“Well, I’m glad we didn’t get cold feet,” says he.
“Yes,” whispered Schiff; “it looks like we goin’ to the right place.”
The sheen of the heap of yellow treasure was trying even to the nerves of the Colonel.
“Put it away,” he said quite solemnly, laying the nugget on the paper—“put it all away before the firelight dies down.”
Dillon leisurely gathered it up and dropped the nuggets, with an absent-minded air, into the pouch which Lighter held.
But the San Francisco Examiner had been worn to the softness of an old rag and the thinness of tissue. Under Dillon’s sinewy fingers pinching up the gold the paper gave way.
“Oh!” exclaimed more than one voice, as at some grave mishap.
Dillon improvised a scoop out of a dirty envelope. Nobody spoke and everybody watched, and when, finally, with his hand, he brushed the remaining grains off the torn paper into the envelope, poured them into the gaping sack-mouth, and lazily pulled at the buckskin draw-string, everybody sat wondering how much, if any, of the precious metal had escaped through the tear, and how soon Dillon would come out of his brown study, remember, and recover the loss. But a spell seemed to have fallen on the company. No one spoke, till Dillon, with that lazy motion, hoisting one square shoulder and half turning his body round, was in the act of returning the sack to his hip-pocket.
“Wait!” said Mac, with the explosiveness of a firearm, and O’Flynn jumped.
“You ain’t got it all,” whispered Schiff hurriedly.
“Oh, I’m leavin’ the fox-face for luck,” Dillon nodded at the Colonel.
But Schiff pointed reverently at the tear in the paper, as Dillon only went on pushing his sack deep down in his pocket, while Mac lifted the Examiner. All but the two millionaires bent forward and scrutinised the table. O’Flynn impulsively ran one lone hand over the place where the gold-heap had lain, his other hand held ready at the table’s edge to catch any sweepings. None! But the result of O’Flynn’s action was that those particles of gold that that fallen through the paper were driven into the cracks and inequalities of the board.
“Now look what you’ve done!”
Mac pointed out a rough knot-hole, too, that slyly held back a pinch of gold.
Dillon slapped his hip, and settled into his place. But the men nearest the crack and the knot-hole fell to digging out the renegade grains, and piously offering them to their lawful owner.
“That ain’t worth botherin’ about,” laughed Dillon; “you always reckon to lose a little each time, even if you got a China soup-plate.”
“Plenty more where that came from,” said the General, easily.
Such indifference was felt to be magnificent indeed. The little incident said more for the richness of Minook than all the General’s blowing; they forgot that what was lost would amount to less than fifty cents. The fact that it was gold—Minook gold—gave it a symbolic value not to be computed in coin.