The Border Legion (Chapter 7, page 2 of 6)


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Chapter 7

Kells had been rapidly gaining strength since the extraction of the
bullet, and it was evident that his interest was growing
proportionately. He asked questions and received most of his replies
from Red Pearce. Joan did not listen attentively at first, but
presently she regretted that she had not. She gathered that Kells's
fame as the master bandit of the whole gold region of Idaho, Nevada,
and northeastern California was a fame that he loved as much as the
gold he stole. Joan sensed, through the replies of these men and
their attitude toward Kells, that his power was supreme. He ruled
the robbers and ruffians in his bands, and evidently they were
scattered from Bannack to Lewiston and all along the border. He had
power, likewise, over the border hawks not directly under his
leadership. During the weeks of his enforced stay in the canon there
had been a cessation of operations--the nature of which Joan merely
guessed--and a gradual accumulation of idle wailing men in the main
camp. Also she gathered, but vaguely, that though Kells had supreme
power, the organization he desired was yet far from being
consummated. He showed thoughtfulness and irritation by turns, and
it was the subject of gold that drew his intensest interest.

"Reckon you figgered right, Jack," said Red Pearce, and paused as if
before a long talk, while he refilled his pipe. "Sooner or later
there'll be the biggest gold strike ever made in the West. Wagon-
trains are met every day comin' across from Salt Lake. Prospectors
are workin' in hordes down from Bannack. All the gulches an' valleys
in the Bear Mountains have their camps. Surface gold everywhere an'
easy to get where there's water. But there's diggin's all over. No
big strike yet. It's bound to come sooner or later. An' then when
the news hits the main-traveled roads an' reaches back into the
mountains there's goin' to be a rush that'll make '49 an' '51 look
sick. What do you say, Bate?"

"Shore will," replied a grizzled individual whom Kells had called
Bate Wood. He was not so young as his companions, more sober, less
wild, and slower of speech. "I saw both '49 and '51. Them was days!
But I'm agreein' with Red. There shore will be hell on this Idaho
border sooner or later. I've been a prospector, though I never
hankered after the hard work of diggin' gold. Gold is hard to dig,
easy to lose, an' easy to get from some other feller. I see the
signs of a comin' strike somewhere in this region. Mebbe it's on
now. There's thousands of prospectors in twos an' threes an' groups,
out in the hills all over. They ain't a-goin' to tell when they do
make a strike. But the gold must be brought out. An' gold is heavy.
It ain't easy hid. Thet's how strikes are discovered. I shore reckon
thet this year will beat '49 an' '51. An' fer two reasons. There's a
steady stream of broken an' disappointed gold-seekers back-trailin'
from California. There's a bigger stream of hopeful an' crazy
fortune hunters travelin' in from the East. Then there's the wimmen
an' gamblers an' such thet hang on. An' last the men thet the war is
drivin' out here. Whenever an' wherever these streams meet, if
there's a big gold strike, there'll be the hellishest time the world
ever saw!"

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