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The Outcasts of Poker Flat

by Bret Harte

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What do the searchers find at "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" camp, and how do they treat the outcasts?

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The snowstorm that stranded the doomed group in "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" continued throughout the week, and the fire in the outcasts' makeshift shelter finally went out. The Duchess rested

... her head upon Piney's shoulder, spoke no more. And so reclining, the younger and purer pillowing the head of her soiled sister upon her virgin breast, they fell asleep.

It was the sleep of death, and soon their bodies were covered with snow, like "white-winged birds"--like angels who had decided that the Duchess's past sins should be forgotten, and her

... human stain, all trace of earthly travail, was hidden beneath the spotless mantle mercifully flung from above.

When the rescue party finally arrived from Poker Flat two days later, they found the women covered in snow. When the rescuers gently wiped the snow from their faces with "pitying fingers,"

... you could scarcely have told from the equal peace that dwelt upon them which was she that had sinned. Even the law of Poker Flat recognized this, and turned away, leaving them still locked in each other's arms.

Not far away they found Oakhurst's body--dead from a self-inflicted bullet wound in the heart. The rescue party, perhaps recognizing the callow nature of their decision to bar the group from the town, now treated them with the reverence they had not received in life, but had now earned in death.

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