After this second robbery a gloom descended on Bright’s Cove which lasted through many months. Old Man Bright hunted out the squaw with whom he had first discovered the diggings, and set her up in an establishment with gay curtains, glass danglers and red doileys. Each month he paid for her provisions and sent to her a sum of money. In this manner, at least, the phantom road agent had furthered the ends of justice. The sop to the powers of darkness appeared to be effective in this respect: no more hold-ups occurred; no more mysterious tracks appeared in the dust; gradually men’s minds swung back to the balanced and normal, and the life of the camp went forward on its appointed way.
Nevertheless, certain effects remained. Each express went out heavily guarded, and preceded and followed by men on horseback. Strangely enough the gamblers left camp. In a little more than a year Old Man Bright fell into a settled melancholia from which his millions never helped him to the very day of his death a little more than a year later.
In the meantime, however varied the fortunes of the other mines and prospects, the Lost Dog continued to work toward a steadily increasing paying basis. It never reached the proportions of the Clarice, but turned out an increasing value of dust at each clean-up. The Gaynes boys two years before had been in debt for their groceries. Now they were said to have shipped out something like three or four hundred thousand dollars’ worth of gold. Their friends used to wander down for the regular clean-up, just to rejoice over the youngsters’ deserved good luck. The little five stamp-mill crunched away steadily; the water flowed; and in the riffles the heavy gold dust accumulated.
“Why don’t you-all put up a big mill, throw in a crew of men, and get busy?” they were asked.
“I’ll tell you,” replied George, “it’s because we know a heap sight more about mining than we did when we came here. We have just one claim, and from all indications it’s only a pocket. The Clarice is on a genuine lode; but we’re likely to run into a ‘horse’ or pinch out most any minute. When we do, it’s all over but a few faint cries of fraud. And we can empty that pocket just as well with a little jerkwater outfit like this as we could with a big crew and a real mill. It’ll take a little longer; but we’re pulling it and quick enough.”
“Those Babes have more sense than we gave ’em credit for,” commented California John. “Their heads are level. They’re dead right about it’s bein’ a pocket. The stuff they run through there is the darndest mixture I ever see gold in.”
Two months after this conversation the Babes drifted into camp to announce that the expected pinch had come.
“We’re going,” said Jimmy. “We have a heap plenty dust salted away; and there’s not a colour left in the Lost Dog. The mill machinery is for sale cheap. Any one can have the Lost Dog who wants it. We’re going out to see what makes the wheels go ’round. You boys have a first claim on us wherever you find us. You’ve sure been good to us. If you catch that spook, send us one of his tail feathers. It would be worth just twelve thousand five hundred to us.”