Lovin Child Strikes It Rich
From: Cabin Fever
It was only the next day that Bud was the means of helping Lovin Child find a fortune for himself; which eased Bud's mind considerably, and balanced better his half of the responsibility. Cutting out the dramatic frills, then, this is what happened to Lovin Child and Bud:
They were romping around the cabin, like two puppies that had a surplus of energy to work off. Part of the time Lovin Child was a bear, chasing Bud up and down the dead line, which was getting pretty well worn out in places. After that, Bud was a bear and chased Lovin. And when Lovin Child got so tickled he was perfectly helpless in the corner where he had sought refuge, Bud caught him and swung him up to his shoulder and let him grab handfuls of dirt out of the roof.
Lovin Child liked that better than being a bear, and sifted Bud's hair full of dried mud, and threw the rest on the floor, and frequently cried "Tell a worl'!" which he had learned from Bud and could say with the uncanny pertinency of a parrot.
He had signified a desire to have Bud carry him along the wall, where some lovely lumps of dirt protruded temptingly over a bulging log. Then he leaned and grabbed with his two fat hands at a particularly big, hard lump. It came away in his hands and fell plump on the blankets of the bunk, half blinding Bud with the dust that came with it.
"Hey! You'll have all the chinkin' out of the dang shack, if you let him keep that lick up, Bud," Cash grumbled, lifting his eyebrows at the mess.
"Tell a worl'!" Lovin Child retorted over his shoulder, and made another grab.
This time the thing he held resisted his baby strength. He pulled and he grunted, he kicked Bud in the chest and grabbed again. Bud was patient, and let him fuss—though in self-defense he kept his head down and his eyes away from the expected dust bath.
"Stay with it, Boy; pull the darn roof down, if yuh want. Cash'll get out and chink 'er up again."
"Yeah. Cash will not," the disapproving one amended the statement gruffly. "He's trying to get the log outa the wall, Bud."
"Well, let him try, doggone it. Shows he's a stayer. I wouldn't have any use for him if he didn't have gumption enough to tackle things too big for him, and you wouldn't either. Stay with 'er, Lovins! Doggone it, can't yuh git that log outa there nohow? Uh-h! A big old grunt and a big old heave—uh-h! I'll tell the world in words uh one syllable, he's some stayer."
"Tell a worl'!" chuckled Lovin Child, and pulled harder at the thing he wanted.
"Hey! The kid's got hold of a piece of gunny sack or something. You look out, Bud, or he'll have all that chinkin' out. There's no sense in lettin' him tear the whole blame shack to pieces, is there?"
"Can if he wants to. It's his shack as much as it's anybody's." Bud shifted Lovin Child more comfortably on his shoulder and looked up, squinting his eyes half shut for fear of dirt in them.
"For the love of Mike, kid, what's that you've got? Looks to me like a piece of buckskin, Cash. Here, you set down a minute, and let Bud take a peek up there."
"Bud—pik-k?" chirped Lovin Child from the blankets, where Bud had deposited him unceremoniously.
"Yes, Bud pik-k." Bud stepped up on the bunk, which brought his head above the low eaves. He leaned and looked, and scraped away the caked mud. "Good glory! The kid's found a cache of some kind, sure as you live!" And he began to claw out what had been hidden behind the mud.
First a buckskin bag, heavy and grimed and knobby. Gold inside it, he knew without looking. He dropped it down on the bunk, carefully so as not to smash a toe off the baby. After that he pulled out four baking-powder cans, all heavy as lead. He laid his cheek against the log and peered down the length of it, and jumped down beside the bunk.
"Kid's found a gold mine of his own, and I'll bet on it," he cried excitedly. "Looky, Cash!"
Cash was already looking, his eyebrows arched high to match his astonishment. "Yeah. It's gold, all right. Old man Nelson's hoard, I wouldn't wonder. I've always thought it was funny he never found any gold in this flat, long as he lived here. And traces of washing here and there, too. Well!"
"Looky, Boy!" Bud had the top off a can, and took out a couple of nuggets the size of a cooked Lima bean. "Here's the real stuff for yuh.
"It's yours, too—unless—did old Nelson leave any folks, Cash, do yuh know?"
"They say not. The county buried him, they say. And nobody ever turned up to claim him or what little he left. No, I guess there's nobody got any better right to it than the kid. We'll inquire around and see. But seein' the gold is found on the claim, and we've got the claim according to law, looks to me like—"
"Well, here's your clean-up, old prospector. Don't swallow any, is all. let's weigh it out, Cash, and see how much it is, just for a josh."
Lovin Child had nuggets to play with there on the bed, and told the world many unintelligible things about it. Cash and Bud dumped all the gold into a pan, and weighed it out on the little scales Cash had for his tests. It was not a fortune, as fortunes go. It was probably all the gold Nelson had panned out in a couple of years, working alone and with crude devices. A little over twenty-three hundred dollars it amounted to, not counting the nuggets which Lovin Child had on the bunk with him.
"Well, it's a start for the kid, anyway," Bud said, leaning back and regarding the heap with eyes shining. "I helped him find it, and I kinda feel as if I'm square with him now for not giving him my half the claim. Twenty-three hundred would be a good price for a half interest, as the claims stand, don't yuh think, Cash?"
"Yeah—well, I dunno's I'd sell for that. But on the showing we've got so far—yes, five thousand, say, for the claims would be good money."
"Pretty good haul for a kid, anyway. He's got a couple of hundred dollars in nuggets, right there on the bunk. Let's see, Lovins. Let Bud have 'em for a minute."
Then it was that Lovin Child revealed a primitive human trait. He would not give up the gold. He held fast to one big nugget, spread his fat legs over the remaining heap of them, and fought Bud's hand away with the other fist.
"No, no, no! Tell a worl' no, no, no!" he remonstrated vehemently, until Bud whooped with laughter.
"All right—all right! Keep your gold, durn it. You're like all the rest—minute you get your paws on to some of the real stuff, you go hog-wild over it."
Cash was pouring the fine gold back into the buck skin bag and the baking-powder cans.
"Let the kid play with it," he said. "Getting used to gold when he's little will maybe save him from a lot of foolishness over it when he gets big. I dunno, but it looks reasonable to me. Let him have a few nuggets if he wants. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say; maybe he won't get to thinkin' too much of it if he's got it around under his nose all the time. Same as everything else. It's the finding that hits a feller hardest, Bud—the hunting for it and dreaming about it and not finding it. What say we go up to the claim for an hour or so? Take the kid along. It won't hurt him if he's bundled up good. It ain't cold to-day, anyhow."
That night they discussed soberly the prospects of the claim and their responsibilities in the matter of Lovin Child's windfall. They would quietly investigate the history of old Nelson, who had died a pauper in the eyes of the community, with all his gleanings of gold hidden away. They agreed that Lovin Child should not start off with one grain of gold that rightfully belonged to some one else—but they agreed the more cheerfully because neither man believed they would find any close relatives; a wife or children they decided upon as rightful heirs. Brothers, sisters, cousins, and aunts did not count. They were presumably able to look after themselves just as old Nelson had done. Their ethics were simple enough, surely.
Barring, then, the discovery of rightful heirs, their plan was to take the gold to Sacramento in the spring, and deposit it there in a savings bank for one Lovins Markham Moore. They would let the interest "ride" with the principal, and they would—though neither openly confessed it to the other—from time to time add a little from their own earnings. Bud especially looked forward to that as a compromise with his duty to his own child. He intended to save every cent he could, and to start a savings account in the same bank, for his own baby, Robert Edward Moore—named for Bud. He could not start off with as large a sum as Lovins would have, and for that Bud was honestly sorry. But Robert Edward Moore would have Bud's share in the claims, which would do a little toward evening things up.
Having settled these things to the satisfaction of their desires and their consciences, they went to bed well pleased with the day.
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