“You don’t say!”
“I hope you will be as lucky as I have been.”
“How much are you worth now?” asked Joshua curiously.
“From one to two thousand dollars, I expect.”
“Sho! I never did! How long have you been out here?”
“Je-rusalem! That’s better than stayin’ to hum.”
“I think so.”
By this time Mr. Bickford had completed his breakfast and in an anxious tone he inquired:
“What’s the damage?”
“Oh, I won’t charge you anything, as you are going to be my traveling companion,” said Joe.
“You’re a gentleman, by gosh!” exclaimed Mr. Bickford, in unrestrained delight.
“Come in at one o’clock and you shall have some of your favorite beans and nothing to pay. Can you start for the mines to-morrow?”
“Yes—I’ve got nothin’ to prepare.”
“Take your meals here till we go.”
“Well, I’m in luck,” said Bickford. “Victuals cost awful out here and I haven’t had as much as I wanted to eat since I got here.”
“Consider yourself my guest,” said Joe, “and eat all you want to.”
It may be remarked that Mr. Bickford availed himself of our young hero’s invitation, and during the next twenty-four hours stowed away enough provisions to last an ordinary man for half a week.
THE MAN FROM PIKE COUNTY
Four days later Joe and his Yankee friend, mounted on mustangs, were riding through a canon a hundred miles from San Francisco. It was late in the afternoon, and the tall trees shaded the path on which they were traveling. The air was unusually chilly and after the heat of midday they felt it.
“I don’t feel like campin’ out to-night,” said Bickford. “It’s too cool.”
“I don’t think we shall find any hotels about here,” said Joe.
“Don’t look like it. I’d like to be back in Pumpkin Hollow just for to-night. How fur is it to the mines, do you calc’late?”
“We are probably about half-way. We ought to reach the Yuba River inside of a week.”
Here Mr. Bickford’s mustang deliberately stopped and began to survey the scenery calmly.
“What do you mean, you pesky critter?” demanded Joshua.
The mustang turned his head and glanced composedly at the burden he was carrying.
“G’lang!” said Joshua, and he brought down his whip on the flanks of the animal.
It is not in mustang nature to submit to such an outrage without expressing proper resentment. The animal threw up its hind legs, lowering its head at the same time, and Joshua Bickford, describing a sudden somersault, found himself sitting down on the ground a few feet in front of his horse, not seriously injured, but considerably bewildered.
“By gosh!” he ejaculated.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to dismount, Mr. Bickford?” asked Joe, his eyes twinkling with merriment.