The Faith of Men and Other Stories HTML version

Too Much Gold
This being a story--and a truer one than it may appear--of a mining country, it is quite to
be expected that it will be a hard-luck story. But that depends on the point of view. Hard
luck is a mild way of terming it so far as Kink Mitchell and Hootchinoo Bill are
concerned; and that they have a decided opinion on the subject is a matter of common
knowledge in the Yukon country.
It was in the fall of 1896 that the two partners came down to the east bank of the Yukon,
and drew a Peterborough canoe from a moss- covered cache. They were not particularly
pleasant-looking objects. A summer's prospecting, filled to repletion with hardship and
rather empty of grub, had left their clothes in tatters and themselves worn and
cadaverous. A nimbus of mosquitoes buzzed about each man's head. Their faces were
coated with blue clay. Each carried a lump of this damp clay, and, whenever it dried and
fell from their faces, more was daubed on in its place. There was a querulous plaint in
their voices, an irritability of movement and gesture, that told of broken sleep and a
losing struggle with the little winged pests.
"Them skeeters'll be the death of me yet," Kink Mitchell whimpered, as the canoe felt the
current on her nose, and leaped out from the bank
"Cheer up, cheer up. We're about done," Hootchinoo Bill answered, with an attempted
heartiness in his funereal tones that was ghastly. "We'll be in Forty Mile in forty minutes,
and then-- cursed little devil!"
One hand left his paddle and landed on the back of his neck with a sharp slap. He put a
fresh daub of clay on the injured part, swearing sulphurously the while. Kink Mitchell
was not in the least amused. He merely improved the opportunity by putting a thicker
coating of clay on his own neck.
They crossed the Yukon to its west bank, shot down-stream with easy stroke, and at the
end of forty minutes swung in close to the left around the tail of an island. Forty Mile
spread itself suddenly before them. Both men straightened their backs and gazed at the
sight. They gazed long and carefully, drifting with the current, in their faces an
expression of mingled surprise and consternation slowly gathering. Not a thread of smoke
was rising from the hundreds of log-cabins. There was no sound of axes biting sharply
into wood, of hammering and sawing. Neither dogs nor men loitered before the big store.
No steamboats lay at the bank, no canoes, nor scows, nor poling-boats. The river was as
bare of craft as the town was of life.
"Kind of looks like Gabriel's tooted his little horn, and you an' me has turned up
missing," remarked Hootchinoo Bill.