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Capital Takes Holt

From: The Man From The Bitter Roots

It is a safe wager that where two or three prospectors meet in a mining
camp or cabin, the length of time which will elapse before the subject
of conversation reverts to food will not exceed ten minutes and in this
respect the inhabitants of Ore City who "bached" were no exception. The
topic was introduced in the office of the Hinds House this morning as
soon as there was a quorum.

"I declare, I doubts if I lives to see grass," said Yankee Sam
despondently as he manicured a rim of dough from his finger-nails with
the point of a savage-looking jack-knife. "I opened my next-to-the-last
sack of flour this mornin' and 'twas mouldy. I got to eat it though, and
like as not t'other's the same. I tell you," lugubriously, "the pickin's
is gittin' slim on this range!"

"I know one thing," declared Judge George Petty, who was sober and
irritable, "if N. K. Rippetoe sends me in any more of that dod-gasted
Injun bakin' powder, him and me is goin' to fall out. I warned him once
I'd take my trade away and now he's gone and done it again. It won't
raise nothin', not nothin'!"

"An' you can't drink it," Lanningan observed pointedly.

"You remember them dried apples I bought off the half-breed lady down on
the Nez Perce Reserve? Well," said Porcupine Jim sourly, "they walked
off day 'fore yistiddy--worms. I weighed that lady out cash gold, and
look what she's done on me! I wouldn't wonder if them apples wa'nt three
to four year old."

"If only we could find out what that Yellow-Leg's after." Lannigan's
face was cross-lined with anxiety. "If some of us could only unload
somethin' on him, then the rest of us could borry till Capital took holt
in the spring."

"S-ss-sh! That's him," came a warning whisper.

"Good morning, gentlemen. I seem to have slept late."

It was apparent to all that Mr. Dill's spirits were decidedly better
than when he had retired.

Yankee Sam suggested humorously:

"I reckon they was a little slow gittin' around with the tea-kittle to
thaw you out, so you could git up."

Mr. Dill declared that he had been agreeably disappointed in his night;
that he really felt quite rested and refreshed.

"If it isn't too soon after breakfast, friends," he said tentatively, as
he produced a flask.

It was quickly made clear to him that it was never too soon, or too
late, for that matter, and a suggestion of force was necessary to tear
the flask from Yankee Sam's face.

"What? Teetotaler?" As Uncle Bill shook his head.

"Not exactly; sometimes I take a little gin for my kidnas."

Ore City looked at him in unfeigned surprise. Mr. Dill, however,
believed he understood. The old man either knew him or had taken a
personal dislike--maybe both--at any rate he ceased to urge.

"Gentlemen," impressively, and Ore City felt intuitively that its acute
sufferings, due to ungratified curiosity, were at an end, "no doubt
you've wondered why I'm here?"

Ore City murmured a hypocritical protest.

"That would be but natural," Mr. Dill spoke slowly, drawling his words,
animated perhaps by the spirit which prompts the cat to prolong the
struggles of the dying mouse, "but I have postponed making my mission
known until rejuvenated by a good night's sleep. Now, gentlemen, if I
can have your support, your hearty co-operation, I may tell you that I
am in a position--to make Ore City boom! In other words--Capital Is
Going to Take Hold!"

Porcupine Jim, who, through long practice and by bracing the ball of his
foot against the knob on the stove door, was able to balance himself on
one rear leg of his chair, lost his footing on the nickel knob and
crashed to the floor, but he "came up smiling," offering for inspection
a piece of ore in his extended hand.

"Straight cyanidin' proposition, averagin' $60 to the ton with a tunnel
cross-cuttin' the ore-shoot at forty feet that samples $80 where she
begins to widen--" Lack of breath prevented Porcupine Jim from saying
that the hanging wall was of schist and the foot wall of granite and he
would take $65,000 for it, if he could have 10 per cent. in cash.

The specimen which Yankee Sam waved in the face of Capital's
representative almost grazed his nose.

"This here rock is from the greatest low-grade proposition in Americy!
Porphery dike with a million tons in sight and runnin' $10 easy to the
ton and $40,000 buys it on easy terms. Ten thousand dollars down and
reg'lar payments every six months, takin' a mortgage--"

"I'm a s-showin' y-you the best f-free-millin' proposition outside of
C-California," Judge George Petty stammered in his eagerness. "That
there mine'll m-make ten m-men rich. They's stringers in that there
ledge that'll run $5,000--$10,000 to the ton. I t-tell you, sir, the
'B-Bouncin' B-Bess' ain't no m-mine--she's a b-bonanza! And, when you
git down to the secondary enrichment you'll take it out in c-c-chunks!"

Inwardly, Lannigan was cursing himself bitterly that he had eaten "The
Gold-Dust Twins," but, searching through his pockets, fortunately, he
found a sample from the "Prince o' Peace." He handed it to Mr. Dill,
together with a magnifying glass.

"Take a look at this, will you?" He indicated a minute speck with his

Mr. Dill lost the speck and was some time in finding it and, while he
searched, the stove pipe separated at the joint, calling attention to
the fact that the sufferer upstairs was nervous. Pa Snow's voice came so
distinctly down the stove-pipe hole that there was reason to believe he
was on his hands and knees.

"Befoah you should do anything definite, we-all should like if you would
look ovah 'The Bay Hoss.' It's makin' a fine showin', and 'The Under
Dawg' is on the market, too, suh."

In the excitement Uncle Bill sat puffing calmly on his pipe.

Mr. Dill with a gesture brushed aside the waving arms and eager hands:

"And haven't you anything to sell?" he asked him curiously. "Don't you

"Very little," Uncle Bill drawled tranquilly: "I dudes."

"You what?"

"I keeps an 'ad' in the sportin' journals, and guides."

"Oh, yes, hunters--eastern sportsmen--" Mr. Dill nodded. "But I thought
I recognized an old-time prospector in you."

"They's no better in the hull West," Yankee Sam declared generously,
while Uncle Bill murmured that there was surer money in dudes. "Show
Dill that rar' mineral, Uncle Bill." To Dill in an aside: "He's got a
mountain of it and it's somethin' good."

Uncle Bill made no move.

"I aims to hold it for the boom."

"And what's your honest opinion of the country, Mr. Griswold?" Dill
asked conciliatingly. "What do you think well find when we reach the
secondary enrichment?"

A pin dropping would have sounded like a tin wash boiler rolling
downstairs in the silence which fell upon the office of the Hinds House.
Uncle Bill, looking serenely at the circle of tense faces, continued to
smoke while he took his own time to reply.

"I'm a thinkin',"--puff-puff--"that when you sink a hundred feet below
the surface,"--puff-puff--"you won't git a damn thing."

Involuntarily Yankee Sam reached for the poker and various eyes sought
the wood-box for a sizable stick of wood.

"Upon what do you base your opinion?" asked Mr. Dill, taken somewhat
aback. "What makes you think that?"

"Because we're in it now. The weatherin' away of the surface enrichment
made the placers we washed out in '61-'64."

Judge George Petty glowered and demanded contemptuously:

"Do you know what a mine is?"

"Well," replied Uncle Bill tranquilly, "not allus, but ginerally a mine
is a hole in the ground owned by a liar."

Yankee Sam half rose from his chair and pointed an accusing poker at
Uncle Bill.

"That old pin-head is the worst knocker that ever queered a camp. If
we'd a knowed you was comin'," turning to Mr. Dill, "we'd a put him in a
tunnel with ten days' rations and walled him up."

"They come clost to lynchin' me onct on Sucker Crick in Southern Oregon
for tellin' the truth," Uncle Bill said reminiscently, unperturbed.

Southern Oregon! Wilbur Dill looked startled. Ah, that was it! He looked
sharply at Griswold, but the old man's face was blank.

"We're all entitled to our opinions," he said lightly, though his
assurance had abated by a shade, "but, judging superficially, from the
topography of the country, I'm inclined to disagree."

Ore City's sigh of relief was audible.

Mr. Dill continued:

"And I--we are willing to back our confidence in your camp by the
expenditure of a reasonable amount, in order to find out; but,
gentlemen, you've raised your sights too high. Your figures'll have to
come down if we do business. A prospect isn't a mine, you know, and
there's not been much development work done, as I understand."

"How was you aimin' to work it," Uncle Bill asked mildly, "in case you
did git anything? The Mascot burned its profits buyin' wood fer

"The riddles of yesterday are the commonplaces of to-day, my friend. The
world has moved since the arrastre was invented and steam is nearly as
obsolete. Hydro-electric is the only power to-day and that's what
I--we--propose to use."

Ore City's eyes widened and then they looked at Uncle Bill. What
drawback would he think of next? He never disappointed.

"There ain't water enough down there in Lemon Crick in August to run a

Mr. Dill laughed heartily: "Right you are--but how about the river down
below--there's water enough in that, if all I'm told is true."

For once he surprised the old man into an astonished stare.

"The river's all of twenty mile from here."

"They've transmitted power from Victoria Falls on the Zembesi River, in
Rhodesia, six hundred miles to the Rand."

Chortling, Ore City looked at the camp hoodoo in triumph.--That should
hold him for a while.

"I wish you luck," said Uncle Bill, his complacency returning, "but Ore
City ain't the Rand. You'll never pull your money back."

"And in our own country they send 'juice' two hundred and forty-five
miles from Au Sable to Baltic Creek, Michigan."

* * * * *

Before his departure Bruce had arranged with Porcupine Jim to load a
toboggan with provisions and snowshoe down to Toy. Mr. Dill was
delighted when he learned this fortunate circumstance, for it enabled
him to make a trip to the river for the purpose, as he elaborately
explained, of "looking out a power-site, and the best route to string
the wires."

While he was gone, properties to the value of half a million in the
aggregate changed hands--but no cash. It was like the good old days to
come again, to see the embryo magnates whispering in corners, to feel
once more a delicious sense of mystery and plotting in the air. Real
estate advanced in leaps and bounds and "Lemonade Dan" overhauled the
bar fixtures in the Bucket o' Blood, and stuffed a gunny-sack into a
broken window pane with a view to opening up. In every shack there was
an undercurrent of excitement and after the dull days of monotony few
could calm themselves to a really good night's sleep. They talked in
thousands and the clerk's stock of Cincos, that had been dead money on
his hands for over three years, "moved" in three days--sold out to the
last cigar!

When the time arrived that they had calculated Dill should return, even
to the hour, the person who was coming back from the end of the snow
tunnel at the front door of the Hinds House, that commanded a good view
of the trail, always met someone going out to ask if there was "any
sight of 'em?" and he, in turn, took his stand at the mouth of the
tunnel, until driven in by the cold. In this way, there was nearly
always someone doing lookout duty.

Ore City's brow was corrugated with anxiety when Dill and Porcupine Jim
had exceeded by three days the time allotted them for their stay.
Wouldn't it be like the camp's confounded luck if Capital fell off of
something and broke its neck?

Their relief was almost hysterical when one evening at sunset Lannigan
shouted joyfully: "Here they come!"

They dashed through the tunnel to see Mr. Dill dragging one foot
painfully after the other to the hotel. He seemed indifferent to the
boisterous greeting, groaning merely:

"Oh-h-h, what a hill!"

"We been two days a makin' it," Jim vouchsafed cheerfully. "Last night
we slept out on the snow."

"You seem some stove up." Uncle Bill eyed Dill critically. "And looks
like you have fell off twenty pounds."

"Stove up!" exclaimed Dill plaintively. "Between Jim's cooking and that
hill I took up four notches in my belt. I wouldn't make that trip again
in winter if the Alaska Treadwell was awaiting me as a gift at the other

"You'll git used to it," consoled Uncle Bill, "you'll learn to like it
when you're down there makin' that there 'juice.' I mind the time I went
to North Dakoty on a visit--I longed for one of these hills to climb to
rest myself. The first day they set me out on the level, I ran away--it
took four men to head me off."

"We found where we kin develop 250,000 jolts," Porcupine Jim announced.

"Volts, James," corrected Mr. Dill, and added, dryly, "Don't start in to
put up the plant until I get back."

He was coming back then--he was! Figuratively, all Ore City fell at
his feet, though strictly only two scrambled for the privilege of
unbuckling his snow-shoes, and only three picked up his bag.

Next: The Ghost At The Banquet

Previous: The Yellow-leg

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