Sun, Sand and Soap

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Sun, Sand and SoapA Story of AdventureBy H. Bedford-Jones

IT WAS 3 in the afternoon and as hot a day on the Mohava desert as ever blew out the top thermometer. The weltering sun blazed down from a blue sky, as clear and hard as a crystal dome. Its rays drew the thin dry air skyward in shimmery heat. It radiated from the glistening white faces of tortured rock, from the blinding, shifting white sands.

Desert dweller though he was, "Mont" Mangus had never before been so badly off from thirst. As he stumbled along, at the head of his two burros, his lips moved almost incessantly, dry, tortured lips inclosing a swollen tongue.

"Water in the rocks over there," he mumbled, squinting at the opening of a canon, a mile distant. "I saw it coming out! Yes! Water, no alkali, either."

Mangas was no weakling. To the little world of men who wandered along the edge of the desert he was anything but that. Six feet in height and of stalwart build, he was regard ed by the weazened desert rats as a giant. Yet now his great frame was weakening.

"It it wasn't for that hole yonder, I'd think I was never intended to get out o' here," he said, as he trudged. His mind was riveted on the hope that lay in the little canon ahead, among the rock waste.

"If I could strike it rich!" His words had no meaning now, but the thought was clear enough in his brain, despite the dry lips. "That'd be worth this torture, to know what may turn up in these parts. Look at those paint mines down by the Salton! Look at that strontlanite mine that they opened up——"

****

THE harrowing thirst bit into him anew. The wind blew in through San Gorgonio Pass and spread out across the sand wastes. Dust devils played here and there, little whirlwinds that sent spirals of sand spinning. One of these passed across the train in front of Mangas; it raised a fog of choking sand, out of which the young prospector stumbled, coughing and choking.

Presently his steps became faster. The burros, too, recognized the spot and tried to shove past the man. He prodded them in the ribs, hurled himself forward, spent his last reserve of energy in a spurt that took him to the jumble of black lava and granite outcroppings. There, in a little niche, was the water hole, but it was dry.

Mangas stood staring, incredulous and desperate. Then the shoving burros roused him into action. He beat them back and examined the water hole again. He perceived now that some one had been before him, not so very long before, either!

He dropped to his knees, buried his face in the shallow basin, scooping at the sand and powdered rock with his fingers. Was there any hope at all? None showed. He brought forth his red bandana handkerchief and stirred it down in the sand. It showed one or two moist spots.

Frenziedly the man fell to work. Again and again he shoved down the handkerchief, plunging it as deep into the sand as his fingers could claw. At last he found enough water in it to wring a drop or two on his tongue. Over and over he did this, but he soon realized that it would give him no permanent relief. If he camped here until next day he might get some water, but——

His eye, used to the dry, white monotony of the desert, was caught by a moving speck. He straightened up, staring, letting burros nose the ground unheeded. He should have seen the speck before this, would have done so but for his thirst frenzy. Now he saw the trail going away from the water hole, a man and a single burro.

"C'me on, Dynamite!" He jerked at the leading burro. "He'll camp in the foothills over beyond; we'll get there, all right, after him. We can sure get one drink off him, anyhow: He's filled his bottle here. Sure o' one drink, Dynamite!" He prodded the burros into activity and set forth along the trail.

Those few drops of water had helped him vastly, had helped restore his flagging inner energy. Now, as he emerged again from the canon opening, he carefully eyed the speck in the distance, saw that it was heading up another canon. For this Mangas headed in a bee line, disregarding the trail entirely. The speck disappeared, but he had his bearings.

On trudged the man and the two burros. Mangas was in a new valley, a part of the desert which he had not previously visited, although be had crossed this way on his trip out from civilization. What lay ahead of him he could not tell. There were no doves which often indicate water. He had simply the spoor of the unknown man for hope.

That canon was not so far distant, after all; the westering sunlight had deceived his eyes. Now the stars were beginning to shine more clearly, as Mangas headed into the unknown canon on the trail of the unknown. He looked ahead for a camp fire, but perceived none.

****

MANGAS came to an abrupt halt, peering through the starlit darkness ahead. Then his inflamed eyes touched upon a dark blue. Again he pressed forward; ahead of him, pulling at a bush, he perceived a burro. Where was the man, then?

Hurrying on, despair spurring him, Mangas came close to the burro. Again he halted, staring at the animal; now, however, with incredulous amazement and anger stirring in his heart. He recognized that burro with the peculiar white streak, would have known the brute anywhere.

"Luck's against me," he thought, peering around for the man. "It's 'Crater' Heller! Of all men! He'd sooner shoot me on sight than give me a drink!"

Suddenly, as Mangas stood there, a sound came to him from above. He raised his head. Perched among the rocks on the hillside, a hundred feet away, was the dark shape of a cabin. What was it? Who lived here? Not Heller, certainly.

Abandoning his burros Mangas turned and mounted the hillside. He loosened the gun at his hip, his ears alert for the warning of rattlers. No sound came to him, either from the rocks or from the dim outline of the cabin above. Then, as he watched, he saw a small square of light break out in the cabin outline, a window.

Heller was there, then, and had lighted a lamp!

Mangas approached the place cautiously. What he was about to find here he did not know, but he knew Heller. If he was to get a drink from that man he must fight for it. And Mangas was too far gone, too utterly desperate, to hesitate.

The light in the window drew him irresistibly. He approached without sound; it was a singular thing to find a cabin here, and it was more singular to find Heller at this cabin. As he came close, but not too close, he doffed his hat and raised his eyes to a level with the small pane of glass.

He caught his breath quickly; his eyes, dilated with startled anger, were riveted upon the scene within the cabin. A moment he stood motionless. then his hand slipped swiftly to the holster and slid forth his revolver.

Even yet he waited; then, with a low growl of anger, he smashed the muzzle of the weapon through the glass. The crash of the glass was followed by an oath from within.

"Hands up!" said Mangas. His words were almost unintelligible, but his gun and the eyes over it spoke his message even better. Painfully he spoke again, spoke words that came clearer. "Take his gun. I'll come inside."

An instant later he left the window and hurried around the corner of the shack to where the door was located. Mangas pushed this open and stepped over the threshold. At his appearance the bearded Heller dropped an oath of rage and consternation. He was not a handsome individual, this Heller. His round moon face scowled in angry recognition of Mangas; his black whiskers seemed to bristle: his beady, shifty eyes showed nothing but a baffled fury.

****

MANGAS sank upon a stool beside the center table of the place, his gun hand resting on the table, the weapon covering Heller. He shot a quick glance at a bunk against the rear wall of the cabin. Stretched out on this bunk was a young man, pale and haggard, the marks of long illness on his wan features. Near him, standing in panting defiance, stood a girl; in her hand was the pistol taken from Heller.

"Water!" The head of Mangas lunged forward; he recovered himself desperately. The word came from his lips like a groan.

None the less the girl recognized the word, and, with light step, she darted across the room. She drew a dipper of water from an olla on a bench near the door and brought this to Mangas. He raised the cup greedily; in his madness he would have emptied it, had not his tongue been so swollen, his throat so nearly closed. As it was only a few drops would trickle down.

He set down the cup, not lifting his eyes from Heller, who stood with arms in air. Mangas tried to speak and failed. Only guttural sounds issued from his throat. He motioned to the girl. Admiration leaped into his eyes at her quick wit, for she swiftly had pencil and paper before him.

"Get your money," he wrote, "and see that he is unarmed."

The girl looked over his shoulder and read the words. For a moment she hesitated, as she looked up at Heller, then she stepped forward. Mangas watched with eagle eyes, while from the desert rat's pocket she took a roll of bills. Mangas had, as he looked through the window, seen Heller take this money from beneath the pillow of the sick man, after a slight scuffle with the girl.

Heller proved to be unarmed, except for the gun which had already been taken from him. As the girl stepped back, Mangas rose to his feet, and motioned to the door. Heller, in the deadly, venomous silence which he had maintained from the beginning. obeyed the gesture.

Mangas followed him, stood in the doorway a moment, saw that the desert rat was descending the hill with a rumble of oaths in his wake. Then, turning, Mangas shut the door and slipped the bolt. As he did so he staggered and reached for a chair, then the room swam around before his eyes. He plunged down heavily.

It was daylight when Mangas came to himself. He opened his eyes, stared around and remembered everything. He lay in one corner of the room, upon a pile of blankets; his own blankets. Near him was all his own outfit, carefully piled up and neatly arranged. He understood at once that the girl must have done this. A girl, handling Dynamite and Pardner! He would have liked to see how she did it. At the thought he uttered a short laugh.

"Feeling better, are you?" queried a voice.

Mangas raised himself and saw that the invalid had spoken. He smiled back at the young man and then caressed his stubby chin. "Some, thanks," he responded. "Only I sure need a shave! Hadn't figured on striking women folks this way."

The other chuckled in response. Then came sudden interruption.

"Able to talk? That's fine!" The girl stood framed in the doorway, smiling at Mangas. She was good to look upon, her face radiating cheerfulness; brown eyes matched her braided hair; good, level, honest eyes.

****

"LOOKS like you've given me considerable attention," said Mangas, rising stiffly. "I'm much obliged. I'm all right, I guess. What's that I smell? Bacon and coffee?"

The girl broke into a merry laugh and turned. Over her shoulder she flung: "It'll be ready as soon as you are, I guess. Don't be too long primping."

Mangas grinned and reached for his boots. He was rather disconcerted to think that the girl must have removed them. "She's a wonder!" he observed solemnly. The young man in the bunk grinned back.

"She sure is," he answered. "She took care of man and beast last night, so don't worry about the burros. There's water on the outside. Towel on the rack, I expect."

Mangas got his simple toilet articles and went outside the door, where he found a basin of water and a clean towel on the rack before a small mirror. These civilized products astonished and delighted him; so did the scene up the canon, where a few palms and scrub trees denoted plenty of water.

True to her promise, that breakfast would be served as soon as Mangas was ready for it, he found the table spread when he re-entered the cabin. Introductions were in order and were duly accomplished. Mangas learned that his hosts were brother and sister, Beth and Robert Linder by name.

"My brother and I have been here only a couple of weeks," said the girl. "His health is bad."

"No need to be squeamish about naming it," said Linder cheerfully. "I'm a lunger—that is, I have been. These two weeks here have done me a world of good. Six months of it will cure me, pretty nearly."

"Sure ought to," said Mangas. "I was in mighty poor health myself a year ago. just a city kid, with no prospect of being anything else. I had some money saved up, and one day I lit out. I met up with an old prospector over in Palmdale, on the railroad, and he taught me the ropes. Haven't found any gold mine yet, but living is cheap and I located some fair silver prospects a month ago. These will bring me in something eventually. Well, this feast certainly looks good, Miss Linder!"

"No ceremony, please. It's Bob and Beth and Mont around here," said the girl laughingly, as she brought in the coffee.

Makeshift seats were drawn up, and the three attacked breakfast. It was then that Beth Linder made statement that caused Mangas to swallow hard. "When Bob's able to take trips around, we'll do some prospecting, too," she said.

Mangas gulped. "You prospect?" he asked. With the rigors of desert prospecting in mind, its hardships and dangers, it was small wonder that he stared.

"Beth thinks that she can tackle anything," and Bob Linder chuckled. Yet there was a vast admiration in his voice, a worshipful light in his eyes; and Mangas liked him the better.

"Our plans for prospecting are different," remarked the girl.

****

AS she spoke she shot a glance at her brother. Between them passed something that Mangas did not understand. A question lay in the eyes of Beth, and the invalid assented to it with a nod. Then the girl turned to Mangas.

"We want to make our stay here serve a double purpose," she said quietly, "Years ago our father spent a good deal of time here on the edge of the desert, painting and modeling. He learned from an old Indian that, somewhere near here there was a certain rock which, ground to powder, made a finer modeling clay than any known. From specimens of pottery which he got from the Indian we know that this was so."

"And you hope to find that rock?" asked Mangas.

"Yes. Our father left a map where he got it. I don't know, but I think some one made it for him from the Indian's description. We can't make much of it, and we've been wishing that we knew some one whom we could trust, some one to give us advice. Bob thinks that we can trust you. After what passed last night——"

"But what do you think about it?" queried Mangas quizzically, smiling as he spoke.

"I think we can," and the eyes of the girl mat his frankly.

They all three broke into a laugh.

"I guess you can trust me, so long as it isn't a gold mine," said Mangas. "I've never been right in this valley before, but I've been all around here. If there's any advice I can give you, you're sure welcome to it!"

The girl produced for his inspection a map which was so crudely drawn as to be unintelligible, unless the locality to which it referred was already known. Mangas chuckled as he bent over it, straightening out the paper.

"I'm such a poor hand locating gold," he said whimsically, "that maybe I can locate modeling clay! Let's see what we can make out of this."

The map showed what was called "Lose Horse Claim," located on the south slope of a sizable canon. A pictured tunnel in the side of the claim showed that it had been worked. At a fork of the canon, just above the claim, was drawn an Indian camp and a water hole. Not far from this were drawn two palms, sprouting from a single stem.

"Why, that's queer!" Mangas put his finger on the pictured trees and glanced up.

"You know the place?" queried the girl eagerly.

"Hm! Expect I do, if it's the same place. About four hours' travel south of here there used to be a water hole; It's been dry for years, they tell me. As a water hole it's only a legend and a memory. The point is, however, that there used to be two palms there, coming up from the same root, like this shows on the map. The place used to be called 'Las Palmas Hermanas', or The Palm Sisters."

An exclamation broke from Bob Linder. His sister, an excited flush in her cheeks, leaned forward and seized the map. She turned it over. Upon the reverse side Mangas saw scribbled the words, "Las Palmas Hermanas."

"Well, I'm jiggered!" he ejaculated and broke into a delighted laugh. "That was some guess, eh? If this was a gold mine, now——"

"Can you take us there?" asked the girl eagerly.

Mangas hesitated. Bob Linder divined the cause and spoke up.

"Leave me out of it. I couldn't take any four-hour trip and back! You go and look over the place in the morning, sis, if Mont will take you."

"I'll be mighty proud to serve as guide," said Mangas. "We ought to leave early and come back late: I don't think Beth ought to attempt travel in the heat of the day. Especially if she's only been here two weeks."

****

TO this Beth Linder assented meekly. It was planned that they were to start before the following dawn, since it was now too late in the day, unless the girl were to be exposed to the fiercest desert heat. And this Mangas declared impossible.

"By the way," said Mangas suddenly. "I took for granted that Crater Heller was trying to get away with robbery last night. But how did he learn you people were here? He's been on a wild spree in Los Angeles for two or three weeks."

Beth smiled. "He had to go on a train to Los Angeles and back, didn't he? Well, we happened to be on the train, too, and we were talking with him."

Bob Linder intervened. "Hold on, sis! It was my funeral altogether, Mont; she had nothing to do with it. I got talking with that fellow on the train, trying to see if he could tell us anything about this Lost Horse claim. said too much about our plans and about the map, probably."

"Oh!" said Mangas and broke into a grin. "So that's why he showed up here last night, not only to rob you, but to get the map! Then——"

"He probably thinks it's a gold mine we're after." Bob chuckled as he spoke. "I didn't say what kind of a mine it was, you know."

"That's it, that's it!" cried the girl excitedly. "Then, if he comes back we'll tell him the truth. But he won't come back, will he, Mont?"

Mangas shook his head. "I can't say, Beth. He's a queer fellow, that Heller, a bad actor. He's a coward, for one thing, but he has education and knows more about ores and minerals than the average desert rat. I've heard of his doing queer and unreasonable things, due chiefly to moonshine hooch. If he has any liquor on hand he might show up again, if only to even up old scores with me. However, I don't think we need worry about Heller."

Later in the day, when he was alone with Bob, Mangas referred to the revolver taken from Heller. Bob had retained it as a trophy of the encounter.

"You keep it close to hand while we're gone, said Mangas quietly. "I'll take care of your sister, all right, but I can't be in two places at once. If Heller shows up, you shoot first and argue afterward, savvy?"

Bob Linder nodded.

Mont Mangas enjoyed that four-four trudge across the desert, as he had seldom enjoyed such a tramp before.

Beth Linder, in her trim hiking attire, presented a fit model for the best of calendar girls. Mangas recalled one of these which hung on the wall of his own cabin, back in the foot-hills, and wondered why an artist should pick such commonplace models when there were such girls as Beth in existence.

As they trudged ahead of the two burros, whose lading consisted largely of water, Mangas pointed out to his companion the features of the desert around them, which the girl had hitherto seen only as sand and rock. Now she saw the different points by name, the Devil's Fryingpan, away off to the east; Lost Man's Mesa, sticking up purpled walls from the flat desert to the south of them; the twin granite buttes that marked where the Sulphur Sink began, and so forth.

There were stories connected with each name, and Mangas, who had listened to the old desert rats at their yarning, knew the stories. Thus to both of them the four hours passed swiftly, until at length they drew in to the long canon which they sought.

****

NO trail went nowadays by the way of Las Palmas Hermanas. The water had vanished years ago, and for a time Mangas was not at all certain that he had found the right place. When they reached the fork of the canon, however, they found that this was beyond question the spot pictured in the map. The sister palms had vanished utterly, and all sign of a water hole had departed, yet there was no mistaking the place.

"But where's the claim, where's the tunnel that's on the map?" asked Beth, staring helplessly around at the waste of rock and stand and cactus.

"Gone the same way of the two palm trees, most likely," said Mangas. "However, we know about where it should be. Do you know the kind of ore or clay you're after, the color of it, I mean?"

"No. I have an impression it was yellow, but I can't be certain."

By reference to the map Mangas at length located what he thought might be the caved-in tunnel; there was little to prove the fact, however, amid the waste of rock and sand on the hillside. He now gave his attention to rigging up a shelter for the girl, by the aid of a blanket, a Joshua tree and a couple of sticks.

"I'll have to pick around for a bit," he explained. "We'll stop here for most of the day, so there's no rush; and you must keep out of the sun as much as possible. In another hour it'll be a hundred and twenty in this canon."

"But you can't work in such heat!" expostulated Beth. Mangas laughed.

"I don't aim to do much work, just look around a bit. And I'm used to it. By the way, did our friend Heller have any idea that the map referred to Las Palmas Hermanas?"

Beth frowned slightly. "Not until the other night. He was trying to get the map away from me when you came. It was with the roll of money, and he had started to examine it when you interfered."

Mangas dismissed the matter carelessly. In fact he was not a whit worried over Heller, whom he knew to be could an arrant coward. Since this mine could turn out nothing except fire clay, at best, it would not afford a very fruitful subject for dispute.

Pick in hand Mangas worked his way up the hillside, testing out the ledges and various points of contact. As he worked higher up the side of the canon he got away from the talus he found less sand and more rock. Then, unexpectedly, he came upon a freshly dug hole among some boulders. It opened up what was undoubtedly a yellowish clay formation, under a foot of soil.

Mangas stood staring at it in startled alarm. Fresh? It was so fresh that it had not been dug an hour ago! The sides of the exposed hole were not nearly so hot as the soil around: the sun had not been at it so very long. Again, a discarded quid of tobacco lay under a rock to one side where it had been flung. Testing it Mangas found that it was not yet quite dry and hard. The evidence was indisputable. And Crater Heller, he knew, chewed tobacco constantly.

For a space Mangas stood there and gradually reconstructed in his own mind what must have taken place. Heller had seen the telltale words written across the back of the map and had come here. He must have had a scanty water supply to come with, also. Then he had set to work to explore the ground. Had he struck this clay by accident? Very likely.

****

ALMOST at the moment he had uncovered it he must have seen Mangas and Beth Linder approaching the place. Mangas turned and looked; yes, one could see the entire lower canon from here. Heller must have decamped at once. He must have gone, then, up the canon.

Mangas went over the ground carefully. There were no monuments, no location notices; Heller had not even tried to "jump" the claim. He had probably been afraid to linger, especially as he was disarmed. What, then, would he do? What was his game?

Climbing the hillside to a higher point Mangas carefully scrutinized everything In sight. Almost all at once an exclamation broke from him. He caught sight of a moving dot in the distance, Heller and a burro evidently. They had just debouched from a small canon farther to the north. Heller had circled about and had come back to the flat floor of the desert and was heading north. Was he going back to the cabin?

"Bound to be," reflected Mangas angrily. "He'll head for town, file on the claim and then come back later to post his notices. He might get away with fraud of that sort, too; It's been done. But in order to get in town, he'll have to have water. Therefore, he'll visit the cabin."

He hastened down the hillside, taking a sample of the clay with him. and rejoined Beth Linder. "Is this the stuff?" he demanded. The girl inspected it.

"I don't know, but it must be! It's different from any I've seen."

"Well, Heller was here about the time we showed up," said Mangas abruptly. He went on to explain to the startled girl what he had seen and his deductions therefrom.

"This stuff can't be very valuable," he concluded, "but Heller is probably going to make an effort to grab it. I'm going to catch up with him and stop his game. Now it's out of the question for you to come with me, Beth; don't try it. Besides, there's work for you to do here."

"Work for me? How is that?" inquired Beth. "I don't intend to shirk——"

"This claim must have notices posted and monuments set up," said Mangas hastily. "You stay here and attend to that, later in the day. Know how to do it?"

She nodded.

"Then," he pursued, "set out a claim for yourself, for your brother and for me, three in all. If there is any value to this stuff. Heller will know of it, and we can't afford to take any chances. I'll take one of the canteens and go after him. I'll come back for you tonight. You're perfectly safe here, so don't——"

"Oh, I'm not afraid," protested Beth quickly. "I only wish that I could go with you! Do you think Bob is in any danger?"

"Not a bit of it," said Mangas. This was false: there was no telling what a man like Heller would attempt. His chief fear was for the invalid. He refused to let the girl perceive this fact, however.

"Let the burros roam," he said, catching up a full canteen. "And don't try to set up those monuments until later in the afternoon, understand? All right. Good-by!"

The girl held out her hand to him and flashed a smile. "Good-by, Mont, and good luck!"

With his hat pulled low over his head Mont Mangas saw the end of his forced march ahead, the canon and its cabin to one side. Of Heller or his burro there was no sign. They might have gone on to the water hole or——

****

THE afternoon sun was still hot, although fast sinking in the west. Mangas was confident that Heller had seen nothing of him in the rear, for he himself had take pains to keep ought of sight, making use of every available outcrop and butte, while he exerted himself to catch up with Heller. He had not caught up, however.

And now, where was Heller?

The answer came to Mangas as he trudged wearily up the canon. It came in the sound of a shot, a heavy, unechoed shot which had not been fired in the open. This shot came from the cabin on the canon side.

Dropping his canteen Mangas ran forward. He covered the hundred yards that intervened and rushed up the almost imperceptible trail to the open cabin door. Mangas burst into the cabin and stood panting. Facing him, backed against the rear wall, was Bob Linder, fear in his eyes, the still smoking revolver in his hand. The figure of Heller lay against the wall.

"I shot him!" exclaimed the boy. "I shot him! I didn't mean to kill him, Mont."

Mangas stooped over the body of Heller and made a quick examination. He rose, a thin smile on his lips. "You didn't kill him, Bob," he said swiftly. "He's unconscious, that's all."

"Thank heaven!" said Linder. "I—he started for me——"

"Take it easy, old man," said Mangas quietly. "What happened? What did he want?"

"He didn't know I had the gun," returned Linder. "He came in and tried to make himself pleasant. He said that he had found the place we were after, and that he knew it was valuable, but that no one else knew it."

"Oh!" exclaimed Mangas. "He said it was valuable, eh? Did he say why?"

"No, that was his secret. He said that he was going to town right away and file his claim, but he wanted to be fair to us. He tried to persuade me to write out a half interest in the claim for him, offered to take us into partnership. I suspected that he was lying about it and refused."

"Oh, I see his game now!" cried Mangas. "He wanted to get an interest in the claim from you, then he could have played hob with us through litigation!"

"I suppose so. Finally he lost his temper and started for me. I warned him, but he came on. I was frightened. and I shot."

Mangas broke into a laugh. He stooped and dragged the figure of Heller forward. "You didn't hurt him," he said, indicating the course of the bullet. "As you fired, he flung up his arm. The bullet went through the flesh of his forearm and then nicked his tough skull. There, he's coming around now! Stand back, Bob. and we'll throw a good scare into the gentleman." Mangas jerked out his own gun.

****

THE eyes of Heller opened. The desert rat glanced around, then scrambled to his knees. He saw the crimson stain that was over his arm, felt it on his face, looked up and saw Mangas' weapon trained on him. A wild cry burst from his bearded lips.

"You've killed me!" he shouted hoarsely, terror in his voice. "Don't shoot, don't make it worse! I'll tell you all about it. Don't let me die."

"Talk quick," said Mangas, cocking his revolver.

"It's collodal clay," replied Heller, working forward on his knees, hands outstretched. "Don't shoot! Get me a doctor, don't let me die, Mangas! It's colloidal clay, same as soap. I didn't try to jump your claim."

Mangas put away his gun. Then he caught Heller by the collar, lifted the abject, terrorized scoundrel to his feet and calmly kicked him through the doorway.

"Exit Mr. Heller," he said cheerfully, as he returned to Bob Linder. "Don't worry about that fellow. Bob, he'll make no further trouble. I'll have to get back to Beth now and then I'll get to town and file those claims. So it's colloidal clay, eh? I've read something about that. I'd not be surprised if we'd struck something rich, after all!"

"You mean that you found the claim?" asked Lander. "And it's valuable?"

"Good as gold, I expect. Well, I'll go fill up my canteen, give Mr. Heller a little talk about claim jumping and get back to fetch Beth home. Had to leave her there. So long, see you later!"

He left Linder staring after him, as he went back down the hillside and recovered his canteen. "Soap!" said Mangas to himself, grinning at the thought. "A soap mine! Can you beat it? And Beth—we'll be partners, eh? That's the best thing of all!"

(Copyright, 1922.)


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1949, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.