“Hee! hee!” he chuckled later, as they fitted the pipe of the Yukon stove. “Slow sighted and short. Couldn’t follow me, eh? But I’ll show you some time, oh, I’ll show you all right, all right!”
“Grab an axe an’ come on,” he commanded when the camp was completed.
He led the way up Eldorado, borrowed a pick, shovel, and pan at a cabin, and headed up among the benches near the mouth of French Creek. Vance, though feeling somewhat sore, was laughing at himself by this time and enjoying the situation. He exaggerated the humility with which he walked at the heel of his conqueror, while the extravagant servility which marked his obedience to his hired man made that individual grin.
“You’ll do. You’ve got the makin’s in you!” Del threw down the tools and scanned the run of the snow-surface carefully. “Here, take the axe, shinny up the hill, and lug me down some skookum dry wood.”
By the time Corliss returned with the last load of wood, the pocket-miner had cleared away the snow and moss in divers spots, and formed, in general design, a rude cross.
“Cuttin’ her both ways,” he explained. “Mebbe I’ll hit her here, or over there, or up above; but if there’s anything in the hunch, this is the place. Bedrock dips in above, and it’s deep there and most likely richer, but too much work. This is the rim of the bench. Can’t be more’n a couple of feet down. All we want is indications; afterwards we can tap in from the side.”
As he talked, he started fires here and there on the uncovered spaces. “But look here, Corliss, I want you to mind this ain’t pocketin’. This is just plain ordinary ‘prentice work; but pocketin’”—he straightened up his back and spoke reverently—“but pocketin’ is the deepest science and the finest art. Delicate to a hair’s-breadth, hand and eye true and steady as steel. When you’ve got to burn your pan blue-black twice a day, and out of a shovelful of gravel wash down to the one wee speck of flour gold,—why, that’s washin’, that’s what it is. Tell you what, I’d sooner follow a pocket than eat.”
“And you would sooner fight than do either.” Bishop stopped to consider. He weighed himself with care equal to that of retaining the one wee speck of flour gold. “No, I wouldn’t, neither. I’d take pocketin’ in mine every time. It’s as bad as dope; Corliss, sure. If it once gets a-hold of you, you’re a goner. You’ll never shake it. Look at me! And talk about pipe-dreams; they can’t burn a candle ’longside of it.”
He walked over and kicked one of the fires apart. Then he lifted the pick, and the steel point drove in and stopped with a metallic clang, as though brought up by solid cement.
“Ain’t thawed two inches,” he muttered, stooping down and groping with his fingers in the wet muck. The blades of last year’s grass had been burned away, but he managed to gather up and tear away a handful of the roots.