A demonstration of the fact that the testing of a theory about gold mining may often prove—exactly nothing
THOMAS P. FRENEY
THEY were partners; that is, in the Western sense of the term. The very tone of the wrangle proclaimed the fact. Their argument was one in which only partners might indulge and sit so near to each other without fear of bodily harm. Although both were along in the gentler years where reasoning outweighs violence, their system of reasoning was typical of men who are wont to meet life’s problems with their hands.
Moreover, as might easily be discerned, they were gold-hunting partners, though far removed from scenes of their chosen calling. Their less colorful surroundings, in a labor agency, betokened their present need for finding a job.
That the subject of dispute was an old one made no difference: nor that they had thrashed it out a thousand times already, and would thrash it out a thousand times again. The theme was as eternal as it was meaningless. But with Lew Macpherson it was a slogan to be sworn by. In loud and final emphasis of his theory he said it again:
“. . . Gold is where you find it! That always was my motter and it stood the test.”
“And my motter,” answered his partner, ‘Drycreek’ Sloan, “is that you never find gold where there ain’t any gold ... It also stood the test.”
Lew Macpherson was not one to be silenced with such an affront. He uncrossed his blue-overalled legs and sat up rigidly. For a moment, he glared wrathfully down into Sloan’s red flabby face.
“Dang you, Drycreek! you never could listen to a man hat knowed what he was talking about. That’s why you’re nothing but a common dishpan miner. The little
“We’re not looking at all them thousands just now,” Sloan broke in sourly, “we’re looking for four bits an hour on a pick and shovel. This here is a slave market—not a sluice-box. What’s he marking up there now, Lew?”
Behind Macpherson’s seamed, leather face, reminiscence struggled vainly with the rudely summoned present. His pale eyes strained through the tobacco smoke that filled the crowded room. On the opposite wall-board, a clerk was chalking an item that had just come in. A score of rough-clad men were swarming around him, discussing the latest want in rumbling monotones.
Before the details of ‘Tunnel miners—’ were set forth, Lew’s gaze had wandered elsewhere.
“Lookit!” he said, nudging the little, fat man.
Sloan—clapping a pudgy hand to that portion of his ribs where Lew’s sharp elbow had dug—glared up at his lanky partner.
“Say! ain’t we looking for work? What kind of a job has he got up there? Your eyes are better’n mine.”
“Wait a minute, Drycreek; lookit! There’s that feller I been telling you about—the sad old gent with the big feet.”
Curiosity for the moment overcoming his penchant for labor, Sloan turned his watery eyes to where his partner was indicating. Not ten feet in front of them, stood a man who was unmistakably the target of Macpherson’s finger.
‘Big’ feet was right—or the shoes that covered them. Their size alone would have singled the man out anywhere; and their clumsy design was no less an attraction.
scratchin’ you ever done out in them old river beds don’t give you any say. I’m a prospector coming on forty years and I made ’er pay. Look at that fourteen thousand I sluiced in the Cassiar; and the eleven thousand I gophered out of the Porcupine; and look—”
. They were huge, grease-caked mitts, with untrimmed layers of leather tacked to the bottoms. Sole and heel were one. Patches and counter-patches covered the shapeless uppers, so that nothing of their former selves could be seen.
Slouching down over the ankles, were the legs of baggy overalls. Above them, a black overcoat, age-greened and shiny, was buttoned all the way up to a wrinkled chin. Beady eyes animated the sunken face, which was almost hidden under the brim of a crown-pointed hat.
“Him you mean?” Sloan asked, with an indifferent glance at the man. “What about him?”
“Why, that’s Lonesome John,” Lew remarked, in a tone which justified interruption of the business at hand.
“ What’s he got to do with us getting a job?”
“Nothing, I guess. He’s got a hidden claim up in the Cariboo—”
“That’s more than we got,” Sloan interrupted, a hard luck note in his rusty old tone.
“But what good is it doing him, keeping it for old age? He’ll never see seventy again, maybe eighty. Why, I see that hombre here in Vancouver thirty years ago, with that same old coat and them same big shoes and he wasn’t any younger than he is right now. That was before he went looney out in the hills. He was just plumb greenhorn when he goes out and strikes it rich—like greenhorns will. If a feller could get him to tell where his diggings aré—but he never talks to nobody. Just moseys around by himself. Ain’t he a deuce of a sight? Stands there like a Chinaman with the chills.”
“Ain’t it a fact?” Sloan awkwardly allowed himself to become amused. “Looks like the missing chink in the revolution.”
“And can you figure them shoes he rides around in?” Lew said, warming up to the subject. “Ain’t they the durndest mud-scows you ever see?”
“Ain’t they though!” Sloan agreed, with a squeaky chuckle.
Lew also chuckled. Lonesome John stood watching them with feebly blinking eyes. There was something about him and his manner that struck a note in their discordant sense of humor. They finally burst out in a laugh that shook the.room.
And just as suddenly as it began, the mirth subsided.
“Hold ’er, Lew!” Drycreek cautioned. “He don’t like it, Lew. He’s headin’ right for you. Watch him!”
Macpherson’s yellow-fanged grin narrowed reverently. His scraggy moustache drooped and he cringed forward. The big feet were plodding straight toward him. Lew clutched the edge of the bench, ready to spring.
But Lonesome John merely wanted a seat. There was an opening alongside of Lew and he wiggled into it.
“Shove over, Drycreek, and give him room,” Lew grunted, pushing his partner along the seat. “What’s he want to sit by me for? I ain’t aimin’ to associate with none of his tribe. I thought he was going to knife me or something.”
“Gwan, you ain’t so high-toned as all that,” Sloan jeered, with approval at Macpherson’s discomfort. “Like attracts like, anyways. You musta slipped him the highsign of the Order of Imbeciles. What’s he doing now unloading the shoes?”
From all appearances Lonesome John was going to dojust that. He had begun to untie the series of knots.
“There’d ort to be a law against it,” Lew exclaimed, without effort to conceal his annoyance at the intrusion. “I see men shot for that kind of etiquette-—”
“Wonder what’s the idee? Maybe that’s where he stores the artillery, Lew. Look out he don’t come up with a six-gun or an ax!”
Both men fell to watching the procedure. The action held their interest. Slowly, the old man untangled the network of strings and, slipping off the shoe, set it-
down. Then, even more slowly, he reached into it and felt around. There was a sound—a soft, crinkly sound— like the rustle of greenbacks. The two men at his side looked on tensely.
Presently, in a very leisurely manner, Lonesome John drew out his hand, holding in his withered fingers what looked like a bunch of papers in a canvas folder. For a moment he studied them carefully, then proceeded to take them apart and arrange them in different order. Some were folded, and some were single sheets. All were stained or yellowed with age, and whatever was printed or written on them was almost obliterated.
At length, he had them all sorted but the last-—the one next to the canvas covering—when the unexpected happened. A violent shuddering seized the old man. It lasted a second only, but it prevented him from doing whatever he had in mind, if anything. The bundle of papers dropped but he recovered them quickly and thrust them back into the shoe. The single sheet which had not dropped from the other hand, he threw in on top of the rest. There was another spasmodic movement as if he tried to straighten up again. A long, quivering sigh shook the bent form, and the arm dangled lifelessly to the floor.
“What’s the matter with him, Lew? Poke him one!”
Macpherson reached over and with the point of one finger touched the still man on the shoulder.
Lonesome John gave no response. Lew tapped him a little harder. Still no answer. He gripped the hanging arm—gripped twice, and let go quickly.
“He’s stiff!” he exclaimed in a startled wheeze, turning to Sloan.
Lew glanced down at the wrinkled face, at the halfopen beady eyes.
“He’s cashed in, Drycreek, so help me—!”
The partners studied each other’s faces and glanced around th« roomful of men. Nobody seemed to be watching them or to have noticed what had taken place.
“Ditch that shoe, quick!” Sloan said hoarsely.
Macpherson’s long leg stretched out, deftly, and kicked the shoe back under the bench. Then, with a sign to his partner, sprang to his feet.
“Hey! fellers,” he boomed at the job-hunting throng; “there’s a man dyin’ here! Let’s get him out in the air— grab a holt on his legs, there Frenchy—”
The startled Frenchman and a big Swede lumberjack juggled the black-coated figure out through the crowd while Macpherson, after this dutiful performance, without any physical exertion or indelicate contact, slid back to the seat.
“Ain’t it funny,” he observed, pushing the shoe farther into obscurity, “the way some of these boys picks out a place to cash in at?”
“He died as he hath lived—in the slave-market,” Sloan said gravely.
Both of them looked around to make sure the coast was clear. The excitement had moved out to the street and they were alone.
“Well,” said Lew, “now that Lonesome John has served his time on Mother Earth, let him render an account of his talent. Let’s have a look-see at that shoe of his’n. Set ’er up here, Drycreek. What’s he got to show for his three-score-and-ten? ’ ’
Sloan picked up the shoe and set it between them on the bench.
“Dive into ’er, Drycreek—•”
“Why me? Your hand ain’t broke. It’s always me that has to—”
“Kind of particular about them lily-white mitts of yourn, ain’t you? Maybe you’d like a pair of kid gloves! Dig into it, dang you!”
Under the bullying pressure in the command, Sloan made haste to comply. Gingerly and reluctantly he reached into the uncertain, darkness of the dead man’s
Suddenly, as if bitten by something venomous, his hand jerked out with the crumpled sheet of paper.
“Exhibit A,” Lew said, taking it approvingly. “Face cards last and an ace in the hole. Deal again, Drycreek.”
“Your ante this time,” Sloan insisted with an ugly grimace, scouring his fingers on his corduroy trousers. “That paper is all he was fishing after, anyhow. The rest was only ballast—•”
At this juncture they were interrupted by someone who demanded roughly : “What are you doing with that?” and a blue-uniformed arm came between them and took the shoe. The policeman, who had appeared without warning, glared at them menacingly and went out, taking with him the object of their attention.
“Now you see what you get by stalling!” Lew hissed in Sloan’s surprised red face. “You let the bulls cop the stakes every time. All we get is—nothing!”
“What’s that there paper?” Drycreek asked to evade his partner’s fury. “Looks like a map. I’ll just bet that’s what it is!”
Lew turned it over a time or two. It did have some resemblance to a map.
“Durned if it ain’t. Take a look at ’er, Drycreek; you’re good on maps. Here’s the spy-glass. What map is it?”
Sloan took the paper and smoothing it out on his knee, held the glass over it.
“Can’t see any names but it looks kinda familiar. The straight line, running across near the bottom, is the boundary line I guess; and see this here river curving up over it—what river would you say that is ,Lew?”
After a painful study Macpherson looked up. “Columbia?”
“Columbia is right! But that’s not up in the Cariboo—■” “Never mind the Cariboo, the Columbia runs up in the Kootenays, don’t it? There’s gold up there. Chances is, Lonesome John said the Cariboo to throw fellers off the track. That’s an old district mining map-—see all them marks? See if there’s anything personal marked on it.” Sloan held the map close up to his shiny nose.
“Nothing on here to do us any good. The claims are not laid out—just the discovery points.”
“What claims are they?”
“The names are all blurred; can’t fnake out any—yes, I can, too—the Le Roi—■”
“The Le Roi!”
“And wait a minute! Here’s something—seems like a trail marked on with a pencil . . .Yes, it’s a trail, all right. Nearly rubbed off, though—most of it is like a dotted line as if he drawed it a long time ago with the paper laying on a rough board—”
“A trail! Find the end of ’er, Drycreek.”
“Let’s see now, one end starts down in the States about that old smelter town—what do they call it? North-— something or other—”
“Something like that, I know where you mean. Where’s she headed for?”
“Runs across the river and head straight up to the boundary; goes u p till i t comes to about the Dewdney trail where it comes to two crosses-—”
“Crosses is prospects; remember those two claims they were workin’ in ninety-five?”
“Keeps on going up till it comes to another bunch of them crosses and other kind of marks-—they’re not very plain—and then passes the Le Roi about half an inch to the west—•”
“Up the old Jumbo road. Keep on—”
Sloan edged around to get a better light.
“Let’s see now-—goes up the Jumbo road straight north for a ways, passes some claims, and runs on ahead till it reaches a creek—”
“Stoney creek, eh?”
T reckon so; then it follows Stoney Creek up past head-waters and curves off to the left to two circles with rings around ’em—•”
“High peaks, ’’Lew said authoritatively. “Mind them two white peaks where you was going to start a lime-quarry in ninety-six?”
Sloan paused to think without taking his gaze from the map.
“Sure enough! It runs between them peaks and down to another creek running almost north and south, and then
Sloän was silent for several moments. Finally, he looked up, and then took another focus on the map.
“What do you find there?” Lew asked excitedly.
“The end of the trail,” Sloan answered. “There’s a hole cut out of the paper and it has a dark red circle drawed around it, like it was marked in blood with a pin or something. Take a look for yourself, Lew.”
Lew’s finger closed greedily around the spy-glass and he gazed long and steadily at the circle drawn in blood. Eventually he straightened up and rubbed his eyes.
“Drycreëk,” he said solemnly. “We got ’em! (5ld John’s diggings! We got ’em, I tell you!”
Sloan evinced no enthusiasm over the discovery of Lonesome John’s diggings. He mopped his ruddy scalp with a i rayed coat sleeve, thinking deeply.
“How do you figure?” he asked with discouraging coolness.
“What? Ain’t it down there plain enough in black and white-—and red? I call it mighty considerate of the old bird to hand it over the way she stands.”
“Sure. And I s’pose he was taking the durned thing out of his shoe to explain it to us and leave us the rightful heirs to his claim, hey7”
Lew paid no attention to the sarcasm behind the suggestion.
“Looks to me like he knowed the end was coming and wanted to tear it up.”
A thin, sneering laugh escaped Sloan’s toothless mouth.
“Durned if you ain’t getting more loco all the time. You’ll soon be as crazy as old John himself. So you think that’s a chart to his claim, eh? Well, s’posing it was, he was only a greenhorn—”
“Greenhorn’s diggin’s generally pans out the best—”
“Now my idea,” Sloan said distantly, “is to quit wasting time and get back to business. The sooner we land a job and get another grubstake the sooner we can take another try at them dyke formations we seen—”
“Rats! Can’t you forget them infernal jobs—and formations?” came the explosive interruption. “You’re Continued on page 1+1+
Continued on page 14
Continued ¡rom po.ge 13
always wanting to argue, you ornery little toad! You never hold a job when you do get one. Them greenhorn diggings was famous when you was only a pup, and we’re going up and sluice ’em. That’s all there is to it. The time to start is now!”
“/^OLD is where you find it,” Lew was saying a few mornings later.
“You don’t say!” was Drycreek’s caustic rejoinder.
They were standing on a narrow strip of ground at the edge of a creek. It was less than twenty feet across and about twice that many in length, overhung by a rugged wall of slate and stone. The upper end tapered to a point where the stream flowed into the canyon and the lower end narrowed to a few feet of margin that followed the' white waters down the gully.
The opposite bank rose gradually to where two lofty peaks of limestone caught the early rays of the sun.
“No use arguing,” Lew said with finality, folding the wrinkled map. “This here is where Lonesome John drawed the circle.”
“It ain’t, either. He meant further down, where the sand-bars are level. Huh! I passed this spot myself in ninetytwo on the way up to the headwaters'—”
“So did I, in ninety-five, on the way down to the Sheep Creek excitement, but I didn’t know there was gold here. Old John was fool enough to prospect in this trough and he struck the finest nuggets I ever see. That’s the way most good strikes are made—greenhorn’s luck. There was colors all the way up this creek—•”
“But gold don’t wash uphill, you durn old idiot! It goes down.”
“Never mind, we’re following directions —not theories. Ain’t this a bee-line from those mountains up yonder? We’re right on the spot.”
“I don t give a rap!” Drycreek said disgustedly. “This ain’t the place to find gold.”
“Aw, dry up, you cantankerous little runt!” Macpherson burst forth. “You’re always mewing. If you don’t like this ground, you can get to blazes outa here. Savvy? And if you want to horn in on the pay-streak, grab a muckstick and start a hole about where that flat stone sets. I’!l start here.”
Without any further conern in the matter, Lew peeled off his ragged jumper and, hammering the pick-handle tightly in place, began to loosen up the few small rocks that stuck out on the surface. These he tossed into the creek - not a dozen feet away—and started to dig.
Sloan, after a muttered deliberation'— proceeded to do the same.
They worked in silence. Two mounds of red clay and stones arose gradually near the holes. Although they both dug steadily, there was a difference in their methods Lew was almost frantic in his hurry. Every stroke of the pick was accompanied with a heave, and the change to shoveling always found him out of breath. Perspiration rolled down his lean face and soaked through the faded blue shirt along the suspenders and around the belt.
Drycreek took his time. Every now and then the pick or shovel needed fixing or he had to take off a shoe to remove the pebbles that were getting in.
In this fashion they labored on for hours. Lew stopped for the first time when he heard Sloan striking his shovel on something hard.
“What you hittin’, Drycreek?” “Bedrock.”
Lew bounded out of his five-foot hole and rushed over to where Sloan was only waist-deep below the surface, yet standing on solid rock.
“Better pan some of that stuff,” he suggested, examining a handful of gravel from the bottom.
In a few minutes they were leaning over the stream with the sample. Lew manipulated the gold-pan, deftly whirling the contents so that the tailings washed over the edge. Sloan looked on casually. Presently there was less than a handful left in the pan. Lew added more water. Black sand showed. Carefully he ‘walked’ it around the rim. A faint yellow speck showed on the edge. Then several more appeared. Colors!
~T\AYBREAK, a week after, showed a ^ vast change in the appearance of the claim. The strata of dirt and red clay had been shoveled into the creek and washed downstream. Much of the sand and gravel had been run through the sluice box that lay the full length at the water’s edge.
“Snap into it, Drycreek!” Lew ordered with authority. “This thing has got to be cleaned up to-day.”
Sloan leisurely finished the mug of bitter black coffee and waddled towards the sluice-box. His sleepy red face was anything but pleasant.
“Ain’t it tough7” he grumbled, picking up a shovel, “the way some men works night and day for a stake that they blow in soon as they can—”
“Come on now, get busy: don’t start in with the chatter.” Lew was already sweating from exertion. “We got to run this gold out of here to-night or somebody else might be doing it for us.”
“You’d be just as far ahead,” Sloan persisted, throwing in a small shovelful of paydirt; “you’d be just as far ahead, if somebody did get away with it all. They’ll get it anyhow, sooner or later—mostly sooner.”
“No, not this time. My share of this is going to tide me over the feeble years to come.”
Huh!” Sloan leaned on his shovel to discuss the matter. “I bet before the end of the week you’ll be sobering up at the slave-market hunting another grubstake.”
“Not me, pardner, not me. Come on there, do something.”
Sloan sat down to light his pipe. “Aint that what you always said? Where’s that twelve hundred we came into town with, less than a month ago? You blowed your half before you even got a new pair of socks?”
“But that occurred for the last time,” Lew promised, tossing a rock into the creek with the point of his shovel.
“Same old story,” Sloan said, getting up on his short legs. “And when we get into town where’s the first place you’ll head for—to some bootleg joint. And you’ll get rolled again, like you always did, and always will. And you’ll be going in and out o* them slave markets till they be taking you out to plant you in the boneyard with Lonesome John, only I bet you don’t have a hidden claim-chart in your shoe like he did—”
Lew made one bound towards his partner and, crouching over him dangerously, shook a gnarled fist in the little man’s face.
“Dang you, you worthless, pesky calamity-howler!” he bellowed. “If you don’t shut up, I’ll wrap this shovel around your neck so tight you’ll never spend a cent of this here stake. Another chirp out of you and I’ll do it!”
Sloan evidently took him at his word for he said no more. Hour after hour, they shoveled to the monotonous thudding of gravel in the sluice-box and the rattling of pebbles along the riffles.
At noon the heavy work was done. The rest of the day they spent going over the bedrock, scraping and digging out the crevices. Then every loose particle was swept up and run through the sluice-box.
IT WAS just before closing time in the employment office when Sloan and Macpherson staggered in. Lew was leading the way, and he seemed to have considerable difficulty manoeuvering his long spidery legs through the crowd. His eyes were heavy and his head sagged loosely as he turned to wait for Sloan.
Drycreek was standing near the door looking out. His full red face was much redder than usual and he seemed dazed.
Suddenly, he turned around and beckoned to his partner with a heavy arm. “C’mere, Lew, quick! Look out there across the street!”
Lew looked as he was directed. He stiffened, soberly, as he saw, on the opposite pavement, a small old man in a long black overcoat, dragging along in a pair of big shoes.
“What the deuce, Drycreek, what the deuce? Why, that man is dead, ain’t he?” Lonesome John disappeared around the corner. Without wasting any time, Sloan tottered out on the street and ambled along behind with Macpherson trying to follow. In the cross-street they caught sight of him again,and kept a safe distance behind.
“Why, that man is dead!” Lew kept saying in his stupor.
One block further, Lonesome John turned into the alley. Lew and Sloan were just in time to see him going in the door of a shabby lodging-house.
“Wasn’t he dead, Drycreek?” Lew repeated, struggling with his befuddlement.
“Sure he was,” Sloan—less deeply under the influence-—assured him. And they started back.
“There’s the bull that copped the shoe,” Lew said. “He ought to know. Go and ask him, Drycreek; you’resober’n me. Don’t get pinched.”
Presently Sloan stumbled back to the lamp-post where Lew was bracing himself for the news.
“Naw, he ain’t dead. Never was dead. Just threw a fit from hunger.”
It required some time before this information could be duly absorbed. Finally, they started back for the labor agency, where, in the seclusion of a dark corner they proceeded to analyze the outcome of their situation.
“It’s a sherious matter,” Lew began; “if he ain’t dead we’re claim-jumpers— high-graders—”
“But he’s not dead,” Sloan assured him. Several minutes of deep study followed. Finally Lew spoke:
“Shay, Drycreek—jus’ imagine the poor old critter starvin’ t’death an’ us blowin’ in his paydirt! Whasha say we give him back a thousand?”
Sloan’s watery eyes looked up dreamily. “Wery good idea. Lew, you alius was a good old stiff—you’re kind a looney most of the time, but you’re all right just the same. I alius said you was a kind-hearted old hyena—and so you are. Let’s split it with the half-starved old buzzard; give him two thousand and keep two thoussand?”
Macpherson’s long arm reach out in the hazy direction of his partner. “Put ’er there, pardner; I second the moshun!” Lonesome John was reluctant about letting them in. They were not to be balked, however, and once inside, Lew began as best he could under the circumstances to explain the nature of their visit.
“This was your claim,” he said, laying the wrinkled map on the table, “so you got half of it cornin’. Here’s one thousand and my partner gives you a thousand. Divvy up, Drycreek.”
After each of them counted off a hazardous estimate of crisp greenbacks, they laid the money on the table. The old man took it obediently and nodded mystified thanks. Then Lew and Sloan escorted each other out of the room.
TN THE morning, Lew was first awake.
A It was close to noon. His first impulse was to count the roll of money under his pillow. A thousand dollars short. Sloan
was awake by the time this astounding discovery was made.
“Count your money, Drycreek, if you still got any, and see how she stands.”
Sloan was not a little amazed to find that he was, also, a thousand short. It required considerable effort to trace the reason why.
“Don’t you recollect, Lew,” he suddenly asked, “that we was up to Lonesome John’s last night? And wasn’t we giving him something?”
The memory of it struck Lew like a blow. “Fifty-fifty! why—we split it with him, didn’t we?”
After a deep study, Sloan jumped up. “Lew, maybe we can get it back. Let’s go up there now and see.”
Lew grabbed his hat from a chair—both were completely dressed since the day before—and they hurried out.
Lonesome John happened to be in when they reached his room.
“You come for this?” he asked handing them the stained map which was lying on the table. “You left it here last night, and here’s more of them if you want,” he said, handling Lew several crumpled papers which, from their size and appearance, had been used as packing in one of the big clumsy shoes.
“Half-wit i.ed,” Lew observed to Sloan, ignoring Lonesome John’s actions. Then he suddenly snatched one of the loose papers and stared at it. It was also a map, but an entirely different one; yet, much clearer and easily seen without a glass was a dotted trail running through it. And the noticeable thing about it was that like the trail on the chart that had guided them to the hidden claim, it ended in a dark red circle with a hole in it.
Drycreek took it out of Lew’s unsteady hand and studied it briefly. Turning it over, he examined the back. Then he picked up one of the old man’s shoes that were under the bed. He felt around inside it. His eyes widened, then narrowed until they were almost shut.
“Lew,” he said quietly, “run your hand in this here shoe—”
Lew did so.
“What do you notice?”
“Nothing much-—there’s a lot of tacks—•”
“Feel along the row of tacks until you reach the end—what do you find?”
“A big, long one?”
“Yes, one long enough to puncture through into a man’s foot and draw the blood around the hole in the paper it went through—the bloody circle!”
“You mean that that there dotted line was only made by shoe tacks?”
Sloan nodded whimsically.
“Sure, and remember he was taking the shoe off before he cashed in—I mean before he keeled over? That was when the nail worked through and stuck him. That’s what he was taking the durn thing off for—”
“Then that there trail was nothing else but nail-marks running through a map that he put in the shoe to protect himself from the tacks?”
Lonesome John was pushing something else into his hand. With a glance at the creepy, blinking eyes, Lew took the open bank-book.
“Did he bank it, Lew?” Sloan asked despairingly.
“Two thousand dollars entered on this date,” Lew said.
“No use, then,” Drycreek answered. “We can’t get it back now since he put it in a bank. That’s what we should have done, Lew. We started to blow the whole works and I consider it worth half the stake to know how to save the other half. We can bank ours, too. Ain’t it reasonable?”
“All right,” L agreed, giving back the bank-book, “but if you want to spend two thousand dollars for a moral, here’s a better one, and it’s cheap at that price. You see how this proposition turned out. Old John packs his shoe with paper to protect him from shoe-nails and we take it for a guide to his hidden mine. Which ain’t a mine at all. After this when you’re looking for pay-dirt, it don’t matter what the theories say, or where gold is supposed to be—gold is where you find it.”
“Where you find it,” Sloan agreed for once, as they turned to go.