Chapter 11




PLANS FOR DEPARTURE.

The recovery of the horses was in one respect especially fortunate. Richard Dewey was anxious to leave the mountain-cabin as soon as possible and make his way to San Francisco, where, as we know, his promised wife was anxiously awaiting him. But there was considerable danger that his ankle, which had been severely sprained, would not be in a condition for travelling for a considerable time yet. The rough mountain-paths would have tried it, and perhaps a second sprain would have resulted.

Now, however, he would be able to ride on one of the horses, and need not walk at all if he pleased.

This idea occurred to Jake Bradley, who suggested it to Richard Dewey.

Dewey's face brightened up, for he was secretly chafing over the delay made necessary by his accident. "But, my friend," he said, "it would be selfish in me to take your horse and leave you to go on foot."

"Look here, Dick Dewey," said Bradley: "what do you take me for? Do you think I'm so delicate I can't walk? I wasn't brought up in no such way. I can do my regular share of trampin', whether on the prairie or on the mountain. I ain't no tender-foot."

"I don't doubt your strength and endurance, friend Bradley," said Dewey, "but a man doesn't always like to do what he is fully able to do."

"Then we needn't say no more about it. There's a gal--I beg your pardon, a young lady--in 'Frisco that's pinin' to see you, Dick Dewey, and that hoss'll get you there sooner'n if you waited till you could walk."

"I am too selfish to resist your arguments, my good friend," said Dewey. "I think I can venture to start within a week, as I am to ride."

"No doubt of it."

"You'd better let me buy your horse, and then if we don't meet again, or anything happens to it, you won't be the loser."

"'If we don't meet again'?" repeated Bradley, puzzled. "You don't mean to say you are goin' to set out alone?"

"I don't want to take you and Ben away from your claim. It isn't half exhausted yet."

"Then let somebody else exhaust it," returned Bradley. "You don't suppose, Dick, we are goin' to let you go off alone?"

"I shall not be alone. My faithful attendant, Ki Sing, will be with me."

"And what good would Ki Sing be in case you fell in with a grizzly? I want to know that," asked Bradley. "I don't say anything against the heathen; he's squarer than many a white man I've met with, and he's worth a dozen such men as Bill Mosely and Tom Hadley; but, all the same, he wouldn't be much in a scrimmage. Them Chinamen are half women, accordin' to my reckonin'. They look like it and speak like it. No, Ben and I go when you do, and the first man that comes along is welcome to the claim."

"I shall certainly be delighted to have you both with me," said Richard Dewey. "You're a good fellow, Jake Bradley, and I trust you more than any man I have met since I came to California. Ben acted as escort to Florence, and I owe him a debt for that which I hope some day to repay."

"Then it's all fixed," said Bradley, in a tone of satisfaction. "We four are to keep together till we see you within reach of 'Frisco. When you and your young lady meet you won't need us any more."

Richard Dewey smiled. "Florence will wish to thank you for your kind care of me, Bradley," he said.

"I've no objection to that. You can invite me to the weddin', Dick."

"I give you that invitation now, and hope you may not have long to wait for the occasion. All difficulties are not yet removed, but I hope they may vanish speedily. I get impatient sometimes, but I try to curb my impatient feeling."

"I reckon I would feel so myself if I was in your fix," observed Bradley.

"I hope you may be, Jake."

Bradley shook his head.

"I'm a cross-grained old bachelor," he said, "and I reckon no gal would look at me twice."




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