To Alaska for Gold/Chapter 7

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CHAPTER VII.


BUYING THE OUTFITS.


"You saw Tom Roland and Jasper Guardley?" burst from the lips of the Portney brothers simultaneously.

"Yes," replied Fred Dobson. "I couldn't believe my eyes at first, but when I felt sure I was right I ran up to speak to Roland."

"And what did he say?" queried Earl.

"He didn't give me a chance to speak to him. He and Guardley disappeared in the crowd like a flash. I rather think they saw me and avoided me."

Earl and Randy exchanged glances. Tom Roland and Jasper Guardley had followed them to San Francisco. What could it mean?

"I shouldn't wonder if they are bound for Alaska, too!" burst out Randy. "Oh, Earl, supposing they got that letter—"

"It's more than likely they did," said the elder youth, quickly. I'll wager both of them are going to try their fortunes in the new gold fields. Well, they had a cheap trip West," he concluded bitterly.

"If we could prove they got the money, we could have them locked up."

"But we can't prove it, Randy; we haven't time, so we'll just have to let matters stand where they are. For my part I never want to see either of them again," said Earl, decidedly.

Fred Dobson had listened to the latter part of the conversation with interest, and now he wished to know what it all meant.

"They must be guilty," he said, after Randy had recited the facts. "Guardley is a bad egg. You know he was up before my father several times. But say, Randy," he went on, as Earl turned away with Foster Portney to secure extra accommodations at the hotel for the two following nights, "can't you fix it up with your uncle so that I can go to Alaska with him? I'll work like a slave for the chance to go."

Randy had expected something of this sort and had talked the matter over with Earl, and now he shook his head.

"I don't believe I can, Fred. My uncle is only taking us along because we are related and because he knows we are both strong and used to hard work. I really don't believe you could stand it in the new gold fields. He has warned us that the exposure is something awful."

"Oh, I know, but I can stand more than you think," pleaded Fred.

"Besides that, it wouldn't be right," added Randy. "You ran away from home, and it's your duty to go back."

"Oh, don't preach. My father doesn't care where I am."

"Yes, he does, Fred; he cares a good deal. And then your mother must be worried, too."

At the mention of his mother, Fred Dobson's face changed color for a moment, and when next he spoke there seemed to be a suspicious lump in his throat.

"I—I'm going to send mother a letter; I'll write it to-night."

"You should have written long ago, Fred."

"Oh, don't preach. Then you won't speak to your uncle?" And the squire's son looked into Randy's face wistfully.

"Yes, I'll speak to him; but it won't do any good, Fred."

It was not long after this that Foster Portney and Earl came back, having hired an extra room for the time desired. The uncle had been introduced to Fred, and now he invited the runaway to take supper with them.

It was not until the meal was nearly over that Fred urged Randy to broach the subject next his heart. Foster Portney listened patiently to all Randy had to say and also gave ear to Fred's pleadings. But his face did not brighten up into anything like an encouraging look.

"No, Dobson, I can't take you," was his reply. "In the first place. Earl and Randy are all the companions I wish to take along, that is, and grub stake, as we term it in mining slang—pay their way, that means; and in the second place, it wouldn't be right. You are a minor and have run away from home, and, if anything, it is my duty to see that you go back. Besides this, you do not look strong, and, I believe, you have never done any real hard work, and that won't do for Alaska. Only those who know how to rough it stand any show whatever of getting along there. My advice to you is, to go back where you belong."

As may be surmised, this plain speech did not suit Fred Dobson at all, and he felt more than ill at ease for the remainder of the repast. As soon as he could do so gracefully he arose to go.

"I don't suppose I'll see you again for a long while," he said, as he held out his hand to Earl and to Randy. "Well, good luck to you, anyway."

Randy caught Earl by the arm and gave it a little pinch. "How are you off for cash, Fred?" he asked, in a low tone.

"Oh, I've got a little money with me," answered Fred, quietly, but did not add that the sum-total of his fortune amounted to exactly sixty-five cents.

"Perhaps we can help you a little," put in Earl, who understood the pinch Randy had given him. "We haven't much, but if a few dollars will do any good—"

"Will you let me have two dollars?" asked the squire's son, eagerly.

"Yes."

"And I'll let you have two more," added Randy, and the amounts were passed over on the spot, and Fred thanked them very profusely. A few minutes later he had thanked Foster Portney for the supper, bade all good-by, and was gone.

"Not a half bad boy," was the comment of Mr. Portney. "His one fault is, I reckon, that he has been allowed to have his own way too long. Roughing it out here will most likely make a man of him, unless he gets into bad company and goes to the dogs."

"I am going to write to his folks and let them know where he is," said Earl; and the letter was penned and mailed before he went to bed.

The three were on their way early on the following morning to complete the purchase of their outfits, for all must be packed up and on the steamboat deck by seven o'clock the next morning, to insure being stored on board of the Golden Hope.

The first purchases made were those of a good tent, bedding, woollen blankets, rubber sleeping-bags, a large piece of oiled canvas, and several lynx-skin robes.

"Now for our tools with which to cut down trees, build boats, and the like," said Foster Portney. "Remember, we are almost like pioneers in a new land."

For boat-building purposes they purchased a good whip-saw, a cross-cat saw, a jack plane, and a draw knife, a large and a small axe, a hammer, brace and bits, six pounds of assorted nails, several pounds of oakum for calking, and some pitch. To this outfit was added fifty yards of three-quarter-inch rope.

"Don't we want some canvas for sail?" asked Randy, who was intensely interested, and who felt somewhat as if he was going out to play at Robinson Crusoe.

"No, the other bits of canvas will do for that," responded Foster Portney. "Now for the camping-out things," he went on, and had soon procured a good-sized water kettle, a frying-pan, broiler, bean pot, tin measure, extra baking and cooking tins, three tin plates and cups, three sets of knives and forks, coffee pot and strainer, salt and pepper shakers, and a strong paper-fibre water pail.

"That about ends that," he said, when each article bought had been carefully scrutinized to see that it was perfect. "Now for food and medicines, and then we'll be about done."

The food list made Randy smile grimly. "No luxuries there," he whispered to Earl. "We are going to live as plain as we did up in Maine, or plainer."

The list consisted of the following: A hundred pounds of flour, with baking-powder, twenty pounds of smoked ham and bacon, two dozen cans of tomatoes, a dozen cans of other vegetables, a small sack of potatoes, a dozen cans of condensed milk, twenty pounds of sugar, ten pounds of salt, twenty pounds of coffee, a sack of beans, pepper and other spices, and mustard. To these were added a few cans of fruit by way of delicacies.

The food packed, they made their way to a drug store and procured a small family chest of various medicines, and added to this several bottles of liquor, which, however, were to be used only for medicinal purposes, for none of the party were drinkers.

Foster Portney already had a serviceable pistol, and he now procured for this weapon a sufficient supply of cartridges. He also bought a pistol for Randy and a shot-gun for Earl. "The gun will be the most useful weapon," he said, "for it will help put lots of game into our eating-pot, and that is what we shall want."

"Won't we want a fishing-line or two? " asked Earl. "I have one in my trunk, but it is not of much account."

"Yes, we'll buy several first-class ones, and a book of flies. Fish to a hungry man are as acceptable as any other game," answered his uncle, and the articles mentioned were purchased without delay.

The list was now filled, yet Foster Portney spent nearly an hour more in picking up such odds and ends as pins, needles, spools of thread, three good pocket compasses, and burning-glasses, a pocket notebook for each, with pencils and some writing-paper and envelopes. Finally he took them to a little shop on a side street, where each procured a monstrous knapsack of oiled canvas, having straps to be placed over the shoulders and an extra strap to come up over the front part of the head.

"What an affair!" said Randy, with a laugh. "I never saw a knapsack with a head-piece before."

"You'll find it an easy thing to carry," said his uncle. "Try it," and Randy did so, and was astonished to learn how much the head-strap improved the carrying powers.

The best part of the evening was spent in packing the things they had purchased, and it was not until after ten o'clock that the last of the bundles were ready and duly tagged.

"Now we have only a few more things to get," said Foster Portney, "the most important of the whole outfit;" and as Randy and Earl looked at him blankly, he smiled in an odd way. "What could three gold hunters do without picks, shovels, and pans?"

"To be sure!" shouted Randy, and Earl reddened over the idea that he had not thought of the things before.

"We'll get them in the morning, for they won't have to be packed," said the uncle. "We have done enough for to-day."

And Randy, who was tired out, agreed with him that it had been a busy day, indeed. He went to bed with his head in a whirl about Alaska and how they were to get there, and of the wonderful finds of gold which awaited all hands. He was full of the brightest of hopes, and the hardships so soon to be encountered did not bother him.