Produced by Al Haines
The Furnace of Gold
PHILIP VERRILL MIGHELS
THE PILLARS OF EDEN, BRUVVER JIM'S BABY, ETC
J. N. MARCHAND
GROSSET & DUNLAP
Publishers :: New York
Copyright, 1909, by
P. V. Mighels
Copyright, 1910, by
Desmond FitzGerald, Inc.
_All Rights Reserved_
I. PRINCE OR BANDIT II. INTO THE MOUNTAINS III. A RESCUE IV. CONGENIAL COMPANY V. VAN'S PARTNERS VI. THE BATTLE VII. AN EXCHANGE OF QUESTIONS VIII. A NIGHT'S EXPENSES IX. PROGRESS AND SALT X. THE LAUGHING WATER CLAIM XI. ALGY STIRS UP TROUBLE XII. BOSTWICK LOSES GROUND XIII. A COMBINATION OF FORCES XIV. MOVING A SHACK XV. HATCHING A PLOT XVI. INVOLVING BETH XVII. UNEXPECTED COMPLICATIONS XVIII. WHEREIN MATTERS THICKEN XIX. VAN AND BETH AND BOSTWICK XX. QUEENIE XXI. IN THE SHADOW OF THE ROPE XXII. TWO MEETINGS AFTER DARK XXIII. BETH'S DESPERATION XXIV. A BLIZZARD OF DUST XXV. A TIMELY DELIVERANCE XXVI. THE NIGHT IN THE DESERT XXVII. TALL STORIES XXVIII. WORK AND SONG XXIX. SUSPICIOUS ANSWERS XXX. BETH'S ONE EXPEDIENT XXXI. McCOPPET BUSIES HIS MIND XXXII. THE HARDSHIPS OF THE TRAIL XXXIII. THE CLOUDS OF TROUBLE GATHER XXXIV. THE TAKING OF THE CLAIM XXXV. THE MEETINGS OF TWO STRONG MEN XXXVI. VAN RUNS AMUCK XXXVII. THE PRIMITIVE LAW XXXVIII. BETH MAKES DEMANDS XXXIX. ALGY'S COOKING AND BETH'S DESPAIR XL. GLEN AND REVELATIONS XLI. SUVY PROVES HIS LOVE XLII. THE FURNACE OF GOLD XLIII. PREPARING THE NET FOR A DRAW XLIV. THE ENGINES OF CLIMAX XLV. THE LAST CIGARS XLVI. WASTED TIME XLVII. A TRIBUTE TO THE DESERT
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
He Proceeded to Pan from a Dozen Different Places in the Cove . . . . Frontispiece [missing from book]
His Hold Was Giving Way
The Angry Miner Lurching in Closer to Shoot [missing from book]
"Don't You Want to Give This Man a Chance?"
Beth Felt Her Heart Begin New Gymnastics [missing from book]
No Corpse Snatched from Its Grave Could Have Been More Helplessly Inert
"Yesh, He's Broke the Law"
Till the Mechanism Burst, He would Chase His Man Across the Desert [missing from book]
THE FURNACE OF GOLD
PRINCE OR BANDIT
Now Nevada, though robed in gray and white--the gray of sagebrush and thewhite of snowy summits--had never yet been accounted a nun when onceagain the early summer aroused the passions of her being and the wildpeach burst into bloom.
It was out in Nauwish valley, at the desert-edge, where gold has beenstored in the hungry-looking rock to lure man away from fairer pastures.There were mountains everywhere--huge, rugged mountains, erected in theigneous fury of world-making, long since calmed. Above them all the skywas almost incredibly blue--an intense ultramarine of extraordinaryclearness and profundity.
At the southwest limit of the valley was the one human habitationestablished thereabout in many miles, a roadside station where a springof water issued from the earth. Towards this, on the narrow, side-hillroad, limped a dusty red automobile.
It contained three passengers, two women and a man. Of the women, onewas a little German maid, rather pretty and demure, whose duty it was toenact the chaperone. The other, Beth Kent, straight from New York City,well--the wild peach was in bloom!
She was amazingly beautiful and winning. It seemed as if she and not thepink mountain blossoms must be responsible for all that hauntingredolence in this landscape of passionless gray. Her brown eyes burnedwith glorious luminosity. Her color pulsed with health and the joyanceof existence. Her red lips quivered with unuttered ecstacies that surgedin the depths of her nature. Even the bright brown strands of her hair,escaping the prison of her cap, were catching the sunlight and flingingit off in the most engaging animation. She loved this new, unpeopledland--the mountains, the sky, the vastness of it all!
For a two-fold reason she had come from New York to Nevada. In the firstplace her young half-brother, Glenville Kent--all the kin she hadremaining in the world--had been for a month at Goldite camp, where shewas heading, and all that he wrote had inflamed her unusual love ofadventure till she knew she must see it for herself. Moreover, he wasnone too well. She had come to visit and surprise him.
In the second place, her fiance, Searle Bostwick, he who was now at thewheel, had also been marooned, as it were, in this sagebrush land, by thegolden allurements of fortune. Beth had simply made up her mind to come,and for two days past had been waiting, with her maid, at the prettylittle town of Freemont, on the railroad, for Searle to appear in hismodern ship of the desert and treat her to the one day's drive intoGoldite, whither he also was bound.
The man now intent on the big machine and the sandy road was a noticeablefigure, despite the dust upon his raiment. He was a tall, well-modeledman of thirty-five, with an air of distinction upon him, materiallyheightened by his deep-set, piercing gray eyes, his firm, bluish jaw, andthe sprinkling of frost in his hair.
He wore no moustache. His upper lip, somewhat over long, bore that samebluish tint that a thick growth of beard, even when diligently shaved,imparted to his face. He was, indeed, a handsome being, in a somewhatstern, determined style.
He was irritated now by the prospect of labor at the station. Evenshould he find some willing male being whose assistance with the tiremight be invoked, the task would still involve himself ratherstrenuously; and above all things he loathed rough usage of his hands.For three more miles he cursed the mechanism, then he halted the car atthe station.
A shack that served as lodging-house, saloon, and dining-room, a shackfor a stable, and a shack for a shed, together with a rough corral,comprised the entire group of buildings at the place. Six or eight finecottonwoods and a number of twisted apple trees made the little placedecidedly inviting. Behind these, rising almost sheer from the levelyard, the mountains heaved upward grayly, their vast bulk broken, somehundred yards away, by a yawning rock canyon, steep and forbidding.
The station proprietor, who emerged from the door at sound of the haltingmachine, was a small, lank individual, as brown as an Indian and aswrinkled as a crocodile. The driver in the car addressed him shortly.
"I wonder if you can help me put on a tire?"
The lank little host regarded him quietly, then looked at the women anddrew his hand across his mouth.
"Wal, I dunno," he answered. "I've set a tire and I've set a hen, but Iwouldn't like to tell ye what was hatched."
The girl in the tonneau laughed in frank delight--a musical outburst thatflattered the station host tremendously. The man at the wheel wasalready alighting.
"You'll do," he said. "My name is Bostwick. I'm on my way to Goldite,in a hurry. It won't take us long, but it wants two men on the job."
He had a way of thrusting his disagreeable tasks upon his fellow beingsbefore they were prepared either to accept or refuse a proposition. Hesucceeded here so promptly that the girl in the car made no effort torestrain her amusement. She was radiantly smiling as she leaned abovethe wheel where the two men were presently at work.
In the midst of the toil a sound of whistling came upon the air. Thegirl in the auto looked up, alertly. It was the Toreador's song fromCarmen that she heard, riotously rendered. A moment later the whistlerappeared--and an exclamation all but escaped the girl's red, parted lips.
Mounted on a calico pony of strikingly irregular design, a horseman hadhalted at the bend of a trail that
led to the rear of the station. Hesaw the girl and his whistling ceased.
From his looks he might have been a bandit or a prince. He was a roughlydressed, fearless-looking man of the hills, youthful, tall, and ascarelessly graceful in the saddle as a fish in its natural clement.
The girl's brown eyes and his blue eyes met. She did not analyze theperfect symmetry or balance of his features; she only knew his hair andlong moustache were tawny, that his face was bronzed, that his eyes werebold, frank depths of good humor and fire. He was splendid to lookat--that she instantly conceded. And she looked at him steadily till awarm flush rose to the pink of her ears, when her glance fell, abashed,to the pistol that hung on his saddle, and so, by way of the hoofs of hispinto steed, to the wheel, straight down where she was leaning.
The station-keeper glanced up briefly.
"Hullo, Van," was all he said.
The horseman made no reply. He was still engaged in looking at the girlwhen Bostwick half rose, with a tool in hand, and scowled at him silently.
It was only a short exchange of glances that passed between the pair,nevertheless something akin to a challenge played in the momentaryconflict, as if these men, hurled across the width of a continent tomeet, had been molded by Fate for some antagonistic clash, the essence ofwhich they felt thus soon with an utter strangeness between them.
Bostwick bent promptly to his labors with the tire. The girl in thetonneau stepped past her maid and opened the door on the further side ofthe car. Bostwick stood up at once.
"I wouldn't get out, Beth--I wouldn't get out," he said, a littleimpatiently. "We'll be ready to go in five minutes."
Nevertheless she alighted.
The eyes of both Bostwick and the horseman followed her graceful figureas she passed the front of the car and proceeded towards the orchard.Above the medium height and superbly modeled, she appeared more beautifulnow than before. She had not descended for a change of position, or evento inspect the place. As a matter of fact she was hoping to secure aprofile view of the bold-looking horseman on the pony. Her opportunitysoon arrived. He spoke to the station proprietor.
"Want to see you for a moment, Dave," and he rode a little off to a tree.
Dave ceased helping on the tire with marked alacrity and went to thehorseman at once. The two engaged in an earnest conversation, somewhatof which obviously concerned the auto and its passengers, since the lanklittle host made several ill-concealed gestures in the car's directionand once turned to look at the girl.
She had halted by the orchard fence from which, as a post of vantage, shewas apparently looking over all the place. Her brown eyes, however,swung repeatedly around to the calico pony and its rider.
Yes, she agreed, the horseman was equal to the scene. He fitted it all,mountains, sky, the sense of wildness and freedom in the air. What washe, then? Undoubtedly a native--perhaps part Indian--perhaps----
There was something sinister, she was certain, in the glance he casttowards the car. He was armed. Could it be that he and the station manwere road-agents, plotting some act of violence? They were certainlytalking about the machine, or its owner, with exceptional earnestness ofpurpose.
Bostwick had finished with the tire.
"Come along, Beth, come along!" he called abruptly.
No sooner had she turned to walk to the car than the horseman rode up inher path. Her heart sank suddenly with misgivings. She halted as theunknown visitor addressed himself to Bostwick.
"May I speak to you a moment privately?"
Bostwick bristled with suspicions at once.
"I have nothing of a private nature to discuss with you," he answered."If you have anything to say to me, please say it and be prompt."
The horseman changed color, but lost no whit of the native courtesy thatseemed a part of his being.
"It isn't particularly private," he answered quietly. "I only wished tosay I wouldn't rush off to Goldite this morning. I'd advise you to stayhere and rest."
Bostwick, already irritated by delay, and impervious to any thought of apossible service in the horseman's attitude, grew more impatient and farmore irritating.
"I haven't desired your advice," he answered sharply. "Be good enough tokeep it to yourself." He advanced to the station owner, held out a bill,and added: "Here you are, my man, for your trouble."
"Heck!" said the lank little host. "I don't want your money."
Across the horseman's handsome visage passed a look that, to the girl,boded anything but peace. Bostwick's manner was an almost intolerableaffront, in a land where affronts are resented. However, the strangeranswered quietly, despite the fact that Bostwick nettled him to anextraordinary degree.
"I agree that the sooner _you_ vamoose, the prompter the improvement inthe landscape. But you're not going off to Goldite with these ladies inthe car."
Matters might still have culminated differently had Bostwick even asked acivil "Why?" for Van was a generous and easy-going being.
Beth, in the road, felt her heart beat violently, with vague excitementand alarm. Bostwick glared, in sudden apprehension as to what thehorseman had in mind.
"Is this a hold-up?" he demanded. "What do you mean?"
The rider dismounted, in a quick, active manner, and opened the door ofthe tonneau.
"You wouldn't have thanked me for advice," he replied; "you would hardlythank me more for information." He added to the maid in the car:
"Please alight, your friend is impatient to be starting." He noddedtowards the owner of the auto.
The maid came down, demurely, casting but a glance at the tall,commanding figure by the wheel. He promptly lifted out a suitcase andthree decidedly feminine-looking bags.
Bostwick by now was furious.
"It's an outrage!" he cried, "a dastardly outrage! You can see I amwholly unarmed! Do you mean to restrain these ladies here by force?"
The horseman slipped his arm through the reins of his pony's bridle,surveying Bostwick calmly.
"Ordered me to leave!" echoed the car owner fiercely. "I can neither beordered to leave nor to stay! But I shall go--do you hear?--I shallgo--and the ladies with me! If you mean to rob us, do so at once andhave it over! My time is precious, if yours is not!"
Van smiled. "I might be tempted to rob a gentleman," he said, "but todeprive your passengers of your company would be a charity. Pray wasteno more of your precious time if that is your only concern."
Beth had regained a shadow of her former composure. Her courage hadnever been absent. She was less alarmed than before and decidedlycurious as to what this encounter might signify. She dared address thehorseman.
"But--but surely--you seem---- You must have some excellent reasonfor--for acting so peculiarly."
He could not repress the brightness in his eyes as he met herhalf-appealing gaze.
"Reason, advice, and information would apparently be alike unwelcome toyour chauffeur," he answered, doffing his hat. "He is eager to hasten onhis way, therefore by all means let us bid him begone."
Bostwick grew rapidly wilder at each intimation of his social standing--afriend of the maid, and Beth's chauffeur! His impatience to proceed withall possible haste to Goldite was consuming. He had not intended thatanything under the sun should delay him another single hour--not evenBeth, should occasion arise to detain her. Even now he was far moreconcerned about himself and the business of his mission than he was forthe women in his charge. He was much afraid, however, of the horseman'svisible gun. He was not at all a person of courage, and the man beforehim presented such an unknown quantity that he found himself more or lesshelpless. At most he could merely attempt a bluff.
"You'll pay for this!" he cried somewhat shrilly, his face a black maskof anger. "I'll give you just half a minute to release these ladies andpermit them to go with me
in peace! If you refuse----"
The horseman interrupted.
"I said before you had not been ordered on your way, but now I've changedmy mind. Don't talk any more--get into your car and hike!"
The gleam in his eye achieved two results: It cowed the last vestige ofbravado in Bostwick's composition and ignited all the hatred of hisnature. He hesitated for a moment, his lips parting sidewise as if for aspeech of defiance which his moral courage refused to indorse. Then, notdaring to refuse the horseman's command, he climbed aboard the car, themotor of which had never ceased its purring.
"You'll pay for this!" he repeated.
The girl, now pale again and tremendously disturbed, was regardingBostwick with a new, cold light in her eyes--a light that verged uponcontempt. She had never seen this lack of courageous spirit in the manbefore.
"But, Searle! You're not going--you're not really going, like this?"
It was the horseman who replied.
"You see, his time is precious. Also in his present state of mind he iscertainly unfit company for--well, for Dave, here, a man who loves thepure white dove of peace." The station owner grinned. Van turned oncemore to the car owner, adding, placidly: "There, there, driver----"
Bostwick broke in vehemently.
"I refuse to abandon these ladies! Your conduct is not only that of acoward, it is----"
Van looked him over in mock astonishment.
"Say, Searle," he said, "don't you savvy you've lost your vote in thisconvention? I told you to do these ladies the kindness to sweeten theatmosphere with your absence. Now you hit the trail--and hit it quick!"
Bostwick looked helplessly at the girl.
"I am entirely unarmed," he said as before, though she knew there was apistol in the car. "This ruffian----"
The horseman cut him short.
"So long, Searle. I trust you'll meet congenial company on the road, butI advise you even now to return the way you came."
Bostwick glared at him vindictively, but impotently. His jaw was set andhard. A cold fire glittered in his eyes. How selfishly eager he was tobe started on his way not even the girl could have known. Moreover, somesort of plan for the horseman's speedy punishment had taken possession ofhis mind.
"Have courage, Beth," he said to the girl. "Have courage."
He speeded up his motor, dropped in his clutch, and the car slowlystarted on its way.