Read CHAPTER XX - JUMPERS AND TENORS of Silver and Gold A Story of Luck and Love in a Western Mining Camp , free online book, by Dane Coolidge, on ReadCentral.com.

They led Denver away as if he were a child, for the revulsion from his anger had left him weak; but Chatwourth, the killer, was carried back to town with his head lolling forward like a dead man’s. The smash of the stone had caught him full on the forehead, which sloped back like the skull of a panther; and the blood, oozing down from his lacerated scalp, made him look more murderous than ever. But his hard, fighting jaw was hanging slack now and his dangerous eyes were closed; and the miners, while they carried him with a proper show of solicitude, chuckled and muttered among themselves. In a way which was nothing short of miraculous Denver Russell had walked in on Murray’s boss jumper and knocked him on the head with a rock and the shot which Chatwourth had fired in return had never so much as touched him.

They put Chatwourth in an automobile and sent him over to Murray’s camp; and then with broad smiles they gathered about Denver and took turns in slapping him on the back. He was a wonder, a terror, a proper fighting fool, the kind that would charge into hell itself with nothing but a bucket of water; and would he mind, when he felt a little stronger, just walking with them to their claims? Just a little, friendly jaunt, as one friend with another; but if Murray’s hired junipers saw him coming up the trail that was all that would be required. They would go, and be quick about it, for they had been watching from afar and had seen what happened to Dave but Denver brushed them aside and went up to his cave where he could be by himself and think.

If he had ever doubted the virtue of Mother Trigedgo’s prophecy he put the unworthy thought behind him. He knew it now, knew it absolutely every word of the prophecy was true. He had staked his life to prove the blackest line of it, and Chatwourth’s bullet had been turned aside. No, the silver treasure was his, and the golden treasure also, and no man but his best friend could kill him; but the beautiful artist with whom he had fallen in love would she now confer her hand upon another? He had come back to Pinal to set the prophecy at defiance and ask her to be his dearest friend; but now, well, perhaps it would be just as well to stick to the letter of his horoscope. “Beware how you reveal your affections,” it said and he had been rushing back to tell her! And besides, she had met his advances despitefully, and practically called him a coward. Denver brushed off the dust from his shiny phonograph and put on the “Anvil Chorus.”

The next morning, early, he was up at his mine, with Chatwourth’s gun slung low on his leg; and while he remained there, to defend it against all comers, he held an impromptu reception. There was a rush of miners, to look at the mine and inspect the specimens of copper; and then shoestring promoters began to arrive, with proposals to stock the property. The Professor came up, his eyes staring and resentful; and old Bunker, overflowing with good humor; and at last, when nobody else was there, Drusilla walked by on the trail. She glanced up at him hopefully; then, finding no response, she heaved a great sigh and turned up his path to have it over and done with.

“Well,” she said, “I suppose you despise me, but I’m sorry that’s all I can say. And now that I know all about your horoscope I don’t blame you for treating me so rudely. That is, I don’t blame you so much. But don’t you think, Denver, when you went away and left me, you might have written back? We’d always been such friends.”

She checked herself at the word, then smiled a sad smile and waited to hear what he would say. And Denver, in turn, checked what was on his lips and responded with a solemn nod. It had come to him suddenly to rise up and clasp her hands and whisper that he’d take a chance on it, yet that is, if they could still be friends but the significance of the prophecy had been proved only yesterday, and miracles can happen both ways. The same fate, the same destiny, which had fended off the bullet when Chatwourth had aimed at his heart, might turn the merest accident to the opposite purpose and make Drusilla his unwilling slayer.

“Yes,” he said, apropos of nothing, “you see now how I’m fixed. Don’t dare to have any friends.”

“No, but Denver,” she pouted, “you might say you were sorry that’s different from being friends. But after we’d been so oh, do you believe all that? Do you believe you’ll be killed by your dearest friend, and that nobody else can harm you? Because that, you know, is just superstition; it’s just like the ancient Greeks when they consulted the oracle, and the Indians, and Italians and such people. But educated people ”

“What’s the matter with the Greeks?” spoke up Denver contentiously. “Do you mean to say they were ignorant? Well, I talked with an old-timer he was a Professor in some university and he said it would take us a thousand years before we even caught up with them. Do you think that I’m superstitious? Well, listen to this, now; here’s one that he told me, and it comes from a famous Greek play. There was a woman back in Greece that was like Mother Trigedgo, and she prophesied, before a man was born, that he’d kill his own father and marry his own mother. What do you think of that, now? His father was a king and didn’t want to kill him, so when he was born he pierced his feet and put him out on a cliff to die. But a shepherd came along and found this baby and named him Edipus, which means swelled feet; and when the kid grew up he was walking along a narrow pass when he met his father in disguise. They got into a quarrel over who should turn out and Epidus killed his father. Then he went on to the city where his mother was queen and there was a big bird, the Sphinx, that used to come there regular and ask those folks a riddle: What is it that is four-footed, three-footed and two-footed? And every time when they failed to give the answer the Sphinx would take one of them to eat. Well, the queen had said that whoever guessed that riddle could be king and have her for his wife, and Epidus guessed the answer. It’s a man, you see, that crawls when he is a baby, stands on two legs when he’s grown and walks with a cane when he is old. Epidus married the queen, but when he found out what he’d done he went mad and put his own eyes out. But don’t you see he couldn’t escape it.”

“No, but listen,” she smiled, “that was just a legend, and the Greeks made it into a play. It was just like the German stories of Thor and the Norse gods that Wagner used in his operas. They’re wonderful, and all that, but folks don’t take them seriously. They’re just why, they’re fairy tales.”

“Well, all right,” grumbled Denver, “I expect you think I am crazy, but what about Mother Trigedgo? Didn’t she send me over here to find this mine? And wasn’t it right where she told me? Doesn’t it lie within the shadow of a place of death, and wasn’t the gold added to it?”

“Why, no!” exclaimed Drusilla, “did you find the gold, too? I thought ”

“That referred to the copper,” answered Denver soberly. “It was your father that gave me the tip. When I first came over here I was inquiring for gold, because I knew I had to make a choice; but he pointed out to me that these horoscopes are symbolical and that the golden treasure might be copper. It looks a whole lot like gold, you know; and now just look what happened! I chose the silver, see I chose the right treasure and when I drifted in, this vein of chalcopyrites appeared and was added to the silver. It followed along in the hanging wall until the whole formation dipped and then ”

“Oh, I don’t care about that!” burst out Drusilla fretfully, “it’s easy to explain anything, afterwards! But of course if you think more of gold and silver than you do of having me for a friend ”

“But I don’t,” interposed Denver, gently taking her hand. “Sit down here and let’s talk this over.”

“Well,” sighed Drusilla and then, winking back the tears, she sank down in the shade beside him.

“I don’t want you to think,” went on Denver tenderly, without weighing very carefully what he said, “I don’t want you to think I don’t like you, because say, if you’ll kiss me, I’ll take a chance.”

“Oh would you?” she beamed her eyes big with wonder, “would you take a chance on my killing you?”

“If it struck me dead!” declared Denver gallantly, but she did not yield the kiss.

“No,” she said, “I don’t believe in kisses have you kissed other girls before? And besides, I just wanted to be friends again, the way we were before.”

“Well, I guess you don’t want to be friends very bad,” observed Denver with a disgruntled smile. “When do you expect to start for the East?”

“Pretty soon,” she answered. “Will you be sorry?”

Denver shrugged his shoulders and began snapping pebbles at an ant.

“Sure,” he said and she drew away from him.

“You won’t!” she burst out resentfully.

“Yes, I’ll be sorry,” he repeated, “but it won’t make much difference I don’t expect to last very long. I’ve always had a pardner, some feller to ramble around with and borrow all my money when he was broke, and I’m getting awful lonesome without one. Sooner or later, I reckon, I’ll pick up another one and the crazy danged fool will kill me. Drop a timber hook on my head or some stunt like that I wish I’d never seen old Mother Trigedgo! What you don’t know never hurt anyone; but now, by grab, I’m afraid of every man I throw in with. For the time being, at least, he’s the best friend I’ve got; and oh, what’s the use, anyway, it’ll get you, sooner or later I might as well go out like a sport.”

“You were awful brave,” she murmured admiringly, “when you fought with Mr. Chatwourth yesterday. Weren’t you honestly afraid he would kill you?”

“No, I wasn’t!” declared Denver. “He didn’t look bad to me don’t now and never did and as long as the cards are coming my way I don’t let no alleged bad-man run it over me. Here’s the gun that I took away from him.”

“Yes, I noticed it,” she said. “But when he comes back for it are you going to give it up?”

“Sure,” answered Denver, “just show me a rock-pile and I’ll run him out of town like a rabbit.”

“And you fought him with rocks!” she said half to herself, “I wish I were as brave as that.”

“Well, it’s all in your mind,” expounded Denver. “Some people are afraid to crack an egg but I’m game to try anything once.”

“So am I!” she defended looking him boldly in the eye but he shook his head and smiled.

“Nope,” he said, “you don’t believe in kisses. But I was willing to take a chance on getting killed.”

“No,” she said, “a kiss means more than that. It means well, it means that you love someone.”

“It means what you want it to mean,” he corrected. “Don’t you have to kiss the tenor in these operas?”

“Well that’s different,” she responded blushing. “That’s why I’m afraid I’ll never succeed! Of course we’re taught to do stage kisses, but somehow I can’t bring myself to it. But oh, I do so love to sing! I like it all, except just that part of it and the singers are not all nice men. Some of them just make a business of flattering pretty girls and offering to get them a hearing. That’s why some girls succeed and get such big parts they have an understanding with someone that can use his influence with the directors. They don’t take the best singers and actors at all, it’s all done by intrigue and money. Oh, I wish some real nice man would start a new company and invite me to take a part. I’ve heard one was being organized a traveling company that will sing in all the big cities and I’ve written to my music teacher about it. But if I don’t get some position my money will all be gone in no time and then well, what will I do?”

She looked at him bravely and he saw in her eyes the calmness that goes with desperation.

“You write to me,” he said, “and I’ll send you the last dollar I’ve got.”

“No, I didn’t mean that,” she replied, “I can earn my living at something. But father and mother have spent all their money in training me to be a great singer and I just can’t bear to disappoint them. It’s cost ten thousand dollars to bring me where I am, and this five hundred dollars is nothing. Why the great vocal teachers, who can use their influence to get their pupils a hearing, charge ten dollars for a half-hour lesson; and if I don’t go to them then every door is closed unless I’m willing to pay the price.”

“Well, I take it all back then,” spoke up Denver at last, “there are different kinds of bravery. But you go on back there and do your best and maybe we can make a raise. I’ll just take my gun and go up to your father’s claims and jump out that bunch of bad-men ”

“No! No, Denver!” she broke in very earnestly, “I don’t want you to do that again. I heard last night that Dave said he would get you and if he did, why then I’d be to blame. You’d be doing it for me, and if one of those men killed you well, it would be just the same as me.”

“Nope!” denied Denver, “there was no figure of speech about that. It said: ‘at the hands of your dearest friend.’ These jumpers ain’t my friends and never was come on, let’s take a chance. I’ll run ’em off the claims if your father will give you half of ’em, and then you can turn around and sell out for cash and go back to New York like a queen. You stand off the tenors and I’ll stand off the jumpers; and then, perhaps but we won’t talk about that now. Come on, will you shake hands on the deal?”

She looked at him questioningly, his powerful hand reached out to help her, the old, boyish laughter in his eyes, and then she smiled back as bravely.

“All right,” she said, “but you’ll have to be careful because now I’m your dearest friend.”

“I’m game,” he cried, “and you don’t have to kiss me either. But if some Dago tenor ”

“No,” she promised looking up at him wistfully. “I’ll I’ll save the kiss for you.”