunty Lane reached the house her friend said to her, “ Well, I 've said a dozen times this last hour, ‘ If there is n’t but two people saved off that boat, she ’ll be one of them.
News traveled slowly, in those days, from San Francisco into the Coast Range forests. The first that Lane heard of the shipwreck was the tidings that his wife was in San Francisco again.
“ They said he turned as white as a sheet, and said he, ‘ My God ! How did she get there ? She can t be there. She’s sailed for New Fork. And then they told him the whole story. And he never answered them one word, but he just threw down his axe and things where he stood, and turned round and rushed off. And the next day he walked into Miss Beals’s, before I’d any thought of his getting to hear anything about it. I was going right out to him, as soon as I’d got some clothes to wear. I was a sight to behold, in the very same gown I “went off the boat that night. I’d worn it just as it was, all dried and shrunk up.”
No doubt the redwood forest seemed a very haven of refuge now. Aunty Lane went back there for another year ; this time to a cabin at the foot of the mountains, for her husband had gone into the freighting business, and she must now help on by keeping a boardinghouse for lumbermen.
At the end of the year she had once more saved money enough for the journey to New York, and set sail again from San Francisco, with no more fear of the sea than if it had never served her ill.
“ Folks wondered,” she said, “ that I 'd try going again that way, but I did n’t think much about it. ’T was the only way I could go, and go I'd got to. That was most the only thing I was sure about. It did use to seem to me, sometimes, nights, as if I could n’t live till morning without seeing the children.
The voyage was made successfully and quickly. Twenty-two days from the time she left San Francisco she entered New York harbor, and, turning West again, took the very first train which would bear her towards her children in Wisconsin. She found them all alive, all well: the two elder daughters, married ; the sixteen months’ old baby, a sturdy boy of six. He sat by, a strong, bearded man past thirty, while she was telling me this part of the story.
It now seemed clear that her children needed her more than her husband did, and, gathering up the little brood of six, Aunty Lane journeyed back to Chicago, and undertook the task of earning a living for herself and them by keeping boarders. Here she lived for five years, with varying luck; never making anything more than a fairly comfortable living, and often being in sore straits. During these five years her husband returned from California once to see her, and sometimes sent her a little money ; but he was never successful long at a time, and was falling more and more into bad ways.
In 1860, tempted by the stories of great fortunes to be made in Colorado, she decided to remove to Denver. Two of her boys she left at school in Chicago; three daughters were now married; the remaining children, two boys and a girl, she took with her. Once more she was in the thick of frontier life, with its excitements, dangers, and deprivations. These were the terrible days of Denver’s early history: days whose record has never yet been fully written ; days when white-skinned savages and redskinned savages fought fiercely together over lands which need never have been matter of contention at all, if the whites had been honest or just. It is touching to read, in the official records of the early settlement of Colorado, how the Ute and Cheyenne Indians, in one of their treaties with the government, requested that large tracts of their surrendered lands might be given to the people of Denver at a merely nominal price, in token of their good-will to them. And before many years the men of Denver had plotted against these same Indians one of the most fiendish massacres the world ever saw, — a massacre in which unarmed, friendly men, with the United States flag flying over their lodges, were shot down in cold blood; women were killed, outraged, and indecently mutilated ; babies, half killed and left to die.
Aunty Lane lived in Denver through these days. She saw the men ride back from this massacre, Indian scalps hanging at their bridles, and other tokens of their barbarities, too horrible to be mentioned, proudly displayed on their saddle-bows. She had also seen, a few days before, drawn in a open wagon through the streets of Denver, the dead bodies of some white settlers, murdered by Indians ; but the first savagery did not, in her eyes, justify the second. She had herself journeyed for months though the Indians hunting grounds, and seen for herself that they were not hostile unless hostilely treated.
“Not that I ever loved Indians,” she said, half apologetically. “ I can’t say I did. I 'd a good deal rather never see one ; and I think any country’s better off without them than with. But I do say they were treated shameful, and they didn’t ever do anything, so far’s ever I’ve known, that was any worse than the white folks did to them. But it s a blessed thing they 're pretty well out o the country, in my opinion.”
If Aunty Lane had expressed these views in Denver, in the year of the Sand Creek massacre, it would probably have gone hard with her. No doubt her feelings have changed, more than she is aware, since 1865 ; but, it was evident that she had been, even in those times of peril and terror, singularly just in her notions of the balance of responsibility for the warfare.
Seven years of the hardest sort of boardinghouse keeping in Denver left Aunty Lane little better off than she had been when she first went there. It was a hard and bitter period in her life. In the course of it, she had been at last forced, by the advice of friends and for her own self-respect, to separate herself legally from the man by whose side and for whose sake she had struggled through so many vicissitudes. This she did in 1865. Two of her sons were fighting in Illinois regiments, she knew not where, or, indeed, if they were living or dead.
Her last remaining daughter was married. With her son she moved now to Georgetown, once more to take up the weary task of keeping hoarders ; still hoping, also, that in the Georgetown mines might be waiting for them the long-delayed fortune. At the end of a year this boy left her, and went to Kansas, choosing the life of a farmer rather than that of a miner.
For two years she was alone in Georgetown ; her eight children scattered, her husband lost, by worse loss than death. Still she worked bravely on; made, after the plain fashions of the mining camp, a cheery, comfortable home for those who boarded with her, and, as she said with dignity, “ never had much, but always plenty, and never had to be beholden to anybody.”
Nine years ago she occupied Kelso’s Cabin for a summer ; and, finding that something could be done by taking care of travelers coming to make the ascent of Gray’s Peak, she fitted the cabin up, built on a sort of kitchen, and determined to spend her summers there. The plan suited her from the first.
“ I don’t know how it is,” she said, “but I feel a great deal less lonely, off in a lonely place like this, than I do among folks. I can sit all day long and look at these mountains, and they do me good. And I enjoy talking with the sort of folks that come to go up the mountain. You know what I mean: there’s always something to people that ’ll take the trouble to climb a mountain like that; and they ’re always kind to me. I’ve seen some of the greatest men in this country, up here on Gray’s Peak, and talked with them, as I would n’t have done nowhere else in the world ; and I like that. And I'm out of the way, too, of lots of things.”
Two of her sons had joined her in Georgetown, and were engaged in mining ; still lured on by the same ignis fatuus that had led their father to California, thirty years before.
“ We’ve got some real good properties here ; we’ve got interests in several mines, that are being worked; and we’ve got lots of claims, if we’d only got the capital to work them,” she said, as enthusiastically as if she were only twentyseven instead of sixty-seven. “ I don’t care so much now for myself, but I’d like to see the hoys strike it rich. My son’s wife, the one that’s married down in Georgetown, she is n’t strong, and this country don’t suit her. She’s got to go back East. I’d like to see them fixed comfortable; she’s not long for this life, I’m afraid. That’s the reason* I’ve got their little boy up here; and he ’s a great deal of company for me, too.”
It was her grandchild, then, the marvelous chameleon, in shape of a small child, that we had encountered on our arrival at the cabin. He was standing in the doorway, when we drove up. In the dim twilight he looked like some sort of elf. Less than three feet high ; his legs sunk in a pair of old leather boots, much too big, their red loops sticking out on each side of his little hips, masses of bulgy wrinkles at his ankles, shining copper strips at his toes ; an old brown felt hat tipped on one side of his head, and jammed well down over his ear, — what a picture he made ! Without saying a word he picked up one of our biggest parcels, a bag nearly as heavy as himself, staggered across the door-sill with it, threw it down, and came back panting.
“ I’ve got a stake to my lode, I have! ” he exclaimed, in a triumphant tone, throwing back his head, and looking at us confidently out of a pair of clear blue eyes, which shone in his rosy face like bits of sunny blue sky.
“ A stake to your lode ! ” we echoed. “ What does the child mean ? ”
“Yes, sir-r-r; I tell you,” lie responded. “ Here ’t is ; ” and in the twinkling of an eye he darted under the horses’ heads, across the road, and sprang up exultant on a pile of earth some three feet high, on the top of which lay an old shovel. “Here’s my lode!” he cried; and in another twinkling was down in a hole, digging away, and throwing up shovelfuls of earth; then out again, like a flash, flat on the ground, his legs crossed, kicking his feet up in the air, and eying us with delicious infant bravado. Before we had fairly taken in the situation, he was back again, crowding up sociably first to one and then to another, with “ Some day I’m going to buy a new horse, I am, . . . and a gun ; . . . a gun so long,” holding out his chubby hands as far apart as his little arms would reach, — “a gun so long, ... to shoot rats with.”
“ Rats ! Are there rats up here ? ” we said.
“ Rats ? Yes, sir-r-r-r-ee! You bet! I ’ll shoot ’em when I get my gun.”
Restless as quicksilver, darting from pot to spot, laughing, snatching, making dives at everything, each moment making some new speech droller than the last, it actually put one out of breath to watch the child.
“ How old is he ? ” we asked of our driver.
“ That young ’un ? He’s about four, I reckon ; can’t be older,” replied the driver ; “don no ’s he ’s ’s old. He’s the smartest youngster ever I seen. Too smart, I reckon. ’T ain’t natural.”
As we watched the little fellow, the nest day, we felt a similar misgiving. It is no exaggeration, to say that he was not still for a moment. He was at the chopping log, with the great axe, lifting it higher than would have seemed possible for his tiny hands, making two or three strokes, then throwing it down ; then off after a saw, lugging it along, and trying its edge on the projecting ends of the logs at the cabin corners ; then astride the railing at the kitchen door, half in, half out, over, under, in and out again, turning somersaults between the bars like an acrobat; then back at his lode, leaping down into the hole, digging desperately, and throwing out the earth like a man ; then out, off, and up the banks where flowers grew; down flat on his stomach among them, snuffing to right and left, picking big bunches in a hurry, sometimes bringing them back to the house, sometimes throwing them down on the ground. If he were headed off on any of these plunges, he always said, “ I can’t stop ! I’ve got to work ! I shall strike ore ! ”
“ What do you call your lode ? ” I asked him.
He paused, perhaps a quarter of a second, put his hands in his pockets, and set his droll legs so wide apart that he recovered himself with difficulty for his next step. Evidently, he had never thought of naming his lode.
“ I call it the Drift Lode,” he said haughtily, and strode away.
So we christened him, in our minds, “ the Proprietor of the Drift Lode ; ” and as we bade good-by to Aunty Lane, and looked back, waving our farewells to her in her doorway, with the child clinging to her, we wondered if there were not a touching pertinence in his phrase ; if lie were not born of a blood destined forever to bootless searches in “ Drift Lodes” of little more value than his own. Our last sight of him showed him darting down his miniature shaft, sure as usual that he would “strike ore.” And our last sight of Aunty Lane was of her fine, thoughtful face, looking earnestly after us, out towards the opening of the pass; her gray hair blowing in the fresh morning wind; her hand above her eyes, shading them from the sun, that she might see a little farther. The gesture seemed characteristic of her character and life.