BY slow degrees, no one knew just when or how, the boy poet began to find his way back after a year or two to the Widow's cabin. The miners wondered that Sandy did not protest. They saw, with some alarm, that the Widow was even more kind to him than before. Was it the pale pleading face of the consumptive boy that moved her?
Years went by, and the chronicler stood again in the Forks. The town was gone; the miners had uprooted its very foundations. Then came floods and buried the boulders and the banks of the stream, and widened it out and made it even as a new plowed field.
Then a man, the Hon. Mr. Sandy, who had sat down with his family quite satisfied in the Sierras, extended a fence around the site of the old city, and planted and sowed and then reaped the richest of harvests. On the site of the Howling Wilderness the yellow golden grain reached up till it touched the very beard of the giant. So do perish the mining towns of the Sierras.
The hills are not so wild now; the woods have been mown away, and up on the hill sides the miners have sat down, old and wrinkled and few in numbers; and around their quiet old cabins have planted fruit trees, and trees even from the tropics. And these trees flourish here too, for though the snow falls deep, and the sun has little room between the walls of the mighty canyon, still it seems never now so bleak or cold.
There is one little house on the hill side, with porches, and Spanish verandahs, and hammocks swinging there, and all that, nestled down among the fruit trees that bend with fruit and blossom. Around this cabin and back of it, and up the mountains among the firs, you see pretty children passing in and out, laughing as they run, shouting like little Modocs, shaking back their hair all full of the gold and glory of the California sun, and making every one happy who beholds them.
"All in the glorious climate of Californy!" says the little man, as he comes puffing up the hill to his home, and the children of the First Families run to meet him.
Can it be possible? Did they all grow young again? Did they go back and begin life at the beginning? Truly, there is something in the climate, and the fountain of youth flows certainly somewhere out of the Sierras.
For look! there stands a woman winding herself up to welcome her husband; she is only a little stouter, and is even beautiful.
As for Limber Tim, being an "idecated man," he started a newspaper in the nearest town, and after many battles and many defeats, finally climbed high on the ladder of distinction, and is now "the Hon. Mr. Tim," with a political influence second in that part of the country to no man, and to only one woman.
How things are changed, to be sure! The caravans of clouds that little Billie Piper was wont to look up to and wonder at, still cross the canyon, and march and countermarch and curl about the far snow peaks as before. But the coyote has ceased to howl from the hill side.
And what can that be curling like steam up from out the mighty forest that belts the snow peaks about the heads of the three little streams that make the Forks?
It looks like a train of clouds driven straight through the tree tops it is so high and fairy like and far away. It is as if it were on the very summit of the Sierras.
Ah! that is the engine blowing off the clouds of steam as she drops, shoots, slides, glides from the mountain to the sea. The train is a mile in length. The dust of three thousand miles is on her skirts. But before the going down of the sun she will draw rein to rest by the Golden Gate.Start reading Chapter26 of The First Famlies of the Sierras