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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