His Lucky Charm - Cover

His Lucky Charm

Copyright© 2012 by Argon

Chapter 7: Bonanza

Tarryall, Colorado Territory, January 1862

Around mid-January, the weather turned freezing cold again, and it stayed that way well into February. At that point they were already using the poorly dried firewood from the last August, and the cabin was bitter cold during the nights. The women spent most of the days in bed huddled together under Raven's bear skin cover and any other fur they could find. Jim and Ned hardly ever ventured out either. Even with snow shoes it was too risky to inspect the trap lines.

It was on a day in mid-February, right around noon-time, when somebody outside hailed the cabin.

"English Jim! Ned! You all right?"

Jim peeked out and saw the Marshal and two other men. They were pulling a sled.

"Yes, we're alive!" he hollered back. "Come on over!"

The men came in, stomping the snow from legs and feet. Jim and Ned had the fire going, and the cabin was reasonably warm. Jim offered them some of the soup they'd had for lunch.

"Lordy, but it's cold!" the Marshal exclaimed looking around. "You're not faring too bad, I see."

"We bought our supplies in time," Jim said evenly. "We're also trapping, although I'm telling you, those critters are getting awfully skinny, too."

"Listen, you folks," the Marshal said. "We have received emergency relief from Denver. The Governor sent out a number of big sleds with food and other provisions, and they arrived yesterday. We packed some of that stuff and try to reach the outliers, to see if they're still kicking."

"That's mighty noble of you, Marshal," Ned said, meaning it. "Al and Luke, in the next valley, we haven't seen hair or tail of them for more'n a month."

"You're doing fine here? Anything you're really lacking?" the Marshall asked.

"We'll be running low on firewood if it stays this cold," Jim said. "As soon as it clears a bit, Ned and I are going to cut some more for what it's worth. Even green wood is better than nothing."

"That's not something we can help you with," the Marshall sighed. "We've used up most of the wooden shacks in Tarryall. Them Fairplay folks on the other side are faring even worse I hear. Listen, we'd better be going. It's good to see you're faring well. We got to see the others."

"Yeah, you better," Ned agreed. "Thanks for stopping by, Marshall."

They watched the men pulling their sled down the valley and huddled under the blankets again for the rest of the day.

Two days later, the Marshal stopped by on their return trip. The news he brought was plain bad. Their neighbors, Al and Luke, had been barely alive, and the Marshal had left food and blankets for them. But many of the other outliers were dead.

Spring took another two months to arrive, and by then the people in the cabin were down to their last bag of beans. There had been no flour since February, and the skinny animals Jim and Ned trapped hardly gave them any nourishment.

When it did turn warmer, the snow melt was even more dangerous. For almost a day, the creek was running so high it was nibbling at the steps of their cabin. The water was still running high when Jim saddled one of their horses – one of them had not made it through the winter – and rode into Tarryall.

The town looked terrible. Half the buildings were gone, torn down for firewood, and the remaining ones had no furniture anymore. Jim hitched his horse in front of the Golden Nugget and went in. It seemed as if half of Tarryall's population were living there staring at him with huge eyes. Golding was there too, haggard like the rest.

"English Jim! You made it!" he exclaimed. "Are Rose and the rest of you all right?"

"That they are, starved and cold, but kicking," Jim smiled.

"Thank God!" Golding said with feeling. "I'd invite you to a drink, but there's nothing left. Lefty has taken our wagons to Denver four days ago to see what food and drink he can buy up."

"Won't be much there, either," Jim remarked.

"I wouldn't say that. The Governor has got the government involved we hear. They'll be sending out wagon trains with food."

"And they'll screw us out of our last nuggets for it," a man remarked.

He was likely right Jim mused. This was the time for traders to make big money. In the cabin, they would have to make do with what was left, until the situation returned to normal. With the soil thawing Raven was already digging for edible roots to complement the lean meat of trapped animals.

When Jim returned to the cabin in the evening, the news he brought were received with good grace. They had a meager supper together and went to bed shortly after to conserve body heat. Raven and Samantha had taken to sleeping with Jim and Rose for the same reason. Whatever the young girl had gained in weight in the early winter was gone long since, and she would only be warm enough to sleep when cuddled between the adults.

A week later, the water had receded enough to contemplate panning. They were all looking forward to that, expecting good returns this year after the strong flooding. Indeed, the silt placers were larger than ever where the raging creek had deposited washed out material from upstream.

The next morning marked another turning point in their lives. As usual, Raven was up first starting the fire and making a racket with the skillet to wake everybody else too.

Rose slipped out of the cabin and walked down to the creek which still carried a lot of water. Looking left and right, to make sure that nobody was in the vicinity, she put her Colt in easy reach and slipped the tunic over her head. Shivering, she knelt on a flat stone over the running water. With cupped hands, she splashed the icy water on her face and her bare chest. She washed her armpits carefully, washed her face again, and rinsed her mouth with the fresh water.

Bending over the running water she suddenly stopped cold. Right under the surface, she saw something gleaming. Reaching for it she picked up a shiny nugget, easily the size of a bird's egg. Forgetting her tunic in the excitement, she squealed and ran for the cabin. The others looked up in alarm. In fact, Jim started for his rifle when she barged in bare-chested.

Her triumphant smile, however, eased their mind and she showed them her find.

"Yep, that's a nugget," Ned confirmed. "And I thank you kindly for bringing it right away," he added looking pointedly at her naked chest.

Rose was unfazed. Modesty be damned! She held over $50 worth of gold in her hands!

"I just found this looking down into the creek. Do you think there may be more?"

Jim, whose eyes darted between the nugget and Rose's breasts, finally managed to contribute to the exchange.

"Possible. You'll have to show us where you found it. Ned and I will pan and try to find more while you women are busy in here."

"The hell I will!" Rose exclaimed with force. "There's gold to be found in that creek, and you expect me to keep house? Never, this side of hell!"

She was so obviously excited that the men relented. They were excited too. Perhaps, the snow melt had deposited an extra amount of gold during the last weeks.

After breakfast, they all went down to the creek, and Rose showed them where she'd found the nugget. With a cry of excitement, Ned reached into the water and retrieved another nugget, only slightly smaller than then one Rose had found.

"Let's do this right, Ned," Jim said with a gleam of excitement in his eyes. "Let's get out the sluice boxes."

The two men went back to the cabin and returned with one of their sluice boxes. They placed the open end between two rocks in the creek at a small barrier. They fixed the implement with more rocks, and soon the water of the creek was partly diverted to run through the box.

The box was divided into three compartments. Jim took a shovel load of sediment from the creek from where they had found the nuggets and dumped it into the uppermost compartment of the sluice box. The running water carried the sand and small particles over the barrier into the next compartment. Ned aided this by gently swirling his hand in the running water. It was only two or three minutes until most of the sand and pebbles had been flushed away.

Six people bent over the sluice box, and they gasped as one. Five gleaming nuggets, and a lot of gold dust was seen between the large pebbles that had remained. Lifting the head end of the box, they drained the water from it. With a grin, Jim nodded at Rose who carefully collected the nuggets and the small specks of gold in the residue. With her small hands and delicate fingers it was easier for her to get hold of the small gold particles.

"That's more'n two ounces in one shovel," Ned marveled.

"More than we'd find in a normal day," Jim added. He looked at Rose. "You sure are our Lucky Charm, Rose."

"Yep, that she is," Ned grinned.

Rose felt a flush of pride.

"I just stumbled over it." A mischievous grin split her lips. "You men would've found it earlier if you washed more often."

Ned roared with laughter and Jim grinned hugging her from behind. Holding her, he whispered into her ear. "I want you to keep that first nugget, Rose. I'll have it polished and a hole drilled into it, so you can wear it around your neck for luck."

Rose turned to face him and kissed him fully. When she finished, they were both breathless.

"I'd love that," Rose smiled. Then, her smiled vanished. "What are you waiting for? Get another shovel of dirt!"

Four of them worked their sluice boxes for the whole day until darkness set in. They quenched their thirst from the creek, but they ignored their hunger. The excitement was too great. By evening, they had washed the sand of fifteen feet of creek bed, and they had recovered over thirty-five ounces of gold, half of it as nuggets, many of them the size of small bird's eggs.

Raven and Samantha had been busy cleaning the cabin inside out and preparing a stew from a skinny deer Raven had been able to shoot. The whole supper was spent with excited babble. After all, five to six days like this would yield them enough gold to realize their dream of a farm in Oregon. Raven was the only one who stayed calm – gold did not mean much to her – but she smiled at the exuberance of her friends.

Rose was ecstatic. She had found that first nugget, and she had pointed the men to the right spot. However lacking her housekeeping skills were, she had proven her worth. The washing of the gold was exciting too. Watching a shovel of dirt disappear to leave a resin of pure gold was as wonderful as anything Rose had seen in her life. They had substantial savings already from the previous years. If their luck would hold for just a few days, they would have enough to start a respectable existence.

Nobody would ever force her again to sleep with unwashed, stinking men. Nobody would insult her; nobody would pinch her behind. All those honorable women who looked down their noses at girls like Rose would be envious of her, Rose Tremayne.

When Rose looked across the table at her husband, a warm glow spread through her body. Not once since they met had he spoken harshly with her, not once had he alluded to her past. All through the harsh winter he had tried to ease her live.

She was torn from her euphoric thoughts when Mandy nudged her. She looked up and saw that Jim and Ned had serious looks on their faces.

"Rose, we were talking about safety. We mustn't let anybody know of our luck. There are desperate people in the diggings, now more than ever, and those folks over in Fairplay don't like us old diggers one bit. Charley Evans was killed and robbed last year when it became known that he'd had a streak of luck. We'll go armed, all the time. We'll sell five or ten ounces of dust every couple of weeks, but never nuggets. People must think that we barely make do."

Ned was dead serious Rose could tell. The thought that somebody might try to jump their claim and steal their gold almost made Rose growl with fury, and she nodded grimly. She'd been on the loser side for too long. Anybody coming for their gold would find her ready to fight to the last drop of blood.

"All right!" Jim said at last. "It's been quite a day. Let's get some sleep."

When they were lying in bed, Rose had a mood swing. Something had come to her mind and it unsettled her. She lay awake for the better part of the night and come morning she nudged Jim.

"Jim, there's something that worries me. I mean, I know that you are a gentleman and an officer and all. If we find a lot of gold, and you'll be rich, you'll be wanting to go East, maybe even back to England. How will I fit, then? I can read and write, sure, but I don't know how to behave. I'm a convict too."

Jim took a few moments to gather his wits about him.

"Rose, when I returned from the war and found that my fiancé had betrayed me, I thought I would never be able to trust a woman again. You changed that. I see you, and I know you'll be true to me come what may. How can I do less in return? I love you, Rose Tremayne. I'd as lief give away my arms and legs rather than losing you."

In response, Rose pulled down his face for another kiss. They were both getting into it when they heard Ned.

"Stop that kissy-face nonsense in there. We want to get rich today!"

Laughingly, Rose put on some clothes and Jim followed suit. Raven and Samantha were sitting at the table already grinning at them. The sunlight streamed in from the open window, and Rose conceded once more that Raven was a very pretty young woman. Granted, her face was wider than conventional ideals prescribed, but she was attractive all the same. Most importantly, however, she was pleasant to be with and helpful.

They rushed through the breakfast, eager to continue where they left off the day before. Raven stayed in the cabin claiming that she wanted to tidy the beds and the cooking area. Rose and Mandy however went with the men, and Samantha joined them.

When Raven called them to come in for the noon meal, they had already recovered another fifteen ounces of gold dust and nuggets, and there was a mad babble at the table. They wolfed down the food and barely took the time to compliment Raven before they rushed back to the creek. The fruit of their day's work when the light started to fade was a total of twenty-eight ounces.

After supper, Rose pulled a more than willing Jim towards their bed while their friends made lewd comments. Raven and Samantha were banned to their own cot. That evening, Rose offered Jim her body in all her naked glory. She made sure to show him her pleasure spots and Jim once again proved to be attentive to her tutoring. So attentive, in fact, that Rose lost her control completely and she screamed down the cabin.


Their work pattern continued for the next three days. By Saturday evening they had recovered almost one-hundred and fifty troy ounces of gold from the placer. Jim enforced a day off on Sunday, not because of any religious beliefs which he did not have, but to avoid suspicion. Working a claim on a Sunday was a dead giveaway that one had struck a major placer.

Over the last days, Raven Feather had sewn a number of leather pouches with drawstring closures. Using these she distributed the gold into nuggets of various sizes and gold dust.

There was a hollow pine tree behind their cabin, close to the place where the men relieved their bladders. Here, in the hollow trunk, they hid the nuggets.

The work free Sunday also allowed them to recover. Now that their excitement wore off a little, they noticed their aching muscles and joints. They spent most of Sunday lazing in the grass around the cabin. Ned took his rifle and went hunting. He returned with a buck over his shoulder, and they enjoyed a supper of venison stew.

On Monday, while Ned, Mandy, Samantha, and Rose started to work the placer again, Jim rode into Tarryall with a small pouch containing six ounces of gold dust. He received ten eagles and eight silver dollars from the trader, Albert Tennison. When questioned about the good return, he claimed that they worked their claim with five people instead of two. That was perfectly logical, and nobody became suspicious as far as Jim could tell.

He spent some of that money in the general store. The first trade goods were arriving in Tarryall. Coffee, sugar, beans, and flour were on his list, but he also purchased a good quality soap bar, a wash board, and a larger water kettle. He returned to the cabin with his purchases just in time for the noon meal. Ned told him that they had been lucky again in the morning recovering more than twelve ounces of gold dust and nuggets.

Later in the day when they were back to working the sluice boxes, they were alerted by a shrill whistle from Raven. Looking up, they saw a man riding up the narrow valley and approaching them. Hastily, Jim dropped a shovel of dirt into the sluice box, to cover the gold they had washed. Both men took their rifles, and the women disappeared in the cabin. A moment later, three gun barrels showed in the windows.

The source of this story is Finestories

To read the complete story you need to be logged in:
Log In or
Register for a Free account (Why register?)

Get No-Registration Temporary Access*

* Allows you 3 stories to read in 24 hours.