Gold Seekers of '49 - Edwin Sabin

Miners' Justice

"No talk, now," continued the long-nosed man, with a hard smile slightly curving his thin black moustache. "Drop that rifle, you other kid. Back up the side of that hollow, both of you, and scoot. You're in the wrong pew. This happens to be our claim. See?"

Billy was so surprised and bewildered at the sudden attack that he simply couldn't say a word. He only looked, with mouth open, at Charley; and then at the men. He and Charley slowly backed away, up the other slope of the hollow. Charley saw that the three men were breathing hard, as if they had just arrived, in a hurry. He was so mad that he, too, scarcely could speak.

"'T isn't either your mine," he retorted hotly. "That's a lie, and you know it. You're only trying to steal it. It was given to me, and we've found it again, and we can prove it. You wait till we get our crowd."

The three behind the gun-muzzles laughed.

"The best thing for your crowd to do is to stay out of shooting distance," answered the long-nosed man. "We've got the mine, and the documents to prove it's ourn. Those are two p'ints hard to beat, bub."

"You haven't any right, just the same," retorted Charley, furious. "You stole those papers, but you needn't think you can steal the mine. You wait."

"We'll wait," said the long-nosed man, grimly.

"Come on," bade Charley, choking with wrath and almost with tears, to the astonished Billy. "Let's get our animals and find our partners. Those fellows needn't think they can bluff us."

"Who are they, anyhow?" gasped Billy, as he and Charley went plunging down the ridge. "Is that their mine? Did they put that sign up? I thought we found it. We were there first, weren't we?"

"It's a long story, Billy; I'll tell you later," panted Charley, hurrying. "But it's our mine, all right—same one that was given to dad and me last spring. Remember I spoke about it? And we're going to have it, too. Come on."

"And I'm going to have my rifle. They needn't think they can keep that, either," uttered Billy, waxing pugnacious.

"I see the rest of 'em," announced Charley.

"They're making for the pack animals." And there, threading their way through the brush near the foot of the ridge, beyond the burro and the horse, were the figures of Mr. Adams and Mr. Walker and the tall Fremonter. A fourth figure was with them—he looked like a miner.

Charley and Billy waved and shouted, and hurried.

"Hello! Were you doing that shooting?" demanded Charley's father, as they approached. "What did you see?"

"A big bear," wheezed Charley. "But we found the mine—the Golden West. And the long-nosed man took it away from us."

"There are three of 'em," joined in Billy. "They pointed guns at us and made us get out."


"Up there on top of the ridge. Billy's bullet knocked out a piece of gold quartz—see?" and Charley extended the fragment that he had been clutching tightly. "Then Billy found a sign that said 'Golden West' and is signed by Tom Jones, for a claim; and when we were looking at it that Jacobs gang surprised us and told us to 'git.' Let's go back up there. They made Billy leave his gun, too."

The four men uttered exclamations, while looking at each other; Mr. Grigsby thoughtfully stroked his beard, and gazed at the crest of the ridge. Charley was certain that the heads of the Jacobs party were peeking over the brush, there.

The piece of quartz passed around, and was examined. Most excited of all seemed to be the miner—for he certainly was a miner—who had been added to the party: a short, heavy-set man, very shaggy and weather-worn. He carried knife and pistol, and appeared to be good reinforcement.

"Did you get that up on that hill?" he demanded. "How much more is there of it? It's gold quartz, sure as shootin'—an' plaguey rich. Say—I want some o' that, myself. Hooray! Come on, all o' ye, 'fore the news gets out. You're fust, I'm second."

"You say you found the Golden West mine, and the Jacobs party ran you out, Charley?" asked Mr. Adams.

"Yes, sir. Didn't we, Billy?" And Billy nodded.

"Are they up there now?"

"Yes, sir. See 'em. They've got guns, too, besides Billy's."

"Looks as though we were in for a fight, then; eh, Grigsby?" remarked Mr. Adams, flushing. "We'll not stand to be robbed in any such fashion. Let's go and see what they have to say."

"The way I size those gentry up," said Mr. Grigsby, "they're there and we're here, and they won't let us get much closer. Maybe we can starve 'em out, though," and he surveyed the ridge.

"I'm with you, in anything you want to do," spoke Mr. Walker. "How many are there? Three?"

"Jumped yore claim, have they?" asked the miner.

"They certainly have."

"You're shore it's yourn?"

"We can prove it."

"Then best thing you can do is to prove it to the boys at Rough an' Ready," pursued the miner. "Thar's been too much claim-jumpin', in this valley; no-one's property is safe, by thunder. You come along to Rough an' Ready, an' we'll see if 't isn't time for law an' order to take a hand in this game. Yore claim won't peter out while you're gone—not if it's any good; an' whilst I believe in fightin' when you have to, thar's no use sheddin' blood if thar's an easier way 'round to get the same thing."

"What do you say?" invited Mr. Adams, of the two other men. As for Charley, he saw that his father was ready to fight or not; he wasn't afraid, was this tall, soldierly veteran who had served with Scott in Mexico.

"I prefer getting our rights without any blood on them, if we can, of course," answered Mr. Walker. "I hate to start in in a new country with a fight of any kind. But you can count on me, whatever you decide to do."

"Let's try miners' law, first, then," spoke Mr. Grigsby, shortly. "If that doesn't help, we'll have to protect ourselves the next best way, even to shooting. But our rights we'll have, or bust."

"Very well," said Mr. Adams. "Rough and Ready's four miles. I'll take the boys, so they can tell their story, and our friend here; and you and Walker stay with the animals and keep an eye on the ridge. We'll be back as soon as we can. Come on, lads," and away he strode, with the miner, and with Charley and Billy working hard to keep up.

They passed between the Golden West ridge and another, and emerged into a wide pleasant valley which the miner said was called Grass Valley. Down the valley they hastened, and in about an hour the miner, who acted as guide, pointed ahead, with the remark:

"Thar's Rough an' Ready—the best camp in the hills. Now we'll see what's what."

Miners were busily at work, digging and heaping piles of dirt from the ravines and the flats; and before, against a hill slope, partly in the pines and partly in the open, were tents and huts. As they hustled up, the miner was greeted right and left.

"Hello, Eph. What's your hurry?"

"Injuns after you?"

"What's the news from yonder?"

"Thought you'd left the country."

"How are things at your diggin's?"

"Cleaned up your pile already?"

"By the way you're travelin' you must have made a strike, or else you're after grub!"

"Strike!" growled Eph. "You bet thar is, an' somethin' to pay, too. Come on, you fellows. I want everybody in the camp. We're goin' to hold a regular town meetin'."

Rough and Ready was another conglomeration of tents new and old, bough lean-tos, and shacks covered with canvas. In front of a tent labeled, rudely: "New York Generul Store," Eph halted and uttered a resounding whoop. The miners began to gather; there were other whoops, and cheers, and the gay beating of gold pans, like gongs, until it seemed as though the whole camp was on hand. A booted, whiskered, "rough and ready" crowd they made, too.

"Well, Eph, what's the trouble? Somebody got the dead-wood on you?" demanded a strapping big miner in torn red shirt and prodigious boots. He seemed to be a sort of a leader.

"These boys and I——" began Mr. Adams; but Eph interrupted.

"I'll do the talkin', fust. You save yore powder. This gentleman an' these two lads belong to a party I met up with at t'other end the valley. They were prospectin' for a claim they'd heared of. The two boys located it atop a ridge, yon, an' as I understand, they were actually on the ground, sizin' it up, when another party jumped 'em, at the p'int o' guns made 'em vamoose, an' proceeded to hold down the claim themselves. Show yore sample, boys. What do you think o' that, men?"

Charley handed out the sample. As it passed around among the craning heads and hairy fists, it created tremendous excitement.

"Whar'd you get it?"

"Gold quartz, or I'm a sinner!"

"That'll run a thousand dollars to the pan, I bet ye."

"Hooray for the new diggin's! Come on, fellows. I'm off."

"Hold on, thar," bade the red-shirted man, stopping what would have been a stampede. "That doesn't settle the matter. Eph, here, has called a meetin' for a purpose; haven't you, Eph?"

"You're talkin'," assured Eph. "It's time claim-jumpin' 'round these diggin's has got to stop. If this gentleman can prove up for his party that they've fust rights to that discivvery, we ought to go back thar an' show those other fellows that Rough an' Ready is takin' a stand for law an' order."

"Hooray!" cheered the crowd, which seemed ripe for anything new.

"You say you've got fust location on that quartz claim?" inquired the red-shirted man, of Mr. Adams.

"Yes, sir," replied Charley's father, promptly. "By two reasons. It was given us by the former owner, in St. Louis; and these boys, who are partners in our party, found it again on their own hook."

"What might be the name of that claim, then, stranger, if it was given to you?" asked somebody else.

"The Golden West," answered Mr. Adams. "It was given to us by a man whom we befriended in St. Louis. We had the documents to prove it, but they were stolen by the very gang who drove the boys away. Even that doesn't matter, though, for they found it, stake and all, and——"

"What did you say the name is?" demanded half a score of voices.

"The Golden West."

"Fetch the woman," cried the voices, now; and the demand rose to a clamor: "Fetch the woman."

The crowd laughed and jostled expectantly; and presently they parted, to give passage to a young woman, ceremoniously conducted by two of the miners, their hats off. And who should follow her, but Mr. Motte—the young man who had been left behind at Panama!

"Strangers," announced the red-shirted spokesman for the camp, to Mr. Adams, "if you've found the Golden West, here's the owner of it, an' I reckon she'll thank you for your trouble. The hull camp's' back of her, so you'd better talk peaceable. Ain't that so, boys?"

"You bet!" came the resounding cheer.

"Well, if that's the case, of course——" said Mr. Adams, uncertainly, removing his hat, while the young woman, in sunbonnet and neat calico dress, appeared much embarrassed. Charley and Billy stood with mouth open at the unexpected turn of events. But Mr. Motte pressed forward, extending glad hand.

"Hello," spoke Mr. Adams. "How'd you get here?" He shook hands with Mr. Motte, and so did Charley, and so did Billy, although he didn't know exactly why.

"Yes, sir, here I am, thanks to your ticket. And here's my wife, too. This is the gentleman who gave me the ticket from Panama, Mary."

"Hooray!" cheered the ready miners.

"How long have you been here?" asked Mr. Adams.

"Two or three days. I've been laid up (and indeed he looked thin), but I'm all right now. The camp's been mighty kind to us. They tell me you've found the Golden West quartz claim. Is that so?"

"Yes, sir. These boys found it; three rascals who have dogged us from New Orleans (one of them clear from St. Louis), have jumped it. Now I understand you or your wife have prior rights to it. How about that, sir?"

"To tell the truth, I think that probably we have," answered Mr. Motte; "but you shan't lose out, anyway. Not after you helped me along the way you did, with that ticket. No, sir. Shall he, Mary?" And the young woman shook her head. Mr. Motte continued, while the camp listened intently. "As I've explained to these men my uncle—or my wife's uncle, rather, whose name was Tom Jones—wrote us a letter last year telling us to come out and giving us the Golden West quartz claim that he had just located in this region, somewhere. He said it was a bonanza, with plenty for all. The letter didn't get to us for six months, and that's the last we heard from him, though we wrote him we were coming as soon as we could. I've the letter, as this camp knows."

"You're talkin'," approved the crowd, emphatically.

"So, thanks to you, sir, we got this far, and then we ran up against the fact that nobody seemed to know anything about a Golden West quartz claim. My uncle was in the diggings early, and he prospected alone, evidently, and nobody knew him, except a few people remembered his name—and one man did recollect something about a quartz claim from which there were samples. My uncle was a queer, quiet sort of a man—never talked much."

"Let the stranger tell his story, now," bade the red-shirt.

So Mr. Adams did, from the beginning in St. Louis, to the apparent end here; and he concluded:

"Your right to the mine evidently is prior to ours, sir, and we wouldn't think of contesting it—especially not with a woman," and he bowed to Mrs. Motte, who flushed, ill at ease among all these men.

"You're O. K.!" approved the crowd. "Especially not with a woman, you say; an' with the only woman in Rough an' Ready. Hooray!"

"But you've made a long trip," protested young Mr. Motte, also flushing. "You've found the claim for us, and if it hadn't have been for you I might have been in Panama yet, either alive or dead. So I don't agree——"

"Let's act fust an' talk afterward," interrupted the red-shirt. "Fust thing is to oust those thar claim-jumpers yonder, for the good of the camp, an' to put the little lady in possession. Get yore tools an' weapons, boys, an' come on."

With a great shout the crowd rushed hither-thither; and away they all went, streaming through the valley, laden with picks and spades and crow-bars and guns, hustling Mr. and Mrs. Motte and Mr. Adams and Charley and Billy along in their midst. They acted like a lot of school-boys on a frolic, but there was an undercurrent of earnestness.

To the three men on the ridge it must have looked as though an army was advancing; and Charley could see Mr. Walker and the Fremonter staring from their posts whence they were keeping watch on the claim. Well, this was pretty tough: to have traveled clear from St. Louis, and spent a lot of money, and acted honestly all the way through; and then only to have put somebody else in possession of the mine.

"Thar's the place—straight ahead on top the ridge," directed the miner Eph, who was leading with the red-shirt. And following these two, up the slope trooped the company.

The heads of the three men in the hollow poked up over the rim, as their owners surveyed, probably in amazement, the onslaught. The muzzles of the guns protruded, also, but the big red-shirt made no account of them.

"Come out o' thar!" he roared, in a voice that might have been heard a mile. "Drop those weapons; they'll do you no good. So come out o' thar, an' come quick. Don't you know enough to make room for a lady?"

Up slowly rose the long-nosed man, and emerged, glowering but weaponless, his hands in the air; and emerged likewise his two partners. The long-nosed man tried to bluff his way.

"What's the meaning of this attack?" he demanded. "Where's your warrant for it? Would you drive three honest men off ground to which they've got rights according to evidence? Won't you consider our documents in this matter?"

"Shot-gun rights don't go any longer in Grass Valley, mister," roared the red-shirt. "If you'd had the right sort o' rights you'd have proved 'em peaceable. Besides, with yore docyments—which you stole—you're barkin' up the wrong tree. Here's the true an' ondisputed owner of this claim—the heiress of the Golden West, not to speak of bein' the only woman in this district an' entitled to the best that goes. See? Get down in thar, lady; Eph, you do yoreself the honor of escortin' her, an' read what it says on that thar stake. If it says Golden West an' is signed Tom Jones, that settles the matter, pronto."

"But the claim was abandoned. It hasn't been worked for a year," spoke up one of the long-nosed man's companions.

"Then you lose out thar, too, stranger," retorted the red-shirt. "'Cause in that case, barrin' better rights, it belongs to these two boys by right o' rediscivvery. So don't argue with me; I'm a reg'lar lawyer in argufyin'."

The miner Eph had very politely helped the little woman to the stake, and stooping had traced with his gnarled finger the words on the notice.

"This is the claim," he announced. "Shore as shootin'."

"Hooray!" cheered the Rough and Ready crowd. Said the red-shirt, to the Jacobs trio: "You git! An' I app'int the camp o' Rough an' Ready, here assembled, as a committee of the whole to see that you do git. Don't you stop till you're so far you'll never come back. But fust shell out those dockyments, and be quick."

"Look here. I——" attempted the long-nosed man; but he was interrupted.

"Shell 'em out!" roared red-shirt, advancing a step.

Without a word Mr. Jacobs looked at his companions; and as if in answer to his unspoken appeal one of them (Charley tried hard to compare him with the stranger aboard the California) extracted from a pocketbook the well-remembered slips, and tossed them aside, to the ground.

Charley daringly darted forward and picked them up. Billy followed and rescued his rifle.

"Are those the same?" queried red-shirt, of Charley.

"Yes, sir."

"All right. Now," repeated red-shirt, to the Jacobs trio, "you git, as aforesaid."

That the long-nosed man and his two cronies had guilty consciences was very plain, for replying by naught (and rather white in the face at the threatening advance of several Rough and Ready-ites) they backed away, down the other side of the ridge; at a little distance they shook their fists and yelped something, but they kept on going, so long as Charley looked. They had left not only Billy's gun, but their own guns also.

Young Mrs. Motte now was speaking, and so was her husband.

"It isn't fair," she declared bravely. "This gentleman and his two boys found the claim, again, and have given it up without a word, after all their trouble; and they took care of my uncle, and it looks as though he intended them to have the claim, as much as us."

"He certainly intended them to have some of it——" added her husband.

"More likely he thought that you hadn't got his letter, and for that reason gave us a chance," put in Mr. Adams, quickly.

"But I owe you the mine, anyway," insisted Mr. Motte. "Your ticket from Panama was what brought me to San Francisco."

"The whole thing's soon settled," boomed the big red-shirt. "I app'int myself chairman of this here town meetin' of the new camp of Gold Hill (the same which is the name of this ridge)——"

"Hooray for Gold Hill!" cheered the miners.

"An' I further app'int Eph Saunders clerk, to record the minutes when he gets whar thar's somethin' to record with. I'll make the motions, too, if thar's no objection. I move that it be the sense of this camp that the little woman, here, an' her husband, by name o' Motte, be declared legal owners of the Golden West quartz claim, extendin' 100 feet, both sides of the claim stake, followin' the main lode an' includin' all dips an' angles an' spurs whatsoever; the same bein' really two claims, one by 'heritance an' one for luck."

"I second the motion," yelled everybody.

"Moved an' seconded. All in favor can say 'aye.'"


"Next I move it be the sense of this here camp," continued the chairman, "that in consideration of this gentleman an' party havin' sartin rights o' rediscivvery in the Golden West claim, an' havin' sort o' defeated themselves 'cause they were kind to a young feller down at Panama, an' havin' acted mighty white since they've been in these diggin's, they be allowed next ch'ice o' claims, to the extent o' one hundred an' fifty feet along the main lode, on both side o' the Golden West, bein' 300 feet o' claims in all."

"Second the motion."

"Motion bein' seconded, all in favor say 'aye.' An' I hope no citizen of this camp'll be so dogged mean as to say anything else."

"Aye," pealed the lusty chorus.

Mr. Adams tried to speak; Charley and Billy looked at one another and grinned. And Billy waved at his father and Mr. Grigsby, who had pressed up the hill to learn what was going on.

"The motion bein' carried unanimous, the chair app'ints the indivijools known as Pike and Dutch to pace off the aforesaid distances, as close as they can, an' mark the ends."

While everybody gravely watched, the two miners designated paced off the 100 feet, on either side of the stake, along the ridge, and again the 150 feet, further. They hastily marked the distances and returned.

"There bein' no other bus'ness before the meetin'," shouted red-shirt, "I declare it hereby dissolved—an' every man for himself. Stake yore claims, boys, while thar are any!"

Away he jumped, and away broke all. With shouts and cheers and laughter the whole hill was covered, in an incredibly short time, with men picking and digging and peering and driving their stakes or piling up stones.