But Corliss, after several perfunctory visits, forgot the way which led to Jacob Welse’s home, and applied himself savagely to his work. He even had the hypocrisy, at times, to felicitate himself upon his escape, and to draw bleak fireside pictures of the dismal future which would have been had he and Frona incompatibly mated. But this was only at times. As a rule, the thought of her made him hungry, in a way akin to physical hunger; and the one thing he found to overcome it was hard work and plenty of it. But even then, what of trail and creek, and camp and survey, he could only get away from her in his waking hours. In his sleep he was ignobly conquered, and Del Bishop, who was with him much, studied his restlessness and gave a ready ear to his mumbled words.
The pocket-miner put two and two together, and made a correct induction from the different little things which came under his notice. But this did not require any great astuteness. The simple fact that he no longer called on Frona was sufficient evidence of an unprospering suit. But Del went a step farther, and drew the corollary that St. Vincent was the cause of it all. Several times he had seen the correspondent with Frona, going one place and another, and was duly incensed thereat.
“I’ll fix ’m yet!” he muttered in camp one evening, over on Gold Bottom.
“Whom?” Corliss queried.
“Who? That newspaper man, that’s who!”
“Aw—general principles. Why’n’t you let me paste ’m that night at the Opera House?”
Corliss laughed at the recollection. “Why did you strike him, Del?”
“General principles,” Del snapped back and shut up.
But Del Bishop, for all his punitive spirit, did not neglect the main chance, and on the return trip, when they came to the forks of Eldorado and Bonanza, he called a halt.
“Say, Corliss,” he began at once, “d’you know what a hunch is?” His employer nodded his comprehension. “Well, I’ve got one. I ain’t never asked favors of you before, but this once I want you to lay over here till to-morrow. Seems to me my fruit ranch is ’most in sight. I can damn near smell the oranges a-ripenin’.”
“Certainly,” Corliss agreed. “But better still, I’ll run on down to Dawson, and you can come in when you’ve finished hunching.”
“Say!” Del objected. “I said it was a hunch; and I want to ring you in on it, savve? You’re all right, and you’ve learned a hell of a lot out of books. You’re a regular high-roller when it comes to the laboratory, and all that; but it takes yours truly to get down and read the face of nature without spectacles. Now I’ve got a theory—”
Corliss threw up his hands in affected dismay, and the pocket-miner began to grow angry.