“Oh, don’t rare up, Hogan. It won’t do no good. You’d ought to have more respect for me, considerin’ I was your boss once.”
“I’d give something for that boy’s luck.”
“Joe’s luck? Well, things have gone pretty well with turn; but that don’t explain all his success—he’s willin’ to work.”
“So am I.”
“Then go to work on your claim. There’s no knowin’ but there’s a bigger nugget inside of it. If you stand round with your hands in your pockets, you’ll never find it.”
“It’s the poorest claim in the gulch,” said Hogan discontentedly.
“It pays the poorest because you don’t work half the time.”
Hogan apparently didn’t like Mr. Bickford’s plainness of speech. He walked away moodily, with his hands in his pockets. He could not help contrasting his penniless position with the enviable position of the two friends, and the devil, who is always in wait for such moments, thrust an evil suggestion into his mind.
It was this:
He asked himself why could he not steal the nugget which Joe had found?
“He can spare it, for he has sold the claim for a fortune,” Hogan reasoned. “It isn’t fair that he should have everything and I should have nothing. He ought to have made me his partner, anyway. He would if he hadn’t been so selfish. I have just as much right to a share in it as this infernal Yankee. I’d like to choke him.”
This argument was a very weak one, but a man easily persuades himself of what he wants to do.
“I’ll try for it,” Hogan decided, “this very night.”
The nugget is stolen.
At this time Joe and Joshua were occupying a tent which they had purchased on favorable terms of a fellow miner.
They retired in good season, for they wished to start early on their journey on the following morning.
“I don’t know as I can go to sleep,” said Joshua. “I can’t help thinkin’ of how rich I am, and what dad and all the folks will say.”
“Do you mean to go home at once, Mr. Bickford?”
“Jest as soon as I can get ready. I’ll tell you what I am goin’ to do, Joe. I’m goin’ to buy a tip-top suit when I get to Boston, and a gold watch and chain, and a breast-pin about as big as a saucer. When I sail into Pumpkin Holler in that rig folks’ll look at me, you bet. There’s old Squire Pennyroyal, he’ll be disappointed for one.”
“Why will he be disappointed?”
“Because he told dad I was a fool to come out here. He said I’d be back in rags before a year was out. Now, the old man thinks a good deal of his opinion, and he won’t like it to find how badly he’s mistaken.”
“Then he would prefer to see you come home in rags?”
“You bet he would.”
“How about Susan? Ain’t you afraid she has married the store clerk?”