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"More," said Dallas; "and I propose that one of us goes down to the old spot to give the news to Norton and our old friends, that they may come and be the first to take up claims."
"That is what I meant to propose," said Abel.
"Good nails driven in, and I clinch them," said Tregelly. "Only look here: I always like to do a good turn to a man who means well."
"Of course," said Dallas; "but what do you mean?"
"There's that judge. I think he ought to have a pull out of this, too.
He nearly hung us up on a tree, but he meant well, and it was all for law and order. What I propose is this. We'll make our own claims sure, and get our friends up to secure theirs; and then let's tell the judge, and he'll come up with a picked lot to keep all right."
"Excellent," said Dallas. "But who goes down first to see about stores?"
"I will, my sons. I'm strongest, and as to bringing up plenty, I shall have plenty ready to help. But I say, play fair; you won't run away with my third while I'm gone?"
Tregelly started down the ravine in company with Scruff the very next day, and many more had not elapsed before he was back with the whole party from their old workings, eager to congratulate the fortunate discoverers and place ample stores at their service.
They had just time to get up another supply, enough for the coming winter, before it seemed to sweep down like a black veil from the northern mountains.
But building does not take long under such circ.u.mstances. Wood had been brought up from out of a valley a few miles lower down, and in the shelter of a dense patch of scrub pine in a side gully, where the new-comers found the gold promising to their hearts' content, they were ready to defy the keenest weather that might come.
Two years had elapsed, and winter was once more expected, for the days were shortening fast, when three men sat together in their humble hut, discussing the question of going home; and the thought of once more meeting one whose last letter had told of her longings to see her boys again, brought a flush to the young men's cheeks and a bright light to their eyes.
They had been talking long and loudly, those two, while Tregelly had sat smoking his pipe and saying nothing, till Dallas turned to him sharply.
"Say something, my son?" the big fellow cried. "Of course I will. Here it is. I've been thinking of all that gold we've sent safely home through the banks, and I've been thinking of what our claim's worth, and what that there company's willing to give."
"Well," said Abel, "go on."
"Give a man time, my son. I warn't brought up to the law. What I was thinking is this: we three working chaps in our shabby clothes are rich men as we stand now."
"Very," said Dallas.
"And if we were to sell our claim now we should be very, very rich."
"Very--very--very rich," said Abel, laughing as a man laughs who is in high spirits produced by vigorous health.
"Well, go on," said Dallas.
"Here it is, then: what's the good of our going grubbing on just to be able to say we're richer still? 'Enough's as good as a feast,' so what's the good of being greedy? Why not let some one else have a turn, and let's all go home?"
"What do you say, Bel?"
"Ay! And you, Dal?"
"The 'Ays' have it, then," cried Tregelly.
"Well done, my sons. Hooroar! We're homeward bou-wou-wound!" he roared in his big ba.s.s voice. "Hooroar! We're homeward bound!"
Business matters are settled quickly in a goldfield, and the next day it was known in the now crowded ravine, where every inch of ground was taken up, that the big company of which the judge was the head had bought the three adventurers' claim, known far and near as Redbeard's, for a tremendous sum. But all the same, heads were shaken by the wise ones of the settlement, who one and all agreed that the company had got it cheap, and they wished that they had had the chance.
"You're one of the buyers, aren't you, Norton, and your lot who came up first are the rest?"
"That's right," said Norton, smiling. "Hah!" said the man. "Kissing goes by favour."
"Of course," said Norton. "But then, you see, we were all old friends."
"We said it was to win or to die, Bel," said Dallas one day, when all business was satisfactorily settled and they were really, as Tregelly had sung, homeward bound.
"Yes," said Abel quietly, "and it all seems like a dream."
"But it's a mighty, weighty, solid, golden sort o' dream, my son," said the big Cornishman, "and there's no mistake about it, you've won. I say, though, I'm glad we're taking the dog."