OUT OF THE ENEMY’S HANDS

“Eben and I will hide and leave you to receive them alone,” said
Rawson, rising hastily.

“But—-” expostulated Dean in considerable alarm.

“Don’t be afeared, lad. They shan’t do you any harm. We want a little
fun, that’s all. We shall be close at hand.”

The two darted behind a tree, leaving Dean reclining on the turf.

Kirby and Dan approached, engaged apparently in earnest conversation.
They were close upon Dean before they recognized him. It is needless to
say that their amazement was profound.

“Look there, Dan!” said Kirby, stopping short.

“There’s the kid!”

“Well, I’m beat!” ejaculated Dan.

“How on earth can he have escaped? If he got away without Pompey’s
knowledge he’s about the smartest youngster I ever came across. I will
take care it shan’t happen again.”

Striding forward, Kirby confronted Dean with a stern face.

Dean, by way of carrying out the deception, started and assumed a look
of terror.

“What does all this mean, boy?” demanded Kirby.

“What does what mean?” asked Dean in apparent perplexity.

“How came you here? You know well enough what I mean.”

“I walked,” answered Dean demurely.

“Of course you did! How did you get out of the place where I put you?”

“I went out at the back door.”

Kirby turned to Dan in alarm.

“Was it unlocked?” he asked, resuming his examination of the boy.

“Yes; if it hadn’t been I couldn’t have got out.”

“Where is Pompey—the negro? What did you do to him?” asked Kirby
suspiciously.

“He fell asleep after dinner.”

“And I suppose you took the key from him in his sleep,” said Kirby,
rather as a statement than an inquiry.

Dean made no reply, and Peter Kirby took this as an admission that he
was right.

“That must be the way, Dan,” he said, turning to his companion. “It’s
lucky we met our young friend here, or we might have been deprived of
his society.”

Dean looked depressed, and Kirby was deceived by his manner.

“I suppose you know what’s going to happen?” he said, addressing
himself to Dean.

“No.”

“Well, you’ll soon know. You’re going back to keep company with Pompey.
He is very lonesome there in the cave, and he will be brightened up by
having a boy as company.”

“Oh, Mr. Kirby, please let me go on my way!” pleaded Dean.

“I am sorry to disappoint you, but it can’t be done. Sit down, Dan.
We’ve got a long walk before us, and we will rest a while.”

The two men seated themselves one on each side of Dean, occupying the
exact places recently vacated by the two miners. Kirby had been angry
at first with Dean, but the exultation he felt at recovering him abated
his wrath and made him good-natured. He felt like the cat who has the
mouse securely in his power.

“Oho!” he laughed, “this is a good joke! This foolish lad really
supposed that he had bidden us good-by. Didn’t you, lad?”

“Yes; I never expected to see you again.”

Kirby laughed again.

“My lad,” he said, “you are not yet smart enough to circumvent Peter
Kirby. You’ll have to be several years older at least.”

“Mr. Kirby,” said Dean, earnestly, “will you tell me why you want to
keep me a prisoner?”

“Suppose I say that I like your society?”

“I shouldn’t believe you.”

“You are a sharp one, youngster. That isn’t the only reason.”

“So I thought. What is the reason, then?”

“You know too much and suspect too much, boy. You’re a pesky young spy.
We don’t propose to leave you at liberty to injure us.”

“Was that why Squire Bates arranged for you to take me with you?” asked
Dean, with a penetrating look.

“What motive could he have except to help you to a position?” answered
Kirby, evasively.

“I don’t know,” answered Dean, emphasizing the last word.

“But you suspect something. Is that it?”

Dean nodded.

“Boy, you are too candid for your own good. It is clear that you are
too sharp to be kept at liberty.”

“Do you mean to take me back to the cave?”

“Yes.”

“Why not let me travel with you instead? I should prefer it to such a
gloomy prison.”

“No doubt you would, but, as it happens, I am not bound to respect or
consult your wishes. No doubt you think you would have a better chance
to escape if I let you go with me.”

“Yes,” answered Dean demurely.

“So I thought, and that is the very reason I can’t gratify you. I
can’t be bothered with a boy I must constantly watch, though, for that
matter, if you played me false again,” he added sternly, “I shouldn’t
scruple to put a bullet through your head.”

He looked fiercely at Dean as if he meant it. Dean had no doubt that
nothing but a fear of the consequences would deter him from the
desperate act he hinted at, and he rejoiced more than ever that he had
two stalwart friends so near at hand.

There was a little more conversation between Kirby and Dan, and then
Kirby rose to his feet.

“Well, boy,” he said abruptly, “it is time for us to be going.”

“Go if you like, Mr. Kirby!” said Dean quietly. “I prefer to remain
where I am.”

“What, boy?” exclaimed Kirby angrily, “do you mean to defy us?”

“I mean, Mr. Kirby, that you have no right to interfere with me, or to
deprive me of my freedom.”

“No right, have I?” inquired Kirby in a sarcastic tone.

“That is what I said.”

“Then, boy, you’d better not have said it. You won’t fare any better
for it, I can tell you that. Come, get up, and at once!”

He leaned over, and grasping Dean by the collar pulled him roughly to
his feet.

The next moment, he thought he had been struck by lightning. He
received a blow on the side of his head that stretched him full length
on the ground.

When he rose, vaguely wondering what had happened, he confronted not
the boy he had assaulted, but a strong, athletic man, with a powerful
frame, and a stern, resolute eye.

This was Rawson, but he was not alone. Standing between Dean and Dan
was another man, younger, but looking quite as powerful, Eben Jones, of
Connecticut.

“What do you mean by this outrage?” demanded Kirby, with a baffled
look, gnawing his nether lip in abortive wrath.

“That’s a question for me to ask, stranger,” retorted Rawson coolly.
“What do you mean by assaulting this boy?”

“What do I mean? He is my servant, who has deserted and deceived me.”

“Is this true, lad?”

“No, it isn’t. I came West with this man, as a secretary, not knowing
his character. I found out that he was a thief and then I left him.”

“You shall answer for this, boy!” said Kirby, almost frothing at the
mouth. “How dare you insult me?”

“The boy is telling the truth. I make no doubt, if you call that
insulting you,” said Rawson. “He tells us you shut him up in a cave.”

“Yes, and I’ll do it again.”

“Will you indeed? You are at liberty to try.”

“What have you got to do with the boy, any way?”

“A good deal. We have just admitted him as a partner in our mining
firm. You’ll find us in Gilpin County if you want to call, though on
the whole I wouldn’t advise it, as we miners make short shrift of such
fellows as you are.”

“The boy must come with us!” said Kirby, doggedly, unwilling to own
himself beaten.

“I’ve got something to say to that, stranger, and it’s quickly said.
Make yourselves scarce both of you, or you’ll never know what hit you.”

He pulled from his girdle a six shooter, and pointed it at Kirby.

The latter needed no second hint. He and Dan turned and walked away,
muttering some ugly threats to which the two miners paid no heed.

“Now, lad, we’ll have some supper,” said Rawson, “and look out for
a good place to pass the night. I can’t say much for your friends.
They’re about as ugly-looking knaves as I ever saw.”

“I agree with you,” said Dean, heartily. “I hope I shall never see them
again.”

Six months later among the hills in Gilpin County we find three old
acquaintances. They are Ben Rawson, Ebenezer Jones, and Dean Dunham.
Dean has grown taller and there is a healthy brown hue on his cheeks.
His eyes are bright, and his look is cheerful.

The three are sitting in front of a miner’s cabin, resting after the
fatigues of the day.

“Have a pipe, Dean?” asks Rawson.

“No, Ben; you know I don’t smoke.”

“You’re right, lad, no doubt, but I couldn’t get along without it. Do
you know, boys, it is just six months to-day since we came here, after
our brief interview with Dean’s friends. By the way, what are their
names?”

“Peter Kirby and Dan—I don’t know his last name.”

“I wonder what has become of them. It is easy to tell what will befall
them at last.”

“I hope I shall never set eyes on them again,” said Dean, fervently.

“Well, I won’t just say that; I might like to meet them if they were
about to receive their deserts.”

“Do you know how we stand, Rawson?” asked Eben Jones, taking the pipe
from his mouth.

“I was just figuring up, Eben, this afternoon, since you have made me
treasurer. There’s a little over three thousand dollars in the common
fund.”

“A thousand dollars apiece.”

“Precisely. It isn’t a bad showing, is it? What do you say to that,
Dean? How old are you?”

“Sixteen, but I am nearer seventeen.”

“There are not many boys of your age who are worth a thousand dollars.”

“I owe it to your kindness, Ben—yours and Eben’s.”

“I don’t admit that, Dean. You have worked hard for it.”

“But then I am only a boy, and yet you admit me to an equal
partnership.”

“And we’re glad to do it, Dean,” said Rawson, warmly. “Isn’t that so,
Eben?”

“You’re talkin’ for us both, Ben. The kid’s been a great deal of
company for us.”

“Besides, Dean, Eben and I have got ten thousand dollars between us in
a bank in Denver, unless the bank’s busted, which I haven’t heard of. I
say, Eben, old chap, I feel rich!”

“I feel rich enough to go home,” said Eben, after a thoughtful pause.
“Would you mind if I did, Ben?”

“I should mind so much, Eben, that I should probably go along too.”

“But that would be leaving Dean alone,” objected Eben.

“Perhaps he would like to make a trip East also.”

“Yes, I would,” said Dean. “It’s a long time since I’ve heard from my
uncle and aunt. I think my last letter couldn’t have reached them.”

“There’s one thing in the way,” observed Rawson. “Our claims are
valuable—more so than six months ago. If we leave ’em some one will
take possession, and that’ll be an end of our ownership.”

“Sell ’em,” said Eben, concisely.

“That will take time.”

“I’ll stay till it’s done. I’m not going to give ’em away.”

“Trust a Connecticut Yankee for that,” said Rawson, laughing. “Well,
to-morrow, then, we’ll let our neighbors know that our claims are for
sale.”

Dean and his two friends retired at an early hour. They usually
became fatigued by the labors of the day, and did not require to court
slumber long. They rose early, and took their breakfast at a restaurant
near by. Before this was opened, they took turns at cooking breakfast
themselves, but were glad to delegate that duty to some one else.

Dean, as the best penman, prepared the sign,

THESE CLAIMS FOR SALE.

rather fortunately, as Rawson was weak not only in writing but in
spelling, and would have been very likely to write “Theas clames fer
sail,” without a thought that he had committed an error.

About nine o’clock on the second morning, a small man, dressed in a
drab suit, walked leisurely up to Rawson, and remarked: “I understand
that you wish to sell these claims.”

“Exactly, if we can get a fair price.”

“By we you mean—-?”

“Myself, Mr. Jones, and the boy. We are partners. Where might you be
from, friend?”

“I have an office in Denver. I am commissioned by a Philadelphia
syndicate to buy some mining property, which will be worked with the
help of improved machinery in a systematic manner.”

“Then you will need more than we have to sell.”

“I have secured the property on each side of you,” said the agent
composedly.

“What figures are you prepared to offer?” asked Rawson, with a look of
business. “I don’t want to be extortionate, but the claims are good
ones, and we don’t want to sacrifice them.”

Then ensued a few minutes of bargaining, in which Dean took no part.
Eben, though usually the most silent of the three, now developed the
qualities characteristic of the New England Yankee, and it was due to
him that the property was sold for six thousand dollars.

“I might have got more if I’d stood out a little longer,” he said, half
regretfully.

“We’ve done pretty well, though,” said Rawson, complacently. “It’s two
thousand dollars apiece, say three, with what we’ve taken from it in
the last six months. What do you say to that, lad? You’ll go home with
three thousand dollars.”

“It doesn’t seem possible, Ben. Why, Uncle Adin has been at work for
forty years, and I don’t believe the old place would fetch that.”

“Money’s easier to come at than in the old times. You’ll astonish the
old folks, lad.”

“There’ll be some others that’ll be surprised,” said Dean, smiling.
“Squire Bates and Brandon among the rest.”

“It’s better than going home like a tramp. It’s strange how much more
people think of you when you’re worth a little property. And I don’t
know but they’re right. To get money, I mean honestly, a man must have
some brains, and he must be willing to work. How much money do you
think I had when I arrived here?”

“I don’t know.”

“Eighteen dollars. It was grit or brains with me, I can tell you. Eben
here wasn’t much better off.”

“Not so well. I only had nine dollars.”

“And now we’ve got eight thousand apiece. That’ll make us comfortable
for a while, eh, Eben?”

“For life, Rawson. I shall never come back here, but settle down at
home, where people will call me a rich man.”

“I can’t answer for myself. How is it with you, Dean?”

“I shall come back,” said Dean, positively. “There’s very little chance
for me in Waterford.”

“Well, perhaps you are right. You’ll have a fair start, and you’re
industrious and enterprising.”

They stopped in Denver on their way home, and called at the office of
the agent through whom their claims had been sold.

“Gentlemen,” said the agent, “may I venture to give you some advice?”

“Certainly,” said Rawson.

“The best thing you can do with a part of your money is to invest in
real estate in this town.”

Eben Jones shook his head.

“I’m going to buy a farm at home, and put the rest of the money in the
savings bank,” he said.

“How is it with you, Mr. Rawson?”

“No doubt your advice is good, but I want to let the folks at home see
what I have brought in solid cash.”

“And you?” continued the agent, turning to Dean.

“I will invest two thousand dollars in Denver lots,” said Dean,
promptly, “and take the rest home as a present to my uncle and aunt.”

“You won’t regret it. Denver is growing rapidly. I predict that the
lots will double in your hands in a year.”

Dean took a walk round the embryo city with the agent, and made a
purchase of ten lots on Lawrence street, in accordance with his
judgment.

“Now,” said the agent, smiling, “I shall be sure to see you out here
again.”

Continue Reading

THE VALUE OF A HARMONICA

About the middle of the forenoon Pompey curled up on a pallet in one
corner of the room, and went to sleep. There was nothing in particular
to do, and it seemed rather a sensible way of spending the time. Dean,
however, felt too anxious to follow his example.

It occurred to him that it would be a good time for him to gratify his
curiosity by examining the cavern in which he was immured, and devise,
if possible, some method of escape. First he went up close to Pompey,
and examined him carefully to see whether he was really asleep, or only
shamming. But the negro’s deep breathing soon satisfied him that there
was no sham about his slumber. So Dean felt at liberty to begin his
exploration.

He went back to the entrance, which he knew by the staircase he had
descended with Kirby and Dan. He mounted to the top, and found his way
barred by a trap-door which he tried, but unsuccessfully, to raise. It
appeared to be secured by a lock, and, not having the key, there was no
hope of escape. He gazed ruefully at this door, which shut him out from
liberty.

“I wonder if there is any other way out of the cave,” he asked himself.

It didn’t seem probable, but it was of course possible, and worth while
to investigate. If there were it would be at the other end, no doubt.

He retraced his steps, and found Pompey still fast asleep, and utterly
unconscious of the movements of the prisoner under his charge.

Dean took a lamp and went farther into the cave. There seemed to be a
series of excavations, connected by narrow passages. In one of these
was a large box, constructed like a sailor’s chest. It occurred to
him that it might belong to Pompey, and be used by him to contain his
clothing. But a little thought suggested that the negro was not likely
to have a large stock of clothes. Probably the suit he had on was about
all he possessed. What, then, did the chest contain?

At each end was a handle. Dean took hold of one and tried to lift the
chest. But he found it very heavy, much heavier than it would have been
had it contained clothing.

He rose to his feet and eyed it with curiosity. There was nothing
elaborate about the lock, and it struck Dean that a key which he had in
his pocket might possibly unlock it. Upon the impulse of the moment he
kneeled down and inserted it in the lock.

Very much to his surprise, and indeed it did seem an extraordinary
chance, for it was the only key he had, it proved to fit the lock. He
turned it, and raised the lid. The sight dazzled him.

Before him lay piles of gold and silver coins, and a package of bank
bills. This cave was evidently the store house of an organized band of
robbers, and the chest might be considered their treasury.

“I wonder if this is real,” thought Dean. “It seems like a scene in the
Arabian Nights.”

It did indeed seem strange that this far off nook of Colorado should be
the rendezvous and treasure house of a band so widely scattered that
the captain was a quiet citizen of a small town in the State of New
York, nearly two thousand miles away.

How improbable it would have seemed to the Citizens of Waterford,
among whom Squire Bates moved, living in outward seeming the life of
any other respectable and law abiding citizen! This was the Waterford
mystery, which by a series of remarkable adventures it had fallen to
Dean to solve.

He locked the chest, fearing that Pompey might suddenly awake, and,
following, discover what he was about. He wanted some time to think
over this strange discovery, and consider what to do. To be sure, there
seemed little chance of his doing anything except to remain where he
was, a subterranean prisoner.

Dean felt more than ever a desire to leave the cave, but the prospect
was not encouraging. Why he was kept a prisoner he could guess. He
knew too much of the band, and especially of their leader, and he was
considered dangerous. His imprisonment might be a prolonged one, and
Dean felt that this would be intolerable.

It was in a very sober frame that he returned to the room where Pompey
was still sleeping. An hour later the negro awoke and stretched himself.

“Have I been asleep long, young massa?” he asked.

“Two or three hours, I should think, Pompey.”

“Dat’s strange! I only just closed my eyes for a minute, and I done
forgot myself.”

“You might as well go to sleep. There’s nothing else to do.”

“I must get some dinner, honey. Don’t you feel hungry?”

“I might eat something,” said Dean listlessly.

Pompey bustled round, and prepared a lunch, to which Dean, homesick as
he was, did not fail to do justice. It takes a great deal to spoil the
appetite of a growing boy.

After the noon repast Dean sat down. He was beginning to find the
monotony intolerable.

“Have you got any books down here, Pompey?” he asked.

Pompey shook his head.

“No use for books, young massa. I can’t read.”

“But I can.”

“Perhaps Massa Kirby will bring you some if you ask him.”

Dean did not care to ask any favor of Kirby. Moreover he knew that that
gentleman was not particularly literary, and doubted if he was in a
position to grant the request.

By way of beguiling the time he took out his harmonica in an absent
mood, and began to play “Old Folks at Home.”

Instantly Pompey was on the alert. His eyes brightened, and he fixed
them in rapture upon the young player.

“What’s dat, young massa?” he asked.

“That’s a harmonica.”

“You do play beau’ful, young massa.”

“Thank you, Pompey, I am glad you like it.”

“Play some more,” entreated Pompey.

Dean complied with the negro’s request, partly because he was obliging,
partly because it helped to fill up the time. He could scarcely forbear
laughing to see Pompey rocking to and fro with his mouth open, drinking
in the melodious strains.

Nature had given Pompey a rapt appreciation of music, and he began to
croon a vocal accompaniment to the instrument.

“Who learn you to play, young massa?” he asked.

“I taught myself. It isn’t hard.”

“Dat’s because your white. A poor nigger like me couldn’t learn,” said
Pompey half inquiringly.

“Oh yes, you could. I see you have an ear for music. Would you like to
try?”

“If you would let me.”

Dean handed the negro the harmonica, and gave him the necessary
directions. In the course of half an hour he was able to play through
“Old Folks at Home,” with substantial accuracy.

“I wish I had a harmonicum,” said Pompey wistfully. “It would make old
Pompey happy.”

An idea came into Dean’s head—a wild, perhaps an impracticable idea,
but he resolved to carry it out, if possible.

“Pompey,” he said, “I’ll give you the harmonica if you’ll let me out of
the cave.”

Pompey rolled his eyes in affright.

“Couldn’t do it no how, young massa,” he said. “Massa Kirby would kill
me.”

“He’d think I got away when you were asleep, Pompey. Come, I’ll show
you two or three more tunes on the instrument, and you can learn others
yourself.”

“I don’t dare to, young massa,” said Pompey, but there was a suspicion
of indecision in his voice.

“Very well, then, give me back the harmonica. I will never play any
more upon it.”

“Oh, young massa!”

“I mean what I say, Pompey”—and Dean put the harmonica in his pocket.

Pompey eyed him with a troubled look. He was evidently weighing the
matter in his mind.

“If I thought Massa Kirby wouldn’t kill me,” he said reflectively.

Dean upon this redoubled his persuasions. He played another tune on
the harmonica—”Sweet Home”—with variations, and this completed the
conquest of his sable custodian.

“I’ll do it, young massa,” said Pompey, hoarsely. “Give me the
harmonicum, and I’ll take the risk.”

Dean did not want to give him time for reflection. He seized his hat,
and handed Pompey the instrument.

The negro guided him, not to the front entrance which he already knew,
but to a back exit which he had overlooked. Here there was a door
skillfully concealed on the outside. Pompey drew out a key, opened it,
and with infinite relief Dean again saw the sunshine and breathed the
air of freedom.

“Good-bye, Pompey!” he said. “I thank you with all my heart.”

“If Massa Kirby cotch you, don’t you tell him I let you go,” said
Pompey, hoarsely.

“No, I won’t, Pompey, but I don’t mean to let him catch me.”

The door closed behind him, and Dean paused to consider what course to
take. He must at all hazards avoid falling in with Kirby and Dan.

“That harmonica is worth its weight in gold!” thought Dean, gratefully.
“It is a regular talisman.”

Dean had no particular choice as to the direction he would take.
His principal desire was to get out of the neighborhood, so as to
avoid meeting Kirby or Dan, as this would insure a second term of
imprisonment from which he could not hope to escape so easily. He had
a general idea of the location of the cabin in which he had passed
the previous night, and he shaped his course as far away from it as
possible. He looked at his watch, which Kirby had neglected to take,
and found that it was between four and five in the afternoon. He did
not know how far the wooded district extended, but hoped soon to emerge
from it.

[Illustration: MR. KIRBY WAS COUNTING A NUMBER OF $50 BILLS.]

It might have been that he was bewildered, but the farther he traveled
the more he seemed to be surrounded by trees. Moreover the shades
were deepening, and soon the night would settle about him.

“I wish I had a compass,” thought Dean. “That would help me find my way
out of this labyrinth.”

He had met no one as yet, and this was upon the whole a relief, as
the persons most likely to be encountered were Kirby and Dan. But at
length a sound of voices fell upon his ear, and he stayed his steps in
momentary alarm. He listened intently, but was reassured when he found
that the voices were unfamiliar.

“It may be some one who can show me the way out of these woods,”
thought Dean. “At any rate I don’t believe they will harm a boy. I will
try to find them.”

Guided by the voices he directed his steps in the direction of the
sound, and found himself at length in an open space. Under a tree
reclined two stalwart men who, from their garb, appeared to be miners.
They were lying in an easy position, and both were smoking pipes.

“Good-afternoon, gentlemen,” said Dean politely.

The two men looked up in surprise.

“Why, it’s a kid!” ejaculated one. “How came you here, boy?”

“I’ll tell you, if you don’t mind my joining you,” said Dean.

“Come and welcome! It’s rather refreshing to see a young chap like you.
I’ve got a boy at home who is within a year or two as old as you.”

“I am sixteen.”

“So I thought. My boy is fourteen. What is your name?”

“Dean Dunham. I come from Waterford, New York.”

“Then you are from my State. I am from Syracuse. My name is Rawson—Ben
Rawson. My friend here is Ebenezer Jones, commonly called Eben, a
Connecticut Yankee—Eben, shake with our young friend.”

“I am glad to meet you, Mr. Jones,” said Dean, extending his hand with
a smile.

“You must look out for Eben,” said Rawson jocosely. “Them Connecticut
Yankees are as sharp as they make ’em.”

“I will risk it,” said Dean. “I am very glad to meet you both, for I
was beginning to feel that I was lost.”

“Eben and I are too good mountaineers to be easily lost. How long have
you been in these woods?”

“Since yesterday noon.”

“Did you sleep out?”

“No, I found a cabin where I lodged.”

“You were in luck.”

“In bad luck.”

“How is that?” asked Rawson in surprise. “Were you robbed?”

“No, but I found myself in the company of two men who I am pretty sure
belong to a gang of robbers. One of them I had seen before—at the
East. They blindfolded me, and took me, to a cavern, where they left me
in charge of a negro named Pompey.”

“What could be their object?” asked Rawson. “You are sure you’re not
romancing, boy?”

“I wish I were, but the cave exists, just as certainly as I do.”

“But of what use is it?”

“I think it is a hiding-place for their booty,” answered Dean, and he
gave an account of the chest which he had opened, and the nature of its
contents.

“Why didn’t you take a handful of the gold?” asked Rawson.

“At the time I didn’t know but I should have to remain in the cave,
when of course it would be discovered on me. Besides, though I knew it
to be stolen property I didn’t feel like taking it.”

“Eben and I wouldn’t be so particular. Whereabouts is this cave?”

“I think it must be three or four miles away, but I may be mistaken,
for I got turned round, and may have doubled on my tracks. I have been
afraid I might fall in with Kirby and Dan. When I heard your voices I
thought at first it might be them.”

“You’re safe now, lad. We would be more than a match for them, even
if they did turn up. I shouldn’t mind giving them a lesson. But you
haven’t told us what brought you out here, lad.”

“I thought I might make a better living than at home.”

“And have you?”

“So far I have, but my prospects don’t appear to be very bright just
now.”

“Don’t be too sure of that. Suppose you join us.”

“I shall be glad to do so, if you will let me.”

“Then we’ll shake hands to our better acquaintance. I’d offer you a
pipe if I had an extra one.”

“Thank you; I don’t smoke.”

“Well, lad, perhaps you’re right. Smoking won’t do any good to a boy
like you.”

“If I am to join you would you mind telling me your plans?”

“Of course I will. We’re miners, as you might guess from our looks.
We’ve been up in Gilpin County, and have done pretty well. We’ve got
some claims there yet, but we wanted a little change and have been on a
little prospecting tour.”

“Have you had good luck?”

“In prospecting? No! We are on our way back, and shall settle down to
work again all the better for our holiday.”

“How long have you been out here?” asked Dean.

“I’ve been here fourteen months—Eben for a year. We never met before,
but we concluded to join forces, and haven’t regretted it, eh—Eben?”

“Right you are, Rawson.”

“Eben here has a girl at home that’s waiting for him. When he has made
his pile, he’s going back to her.”

“And how about you, Mr. Rawson?”

“Never mind about the handle to my name, youngster. Call me Ben.”

“But you are so much older than I,” objected Dean.

“We’re free and easy out here—it’s the best way. When we get back to
the East you may call me Mr. Rawson if you want to. I say, Eben, if we
take the boy into partnership, he ought to have some capital.”

“I am sorry that I can’t put in any capital,” said Dean. “Besides this
watch I haven’t over five dollars about me.”

“You misunderstand me, lad. I mean that Eben and I should set you up
in business. We’ve got six claims—between us. What do you say, Eben,
to giving this boy two? Then we shall be equal partners, and share and
share alike.”

“It’s just as you say, Ben,” answered Eben, who was evidently guided in
all things by his older companion.

“You are very generous, Ben,” said Dean, “but I ought not to accept such
a gift. If you don’t mind giving me one, I will take it, and thank you.”

“No, lad,” persisted Rawson. “It’s share and share alike, as I said.”

“But I ought not to be on equal terms with you two, who have others to
look out for.”

“You won’t be, lad—Eben and I have each got a pile salted down in one
of the banks in Denver. It’s near five thousand dollars apiece, isn’t
it, Eben?”

“Yes, not far from that, Rawson.”

“We will share alike for the future—that’s what I mean. There’s more
gold where the other came from, and I hope the claims will pan out well
for your sake.”

Dean felt that he had indeed fallen into good hands. He might
have traveled far enough in the East without meeting strangers so
free-handed. Indeed had he met the same parties at home, he would
scarcely have found them so liberal. The wild, free life of the West
had opened their hearts and made them generous.

“Hist!” said Rawson suddenly, raising his hand, and assuming an intent
look, “I think I hear voices.”

He was right. Two men, walking slowly, and appearing to be in
earnest conversation, approached. “It’s Dan and Kirby!” said Dean in
excitement.

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DEAN FINDS HIMSELF IN A HOLE

If Dean was surprised to see his old enemy in such an out of the
way place, Kirby was no less surprised to see his former traveling
companion. There was this difference: the encounter brought him
pleasure, while to Dean it carried dismay. Neither could understand
where on earth the other had sprung from.

“Oho!” laughed Kirby, “so we meet again.”

Dan looked surprised, thinking the words were addressed to him, but
following the direction of Kirby’s eyes, he saw that he was mistaken.

“Do you know this boy?” he asked.

“Do I know him? Why, we started from the East together.”

“How is that?”

“It was at the request of a friend of ours.”

“The captain?”

“Yes.”

“And why did you separate?”

“Well, I mustn’t tell tales out of school. I am very glad to meet you
again, youngster. Is the pleasure mutual?”

“No, it isn’t,” said Dean, bluntly.

“So I should judge, after the trick you played upon me at our last
meeting.”

“What do you refer to?”

“You know well enough. You cautioned Dr. Thorp against me. Don’t deny
it, for I know it is true.”

“I don’t deny it. What happened that night showed that I had good
reason.”

“Be that as it may,” said Kirby with an ugly scowl, “you did a bad
thing for yourself. You probably thought you would never meet me again.”

Dean was silent, but Dan, whose curiosity was aroused, interposed with
an inquiry.

“What are you two talkin’ about,” he said. “Is this boy a friend or an
enemy?”

“He is an enemy of our association,” replied Kirby. “I am glad to have
him in my power.”

“So there is an association?” thought Dean. “These two men belong to
it, and Squire Bates is the captain. I shall soon know all about it.”

But in the meanwhile the evident hostility of Kirby, reflected in the
face of his new acquaintance Dan, was ominous of danger. Dean felt that
he would gladly pass the night out in the woods exposed to the night
air if he could only get away. But he saw clearly that escape was not
at present practicable.

“Have you seen the old woman?” asked Dan, meaning his mother.

“Yes, she told me that she had taken in a kid for the night, but I had
no idea it was any one I knew. The old lady wears well, Dan.”

“Yes, she’s tough,” said the affectionate son carelessly. “I’ll go in
and see whether she’s got supper ready.”

He entered the house, leaving Dean and his old employer together.

“Come here, boy, and sit down,” said Kirby smiling, and eying Dean very
much as a cat eyes the mouse whom she proposes soon to devour. “You
must be tired.”

“Thank you,” said Dean calmly, as he went forward and seated himself on
the settee beside Peter Kirby.

“What brought you so far West as Colorado?” proceeded Kirby, giving
vent to his curiosity.

“I kept coming West. Besides I heard there were mines in Colorado, and
I thought I might find profitable work.”

“So you gave up playing on that harmonica of yours?”

“Yes.”

“Couldn’t you make it pay?”

“I needed a partner like the one I started with—Mr. Montgomery. I
couldn’t give an entertainment alone.”

“Then you haven’t been making any money lately?”

“No.”

“Where did you get that watch?”

“From Dr. Thorp.”

“When did he give it to you?”

“Just before I left town.”

“It was a present to you for informing on me, I suppose?” said Kirby,
his face again assuming an ugly frown.

“I believe it was for saving him from being robbed.”

“Then he had considerable money and bonds in the house?”

“Yes.”

“Were they in the cabinet?”

“He removed them.”

“After I went to bed?”

“I believe so.”

“It seems then that I am indebted to you for foiling my little scheme.”

Kirby looked dangerous, and Dean was alive to the peril incurred, but
he was obliged in the interests of truth to answer in the affirmative.

Here Dan appeared at the door.

“Come in, Kirby,” he said. “Supper’s ready.”

“I am ready for it. I am about famished. Come in, boy.”

“Thank you; I have supped already.”

“All the same you must come in, for I don’t propose to lose sight of
you. Hand over that watch, please.”

“Why do you want it?” asked Dean apprehensively.

“I have more claim to it than you. It was the price of treachery.”

“I hope, Mr. Kirby, you will let me keep it.”

“Hand it over without any more words!” said Kirby, roughly, “unless you
want me to take it from you.”

It would have been idle to resist, but Dean was not willing to hand it
over, since that would have indicated his consent to the surrender.

“You can take it if you choose,” he said.

“It will do after supper. Come in!”

Dean preceded Kirby into the cabin, and sat down on a stool while the
two men were eating. Gradually they dropped into conversation, and Dean
listened with curious interest.

“So you saw the captain, Kirby?” asked Dan.

“Yes.”

“Where?”

“He lives in an obscure country place, buried alive, as I call it. It
is for the sake of his family, he says.”

“What family has he?”

“A wife and son—the last as like his father as two peas—the same ugly
tusks, and long, oval face. Between the two I prefer the captain. The
boy puts on no end of airs.”

“Does he know—-”

“Not a word. He thinks his father a gentleman of wealth and high birth,
and holds his head high, I can tell you.”

“Does that boy know him?” asked Dan, with a jerk of the head towards
Dean.

“You know Brandon Bates, don’t you, Dean?” said Kirby.

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you like him?”

“I don’t think any one in the village likes him.”

“How about his father? is he popular?”

“He is better liked than his son.”

“The fact is,” resumed Kirby, “the captain’s boy is an impudent cub. He
was insolent to me. I could have tweaked his nose with pleasure.”

“There seems to be one point on which Mr. Kirby and I agree,” thought
Dean. But upon the whole it did not seem to him that he liked Kirby any
better than Brandon Bates. Brandon had unpleasant manners, but it was
clear that Kirby was a professional thief.

“When is the captain coming West?” asked Dan.

“Soon, I think. He may be needed for some work in Denver. I shall make
a report to him when I have gathered the information we need, and urge
him to come. He has brains, the captain has, and he must give us the
advantage of them.”

“What plan are you thinkin’ of Kirby?”

“Hush!” said Kirby, glancing toward Dean. “I will speak with you about
that later.”

After supper they went out again, and sat on the settee, both smoking
pipes provided by Dan. Dean was invited to come out also, but he felt
very much fatigued, and asked if he might go to bed.

“Mother,” said Dan, “can the kid go up to bed?”

“Yes, if he wants to.”

“I’ll go up with him.”

Dan led the way up a narrow staircase to the second floor. There were
two rooms, each with a sloping roof. On the floor was spread a sacking
filled with hay, one end raised above the general level.

“You can sleep there, youngster,” said Dan. “There’s no use in
undressin’. Lay down as you are.”

Dean was quite ready to do so. Though he was apprehensive about the
future, fatigue asserted its claim, and in less than five minutes he
was sound asleep.

Dean seemed to himself to have slept not more than an hour, though in
reality several hours passed, when he was aroused by being shaken not
over gently.

“Time to get up?” he asked drowsily.

“Yes, it’s time to get up,” answered a rough voice.

Now he opened his eyes wide, and he saw Kirby looking down on him. At a
flash all came back to him, and he realized his position.

He rose from his pallet and asked, “Can I wash my face and hands?”

“No; there is no time for it. Follow me!”

Rightly concluding that it would be useless to question Kirby, Dean
followed him to the lower floor, where Dan had already seated himself
at the breakfast-table. In obedience to a signal Dean sat down also,
and ate with what appetite he could the repast spread before him. In
addition to cold meat and bread there was what passed for coffee,
though it probably was not even distantly related to the fragrant
beverage which we know by that name. Dean drank it, however, not
without relish, for it was at least hot.

Fifteen minutes sufficed for breakfast, and then Dan and Kirby left the
cabin, motioning to Dean to follow.

Outside the cabin Kirby said, “Have you a handkerchief?”

“Yes,” answered Dean, wondering why such a question should be asked.

“Give it to me!”

Dean mechanically obeyed.

Kirby took it, and, folding it, tied it over Dean’s eyes.

“Are we going to play blind man’s buff?” asked Dean.

“Yes,” answered Kirby grimly, “and you are the blind man.”

“I should like to know what you have done this for,” said Dean, more
seriously.

“I can’t answer your question, but no harm will come to you if you keep
quiet. You are going to take a walk with us.”

“And you don’t want me to know where you are taking me.”

“You’ve hit it right the first time, youngster,” said Dan.

“I suppose it’s no use to resist,” said Dean firmly, “but I must say
that you have no right to take away my freedom.”

“You can say it if you want to, but it won’t make any difference.”

“What are you going to do with me?”

“You’ll know in time.”

Dan and Kirby ranged themselves one on each side of Dean, and he
was walked off between them. He asked one or two questions, but was
admonished to keep silence. So they walked for twenty minutes, or
perhaps half an hour, when Dan left his side, and Dean was compelled to
halt in the custody of Kirby.

“It’s all ready!” said Dan, reappearing. Again he took Dean by the arm,
and they walked forward perhaps a dozen paces.

Then Kirby said, “Here are some steps.”

Dean found himself descending a flight of steps—ten in number, for he
took the trouble to count them. He was getting more and more mystified,
and would have given a good deal to remove the handkerchief that
bandaged his eyes, but it was impossible to do it even surreptitiously,
for both arms were pinioned by his guides. At the end of the flight of
steps they came again to level ground, and walked forward perhaps a
hundred feet. Dean suspected from the earthy odor that they were under
the ground. He soon learned that his supposition was correct, for his
guides halted, and loosened their hold upon his arms.

“You can remove the handkerchief now,” said Kirby.

Dean lost no time in availing himself of this permission.

He looked around him eagerly.

He found himself in what appeared to be not a natural, but an
artificial cave—dark, save for the light of a kerosene lamp, which
was placed on a little rocky shelf, and diffused a sickly light about
the cellar. At the end of the room there was a passage leading, as it
seemed, to some inner apartment.

Dean looked about in surprise.

“What place is this?” he asked.

“You may call it a cave if you like.”

“How long are you going to stay here?”

“About five minutes.”

“That will be enough for me,” said Dean shrugging his shoulders.

“Hardly. You are to stay longer.”

“Are you going to leave me here—under the earth?” asked Dean, in
alarm.

“Don’t you be scared, youngster—you will be safe. You won’t be alone.
Here, Pompey.”

Through the inner passage came a stunted negro, with a preternaturally
large head, around which was pinned a cotton cloth in the shape of a
turban. He bowed obsequiously, and eyed Dean with evident curiosity
mingled with surprise.

“This boy has come to visit you, Pompey,” said Kirby, with grim
pleasantry.

“Yah, yah, massa!” chuckled Pompey, showing the whites of his eyes.

“You must take good care of him. Give him something to eat when he is
hungry, but don’t let him escape.”

“Yah, massa!”

“He will ask you questions, but you must be careful what you tell him.
Remember, he is not one of us, and he mustn’t learn too much.”

“Yah, massa! I understand. What’s his name?”

“Dean.”

“Dat’s a funny name. I never heard the like.”

“Yes, you have. Dan’s like it.”

“So it am, massa! Dat’s a fac’.”

“Now, youngster, I am going to leave you in the company of Pompey here,
who will do his best to make you comfortable and happy.”

“When are you coming back for me?” asked Dean, apprehensively.

“Well, that depends upon circumstances. You’d better not trouble
yourself about that. Perhaps in a week, perhaps in a month. In the
meantime you will have free board, and won’t have to work for a living.
There are a good many who would like to change places with you.”

“If you meet any such, send them along,” said Dean, with a jocoseness
that thinly veiled a feeling bordering upon despair.

“Ha, ha! That’s a good one. Dan, our young friend is becoming a
practical joker. That’s right, young one. Keep up good courage. I must
bid you good-bye now. Come along, Dan.”

The two turned away, and Dean with despairing eyes saw them going back
to freedom and the light of day, while he was left in the company of an
ignorant black in a subterranean dungeon.

“Law, honey, don’t take on!” said Pompey, good-naturedly. “There ain’t
no harm comin’ to you.”

“I should think harm had come to me. Here am I shut up in this black
hole!”

“‘Taint so bad, honey, when you’re used to it. I didn’t like it first
myself.”

“How long have you lived down here?”

“I can’t justly say.”

“Is it a year, or a month?”

“I can’t say, young massa,” answered Pompey, who was evidently bent
on carrying out Kirby’s admonitions not to tell too much to his young
guest.

“When did you come hyah?” asked Pompey, thinking it only fair that he
should ask a question.

“Into this neighborhood? I only came yesterday.”

“And where did you meet Massa Kirby?”

“At the cabin of the other man—Dan. But I had seen him before. I met
him first at the East, in New York State.”

“In York State!” repeated Pompey.

“Yes. We traveled together for a while.”

Pompey nodded his head slowly, but evidently he had no very clear idea
of what it all meant.

“Are you hungry, young massa?” he asked, after a pause.

“No; I have had my breakfast.”

“I must go to work,” said the negro, turning to go back by the narrow
passage from which he had emerged.

“May I go with you?”

“Yes, young massa, if you want to.”

Anything was better than being left alone in the dark, cavernous room,
and Dean followed the negro, who was so short that he could readily
look over his head, till at the end of the passage he emerged into
another apartment, which was fitted up as a kitchen, and contained a
stove. From the stove rose an upright funnel, which pierced the roof,
providing a vent for the smoke when there was a fire, and allowing air
to come in from above. It flashed upon Dean that it was through this
funnel had come the mysterious sounds which puzzled him so much when he
was reclining in the wood.

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he thought her quite capable

Dean had left the breakfast-table the next morning, and was considering
what would be the next stage of his journey when Dr. Thorp was
announced.

“Mr. Dunham,” he said, “I have come to thank you for your warning of
last evening.”

“I hope it was of service to you, sir.”

“It was of essential service. Your old acquaintance had planned to rob
me of a sum of money and a quantity of government bonds, but being on
my guard I was able to frustrate his designs.”

“How did it happen?” asked Mr. Gunnison, his curiosity excited.

“In the middle of the night, or rather a little after midnight, I heard
some one going downstairs softly. I followed unobserved, and caught my
guest opening the drawers in my cabinet.”

“Where is he now?”

“I ordered him out of the house. He stood not upon the order of his
going, but went at once. Where he is now I cannot inform you, but
presume he has placed several miles between himself and Carterville.
Fortunately he went empty-handed, and my money and bonds are still in
my possession. But for our young friend here I should hardly be able to
say that.”

“You are indebted to me for bringing him to Carterville, Dr. Thorp,”
said Mr. Gunnison in a jocular tone. “How much are you going to allow
me?”

“You are amply repaid by his services,” said the doctor, “judging from
the comments I have heard upon his performance. I am under obligations
to him, however, which I ought to acknowledge. Mr. Dunham,” he
continued, taking from his pocket a small gold watch and chain, “I see
you have no watch. Please accept this with my best wishes.”

It was an Elgin gold watch of neat pattern which he offered to Dean.

“It is not quite new,” proceeded the doctor. “I bought it of a young
man in need of money, and having paid him its full value I have no
scruple in giving it away.”

“Thank you very much,” said Dean, his face showing the satisfaction he
felt. “I have felt the need of a watch ever since I began to travel,
but never dreamed of anything better than a silver one. I shall be
very proud of this one.”

“And I am very glad to give it to you. In what direction do you propose
to journey!”

“Westward, sir. I haven’t any very clear ideas further than that.”

“Shall you go as far as Colorado?”

“Yes, sir; I think so.”

“I have a nephew out there somewhere—Henry Thorp—a young man of
twenty-five. He is probably mining, but I don’t know his location.
Should you run across him, ask him to communicate with me. His aunt and
myself will be glad to hear from him.”

“I will not forget it, sir,” said Dean, though he thought it quite
improbable that he and the nephew referred to would ever meet.

Dr. Thorp took his leave, and Dean soon after took leave of the
Gunnison family. He was pressed to remain and play another game of
baseball, but felt that he could not spare the time.

A week later found Dean only a hundred miles farther on his way. He
might have accomplished this distance on the cars in a few hours, but
he preferred to make a leisurely trip, looking out for a chance to
earn money on the way. But after a season of prosperity a dull time
had come to him. During the week he did not make a single dollar. He
encountered several fair-sized towns, but did not feel able to give an
entire entertainment himself. His stock of money dwindled, and he began
to feel anxious.

Towards nightfall he found himself apparently at a distance from any
town, and began to feel some solicitude as to where he could pass the
night. It was a mountain region, and the day seemed to be shorter than
on the plains. The air was chilly, and Dean felt that it would be
dangerous to spend the night out of doors.

In this emergency he was pleased to descry a rough cabin a hundred feet
from the road.

“There is shelter at any rate if they will take me In,” thought Dean.
“I will take care not to wander into such a wild region again.”

He went up to the door, and knocked with his bare knuckles.

He heard a shuffling noise inside, and an old woman, with gray hair,
unconfined and hanging loose like a horse’s mane, faced him.

“Who are you?” she inquired abruptly.

“A traveler,” answered Dean.

“What do you want?”

“I have lost my way. Can you let me stay here all night?”

“This isn’t a tavern,” she responded in a surly tone.

“I suppose not, but I am willing to pay for supper and a lodging. I
don’t see any other house near by, or I would not trouble you.”

The old woman eyed him with a curious scrutiny which made him vaguely
uncomfortable, so weird and uncanny was her look.

“Have you got any money?” she asked at last.

“A little,” answered Dean, growing suddenly cautious.

“Well, you can come in,” she said after a pause.

Dean entered, and cast a glance about him.

The cabin was certainly a primitive one. What furniture it contained
seemed home made, put together awkwardly with such material as came to
hand. In place of chairs were two boxes such as are used to contain
shoes, placed bottom up. There was a small stove, the heat of which
seemed grateful to the chilly young traveler.

“It is cold,” remarked Dean, by way of opening the conversation.

“Humph!” answered the woman. “Have you come all the way to tell me
that?”

“Evidently the old woman isn’t sociable,” thought Dean.

“Where do you live when you’re to home?” asked the woman after a pause.

“In New York State.”

“What did you come out here for?”

“I had my living to make,” answered Dean, feeling uncomfortable.

“I haven’t found any, and I’ve lived here goin’ on ten years. I suppose
you want some supper,” she continued ungraciously.

“Yes, I am very hungry. I am sorry to put you to any trouble.”

The woman did not answer, but going to a rude pantry took out a plate
of meat, and some dry bread. The former she put in the oven, and
proceeded to brew some tea.

Dean watched her preparations with eager interest. It seemed to him
that he had never been so hungry. He had probably walked ten miles
over a rough path, and the exercise had tired him as much as twice the
distance on the plain. Besides he had his valise with him, and had
found it decidedly an incumbrance.

From time to time the old woman paused in her preparations and eyed him
searchingly. What it was that attracted her attention Dean could not
guess till she suddenly pointed to his chain, and asked, “Is there a
watch at the end of that?”

“Yes,” answered Dean with a sudden feeling of apprehension.

“Let me look at it.”

Reluctantly he drew out the watch, and into the woman’s eyes crept a
covetous gleam, as she advanced and took it in her hand.

“It’s pretty,” she said. “What’s it worth?”

“I don’t know,” answered Dean. “I didn’t buy it. It was a present to
me.”

“It ought to be worth a good sum.”

“I value it because it was given me by a friend,” said Dean hurriedly.

“We’ve got nothing to tell time by,” said the woman, slowly, still
eying the watch with a fixed look, “except the sun.”

Dean did not reply.

“How do you wind it up?” asked the woman after a pause. “Do you have a
key?”

“No; it’s a stem-winder.”

“What’s that?”

“I will show you,” and Dean wound the watch as far as it would go.

“I never saw the like of that,” said his hostess with a look of mingled
curiosity and surprise.

She released her hold upon the watch, and Dean put it back in his
pocket, rather relieved to have recovered possession of it again.

Five minutes later the meal was ready, such as it was.

“Set up,” said the woman.

Dean obeyed with alacrity.

He tasted the meat. It was not unpleasant, but the taste was peculiar.

“What kind of meat is it?” he asked.

“B’ar meat.”

“Are there bears in these mountains?”

“Yes; my son killed this one. He’s killed many a b’ar, Dan has. He’s a
master hand with the rifle. There’s none that can beat him.”

“Isn’t it dangerous to tackle a bear?”

“No; the b’ars a nat’rally timorous animal. I’ve killed more’n one
myself.”

As Dean surveyed his hostess, he thought her quite capable of
encountering a bear. Her walk and air were masculine, and there seemed
nothing feminine about her.

Dean did not allow his speculations as to his hostess to interfere with
his appetite, but he ate with an enjoyment which he had seldom before
felt the food set before him.

“‘Pears to me you’ve got a right smart appetite,” said the woman.

“Yes, I have,” said Dean, frankly. “I don’t know when I have been so
hungry. I am ashamed of my appetite, but I can’t help it.”

“Young folks is mostly hungry,” said the woman.

“Especially when they have such nice things set before them.”

The woman, rough as she was, seemed pleased by this tribute to her
culinary skill.

“Well, you needn’t be afraid to eat all you want to,” she said
encouragingly.

Dean took her at her word, and when he rose from the table, he had
made way with a large share of the repast provided.

It had grown quite dark in the deepening shadows of the hills, but it
was a twilight darkness, not the darkness of midnight.

“I think I will go out and take a walk,” said Dean, turning to his
hostess.

“You’ll come back?” she asked with apparent anxiety.

“Yes, for I don’t want to sleep out of doors. I can settle for my
supper now if you wish.”

“No, you can wait till morning.”

“Very well!”

Dean left the house, and walked some distance over the mountain road.
Finally, being a little fatigued from his day’s travel and the hearty
supper he had eaten, he lay down under a tree, and enjoyed the luxury
of rest on a full stomach.

In the stillness of the woods it was possible to hear even a sound
ordinarily indistinct. Gradually Dean became sensible of a peculiar
noise which seemed like the distant murmur of voices. He looked about
him in all directions, but failed to understand from what the voices
proceeded. It seemed almost as if the sounds came from below. Yet this
seemed absurd.

“There can’t be any mine about here,” reflected Dean. “If there were,
I could understand a little better about the sounds.”

Certainly it was not a very likely place for a mine.

“I wonder if I am dreaming,” thought Dean.

He rubbed his eyes, and satisfied himself that he was as much awake as
he ever was in his life.

He got up and walked around, looking inquisitively about him, in the
hope of localizing the sound. Suddenly it stopped, and all was complete
silence. Then he was quite at a loss.

“I don’t know what it means. I may as well lie down and rest again. I
imagine my landlady won’t care about seeing me before it is time to go
to bed.”

With this thought Dean dismissed his conjectures, and gave himself
up to a pleasant reverie. He didn’t worry, though his prospects were
not of the best. He was nearly out of money, and there appeared no
immediate prospect of earning more. Where he was he did not know,
except that he was somewhere among the mountains of Colorado.

“I wish I could come across some mining settlement,” thought Dean. “I
couldn’t buy a claim, but I could perhaps hire out to some miner, and
after a while get rich enough to own one myself.”

Suddenly his reflections were broken in upon by a discordant voice.

“Who are you, youngster, and where did you drop from?”

Looking up quickly, Dean’s glance fell upon a rough-looking man, in
hunting costume considerably the worse for wear, with a slouched hat
on his head, and a rifle in his hand. The man’s face was far from
prepossessing, and his manner did not strike Dean as friendly.

“My name is Dean Dunham,” he said in answer to the first question, then
paused.

“How came you here?”

“I am traveling.”

“Where from?”

“New York State.”

“What brings a boy like you so far from home? Is there anyone with
you?” demanded the man suspiciously.

“No; I wish there was. I had a companion, but he got a call to go home
on account of his mother’s sickness.”

“And you pushed on?”

“Yes.”

“What are you after—it isn’t game, for you’ve got no gun.”

“No; I’m after a chance to make a living, as much as anything.”

“Couldn’t you make a living at home?”

“Not one that satisfied me.”

“Can you do any better here?”

“I can’t tell yet,” answered Dean, while an expression of genuine
perplexity overspread his face. It was a question which he had often
asked himself. “I think if I could come across some mining settlement I
could work for myself or somebody else.”

“Are you goin’ to stay out all night? There ain’t many hotels round
here.”

“I have had supper, and am going to spend the night at a cabin about a
mile from here.”

“You are!” exclaimed the hunter in a tone of profound astonishment.
“How did you get in?”

“I asked a woman who lives there if she would let me stop over night,
and she was kind enough to say yes.”

“Then you have had your supper?”

“Yes.”

“And are you goin’ to sleep in the cabin?”

“Yes. Do you live anywhere near it?”

“Well, I should smile! Youngster, that’s where I live, and the woman
who gave you your supper is my mother.”

“Then you are Dan,” said Dean, eagerly.

“How do you know my name?”

“Your mother told me you killed the bear whose meat I ate for supper.”

“That’s correct, youngster. I killed him, but it’s nothing to kill a
b’ar. I’ve killed hundreds of ’em.”

“I should be proud if I could say I had killed one,” said Dean, his
eyes sparkling with excitement.

“If you stay round here long enough, you may have a chance. But I’m
goin’ home. It’s growin’ dark and you may as well go with me.”

Dean rose from his recumbent position, and drew his watch from his
pocket.

“Yes,” he said, “it’s past eight o’clock.”

“Let me look at that watch. Is it gold?” asked his companion, and his
eyes showed the same covetous gleam which Dean had noticed in the
mother.

“I wish I had hidden the watch in an inside pocket,” he thought, too
late. “I am afraid it will be taken from me before I get away from
these mountains.”

“What might it be worth?” demanded the other, after fingering it
curiously with his clumsy hands.

“I don’t know,” answered Dean, guardedly. “I did not buy it. It was
given to me.”

“Is it worth a hundred dollars?”

“I don’t think it is. It may be worth fifty.”

“Humph! are you rich?”

“No; far from it! I am a poor boy.”

“That doesn’t look like it.”

“The watch was given to me by a rich man to whom I had done a service.”

The man handed it back, but it seemed with reluctance.

“Youngster, what do you think of my mother?” he asked, abruptly.

“She treated me kindly,” answered Dean, rather embarrassed.

“Did you agree to pay her for your lodging?”

“Yes.”

“I thought so. Mother ain’t one of the soft kind. Did she strike you as
an agreeable old lady?”

“I only saw her for a few minutes,” said Dean, evasively.

His companion laughed, and surveyed Dean quizzically.

“You must stretch your legs, youngster, or mother’ll get tired waiting
for me. She might take a notion not to give me any supper.”

It was not long before they came in sight of the cabin. Here a
surprise, and by no means an agreeable one, awaited Dean. On a bench in
front of the cabin sat a man whom he had good reason to remember, and
equal reason to fear—Peter Kirby.

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Good Heavens

Mr. Gunnison had several children, including one boy of about Dean’s
age, who was disposed at first to regard our hero with distant respect
as a professional star, but soon became intimate with him on finding
that Dean had the same tastes as himself. This appeared to surprise him.

“I say,” he remarked, “I thought you wouldn’t have anything to say to a
fellow like me.”

“Why not?” asked Dean, innocently.

“Oh, because you’re a big gun.”

“How’s that?”

“You give concerts, and have your name in the papers.”

“Oh!” said Dean smiling, “I have to do that for a living, you know. I’m
only a boy after all.”

“And do you like to play baseball?”

“I only wish I had a chance.”

“Do you?” said Gus Gunnison, brightening up. “Well, our club is going
to play the Resolutes from the next town this afternoon. We are one man
short. Will you take his place?”

“Yes, I shall be glad to.”

“What place do you prefer?”

“I’ll take any you choose to give me.”

“Can you catch?”

“I like it better than anything else.”

“Then that’s settled. Come over and I’ll show you the ground, and
introduce you to some of the fellows.”

When the members of the Carterville club learned that the famous young
musician, Dean Dunham, had agreed to play on their side, they were very
much elated. There was, however, a slight uneasiness lest he should not
prove a skillful player, as they were eager to beat their visitors. A
little practice playing, however, showed them that Dean was quite equal
to any one in their club, and they became eager for the fray.

Dean did not disappoint them. He entered into the game with enthusiasm,
and played with unusual skill, so that the Resolutes were beaten by a
score of 18 to 8, and the victory was largely attributed to the good
playing of the new catcher, who proved equally good in batting.

The members of the club came up and tendered their thanks to Dean.

“If you can play on the harmonica as well as you can play ball,” said
Gus Gunnison, “you’ll do. Our club will attend the entertainment in a
body, and hear you.”

“I hope you won’t be disappointed,” said Dean smiling.

Evening came, and Dean was called upon to play at four different
points in the entertainment. On the front seats just facing him were
the members of the Active Baseball Club. Dean nodded to them from the
platform, and they felt proud of such a public recognition.

Dean was stimulated to do his best, as he did not wish his new friends
to be disappointed. During the day he practiced “Home, Sweet Home” with
variations, partly original, partly remembered from a performance to
which he had listened at a public entertainment a year or two previous.
His efforts were crowned with success. The applause, led by the members
of the Active club, was tumultuous, and Dean was compelled to repeat
his performance.

He did so, but towards the close he nearly broke down in consequence of
a surprising discovery that he made. In looking round the audience, not
far from the center aisle his glance chanced to fall upon a face which
he had the best cause to remember.

It was no other than Mr. Peter Kirby, whose presence will be afterwards
explained.

Mr. Kirby on his part was even more amazed to find the country boy
whom he had left to his own resources emerging in such a conspicuous
manner into public notice. He had thought of Dean as wandering about
the country a forlorn and penniless tramp, begging for charity. How
on earth he had managed to achieve the position of a musical star
performer he could not imagine.

“That boy is getting dangerous,” thought he. “If the captain knew of
his success he would feel very nervous.”

Mr. Kirby was in Carterville as the guest of Dr. Sidney Thorp, a
wealthy gentleman, into whose good graces he had ingratiated himself
at a hotel where they chanced to meet. He had accepted Dr. Thorp’s
invitation to spend a couple of days at his house, with the intention
of robbing his hospitable entertainer if he should have the opportunity.

“A remarkable young performer!” said Dr. Thorp, as Dean closed his
playing.

“Yes,” assented Kirby absently. “How does he happen to be here?”

“He had been giving an entertainment in a town near by, in connection
with a variety actor. Our committee, finding that he gave
satisfaction, invited him to play here this evening.”

“Do you pay him anything?”

“Certainly,” answered Dr. Thorp, with surprise. “We couldn’t expect to
obtain a performer of so much talent gratuitously.”

Kirby opened his eyes in surprise at hearing his quondam secretary
spoken of in such terms.

“Do you know how much he is to be paid?”

“I believe he agreed to come for five dollars, considering that the
entertainment was for a charitable purpose.”

Kirby could scarcely refrain from whistling, so great was his surprise.

He recognized Dean some time before his former secretary’s glance fell
upon him. Dean’s start showed that the recognition was mutual.

“I am going to speak to this boy—Dean Dunham,” said he to Dr. Thorp,
when the entertainment was at an end.

“Mr. Gunnison will introduce you. Shall I ask him?”

“I need no introduction. The boy and I have met.”

Dean was standing on the platform watching the departing audience, when
he saw Mr. Kirby approaching. He felt a little nervous, not knowing
what the intentions of his old employer might be.

Kirby paused a moment, and a peculiar smile overspread his countenance.

“I presume you remember me?” he said.

“Yes,” answered Dean, coldly.

“I am rather surprised to meet you again under such circumstances.”

“I am rather surprised myself—at the circumstances.”

“You have become quite a star!” said Kirby with a sneer.

Dean answered gravely, “I had to make a living in some way. It was an
accident, my trying this way.”

“Would you like to return to me—as my secretary?”

“Thank you, Mr. Kirby, I prefer to travel independently.”

“Suppose I should tell why I discharged you? That might prove
inconvenient to you.”

“Then I should have a story to tell that might prove inconvenient to
you, Mr. Kirby.”

Dean looked Kirby straight in the face, and the latter saw that he no
longer had an inexperienced country boy to deal with, but one who might
prove dangerous to his plans.

“On the whole,” he said, after a pause, “suppose we both keep silence
as to the past.”

“I will do so, unless I should have occasion to speak.”

No one was near enough to listen to this conversation. Now Dr. Thorp
came up, and Kirby said with an abrupt turn of the conversation, “I am
glad to have met you again, my young friend. I wish you success.”

Dean bowed gravely, but didn’t speak. He was not prepared to wish
success to Peter Kirby, knowing what he did of him.

During the evening Dr. Thorp called at the house of Mr. Gunnison, but
unaccompanied by his guest. Dean had heard meanwhile at whose house
Kirby was staying, and he felt that he ought to drop a hint that would
put the unsuspecting host on his guard. He finally decided that it was
his duty to do so.

“May I speak with you a moment in private, Dr. Thorp?” he asked, as the
guest arose to go.

“Certainly,” answered the doctor, in some surprise.

Dean accompanied him into the hall.

“Do you know much of the gentleman who is staying at your house?” asked
Dean.

“No; why do you ask?”

“Because I have reason to think that he is a professional thief.”

“Good Heavens! What do you mean!”

Dean briefly recounted the robberies of which he was himself cognizant,
adding that he gave this information in strict confidence. “I thought I
ought to put you on your guard,” he concluded.

“Thank you, Mr. Dunham,” said Dr. Thorp, warmly. “You have done me a
great service. I happen to have a considerable sum in money and bonds at
my house. I shall look out for Mr. Kirby,” he added, with a grim nod.

Dr. Thorp had been pleased with Peter Kirby, who had laid himself
out to be agreeable, and the doctor was far from suspecting his real
character. When this was revealed to him by Dean, he quickly decided to
test it for himself.

Some men, inclined to be nervous and timid, would have had their
apprehensions excited, and dreaded an encounter with a professional
criminal. But Dr. Thorp was cool, resolute and determined. He proposed
to facilitate Kirby’s designs, and catch him in a trap.

When he reached home he found Kirby smoking on the piazza.

“Have you been taking a walk, Doctor?” he asked.

“Yes,” answered Dr. Thorp. “I made a call on a neighbor. I hope you
have not been lonesome.”

“Oh, no! Your daughter has enabled me to pass the time pleasantly. But
I am glad to see you back.”

Had Kirby known that Dr. Thorp had had an interview with Dean Dunham,
his anxiety would have been excited.

“By the way, Doctor,” said Kirby with apparent carelessness, “I have a
little money to invest. Can you recommend any form of investment?”

“You might buy a house in the village and settle down. I believe the
next estate is for sale.”

“It would certainly be an inducement to become your neighbor,” said
Kirby politely, “but I am a rolling stone. I am always traveling. I
couldn’t content myself in any one place, not even in a large city.”

“I suspect your mode of life makes frequent removals necessary,”
thought Dr. Thorp, though he did not say so.

“Well, if you don’t care to invest in real estate,” he said a moment
later, “you might purchase government bonds or railroad securities.”

“To which do you give the preference?” asked Kirby.

The doctor smiled inwardly. He saw that Kirby was trying to ascertain
whether he had any negotiable securities in his possession, but he was
ready to play into his hands.

“Well,” he said, “I think well of both.”

“I had some government bonds at one time,” said Kirby, “but they were
stolen. That has made me cautious.”

“Perhaps you were careless.”

“No doubt I was. I kept them in a trunk at my boarding-house. I presume
you wouldn’t venture, even in a quiet village like this, to keep bonds
in your house?”

“Oh, yes, we never receive visits from thieves or burglars. I don’t
consider trunks so safe as—that cabinet.”

He pointed to a black walnut cabinet with several drawers standing in
one corner of the room.

Kirby’s face lighted up. He had got the information he desired, but he
resumed his indifferent manner.

“I think you are right,” he said. “Besides, in a town like Carterville,
as you say, thieves are hardly likely to be found.”

“Oh, dear, no!” said Dr. Thorp yawning. “I have no occasion to borrow
trouble on that score.”

“Living as I generally do in large cities where members of the criminal
class abound,” said Kirby, “I am naturally more suspicious than you. I
confess I wish I lived in a place of Arcadian innocence like this.”

Dr. Thorp smiled. He was amused to hear one whom he believed to be a
professional thief discourse in this manner.

“You might find it dull,” he said, a little satirically, “It would lack
the spice and excitement of wickedness.”

At a little after eleven Kirby signified that he was tired and was
conducted to his bed-chamber. Dr. Thorp remained behind, and opening
the lower drawer of his cabinet removed therefrom a roll of bank bills
and a five hundred dollar government bond.

“I think these will be safe in my trunk to-night,” he said to himself.
“Now, Mr. Kirby, you can explore the cabinet at your leisure. I doubt
if you will find enough to repay you for your trouble.”

Kirby occupied a chamber just over the sitting-room. He didn’t undress
himself, but threw himself on the bed to snatch a little rest.

“I found out very cleverly where the doctor kept his bonds,” he
soliloquized. “He is an innocent, unsuspicious man, luckily for me.
So no thieves or burglars ever visit Carterville,” he repeated with a
soft laugh. “The good doctor would have been mightily surprised had he
known the character of the man with whom he was talking. It is hardly
a credit to take in a simple-minded man like the doctor. I very much
regret the necessity of repaying his hospitality as I shall, but I
need the bonds more than he does.”

Kirby did not allow himself to sleep. There was important work to be
done, and he must not run the risk of oversleeping himself.

He waited impatiently till he heard the public clock strike midnight,
then taking off his shoes descended in his stocking feet to the
sitting-room. There stood the cabinet plainly visible in the glorious
moonlight that flooded the room, making artificial light unnecessary.

“It’s an easy job for a man of my experience to open it,” thought
Kirby. “I hope the doctor is sound asleep. He looks like a man who is
safe to sleep all night.”

From his pocket he produced a bunch of skeleton keys, which he at once
set himself to use. The lock on the drawer of the cabinet was a simple
one, presenting no difficulty, and in less than five minutes he opened
the upper drawer. A glance satisfied him that it contained nothing that
he could make available. In turn he opened the other drawers, with
equal ill success.

“The doctor must have fooled me!” he muttered impatiently, “or is there
some secret drawer that I have overlooked?”

This question he asked himself, but he was far from expecting an answer.

“You have examined the cabinet pretty thoroughly Mr. Kirby,” said a
cool, calm voice.

Kirby sprang to his feet in wild dismay. There, looking at him from the
doorway, was Dr. Thorp, his host, whom he was conspiring to rob.

“You are an early riser, are you not, Mr. Kirby?” said the doctor
composedly.

Kirby quickly decided upon his course.

“Where am I?” he asked, passing his hand over his face in a bewildered
way.

“Where are you? Don’t you recognize the room? A more pertinent query
would be, ‘What are you doing?'”

“Good Heavens!” ejaculated Kirby—”I—I see it now. That unfortunate
habit of walking in my sleep! What can you think of me?”

“Do you generally carry skeleton keys about with you when you walk in
your sleep, Mr. Kirby?” asked the doctor pointedly.

“I—I really don’t know how to explain,” stammered Kirby. “These keys
I found in my room on the morning after I was robbed. I took them with
me, thinking they might be of use if I should lose my regular keys.”

“Very ingeniously explained, upon my word!”

“It isn’t possible, Dr. Thorp, that you really take me for a thief! I
hope you have more confidence in me.”

“Well, it really did occur to me that you were a professional burglar.
Your last words which I overheard before intruding upon you seem to
bear out that supposition.”

“What were they?”

“‘_Is there some secret drawer that I have overlooked?_’ Perhaps you
will do me the favor to explain them.”

“I can’t. They were spoken unconsciously, I assure you. This habit of
walking in my sleep has got me into trouble several times before.”

“Then take my advice and discontinue it.”

“I will. I should have asked you to lock me in my chamber if I could
have foreseen what has happened.”

“Mr. Kirby,” said Dr. Thorp sternly, “you must think I am a simpleton
to be taken in by such a transparent falsehood. I was deceived in you,
I admit, but now I understand your real character. I won’t have you
arrested, though I ought, but I require you to leave my house at once.”

“In the middle of the night?” said Kirby in dismay.

“Yes. I cannot agree to shelter you even for the balance of the night.”

“Tell me one thing,” said Kirby, changing his tone; “did any one put
you on your guard against me?”

“Yes.”

“It was Dean Dunham.”

“You can form your own conclusions.”

“That is all you need tell me. I understand it all. I will go to my
room and secure my luggage, and then bid you good-bye.”

“I will wait for you.”

“I owe you another debt, Dean Dunham!” said Kirby, as he left the house
with the pleasant prospect of a sleepless night.

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