Read CHAPTER III - HOBO STUFF of Silver and Gold A Story of Luck and Love in a Western Mining Camp , free online book, by Dane Coolidge, on ReadCentral.com.

“Young man,” began Bunker Hill after a long and painful silence in which Big Boy completely ignored him, “I want to ask your pardon. And anything I can do ”

“I’m all right,” cut in the hobo wiping the blood out of one eye and feeling tenderly of a tooth, “and I don’t want nothing to do with you.”

“Can’t blame ye, can’t blame ye,” answered Old Bunk judicially. “I certainly got you wrong. But as I was about to say, Mrs. Hill sent this lunch and she said she hoped you’d accept it.”

He untied a sack from the back of his saddle, and as he caught the fragrance of new-made doughnuts Big Boy’s resolution failed.

“All right,” he said, making a grab for the lunch. “Much obliged!” And he chucked him a bill.

“Hey, what’s this for?” exclaimed Bunker Hill grievously. “Didn’t I ask your pardon already.”

“Well, maybe you did,” returned the hobo, “but after that call down you gave me this morning I’m going to pay my way. It’s too danged bad,” he murmured sarcastically as he opened up the lunch. “Sure hard luck to see a good woman like that married to a pennypinching old walloper like you.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” observed Old Bunk, gazing doubtfully at the bill, but at last he put it in his pocket.

“Yes, that’s right,” he agreed with an indulgent smile, “she’s an awful good cook and an awful good woman, too. I’ll just give her this money to buy some little present she told me I was wrong, all the time. But I want to tell you, pardner you can believe it or not I never turned a man down before.”

The hobo grunted and bit into a doughnut and Bunker Hill settled down beside him.

“Say,” he began in an easy, conversational tone, “did you ever hear about the hobo that was walking the streets in Globe? Well, he was broke and up against it hadn’t et for two days and the rustling was awful poor but as he was walking along the street in front of that big restaurant he saw a new meal ticket on the sidewalk. His luck had been so bad he wouldn’t even look at it but at last when he went by he took another slant and see that it was good there wasn’t but one meal punched out.”

“Aw, rats,” scoffed Big Boy, “are you still telling that one? There was a miner came by just as he reached down to grab it and punched out every meal with his hob-nails.”

“That’s the story,” admitted Bunker, “but say, here’s another one did you ever hear of the hobo Mark Twain? Well, he was a well-known character in the old days around Globe kinder drifted around from one camp to the other and worked all his friends for a dollar. That was his regular graft, he never asked for more and he never asked the same man twice, but once every year he’d make the rounds and the old-timers kind of put up with him. Great story-teller and all that and one day I was sitting talking with him when a mining man came into the saloon. He owned a mine, over around Mammoth somewhere, and he wanted a man to herd it. It was seventy-five a month, with all expenses paid and all you had to do was to stick around and keep some outsider from jumping in. Well, when he asked for a man I saw right away it was just the place for old Mark and I began to kind of poke him in the ribs, but when he didn’t answer I hollered to the mining man that I had just the feller he wanted. Well, the mining man came over and put it up to Mark, and everybody present began to boost. He was such an old bum that we wanted to get rid of him and there wasn’t a thing he could kick on. There was plenty of grub, a nice house to live in and he didn’t have to work a tap; but in spite of all that, after he’d asked all kinds of questions, Old Mark said he’d have to think it over. So he went over to the bar and began to figger on some paper and at last he came back and said he was sorry but he couldn’t afford to take it.

“‘Well, why not?’ we asks, because we knowed he was a bum, but he says: ’Well gentlemen, I’ll tell ye, it’s this way. I’ve got twelve hundred friends in Arizona that’s worth a dollar apiece a year; but this danged job only pays seventy-five a month I’d be losing three hundred a year.”

“Huh, huh,” grunted Big Boy, picking up some folded tarts, “your mind seems to be took up with hoboes.”

“Them’s my wife’s pay-streak biscuits,” grinned Bunker Hill, “or at least, that’s what I call ’em. The bottom crust is the foot-wall, the top is the hanging-wall, and the jelly in the middle is the pay streak.”

“Danged good!” pronounced the hobo licking the tips of his fingers and Old Bunk tapped him on the knee.

“Say,” he said, “seeing the way you whipped that jasper puts me in mind of a feller back in Texas. He was a big, two-fisted hombre, one of these Texas bad-men that was always getting drunk and starting in to clean up the town; and he had all the natives bluffed. Well, he was in the saloon one day, telling how many men he’d killed, when a little guy dropped in that had just come to town, and he seemed to take a great interest. He kept edging up closer, sharpening the blade of his jack-knife on one of these here little pocket whetstones, until finally he reached over and cut a notch in the bad man’s ear.

“There,” he says, “you’re so doggoned bad next time I see you I’ll know you!”

“Yeh, some guy,” observed Big Boy, “and I see you’re some story-teller, but what’s all this got to do with me?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing,” answered Old Bunk hastily, “only I thought while you were eating ”

“Yes, you told me two stories about a couple of hoboes and then another one about taming down a bad man; but I want to tell you right now, before you go any further, that I’m no hobo nor bad man neither. I’m a danged good miner one of the best in Globe ”

“Aw, no no!” burst out Bunker holding up both hands in protest, “you’ve got me wrong entirely.”

“Well, your stories may be all right,” responded Big Boy shortly, “but they don’t make a hit with me. And I’ve took about enough, for one day.”

He started back up the trail and Bunker Hill rode along behind him going over the events of the day. Some distinctly evil genius seemed to have taken possession of him from the moment he got out of bed and, try as he would, it seemed absolutely impossible for him to square himself with this Big Boy.

“Hey, git on and ride,” he shouted encouragingly, but Big Boy shook his head.

“Don’t want to,” he answered and once more Bunker Hill was left to ponder his mistakes. The first, of course, was in taking too much for granted when Big Boy had walked into town; and the second was in ever refusing a hobo when he asked for something to eat. True it amounted in the aggregate to a heart-breaking amount almost enough to support his family but a man lost his luck when he turned a hobo down and Old Bunk decided against it. Never again, he resolved, would he restrain his good wife from following the dictates of her heart, and that meant that every hobo that walked into town would get a square meal in his kitchen. Where the cash was coming from to buy this expensive food and pay for the freighting across the desert was a matter for the future to decide, but as he dwelt on his problem a sudden ray of hope roused Bunker Hill from his reverie. Speaking of money, the ex-hobo, walking along in front of him, had over eight hundred dollars in his hip pocket and he claimed to be a miner!

“Say!” began Bunker as they came in sight of town, “d’ye see those old workings over there? That’s the site of the celebrated Lost Burro Mine turned out over four millions in silver!”

“Yeah, so I’ve heard,” answered Big Boy wearily, “been closed down though, for twenty years.”

“I’m the owner of that property,” went on Bunker pompously. “Andrew Hill is my name and I’d be glad to show you round.”

“Nope,” said the future prospect, “I’m too danged tired. I’m going down to the crick and rest.”

“Come up to the house,” proposed Bunker Hill cordially, “and meet my wife and family. I’m sure Mrs. Hill will be glad to see you back she was afraid that something might happen to you.”

The hobo glanced up with a swift, cynical smile and turned off down the trail to the creek.

“I see you’ve got your eye on my roll,” he observed and Bunker Hill shrugged regretfully.