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The Seventh Man - Max Brand

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THE SEVENTH MAN

By Max Brand

Chapter I. Spring

A man under thirty needs neighbors and to stop up the current of his life
with a long silence is like obstructing a river--eventually the water
either sweeps away the dam or rises over it, and the stronger the dam the
more destructive is that final rush to freedom. Vic Gregg was on the danger
side of thirty and he lived alone in the mountains all that winter. He
wanted to marry Betty Neal, but marriage means money, therefore Vic
contracted fifteen hundred dollars' worth of mining for the Duncans, and
instead of taking a partner he went after that stake single handed. He is a
very rare man who can turn out that amount of labor in a single season, but
Gregg furnished that exception which establishes the rule: he did the
assessment work on fourteen claims and almost finished the fifteenth, yet
he paid the price. Week after week his set of drills was wife and child to
him, and for conversation he had only the clangor of the four-pound
single-jack on the drill heads, with the crashing of the "shots" now and
then as periods to the chatter of iron on iron. He kept at it, and in the
end he almost finished the allotted work, but for all of it he paid in
full.

The acid loneliness ate into him. To be sure, from boyhood he knew the
mountain quiet, the still heights and the solemn echoes, but towards the
close of the long isolation the end of each day found him oppressed by a
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