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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