AFFAIRS IN WATERFORD

Leaving Dean in Denver, let us go back to Waterford, and see how
matters stood in that quiet little village.

With Adin Dunham they did not go well. He had an attack of rheumatism
during the winter which hindered him from working for several weeks,
and so abridged his earnings. Both he and his wife missed Dean, whose
lively and cheerful temperament enlivened the house. They were troubled
too because months had passed since they had heard from him.

“I don’t know what has happened to Dean,” said Adin one Saturday
evening, when he sat beside the kitchen fire with his wife. “Seems to
me he’d write if he was in good health. I am afeared something has gone
wrong with the boy.”

“I hope not, father,” said Sarah Dunham, pausing in her knitting.

“So do I, Sarah, but you must agree that it’s strange he don’t write.”

“That’s true, Adin. He was always a thoughtful, considerate boy. The
house seems lonesome without him.”

“So it does, Sarah. But if I only knew he was doin’ well I wouldn’t
mind that. He may have got sick and—-”

“Don’t say such things, father,” said Mrs. Dunham in a tremulous voice.
“I can’t bear to think anything’s happened to the boy.”

“But we must be prepared for the worst, if so be the worst has come.”

“I am sure he is alive and well,” said Sarah Dunham, who was of a more
hopeful temperament than her husband.

“Then why don’t he write?”

“To be sure, Adin. That’s something I can’t explain. But Dean’s
healthy, and he’s a good boy, who wouldn’t be likely to get into
mischief. Instead of being prepared for the worst, suppose we hope for
the best.”

“Maybe you’re right, Sarah. I try to be cheerful, but since I was
robbed of that thousand dollars luck seems to have been against me.
And the worst of it is Sarah, I’m not getting younger. I shall be
sixty-five next month.”

“I’m not much behind you, Adin, as far as years go.”

“I did hope that Dean would be in a position to help me when I got
along in years. I mistrust I made a mistake when I let him go out West.
If he’d stayed here, he might have been a good deal of help to us both.”

“Still there didn’t seem to be much of a prospect for the boy.”

“He could have managed the farm when he got a little older.”

“That is true, but it has never given you a living, Adin. You’ve had to
depend upon your trade.”

“He could have learned the same trade. A trade’s a good thing for a boy
to have to fall back upon.”

“He may come back, and realize all your expectations, Adin. We mustn’t
despond till we have reason to.”

“There’s another thing that’s worryin’ me, Sarah—it’s the mortgage.
Next week six months’ interest falls due—twenty-four dollars—and I
haven’t the money to meet it.”

“Squire Bates won’t push you, surely.”

“I don’t know. Once or twice lately when I met the squire he dropped a
hint that he was short of money. I didn’t say much, but it struck me
he had an object in sayin’ what he did.”

“It’s the first time you haven’t been ready with the interest, isn’t
it, Adin?”

“Yes, the very first time.”

“Then perhaps he will overlook it this time. You’d better manage to see
him about it.”

“I’ll do it the first time I see him.”

That time came sooner than either of them thought.

Adin Dunham had scarcely completed his sentence when a knock was heard
at the door (Adin had never so far fallen in with city customs as to
introduce a door bell.)

Mrs. Dunham rose and opened the door.

“Good-evening, Mrs. Dunham,” said the visitor, suavely.

“Good-evening, Squire Bates,” said Sarah in surprise. “Won’t you walk
in?”

“Yes, thank you. Is your husband at home?”

“Oh, yes, he never goes out in the evening. Adin,” she said, preceding
the visitor, “here is Squire Bates, who has called to see you.”

“I am glad to see you, squire,” said the carpenter.

“Take a chair, and excuse my gettin’ up. My old enemy, the rheumatism,
has got hold of me, and I’m too stiff to move easy.”

“Oh, you are quite excusable, Mr. Dunham. I am sorry to hear that you
are so afflicted.”

“It isn’t altogether comfortable. Besides, it puts me behindhand. I’ve
lost at least four weeks this winter from these rheumatic pains.”

“Ah, indeed!”

“Yes, and as you can imagine, that is a serious thing to a poor man.”

“I suppose so,” assented the squire, coughing.

“I am glad you came in, squire, because I wanted to speak to you about
the interest on that mortgage.”

“It falls due next week,” said Squire Bates, promptly.

“Just so, and I am sorry to say that for the first time I shall be
unable to meet it.”

“Indeed!” returned the squire, his voice stiffening. “That is very
unfortunate!”

“So it is, squire, but I hope, as it is the first time, you will
overlook it,” said Adin Dunham, anxiously.

“My dear sir,” said the squire, “it is hardly necessary to say that I
truly sympathize with you. You believe that, I hope?”

“I thought you would squire. I didn’t believe you’d be hard on me.”

“But—you misunderstand me a little, neighbor Dunham—I cannot be as
considerate as I would like to be. The fact is, I am _very_ short of
money, embarrassed in fact, and I depended on that payment. Perhaps you
can borrow it?”

“There’s no one in the village likely to accommodate me with a loan
unless it’s you, squire.”

“And I am very short of cash. Indeed it would hardly do for me to lend
you money to pay me, would it now?”

“I am afraid not,” said the carpenter, ruefully.

“In fact, neighbor Dunham, I came here this evening to ask if you
couldn’t arrange to pay the mortgage.”

“_Pay_ the mortgage!” echoed Adin Dunham, with a blank look.

“Yes; I thought you might raise the money in some way.”

“I wish you’d tell me where, Squire Bates. Eight hundred dollars! Why
it’s as big to me as the national debt! I did expect to pay off the
mortgage with that thousand dollars, that I was so wickedly robbed of.”

“Oh, ah, to be sure! It was a great pity that you were prevented from
doing it.”

“That robbery broke me down, Squire Bates. I believe it has made me
five years older, though it happened less than a year ago. It makes me
feel kind of rebellious at times to think that such a villain as the
man that robbed me should go unpunished.”

“It isn’t best to cry over spilt milk,” said the squire who felt
obviously uncomfortable under these allusions.

“I can’t help thinkin’ of it though, squire.”

“To be sure, to be sure!”

“When it was gone, I hoped that Dean would be able to help me to pay up
the mortgage some time.”

“Have you heard from your nephew lately?”

“Not for months. Have you heard from the man he went out with?”

“Yes, I have heard several times.”

“Does he say anything about Dean?”

“He says—but perhaps I had better not tell you. I don’t want to
distress you,” and the squire hesitated.

“Say what you have to say. I can stand it.”

“He says he discharged Dean for dishonesty.”

“Dean dishonest! Why, squire, you must be jokin’.”

“I am sorry to say, neighbor Dunham, that there is no joke about it.
Mr. Kirby is not likely to be mistaken.”

“I tell you, Squire Bates,” said Adin Dunham angrily, “that my nephew
Dean is as honest as I am myself. The man that charges him with
dishonesty is a liar! It’s a word I don’t often use, but I must use it
this time.”

“I agree with my husband,” said Sarah Dunham, her mild blue eye
sparkling with indignation. “Nothing would induce Dean to steal.”

“Of course you are prejudiced in your nephew’s favor,” said the squire
with a slight sneer. “It is very natural, but you can’t expect others
to agree with you. However, we will drop this subject. I am afraid Dean
will never be able to help you. I used to think well of him, though my
son Brandon didn’t agree with me.”

“What can your son Brandon know of Dean compared with mother and me,
who have known the boy since his birth?” the carpenter rejoined warmly.

“I won’t argue the question, neighbor Dunham. Indeed I feel for you
in your disappointment. But to come back to business. You mustn’t
blame me if I foreclose the mortgage, as the law gives me a right to
do. I wouldn’t do it, I assure you, if circumstances did not make it
imperative.”

“Foreclose the mortgage!” repeated Adin in consternation.

“Yes, or I’ll give you eight hundred dollars for the place over and
above the mortgage.”

“Only eight hundred dollars! Why, that would be robbery!”

“Think it over, neighbor Dunham, and don’t decide hastily. You’ll
think differently, I am sure, when you have had time to consider it. I
must bid you good-evening now, as I am in haste,” and the squire rose
quickly, and left the room, followed to the door mechanically and in
silence by Sarah Dunham.

“Sarah,” said the carpenter with grief-stricken countenance, “this is
worse than all. It looks as if we were indeed forsaken by Providence.”

“Hush, Adin! That is wicked. It looks hard, but the Lord may yet give
us deliverance.”

“I am afraid we shall end our days in the poorhouse, Sarah,” said the
husband gloomily.

“It won’t be this year or next, Adin. Eight hundred dollars will
support us for two years, and then there is your work besides. Let us
look on the bright side!”

But that was not easy for either of them. It seemed to Adin Dunham that
his cup of bitterness was full.

We return to Denver, where business required Dean and Ben Rawson to
remain two or three days. Eben Jones was too impatient to reach home
to bear them company, but started at once for Connecticut. Rawson and
Dean secured a large room in the leading hotel, which they made their
headquarters.

Denver was at that time far from being the handsome city it has since
become. Society was mixed, and the visitors who were continually
arriving and departing embraced all sorts and conditions of men. There
was no small sprinkling of adventurers, both good and bad, and it was
necessary for the traveler to be wary and prudent, lest he should fall
a prey to those of the latter kind.

The second night our two friends retired late, having passed a busy and
as it proved profitable day, for it was on that day Dean effected his
purchase of lots already referred to.

“I feel fagged out, Dean,” said Rawson, as he prepared for bed. “I have
been working harder than I did at the mines.”

“I am tired too, but I have passed a pleasant day,” said Dean. “I think
I would rather live here than at the mines.”

“You can have your choice when you return, but for my part I like the
mines. I prefer the freedom of the mining camp to the restraints of the
city.”

“There isn’t much restraint that I can see.”

“There will be. Five years hence Denver will be a compact city.”

“In that case my lots will have risen in value.”

“No doubt of it. You have made a good purchase. But what I was going
to say is this. I am so dead tired that it would take an earthquake
to wake me. Now, as you know, we have considerable money in the room,
besides what we have outside. Suppose some thief entered our room in
the night!”

“I wake easily,” said Dean.

“That is lucky. There’s a fellow with a hang-dog look rooms just
opposite, whose appearance I don’t like. I have caught him spying about
and watching us closely. I think he is after our money.”

“What is his appearance, Ben?”

“He has red hair and a red beard. There is something in his expression
that looks familiar, but I can’t place him. I feel sure at any rate
that he is a dangerous man.”

“I haven’t noticed him, Rawson.”

“I have got it into my head somehow that he will try to enter our room
when we are asleep.”

“But the door is locked.”

“If the man is a professional, he will be able to get in in spite of
that. Now Dean, I want you to take my revolver and put it under your
pillow, to use in case it should be necessary. Of course you will wake
me also in case of a visit.”

“Very well, Ben.”

The two undressed and got into bed. There were two beds in the room,
the smaller one being occupied by Dean. This was placed over against
the window, while Rawson’s was closer to the door, on the right.

Dean as well as Rawson, was tired, and soon fell asleep. But for some
reason his sleep was troubled. He tossed about, and dreamed bad dreams.
It might have been the conversation that had taken place between Rawson
and himself, which shaped the dreams that disturbed him.

It seemed to him that a man had entered the room, and was rifling
Rawson’s pockets. The dream excited him so much that it awakened him,
and none too soon, for there, bending over the chair on which Rawson
had thrown his clothes, was the very man whom his companion had
described. The moonlight that flooded the room revealed him clearly,
with his red hair and beard, just as he had presented himself to Dean
in his dreams.

Dean rose to a sitting posture, and quietly drew out the revolver from
underneath his pillow.

“What are you doing there?” he demanded.

The intruder started, and, turning quickly, fixed his eyes upon Dean.
He didn’t appear so much alarmed as angry at the interruption.

“Lie down, and keep still, if you know what’s good for yourself, kid!”
he said, in a menacing tone.

“And let you rob my friend? Not much!” said Dean, boldly. “Lay down
those clothes!”

“When I get ready.”

“I command you to lay them down!” said Dean, boldly.

“I’ll wring your neck if you don’t keep quiet,” said the robber,
quietly.

“Rawson!” cried Dean, raising his voice.

“Confusion!” muttered the thief, as, dropping his booty, he took a step
towards Dean’s bed.

“Look out for yourself!” said Dean, in a tone of warning. “Come nearer,
and I fire!”

Then for the first time the intruder noticed that the boy was armed. He
drew back cautiously.

Just then Rawson asked sleepily, “What’s the matter, Dean?”

“Wake up, Rawson, quick!” said Dean.

Ben Rawson opened his eyes, and took in the situation at once. He
sprang from the bed, and placed himself between the thief and the door.

“Let me go!” exclaimed the intruder, as he made a dash forward, only to
be seized by the powerful miner.

“Now let me know who you are, and whether you have taken anything,” he
said, resolutely. “Dean, let us have some light.”

The thief struggled to escape, but in vain. His captor was stronger
than himself. Dean lighted the gas, and both scrutinized the thief
closely. Then a light flashed upon Dean.

“I know him in spite of his false hair and beard,” he said. “It’s Peter
Kirby.”

Rawson pulled off the disguise, and Kirby stood revealed.

“Yes, it’s Kirby!” he said, doggedly. “What are you going to do with me?”

“Put you in the hands of the police,” answered Rawson, coolly.

Kirby remained silent a moment, and then said: “I’ll make it worth your
while to let me go.”

“How?” asked Rawson, briefly.

“That boy’s uncle was robbed near a year since of a thousand dollars. I
can tell him the name of the thief.”

“Was it Squire Bates?” asked Dean, eagerly.

“Till my safety is assured I can tell nothing.”

“Can you enable me to recover the money?”

“I can. I will be willing to make a statement, and swear to it before a
magistrate.”

“Is not Squire Bates the head of a gang of robbers?”

“I am not prepared to say. I will do what I agreed.”

Rawson and Dean conferred together briefly, and decided to release
Kirby on the terms proposed. But it was necessary to wait till morning,
and they didn’t dare to release him. They tied the villain hand and
foot, and kept him in this condition till daylight. Then they took him
before a magistrate, his statement was written out and sworn to, and
they released him.

“I wouldn’t have done this,” said Kirby, “if Bates had treated me right;
but he has been working against me, and I have sworn to get even.”

Dean did not trouble himself about Kirby’s motives, but he was
overjoyed to think that through his means the mystery at Waterford had
been solved at last, and his uncle would recover his property.

“Now I shall go home happy,” he said to Rawson, “for I shall carry
happiness to my good uncle and aunt.”

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