DEAN DUNHAM FINDS HIS UNCLE

Adin Dunham’s ride to Rockmount had been uneventful. He went at once to
the real estate office of Thomas Marks, the agent through whom the sale
had been effected. When he entered the office it was with a light step
and a joyful look, for it was on a very agreeable errand he had come.

Mr. Marks was seated at his desk, and looked up as Dunham entered.

“I thought you wouldn’t fail to come, Mr. Dunham,” he said with a
smile. “If it were to pay money, there might have been some question
of it, but a man doesn’t generally miss an appointment to receive a
payment of a thousand dollars.”

“That’s so, Mr. Marks, I’ve been looking forward to this day.”

“I’ve no doubt of it. I suppose such occasions are rare with you.”

“This is the first time I was ever lucky enough to receive a large sum
of money. I can hardly believe I am so rich. You, see, Mr. Marks, I am
a poor man, and always have been. I inherited the place where I live
from my father, but no money to speak of.”

“Is the place clear?”

“No; it is mortgaged for eight hundred dollars.”

“Who holds the mortgage?”

“Squire Bates, of our village.”

“I know him. He is the man with very prominent teeth.”

“Yes.”

“Is he a rich man?”

“We all think so, but he keeps his affairs very close.”

“Don’t the assessors know?”

“He says most of his property is in government bonds, and these are not
taxable, you know.”

“To be sure.”

“I don’t know how it is,” said the agent, thoughtfully, “but I don’t
like that man.”

“He is always obligin’ enough to me. Last time I made him wait a week
for the interest, but he did not complain.”

“I suppose he felt sure of getting it. How much interest do you pay?”

“Seven per cent.”

“You ought only to pay six. You will find it hard to get more than that
for your money. Shall you pay the mortgage with the money I am to pay
you?”

“I did think of it, but the squire doesn’t seem to care for me to do
it. He says he can find a good investment for me.”

“At what price do you value your house and land?”

“I don’t suppose I could get over two thousand dollars for it.”

“That would leave you twelve hundred after the mortgage is paid.”

“Yes. If I pay it off with this thousand, there would be two hundred
dollars left over.”

“Exactly.”

“To tell the truth, I think myself in great good luck to get so much
for my land here. When Uncle Dan left it to me I didn’t suppose it was
worth over two hundred dollars altogether, and I don’t believe I could
have got any more. You see it is very poor land to cultivate.”

“True enough, but the site was commanding. For the hotel company it is
a good purchase.”

“I suppose it is, but nobody thought of a hotel being built at the time
I inherited the land from my uncle. Probably he thought it worth little
or nothing, for he didn’t like me overmuch, and didn’t care to do much
for me.”

“Then it is better for you that he couldn’t foresee the prospective
value of his bequest. It might have led to an alteration in his will.”

“No doubt it would. When are the hotel folks goin’ to build?”

“They have got the cellar dug and the frame up already. Didn’t you know
that?”

“No; I haven’t been up that way.”

“Better go by it on your return. They would like to have had it ready
for occupation this season, but they have begun too late for that. I
understand that it may be thrown open for fall boarders if it should
be completed by the middle of August.”

“What would Uncle Dan say if he were alive to see it?”

“It would make the old man open his eyes, beyond a doubt. Now, Mr.
Dunham, how will you receive this money? Shall I give you a check?”

“No; I shouldn’t know what to do with a check. I never received a check
in my life,” said Adin Dunham, shaking his head.

All bank matters were unknown to the carpenter, except that he had once
a small deposit in a savings bank, but he never could get rid of the
fear that the bank would break, and he finally drew it out to get his
mind at rest.

“A check would be safer, I think,” said the agent.

“How can it be safer? The bank might break before I got the money.”

Thomas Marks smiled.

“From what I know of the bank this is hardly likely, I think,” he made
answer. “However, I don’t presume to advise. I mean that if you should
lose the check, or have it stolen, it would not be a serious loss.”

“Why not?”

“Because it will be made payable to your order, and unless indorsed by
you, that is, with your signature written on the back, it would do the
finder, or thief, no good.”

“I don’t mean to lose it, and I am not likely to meet any robbers,
though my wife and Squire Bates told me I must be careful.”

“Squire Bates told you that, did he?”

“Yes.”

“He knows, then, that you are to receive this money to-day?”

“Yes; I told him.”

“Did you tell any one else?”

“No.”

“That is well. It is always best to be cautious in such cases; though I
can hardly imagine, myself, that there could be any highway robbers in
a quiet farming town like Waterford.”

“Just what I told my wife, Mr. Marks.”

“Then you will take the money in bills?”

“Yes, sir, if you please.”

The agent went to a safe on the opposite side of the room, and opened it.

“That’s a queer sort of a cupboard, Mr. Marks,” said Adin Dunham.

The agent smiled.

“Yes,” he answered. “If you are going to keep the money in your house,
you may have to buy one.”

“How much does it cost?”

“I gave a hundred and twenty-five dollars for this,” he said.

Adin Dunham whistled. He had not supposed it would cost over fifteen.

“I shan’t buy one,” he said.

“You had better not. You will soon be investing the money, no doubt,
so that there will be no occasion. I would pay off the mortgage if I
were you.”

“It wouldn’t seem as if I had the money at all if I did that. Besides,
the squire says he will find an investment for me.”

“Meanwhile I hope you won’t be as foolish as a man I was reading of the
other day, living in Vermont.”

“How was that?”

“He put a hundred dollars in an air tight stove for safe keeping. He
was afraid his wife would see it and want to spend it if he put it in a
trunk or bureau drawer. As it turned out, he had better have taken his
wife into his confidence. Not knowing that the stove was doing service
as a bank, she kindled a fire in it one damp day, and that was the last
of the hundred dollars.”

“I don’t think I shall put the money in the stove, though it is June,”
said Adin Dunham. “Besides, my wife knows all about it, and she isn’t
one of the spendin’ kind.”

“That is lucky for you. Well, here is a pile of fifty-dollar
bills—twenty of them. I will count them before you, so that you may
see they are all right, and then you may give me a receipt.”

So the thousand dollars were counted out, and Adin Dunham put them into
his capacious pocket, which perhaps in its history of five years had
never contained in the aggregate so large a sum of money.

The carpenter breathed a deep sigh of satisfaction. The moment he
had so long anticipated had arrived, and he carried with him a sum
which seemed to him a fortune, all his, and all to be disposed of as
he willed. He straightened up unconsciously, for he felt that he had
become a person of importance.

He jumped into his buggy, and when he had finished his errands in
Rockmount, he started in the direction of home.

When Adin Dunham reached the fork in the road from which there were two
different routes to Waterford, he halted his horse in indecision.

“Seems to me as if I’d rather go over the creek road,” he said to
himself. “I don’t know why ’tis that I don’t fancy goin’ through the
woods to-day. It’s a silly fancy, no doubt, for I’ve gone that way
hundreds of times, and I told the squire I’d go that way, and I’ll do
it, or he’ll think strange of it.”

So he turned to the left instead of the right, and continued his
journey. Is it true that we have presentiments of coming evil? This was
at any rate the case with Adin Dunham. He felt a growing uneasiness,
especially when he drew near the tract of woods through which the road
ran for nearly quarter of a mile.

“What is the matter with me?” he asked, as he wiped the perspiration
from his brow. “I suppose it must be because I have so much money with
me. I wish I had taken a check.”

Then he tried to laugh it off, but he could not drive away the feeling
of uneasiness. Somehow the thought of robbers would present itself to
his mind.

“I’d give a five-dollar bill if I was safe at home,” he said to himself.

He had reached the middle point of the woods, and was beginning to
breathe easier. Neither before nor behind was any one in sight.

“It’s all right!” he thought. “As soon as I get through them woods I
shall have nothing to worry about.”

But just then a noise was heard to the right, and a tramp burst out,
his features concealed by a mask, and sprang for the horse’s head.

“Halt there!” he exclaimed in a hoarse voice.

Adin Dunham’s tongue refused service, and with pallid cheeks,
betokening intense fear, he stared at the apparition.

“What do you want?” he managed to ejaculate at last.

“Quick! Give me that money,” hissed the stranger.

“What money?” asked Adin Dunham, aghast, though he knew well enough
what money was meant.

“No trifling, or it will be the worse for you! Give me the thousand
dollars you have in your pocket.”

“Are you a robber?” asked Dunham, with blanched face.

“Never mind what I am! I want that money. It will be as much as your
life is worth to refuse.”

Adin Dunham was not a brave man, but the prospect of losing his
fortune, for which he had waited so long, made him desperate. He drew
out his whip and lashed the horse.

“Get up, Captain!” he shouted.

Then, he hardly knew how it happened, the tramp clambered into the
wagon, and pressed a handkerchief to his mouth. He felt his senses
going, but before he lost consciousness he saw something that startled
him. The tramp opened his mouth, and he caught sight of the long
tusk-like teeth.

“Why, it’s Squire Bates!” he ejaculated, in horror-struck dismay.

Then he lost all consciousness, and knew not what followed.

“Confusion!” muttered the tramp. “Why did I open my mouth?”

He thrust his hand into Adin Dunham’s pocket, after stopping the horse.
Then, as it would not be safe to leave the horse under the management
of a man in a faint, he took the passive form of the carpenter from the
wagon, and laid him down under a tree by the roadside.

“There! It will be supposed that he fell from the wagon in a fit!” he
said to himself, as he left the scene.

This was what had happened to Adin Dunham. How long he lay in his
senseless condition cannot be told. At length he opened his eyes, and
looked about him in a dazed way.

“Where is the horse and wagon?” he asked himself.

The horse and wagon were not to be seen. The Captain had waited
patiently, looking round from time to time, and gazing in evident doubt
at his driver, whinneying a hint that they had been stopping long
enough. Probably he wondered what was the matter with Adin Dunham, who,
though not his master, was well known to him.

At length the Captain decided that he must settle the matter for
himself. He started for home at an easy pace, and arrived there at
length, as we know, very much to the surprise of Mr. Gould, and the
uneasiness of Dean Dunham. We have already related the sequel—how Mr.
Gould and Dean got into the buggy, and, somewhat to the dissatisfaction
of the horse, started back on the road to Rockmount.

“I can’t see what has happened to uncle,” said Dean.

“Does your uncle ever—drink anything strong?” asked Mr. Gould,
cautiously.

“No, Mr. Gould, he is very temperate. He has often cautioned me about
drinking.”

“I always thought he was temperate, Dean,” said Mr. Gould, “but
I thought it just possible he might have met some old friends in
Rockmount, and ventured upon a social glass.”

“I don’t believe he would do it.”

“He might have got off for a minute, and the horse taken advantage and
started without him. But that doesn’t seem like the Captain. He is a
very steady, reliable horse, and isn’t up to any tricks.”

“I hope uncle wasn’t taken sick, and fell from the buggy.”

“Has he ever been taken that way?” asked Mr. Gould quickly.

“Not that I ever heard. Aunt would know.”

“We will ask her if we don’t find him on the road. Do you know whether
your uncle had any particular business in Rockmount to-day?”

“No; I didn’t hear him say why he was going. I asked him to take me,
but he thought two would be too heavy a load for the horse such a long
distance.”

“He is very considerate of the Captain, more so than I am,” said Mr.
Gould, laughing. “I drove to Rockmount with Mrs. Gould, who weighs
considerably more than you, only last week, but I couldn’t see that
the horse minded it much. There’s one thing I’m sure of, your uncle
wouldn’t over-drive the horse.”

“No, he doesn’t drive fast enough for me. If I had gone, I would have
asked him to let me drive.”

“Then perhaps it’s just as well that you didn’t go, Dean.”

They reached the point where it was necessary to decide whether to go
by the creek road or through the woods.

“I declare, Dean, it puzzles me to decide which way to go.”

“If anything happened to uncle on the creek road somebody would be sure
to pass and see him.”

“That’s a very sensible suggestion. On the woods road, on the contrary,
there are but few passengers, and he might be overlooked. So be it!
We’ll go by the woods road.”

Not far from the place where Adin Dunham was waylaid, Dean pointed
eagerly to an advancing figure.

“Isn’t that Uncle Adin?” he asked eagerly pointing with his whip.

“Yes, it is, I declare.”

Adin Dunham was walking with his head drooping, and seemed to drag one
leg after the other in a weary way. He did not seem at all like himself.

“Uncle Adin,” called Dean, when they were within hearing, “what’s the
matter? What has happened to you?”

Adin Dunham looked up, and sighed heavily.

“Dean,” he said hoarsely, “I’ve been robbed!”

“Robbed, neighbor Dunham?” said Mr. Gould in surprise. “What have you
been robbed of?”

“A thousand dollars!” answered Dunham in a spiritless way.

Dean and Mr. Gould looked at each other in amazement. The same thought
came to each. That the carpenter could have had in his possession a
thousand dollars seemed preposterous. His mind must suddenly have gone
astray.

“Did you say a thousand dollars, neighbor Dunham?” asked Mr. Gould.

“Yes,” said poor Adin, bursting into tears. “A man sprang at me when
I was riding through the woods, jumped into the buggy and searched my
pockets. I think I must have fainted away. When I came to the horse was
gone, and I was lying under a tree by the roadside.”

This story, though strictly correct, seemed a wild dream to Mr. Gould
and Dean.

“How did you happen to have a thousand dollars with you? Was it yours?”
asked Mr. Gould, almost with a smile.

“I received it to-day at Rockmount, for the land I sold the hotel
people.”

“Have you any idea who robbed you of the money?”

“It was Squire Bates. I knew him by his teeth.”

“Dean,” said Mr. Gould, in a low voice, “your uncle is as crazy as a
bedbug! What can have put such notions into his head?”

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