The Faith of Men and Other Stories
The Faith Of Men
"Tell you what we'll do; we'll shake for it."
"That suits me," said the second man, turning, as he spoke, to the Indian that was
mending snow-shoes in a corner of the cabin. "Here, you Billebedam, take a run down to
Oleson's cabin like a good fellow, and tell him we want to borrow his dice box."
This sudden request in the midst of a council on wages of men, wood, and grub surprised
Billebedam. Besides, it was early in the day, and he had never known white men of the
calibre of Pentfield and Hutchinson to dice and play till the day's work was done. But his
face was impassive as a Yukon Indian's should be, as he pulled on his mittens and went
out the door.
Though eight o'clock, it was still dark outside, and the cabin was lighted by a tallow
candle thrust into an empty whisky bottle. It stood on the pine-board table in the middle
of a disarray of dirty tin dishes. Tallow from innumerable candles had dripped down the
long neck of the bottle and hardened into a miniature glacier. The small room, which
composed the entire cabin, was as badly littered as the table; while at one end, against the
wall, were two bunks, one above the other, with the blankets turned down just as the two
men had crawled out in the morning.
Lawrence Pentfield and Corry Hutchinson were millionaires, though they did not look it.
There seemed nothing unusual about them, while they would have passed muster as fair
specimens of lumbermen in any Michigan camp. But outside, in the darkness, where
holes yawned in the ground, were many men engaged in windlassing muck and gravel
and gold from the bottoms of the holes where other men received fifteen dollars per day
for scraping it from off the bedrock. Each day thousands of dollars' worth of gold were
scraped from bedrock and windlassed to the surface, and it all belonged to Pentfield and
Hutchinson, who took their rank among the richest kings of Bonanza.
Pentfield broke the silence that followed on Billebedam's departure by heaping the dirty
plates higher on the table and drumming a tattoo on the cleared space with his knuckles.
Hutchinson snuffed the smoky candle and reflectively rubbed the soot from the wick
between thumb and forefinger.
"By Jove, I wish we could both go out!" he abruptly exclaimed. "That would settle it all."
Pentfield looked at him darkly.
"If it weren't for your cursed obstinacy, it'd be settled anyway. All you have to do is get
up and go. I'll look after things, and next year I can go out."
"Why should I go? I've no one waiting for me--"