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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls In The Saddle - Chapter 24. The End Of Peter Levine
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The Outdoor Girls In The Saddle - Chapter 24. The End Of Peter Levine Post by :tuanor Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :3526

Click below to download : The Outdoor Girls In The Saddle - Chapter 24. The End Of Peter Levine (Format : PDF)

The Outdoor Girls In The Saddle - Chapter 24. The End Of Peter Levine

CHAPTER XXIV. THE END OF PETER LEVINE

The crowd scattered as the Outdoor Girls came whirling down into its midst, but in an instant it had closed about them again. They dismounted, leaving their excited horses to go where they would, and pushed their way through to the group that seemed to be the center of all this wild demonstration.

And when they saw Meggy, fairly weeping with joy, and old Dan Higgins, holding a handful of precious golden nuggets, they nearly went mad themselves.

They kissed and hugged Meggy till she cried aloud for mercy. They kissed and hugged old Dan, and he took it as though he had been used to being made much of by pretty girls all his life.

Twenty years had fallen from the old man's age. No matter that he had wasted the best part of his life in a vain hunt for gold. His dream had been realized at last. There was a fortune in his grasp, and he felt again the thrill that had coursed through his veins when, as a young man, heart high with aspirations, he had started on his quest.

He was young again! Young! It seemed as though the sight of those golden nuggets--his own--had renewed the fires of youth.

Nimbly he sprang upon an empty powder keg and addressed his frenzied audience.

"Friends and fellow gold hunters," he yelled, and there was a roar of appreciation. "They is a few words I'd like to say afore we go back to wrestlin' some more gold outen them rocks. An' these is them. Ef I'm a happy man to-day an' a rich one, then it's all due to these four young gals here. They set me on the trail o' this new thing when I was purty near tuckered out. You all knows 'em an' loves 'em. Now give 'em a cheer. Hearty, now, hearty----"

Then arose such a roar that the Outdoor Girls' hearts swelled near to bursting and they felt the tears sting their eyes. That moment would be something to remember all their lives.

The roar gradually subsided and the miners wandered back to their own operations again, followed by scattered groups of curious onlookers. They worked with redoubled energy, with redoubled hope. Gold had been found. More gold would be found. It was a thrilling, glorious race to see who would be the next to announce good fortune.

Left to themselves, the girls crowded around Meggy, questioning her, congratulating her, demanding to know how it had all happened and when.

"My--my mouth is so dry I can hardly speak," said Meggy, quivering with nervous reaction. "I--I can't jest make up my mind that it has happened yet."

"We know," said Betty, soothingly. "You needn't tell us about it if you don't want to."

"But I do--I've got to!" cried Meggy tensely. "Why, it seems like a dream. But I'm so happy, so wildly happy----" A sob caught in her throat and she paused for a moment, then went on swiftly, the words tumbling over each other in her eagerness: "It was jest this morning that it happened, jest a little while ago. You know we have been workin' awful hard the last few days, an' I was getting worried over dad again. He was gittin' that thin an' weak an' kind o' discouraged, too. Seemed like he'd jest made up his mind that there wasn't no luck fer him nowhere's.

"Then----" she leaned forward, her eyes black as coals, her fingers clasped convulsively in front of her. "Then we uncovered it, that first little narrow vein o' gold runnin' through the rocks. I thought dad would go plumb crazy when he seen it. Honest, I was skeered for a minute, till I recollected thet joy never killed nobody.

"Then I began to be skeered fer myself. I felt so kind o' queer an' wobbly inside o' me. Then dad came runnin' out to show the other fellers what he'd found, an' seemed like they went crazy too.

"Then you come an'--an'--I guess thet's 'bout all."

The girls drew a long breath.

"All," repeated Grace, softly. "I should think it was about enough for one day!"

"An' now," said Meggy, in a small little voice, "poor old dad an' me, we're rich--rich! Think of it--Meggy an' her dad! Now I can buy a hoss like--like--Nigger, mebbe----"

"You funny girl," cried Betty, hugging her fondly. "Of course you can buy a horse--a dozen of them if you want to. But wouldn't you like anything else? Pretty clothes, a beautiful house to live in----"

"Yes," agreed Meggy, but without any special enthusiasm. "I used to think when you gals come around lookin' all pretty an' stylish in your nice clothes thet I would like to dress thet way myself ef I wasn't as poor as dirt. An' I would like to live in somethin' besides a shack an' have sheets enough to your beds so's you could change 'em every day ef you wanted to. Sure, I'd like them things.

"But a hoss----" Her voice lowered almost to a reverential pitch. "Ever sence I grew to be a long-legged gal, seems like all I've really wanted was a hoss. I s'pose," she turned dark, rather wistful eyes on the girls, "it's purty hard for you gals to understand what I'm talkin' about. You never longed fer a thing so's your heart ached till it seemed like it was dead inside of you. So you might think I was foolish to take on so 'bout only a hoss."

"We don't think you're foolish, Meggy," said Betty, gently. "We think you're wonderful, and you deserve every bit of the splendid luck that has come to you. And I expect," she finished gayly, "that you will have the most beautiful horse in all Gold Run."

Meggy's eyes lighted with joy. Then they misted suddenly as she looked at the girls.

"It's jest like dad said," she murmured. "We wouldn't 'a' had nothin' ef it hadn't been fer you girls. You don't know how we feel about you, 'cause we jest never could tell you."

The days that followed seemed like a beautiful fairy tale to the happy girls. Peter Levine had known what he was talking about when he had asserted that "gold was running wild" about the northern end of the ranch and its environs.

It was as though the finding of gold in the new Higgins' mine had been the key that unlocked the door to a steady stream of it.

Every day brought glad tidings of a new find, and, as some of these were on the ranch, Betty began to realize that the Nelson family was becoming very wealthy. They had always been well-to-do, for her father had prospered in his business, that of carpet manufacturer in Deepdale. But now it seemed that they were to know what it felt like to be really rich.

The girls realized this, and once Mollie put the new idea into words.

"This is a wonderful thing for you, Betty dear," she said soberly. "You can have about anything in the world that you want now. I--I--hope you won't forget your old friends." She said the last laughingly, but Betty was deeply hurt and showed that she was.

"If--if you ever dare say such a horrid thing to me again, Mollie Billette," she cried, half way between tears and anger, "I'll never, never forgive you! You--you--ought to know me better."

And Mollie, heartily ashamed of herself, succeeded in placating the Little Captain only after having apologized most abjectly.

Then one day something happened that amused them all mightily. They had all turned out to the gold diggings, Mrs. Nelson, Mr. Nelson, the four girls, and Allen. Mrs. Nelson and Allen were engaged in the joyful pursuit of trying to figure out how much her profits would be, when Betty edged up to Allen and, pulling his sleeve, pointed out a man some distance from them. The latter was standing alone, and he seemed to be regarding the operations rather morosely.

"Peter Levine, by all that's holy!" murmured Allen. "Just hold tight for a minute, folks, and watch me chase him."

With an elaborately casual air, Allen sauntered over to the morose individual. The man looked up as he approached, and the scowl on his face deepened.

"Howdy," said Allen, loud enough to cause those near by to turn to look at him. "How's my old friend Levine this morning?"

"None of your business," snarled the other, with a black look. "Lay off me, do you hear?"

"Oh, yes, I hear," said Allen, loudly and cheerfully. "I'm quite exceptionally good at hearing. Shall I tell these friends of ours what Andy Rawlinson and I happened to hear the other night, beneath these very trees? Why, Levine, where are you going?" he asked with feigned surprise, as the other started to take his leave. "Don't you want to hear----"

"Shut your mouth!" snarled Peter Levine, furiously, then turned and slunk off, followed by the jeers and catcalls of the crowd.

"You shore hev got his number, boy," said one old timer, admiringly. "He loves you like the fox loves a trap."

Allen grinned boyishly. "Suits me!" he said cheerfully.

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