Westward the Tide (1950)

Westward the Tide (1950) by Louis L'amour Read Free Book Online

Book: Westward the Tide (1950) by Louis L'amour Read Free Book Online
Authors: Louis L'amour
Bardoul. He looked at her as if she were a woman, and not as if the thought of sex would shock her to the roots of her being. He looked at her and treated her as an equal, without the usual soft talk or flattery men were always directing her way. She had grown to dislike the immediate change that came into their voices when they started talking to her.
    She was beautiful and perfectly aware of the fact. Her common sense told her that few girls ever seemed as attractive to men as she, yet the thought did not impress her. While aware of her beauty, it had become for her one of the accepted facts of the life she lived, like the sun coming up and the stars appearing. The compliments it drew she received politely, but a little impatiently, for she was much more eager to be accepted and liked as a person.
    It pleased her that Barney wanted her along, that he thought of her now, for she could see how the place had excited him, and how quickly he was fitting into the life around him.
    The street was crowded with men. A huge, bearded man, even larger than Buffalo Murphy, turned to stare at her, his bold eyes sweeping her up and down in mingled admiration and astonishment. Half nettled and half amused, she stopped abruptly, put her hands on her hips and demanded, "What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen a lady before?"
    The big man blushed magnificently, but through his embarrassment crowded some of his almost forgotten gallantry. He swept his hat from his head and bowed low. "Ma'am," he said sincerely, "now that I've seen you I doubt that I ever did see one before! And none half so beautiful!"
    Jacquine blushed then, but her eyes laughed with him. "Thank you, sir!" she said, then turned and took Barney's arm.
    He grinned at her. "Sis, if you start that out here you'll have the whole town fighting over you in no time!"
    The street was scarcely more than a narrow alleyway of dust between the two rows of frame or log buildings, some of them false fronted, a few possessing boardwalks and awnings, but most fronting right on the dust, or occasionally hard packed earth of the roadway. Farther up the street near the tailor shop, a placer mine still occupied the center of the street, and traffic curved around it.
    A six mule team was plodding down the street, the canvas cover removed from the high wheeled, heavily constructed wagon. Two men with broad hats and sleeves rolled up sat atop the load of logs. A bright new axe was struck into the log near one of them.
    The signs were all of a pattern, long rectangles in shape each one extending out over the walks to catch the eye of all who glanced down the street. Deadwood Gulch was wide open, to the world and all its races and peoples, Indians, Chinese and Negroes mingled on an equal footing, ate together, drank together, and worked together. Already Deadwood was in a fair way to acquire the largest Chinatown ever acquired by any town of its size this side of China.
    Suddenly a knot of men exploded out of a doorway and two of them hit the street in a lump. The first one up rushed at the other and aimed a kick at his head, but the fellow rolled out of the way and charged from a crouching position, his head butting the first man in the stomach and knocking him into the dust.
    The fellow came up and as the redhead closed in, he swung a ponderous fist that missed, and then the two stood there, slugging furiously with no advantage either way. Suddenly the redhead stepped back and drew the back of his hand over his bleeding lips. "Oh, the hell with it!" he said. "Let's have a drink!"
    The crowd roared approval, and mopping sweat and blood from his face with a torn sleeve, his opponent threw an arm over his shoulders and the whole crowd trooped back inside.
    On the butt end of a log near the placer claim a drunk sat with his forearms resting on his knees, staring down the street through a haze of alcoholic wonderment and doubt. Someone at the other end of town fired a pistol into the air.
    "Like it?"

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