A Waif of the Plains eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 135 pages of information about A Waif of the Plains.
metal, Clarence felt the first feverish and overmastering thrill of the gold-seekers.  Breathlessly he followed the breathless questions and careless replies.  The gold had been dug out of a placer only thirty miles away.  It might be worth, say, a hundred and fifty dollars; it was only his share of a week’s work with two partners.  It was not much; “the country was getting played out with fresh arrivals and greenhorns.”  All this falling carelessly from the unshaven lips of a dusty, roughly dressed man, with a long-handled shovel and pickaxe strapped on his back, and a frying-pan depending from his saddle.  But no panoplied or armed knight ever seemed so heroic or independent a figure to Clarence.  What could be finer than the noble scorn conveyed in his critical survey of the train, with its comfortable covered wagons and appliances of civilization?  “Ye’ll hev to get rid of them ther fixin’s if yer goin’ in for placer diggin’!” What a corroboration of Clarence’s real thoughts!  What a picture of independence was this!  The picturesque scout, the all-powerful Judge Peyton, the daring young officer, all crumbled on their clayey pedestals before this hero in a red flannel shirt and high-topped boots.  To stroll around in the open air all day, and pick up those shining bits of metal, without study, without method or routine—­this was really life; to some day come upon that large nugget “you couldn’t lift,” that was worth as much as the train and horses—­such a one as the stranger said was found the other day at Sawyer’s Bar—­this was worth giving up everything for.  That rough man, with his smile of careless superiority, was the living link between Clarence and the Thousand and One Nights; in him were Aladdin and Sindbad incarnate.

Two days later they reached Stockton.  Here Clarence, whose single suit of clothes had been reinforced by patching, odds and ends from Peyton’s stores, and an extraordinary costume of army cloth, got up by the regimental tailor at Fort Ridge, was taken to be refitted at a general furnishing “emporium.”  But alas! in the selection of the clothing for that adult locality scant provision seemed to have been made for a boy of Clarence’s years, and he was with difficulty fitted from an old condemned Government stores with “a boy’s” seaman suit and a brass-buttoned pea-jacket.  To this outfit Mr. Peyton added a small sum of money for his expenses, and a letter of explanation to his cousin.  The stage-coach was to start at noon.  It only remained for Clarence to take leave of the party.  The final parting with Susy had been discounted on the two previous days with some tears, small frights and clingings, and the expressed determination on the child’s part “to go with him;” but in the excitement of the arrival at Stockton it was still further mitigated, and under the influence of a little present from Clarence—­his first disbursement of his small capital—­had at last taken the form and promise of merely temporary separation.  Nevertheless, when the boy’s scanty pack was deposited under the stage-coach seat, and he had been left alone, he ran rapidly back to the train for one moment more with Susy.  Panting and a little frightened, he reached Mrs. Peyton’s car.

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A Waif of the Plains from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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