JOHN OAKHURST?

Gold-mining camps are not exactly strong-holds of virtue and propriety. In search of the precious metal come the roughest and toughest of the earth, the miners and after them come the slyest and the most cunning, the gamblers, to cheat the miners out of their hardly-won treasure. Of these last was John Oakhurst, who haunted the gold settlements of California. Nothing in his appearance suggested his trade. He was a quiet-mannered man, with a thoughtful face and dreamy eyes, and studiously neat in his dress. He did not drink, nor use strong language. Indeed, he rarely felt the need of either, for his luck and skill were phenomenal, so phenomenal, in fact, that he aroused intense hostility where-ever he went, and was constantly escorted to town boundaries, with emphatic instructions never to return. It was as a result of one such expulsion that he met his death, and though his life had been despicable, John Oakhurst came to a noble end. Along with other social outcasts he was snowbound in a mountain hut. Provisions ran short. With one fewer mouth to feed they might last out until a relief party could get through. John Oakhurst walked out into the snow, and laid himself down under a distant pine tree, which only goes to show that the capacity for heroism is lodged in even the most worthless of men. Bret Harte was no black-and-white moralist. He knew what mixed qualities may cohabit in one human frame; hence his portrait of John Oakhurst, in " The Outcasts of Poker Flat."