When Kink had signed, it took the united efforts of the three to arouse Bill. Pen in hand, he swayed long over the document; and, each time he rocked back and forth, in Ans Handerson’s eyes flashed and faded a wondrous golden vision. When the precious signature was at last appended and the dust paid over, he breathed a great sigh, and sank to sleep under a table, where he dreamed immortally until morning.
But the day was chill and grey. He felt bad. His first act, unconscious and automatic, was to feel for his sack. Its lightness startled him. Then, slowly, memories of the night thronged into his brain. Rough voices disturbed him. He opened his eyes and peered out from under the table. A couple of early risers, or, rather, men who had been out on trail all night, were vociferating their opinions concerning the utter and loathsome worthlessness of Eldorado Creek. He grew frightened, felt in his pocket, and found the deed to 24 ELDORADO.
Ten minutes later Hootchinoo Bill and Kink Mitchell were roused from their blankets by a wild-eyed Swede that strove to force upon them an ink-scrawled and very blotty piece of paper.
“Ay tank Ay take my money back,” he gibbered. “Ay tank Ay take my money back.”
Tears were in his eyes and throat. They ran down his cheeks as he knelt before them and pleaded and implored. But Bill and Kink did not laugh. They might have been harder hearted.
“First time I ever hear a man squeal over a minin’ deal,” Bill said. “An’ I make free to say ’tis too onusual for me to savvy.”
“Same here,” Kink Mitchell remarked. “Minin’ deals is like horse-tradin’.”
They were honest in their wonderment. They could not conceive of themselves raising a wail over a business transaction, so they could not understand it in another man.
“The poor, ornery chechaquo,” murmured Hootchinoo Bill, as they watched the sorrowing Swede disappear up the trail.
“But this ain’t Too Much Gold,” Kink Mitchell said cheerfully.
And ere the day was out they purchased flour and bacon at exorbitant prices with Ans Handerson’s dust and crossed over the divide in the direction of the creeks that lie between Klondike and Indian River.
Three months later they came back over the divide in the midst of a snow-storm and dropped down the trail to 24 ELDORADO. It merely chanced that the trail led them that way. They were not looking for the claim. Nor could they see much through the driving white till they set foot upon the claim itself. And then the air lightened, and they beheld a dump, capped by a windlass that a man was turning. They saw him draw a bucket of gravel from the hole and tilt it on the edge of the dump. Likewise they saw another, man, strangely familiar, filling a pan with the fresh gravel. His hands were large; his hair wets pale yellow. But before they reached him, he turned with the pan and fled toward a cabin. He wore no hat, and the snow falling down his neck accounted for his haste. Bill and Kink ran after him, and came upon him in the cabin, kneeling by the stove and washing the pan of gravel in a tub of water.