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Christmas Comes to Brady's Flat

By Reginald C. Barker
Author of "Grizzly Gallagher and the Otter," etc.

SEATED in his cabin on Brady's Flat, old Cal Inglis puffed at his pipe and gazed at the snow-covered summit of Tamarack Mountain, which was fully twenty miles away.

"Soon be Christmas again," muttered the old man into his gray beard; "down in the city folks will be runnin' around buyin' presents; kids will be laughin' and shoutin' in glee. Me, I'll be settin' here alone in my cabin same as I've done for fifty years. Christmas never comes to Brady's Flat. No, by Sam! Christmas never comes to Brady's Flat."

Somebody knocked at the door, and old Cal Inglis laid his pipe on the table and arose to his feet.

"Come in," he invited quaveringly. "Ain't no need to rap." For he thought it was one of his old acquaintances dropping in for a chat.

The door opened, and a gaunt, sun-bonneted woman stood looking at him.

"Huh!" she exclaimed without any preliminary greeting. "So there you be; Cal Inglis, ain't you?"

"That's my name, ma'am," acknowledged the old prospector. "Was you lookin' for me?"

"What do you suppose I came here for?" snapped out his visitor. "Fat feller down at the hotel said I'd be likely to find you up here. I'm 'Ma' Shawney."

"Pleased to meet you, ma'am," said old Cal.

"Was there something you wished to see me about?"

Ma Shawney seated herself in the only chair and pushed her sunbonnet far back on her gray hair.

"Brady's Flat ain't what it used to be," she remarked irrelevantly. "No, it ain't what it used to be fifty years ago."

Old Cal peered at her with sudden interest. Nowhere in those gaunt features could he trace any resemblance to any one he had ever known.

"You was here, ma'am, in early days?" he asked. "Somehow I don't seem to be able to place you."

Ignoring his question, Ma Shawney arose and strode to the open door and pointed a long- wristed, bony hand across the creek.

"Ain't that where Brady's saloon used to stand?" she queried.

"Yes, ma'am," replied old Cal, "but it ain't there no more. Mike Brady's saloon was burned down more'n forty year ago."

"So the fat feller down at the hotel told me," responded Ma Shawney ungraciously. "Well, I'm going to locate there, if nobody don't object."

"Nobody won't object, ma'am," said old Cal, "but you couldn't make a living on Brady's bar, for there ain't no gold there; never was any there; I know, for I've been here fifty years."

"Just the same," retorted Ma Shawney, "I'm going to camp there. I'm going to start a laundry in this camp."

"Ma'am!" exclaimed old Cal. "There's only a dozen of us old-timers here on Brady's Flat There wouldn't be no use in you starting a l...

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