“Hogan,” said Joshua, “I think you’re one of the fust romancers of the age. If I ever start a story-paper I’ll engage you to write for me.”
“I am sorry you do me so much injustice, gentlemen,” said Hogan, with an air of suffering innocence. “I’m the victim of circumstances.”
“I expect you’re a second George Washington. You never told a lie, did you?”
“Some time you will know me better,” said Hogan.
“I hope not,” said Joe. “I know you better now than I want to.”
THE NEW DIGGINGS
When lunch-was over, Joe said:
“Good day, Mr. Hogan. Look out for the grizzlies, and may you have better luck in future.”
“Yes, Hogan, good by,” said Joshua. “We make over to you all our interest in the bear. He meant to eat you. You can revenge yourself by eatin’ him.”
“Are you going to leave me, gentlemen?” asked Hogan in alarm.
“You don’t expect us to stay and take care of you, do you?”
“Let me go with you,” pleaded Hogan. “I am afraid to be left alone in this country. I may meet another grizzly, and lose my life.”
“That would be a great loss to the world,” said Mr. Bickford, with unconcealed sarcasm.
“It would be a great loss to me,” said Hogan.
“Maybe that’s the best way to put it,” observed Bickford. “It would have been money in my friend Joe’s pocket if you had never been born.”
“May I go with you?” pleaded Hogan, this time addressing himself to Joe.
“Mr. Hogan,” said Joe, “you know very well why your company is not acceptable to us.”
“You shall have no occasion to complain,” said Hogan earnestly.
“Do you want us to adopt you, Hogan?” asked Joshua.
“Let me stay with you till we reach the nearest diggings. Then I won’t trouble you any more.”
Joe turned to Bickford.
“If you don’t object,” he said, “I think I’ll let him come.”
“Let the critter come,” said Bickford. “He’d be sure to choke any grizzly that tackled him. For the sake of the bear, let him come.”
Mr. Hogan was too glad to join the party, on any conditions, to resent the tone which Mr. Bickford employed in addressing him. He obtained his suit, and the party of three kept on their way.
As they advanced the country became rougher and more hilly. Here and there they saw evidences of “prospecting” by former visitors. They came upon deserted claims and the sites of former camps. But in these places the indications of gold had not been sufficiently favorable to warrant continued work, and the miners had gone elsewhere.
At last, however, they came to a dozen men who were busily at work in a gulch. Two rude huts near-by evidently served as their temporary homes.
“Well, boys, how do you find it?” inquired Bickford, riding up.