Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/146

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beggar! . . . He wasn’t dead yet, neither, and there were just as good claims in the hills as ever were dug.

He scrambled to his feet and he knew that his voice was clear and cold and triumphant as he lied:

“Wal, I’ve got some news fer you, too. . . . You ain’t the only one’s bin working on the sly. . . . I got somethin’ pretty nice staked out over in that Mesquite Range. . . . It won’t be a quarter of a million, ‘but it will be enough—fer me!”

Jim Bledsoe rose more slowly. “Jest as you say. . But I don’t feel comfortable, somehow. . . . We was partners, yer know, when I fust came on to that holdin’. I should have told yer right off.”

A hot breeze began to catch up little whirls of sand and loose the pungent odours of the sagebrush. An intolerable longing for some far-off and dusky coolness oppressed Hank Wheelock. He thought of hedgerows and columbine and hollyhocks and the faint tinkle of silver fountains.

“Yes, siree!” he heard Jim Bledsoe repeating, in a tone of self-rebuke. “I should have told you right off!”

Hank Wheelock turned his face upward to the lifted circle of buzzards wheeling expectantly in the turquoise expanse. A flicker of indecision sputtered and died. He nodded in the direction of the Mesquite Range and his voice shook with the triumph of a gambler who scorned a secret advantage as he said:

“That’s my case, exactly! . . . Yer see—it’s jest horse and horse!”