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PRIZE STORIES OF 1924

seemed vaguely significant, with a chuckling humour capable of diabolical disillusionments. . . . For Hank Wheelock was still a childlike soul in spite of his worldly contacts—a man with enough buoyancy of spirit to be forced upward instead of swamped by the ugly currents of life. This man Starbuck was sly, too; one got that in his half- closed glance, and there was something i in the curve of his lip which seemed pregnant with ridicule. Hank Wheelock was burning to know whether thirst was the only thing that had lured him to this water hole, and having slaked it, what held him there. Surely he had experience enough to know borax when he sawit. Yet on this significant point he was strangely silent. . . . No,notstrangely, when Hank came to think of it. Being no doubt possessed of the secret, Starbuck was as intent on guarding it as Hank himself. Hank ate sparingly of Starbuck’s bacon and beans, keeping his gun within easy reach. The impulse toward cold- blooded murder which had seized him earlier had vanished utterly, but he was ready this time for a fair fight, if he felt himself forced to it. He had rights which he was prepared to defend, and the thought thrilled him. He tried discreetly once or twice to force Starbuck’s vapour- ings into significant channels when suddenly, without warn- ing, Starbuck himself rippled toward the desired explanation of his presence. They had finished their meal and their first pipes when Starbuck began to pack his mess kit with slow deliberation. h ‘‘Might as well be ready to move when I take the notion,” e said. Wheelock’s heel dug into the sand. “What’s your hurry?” “Hurry? . . . No,ITain’texactlyinahurry. ... But I jest swung a few miles out o’ my course to-day to have a look at this here spot. Things on the desert stay pretty much as they were at the start. It’s bin twenty years or more since I come by here.” ‘‘And yer mean ter say yer found nuthin’ changed— nuthin?” ‘‘Not a damned thing!” He threw a greasewood twig in the direction of one of the piles of rock with which Hank Wheelock fantastically had staked his claim. ‘ Excepting