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|The Race For Number One||Jack London|
|Page 1 of 3||
As became a high-salaried expert and the representative of the great house of Guggenheim, Colonel Bowie lived in one of the most magnificent cabins in Dawson. Of squared logs, hand-hewn, it was two stories high, and of such extravagant proportions that it boasted a big living room that was used for a living room and for nothing else.
Here were big bear-skins on the rough board floor, and on the walls horns of moose and caribou. Here roared an open fireplace and a big wood-burning stove. And here Smoke met the social elect of Dawson-- not the mere pick-handle millionaires, but the ultra-cream of a mining city whose population had been recruited from all the world-- men like Warburton Jones, the explorer and writer, Captain Consadine of the Mounted Police, Haskell, Gold Commissioner of the North-West Territory, and Baron Von Schroeder, an emperor's favourite with an international duelling reputation.
And here, dazzling in evening gown, he met Joy Gastell, whom hitherto he had encountered only on trail, befurred and moccasined. At dinner he found himself beside her.
"I feel like a fish out of water," he confessed. "All you folks are so real grand you know. Besides I never dreamed such oriental luxury existed in the Klondike. Look at Von Schroeder there. He's actually got a dinner jacket, and Consadine's got a starched shirt. I noticed he wore moccasins just the same. How do you like MY outfit?"
He moved his shoulders about as if preening himself for Joy's approval.
"It looks as if you'd grown stout since you came over the Pass," she laughed.
"Wrong. Guess again."
"It's somebody else's."
"You win. I bought it for a price from one of the clerks at the A. C. Company."
"It's a shame clerks are so narrow-shouldered," she sympathized. "And you haven't told me what you think of MY outfit."
"I can't," he said. "I'm out of breath. I've been living on trail too long. This sort of thing comes to me with a shock, you know. I'd quite forgotten that women have arms and shoulders. To-morrow morning, like my friend Shorty, I'll wake up and know it's all a dream. Now, the last time I saw you on Squaw Creek--"
"I was just a squaw," she broke in.
"I hadn't intended to say that. I was remembering that it was on Squaw Creek that I discovered you had feet."
"And I can never forget that you saved them for me," she said. "I've been wanting to see you ever since to thank you--" (He shrugged his shoulders deprecatingly). "And that's why you are here to-night--"
"You asked the Colonel to invite me?"
"No! Mrs Bowie. And I asked her to let me have you at table. And here's my chance. Everybody's talking. Listen, and don't interrupt. You know Mono Creek?"
"It has turned out rich--dreadfully rich. They estimate the claims as worth a million and more apiece. It was only located the other day."
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