They saw Bright, but ran up against an unexpected difficulty. Old Man Bright received them with considerable surliness. He considered himself as the originator, discoverer, inventor, and almost the proprietor of Bright’s Cove and all it contained. Therefore, when he first heard of the new strike, he walked up to the Lost Dog to see what it looked like. The Babes, panic stricken at the intended affront to “Old Man Luck,” headed him off. Bright had not the least belief in the reason given. He surveyed them with disfavour.
“I can’t take your package,” he told them. “Send it out yourself.”
“And that old skunk has cleaned up a hundred thousand this month!” complained Jimmy, pathetically, to the group around the horse trough. “And he won’t even take a pore little five hundred package of dust out to some suffering bank! I suppose I’ll have to cache it in a tomato can for Johnson’s old billy goat to chew up.”
“Bring it over and I’ll shove it in with mine,” suggested California John.
So it was done. The express, carrying nearly four hundred pounds of gold dust, set forth over the steep road. In two hours the driver and messenger sailed in, bung-eyed with excitement. They had been held up by a single road agent.
“He come out right on that point of rocks where you can see the whole valley,” said the driver in answer to many questions, “right where the heavy grade is and the thick chaparral. We was busy climbing; and he had us before we could wink. Made us drop off the dust and ’bout face. He was a big, tall feller; and had a sawed-off Winchester. Once, when we stopped, he dropped a bullet right behind us. He must have watched us all the way to camp.”
The camp turned out. As the men passed the Lost Dog someone yelled to the Babes. George, covered with mud, came to the door of the mill.
“Gee!” said he. “Lucky we saved out that three hundred. I’m powerful sorry for that suffering bank. I’ll join you as soon as I can get Jimmy up out of the shaft.” Before the party had gone a mile they were joined by the brothers boyishly eager over this new excitement.
The men toiled up the road to where the robbery had taken place. Plainly to be seen were the marks of the man’s boots. The tracks of a single horse, walking, followed the man.
“He packed off the dust, and he had an almighty big horse to carry it,” pronounced someone.
They followed the trail. It led a half mile to a broad sheet of rock. There it disappeared. On one side the bank rose twenty or thirty feet. On the other it fell away nearly a hundred. On the other side of the sheet of rock stretched the dusty road unbroken by anything more recent than the wheel-tracks of the day before. It was as though man and horse had taken unto themselves wings.
Immediately Bright took active charge of the posse.
“Stand here, on this rock,” he commanded. “This road’s been tracked up too much already. You, John, and Tibbetts and Simmins, there, come ’long with me to see what you can make out.”