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A short story by B. M. Bower

Fool's Gold

Title:     Fool's Gold
Author: B. M. Bower [More Titles by Bower]

Andy Green, unshaven as to face and haggard as to eyes, leaned upon his stout, willow stick and looked gloomily away to the west. He was a good deal given to looking to the west, these days when a leg new-healed kept him at the ranch, though habit and inclination would have sent him riding fast and far over prairies untamed. Inaction comes hard when a man has lived his life mostly in the open, doing those things which keep brain and muscle keyed alike to alertness and leave no time for brooding.

If Andy had not broken his leg but had gone with the others on roundup, he would never have spent the days glooming unavailingly because a girl with a blond pompadour and teasing eyes had gone away and taken with her a false impression of his morals, and left behind her the sting of a harsh judgment against which there seemed no appeal. As it was, he spent the time going carefully over his past in self-justification, and in remembering every moment that he had spent with Mary Johnson in those four weeks when she stayed with her father and petted the black lamb and the white.

In his prejudiced view, he had never done anything to make a girl hate him. He had not always told the truth--he would admit that with candid, gray eyes looking straight into your own--but he had never lied to harm a man, which, it seemed to him, makes all the difference in the world.

If he could once have told her how he felt about it, and showed her how the wide West breeds wider morals--he did not quite know how you would put these things, but he felt them very keenly. He wanted to make her feel the difference; to see that little things do not count in a man's life, after all, except when they affect him as a man when big things are wanted of him. A little cowardice would count, for instance, because it would show that the man would fail at the test; but a little lie? just a harmless sort of lie that was only a "josh" and was taken as such by one's fellows? Andy was not analytic by nature, and he would have stumbled vaguely among words to explain his views, but he felt very strongly the injustice of the girl's condemnation, and he would scarcely speak to Jack Bates and Irish when they came around making overtures for peace and goodwill.

"If she hadn't gone home so sudden, I could uh squared it all right," he told the Little Doctor, whenever her sympathetic attitude won him to speech upon the subject.

"Yes, I believe you could," she would agree cheeringly. "If she's the right sort, and cared, you could."

"She's the right sort--I know that," Andy would assert with much decision, though modesty forbade his telling the Little Doctor that he was also sure she cared. She did care, if a girl's actions count for anything, or her looks and smiles. Of course she cared! Else why did she rush off home like that, a good month before she had intended to go? They had planned that Andy would get a "lay-off" and go with her as far as Butte, because she would have to wait there several hours, and Andy wanted to take her out to the Columbia Gardens and see if she didn't think they were almost as nice as anything California could show. Then she had gone off without any warning because Jack Bates and Irish had told her a lot of stuff about him, Andy; if that didn't prove she cared, argued Andy to himself, what the dickens would you want for proof?

It was from thinking these things over and over while he lay in bed, that Andy formed the habit of looking often towards the west when his hurt permitted him to hobble around the house. And when a man looks often enough in any direction, his feet will, unless hindered by fate itself, surely follow his gaze if you give them time enough.

It was the excursion rates advertised in a Great Falls paper that first put the idea consciously into the brain of Andy. They seemed very cheap, and the time-limit was generous, and--San Jose was not very far from San Francisco, the place named in the advertisement; and if he could only see the girl and explain--It would be another month before he would be able to work, anyway, and--A man might as well get rid of a hundred or so travelling, as to sit in a poker game and watch it fade away, and he would really get more out of it. Anyhow, nobody need know where he had gone. They could think he was just going to Butte. And he didn't give a darn if they did find it out!

He limped back into the house and began inspecting, with much dissatisfaction, his wardrobe. He would have to stake himself to new clothes--but he needed clothes, anyway, that fall. He could get what he wanted in Butte, while he waited for the train to Ogden. Now that Andy had made up his mind to go, he was in a great hurry and grudged the days, even the hours, that must pass before he could see Mary Edith Johnson.

Not even the Little Doctor knew the truth, when Andy appeared next morning dressed for his journey, ate a hasty and unsatisfactory breakfast and took the Old Man to one side with elaborate carelessness and asked for a sum that made the Old Man blink. But no man might have charge of the Happy Family for long without attaining that state of mental insulation which renders a shock scientifically impossible. The Old Man wrote a check, twisted his mouth into a whimsical knot and inquired mildly: "What's the brand of devilment this time, and how long's it going to take yuh?" With a perceptible emphasis on the word _this_.

For probably the first time in his life Andy blushed and stammered over a lie, and before he had got out more than two words, the Old Man seemed to understand the situation quite thoroughly. He said "Oh, I see. Well, git a round-trip ticket and be dead sure yuh don't out-stay the limit." He took out his pipe and filled it meditatively.

Andy blushed again--six weeks indoors had lightened the tan on his face so that his blushes showed very plainly--and made desperate denial. "I'm only going up to Butte. But a fellow can't have any kind of a time there without a fair-sized roll, and--I'll be back in two or three weeks--soon as my leg's mended thorough. I--"

"Get along with yuh!" growled the Old Man, though his eyes twinkled. "Doggone it, don't yuh lie to _me_. Think I was shipped in on the last train? A man don't git red in the face when he's just merely headed for Butte. Why, doggone yuh--"

The last words had to serve for a farewell, because Andy was limping away as fast as he could, and did not come back to the house again. He did not even tell the Little Doctor good-by, though it was fifteen minutes before John Wedum, the ranchhand, had the team ready to drive Andy to town, and he was one of the Little Doctor's most loyal subjects.

* * * * *

Andy walked haltingly down a palm-shaded street in San Jose and wondered just what would be the best and quickest way in which to find Mary Edith Johnson. Three ways were open to him: He could hunt up all the Johnsons in town--there were three full pages of them in the directory, as he remembered with a sigh--and find out which one was the right one; but San Jose, as he had already discovered, was not a village, and he doubted if he could stand the walking. He could visit all the real estate offices in town--and he was just beginning to realize that there were almost as many real estate offices as there were Johnsons. And he could promenade the streets in the hope of meeting her. But always there was the important fact to face--the fact that San Jose is not a village.

He came upon a particularly shady spot and a bench placed invitingly. Andy sat down, eased the new-healed leg out before him and rolled a cigarette. "This is going to be some different from hunting a stray on the range," he told himself, with an air of deliberate cheerfulness. "If I could get out and scurrup around on a hoss, and round her up that way--but this footing it all over town is what grinds me." He drew a match along the under side of the bench and held the blaze absently to the cigarette. "There was one thing--she told about an orange tree right beside her mother's front gate, Maybe--" He looked around him hopefully. Just across the street was a front gate, and beside it an orange tree; he knew because there were ripe oranges hanging upon it. He started to rise, his blood jumping queerly, sat down again and swore. "Every darned gate in town, just about, has got an orange tree stuck somewhere handy by. I remember 'em now, damn 'em!"

Three cigarettes he smoked while he sat there. When he started on again his face was grimly set toward the nearest business street. At the first real-estate sign he stopped, pulled together his courage, and went in. A girl sat in a corner of the room before a typewriter. Andy saw at a glance that her hair was too dark; murmured something and backed out. At the next place, a man was crumpled into a big chair, reading a paper. Behind a high desk a typewriter clicked, but Andy could not see the operator without going behind the railing, and he hesitated.

"Looking for a snap?" asked the man briskly, coming up from his crumpled state like a spring.

"Well, I was looking--"

"Now, here. It may not be what you want, but I'm just going to show you this proposition and see what you think of it. It ain't going to last--somebody's goin' to snap it up before you know it. Now, here--"

It was half an hour before Andy got away from that office, and he had not seen who was running the machine behind the desk, even then. He had, however, spoken rather loudly and had informed the man that he was from Montana, with no effect whatever upon the clicking. He had listened patiently to the glowing description of several "good buys," and had escaped with difficulty within ten minutes after hearing the unseen typist addressed as "Fern."

At the third place he merely looked in at the door and retreated hastily when the agent, like a spider on the watch, started forward.

When he limped into the office of his hotel at six o'clock, Andy was ready to swear that every foot of land in California was for sale, and that every man in San Jose was trying his best to sell it and looked upon him, Andy Green, as a weak-minded millionaire who might be induced to purchase. He had not visited all the places where they kept bulletin-boards covered with yellowed placards abounding in large type and many fat exclamation points and the word ONLY with a dollar mark immediately after. All? He had not visited half of them, or a third!

That night he dreamed feverishly of "five-room, modern cottages with bath," and of "ONLY $500.00 down and balance payable monthly," and of ten-acre "ranches" and five-acre "ranches"--he who had been used to numbering acres by the thousand and to whom the word "ranch" meant miles of wire fencing and beyond that miles of open!

It took all the longing he felt for Mary Johnson to drive him out the next morning and to turn his face toward those placarded places which infested every street, but he went. He went with eyes that glared hostility at every man who said "buy," and with chin set to stubborn purpose. He meant to find Mary Edith Johnson, and he meant to find her without all California knowing that he was looking for her. Not once had he mentioned her name, or showed that he cared whether there was a typewriter in the office or whether it was a girl, man or Chinaman who clicked the keys; and yet he knew exactly how every girl typist had her hair dressed, and what was the color of her eyes.

At two o'clock, Andy stopped suddenly and stared down at a crack in the pavement, and his lips moved in muttered speech. "She's worked three years in one of them places--and she 'thoroughly detests falsehood in _any_ form'! Hell!" Is exactly what he was saying out loud, on one of the busiest streets in San Jose.

A policeman glanced at him, looked again and came slowly toward him. Andy took the hint and moved on decorously to the next bulletin-board, but the revelation that had come to him there in the street dulled somewhat his alertness, so that he came near committing himself to the purchase of one of those ubiquitous "five-room, modern cottages with bath" before he realized what he was doing and fled to the street again, on the pretense that he had to catch the car which was just slowing down for that crossing.

He boarded the car, though he had no idea of where it was going, and fished in his pocket for a nickel. And just when he was reaching up from the step where he stood clinging--reaching over the flower-piled hat of a girl, to place the nickel in the outstretched palm of the conductor, he heard for the first time in many weeks the name of Mary Johnson. A girl at his elbow was asking the other: "What'n the world's become of Mary Johnson? She wasn't to the dance last night, and it's the first one--"

Andy held his breath.

"Oh, Mame quit her place with Kelly and Gray, two weeks ago. She's gone to Santa Cruz and got a place for the summer. Her and Lola Parsons went together, and--"

Andy took advantage of another crossing, and dropped off. He wanted to find out when the next train left for Santa Cruz. It never occurred to him that there might be two Mary Johnsons in the world, which was fortunate, perhaps; he wasted no time in hesitation, and so, within twenty minutes, he was hearing the wheels of a fast train go _clickety-click, clickety-click_ over the switches in the suburbs of San Jose, and he was asking the conductor what time the train would reach Santa Cruz, and was getting snubbed for his anxiety.

Santa Cruz, when he did reach it, seemed, on a superficial examination, to be almost as large as San Jose, and the real-estate offices closer together and even more plentifully supplied with modern cottages and bath--and the heart of him sank prophetically. For the first time since he dropped off the street-car in San Jose, it seemed to him that Mary Johnson was quite as far off, quite as unattainable as she had ever been.

He walked slowly up Pacific Avenue and watched the hurrying crowds, and wondered if chance would be kind to him; if he should meet her on the street, perhaps. He did not want to canvass all the real-estate offices in town. "It would take me till snow flies," he murmured dispiritedly, forgetting that here was a place where snow never flew, and sought a hotel where they were not "full to the eaves" as two complacent clerks had already told him.

At supper, he made friends with a genial-voiced insurance agent--the kind who does not insist upon insuring your life whether you want it insured or not. The agent told Andy to call him Jack and use him good and plenty--perhaps because something wistful and lonely in the gray eyes of Andy appealed to him--and Andy took him at his word and was grateful. He discovered what day of the week it was: Saturday, and that on the next day Santa Cruz would be "wide-open" because of an excursion from Sacramento. Jack offered to help him lose himself in the crowd, and again Andy was grateful. For the first time since leaving the Flying U he went to bed feeling not utterly alone and friendless, and awoke pleasantly expectant. Friend Jack was to pilot him down to the Casino at eleven, and he had incidentally made one prediction which stuck closely to Andy, even in his sleep. Jack had assured him that the whole town would be at the beach; and if the whole town were at the beach, why then, Mary would surely be somewhere in the crowd. And if she were in the crowd--"If she's there, I'll sure get a line on her before night," Andy told himself, with much assurance. "A fellow that's been in the habit of cutting any certain brand of critter out of a big herd ought to be able to spot his girl in a crowd"--and he hummed softly while he dressed.

The excursion train was already in town, and the esplanade was, looking down from Beach Hill, a slow-moving river of hats, with splotches of bright colors and with an outer fringe of men and women. "That's a good-sized trail-herd uh humans," Andy remarked, and the insurance agent laughed appreciatively.

"You wait till you see them milling around on the board walk," he advised impressively. "If you happen to be looking for anybody, you'll realize that there's some people scattered around in your vicinity. I had a date with a girl, down here one Sunday during the season, and we hunted each other from ten in the morning till ten at night and never got sight of each other."

Andy gave him a sidelong, suspicious glance, but friend Jack was evidently as innocent as he looked, and so Andy limped silently down the hill to the Casino and wondered if fate were going to cheat him at the last moment.

Once in the crowd, it was as Jack had told him it would be. He could not regard the moving mass of humanity as individuals, though long living where men are few had fixed upon him the habit. Now, although he observed far more than did Jack, he felt somewhat at a loss; the realization that Mary Johnson might pass him unrecognized troubled him greatly. It did not once occur to him that he, with his gray Stetson hat and his brown face and keen eyes and tall, straight-backed figure, looked not at all like the thousands of men all around him, so that many eyes turned to give him another glance when he passed. Mary Johnson must be unobserving in the extreme if she failed to know him, once she glimpsed him in the crowd.

Somewhere near one o'clock he lost Jack completely, and drifted aimlessly alone. Jack had been hailed by a friend, had stopped for a minute to talk, and several hundred men, women and children had come between him and Andy, pushing and crowding and surging, because a band had started playing somewhere. Andy got down the steps and out upon the sand, and Jack was thereafter but a memory. He found the loose sand hard walking with his lame leg, and almost as crowded as the promenade, and as he stood for a minute looking up at the board walk above him, it occurred to him that if he could get somewhere and stay there long enough, every human being at the Casino would eventually pass by him. He went up the steps again and worked his way along the edge of the walk until he found a vacant spot on the railing and sat grimly down upon it to wait.

Many cigarettes he smoked while he roosted there, watching until the eyes of him ached with the eternal panorama of faces that were strange. Many times he started eagerly because he glimpsed a fluffy, blond pompadour with blue eyes beneath, and fancied for an instant that it was Mary.

Then, when he was speculating upon the advisability of following the stream of people that flowed out upon the pleasure pier, Mary passed by so close that her skirt brushed his toes; passed him by, and he sat there like a paralytic and let her go. And in the heart of him was a queer, heavy throb that he did not in the least understand.

She was dressed in blue linen with heavy, white lace in patches here and there, and she had a big, white hat tilted back from her face and a long white plume drooping to one shoulder. Another girl was with her, and a man--a man with dented panama hat and pink cheeks and a white waistcoat and tan shoes; a man whom Andy suddenly hated most unreasonably.

When they were all but lost in the crowd, Andy got down, gripped his cane vindictively and followed. After all, the man was walking beside the other girl, and not beside Mary--and the reflection brought much solace. With the nodding, white feather to guide him, he followed them down the walk, lost them for a second, saw them turn in at the wide-open doors of the natatorium, saw them pause there, just inside. Then a huge woman pushed before him, stood there and narrowed his range of vision down to her own generous hat with its huge roses, and when he had edged past her the three were gone.

Andy waited, comforted by the knowledge that they had not come out, until the minutes passed his patience and he went in, searched the gallery unavailingly, came out again and wandered on dispiritedly to the pleasure pier. There, leaning over the rail, he saw her again almost beneath him in the sand, scantily clad in a bathing suit. The man, still more scantily clad, was trying to coax her into the water and she was hanging back and laughing a good deal, with an occasional squeal.

Andy leaned rather heavily upon the railing and watched her gloweringly, incredulously. Custom has much to do with a man's (or a woman's) idea of propriety, and one Andrew Green had for long been unaccustomed to the sight of nice young women disporting themselves thus in so public a place. He could not reconcile it with the girl as he had known her in her father's cabin, and he was not at all sure that he wanted to do so.

He was just turning gloomily away when she glanced up, saw him and waved her hand. "Hello, Andy," she called gaily. "Come on down and take a swim, why don't you?"

Andy, looking reproachfully into her upturned face, shook his head. "I can't," he told her. "I'm lame yet." It was not at all what he had meant to say, any more than this was the meeting he had dreamed about. He resented both with inner rage.

"Oh. When did you come?" she asked casually, and was whisked away by the man before Andy could tell her. The other girl was there also, and the three ran gleefully down to meet a roller larger than the others had been; met it, were washed, with much screaming and laughter, back to shore and stood there dripping. Andy glared down upon them and longed for the privilege of drowning the fellow.

"We're going up into the plunge," called Mary. "Come on. I'll see you, when I come out." They scampered away, and he, calling himself many kinds of fool, followed.

In the plunge, Andy was still more at a disadvantage, for since he was a spectator, a huge sign informed him that he must go up stairs. He went up with much difficulty into the gallery, found himself a seat next the rail and searched long for Mary among the bathers below. He would never have believed that he would fail to know her at sight, but with fifty women, more or less, dressed exactly alike and with ugly rubber caps pulled down to eyebrows and ears, recognition must necessarily be slow.

While he leaned and stared, an avalanche of squeals came precipitately down the great slide; struck the water and was transformed to gurgling screams, and then heads came bobbing to the surface--three heads, and one of them was Mary's. She swept the water from her eyes, looked up and saw him, waved her hand and scrambled rather ungracefully over the rail in her wet, clinging suit. The others followed, the man trotting at her heels and calling something after her.

Andy, his brows pulled down over unhappy eyes, glared fixedly up at the top of the slide. In a minute they appeared, held gesticulating counsel, wavered and came down together, upon their stomachs. The strange girl was in the lead, with Mary next holding to the girl's feet. Behind her slid the man, gripping tightly the ankles of Mary. Andy's teeth set savagely together, though he saw that others were doing exactly the same; old women, young women, girls, men and boys came hurtling down the big slide, singly, in couples, in three and fours.

The spectacle began to fascinate him, so that for a minute or two he could forget Mary and the man. There was a roar of voices, the barking as of seals, screams, laughter and much splashing. Men and women dove from the sides like startled frogs into a pond; they swam, floated and stood panting along the walls; swung from the trapeze (Andy, remembering his career with the circus, when he was "Andre de Greno," Champion Bareback Rider of the Western Hemisphere, wished that his leg was well so that he could show them a few things about that trapeze business) and troubled the waters with much splashing. He could not keep Mary always in view, but when he did get sight of her she seemed to be having a very good time, and not to be worrying in the least about him and his sins.

Twice Andy Green half rose from his seat, meaning to leave the plunge, the Casino and the whole merry-making crowd; but each time he settled back, telling himself that he hated a quitter, and that he guessed he'd buy a few more chips and stay in the game.

It seemed a long time before Mary finally emerged in the blue linen and the white hat, but Andy was waiting doggedly at the entrance and took his place beside her, forcing the man to walk beside the girl whom Mary introduced as Lola Parsons. The man's name was Roberts, but the girls called him Freddie, and he seemed composed mostly of a self-satisfied smile and the latest fad in male attire. Andy set himself to the task of "cutting Mary out of the main herd" so that he might talk with her. Thus it happened that, failing a secluded spot in the immediate neighborhood of the Casino, which buzzed like a disturbed hive of gigantic bees, Mary presently found herself on a car that was clanging its signal of departure, and there was no sign of Freddie and Lola Parsons.

"We lost 'em, back there," Andy told her calmly when she inquired. "And as to where we're going, I don't know; as far as this lightning-wagon will take us."

"This car goes clear out to the Cliffs," Mary said discouragingly.

"All right. We're going out to the cliffs, then," Andy smiled blandly down upon the nodding, white feather in her hat.

"But I promised Lola and Freddie--"

"Oh, that's all right. I'll take the blame. Were yuh surprised to see me here?"

"Why should I be? Everybody comes to Santa Cruz, sooner or later."

"I came sooner," said Andy, trying to meet her eye. He wanted to bring the conversation to themselves, so that he might explain and justify himself, and win forgiveness for his sins.

While they walked along the cliffs he tried, and going home he had not given up the attempt. But afterward, when he could sit down quietly and think, he was forced to admit that he had not succeeded very well. It seemed to him that, while Mary still liked him and was quite ready to be friends, she had forgotten just why she had so suddenly left Montana. She was sorry he had broken his leg, but in the same breath, almost, she told him of such a narrow escape that Freddie had last week, when an auto nearly ran him down. Andy regretted keenly that it had not.

He had mentioned Irish and Jack Bates, meaning to refute the tales they had told of him, and she had asked about the black lamb and the white, and then had told him that he must go out to the whistling buoy and see the real whale they had anchored out there, and related with much detail how Freddie had taken her and Lola out, and how the water was so rough she got seasick, and a wave splashed over and ruined Freddie's new summer suit, that spotted dreadfully; it wasn't, she remarked, a durable color. She hoped Andy would stay a month or two, though the "season" was about over. She knew he would just love the plunge and the surf-bathing, and there was going to be a boomers' barbacue up at the Big Trees in two weeks--and it would seem like home to him, seeing a cow roasted whole! She did love Montana, and she hoped he brought his chaps and spurs along, for she had told Lola so much about him, and she wanted Lola to see him in his Wild West clothes.

All this should have pleased Andy very much. She had not grown cold, and her eyes were quite as teasing and her smiles as luring as before. She did not even lay personal claim to Freddie, that he should be jealous. When she spoke of Freddie, his name was linked with Lola Parsons, and Andy could not glean that she had ever gone anywhere alone with him. She had seemed anxious that he should enjoy his vacation to the limit, and had mentioned three or four places that he must surely see, and informed him three times that she was "off" at five every evening, and could show him around.

They had dined together at a cafe, and had gone back to the Casino for the band concert, and they had not been interrupted by meeting Lola Parsons and Freddie, and she had given him a very cordial good-night when they parted on the steps of her boarding house at eleven.

So there was absolutely no reason for the mood Andy was in when he accepted his key from the hotel clerk and went up to his room. For a man who has traveled more than a thousand miles in search of the girl he had dreamed of o'nights, and who had found her and had been properly welcomed, he was distinctly gloomy. He sat down by the open window and smoked four cigarettes, said "Damn Freddy!" three times and with added emphasis each time, though he knew very well that Freddie had nothing to do with it, and then went to bed.

In the morning he felt better, and went out by himself to the cliffs where they had been before, and sat down on a hummock covered with short grass, and watched the great unrest of the ocean, and wondered where the Flying U wagons would be camping, that night. Somehow, the wide reach of water reminded him of the prairie; the rolling billows were like many, many cattle milling restlessly in a vast herd and tossing white heads and horns upward. Below him, the pounding surf was to him the bellowing of a thirsty herd corralled.

"This is sure all right," he approved, rousing a little. "It's almost as good as sitting up on a pinnacle and looking out over the range. If I had a good hoss, and my riding outfit, and could get out there and go to work cutting-out them white-caps and hazing 'em up here on a run, it wouldn't be so poor. By gracious, this is worth the trip, all right." It never occurred to Andy that there was anything strange in the remark, or that he sat there because it dulled the heavy ache that had been his since yesterday--the ache of finding what he had sought, and finding with it disillusionment.

Till hunger drove him away he stayed, and his dreams were of the wide land he had left. When he again walked down Pacific Avenue the hall clock struck four, and after he had eaten he looked up at it and saw that it lacked but fifteen minutes of five.

"I'm supposed to meet her when she quits work," he remembered, "and Lola and Freddie will go to the plunge with us." He stopped and stared in at the window of a curio store. "Say, that's a dandy Navajo blanket," he murmured. "It would be out-uh-sight for a saddle blanket." He started on, hesitated and went back. "I've got time enough to get it," he explained to himself. He went in, bought the blanket and two Mexican _serapes_ that caught his fancy, tucked the bundle under his arm and started down the street toward the office where Mary worked. It was just two minutes _to five_.

He got almost to the door--so near that his toe struck against a corner of the belabelled bulletin board--when a sudden revulsion swept his desires back like a huge wave. He stood a second irresolutely and then turned back. "Aw--hell! What's the use?" he muttered.

The clock was just on the last stroke of five when he went up to the clerk in his hotel. "Say, when does the next train pull out?--I don't give a darn in what direction," he wanted to know. When the clerk told him seven-thirty, he grinned and became undignifiedly loquacious.

"I want to show yuh a couple of dandy _serapes_ I just glommed, down street," he said, and rolled the bundle open upon the desk. "Ain't they a couple uh beauts? I got 'em for two uh my friends; they done me a big favor, a month or two ago, and I wanted to kinda square the deal. That's why I got 'em just alike. Yes, you bet they're peaches; yuh can't get 'em like this in Montana. The boys'll sure appreciate 'em." He retied the bundle, took his room-key from the hand of the smiling clerk and started up the stairway, humming a tune under his breath as he went.

At the first turn he stopped and looked back. "Send the bell-hop up to wake me at seven," he called down to the clerk. "I'm going to take a much-needed nap--and it'll be all your life's worth to let me miss that train!"

[The end]
B. M. Bower's short story: Fool's Gold