Desert Gold (Chapter 5, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 5

Belding assigned Dick to a little room which had no windows but two
doors, one opening into the patio, the other into the yard on the west
side of the house. It contained only the barest necessities for
comfort. Dick mentioned the baggage he had left in the hotel at
Casita, and it was Belding's opinion that to try to recover his
property would be rather risky; on the moment Richard Gale was probably
not popular with the Mexicans at Casita. So Dick bade good-by to fine
suits of clothes and linen with a feeling that, as he had said farewell
to an idle and useless past, it was just as well not to have any old
luxuries as reminders. As he possessed, however, not a thing save the
clothes on his back, and not even a handkerchief, he expressed regret
that he had come to Forlorn River a beggar.

"Beggar hell!" exploded Belding, with his eyes snapping in the
lamplight. "Money's the last thing we think of out here. All the
same, Gale, if you stick you'll be rich."

"It wouldn't surprise me," replied Dick, thoughtfully. But he was not
thinking of material wealth. Then, as he viewed his stained and torn
shirt, he laughed and said "Belding, while I'm getting rich I'd like to
have some respectable clothes."

"We've a little Mex store in town, and what you can't get there the
women folks will make for you."

When Dick lay down he was dully conscious of pain and headache, that he
did not feel well. Despite this, and a mind thronging with memories
and anticipations, he succumbed to weariness and soon fell asleep.

It was light when he awoke, but a strange brightness seen through what
seemed blurred eyes. A moment passed before his mind worked clearly,
and then he had to make an effort to think. He was dizzy. When he
essayed to lift his right arm, an excruciating pain made him desist.
Then he discovered that his arm was badly swollen, and the hand had
burst its bandages. The injured member was red, angry, inflamed, and
twice its normal size. He felt hot all over, and a raging headache
consumed him.

Belding came stamping into the room.

"Hello, Dick. Do you know it's late? How's the busted fist this
morning?"

Dick tried to sit up, but his effort was a failure. He got about half
up, then felt himself weakly sliding back.

"I guess--I'm pretty sick," he said.

He saw Belding lean over him, feel his face, and speak, and then
everything seemed to drift, not into darkness, but into some region
where he had dim perceptions of gray moving things, and of voices that
were remote. Then there came an interval when all was blank. He knew
not whether it was one of minutes or hours, but after it he had a
clearer mind. He slept, awakened during night-time, and slept again.
When he again unclosed his eyes the room was sunny, and cool with a
fragrant breeze that blew through the open door. Dick felt better; but
he had no particular desire to move or talk or eat. He had, however, a
burning thirst. Mrs. Belding visited him often; her husband came in
several times, and once Nell slipped in noiselessly. Even this last
event aroused no interest in Dick.

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