Read CHAPTER XV - A NIGHT FOR LOVE of Silver and Gold A Story of Luck and Love in a Western Mining Camp , free online book, by Dane Coolidge, on ReadCentral.com.

There was music that evening in the Bunker Hill mansion but Denver Russell sat sulking in his cave with no company but an inquisitive pack-rat. He regretted now his curt refusal to join the Hills at supper, for Drusilla was singing gloriously; but a man without pride is a despicable creature and Old Bunk had tried to insult him. So he went to bed and early in the morning, while the shadow of Apache Leap still lay like a blanket across the plain, he set out to fulfill his contract. Across one shoulder he hung a huge canteen of water, on the other a sack of powder and fuse; and, to top off his burden, he carried a long steel churn-drill and a spoon for scooping out the muck.

The discovery hole of Bunker’s Number Two claim was just up the creek from his own and, after looking it over, Denver climbed up the bank and measured off six feet from the edge. Then, raising the steel bar, he struck it into the ground, churning it rhythmically up and down; and as the hole rapidly deepened he spooned it out and poured in a little more water. It was the same uninteresting work that he had seen men do when they were digging a railroad cut; and the object was the same, to shoot down the dirt with the minimum of labor and powder. But with Denver it became a work of art, a test of his muscle and skill, and at each downward thrust he bent from the hips and struck with a deep-chested “Huh!”

An hour passed by, and half the length of the drill was buried at the end of the stroke; and then, as he paused to wipe the sweat from his eyes, Denver saw that his activities were being noted. Drusilla was looking on from the trail below, and apparently with the greatest interest. She was dressed in a corduroy suit, with a broad sombrero against the sun; and as she came up the slope she leapt from rock to rock in a heavy pair of boys’ high boots. There was nothing of the singer about her now, nor of the filmy-clad barefooted dancer; the jagged edge of old Pinal would permit of nothing so effeminate. Yet, over the rocks as on the smooth trails, she had a grace that was all her own, for those hillsides had been her home.

“Well, how’s the millionaire?” she inquired with a smile that made his fond heart miss a beat. “Is this the way you do it? Are you just going to drill one hole?”

“That’s the dope,” replied Denver, “sink it down ten feet and blow the whole bank off with one shot. It’s as easy as shooting fish.”

“Why, you’re down half-way, already!” she cried in amazement. “How long before you’ll be done?”

“Oh, half an hour or so,” said Denver. “Want to wait and see the blast? I learned this system on the railroad.”

“You’ll be through, then, before noon!” she exclaimed. “You’re actually making money.”

“Well, a little,” admitted Denver, “but, of course, if you’re not satisfied ”

“Oh, I’m satisfied,” she protested, “I was only thinking but then, it’s always that way. There are some people, of course, who can make money anywhere. How does it feel to be a millionaire?”

“Fine!” grinned Denver, chugging away with his drill, “this is the way they all got their start. The Armstrong method and that’s where I shine; I can break more ground than any two men.”

“Well, I believe you can,” she responded frankly, “and I hope you have a great success. I didn’t like it very well when you called me a quitter, but I can see now what you meant. Did you ever study music at all?”

Denver stopped his steady churning to glance at her quickly and then he nodded his head.

“I played the violin, before I went to mining. Had to quit then it stiffens up your fingers.”

“What a pity!” she cried. “But that explains about your records I knew you’d heard good music somewhere.”

“Yes, and I’m going to hear more,” he answered impressively, “I’m not going to blow my money. I’m going back to New York, where all those singers live. The other boys can have the booze.”

“Don’t you drink at all?” she questioned eagerly. “Don’t you even smoke? Well, I’m going right back and tell father. He told me that all miners spent their money in drinking why wouldn’t you come over to supper?”

She shot the question at him in the quick way she had, but Denver did not answer it directly.

“Never mind,” he said, “but I will tell you one thing I’m not a hobo miner.”

“No, I knew you weren’t,” she responded quickly. “Won’t you come over to supper to-night? I might sing for you,” she suggested demurely; but Denver shook his head.

“Nope,” he said, “your old man took me for a hobo and he can’t get the idea out of his head. What did he say when you gave me this job?”

“Well, he didn’t object; but I guess, if you don’t mind, we’ll only do three or four claims. He says I’ll need the money back East.”

“Yes, you will,” agreed Denver. “Five hundred isn’t much. If I was flush I’d do this for nothing.”

“Oh, no,” she protested, “I couldn’t allow that. But if there should be a rush, and father’s claims should be jumped ”

“You’d have the best of them, anyway. I wouldn’t tempt old Murray too far.”

“No,” she said, “and that reminds me I hear that he’s made a strike. But say, here’s a good joke on the Professor. You know he thinks he’s a mining expert, and he’s been crazy to look at the diamond drill cores; and the other day the boss driller was over and he told me how he got rid of him. You know, in drilling down they run into cavities where the lime has been leached away, and in order to keep the bore intact they pour them full of cement. Well, when the Professor insisted upon seeing the core and wouldn’t take no for an answer, Mr. Menzger just gave him a section of concrete, where they’d bored through a filled-up hole. And Mr. Diffenderfer just looked so wise and examined it through his microscope, and then he said it was very good rock and an excellent indication of copper. Isn’t that just too rich for anything?”

“Yeh,” returned Denver with a thin-lipped smile. And then, before he thought how it sounded: “Say, who is this Mr. Menzger, anyway?”

“Oh, he’s a friend of ours,” she answered drooping her eyelashes coquettishly. “He gets lonely sometimes and comes down to hear me sing he’s been in New York and everywhere.”

“Yes, he must be a funny guy,” observed Denver mirthlessly. “Any relation to that feller they call Dave?”

“Oh, Mr. Chatwourth? No, he’s from Kentucky they say he’s the last of his family. All the others were killed in one of those mountain feuds Mr. Menzger says he’s absolutely fearless.”

“Well, what did he leave home for, then?” inquired Denver arrogantly. “He don’t look very bad to me, I guess if he was fearless he’d be back in Kentucky, shooting it out with the rest of the bunch.”

“No, it seems that his father on his dying bed commanded him to leave the country, because there were too many of the others against him. But Mr. Menzger tells me he’s a professional killer, and that’s why Old Murray hired him. Do you think they would jump our claims?”

“They would if they struck copper,” replied Denver bluntly. “And old Murray warned me not to buy from your father that shows he’s got his eye on your property. It’s a good thing we’re doing this work.”

“Weren’t you afraid, then?” she asked, putting the wonder-note into her voice and laying aside her frank manner, “weren’t you afraid to buy our claim? Or did you feel that you were guided to it, and all would be for the best?”

“That’s it!” exclaimed Denver suddenly putting down his drill to gaze into her innocent young eyes. “I was guided, and so I bought it anyhow.”

“Oh, I think it’s so romantic!” she murmured with a sigh, “won’t you tell me how it happened?”

And then Denver Russell, forgetting the seeress’ warning at the very moment he was discussing her, sat down on a rock and gave Drusilla the whole story of his search for the gold and silver treasures. But at the end when she questioned him about the rest of the prophecy he suddenly recalled Mother Trigedgo’s admonition: “Beware how you reveal your affection or she will confer her hand upon another.”

A shadow came into his blue eyes and his boyish enthusiasm was stilled; and Drusilla, who had been practicing her stage-learned wiles, suddenly found her technique at fault. She chattered on, trying subtly to ensnare him, but Denver’s heart was now of adamant and he failed to respond to her approaches. It was not too late yet to heed the words of the prophecy, and he drilled on in thoughtful silence.

“Don’t you get lonely?” she burst out at last, “living all by yourself in that cave? Why, even these old prospectors have to have some pardner don’t you ever feel the need of a friend?”

There it was he felt it coming the appeal to be just friends. But another girl had tried it already, and he had learned about women from her.

“No,” he said shortly, “I don’t need no friends. Say, I’m going to load this hole now.”

“Well, go on!” she challenged, “I’m not afraid. I’ll stay here as long as you do.”

“All right,” he said lowering his powder down the hole and tamping it gently with a stick, “I see I can’t scare you.”

“Oh, you thought you could scare me!” she burst out mockingly, “I suppose you’re a great success with the girls.”

“Well,” he mocked back, “a good-looking fellow like me ” And then he paused and grinned slyly.

“Oh, what’s the use!” she exclaimed, rising up in disgust, “I might as well quit, right now.”

“No, don’t go off mad!” he remonstrated gallantly. “Stay and see the big explosion.”

“I don’t care that for your explosion!” she answered pettishly and snapped her fingers in the air.

It was the particular gesture with which the coquettish Carmen was wont to dismiss her lovers; but as she strode down the hill Drusilla herself was heart-broken, for her coquetry had come to naught. This big Western boy, this unsophisticated miner, had sensed her wiles and turned them upon her how then could she hope to succeed? If her eyes had no allure for a man like him, how could she hope to fascinate an audience? And Carmen and half the heroines of modern light opera were all of them incorrigible flirts. They flirted with servants, with barbers, with strolling actors, with their own and other women’s husbands; until the whole atmosphere fairly reeked of intrigue, of amours and coquettish escapades. To the dark-eyed Europeans these wiles were instinctive but with her they were an art, to be acquired laboriously as she had learned to dance and sing. But flirt she could not, for Denver Russell had flouted her, and now she had lost his respect.

A tear came to her eye, for she was beginning to like him, and he would think that she flirted with everyone; yet how was she to learn to succeed in her art if she had no experience with men? It was that, in fact, which her teacher had hinted at when he had told her to go out and live; but her heart was not in it, she took no pleasure in deceit and yet she longed for success. She could sing the parts, she had learned her French and Italian and taken instruction in acting; but she lacked the verve, the passionate abandon, without which she could never succeed. Yet succeed she must, or break her father’s heart and make his great sacrifice a mockery. She turned and looked back at Denver Russell, and that night she sang for him.

He was up there in his cave looking down indifferently, thinking himself immune to her charms; yet her pride demanded that she conquer him completely and bring him to her feet, a slave! She sang, attired in filmy garments, by the light of the big, glowing lamp; and as her voice took on a passionate tenderness, her mother looked up from her work. Then Bunker awoke from his gloomy thoughts and glanced across at his wife; and they sat there in silence while she sang on and on, the gayest, sweetest songs that she knew. But Drusilla’s eyes were fixed on the open doorway, on the darkness which lay beyond; and at last she saw him, a dim figure in the distance, a presence that moved and was gone. She paused and glided off into her song of songs, the “Barcarolle” from “Love Tales of Hoffman,” and as her voice floated out to him Denver rose up from his hiding and stepped boldly into the moonlight. He stood there like a hero in some Wagnerian opera, where men take the part of gods, and as she gazed the mockery went out of her song and she sang of love alone. Such a love as women know who love one man forever and hold all his love in return, yet the words were the same as those of false Giuletta when she fled with the perfidious Dapertutto.

“Night divine, O night of love,
O smile on our enchantment
Moon and stars keep watch above
This radiant night of love!”

She floated away in the haunting chorus, overcome by the madness of its spell; and when she awoke the song was ended and love had claimed her too.