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A Buckeye Hollow Inheritance
by [?]

The four men on the “Zip Coon” Ledge had not got fairly settled to their morning’s work. There was the usual lingering hesitation which is apt to attend the taking-up of any regular or monotonous performance, shown in this instance in the prolonged scrutiny of a pick’s point, the solemn selection of a shovel, or the “hefting” or weighing of a tapping-iron or drill. One member, becoming interested in a funny paragraph he found in the scrap of newspaper wrapped around his noonday cheese, shamelessly sat down to finish it, regardless of the prospecting pan thrown at him by another. They had taken up their daily routine of mining life like schoolboys at their tasks.

“Hello!” said Ned Wyngate, joyously recognizing a possible further interruption. “Blamed if the Express rider ain’t comin’ here!”

He was shading his eyes with his hand as he gazed over the broad sun-baked expanse of broken “flat” between them and the highroad. They all looked up, and saw the figure of a mounted man, with a courier’s bag thrown over his shoulder, galloping towards them. It was really an event, as their letters were usually left at the grocery at the crossroads.

“I knew something was goin’ to happen,” said Wyngate. “I didn’t feel a bit like work this morning.”

Here one of their number ran off to meet the advancing horseman. They watched him until they saw the latter rein up, and hand a brown envelope to their messenger, who ran breathlessly back with it to the Ledge as the horseman galloped away again.

“A telegraph for Jackson Wells,” he said, handing it to the young man who had been reading the scrap of paper.

There was a dead silence. Telegrams were expensive rarities in those days, especially with the youthful Bohemian miners of the Zip Coon Ledge. They were burning with curiosity, yet a singular thing happened. Accustomed as they had been to a life of brotherly familiarity and unceremoniousness, this portentous message from the outside world of civilization recalled their old formal politeness. They looked steadily away from the receiver of the telegram, and he on his part stammered an apologetic “Excuse me, boys,” as he broke the envelope.

There was another pause, which seemed to be interminable to the waiting partners. Then the voice of Wells, in quite natural tones, said, “By gum! that’s funny! Read that, Dexter,–read it out loud.”

Dexter Rice, the foreman, took the proffered telegram from Wells’s hand, and read as follows:–

Your uncle, Quincy Wells, died yesterday, leaving you sole heir. Will attend you to-morrow for instructions.


Attorneys, Sacramento.

The three miners’ faces lightened and turned joyously to Wells; but HIS face looked puzzled.

“May we congratulate you, Mr. Wells?” said Wyngate, with affected politeness; “or possibly your uncle may have been English, and a title goes with the ‘prop,’ and you may be Lord Wells, or Very Wells–at least.”

But here Jackson Wells’s youthful face lost its perplexity, and he began to laugh long and silently to himself. This was protracted to such an extent that Dexter asserted himself,–as foreman and senior partner.

“Look here, Jack! don’t sit there cackling like a chuckle-headed magpie, if you ARE the heir.”

“I–can’t–help it,” gasped Jackson. “I am the heir–but you see, boys, there AIN’T ANY PROPERTY.”

“What do you mean? Is all that a sell?” demanded Rice.

“Not much! Telegraph’s too expensive for that sort o’ feelin’. You see, boys, I’ve got an Uncle Quincy, though I don’t know him much, and he MAY be dead. But his whole fixin’s consisted of a claim the size of ours, and played out long ago: a ramshackle lot o’ sheds called a cottage, and a kind of market garden of about three acres, where he reared and sold vegetables. He was always poor, and as for calling it ‘property,’ and ME the ‘heir’–good Lord!”