Whether Mr. Oakhurst had cached
his cards with the whiskey as something debar
red the free access
of the community, I cannot say. It was certain that, in Mother Shipton's words, he 'didn't say cards once' during the evening. Haply the time was beguiled by an accordion
, produced somewhat ostentatiously by Tom Simson from his pack. Notwithstanding some difficulties attending the manipulation of this instrument, Piney Woods managed to pluck several reluctant melodies from its keys, to an accompaniment by the Innocent
on a pair of bone castanet
s. But the crowning festivity of the evening was reached in a rude camp-meeting hymn, which the lovers, joining hands
, sang with great earnestness and vociferation. I fear that a certain defiant tone and Covenanter's swing to its chorus, rather than any devotional quality, caused it speedily to infect the others, who at last joined in the refrain:
I'm proud to live in the service of the Lord,
And I'm bound to die in His army.
The pines rocked, the storm eddied and whirled above the miserable group, and the flames of their altar leaped heavenward
, as if in token of the vow.
At midnight the storm abated, the rolling clouds parted, and the stars glittered keenly above the sleeping camp. Mr. Oakhurst, whose professional habits had enabled him to live on the smallest possible amount of sleep, in dividing the watch with Tom Simson somehow managed to take upon himself the greater part of that duty. He excused himself to the Innocent by saying that he had 'often been a week without sleep'. 'Doing what?' asked Tom. 'Poker!' replied Oakhurst sententiously. 'When a man gets a streak of luck, - nigger-luck - he don't get tired. The luck gives in first. Luck,' continued the gambler reflectively, 'is a mighty queer thing. All you know about it for certain is that it's bound to change. And it's finding out when it's going to change that makes you. We've had a streak of bad luck since we left Poker Flat, you come along, and slap you get into it, too. If you can hold your cards right along you're all right. For,' added the gambler, with cheerful irrelevance,
'I'm proud to live in the service of the Lord,
And I'm bound to die in His army.'
The third day
came, and the sun, looking through the white-curtained valley, saw the outcasts divide their slowly decreasing store of provisions for the morning meal. It was one of the peculiarities of that mountain climate that its rays diffused a kindly warmth over the wintry landscape, as if in regretful commiseration of the past. But it revealed drift on drift of snow piled high around the hut, - a hopeless,
uncharted, trackless sea of white lying below the rocky shores to which the castaways still clung. Through the
marvelously clear air
the smoke of the pastoral village of Poker Flat rose miles away. Mother Shipton saw it, and from a remote pinnacle of her rocky fastness hurled in that direction a final
. It was her last vituperative
attempt, and perhaps for that reason was invested with a certain
degree of sublimity. It did her good, she privately informed the Duchess. 'Just you go out there and cuss, and
see.' She then set herself to the task of amusing 'the child
,' as she and the Duchess were pleased to call Piney. Piney was no chicken, but it was a soothing and original theory of the pair thus to account for the fact that she didn't swear and wasn't improper.
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