As soon as we reached the hill at the edge of the town, we knew there was something wrong. Why, in my boyhood here it had been a long, steep hill, good to coast on in the winter, a formidable climb in the dust of summer. Now it appeared less than twenty feet high. Everything had shrunk.
When we came out to this town in British Columbia from Ontario it had seemed a substantial place. You had to own a saddle horse to get around at all. (My father bought Dock, with his potbelly and wall eye, from an Indian on the main street, against the bidding of a drunk, who only wanted to raise the price for fun, and got it up to $27 cash.)
Now I saw, in one bitter glance, that the town had never been large and always been ugly. So splendid it had seemed to a small boy from Ontario and so wild! We used to stand in the snow, on the sidewalk outside the Nugget Hotel, and watch the cowboys lining up in front of the bar, with all its mirrors and glitter, and old man Hodges serving the liquor in his white apron and red vest. It had seemed to us, shivering in the cold, like the luxury of an Oriental court, like the opulence and sin we had read about in books. Hodges and his customers, we knew, were going straight to hell, and the thought of them roasting there, forever, fascinated us. We pressed our noses against the cold glass to watch them, half expecting some of them to fall down dead at any moment.
When the ladies from the little houses at the edge of the town paraded through the street in the afternoon, in ostrich feathers, furs, and silk dresses, their faces all painted up, we