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The Mascot of Sweet Briar Gulch   By: (1869-1930)

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Author of Red Saunders Plain Mary Smith etc.

With Illustrations by F. Graham Cootes

New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers

Copyright 1908 The Bobbs Merrill Company October



The gulch ran in a trough of beauty to the foot of Jones's Hill, which rose in a sweeping curve into the clouds.

Wild flowers, trees in profuse leaf, and mats of vines covered the scarred earth, and the sky was as limpid as spring water; the air carried a weight of heart stirring odors, yet Jim Felton, sitting on the door step of his cabin in the brilliant sunshine, was not a happy man.

He looked at the hollow of the gulch and cursed it manfully and bitterly. The gold should be there Jim had figured it all out. The old wash cut at right angles to the creek, and at the turn was where its freight of yellow metal should have been deposited, but when you got down to the bed rock, the blasted stuff was either slanted so nothing could stay on it, or was rotten crumbling in your fingers, and that kind of bed will hold nothing.

Therefore Jim had sunk about fifty prospect holes; got colors under the grass roots, as evidence that pay should be there and nothing but ashy wash beneath it.

When a man is alone, and thinks things are wrong, optimism comes down on the run, the shades of pessimism gather fast and furious more especially if a man does his own cooking, and the raw material is limited, at that.

The sun had not moved the shadows three inches before Jim had reached the conclusion that this world was all a practical joke, of so low an order that no sensible man would even laugh at it, and he drew a letter from his pocket in proof thereof. It was a thin letter, written on delicate paper in a delicate hand, and it showed much wear. He read for the thousandth time:

Dearest Jim And again I must say "no." Of course you will not understand, for which foolish reason I like you all the better, but you must try to take my point of view. You say that we can be married on nothing and take our chances.

So we can, old simple heart but aren't those chances all against us? Would you like to be forced to work in some office for just enough to live on? You know you would not, and you know how you would suffer in such slavery.

Nevertheless we can not live on air, and I doubt if I would stand transplanting to the wild life you love, better than you to a clerk's desk. You have that fancy which gilds the tin cans in the back yard; I have that unfortunate eye which would multiply their number by three, and their unsightliness by ten. I don't want riches, dear; I only want a modest assurance that I can have enough to live on.

Really, is your way of doing a guarantee of even bread and butter? In the Garden of Eden you would be the most delightful of companions, but in this world as it is, you will not fight for your own. You would risk your life to save a dog, but you couldn't stay at a continued grind I mean it would kill you, actually, physically, dead, dead to save all of us. At first I thought that a fault in you, but now, being older, having compared you to other men, I see it is merely a missing faculty.

I could stick to the desk, and would gladly, if you would let me, yet I could not even fancy behaving as you did at the factory fire, which is still the symbol in the town for manly courage and presence of mind.

They talk now of the way you laughed and joked with those poor frightened girls (who had such good cause to be frightened) and brought them back to sanity with a jest. I feel that if I had the least atom of heroism in me I would marry you for that feat alone, and let cold facts go hang; but, ah, Jim! magnificent as you are on the grand occasions, they come but seldom, and in the meantime, Jim I'll leave that to your own honesty.

I'm plebeian, Jim, and you're a nobleman, with a beautiful but embarrassing disregard for vulgar necessities... Continue reading book >>

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