The song grew faint and fainter, and through the silence crept back the spirt of the pkace. The stream once more drowned and whispered; the hum of the mountain bees rose sleepily. Down through the perfume weighted air fluttered the snowy fluffs of the cottonwoods. The butterflies drifted in and out among the trees, and over all blazed the quiet sunshine. Only remained the hoof-marks in the meadow and the torn hillside to mark the boisterous trail of the life that had broken the peace of the place and passed on.
This story from the prolific Jack London is a sort of dual tale. On one hand it is an almost documentary look at the methods of using placer mining to home in on a vein of ore.
On the other hand, it is a tale of pristine Nature with the “N” intentionally capitalized. A tale where Man [also capitalized] blunders in, destroys much with action and moral infestation, but, in the end, Nature obliterates Man.
It is a well-wrought tale, but it may be rendered a little dull by the devotion to the details of the placer miner. It was rendered rather faithfully by the Coen Brothers in their excellent western anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
Again, a highly regarded tale, often listed in the 100 Best Western Short stories, but I would easily substitute London’s visceral Love of Life for this one. [Also reviewed here.]