Dot Wilson caught the toe of her shoe on a rock just as she was about to climb into the family wagon. Her shoulder bag spilled into the dusty grass, scattering its contents at the feet of Tom Harper.
“That last step is a doozy!” Tom teased and roared with laughter.
Dot’s face flushed, and Tom felt like a heel for poking fun at her.
“Here, let me help you with that,” he said, stooping to gather Dot’s baubles. He had scooped up most everything when he whistled in appreciation.
“Now what do we have here?” he asked, holding his hand up to the dazzling sunlight. In his fingers was a radiant golden nugget that glistened like the morning dew.
“Oh, that? It’s nothing, really. Just some old rock I found down by the stream yesterday. Justin said we might come back and pick up a few more of them if we don’t find anything in California. You know, just on the count they’re so pretty and all.”
“You don’t say.” Tom looked off to the horizon, lost in thought.
It was April 1, six months since the Wilsons and Harpers had set out from Boston to find their fortunes. It hadn’t taken long for Dot and Justin to figure out their partners were more burden than help.
“Say,” Tom began as Justin walked up with the bedrolls. “I been thinking. Maybe Jess and I will just hold out here for awhile.”
He was still ogling the sunlit nugget.
A few minutes later, Dot turned to Justin as their horses picked up speed.
“Think it’ll work?”
Justin nodded. “Yep. Nearest assayer is two days from here. By the time ol’ Tom figures out he’s sitting on a mountain of Fool’s Gold, we’ll be ghosts on the wind.”
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