Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/134

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dripping moisture and within striking distance of wooded mountain or sunburnt mesa, depending on one’s direction and inclination? There was greenery enough and outlook enough and solitude enough; and, plus all that, an extraordinary sense of contact with life in just the fact of that ribbon of steel rails bearing thirsty engines to their slaking. A drowsy place, to be precise, as a camp site should be. . . . But it wouldn’t stay drowsy for ever, not with Hank Wheelock’s borax marshes twelve hours distant by foot trail. Hank Wheelock’s borax marshes, mark you—not the borax marshes of Bledsoe and Wheelock! . . . The railroad siding would have a name, too—Wheelock’s Junction. How did that sound? And, in a faint mirage, instead of a captured water course coaxing willows to moist pasturage, he saw rise before him a dust-stung town at once clamorous and unlovely. Thus, midway, between chuckling satisfaction and a vague regret, he bore down upon Jim Bledsoe fanning a reluctant fire in the early morning light.

They greeted each other with clipped masculine monosyllables and lapsed speedily into the grateful silence of long association. As Wheelock had guessed, fish had been flashing in the sunlight of Heron Creek, for above the inevitable pungence of coffee and warming bacon grease there rose the sweetish odour of trout browning to a turn. . . . The meal ended, two pipes sent out the villainous perfumes of male contentment, and Jim Bledsoe, turning his faded blue eyes upon his partner, said:

“How'd things turn out back of Antelope?”

Hank Wheelock pulled up to the bitter task before him.

“They didn’t. . . . I got to thinking things over on the way back: Jim Bledsoe, we ain’t gettin’ nowhere.”

The blue eyes continued to stare at Hank Wheelock with bland tolerance. “Wal, if yer mean we can’t just see the end of the trail, I'll allow that. . . . It’s the bends in the roads yer can’t look past that makes our game interesting. Leastways, that’s my notion.”

Hank Wheelock stirred the ashes in his pipe with a burnt match. “You always was a dreamer, Jim Bledsoe,” he said, with a faint note of scorn. “Mebbe I was one, too, way back. . . . But I’ve passed too many of them bends