The barroom at the Miners’ Home might have been more crowded at some former period of its existence, but to have duplicated the two dozen faces and forms of the two dozen Ten Milers who were congregated there that beautiful Autumn afternoon would have been a hopeless task.
Ten Mile Gulch had turned out en masse, and those same Ten Milers were distinguished neither for their good looks, nor taste in dress, nor softness of heart or language, nor elegance of manners. Further than that we do not care to go at present.
But there was one face and one form absent. No more would the genial atmosphere of that barroom respond to the heavings of his broad chest, no more would the dignified concoctor of rare and villainous drinks pass him the whisky-straight. Alas! Bill Foster had passed in his checks, and gone the way of all Ten Milers.
And it was this fact that brought these diligent delvers after hidden treasure from their work, for Bill had not gone in the ordinary way. At night he was in the full enjoyment of health and a game of poker; in the morning they found him just outside the domicile of Jack Borlan, with a small puncture near the heart to tell how it was done. Such was life at Ten Mile Gulch.
Who made the puncture?
Circumstances pointed to Jack Borlan, and they escorted him down to the settlement. He stood by the bar conversing with the dispenser of liquid lightning. Two very calm-looking Ten Milers were within easy reach of Mr. Borlan; two more at the door, which was left temptingly open; two more at each window, and the remainder scattered about the room to suit themselves.
Mr. Bob Watson was the only one calm enough to enjoy a seat, and he was whittling away at the pine bench with such energy that a stranger might have concluded that whittling was his best hold. Not so, however; he whittled until he found a nail with the edge of his knife, and then varied his diversion by grasping the point of the blade between the thumb and first finger of his right hand, and throwing it at the left eye of a very flattering representation of Yankee Sullivan which graced the wall.
By a slight miscalculation of distance and elevation, the eye was unharmed, but the well-developed nose was more effectually ruined than its original ever was by the most scientific pugilist.
“Well, gentlemen, what shall we do with the prisoner?” asks Watson.
“We’re waiting for you,” said a tall Ten Miler, who had been a pleased witness of the knife-throwing and its results.
“Well, you need not,” retorted Mr. Watson, as he made a fling at Yankee’s other eye, and with very good success. “You know my sentiments, gentlemen. I was opposed to bringing the prisoner here. We might have fixed up the matter all at one time, and saved a heap of diggin’.”
“It—might—have—done,” said the tall Miler, doubtfully; “but I wouldn’t like to see the two together. It would spoil all my enjoyment of the occasion.”