They brought a mule.
“Wait here, every man of you!” Watson shouted back over the shaved tail of his substitute for a horse. “I’ll bring him back, dead or alive, or my name ain’t Watson!”
And over the way the stage had stopped, and Fanny Borlan had reached Ten Mile Gulch at last.
A little after sunrise, the next morning, Mr. Tom Ruger might have been seen leisurely riding along the bridle-path between the mines and the settlement of Ten Mile Gulch. He was headed toward the village, and was nine and three-quarter miles nearer to it than the mines. He had found another good cigar somewhere, and was humming the selfsame tune as on the previous afternoon; but the riderless horse was not with him.
As Mr. Ruger rode into the only street in the village, his approach was heralded, and the Ten Milers, who were waiting for Watson’s return, filed out of the Miners’ Home, and took stations in the street.
Mr. Ruger took note of this demonstration, and, with a very business-like air, examined the contents of his holsters. He also noticed that patched noses and heads, and canes and crutches, were the predominating features in the group of Ten Milers, with an occasional closed eye and a bandaged hand to vary the monotony.
Miss Fanny Borlan, from her window at the Ten Mile House, also noticed the dilapidated looks of the frequenters of the Miners’ Home, and wondered if they kept a hospital there. Then she saw Mr. Ruger, and bowed and smiled as he drew up at her window.
“So you arrived all safe, Miss Borlan? How do you like the place?”
“Better than the inhabitants,” she answered, with a glance over the way. “Than those, I mean. Is it a hospital?”
“For the present I believe it is.”
“And will be for some time to come, if they all stay till they’re cured. But have you seen Jack?”
“Yes—last evening. He was very sorry that he could not wait for you, but it may be as well, however. He has gone down to San Francisco, and he will wait for you there. The stage leaves here in about two hours, and I advise you to take passage in it, if you are not too much fatigued.”
“I’m not tired a bit, Mr. Kuger. I will go back. Thank you for the trouble you have taken.”
“No trouble, Miss Borlan. Give my respects to Jack, and tell him I will be down in a week or two. Good-morning.”
While talking, Mr. Ruger had about evenly divided his glances between the very beautiful face of Fanny Borlan and the somewhat expressive countenances of the Ten Milers. Not that he found anything to admire in their damaged physiognomies, but he never wholly ignored the presence of any one.
“Good-morning, gentlemen,” he said, as he rode up in front of them.
“Not to you, Tom Ruger,” spoke a tall Ten Miler—the only one, by-the-way, who had come out of the previous day’s trial unscathed. “Not to you, Tom Ruger! Where’s Borlan?”