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Back again of the Round Tent was a dance-house. Within its walls vice held regal sway. Here it did not pretend to hide its most hideous forms behind glitter or show. It sought its victim only after he had first pitied, then endured, and was ready to embrace it. Music alone, of all the enticements so freely used at the Round Tent, was used here to entice. It stood far enough away from the rest of the town to be in the dark at night, and fearful tales were told of young men who had left the Round Tent late at night, and whose stiffened forms had been found in the morning, while rumor pointed to the dance-house. But it still stood there, and even in the town the sounds of the violin, and of sturdy feet keeping time to its music, were heard from it. A dimly-lighted bar stood in one corner of a large room, in which were from twenty to forty women of all ages and complexions. A visitor would choose one as a partner in a dance, and when that was over, was expected to treat her — that was all; but few left with any money. If any display of money was made, there was somehow an insult given by the possessor of it to one of the “men of honor” who frequented the den, a fight ensued, never single-handed, and there was never money found on the corpse. This den was presided over by a man known as Jo Brown, who had once been quite a popular preacher. If Jo Brown's house had ever been swept and garnished, if the evil spirit had ever been expelled, when he returned he brought seventy worse than himself. Yet Jo Brown was in those days a man of some importance in Kanoôngville.

It was near night as the party who accompanied the Devines from Cañon Creek approached town. The lights were beginning to glimmer among the trees from miners' cabins, from the stores, and lounging-rooms of the hotels, such as they were. As they entered the house Marm Devine was still bearing in her arms the charge which had already won his way to her heart. When old Devine heard of the arrangements the miners had made with regard to the boy, and the amount subscribed for his benefit, his countenance fell. He had learned that a large sum of money was collected for him, and had seen with eye of gladness the boy's evident fondness for his wife. His eager fingers alre dy began to itch for that sum ; and when he learned that the money was not to be his, if the boy was, more especially when he learned who it was that was to stand between him and the boy's fortune, Captain Fleming, he knew full well that neither cajolery nor fighting could avail anything there. At first he positively forbade his wife's having anything to do with the boy unless the money was placed in his hands. This none would agree to: Marm would not agree to part with the boy, and Devine was silenced at length, but with rage and bitterness in his heart. From that moment the poor little innocent child was the mark of his hatred.

Devine and his wife were miners. The mines then were generally worked by means of rockers, or cradles as they were called. A box, smaller but something like a baby's cradle, was placed on rockers, and divisions made in it by means of slats of wood nailed to the bottom. This cradle sloped upward towards the back a short distance, and then the sides rose squarely; an apron made of flannel, blanket, or sometimes of canvas, was nailed to a frame fitted inside the box, and sloped downwards towards the back. A smaller box with bottom of perforated iron was fitted on the hinder part of the cradle; an upright handle was nailed to this smaller box, and the mining implement known as the cradle, rude and incapable of doing much, was ready for use. The machine was usually worked by two persons, though one could manage it readily. One would dig the dirt containing the gold-dust and convey it in buckets to the rocker, which was always placed on a broad foundation near a spring or running stream, and pour it in the smaller box. The other would sit by the machine, dipper in one hand and handle of rocker in the other. As the dirt was deposited, this miner would begin to rock and pour water on the mass. The small heavy particles and loose dirt would go through the perforated iron, while the larger stones would remain, io be thrown out by the operator. The heavy particles of gold would rapidly sink to the bottom or remain on the apron, while the mud and small stones would be carried away by the water. Devine was the digger, Mrs. Devine was the washer. Their mine was on Whiskey Gulch. It was a rich one, and the two might easily have become wealthy if Devine had been as frugal or industrious as his wife ; but the hard-earned wealth of both was dissipated at the Round Tent. Devine had been entrapped into gambling, and no vice has such a fascination for its votaries. Every cent he earned, or could get in any way whatever, went to the maw of the insatiate monster. Marm Devine had remonstrated, struggled, done everything she could to check him, until at last she had settled down into a kind of fell despair, hopeless, crushed, having no future, or shutting her eyes to it. There was nothing in life for her to struggle for; and with a grim stoicism she had determined to brave the worst, and let the future take care of itself. She once conveyed an intimation of what was passing in her mind to Mrs. Sykes, when after talking over their common troubles, she wound up by saying, “Well, I've jist made up my mind to grin and bear it

, until it comes to the worst." The entrance of little Bill Sykes into this woman's life was a new element, changing its whole color in an instant. She had never known the joys of maternity. Her heart perhaps had never really been filled with anything to satisfy a true woman's love. Her husband to be sure had once kindled the sacred flame, but long years of cruel and unkind neglect, and lately base and unmanly usage, had well-nigh if not completely quenched it. Now, the mother's instinct thrilled through her whole being, and little Bill Sykes became an idol upon which she lavished the devotion of a naturally warm and loving heart. Nor was it unreturned. The little fellow from the moment she took him to her arms at the funeral of his mother and pressed him to her heart, seemed to feel that all a mother's love was supplied to him.

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A new life, as we have said, had entered the stified atmosphere of Mrs. Devine's being, arousing dormant energies and dormant principles. Her daily life seemed permeated by new influences. Those who saw her go to work, noticed that she walked with firmer step and wore a more cheerful mien. Jem Andrews said, as she passed by one day, “Old Marm Devine is getting younger agin, and purtier too." She had something to live for, and her brave true heart determined to live for it. A new passion, too, had sprung up within her: she began to save money. Hitherto she had with a spirit of utter recklessness allowed Devine to take all the proceeds of their joint work, with the exception of barely enough to secure their daily food, and squander it at the Round Tent or in drunken orgies at Jo Brown's, where now his nights until a late hour were spent with the criminal denizens of that place. Already suspicion had begun to attach his name with their deeds. Some very disreputable acts at Brown's lately had begun to rouse the citizens of Kanoôngville and the miners, and it needed but little to start one of those episodes in California life in which an excited and determined community rise in their wrath and commit deeds that afterwards leave a stain on the soul and sting in the conscience. When a community once began a crusade of this kind, it was very summary in its dealings. In a moment the obnoxious ones were banished without trial or warning. Resistance was worse than futile – it was madness: the only safety was flight. These paroxysms of virtue were very spasmodic, and their violence was generally proportioned to the rapidity with which the flood had swollen. Bad men generally threw themselves into it, led it, and thus saved themselves, often at the cost of those far better than themselves. The passions once aroused, the objects of attack were not always rightfully and justly chosen : private prejudice and private resentments took advantage of the excitement, and crowds were hurried into avenging the petty injuries of private persons. But there had been a growing feeling against Brown's place, justified to the minds of many by the deeds of lawless violence committed by its frequenters. Brown and his crew bad felt this to be the case, and while taking precautions to defend themselves, began to grow uneasy.

In the meantime Mrs. Devine's new life began to dawn upon her husband as something very strange; and as he could not account for the change in any other way, he began to grow jealous. Bill Sykes' living with them had drawn frequent visitors to the house, for he was felt to be the especial care of the Cañon Creek miners; and when any of them went to Kanoôngville they always called to inquire about litile Bill, and many a nice little nugget was placed in his little hands by the hardy miners who called to see their protégé. All this Marm Devine carefully preserved for the boy, of course keeping it secret from her husband. Often, too, a nugget of larger size than usual was found in the rocker, and Marm Devine would secretly add that to the store of the little orphan.

Devine's jealousy could not fix upon any one person. When half intoxicated he would grow maudlin and talk of his suspicions among the besotted set with whom he associated, or drop hints of them to any who would listen. Jem Andrews inconsiderately raised his suspicions one day to fever-heat. “You're a fool !” said Jem to him. “If I were the wife of an old bloater like you I'd have a dozen better men than you a long time sooner than this, dod rot you!” There was no man in the camp, however, Jem Andrews included, who had the faintest idea that Devine was right. Marm Devine's life was too well known to them. There had been inconsiderate fellows who had attempted liberties; but they were repulsed so firmly that the actors had told on themselves, and such attempts had not been renewed. The devotion of the child to her had aided the esteem in which she was held.

The night Jem Andrews had thus spoken saw Devine about the streets of Kanoôngville making night hideous. Some of those who feared his jealous craze might lead to mischief took the precaution to soak his pistols in water. He went home about midnight. Little Bill was fast asleep; Marm Devine, as was her custom, sitting by his bedside. Staggering to the door he threw it open, and seeing his wise alone, he deliberately went up to her, and drawing a pistol, pointed it at her. It snapped. Alarmed, she snatched the sleeping boy from his bed and strove to escape. He stood by the door and prevented her, upbraiding her with her unfaithfulness in brutal words, to which she answered nothing except to ask, “With whom do you suspect I am doing wrong?" His suspicions had really found no object. It was, to use Jem Andrews' saying, "a general suspicion," so without deigning to answer he strode around the house breaking the furniture and threatening men who had been in the habit of coming, pretending, he said, to see the boy. At last with a sudden dash he rushed at her, seized the boy, and gave him a blow that knocked him bruised and senseless.

The attacks on herself Marm Devine had borne without a murmur; but when she saw the bleeding, senseless form of the only thing that had brought a ray of light into her life for years, all the fury of those pent-up years blazed out in an instant. Marching up to the drunken brute, she snatched the pistol from his hand, and seizing him by the throat with an energy before which he quailed, she silently led him to the door, opened it, and thrust him out, turning the key upon him. Then picking up the still insensible boy, she bathed his head and staunched the blood, and watched by him until morning. Those who saw her next day, saw that over her face, still buoyant, a settled determination had crept. She still remained at the house, continued her work at the mining claim, and went about her duties as the wife of Devine ; but there was ever in her face, in her motions, an air of quiet determination which puzzled and overawed her husband.

At first after this he became more sober and attentive to her; but he felt the last lingering spark of regard for himself was gone. He then set himself to work to find some evidence of her unfaithfulness.


It was in vain. He continued his drunken sprees, his attendance at Brown's, his gambling away all the money that came in his possession, but Marm Devine's store was increasing fast. The claim had begun to pay amazingly. Large nuggets made their appearance in the upper box, and the amount of smaller gold in the cradle at the end of the day's work was so great that Devine's suspicions as to any abstraction from the sum made had never been excited.

One day, with the first dipper of water Marm Devine had poured over the dirt, she saw in a lump of clay quite a good-sized bit of gold. Taking it in her hand she found that the supposed lump of clay was a beautiful nugget, weighing, as she afterwards discovered, about twenty ounces. Any such discovery in the mines was a source of great excitement; crowds would flock to see it, and it became the wonder of three days at least. In the excitement of obtaining this nugget, Marm Devine forgot her usual reticence. In an unlucky moment she showed it to one of the miners who visited the house to see the boy. He communicated the fact to his partner confidentially, and soon through a succession of confidences it was known all over the town.

In the evening Devine was at his usual place, dancing with the Mexican girls, drinking the “forty-rod," as it was called in California. One of the loungers-by went to him during a pause in the dance and asked him about the nugget. Devine had not heard of it. Others joined in the conversation, and soon Devine began to think there was something in it. He left the dance and drew near the bar, where Brown was watching him with keen eyes. When his victim drew near, he whispered in his ear, “Devine, I expect your old woman's got that nugget; you know she works the rocker. You make her give it up or wring her neck," - then speaking aloud —"Come, take a drink, old fellow; big strikes, you know, ain't made every day." Devine drank again and again, but instead of growing more noisy and frenzied as usual, he grew silent. Thought was busy. He began to think he was on the point of unravelling a mystery. He half guessed the truth. “Ay,” said he to himself, "she's going to make off, and is saving money to do it. Dang the brat that came in between us! I'll wring its neck.” With this idea he began to drink more and more. To his listlessness and apathy succeeded a delirium of passion : he suddenly broke out into a volley of oaths about killing some one, and left.

But his drunken fury was regarded as nothing more than usual ; the music did not cease, the heavy tread of the dancing miners, the loud -laugh of the girls as they were whirled round and round the room, the clink of the glasses at the bar, the call of the musician to the excited and whirling crowd, the drunken vociferations, all continued. Faster and faster grew the music; faster and faster flew the dancers, gliding among the crowd, thumping against each other, cursing, swearing, until with a sudden screech the violin stopped, and the dancers thronged to the bar to drink. It was just after Devine had left; and Brown, leaning over the bar with a half-suppressed laugh, said to the barkeeper, “Dan, there'll be some fun down at old Devine's to-night."

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