Read CHAPTER XII - STEEL ON STEEL of Silver and Gold A Story of Luck and Love in a Western Mining Camp , free online book, by Dane Coolidge, on

The stifling summer heat fetched up wind from the south and thundercaps crowned the high peaks; then the rain came slashing and struck up the dust before it lifted and went scurrying away. The lizards gasped for breath, Drusilla ceased to sing, all Pinal seemed to palpitate with heat; but through heat and rain one song kept on Denver’s song of steel on steel. In the cool of his tunnel he drove up-holes and down, slugging manfully away until his round of holes was done and then shooting away the face. As the sun sank low he sat on the dump, sorting and sacking the best of his ore; and one evening as he worked Drusilla came by, walking slowly as if in deep thought.

He was down on his knees, a single-jack in his right hand a pile of quartzite at his left, and as she came to the forks he went on cracking rocks without so much as a stare. She glanced at him furtively, looked back towards the town, then turned off and came up his trail.

“Good evening,” she began and as he nodded silently she seemed at a loss for words. “ I just wanted to ask you,” she burst out hurriedly, “if you’d be willing to sell back the mine? I brought up the money with me.”

She drew out the sweaty roll of bills which he had paid to her father and as Denver looked up she held it out to him, then clutched it convulsively back.

“I don’t mean,” she explained, “that you have to take it. But I thought perhaps oh, is it very rich? I’m sorry I let him sell it.”

“Why, no,” answered Denver with his slow, honest smile, while his heart beat like a trip-hammer in his breast, “it isn’t so awful rich. But I bought it, you know well, I was sent here!”

“What, by Murray?” she cried aghast, “did he send you in to buy it?”

“Don’t you think it!” returned Denver. “I’m working for myself and well, I don’t want to sell.”

“No, but listen,” she pleaded, her eyes beginning to fill, “I I made a great mistake. This was father’s best claim, he shouldn’t have sold it; and so won’t you sell it back?”

She smiled, and Denver reached out blindly to accept the money, but at a thought he drew back his hand.

“No!” he said, “I was sent, you know a fortune-teller told me to dig here.”

“Oh, did he?” she exclaimed in great disappointment. “Won’t some other claim do just as well? No, I don’t mean that; but tell me how it all came about.”

“Well,” began Denver, avoiding her eyes; and then he rose up abruptly and brushed off the top of a powder-box. “Sit down,” he said, “I’d sure like to accommodate you, but here’s how I come to buy it. There’s a woman over in Globe Mother Trigedgo is her name and she saved the lives of a lot of us boys by predicting a cave in a mine. Well, she told my fortune and here’s what she said:

“You will soon make a journey to the west and there, within the shadow of a place of death, you will find two treasures, one of silver and the other of gold. Choose well between them and both shall be yours, but well, I don’t need to tell you the rest. But this is my choice, see? And so, of course ”

“Oh, do you believe in those people?” she inquired incredulously, “I thought ”

“But not this one!” spoke up Denver stoutly, “I know that the most of them are fakes. But this Mother Trigedgo, she’s a regular seeress and it’s all come true, every word! Apache Leap up there is the place of death. I came west after that fellow that robbed me; and this mine here and that gold prospect of the Professor’s are both in the shadow of the peaks!”

“But maybe you guessed wrong,” she cried, snatching at a straw. “Maybe this isn’t the one, after all. And if it isn’t, oh, won’t you let me buy it back for father? Because I’m not going to New York, after all.”

“Well, what good would it do him?” burst out Denver vehemently. “He’s had it for fifteen years! If he thought so much of it why didn’t he work it a little and ship out a few sacks of ore?”

“He’s not a miner,” protested Drusilla weakly and Denver grunted contemptuously.

“No,” he said, “you told the truth that time and that’s what the matter with the whole district. The ground is all held by lead-pencil work and nobody’s doing any digging. And now, when I come in and begin to find some ore, your old man wants his mining claim back.”

“He does not!” retorted Drusilla, “he doesn’t know I’m up here. But he hasn’t been the same since he sold his claim, and I want to buy it back. He sold it to get the money to send me to New York, and it was all an awful mistake. I can never become a great singer.”

“No?” inquired Denver, glad to change the subject, “I thought you were doing fine. That evening when you ”

“Well, so did I!” she broke in, “until you played all those records; and then it came over me I couldn’t sing like that if I tried a thousand years. I just haven’t got the temperament. Those continental people have something that we lack they’re so Frenchy, so emotional, so full of fire! I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I just can’t do it I just can’t interpret those parts!”

She stamped her foot and winked very fast and Denver forgot he was a stranger. He had heard her sing so often that he seemed to know her well, to have known her for years and years, and he ventured a comforting word.

“Oh well, you’re young yet,” he suggested shame-facedly, “perhaps it will come to you later.”

“No, it won’t!” she flared back, “I’ve got to give it up and go to teaching school!”

She stomped her foot more impatiently than ever and Denver went to cracking rocks.

“What do you think of that?” he inquired casually, handing over a chunk of ore; but she gazed at it uncomprehendingly.

“Isn’t there anything I can do?” she began at last, “that will make you change your mind? I might give you this much money now and then pay you more later, when I go to teaching school.”

“Well, what do you want it back for?” he demanded irritably, “it’s been lying here idle for years. I’d think you’d be glad to have somebody get hold of it that would do a little work.”

“I just want to give it back and have it over with!” she exclaimed with an embittered smile. “I’ve practiced and I’ve practiced but it doesn’t do any good, and now I’m going to quit.”

“Oh, if that’s all,” jeered Denver, “I’ll locate another claim, and let you give that back. What good would it do him if you did give it back he’d just sit in the shade and tell stories.”

“Don’t you talk that way about my father!” she exclaimed, “he’s the nicest, kindest man that ever lived! He’s not strong enough to work in this awful hot weather but he intended to open this up in the fall.”

“Well, it’s opened up already,” announced Denver grimly. “You just show him that piece of rock.”

“Oh, have you found something?” she cried snatching up the chunk of ore. “Why, this doesn’t look like silver!”

“No, it isn’t,” he said, and at the look in his eyes she leapt up and ran down the trail.

She came back immediately with her father and mother and, after a moment of pop-eyed staring, the Professor came waddling along behind.

“Where’d you get this?” called Bunker as he strode up the trail and Denver jerked his thumb towards the tunnel.

“At the breast,” he said. “Looks pretty good, don’t it? I thought it would run into copper!”

“Vot’s dat? Vot’s dat?” clamored the Professor from the fork of the trail and Bunker gave Denver the wink.

“Aw, that ain’t copper,” he declared, “it’s just this green hornblende. We have it around here everywhere.”

“All right”, answered Denver, “you can have it your own way but I call it copper, myself.”

“Vot copper?” demanded the Professor making a clutch at the specimen and examining it with his myopic eyes, and then he broke into a roar. “Vot dat copper?” he cried, “you think dat is copper? Oh, ho, ho! Oh, vell! Dis is pretty rich. It is nutting but manganese!”

“That’s all right,” returned Denver, “you can think whatever you please; but I’ve worked underground in too many copper mines ”

“Where’d you get this?” broke in Bunker, giving Denver a dig, and as they went into the tunnel he whispered in his ear: “Keep it dark, or he’ll blab to Murray!”

“Well, let him blab,” answered Denver, “it’s nothing to me. But all the same, pardner,” he added sotto voce, “if I was in your place I wouldn’t bank too much on holding them claims with a lead-pencil.”

“I’m holding ’em with a six-shooter,” corrected Bunker, “and Murray or nobody else don’t dare to jump a claim. I’m known around these parts.”

“Suit yourself,” shrugged Denver as they came to the face, “I guess this ore won’t start no stampede. That seam in the hanging wall is where it comes in I’m looking for the veins to come together.”

“Judas priest!” exclaimed Bunker jabbing his candlestick into the copper streak, “say, this is showing up good. And your silver vein is widening out, too. Nothing to it, boy; you’ve got a mine!”

“Not yet,” said Denver, “but wait till she dips. This is nothing but a blanket vein, so far; but if she dips and goes down then look out, old-timer, she’s liable to turn out a bonanza.”

“Well, who’d a thought it,” murmured Old Bunk turning somberly away, “and I’ve been holding her for fifteen years!”

He led the way out, stooping down to avoid the roof; and outside the stoop still remained.

“Where’s the Professor?” he asked, suddenly looking about, “has he gone to tell Murray, already? Well, by grab then, he knew it was.”

“Oh, was it copper?” quavered Drusilla catching hold of his hand and looking up into his tired eyes, “and you sold it for five hundred dollars! But that’s all right,” she smiled, drawing his head down for a kiss. “I’ll just have to succeed now and I’m going to!”