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the silent knolls of Furnace Creek Canyon.

Poetic justice, it is true, demands this return to Death Valley, but the call of trade is more compelling. While this cry as yet is not clamorous, it at least has given warning that some day it will draw on Death Valley's borate beds. In truth, the American market must in the near and far future depend upon this once forbidding region for the bulk of its borax, because deposits elsewhere-they never were numerous-have been eaten up during the last two decades. Once the ledges of the Lila C mine, the source of the present borax supply, are gutted, as were the Colemanite seams down Borate, Death Valley's successor, the industry must enter again the vale below the sea. But there is no menace of a borax famine. Beyond the desert hogsback which barricades the westward way from "Lila C," sinks a barbaric waste, whose wealth can sustain centuries of most gluttonous mining.

This is the sinister zone of the desert's

most sinister region. From the high hogsback, slag mountains, ash heap hills and dust dunes sag with the fall of a great watershed, till twenty-two miles miles away they melt into the gray flat of Death Valley's salt sump. ley's salt sump. Not a sprig of green spots this parched area, either at its cream-colored core or on its fan-like rim of motleyed browns, burnt blues, and brickish reds. Canyons and ravines, gorges and gullies, etch the sweeping slope. Through the heart of this bank of burnedout earth, the torrents of cloud bursts have riven a huge, jagged gash that cleaves the landscape to Death Valley's nearer side. It is a healed wound from which wrinkling scars twist into trackless hills. They call this monstrous gash Furnace Creek Canyon. It gives one gateway into Death Valley.

The scalding and scorifying of primeval fires are branded on this barren tract. Its upheaved mountains, its twisted ranges, record the writhing of the earth's early agonies..

Here nature hoarded her borax.

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Through volcano throats and chasm rents the boron of the inner earth welled up and poured into crevice and fissure. Miles and miles of borate dyke interlard the hills and mountains. Cloudbursts wearing away the outer soil have laid bare but a meagre portion. Yet on every hand is the glint of borax. It flecks the crest and cheek of hummocks, knaps, and knolls. It

chalks the painted foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

A thousand feet above the nearest node towers Mount Blanco, a mountain of Colemanite, the largest single borate deposit in the world. Calculation cannot compute the ages necessary to exhaust this immeasurable store. Death Valley borax will outlast all save its romance.



This morn I went to the attic, to a trunk all padded gray,
With the dust and cob-web tissue of the long, long yesterday;
And there amid heaps of trinkets I found a little shoe,

Still plump with a baby's foot-form and the toe all broken through;
O! Hope that is gone forever! O! Sorrow of the years!

O! Breast cease, cease thy sobbing and eyes hold back these tears!

Ah! How well do I remember he danced upon my knee
And kicked this self-same slipper as he laughed in baby glee.

All the world seemed fair and smiling and the future promised bright.
O! That was our hope's clear zenith-how soon, then came the Night.
Back, back through the years you've led me and you've rent my heart in two,
You little tenantless slipper, you dear little worn-out shoe!

Yes, here is the battered rattle and here is the little frock;
Here is the old, flannel bunnie and this was his tiny sock.
All, all are just as I left them on that sorrow-darkened day,
When I brought them to the attic and laid each one away.
I had braved the empty cradle and the curling ringlet, too,

But my heart broke with its burden when I came to this worn-out shoe.

O! Poor little shoe how empty, for the tiny feet lie still,
In a grave in the quiet valley, beneath a snow-wrapped hill-
And my soul-Ah, Soul so hungry with this yearning mother-love,
Still is praying, still is striving for solace from Above.

Though my life flows on serenely, hidden deep from mortal view,
Upon my heart is the imprint of this little worn-out shoe.




N SPITE of the Comet's indifference to the higher branches of muleology, he claimed first place in the three-cornered race for the queen of the foothills, which did not improve his standing at the feedyard.

Nor was his popularity increased by the wearing of clean clothes and the use of correct language; "if he ever raised any dust he'd get that shirt dirty," they said. Star gazing, census taking, apple raising and range renting didn't make up a man's work.

Tommy Ayres was a close second, for Tommy was the real thing in ladies' men, and he knew it. He could swing down. the grade in the dust of six big mules, drop off his near-wheeler with the grace of a stage cowboy, and with entire selfpossession, salute a queen, should any chance to be present, which was usually the case at the Widow Weeks. On his down-trip, Tommy filled the evenings with nonsense and flattery till most of the men drifted off to the yard, "Not carin' to play aujience to a one-man show."

Then there was Sandy McClellan, Scotch, straw-haired and stubborn. That was all, except his devotion to his eight sleek mules and Nina Weeks. His chances were small enough, for he was not versed in the ways of the stars, celestial or feminine, but he served for contrast with his rivals.

As for Nina herself, if any man of them were blessed with her morning smile, he hid it away for reference through the day, for she was twenty and rosy, and the boys felt at home with her, and she treated impartially all comers to the stopping place that her father had located at the foot of the grade where he could "catch 'em comin' and goin'," which excellent system fascinating Nina had adopted as her


"Ay tank," Pete was saying down by

the water trough, "Ay tank that Tommy coom down the grade late purty of'n now, and eet hees supper after we com away. Sandy better bane late, too, or Tommy get the girl." But Sandy was not there to face the laugh, and when Pete went up to fill his canteen, he found the four under the oak tree by the well.

They were discussing the night, and the Comet had with accuracy explained the brightness of the moon. Tommy had delivered a tribute to the granite dome of old Baldy towering over his big stone feet. They were walking on conversational stilts, and Sandy said little, only the shadows hit his contempt for this hifalutin' talk. When the Comet asserted that such a bright night reminded him of the poet who sang of one whose eyes were so bright they shone at night and drove the moon away, he groaned audibly and said: "Well, folks, I be goin'; good-night, Miss Nina."

The stock of fine phrases suitable for public courtship being exhausted, Tommy and the Comet retired in good order, leaving Nina with her head on her hands, gazing vacantly out over the valley. At the sound of an apologetic cough, she started, and then she smiled at Sandy, back again on the old stone step at her feet.

"I thought you'd gone," she said, in feigned surprise. "It getting late for a man off the grade to-day."

Sandy ignored the remark and went straight to the point, the only method of approach he knew.

"Nina," he said, and she started. "Nina, you know why I'm back, and you know where I stand, and I can't stand here much longer without falling off, unless I have something to hold to. I have not touched a drop since you said you'd never marry a man that drank, and if it's a go, I can keep on to the end of the chapter. But I can't hold out forever this

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How long are you going to keep me waiting?"

"I know all that Sandy," she answered frankly, "but somehow I can't make up my mind. I like you and I like Tommy and I like the C-Mr. Brown, and oh, lots of people, but I always like the last one best, and I can't settle down to just one man for life. Perhaps something will happen sometime to settle it, and then I will know which is the one."

"I don't know what you want I never felt that way—and I've got to know something one way or the other. How long you going to keep me up in the air?"

"Oh," she temporized, "it's nice to live in the air, like a bird. I know how it is. I have been studying for two years for the teacher's examination. I'm in the air, too."

Sandy groaned. Everybody knew of Nina's ambitions, and Sandy knew of the Comet's envied hours spent in tutoring her efforts at books.

"This thing's no matter of a paper certificate to me. It's Heaven or it's-the other place. I'm not much, but it's all yours, if you want me. I haven't got much but the place and the outfit, but you'll never want for anything you need, and I'd roll off the grade for you. I guess if there's nothing doin', the sooner the better."

"How you do talk!" she chirped, but she went on more seriously. "I'll tell you

what I'll do. When I come back from the examination next month I'll settle it for one of you."

"Which one?" protested Sandy. "Which one, I'd like to know?"

"Why, the first one I meet after I get back, I suppose. That'll give you all a fair chance, and I can't tell when you are all together!"

"Then I'll lay off the rest of the season, so as to be here when you come home. I'll go down to Fresno and wait at the door. Besides, you'll pass, and then what?"

"Not much," asserted Nina, with vigor. "If you do, it's all off. I won't have any man that will neglect his work. If anybody misses a single trip over this, it's all off."

"But the Comet don't make no trips," argued Sandy. "That ain't fair."

"Yes, but it's ten miles over to his

place, and he will be hauling early apples then."

Sandy rose to protest, but he knew the signs of a closed mind, and no more comfort could he get from this piece of feminine uncertainty than that she would treat all the boys alike.

Thus it happened that ere two more suns had set, all parties to the unequal contest knew that after the examination, which of them first reached this foothill Eden, might hope to transplant the fair flower to his own garden, provided only that the coming test should end in failure, which they were assured would be the case. By no very occult process, it happened that everybody came to know it too, and there was a lot of comment and some uncultured jokes on the outcome, not to mention the good money held as stakes by the store keeper who reported in confidence that the Comet was a close second to Tommy, with Sandy barely visible in the distance.

It was not strange that relations became tense. Nina's books shut out all but the Comet. Tommy and Sandy made trips on the same schedule, avoiding each other. Capable Mrs. Weeks, fair and forty, maintained an inscrutable silence, saying only that she guessed that Nina was old enough to know her mind and would marry the man she wanted anyway, arguing from both observation and experience on her part.

Nina left, declining to set a date for her return, saying they would find it out soon enough anyway, and the days dragged by. One hot morning in July, the widow looked over her family of teamsters at breakfast and remarked carelessly that Nina would be home to-morrow-if nothing happened.

"Did she pass the zamanate?" inquired Pete.

"I don't know-she only said she'd be home."

"My team needs shoein' all round," began Tommy, but the chorus that met his remark, changed his mind.

"Ay tank somebody better go tell the Komuck," drawled Pete. "Yesterday he go Polaski."

"Never mind; he'll know it soon enough," groaned Tommy.

The widow smiled a comprehending

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smile, and 'lowed he would turn up right and proper when the time came,' which was interpreted to mean that the orbit of the Comet was sufficiently wellknown to predict any possible conjunction with such stars of first magnitude as might appear in the foothill firmament.

Then came the scramble for first out. One by one the jingling chimes swung onto the road, and two by two the wagons rolled out onto the steepest hill in the Sierras. Sandy was out three teams

ahead of Tommy, who had been too busy parrying sallies and thrusts to get away quickly.

Step by step the long teams wriggled and stamped and crept their way up the face of the cliff, and stone by stone the wheels bumped and rolled up and up and on up till the Widow Weeks' place looked like a miniature camp below. On up they went, a wagon length at a time, a moment's pause, another pull; big mules and little mules and mules bad and indifferent, silent and persistent, up past the Deadman's point and out of sight from below.

Sandy boasted no diploma, but he did possess an accurate working knowledge of mule psychology, and he had a mutual understanding with his intrepid little flea-bitten leader. As he swung up the grade on the high seat, his thoughts were not on the road nor the mules, but they came rudely to earth again with the sight of one of old Badluck Biddie's predicaments scattered over the road ahead.

"Head that team out of the track," he shouted in wrath, and as he edged past the stalled team, he expressed his personal opinion of the quality of the alleged intellect and equipment of the ill-natured and inefficient Badluck in language that will best grace this tale by its omission. At the next passing place, though, he pulled out till there was room to get by, and then went back and inspected Badluck's misforture in detail. There was plenty of it, well distributed, and while one by one every team on the grade pulled by, Sandy straightened out the wretched team, made unsuccessful efforts to get started, brought back four of his own mules, pulled two wheels from under the old wagon, ignored the whining protest, chained together the broken pieces, and left Badluck on top of the ridge with a free lecture on the prob

lems of inefficiency.

But all this took time, and when Sandy climbed back onto his own wagon, he was four hours behind in the race for first in to-morrow. to-morrow. When Jerry picked his way through the darkness into the lower yard at the mill, he passed Tommy's wagon, loaded and set for first out in the morning. Tommy, sure of victory, waxed sympathetic.

"What'd you stop for down there, you old sardine? Nobody else would?" "That's why I stopped, I suppose," replied Sandy, wearily.

"Just like the darn fool," said Nelson. "Always fooling around helping out some no-good cuss.'

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"He done tank mooch of dat girl now, or he no stop that-a-way for ole Badluck," commented Pete.

Sandy ate his supper alone, and that night, after the Bearsden was dark and silent, he was pushing plank after plank onto his wagons, glad for once that his load was out of hearing in the upper yard. As the stars of the morning began to fade in the east, he put the last twist under the chains, and turned his attention to the mules.

But the news had reached the lower yard, and for once Tommy had no time to joke. As the gong rang for breakfast, he hooked up the last trace chain, and with a "Haw there, Kate!" was out on the road.

"I see myself cutting out breakfast for any girl," said Nelson, in disgust.

Sandy heard the cheer from the grub house and knew its meaning. Weary and hungry as he was, this was no time for such trifles as breakfast, and he strung out his mules at once. While the coffee went around the second time, he pulled onto the road, second out, but ten minutes behind Tommy, with no chance to pass.

Down the grade the mules swung with steady step, while Sandy munched crackers from his box. After all, the world. looked better in the fresh dawn than in the darkness of the night. If Nina would only be reasonable, all life might be like the glint on the firs and the odor of the tamaracks. Anyhow, she was at the other end of the road waiting for him-perhaps, and Sandy's jaw took a set that indicated that he did not consider the race lost just yet.

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