“So if work does turn up we won’t have to worry about usin’ up his firin’.” In the chill of the next evening they were cording the results of the day’s chopping, when Maudie, in fur coat, skirts to the knee, and high rubber boots, appeared behind Keith’s shack. Without deigning to notice the Boy, “Ain’t seen you all day,” says she to the Colonel.
“Busy,” he replied, scarcely looking up.
“Did you do any jumpin’ last night?”
“That’s all right.”
She seated herself with satisfaction on a log. She looked at the Boy impudently, as much as to say, “When that blot on the landscape is removed, I’ll tell you something.” The Boy had not the smallest intention of removing the blot.
Grudgingly he admitted to himself that, away from the unsavory atmosphere of the Gold Nugget, there was nothing in Maudie positively offensive. At this moment, with her shrewd little face peering pertly out from her parki-hood, she looked more than ever like an audacious child, or like some strange, new little Arctic animal with a whimsical human air.
“Look here, Colonel,” she said presently, either despairing of getting rid of the Boy or ceasing to care about it: “you got to get a wiggle on to-morrow.”
She looked round, first over one shoulder, then over the other. “Well, it’s on the quiet.”
The Kentuckian nodded. But she winked her blue eyes suspiciously at the Boy.
“Oh, he’s all right.”
“Well, you been down to Little Minook, ain’t you?”
“And you seen how the pay pinches out above No. 10?”
“Well, now, if it ain’t above No. 10, where is it?” No answer. “Where does it go?” she repeated severely, like a schoolmarm to a class of backward boys.
“That’s what everybody’d like to know.”
“Then let ’em ask Pitcairn.”
“What’s Pitcairn say?”
She got up briskly, moved to another log almost at the Colonel’s feet, and sat looking at him a moment as if making up her mind about something serious. The Colonel stood, fists at his sides, arrested by that name Pitcairn.
“You know Pitcairn’s the best all-round man we got here,” she asserted rather than asked.
The Colonel nodded.
“He’s an Idaho miner, Pitcairn is!”
“Well, he’s been out lookin’ at the place where the gold gives out on Little Minook. There’s a pup just there above No. 10—remember?”
“And above the pup, on the right, there’s a bed of gravel.”
“Couldn’t see much of that for the snow.”
“Well, sir, that bed o’ gravel’s an old channel.”
She nodded. “Pitcairn’s sunk a prospect, and found colours in his first pan.”