Tales of the Argonauts HTML version

The Fool Of Five Forks
He lived alone. I do not think this peculiarity arose from any wish to withdraw his
foolishness from the rest of the camp, nor was it probable that the combined
wisdom of Five Forks ever drove him into exile. My impression is, that he lived
alone from choice,--a choice he made long before the camp indulged in any
criticism of his mental capacity. He was much given to moody reticence, and,
although to outward appearances a strong man, was always complaining of ill-
health. Indeed, one theory of his isolation was, that it afforded him better
opportunities for taking medicine, of which he habitually consumed large
His folly first dawned upon Five Forks through the post-office windows. He was,
for a long time, the only man who wrote home by every mail; his letters being
always directed to the same person,-- a woman. Now, it so happened that the
bulk of the Five Forks correspondence was usually the other way. There were
many letters received (the majority being in the female hand), but very few
answered. The men received them indifferently, or as a matter of course. A few
opened and read them on the spot, with a barely repressed smile of self-conceit,
or quite as frequently glanced over them with undisguised impatience. Some of
the letters began with "My dear husband;" and some were never called for. But
the fact that the only regular correspondent of Five Forks never received any
reply became at last quite notorious. Consequently, when an envelope was
received, bearing the stamp of the "dead letter office," addressed to "The Fool,"
under the more conventional title of "Cyrus Hawkins," there was quite a fever of
excitement. I do not know how the secret leaked out; but it was eventually known
to the camp, that the envelope contained Hawkins's own letters returned. This
was the first evidence of his weakness. Any man who repeatedly wrote to a
woman who did not reply must be a fool. I think Hawkins suspected that his folly
was known to the camp; but he took refuge in symptoms of chills and fever,
which he at once developed, and effected a diversion with three bottles of Indian
cholagogue and two boxes of pills. At all events, at the end of a week, he
resumed a pen stiffened by tonics, with all his old epistolatory pertinacity. This
time the letters had a new address.
In those days a popular belief obtained in the mines, that luck particularly favored
the foolish and unscientific. Consequently, when Hawkins struck a "pocket" in the
hillside near his solitary cabin, there was but little surprise. "He will sink it all in
the next hole" was the prevailing belief, predicated upon the usual manner in
which the possessor of "nigger luck" disposed of his fortune. To everybody's
astonishment, Hawkins, after taking out about eight thousand dollars, and
exhausting the pocket, did not prospect for another. The camp then waited
patiently to see what he would do with his money. I think, however, that it was
with the greatest difficulty their indignation was kept from taking the form of a