Trent's Trust and Other Stories
Prosper's "Old Mother"
"It's all very well," said Joe Wynbrook, "for us to be sittin' here, slingin' lies easy and
comfortable, with the wind whistlin' in the pines outside, and the rain just liftin' the
ditches to fill our sluice boxes with gold ez we're smokin' and waitin', but I tell you what,
boys—it ain't home! No, sir, it ain't HOME!"
The speaker paused, glanced around the bright, comfortable barroom, the shining array of
glasses beyond, and the circle of complacent faces fronting the stove, on which his own
boots were cheerfully steaming, lifted a glass of whiskey from the floor under his chair,
and in spite of his deprecating remark, took a long draught of the spirits with every
symptom of satisfaction.
"If ye mean," returned Cyrus Brewster, "that it ain't the old farmhouse of our boyhood,
'way back in the woods, I'll agree with you; but ye'll just remember that there wasn't any
gold placers lying round on the medder on that farm. Not much! Ef thar had been, we
wouldn't have left it."
"I don't mean that," said Joe Wynbrook, settling himself comfortably back in his chair;
"it's the family hearth I'm talkin' of. The soothin' influence, ye know—the tidiness of the
"Ez to the soothin' influence," remarked the barkeeper, leaning his elbows meditatively
on his counter, "afore I struck these diggin's I had a grocery and bar, 'way back in
Mizzoori, where there was five old-fashioned farms jined. Blame my skin ef the men
folks weren't a darned sight oftener over in my grocery, sittin' on barrils and histin' in
their reg'lar corn-juice, than ever any of you be here—with all these modern
"Ye don't catch on, any of you," returned Wynbrook impatiently. "Ef it was a mere matter
o' buildin' houses and becomin' family men, I reckon that this yer camp is about
prosperous enough to do it, and able to get gals enough to marry us, but that would be
only borryin' trouble and lettin' loose a lot of jabberin' women to gossip agin' each other
and spile all our friendships. No, gentlemen! What we want here—each of us—is a good
old mother! Nothin' new-fangled or fancy, but the reg'lar old-fashioned mother we was
used to when we was boys!"
The speaker struck a well-worn chord—rather the worse for wear, and one that had
jangled falsely ere now, but which still produced its effect. The men were silent. Thus
encouraged, Wynbrook proceeded:—
"Think o' comin' home from the gulch a night like this and findin' yer old mother a-
waitin' ye! No fumblin' around for the matches ye'd left in the gulch; no high old cussin'
because the wood was wet or you forgot to bring it in; no bustlin' around for your dry