Capital Takes Holt

: 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.