Ranch at the Wolverine (Chapter 8, page 4 of 5)


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Chapter 8

Now, with that pay gravel within reach, and the gold running twenty-five cents to the pan, and the occasional tiny nuggets jumping up the yield now and then, he could go ahead and do the things he wanted to do. And he could dream about having a certain gray-eyed girl for his wife, without calling himself names afterward.

So he set to work the next morning in dead earnest with pick, shovel, and pan, to make the most of his little find. He shoveled the dirt and gravel into a gunny sack, threw the sack as far as he could over the ledge at the end, where it was not hidden and cluttered with the cherry-trees and service berries below, and when it stopped rolling, he carried it the rest of the way. Then he panned it in the little creek, watching like a hawk for nuggets and the finer gold. It was back-breaking work, and he felt that he earned every cent he got. But the cents were there, in good gold, and he was perfectly willing to work for what he received in this world.

After a couple of weeks he stopped long enough to make a hurried trip to Hardup, a little town forty miles farther up in the hills. In the little bank there he exchanged his gold harvest for coin of the realm, and he was well satisfied with the result. It was not a fortune, nor was he likely to find one in the hills. But he bought a team, wagon, and harness with the money, and he had enough left over for a two-months' grubstake and plenty of Durham and papers and a few magazines. That left him just enough silver to pay Rattler's bill at the livery stable. Nothing startling, but still not bad--that wolf-den find.

He had a lot of trouble getting his wagon to his claim, but by judicious driving and the liberal use of a log-chain for a rough lock, he managed to land the whole outfit in the little flat before the cabin without any mishap. After that he settled down to work the thing systematically.

One day he would pan the sandy gravel, and the next day he would rest his back digging post-holes or something comparatively easy. He worked from daybreak until it was too dark to see, and he never left his claim except when he went to wash gold up in the gulch. The world moved on, and he neither knew nor cared how it moved; for the time being his world had narrowed amazingly. If Billy Louise had not been down there in that other world, he would scarcely have given it a thought, so absorbed was he in the delightful task of putting a good, solid foundation under his favorite air-castle. That fascinated him, held him to his work in spite of his hunger to see her and talk with her and watch the changing lights in her eyes and the fleeting expressions of her face.

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