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Joe's Luck by Horatio Alger, Jr.

Part 3 out of 4

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"Let me get up and I'll get it."

Joe spoke so naturally that Rafferty suspected nothing. He permitted
our hero to rise, supposing that he was going for the money he

Joe knew exactly where Watson lay and went over to him. He knelt
down and drew out the revolver from beneath his head, at the same
time pushing him, in the hope of arousing him. The push was
effectual. Watson was a man whose experience at the mines had taught
him to rouse at once. He just heard Joe say:


"What are you so long about?" demanded Rafferty suspiciously.

"I've got a revolver," said Joe unexpectedly; "and, if you don't
leave the room, I'll fire!"

With an oath, Rafferty, who was no coward, sprang upon Joe, and it
would have gone hard with him but for Watson. The latter was now
broad awake. He seized Rafferty by the collar, and, dashing him
backward upon the floor, threw himself upon him.

"Two can play at that game!" said he. "Light the candle, Joe."

"Help, pard!" called Rafferty.

But Hogan, on whom he called, suspecting how matters stood, was in
full flight.

The candle was lighted, and in the struggling ruffian Joe recognized
the man who, three months before, had robbed him of his little all.



"I know this man, Mr. Watson," said Joe.

"Who is he?"

"He is the same man who robbed me of my money one night about three
months ago--the one I told you of."

For the first time, Rafferty recognized Joe.

"There wasn't enough to make a fuss about," he said. "There was only
two dollars and a half."

"It was all I had."

"Let me up!" said Rafferty, renewing his struggles.

"Joe, have you got a rope?" asked Watson.


"Bring it here, then. I can't hold this man all night."

"What are you going to do with me?" demanded Rafferty uneasily.

"Tie you hand and foot till to-morrow morning and then deliver you
over to the authorities."

"No, you won't!"

He made a renewed struggle, but Watson was a man with muscles of
iron, and the attempt was unsuccessful.

It was not without considerable difficulty, however, that the
midnight intruder was secured. When, at length, he was bound hand
and foot, Watson withdrew to a little distance. Joe and he looked at
Rafferty, and each felt that he had seldom seen a more brutal face.

"Well," growled Rafferty, "I hope you are satisfied?"

"Not yet," returned Watson. "When you are delivered into the hands
of the authorities we shall be satisfied."

"Oh, for an hour's freedom!" muttered Jack Rafferty, expressing his
thoughts aloud.

"What use would you make of it?" asked Watson, in a tone of curiosity.

"I'd kill the man that led me into this trap!"

Watson and Joe were surprised.

"Was there such a man. Didn't you come here alone?"

"No; there was a man got me to come. Curse him, He told me I would
only find the boy here!"

"What has become of him?"

"He ran away, I reckon, instead of standing by me."

"Where was he?"

"At the winder."

"Could it have been Hogan?" thought Joe.

"I think I know the man," said our hero. "I'll describe the man I
mean and you can tell me if it was he."

He described Hogan as well as he could.

"That's the man," said Rafferty. "I wouldn't peach if he hadn't
served me such a mean trick. What's his name?"

"His name is Hogan. He came over on the same steamer with me, after
robbing me of fifty dollars in New York. He has been at the mines,
but didn't make out well. This very afternoon I gave him supper--all
he could eat--and charged him nothing for it. He repays me by
planning a robbery."

"He's a mean skunk," said Watson bluntly.

"You're right, stranger," said Rafferty. "I'm a scamp myself, but
I'll be blowed if I'd turn on a man that fed me when I was hungry."

The tones were gruff but the man was evidently sincere.

"You're better than you look," said Watson, surprised to hear such a
sentiment from a man of such ruffianly appearance.

Jack Rafferty laughed shortly.

"I ain't used to compliments," he said, "and I expect I'm bad enough,
but I ain't all bad. I won't turn on my pal, unless he does it
first, and I ain't mean enough to rob a man that's done me a good

"No, you ain't all bad," said Watson. "It's a pity you won't make up
your mind to earn an honest living."

"Too late for that, I reckon. What do you think they'll do with me?"

In those days punishments were summary and severe. Watson knew it
and Joe had seen something of it. Our hero began to feel compassion
for the foiled burglar. He whispered in Watson's ear. Watson
hesitated, but finally yielded.

"Stranger," said he, "the boy wants me to let you go."

"Does he?" inquired Rafferty, in surprise.

"Yes. He is afraid it will go hard with you if we give you up."

"Likely it will," muttered Rafferty, watching Watson's face eagerly,
to see whether he favored Joe's proposal.

"Suppose we let you go--will you promise not to make another attempt
upon this place?"

"What do you take me for? I'm not such a mean cuss as that."

"One thing more--you won't kill this man that brought you here?"

"If I knowed it wasn't a trap he led me into. He told me there was
only the boy."

"He thought so. I don't belong here. The boy let me sleep here out
of kindness. Hogan knew nothing of this. I didn't come till after
he had left."

"That's different," said Rafferty; "but he shouldn't have gone back
on me."

"He is a coward, probably."

"I guess you're right," said Rafferty contemptuously.

"You promise, then?"

"Not to kill him? Yes."

"Then we'll let you go."

Watson unloosed the bonds that confined the prisoner. Rafferty
raised himself to his full height and stretched his limbs.

"There--I feel better," he said. "You tied the rope pretty tight."

"I found it necessary," said Watson, laughing. "Now, Joe, if you
will open the door, this gentleman will pass out."

Rafferty turned to Joe, as he was about to leave the restaurant.

"Boy," said he, "I won't forget this. I ain't much of a friend to
boast of, but I'm your friend. You've saved me from prison, and
worse, it's likely; and, if you need help any time, send for me. If
I had that money I took from you I'd pay it back."

"I don't need it," said Joe. "I've been lucky, and am doing well. I
hope you'll make up your mind to turn over a new leaf. If you do,
and are ever hard up for a meal, come to me, and you shall have it
without money and without price."

"Thank you, boy," said Rafferty. "I'll remember it."

He strode out of the restaurant, and disappeared in the darkness.

"Human nature's a curious thing, Joe," said Watson. "Who would have
expected to find any redeeming quality in such a man as that?"

"I would sooner trust him than Hogan."

"So would I. Hogan is a mean scoundrel, who is not so much of a
ruffian as this man only because he is too much of a coward to be."

"I am glad we let him go," said Joe.

"I am not sure whether it was best, but I knew we should have to be
awake all night if we didn't. He could have loosened the knots after
awhile. He won't trouble you any more."

"I wish I felt as sure about Hogan," said Joe.

"Hogan is a coward. I advise you to keep ft revolver constantly on
hand. He won't dare to break in by himself."

* * * * *

The next morning, after breakfast, Watson prepared to go out in
search of work.

"I must begin at the bottom of the ladder once more," he said to Joe.
"It's my own fault, and I won't complain. But what a fool I have
been! I might have gone home by the next steamer if I hadn't gambled
away all my hard earnings."

"What sort of work shall you try to get?"

"Anything--I have no right to be particular. Anything that will pay
my expenses and give me a chance to lay by something for my family at

"Mr. Watson," said Joe suddenly, "I've been thinking of something
that may suit you. Since I came to San Francisco I have never gone
outside. I would like to go to the mines."

"You wouldn't make as much as you do here."

"Perhaps not; but I have laid by some money and I would like to see
something of the country. Will you carry on the restaurant for me
for three months, if I give you your board and half of the profits?"

"Will I? I should think myself very lucky to get the chance."

"Then you shall have the chance."

"How do you know that I can be trusted?" asked Watson.

"I haven't known you long," said Joe, "but I feel confidence in your

"I don't think you'll repent your confidence. When do you want to

"I'll stay here a few days, till you get used to the business, then I
will start."

"I was lucky to fall in with you," said Watson. "I didn't want to go
back to the mines and tell the boys what a fool I have been. I begin
to think there's a chance for me yet."



It may be thought that Joe was rash in deciding to leave his business
in the hands of a man whose acquaintance he had made but twelve hours
previous. But in the early history of California friendships ripened
fast. There was more confidence between man and man, and I am
assured that even now, though the State is more settled and as far
advanced in civilization and refinement as any of her sister States
on the Atlantic coast, the people are bound together by more friendly
ties, and exhibit less of cold caution than at the East. At all
events, Joe never dreamed of distrusting his new acquaintance. A
common peril, successfully overcome, had doubtless something to do in
strengthening the bond between them.

Joe went round to his friend Mr. Morgan and announced his intention.

"I don't think you will make money by your new plan, Joe," said

"I don't expect to," said Joe, "but I want to see the mines. If I
don't succeed, I can come back to my business here."

"That is true. I should like very well to go, too."

"Why won't you, Mr. Morgan?"

"I cannot leave my business as readily as you can. Do you feel
confidence in this man whom you are leaving in charge?"

"Yes, sir. He has been unlucky, but I am sure he is honest."

"He will have considerable money belonging to you by the time you
return--that is, if you stay any length of time."

"I want to speak to you about that, Mr. Morgan. I have directed him
to make a statement to you once a month, and put in your hands what
money comes to me--if it won't trouble you too much."

"Not at all, Joe. I shall be glad to be of service to you."

"If you meet with any good investment for the money while I am away,
I should like to have you act for me as you would for yourself."

"All right, Joe."

Joe learned from Watson that the latter had been mining on the Yuba
River, not far from the town of Marysville. He decided to go there,
although he might have found mines nearer the city. The next
question was, How should he get there, and should he go alone?

About this time a long, lank Yankee walked into the restaurant, one
day, and, seating himself at a table, began to inspect the bill of
fare which Joe used to write up every morning. He looked

"Don't you find what you want?" inquired Joe.

"No," said the visitor. "I say, this is a queer country. I've been
hankerin' arter a good dish of baked beans for a week, and ain't
found any."

"We sometimes have them," said Joe. "Come here at one o'clock, and
you shall be accommodated."

The stranger brightened up.

"That's the talk," said he. "I'll come."

"Have you just come out here?" asked Joe curiously.

"A week ago."

"Are you a Southerner?" asked Joe demurely.

"No, I guess not!" said the Yankee, with emphasis.

"I was raised in Pumpkin Hollow, State of Maine. I was twenty-one
last first of April, but I ain't no April fool, I tell you. Dad and
me carried on the farm till I, began to hear tell of Californy. I'd
got about three hundred dollars saved up and I took it to come out

"I suppose you've come out to make your fortune?"

"Yes, sir-ee, that's just what I come for."

"How have you succeeded so far?"

"I've succeeded in spendin' all my money, except fifty dollars. I
say, it costs a sight to eat and drink out here. I can't afford to
take but one meal a day, and then I eat like all possessed."

"I should think you would, Mr.-------"

"Joshua Bickford--that's my name when I'm to hum."

"Well, Mr. Bickford, what are your plans?"

"I want to go out to the mines and dig gold. I guess I can dig as
well as anybody. I've had experience in diggin' ever since I was ten
year old."

"Not digging gold, I suppose?"

"Diggin' potatoes, and sich."

"I'm going to the mines myself, Mr. Bickford. What do you say to
going along with me?"

"I'm on hand. You know the way, don't you?"

"We can find it, I have no doubt. I have never been there, but my
friend Mr. Watson is an experienced miner."

"How much gold did you dig?" asked Joshua bluntly.

"Two thousand dollars," answered Watson, not thinking it necessary to
add that he had parted with the money since at the gaming-table.

"Two thousand dollars?" exclaimed Joshua, duly impressed. "That's a
heap of money!"

"Yes; it's a pretty good pile."

"I'd like to get that much. I know what I'd do."

"What would you do, Mr. Bickford?"

"I'd go home and marry Sukey Smith, by gosh!"

"Then I hope you'll get the money, for Miss Smith's sake."

"There's a feller hangin' round her," said Joshua, "kinder
slick-lookin', with his hair parted in the middle; he tends in the
dry-goods store; but, if I come home with two thousand dollars,
she'll have me, I guess. Why, with two thousand dollars I can buy
the farm next to dad's, with a house with five rooms into it, and a
good-sized barn. I guess Sukey wouldn't say no to me then, but would
change her name to Bickford mighty sudden."

"I hope you will succeed in your plans, Mr. Bickford."

"Seems to me you're kinder young to be out here," said Bickford,
turning his attention to Joe.

"Yes; I am not quite old enough to think of marrying."

"Have you got money enough to get out to the mines?" asked Joshua

"I think I can raise enough," said Joe, smiling.

"My young friend is the owner of this restaurant," said Watson.

"You don't say! I thought you hired him."

"No. On the contrary, I am in his employ. I have agreed to run the
restaurant for him while he is at the mines.

"You don't say!" exclaimed Bickford, surveying our hero with
curiosity. "Have you made much money in this eating-house?"

"I've done pretty well," said Joe modestly. "I own the building and
the two adjoining lots."

"You don't say! How old be you?"


"You must be all-fired smart!"

"I don't know about that, Mr. Bickford. I've been lucky and fallen
in with good friends."

"Well, I guess Californy's the place to make money. I ain't made any
yet, but I mean to. There wasn't no chance to get ahead in Pumpkin
Hollow. I was workin' for eight dollars a month and board."

"It would be a great while before you could save up money to buy a
farm out of that, Mr. Bickford."

"That's so."

"My experience was something like yours. Before I came out here I
was working on a farm."


"And I didn't begin to get as much money as you. I was bound out to
a farmer for my board and clothes. The board was fair but the
clothes were few and poor."

"You don't say!"

"I hope you will be as lucky as I have been."

"How much are you worth now?" asked Joshua curiously.

"From one to two thousand dollars, I expect."

"Sho! I never did! How long have you been out here?"

"Three months."

"Je-rusalem! That's better than stayin' to hum."

"I think so."

By this time Mr. Bickford had completed his breakfast and in an
anxious tone he inquired:

"What's the damage?"

"Oh, I won't charge you anything, as you are going to be my traveling
companion," said Joe.

"You're a gentleman, by gosh!" exclaimed Mr. Bickford, in
unrestrained delight.

"Come in at one o'clock and you shall have some of your favorite
beans and nothing to pay. Can you start for the mines to-morrow?"

"Yes--I've got nothin' to prepare."

"Take your meals here till we go."

"Well, I'm in luck," said Bickford. "Victuals cost awful out here
and I haven't had as much as I wanted to eat since I got here."

"Consider yourself my guest," said Joe, "and eat all you want to."

It may be remarked that Mr. Bickford availed himself of our young
hero's invitation, and during the next twenty-four hours stowed away
enough provisions to last an ordinary man for half a week.



Four days later Joe and his Yankee friend, mounted on mustangs, were
riding through a canon a hundred miles from San Francisco. It was
late in the afternoon, and the tall trees shaded the path on which
they were traveling. The air was unusually chilly and after the heat
of midday they felt it.

"I don't feel like campin' out to-night," said Bickford. "It's too

"I don't think we shall find any hotels about here," said Joe.

"Don't look like it. I'd like to be back in Pumpkin Hollow just for
to-night. How fur is it to the mines, do you calc'late?"

"We are probably about half-way. We ought to reach the Yuba River
inside of a week."

Here Mr. Bickford's mustang deliberately stopped and began to survey
the scenery calmly.

"What do you mean, you pesky critter?" demanded Joshua.

The mustang turned his head and glanced composedly at the burden he
was carrying.

"G'lang!" said Joshua, and he brought down his whip on the flanks of
the animal.

It is not in mustang nature to submit to such an outrage without
expressing proper resentment. The animal threw up its hind legs,
lowering its head at the same time, and Joshua Bickford, describing a
sudden somersault, found himself sitting down on the ground a few
feet in front of his horse, not seriously injured, but considerably

"By gosh!" he ejaculated.

"Why didn't you tell me you were going to dismount, Mr. Bickford?"
asked Joe, his eyes twinkling with merriment.

"Because I didn't know it myself," said Joshua, rising and rubbing
his jarred frame.

The mustang did not offer to run away, but stood calmly surveying him
as if it had had nothing to do with his rider's sudden dismounting.

"Darn the critter! He looks just as if nothing had happened," said
Joshua. "He served me a mean trick."

"It was a gentle hint that he was tired," said Joe.

"Darn the beast! I don't like his hints," said Mr. Bickford.

He prepared to mount the animal, but the latter rose on its hind legs
and very clearly intimated that the proposal was not agreeable.

"What's got into the critter?" said Joshua.

"He wants to rest. Suppose we rest here for half-an-hour, while we
loosen check-rein and let the horses graze."

"Just as you say."

Joshua's steed appeared pleased with the success of his little hint
and lost no time in availing himself of the freedom accorded him.

"I wish I was safe at the mines," said Joshua. "What would dad say
if he knowed where I was, right out here in the wilderness? It looks
as we might be the only human critters in the world. There ain't no
house in sight, nor any signs of man's ever bein' here."

"So we can fancy how Adam felt when he was set down in Paradise,"
said Joe.

"I guess he felt kinder lonely."

"Probably he did, till Eve came. He had Eve, and I have you for

"I guess Eve wasn't much like me," said Joshua, with a grin.

He was lying at full length on the greensward, looking awkward and
ungainly enough, but his countenance, homely as it was, looked honest
and trustworthy, and Joe preferred his company to that of many
possessed of more outward polish. He could not help smiling at Mr.
Bickford's remark.

"Probably Eve was not as robust as you are," he replied, "I doubt if
she were as tall, either. But as to loneliness, it is better to be
lonely than to have some company."

"There ain't no suspicious characters round, are there?" inquired
Joshua anxiously.

"We are liable to meet them--men who have been unsuccessful at the
mines and who have become desperate in consequence, and others who
came out here to prey upon others. That's what I hear."

"Do you think we shall meet any of the critters?" asked Joshua.

"I hope not. They wouldn't find it very profitable to attack us. We
haven't much money."

"I haven't," said Joshua. "I couldn't have got to the mines if you
hadn't lent me a few dollars."

"You have your animal. You can sell him for something."

"If he agrees to carry me so far," said Mr. Bickford, gazing
doubtfully at the mustang, who was evidently enjoying his evening

"Oh, a hearty meal will make him good-natured. That is the way it
acts with boys and men, and animals are not so very different."

"I guess you're right," said Joshua. "When I wanted to get a favor
out of dad, I always used to wait till the old man had got his belly
full. That made him kinder good-natured."

"I see you understand human nature, Mr. Bickford," said Joe.

"I guess I do," said Joshua complacently. "Great Jehoshaphat, who's

Joe raised his head and saw riding toward them a man who might have
sat for the photograph of a bandit without any alteration in his
countenance or apparel. He wore a red flannel shirt, pants of rough
cloth, a Mexican sombrero, had a bowie-knife stuck in his girdle, and
displayed a revolver rather ostentatiously. His hair, which he wore
long, was coarse and black, and he had a fierce mustache.

"Is he a robber?" asked Joshua uneasily.

"Even if he is," said Joe, "we are two to one. I dare say he's all
right, but keep your weapon ready."

Though Joe was but a boy and Bickford a full-grown man, from the
outset he had assumed the command of the party, and issued directions
which his older companion followed implicitly. The explanation is
that Joe had a mind of his own, and decided promptly what was best to
be done, while his long-limbed associate was duller witted and

Joe and Joshua maintained their sitting position till the stranger
was within a rod or two, when he hailed them.

"How are ye, strangers?" he said.

"Pretty comfortable," said Joshua, reassured by his words. "How fare

"You're a Yank, ain't you?" said the newcomer, disregarding Joshua's

"I reckon so. Where might you hail from?"

"I'm from Pike County, Missouri," was the answer. "You've heard of
Pike, hain't you?"

"I don't know as I have," said Mr. Bickford.

The stranger frowned.

"You must have been born in the woods not to have heard of Pike
County," he said. "The smartest fighters come from Pike. I kin whip
my weight in wildcats, am a match for a dozen Indians to onst, and
can tackle a lion without flinchin'."

"Sho!" said Joshua, considerably impressed.

"Won't you stop and rest with us?" said Joe politely.

"I reckon I will," said the Pike man, getting off his beast. "You
don't happen to have a bottle of whisky with you, strangers?"

"No," said Joe.

The newcomer looked disappointed.

"I wish you had," said he. "I feel as dry as a tinder-box. Where
might you be travelin'?"

"We are bound for the mines on the Yuba River."

"That's a long way off."

"Yes, it's four or five days' ride."

"I've been there, and I don't like it. It's too hard work for a

This was uttered in such a magnificent tone of disdain that Joe was
rather amused at the fellow. In his red shirt and coarse breeches,
and brown, not overclean skin, he certainly didn't look much like a
gentleman in the conventional sense of that term.

"It's all well enough to be a gentleman if you've got money to fall
back on," remarked Joshua sensibly.

"Is that personal?" demanded the Pike County man, frowning and half

"It's personal to me," said Joshua quietly.

"I accept the apology," said the newcomer, sinking back upon the turf.

"I hain't apologized, as I'm aware," said Joshua, who was no craven.

"You'd better not rile me, stranger," said the Pike man fiercely.
"You don't know me, you don't. I'm a rip-tail roarer, I am. I
always kill a man who insults me."

"So do we," said Joe quietly.

The Pike County man looked at Joe in some surprise. He had expected
to frighten the boy with his bluster, but it didn't seem to produce
the effect intended.



Mr. Bickford also seemed a little surprised at Joe's coolness.
Though not a coward in the face of danger, he had been somewhat
impressed by the fierce aspect of the man from Pike County, and
really looked upon him as a reckless daredevil who was afraid of
nothing. Joe judged him more truly. He decided that a man who
boasted so loudly was a sham. If he had talked less, he would have
feared him more.

After his last bloodthirsty declaration the man from Pike County
temporarily subsided.

He drew out from his pocket a greasy pack of cards, and after
skilfully shuffling them inquired:

"What do you say, strangers, to a little game to pass away the time?"

"I never played keards in my life," said Joshua Bickford.

"Where was you raised?" demanded the Pike man contemptuously.

"Pumpkin Hollow, State o' Maine," said Joshua. "Dad's an orthodox
deacon. He never let any of us play keards. I don't know one from

"I'll learn you," said the Pike man condescendingly. "Suppose we
have a game of poker?"

"Ain't that a gambling' game?" inquired Joshua.

"We always play for something," said the Pike man. "It's dern
foolishness playin' for nothing. Shall we have a game?"

He looked at Joe as he spoke.

"I don't care to play," said our hero. "I don't know much about
cards, and I don't want to play for money."

"That's dern foolishness," said the stranger, whose object it was to
clean out his new friends, being an expert gambler.

"Perhaps it is," said Joe, "but I only speak for myself. Mr.
Bickford may feel differently."

"Will you take a hand, Bickford?" asked the Pike man, thinking it
possible that Joshua might have some money of which he could relieve

"You kin show me how to play if you want to," said Joshua, "but I
won't gamble any."

The Pike man put up his pack of cards in disgust.

"Derned if I ever met sich fellers!" he said. "You're Methodists,
ain't you?"

"We generally decline doing what we don't want to do," said Joe.

"Look here, boy," blustered the Pike man, "I reckon you don't know
me. I'm from Pike County, Missouri, I am. I'm a rip-tail roarer, I
am. I kin whip my weight in wildcats."

"You told us that afore," said Joshua placidly.

"Derned if I don't mean it, too!" exclaimed the Pike County man, with
a fierce frown. "Do you know how I served a man last week?"

"No. Tell us, won't you?" said Joshua.

"We was ridin' together over in Alameda County. We'd met
permiscuous, like we've met to-day. I was tellin' him how four b'ars
attacked me once, and I fit 'em all single-handed, when he laughed,
and said he reckoned I'd been drinkin' and saw double. If he'd
knowed me better, he wouldn't have done it."

"What did you do?" asked Joshua, interested.

Joe, who was satisfied that the fellow was romancing, did not exhibit
any interest.

"What did I do?" echoed the Pike County man fiercely. "I told him he
didn't know the man he insulted. I told him I was from Pike County,
Missouri, and that I was a rip-tail roarer."

"And could whip your weight in wildcats," suggested Joe.

The Pike man appeared irritated.

"Don't interrupt me, boy," he said. "It ain't healthy."

"After you'd made them remarks what did you do?" inquired Joshua.

"I told him he'd insulted me and must fight. I always do that."

"Did he fight?"

"He had to."

"How did it come out?"

"I shot him through the heart," said the man from Pike County
fiercely. "His bones are bleaching in the valley where he fell."

"Sho!" said Joshua.

The Pike County man looked from one to the other to see what effect
had been produced by his blood-curdling narration. Joshua looked
rather perplexed, as if he didn't quite know what to think, but Joe
seemed tranquil.

"I think you said it happened last week," said Joe.

"If I said so, it is so," said the Pike man, who in truth did not
remember what time he had mentioned.

"I don't question that. I was only wondering how his bones could
begin to bleach so soon after he was killed."

"Just so," said Joshua, to whom this difficulty had not presented
itself before.

"Do you doubt my word, stranger?" exclaimed the Pike man, putting his
hand to his side and fingering his knife.

"Not at all," said Joe. "But I wanted to understand how it was."

"I don't give no explanations," said the Pike man haughtily, "and I
allow no man to doubt my word."

"Look here, my friend," said Joshua, "ain't you rather cantankerous?"

"What's that?" demanded the other suspiciously.

"No offense," said Joshua, "but you take a feller up so we don't know
exactly how to talk to you."

"I take no insults," said the Pike man. "Insults must be washed out
in blood."

"Soap-suds is better than blood for washin' purposes," said Joshua
practically. "Seems to me you're spoilin' for a fight all the time."

"I allow I am," said the Pike man, who regarded this as a compliment.
"I was brought up on fightin'. When I was a boy I could whip any boy
in school."

"That's why they called you a rip-tail roarer, I guess," said Joshua.

"You're right, stranger," said the Pike man complacently.

"What did you do when the teacher give you a lickin'?" asked Mr.

"What did I do?" yelled the Pike County man, with a demoniac frown.

"Exactly so."

"I shot him!" said the Pike man briefly.

"Sho! How many teachers did you shoot when you was a boy?"

"Only one. The rest heard of it and never dared touch me."

"So you could play hookey and cut up all you wanted to?"

"You're right, stranger."

"They didn't manage that way at Pumpkin Hollow," said Mr. Bickford.
"Boys ain't quite so handy with shootin'-irons. When the master
flogged us we had to stand it."

"Were you afraid of him?" asked the Pike man disdainfully.

"Well, I was," Joshua admitted. "He was a big man with arms just
like flails, and the way he used to pound us was a caution."

"I'd have shot him in his tracks," said the Pike man fiercely.

"You'd have got a wallopin' fust, I reckon," said Joshua.

"Do you mean to insult me?" demanded the Pike man.

"Oh, lay down, and don't be so cantankerous," said Joshua. "You're
allus thinkin' of bein' insulted."

"We may as well be going," said Joe, who was thoroughly disgusted
with their new companion.

"Just as you say, Joe," said Joshua. "Here, you pesky critter, come
and let me mount you."

The mustang realized Joe's prediction. After his hearty supper he
seemed to be quite tractable and permitted Mr. Bickford to mount him
without opposition.

Joe also mounted his horse.

"I'll ride along with you if you've no objections," said the Pike
man. "We kin camp together to-night."

So saying, he too mounted the sorry-looking steed which he had
recently dismounted.

Joe was not hypocrite enough to say that he was welcome. He thought
it best to be candid.

"If you are quite convinced that neither of us wishes to insult you,"
he said quietly, "you can join us. If you are bent on quarreling,
you had better ride on by yourself."

The Pike man frowned fiercely.

"Boy," he said, "I have shot a man for less than that."

"I carry a revolver," said Joe quietly, "but I shan't use it unless
it is necessary. If you are so easily offended, you'd better ride on

This the Pike man did not care to do.

"You're a strange boy," he said, "but I reckon you're on the square.
I'll go along with you."

"I would rather you'd leave us," thought Joe, but he merely said:
"Very well."



They rode on for about an hour and a half. Joshua's steed, placated
by his good supper, behaved very well. Their ride was still through
the canon. Presently it became too dark for them to proceed.

"Ain't we gone about fur enough for to-night?" asked Joshua.

"Perhaps we have," answered Joe.

"Here's a good place to camp," suggested the man from Pike County,
pointing to a small grove of trees to the right.

"Very well; let us dismount," said Joe. "I think we can pass the
night comfortably."

They dismounted, and tied their beasts together under one of the
trees. They then threw themselves down on a patch of greensward

"I'm gettin' hungry," said Joshua. "Ain't you, Joe?"

"Yes, Mr. Bickford. We may as well take supper."

Mr. Bickford produced a supper of cold, meat and bread, and placed it
between Joe and himself.

"Won't you share our supper?" said Joe to their companion.

"Thank ye, stranger, I don't mind if I do," answered the Pike man,
with considerable alacrity. "My fodder give out this mornin', and I
hain't found any place to stock up."

He displayed such an appetite that Mr. Bickford regarded him with
anxiety. They had no more than sufficient for themselves, and the
prospect of such a boarder was truly alarming.

"You have a healthy appetite, my friend," he said.

"I generally have," said the Pike man. "You'd orter have some
whisky, strangers, to wash it down with."

"I'd rather have a good cup of coffee sweetened with 'lasses, sech as
marm makes to hum," remarked Mr. Bickford.

"Coffee is for children, whisky for strong men," said the Roarer.

"I prefer the coffee," said Joe.

"Are you temperance fellers?" inquired the Pike man contemptuously.

"I am," said Joe.

"And I, too," said Joshua.

"Bah!" said the other disdainfully; "I'd as soon drink skim-milk.
Good whisky or brandy for me."

"I wish we was to your restaurant, Joe," said Joshua. "I kinder
hanker after some good baked beans. Baked beans and brown bread are
scrumptious. Ever eat 'em, stranger?"

"No," said the Pike man; "none of your Yankee truck for me."

"I guess you don't know what's good," said Mr. Bickford. "What's
your favorite vittles?"

"Bacon and hominy, hoe-cakes and whisky."

"Well," said Joshua, "it depends on the way a feller is brung up. I
go for baked beans and brown bread, and punkin pie--that's
goloptious. Ever eat punkin pie, stranger?"


"Like it?"

"I don't lay much on it."

Supper was over and other subjects succeeded. The Pike County man
became social.

"Strangers," said he, "did you ever hear of the affair I had with
Jack Scott?"

"No," said Joshua. "Spin it off, will you?"

"Jack and me used to be a heap together. We went huntin' together,
camped out for weeks together, and was like two brothers. One day we
was ridin' out, when a deer started up fifty rods ahead. We both
raised our guns and shot at him. There was only one bullet into him,
and I knowed that was mine."

"How did you know it?" inquired Joshua.

"Don't you get curious, stranger. I knowed it, and that was enough.
But Jack said it was his. 'It's my deer,' he said, 'for you missed
your shot.' 'Look here, Jack,' said I, 'you're mistaken. You missed
it. Don't you think I know my own bullet?' 'No, I don't,' said he.
'Jack,' said I calmly, 'don't talk that way. It's dangerous.' 'Do
you think I'm afraid of you?' he said, turning on me. 'Jack,' said
I, 'don't provoke me. I can whip my weight in wildcats.' 'You can't
whip me,' said he. That was too much for me to stand. I'm the
Rip-tail Roarer from Pike County, Missouri, and no man can insult me
and live. 'Jack,' said I, 'we've been friends, but you've insulted
me, and it must be washed out in blood.' Then I up with my we'pon and
shot him through the head."

"Sho!" said Joshua.

"I was sorry to do it, for he was my friend," said the Pike County
man, "but he disputed my word, and the man that does that may as well
make his will if he's got any property to leave."

Here the speaker looked to see what effect was produced upon his
listeners. Joe seemed indifferent. He saw through the fellow, and
did not credit a word he said. Joshua had been more credulous at
first, but he, too, began to understand the man from Pike County.
The idea occurred to him to pay him back in his own coin.

"Didn't the relatives make any fuss about it?" he inquired. "Didn't
they arrest you for murder?"

"They didn't dare to," said the Pike man proudly. "They knew me.
They knew I could whip my weight in wildcats and wouldn't let no man
insult me."

"Did you leave the corpse lyin' out under the trees?" asked Joshua.

"I rode over to Jack's brother and told him what I had done, and
where he'd find the body. He went and buried it."

"What about the deer?"

"What deer?"

"The deer you killed and your friend claimed?"

"Oh," said the Pike man, with sudden recollection, "I told Jack's
brother he might have it."

"Now, that was kinder handsome, considerin' you'd killed your friend
on account of it."

"There ain't nothin' mean about me," said the man from Pike County.

"I see there ain't," said Mr. Bickford dryly. "It reminds me of a
little incident in my own life. I'll tell you about it, if you
hain't any objection."

"Go ahead. It's your deal."

"You see, the summer I was eighteen, my cousin worked for dad hayin'
time. He was a little older'n me, and he had a powerful appetite,
Bill had. If it wasn't for that, he'd 'a' been a nice feller enough,
but at the table he always wanted more than his share of wittles.
Now, that ain't fair, no ways--think it is, stranger?"

"No! Go ahead with your story."

"One day we sat down to dinner. Marm had made some apple-dumplin'
that day, and 'twas good, you bet. Well, I see Bill a-eyin' the
dumplin' as he shoveled in the meat and pertaters, and I knowed he
meant to get more'n his share. Now, I'm fond of dumplin' as well as
Bill, and I didn't like it. Well, we was both helped and went to
eatin'. When I was half through I got up to pour out some water.
When I cum back to the table Bill had put away his plate, which he
had cleaned off, and was eatin' my dumplin'."

"What did you say?" inquired the gentleman from Pike, interested.

"I said: 'Bill, you're my cousin, but you've gone too fur.' He
laffed, and we went into the field together to mow. He was just
startin' on his swath when I cum behind him and cut his head clean
off with my scythe."

Joe had difficulty in suppressing his laughter, but Mr. Bickford
looked perfectly serious.

"Why, that was butchery!" exclaimed the Pike man, startled. "Cut off
his head with a scythe?"

"I hated to, bein' as he was my cousin," said Joshua, "but I couldn't
have him cum any of them tricks on me. I don't see as it's any wuss
than shootin' a man."

"What did you do with his body?" asked Joe, commanding his voice.

"Bein' as 'twas warm weather, I thought I'd better bury him at once."

"Were you arrested?"

"Yes, and tried for murder, but my lawyer proved that I was crazy
when I did it, and so I got off."

"Do such things often happen at the North?" asked the Pike County man.

"Not so often as out here and down South, I guess," said Joshua.
"It's harder to get off. Sometimes a man gets hanged up North for
handlin' his gun too careless."

"Did you ever kill anybody else?" asked the Pike man, eying Joshua
rather uneasily.

"No," said Mr. Bickford. "I shot one man in the leg and another in
the arm, but that warn't anything serious."

It was hard to disbelieve Joshua, he spoke with such apparent
frankness and sincerity. The man from Pike County was evidently
puzzled, and told no more stories of his own prowess. Conversation,
died away, and presently all three were asleep.



The Pike County man was the first to fall asleep. Joe and Mr.
Bickford lay about a rod distant from him. When their new comrade's
regular breathing, assured Joe that he was asleep, he said:

"Mr. Bickford, what do you think of this man who has joined us?"

"I think he's the biggest liar I ever set eyes on," said Joshua

"Then you don't believe his stories?"

"No--do you?"

"I believe them as much as that yarn of yours about your Cousin
Bill," returned Joe, laughing.

"I wanted to give him as good as he sent. I didn't want him to do
all the lyin'."

"And you a deacon's son!" exclaimed Joe, in comic expostulation.

"I don't know what the old man would have said if he'd heard me, or
Cousin Bill, either."

"Then one part is true--you have a Cousin Bill?"

"That isn't the only part that's true; he did help me and dad hayin'."

"But his head is still safe on his shoulders?"

"I hope so."

"I don't think we can find as much truth in the story of our friend
over yonder."

"Nor I. If there was a prize offered for tall lyin' I guess he'd
stand a good chance to get it."

"Do you know, Joshua, fire-eater as he is, I suspect that he is a

"You do?"

"Yes, and I have a mind to put him to the test."

"How will you do it?"

"One day an old hunter came into my restaurant, and kept coming for a
week. He was once taken prisoner by the Indians, and remained in
their hands for three months. He taught me the Indian war-whoop, and
out of curiosity I practised it till I can do it pretty well."

"What's your plan?"

"To have you fire off your gun so as to wake him up. Then I will
give a loud war-whoop and see how it affects the gentleman from Pike

"He may shoot us before he finds out the deception."

"It will be well first to remove his revolver to make all safe. I
wish you could give the war-whoop, too. It would make a louder

"How do you do it?"

Joe explained.

"I guess I can do it. You start it, and I'll j'in in, just as I used
to do in singin' at meetin'. I never could steer through a tune
straight by myself, but when the choir got to goin', I helped 'em all
I could."

"I guess you can do it. Now let us make ready."

The Pike County man's revolver was removed while he was unconsciously
sleeping. Then Joshua and our hero ensconced themselves behind
trees, and the Yankee fired his gun.

The Pike man started up, still half asleep and wholly bewildered,
when within a rod of him he heard the dreadful war-whoop. Then
another more discordant voice took up the fearful cry. Joshua did
very well considering that it was his first attempt.

Then the man from Pike County sprang to his feet. If it had been
daylight, his face would have been seen to wear a pale and scared
expression. It did not appear to occur to him to make a stand
against the savage foes who he felt convinced were near at hand. He
stood not on the order of going, but went at once. He quickly
unloosed his beast, sprang upon his back, and galloped away without
apparently giving a thought to the companions with whom he had camped

When he was out of hearing Joe and Bickford shouted with laughter.

"You see I was right," said Joe. "The man's a coward."

"He seemed in a hurry to get away," said Joshua dryly. "He's the
biggest humbug out."

"I thought so as soon as he began to brag so much."

"I believed his yarns at first," admitted Joshua. "I thought he was
rather a dangerous fellow to travel with."

"He looked like a desperado, certainly," said Joe, "but appearances
are deceitful. It's all swagger and no real courage."

"Well, what shall we do now, Joe?"

"Lie down again and go to sleep."

"The man's gone off without his revolver."

"He'll be back for it within a day or two. We shall be sure to fall
in with him again. I shan't lose my sleep worrying about him."

The two threw themselves once more on the ground, and were soon fast

* * * * *

Joe proved to be correct in his prediction concerning the
reappearance of their terrified companion.

The next morning, when they were sitting at breakfast--that is,
sitting under a tree with their repast spread out on a paper between
them--the man from Pike County rode up. He looked haggard, as well
he might, not having ventured to sleep for fear of the Indians, and
his horse seemed weary and dragged out.

"Where have you been?" asked Mr. Bickford innocently.

"Chasin' the Indians," said the Rip-tail Roarer, swinging himself
from his saddle.

"Sho! Be there any Indians about here?"

"Didn't you hear them last night?" inquired the man from Pike.


"Nor you?" turning to Joe.

"I heard nothing of any Indians," replied Joe truthfully.

"Then all I can say is, strangers, that you sleep uncommon sound."

"Nothing wakes me up," said Bickford. "What about them Indians? Did
you railly see any?"

"I rather think I did," said the man from Pike. "It couldn't have
been much after midnight when I was aroused by their war-whoop.
Starting up, I saw twenty of the red devils riding through the canon."

"Were you afraid?"

"Afraid!" exclaimed the man from Pike contemptuously. "The Rip-tail
Roarer knows not fear. I can whip my weight in wildcats------"

"Yes, I know you can," interrupted Joshua. "You told us so

The man from Pike seemed rather annoyed at the interruption, but as
Mr. Bickford appeared to credit his statement he had no excuse for

He proceeded.

"Instantly I sprung to the back of my steed and gave them chase."

"Did they see you?"

"They did."

"Why didn't they turn upon you? You said there were twenty of them."

"Why?" repeated the Pike man boastfully. "They were afraid. They
recognized me as the Rip-tail Roarer. They knew that I had sent more
than fifty Indians to the happy hunting-grounds, and alone as I was
they fled."


"Did you kill any of them?" asked Joe.

"When I was some distance on my way I found I had left my revolver
behind. Did you find it, stranger?"

"There it is," said Joshua, who had replaced it on the ground close
to where the Pike man had slept.

He took it with satisfaction and replaced it in his girdle.

"Then you didn't kill any?"

"No, but I drove them away. They won't trouble you any more."

"That's a comfort," said Joshua.

"Now, strangers, if you've got any breakfast to spare, I think I
could eat some."

"Set up, old man," said Mr. Bickford, with his mouth full.

The man from Pike did full justice to the meal. Then he asked his
two companions, as a favor, not to start for two hours, during which
he lay down and rested.

The three kept together that day, but did not accomplish as much
distance as usual, chiefly because of the condition of their
companion's horse.

At night they camped out again. In the morning an unpleasant
surprise awaited them. Their companion had disappeared, taking with
him Joshua's horse and leaving instead his own sorry nag. That was
not all. He had carried off their bag of provisions, and morning
found them destitute of food, with a hearty appetite and many miles
away, as they judged, from any settlement.

"The mean skunk!" said Joshua. "He's cleaned us out. What shall we

"I don't know," said Joe seriously.



The two friends felt themselves to be in a serious strait. The
exchange of horses was annoying, but it would only lengthen their
journey a little. The loss of their whole stock of provisions could
not so readily be made up.

"I feel holler," said Joshua. "I never could do much before
breakfast. I wish I'd eat more supper. I would have done it, only I
was afraid, by the way that skunk pitched into 'em, we wouldn't have
enough to last."

"You only saved them for him, it seems," said Joe. "He has certainly
made a poor return for our kindness."

"If I could only wring his neck, I wouldn't feel quite so hungry,"
said Joshua.

"Or cut his head off with a scythe," suggested Joe, smiling faintly.

"Danged if I wouldn't do it," said Mr. Bickford, hunger making him

"We may overtake him, Mr. Bickford."

"You may, Joe, but I can't. He's left me his horse, which is clean
tuckered out, and never was any great shakes to begin with. I don't
believe I can get ten miles out of him from now till sunset."

"We must keep together, no matter how slow we go. It won't do for us
to be parted."

"We shall starve together likely enough," said Joshua mournfully.

"I've heard that the French eat horse-flesh. If it comes to the
worst, we can kill your horse and try a horse-steak."

"It's all he's fit for, and he ain't fit for that. We'll move on for
a couple of hours and see if somethin' won't turn up. I tell you,
Joe, I'd give all the money I've got for some of marm's johnny-cakes.
It makes me feel hungrier whenever I think of 'em."

"I sympathize with you, Joshua," said Joe. "We may as well be movin'
on, as you suggest. We may come to some cabin, or party of

So they mounted their beasts and started. Joe went ahead, for his
animal was much better than the sorry nag which Mr. Bickford
bestrode. The latter walked along with an air of dejection, as if
life were a burden to him.

"If I had this critter at home, Joe, I'll tell you what I'd do with
him," said Mr. Bickford, after a pause.

"Well, what would you do with him?"

"I'd sell him to a sexton. He'd be a first-class animal to go to
funerals. No danger of his runnin' away with the hearse."

"You are not so hungry but you can joke, Joshua."

"It's no joke," returned Mr. Bickford. "If we don't raise a supply
of provisions soon, I shall have to attend my own funeral. My mind
keeps running on them johnny-cakes."

They rode on rather soberly, for the exercise and the fresh morning
air increased their appetites, which were keen when they started.

Mr. Bickford no longer felt like joking, and Joe at every step looked
anxiously around him, in the hope of espying relief.

On a sudden, Mr. Bickford rose in his Stirrups and exclaimed in a
tone of excitement:

"I see a cabin!"


"Yonder," said the Yankee, pointing to a one-story shanty, perhaps a
quarter of a mile away.

"Is it inhabited, I wonder?"

"I don't know. Let us go and see."

The two spurred their horses, and at length reached the rude building
which had inspired them with hope. The door was open, but no one was

Joshua was off his horse in a twinkling and peered in.

"Hooray!" he shouted in rejoicing accents. "Breakfast's ready."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I've found something to eat."

On a rude table was an earthen platter full of boiled rice and a
stale loaf beside it.

"Pitch in, Joe," said Joshua. "I'm as hungry as a wolf."

"This food belongs to somebody. I suppose we have no right to it."

"Right be hanged. A starving man has a right to eat whatever he can

"Suppose it belongs to a fire-eater, or a man from Pike County?"

"We'll eat first and fight afterward."

Joe did not feel like arguing the matter. There was an advocate
within him which forcibly emphasized Joshua's arguments, and he
joined in the banquet.

"This bread is dry as a chip," said Mr. Bickford. "But no matter. I
never thought dry bread would taste so good. I always thought rice
was mean vittles, but it goes to the right place just now."

"I wonder if any one will have to go hungry on our account?" said Joe.

"I hope not, but I can't help it," returned Mr. Bickford.
"Necessity's the fust law of nature, Joe. I feel twice as strong as
I did twenty minutes ago."

"There's nothing like a full stomach, Joshua. I wonder to whom we
are indebted for this repast?"

Joe was not long in having his query answered. An exclamation, as of
one startled, called the attention of the two friends to the doorway,
where, with a terrified face, stood a Chinaman, his broad face
indicating alarm.

"It's a heathen Chinee, by gosh!" exclaimed Joshua.

Even at that time Chinese immigrants had begun to arrive in San
Francisco, and the sight was not wholly new either to Joshua or Joe.

"Good morning, John," said our young hero pleasantly.

"Good morning, heathen," said Mr. Bickford. "We thought we'd come
round and make you a mornin' call. Is your family well?"

The Chinaman was reassured by the friendly tone of his visitors, and
ventured to step in. He at once saw that the food which he had
prepared for himself had disappeared.

"Melican man eat John's dinner," he remarked in a tone of

"So we have, John," said Mr. Bickford. "The fact is, we were
hungry--hadn't had any breakfast."

"Suppose Melican man eat--he pay," said the Chinaman.

"That's all right," said Joe; "we are willing to pay. How much do
you want?"

The Chinaman named his price, which was not unreasonable, and it was
cheerfully paid.

"Have you got some more bread and rice, John?" asked Mr. Bickford.
"We'd like to buy some and take it along."

They succeeded in purchasing a small supply--enough with economy to
last a day or two. This was felt as a decided relief. In two days
they might fall in with another party of miners or come across a

They ascertained on inquiry that the Chinaman and another of his
nationality had come out like themselves to search for gold. They
had a claim at a short distance from which they had obtained a small
supply of gold. The cabin they had found in its present condition.
It had been erected and deserted the previous year by a party of
white miners, who were not so easily satisfied as the two Chinamen.

"Well," said Joshua, after they had started on their way, "that's the
first time I ever dined at a Chinee hotel."

"We were lucky in coming across it," said Joe.

"The poor fellow looked frightened when he saw us gobblin' up his
provisions," said Mr. Bickford, laughing at the recollection.

"But we left him pretty well satisfied. We didn't treat him as the
gentleman from Pike treated us."

"No--I wouldn't be so mean as that darned skunk. It makes me mad
whenever I look at this consumptive boss he's left behind."

"You didn't make much out of that horse trade, Mr. Bickford."

"I didn't, but I'll get even with him some time if we ever meet

"Do you know where he was bound?"

"No--he didn't say."

"I dare say it'll all come right in the end. At any rate, we shan't
starve for the next forty-eight hours."

So in better spirits the two companions kept on their way.



On the following day Joe and his comrade fell in with a party of men
who, like themselves, were on their way to the Yuba River. They were
permitted to join them, and made an arrangement for a share of the
provisions. This removed all anxiety and insured their reaching
their destination without further adventure.

The banks of the Yuba presented a busy and picturesque appearance.
On the banks was a line of men roughly clad, earnestly engaged in
scooping out gravel and pouring it into a rough cradle, called a
rocker. This was rocked from side to side until the particles of
gold, if there were any, settled at the bottom and were picked out
and gathered into bags. At the present time there are improved
methods of separating gold from the earth, but the rocker is still
employed by Chinese miners.

In the background were tents and rude cabins, and there was the
unfailing accessory of a large mining camp, the gambling tent, where
the banker, like a wily spider, lay in wait to appropriate the
hard-earned dust of the successful miner.

Joe and his friend took their station a few rods from the river and
gazed at the scene before them.

"Well, Mr. Bickford," said Joe, "the time has come when we are to try
our luck."

"Yes," said Joshua. "Looks curious, doesn't it? If I didn't know,
I'd think them chaps fools, stoopin' over there and siftin' mud. It
'minds me of when I was a boy and used to make dirt pies."

"Suppose we take a day and look round a little. Then we can find out
about how things are done, and work to better advantage."

"Just as you say, Joe, I must go to work soon, for I hain't nary red."

"I'll stand by you, Mr. Bickford."

"You're a fust-rate feller, Joe. You seem to know just what to do."

"It isn't so long since I was a greenhorn and allowed myself to be
taken in by Hogan."

"You've cut your eye-teeth since then."

"I have had some experience of the world, but I may get taken in

Joe and his friend found the miners social and very ready to give
them information.

"How much do I make a day?" said one in answer to a question from
Joshua. "Well, it varies. Sometimes I make ten dollars, and from
that all the way up to twenty-five. Once I found a piece worth fifty
dollars. I was in luck then."

"I should say you were," said Mr. Bickford. "The idea of findin'
fifty dollars in the river. It looks kind of strange, don't it, Joe?"

"Are any larger pieces ever found here?" asked Joe.


"I have seen larger nuggets on exhibition in San Francisco, worth
several hundred dollars. Are any such to be found here?"

"Generally they come from the dry diggings. We don't often find such
specimens in the river washings. But these are more reliable."

"Can a man save money here?"

"If he'll be careful of what he gets. But much of our dust goes

He pointed, as he spoke, to a small cabin, used as a store and
gambling den at one and the same time. There in the evening the
miners collected, and by faro, poker, or monte managed to lose all
that they had washed out during the day.

"That's the curse of our mining settlement," said their informant.
"But for the temptations which the gaming-house offers, many whom you
see working here would now be on their way home with a comfortable
provision for their families. I never go there, but then I am in the

"What did you used to do when you was to hum?" inquired Joshua, who
was by nature curious and had no scruples about gratifying his

"I used to keep school winters. In the spring and summer I assisted
my father on his farm down in Maine."

"You don't say you're from Maine? Why, I'm from Maine myself,"
remarked Joshua.

"Indeed! Whereabouts in Maine did you live?"

"Pumpkin Hollow."

"I kept school in Pumpkin Hollow one winter."

"You don't say so? What is your name?" inquired Joshua earnestly.

"John Kellogg."

"I thought so!" exclaimed Mr. Bickford, excited.

"Why, I used to go to school to you, Mr. Kellogg."

"It is nine years ago, and you must have changed so much that I
cannot call you to mind."

"Don't you remember a tall, slab-sided youngster of thirteen, that
used to stick pins into your chair for you to set on?"

Kellogg smiled.

"Surely you are not Joshua Bickford?" he said.

"Yes, I am. I am that same identical chap."

"I am glad to see you, Mr. Bickford," said his old school-teacher,
grasping Joshua's hand cordially.

"It seems kinder queer for you to call me Mr. Bickford."

"I wasn't so ceremonious in the old times," said Kellogg.

"No, I guess not. You'd say, 'Come here, Joshua,' and you'd jerk me
out of my seat by the collar. 'Did you stick that pin in my chair?'
That's the way you used to talk. And then you'd give me an all-fired

Overcome by the mirthful recollections, Joshua burst into an
explosive fit of laughter, in which presently he was joined by Joe
and his old teacher.

"I hope you've forgiven me for those whippings, Mr. Bickford."

"They were jest what I needed, Mr. Kellogg. I was a lazy young
rascal, as full of mischief as a nut is of meat. You tanned my hide

"You don't seem to be any the worse for it now."

"I guess not. I'm pretty tough. I say, Mr. Kellogg," continued
Joshua, with a grin, "you'd find it a harder job to give me a lickin'
now than you did then."

"I wouldn't undertake it now. I am afraid you could handle me."

"It seems cur'us, don't it, Joe?" said Joshua. "When Mr. Kellogg
used to haul me round the schoolroom, it didn't seem as if I could
ever be a match for him."

"We change with the passing years," said Kellogg, in a moralizing
tone, which recalled his former vocation. "Now you are a man, and we
meet here on the other side of the continent, on the banks of the
Yuba River. I hope we are destined to be successful."

"I hope so, too," said Joshua, "for I'm reg'larly cleaned out."

"If I can help you any in the sway of information, I shall be glad to
do so."

Joe and Bickford took him at his word and made many inquiries,
eliciting important information.

The next day they took their places farther down the river and
commenced work.

Their inexperience at first put them at a disadvantage, They were
awkward and unskilful, as might have been expected. Still, at the
end of the first day each had made about five dollars.

"That's something," said Joe.

"If I could have made five dollars in one day in Pumpkin Hollow,"
said Mr. Bickford, "I would have felt like a rich man. Here it costs
a feller so much to live that he don't think much of it."

"We shall improve as we go along. Wait till to-morrow night."

The second day brought each about twelve dollars, and Joshua felt

"I'm gettin' the hang of it," said he. "As soon as I've paid up what
I owe you, I'll begin to lay by somethin'."

"I don't want you to pay me till you are worth five hundred dollars,
Mr. Bickford. The sum is small, and I don't need it."

"Thank you, Joe. You're a good friend. I'll stick by you if you
ever want help."

In the evening the camp presented a lively appearance.

When it was chilly, logs would be brought from the woods, and a
bright fire would be lighted, around which the miners would sit and
talk of home and their personal adventures and experiences. One
evening Mr. Bickford and Joe were returning from a walk, when, as
they approached the camp-fire, they heard a voice that sounded
familiar, and caught these words:

"I'm from Pike County, Missouri, gentlemen. They call me the
Rip-tail Roarer. I can whip my weight in wildcats."

"By gosh!" exclaimed Joshua, "if it ain't that skunk from Pike. I
mean to tackle him."



The gentleman from Pike was sitting on a log, surrounded by miners,
to whom he was relating his marvelous exploits. The number of
Indians, grizzly bears, and enemies generally, which, according to
his account, he had overcome and made way with, was simply enormous.
Hercules was nothing to him. It can hardly be said that his
listeners credited his stories. They had seen enough of life to be
pretty good judges of human nature, and regarded them as romances
which served to while away the time.

"It seems to me, my friend," said Kellogg, who, it will be
remembered, had been a schoolmaster, "that you are a modern Hercules."

"Who's he?" demanded the Pike man suspiciously, for he had never
heard of the gentleman referred to.

"He was a great hero of antiquity," exclaimed Kellogg, "who did many
wonderful feats."

"That's all right, then," said the Pike man. "If you're friendly,
then I'm friendly. But if any man insults me he'll find he's tackled
the wrong man. I can whip my weight in wildcats------"

Here he was subjected to an interruption.

Mr. Bickford could no longer suppress his indignation when at a
little distance he saw his mustang, which this treacherous braggart
had robbed him of, quietly feeding.

"Look here, old Rip-tail, or whatever you call yourself, I've got an
account to settle with you."

The Pike man started as he heard Mr. Bickford's voice, which, being
of a peculiar nasal character, he instantly recognized. He felt that
the meeting was an awkward one, and he would willingly have avoided
it. He decided to bluff Joshua off if possible, and, as the best way
of doing it, to continue his game of brag.

"Who dares to speak to me thus?" he demanded with a heavy frown,
looking in the opposite direction. "Who insults the Rip-tail Roarer?"

"Look this way if you want to see him," said Joshua. "Put on your
specs if your eyes ain't good."

The man from Pike could no longer evade looking at his late comrade.
He pretended not to know him.

"Stranger," said he, with one hand on the handle of his knife, "are
you tired of life?"

"I am neither tired of life nor afraid of you," said Joshua manfully.

"You don't know me, or------"

"Yes, I do. You're the man that says he can whip his weight in
wildcats. I don't believe you dare to face your weight in tame cats."

"Sdeath!" roared the bully. "Do you want to die on the spot?"

"Not particularly, old Rip-tail. Don't talk sech nonsense. I'll
trouble you to tell me why you stole my horse on the way out here."

"Let me get at him," said the Pike man in a terrible voice, but not
offering to get up from the log.

"Nobody henders your gettin' at me," said Mr. Bickford composedly.
"But that ain't answerin' my question."

"If I didn't respect them two gentlemen too much, I'd shoot you where
you stand," said the Pike man.

"I've got a shootin'-iron myself, old Rip-tail, and I'm goin' to use
it if necessary."

"What have you to say in answer to this man's charge?" asked one of
the miners, a large man who was looked upon as the leader of the
company. "He charges you with taking his horse."

"He lies!" said the man from Pike.

"Be keerful, old Rip-tail," said Mr. Bickford in a warning tone. "I
don't take sass any more than you do."

"I didn't steal your horse."

"No, you didn't exactly steal it, but you took it without leave and
left your own bag of bones in his place. But that wasn't so bad as
stealin' all our provisions and leavin' us without a bite, out in the
wilderness. That's what I call tarnation mean."

"What have you to say to these charges?" asked the mining leader

"Say? I say that man is mistaken. I never saw him before in my

"Well, that's cheeky," said Joshua, aghast at the man's impudence.
"Why, I know you as well as if we'd been to school together. You are
the Rip-tail Roarer. You are from Pike County, Missouri, you are.
You can whip your weight in wildcats. That's he, gentlemen. I leave
it to you."

In giving the description, Joshua imitated the boastful accents of
his old comrade with such success that the assembled miners laughed
and applauded.

"That's he! You've got him!" they cried.

"Just hear that, old Rip-tail," said Mr. Bickford. "You see these
gentlemen here believe me and they don't believe you."

"There's a man in this here country that looks like me," said the
Pike man, with a lame excuse. "You've met him, likely."

"That won't go down, old Rip-tail. There ain't but one man can whip
his weight in wildcats and tell the all-firedest yarns out. That's
you, and there ain't no gettin' round it."

"This is a plot, gentlemen," said the man from Pike, glancing
uneasily at the faces around him, in which he read disbelief of his
statements. "My word is as good as his."

"Maybe it is," said Mr. Bickford. "I'll call another witness. Joe,
jest tell our friends here what you know about the gentleman from
Pike. If I'm lyin', say so, and I'll subside and never say another
word about it."

"All that my friend Bickford says is perfectly true," said Joe
modestly. "This man partook of our hospitality and then repaid us by
going off early one morning when we were still asleep, carrying off
all our provisions and exchanging his own worn-out horse for my
friend's mustang, which was a much better animal."

The man from Pike had not at first seen Joe. His countenance fell
when he saw how Mr. Bickford's case was strengthened, and for the
moment he could not think of a word to say.

"You are sure this is the man, Joe?" asked, the leader of the miners.

"Yes, I will swear to it. He is not a man whom it is easy to

"I believe you. Gentlemen," turning to the miners who were sitting
or standing about him, "do you believe this stranger or our two

The reply was emphatic, and the man from Pike saw that he was

"Gentlemen," he said, rising, "you are mistaken, and I am the victim
of a plot. It isn't pleasant to stay where I am suspected, and I'll

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