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Title: The Haunted Mine

Author: Harry Castlemon

Release Date: October 26, 2011 [EBook #37857]

Language: English

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Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

The Haunted Mine

BY

HARRY CASTLEMON

AUTHOR OF "THE GUNBOAT SERIES," "ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES,"
"WAR SERIES," ETC.

THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO.,

PHILADELPHIA,
CHICAGO,      TORONTO.

Copyright, 1902, by
HENRY T. COATES & CO.

CONTENTS.

iii

CHAPTER PAGE
I. The Sale of "Old Horse,"1
II. Casper is Disgusted,13
III. Julian is Astonished,24
IV. Where the Box Was,38
V. Casper Thinks of Something,52
VI. A Mr. Haberstro Appears,65
VII. A Plan that Didn't Work,78
VIII. Claus Calls Again,91
IX. The Master Mechanic,105
X. Where are the Valises?118
XI. In Denver,132
XII. Casper Nevins, the Spy,146
XIII. Getting Ready for Work,160
XIV. How Casper was Served,174
XV. How a Mine was Haunted,188
XVI. Good News,201
XVII. Mr. Banta is Surprised,215
XVIII. Grub-Staking,228
XIX. Going to School,243
XX. Waterspouts and Blizzards,256
iv
XXI. The Camp at Dutch Flat,271
XXII. The Haunted Mine,286
XXIII. Haunted no Longer,302
XXIV. "That is Gold,"317
XXV. Claus, Again,332
XXVI. Claus Hears Something,348
XXVII. Bob Tries Strategy,365
XXVIII. An Inhuman Act,380
XXIX. A Tramp with the Robbers,392
XXX. Home Again,406
XXXI. Conclusion,420

1

THE HAUNTED MINE.

CHAPTER I.

THE SALE OF "OLD HORSE."

"Going for twenty-five cents. Going once; going twice; going——"

"Thirty cents."

"Thirty cents! Gentlemen, I am really astonished at you. It is a disgrace for me to take notice of that bid. Why, just look at that box. A miser may have hidden the secret of a gold-mine in it. Here it is, neatly dovetailed, and put together with screws instead of nails; and who knows but that it contains the treasure of a lifetime hidden away under that lid? And I am bid only thirty cents for it. Do I hear any more? Won't somebody give me some more? Going for thirty cents once; going twice; going three times, and sold to that lucky fellow who 2 stands there with a uniform on. I don't know what his name is. Step up there and take your purchase, my lad, and when you open that box, and see what is in it, just bless your lucky stars that you came to this office this afternoon to buy yourself rich."

It happened in the Adams Express office, and among those who always dropped around to see how things were going was the young fellow who had purchased the box. It was on the afternoon devoted to the sale of "old horse"—packages which had lain there for a long time and nobody had ever called for them. When the packages accumulated so rapidly that the company had about as many on hand as their storeroom could hold, an auctioneer was ordered to sell them off for whatever he could get. Of course nobody could tell what was in the packages, and somebody always bought them by guess. Sometimes he got more than his money's worth, and sometimes he did not. That very afternoon a man bought a package so large and heavy that he could scarcely lift it from the counter, and so certain was he that he had 3 got something worth looking at that he did not take the package home with him, but borrowed a hammer from one of the clerks and opened it on the spot, the customers all gathering around him to see what he had. To the surprise of everybody, he turned out half a dozen bricks. A partner of the man to whom the box was addressed had been off somewhere to buy a brickyard, and, not satisfied with the productions of the yard, had enclosed the bricks to the man in St. Louis, to see how he liked them. The purchaser gazed in surprise at what he had brought, and then threw down the hammer and turned away; but by the time he got to the door the loud laughter of everybody in the office—and the office was always full at the sale of "old horse"—caused him to arrest his steps. By that time he himself was laughing.

"I'll tell you what it is, gentlemen," said he; "those bricks, which are not worth a nickel apiece, cost me just two dollars."

He was going on to say something more, but the roar that arose caused him to wait until it was all over. Then he went on: 4

"I have spent fifty dollars for 'old horse,' and if anybody ever knows me to spend another dollar in that way I will give him my head for a football. A man who comes here to squander his money for anything like that is a dunce, and ought to have a guardian appointed over him. I wish you all a very good day."

But in spite of this man's experience, Julian Gray had invested in this box because he thought there was something in it. He did not care for what the auctioneer said to him, for he talked that way to everybody; but Julian knew there were no bricks in it, for it was done up too neatly. The box was not more than twelve inches long and half as wide, and by shaking it up and down the boy became aware that there were papers of some kind in it. He paid the clerk the amount of his bid upon it, picked up his purchase, and started for the door, paying no heed to the remarks that were offered for his benefit. There he met another boy, dressed in a uniform similar to the one he himself wore, and stopped to exchange a few words with him. 5

"Well, you got something at last," said the boy. "It is not bricks, I can swear to that."

"No, sir, it is not," said Julian. "Lift it. It contains papers of some kind."

"Why don't you open it, and let us see what is in it?"

"I won't do that, either. I am not going to have the whole party laughing at me the way they served that man a little while ago. Come up to my room when Jack comes home, and then I will open it."

"I would not be in your boots for a good deal when Jack sees that box," said the boy, hurrying away. "He says you have no business to spend the small earnings you get on such gimcracks as 'old horse.'"

"I don't care," said Julian, settling the box under his arm and going away in the opposite direction. "I've got the box, and if Jack does not want to see what is in it, he need not look."

Julian broke into a run,—he knew he had no business to spend as much time in that express office as he had done,—and in a few minutes reached the headquarters of the 6 Western Union Telegraph Company, in whose employ he was. He laid down his book of receipts for the dispatches he had delivered, then picked up his box again and stowed it away under the counter, where he was sure it would be out of everybody's way.

"I don't care," Julian repeated to himself, when he recalled what his older companion, Jack Shelden, would have to say to him when he found that he had been investing in "old horse." "I don't know that I expect to make anything out of it, but somehow or other I can't resist my curiosity to know what is in those bundles. When you can get the packages for little or nothing, where's the harm? But that is no way to save my money. I will never go near that express office again."

With this good resolution, Julian took his seat among the other boys and waited in silence for the operator to call upon him to deliver a dispatch. It came at last, and during the rest of the afternoon Julian was kept busy. When six o'clock came he put his box under his arm and started for home. His duties were done for that day. 7

The place that Julian called home was a long way from the office, for, being a poor boy, he was obliged to room where he could get it as cheaply as possible. He passed along several streets, turned numerous corners, and finally sprang up the stairs in a sorry-looking house which seemed almost ready to tumble down, and when he reached the top he found the door of his room open. There he met his chum, who had already returned from his work, going about his preparations for supper, and whistling as though he felt at peace with himself and all the world.

"Halloo!" he exclaimed, as Julian came in. "What's the news to-day? Well, there. If you haven't been to that old express office again!"

These two boys were orphans—or at least Jack was. Julian had a stepfather who, when his mother died, told the boy that he could not support him any longer, and that he must look out for himself. He no doubt expected that the boy would find himself in the poorhouse before he had been long out of his care; but Julian was not that sort of a 8 fellow. He wandered aimlessly about the streets, looking for something to do, sleeping in dry-goods boxes or on a plank in some lumber-yard; and one morning, while passing along the street, wondering where he was going to get something to eat, he saw a scene that thrilled him with excitement. A span of horses was running away, and a telegraph operator—Julian knew that he was an operator from the uniform he wore—in making an attempt to stop them, lost his footing and fell on the ground right in front of the frantic team. Julian was nearer to him than anybody else, and acting upon the impulse of the moment, but scarcely knowing why he did so, he dashed forward, seized the young man by the shoulders, and pulled him out of the way. It was all done in an instant, and Julian shuddered when he thought of what he had done.

"Thank you, my lad," said the man, when he got up, brushed the dust from his clothes, and looked after the flying horses. "You saved my life, but you couldn't save the man in the buggy. Now, what can I give you?" 9

"I don't want anything, sir," said Julian. The man was neatly dressed, and looked as though he had some money, and Julian had more than half a mind to ask him for enough with which to get some breakfast. But he concluded that he would not do it; he would look farther, and he was sure that he could get something to do, such as sweeping out a store, and earn some breakfast in that way.

"You don't want anything?" exclaimed the man. "Well, you are the luckiest fellow I ever saw!"

The man now turned and gave Julian a good looking over. It was not necessary that he should ask any questions, for poverty was written all over him.

"Where's your home?" he asked.

"I haven't any, sir."

"Have you had any breakfast?"

"No, sir."

"Well, here's enough to enable you to get a good fill-out," said the man, pulling out a dollar. "Get the very best breakfast you can, and then come down to the Western Union 10 Telegraph office and ask for Wiggins. I will see what I can do for you."

The man hurried away, and Julian looked at the dollar he held in his hand, then gazed in the direction in which his benefactor had gone, and could hardly believe that he was awake. A dollar was a larger sum of money than he had ever had before.

Of course Julian followed the operator's instructions. When he reached the Western Union Telegraph office he was asked several questions about his habits, and what he knew about the city, and it finally ended by his being offered employment. Julian jumped at the chance. He had no money with which to purchase a uniform, but Wiggins got around that, and he had been there ever since, trying hard to do his duty, except in one particular, and his highest ambition was to become an operator.

Long before this time he made the acquaintance of Jack Sheldon, who finally came to room with him, and they had been fast friends ever since. Jack had formerly gained a good living by shining boots and shoes 11 around the St. Louis foundry-works, until one day the master mechanic, who had taken a wonderful shine to him, offered to take him away from his blacking-brush and give him a position where he could make a man of himself. Jack was waiting for this, and he promptly closed with it. Of course his wages were small now, but he wanted to get away from the bootblacks and mingle with persons more like himself, and when Julian made him a proposition to take him in as a roommate, Jack was only too glad to agree to it. He was but a year older than Julian, but he often took it upon himself to advise him; and one thing he could not stand was Julian's longing to find out what was concealed in those packages that every once in a little while were sold in the express office. Being economical himself, and never spending a cent unless absolutely necessary, he wanted to make his companion so, too.

"That is no way for you to save money, Julian," said Jack. "To go to that express office when you ought to be at your work, and spending money for 'old horse' when you 12 don't know what is in the bundle you bid on, is the very way for you to wear a poor man's clothes the longest day you live. I want to go into business myself some time, and I should think you would, too."

This was the way he talked to Julian every time he brought home a bundle of "old horse," and he was ready to talk to him now in the same way. 13

CHAPTER II.

CASPER IS DISGUSTED.

"Well, you have been to that old express office again and invested some of your hard earnings in 'old horse,' haven't you?" repeated Jack, placing his hands on his hips and looking sullenly at the box, which Julian placed upon the table. "Is that any way for you to save your money?"

"No, it is not; but, Jack, I've got something in this," said Julian. "See how nicely this box is done up——"

"I don't care to know anything about it," said Jack, turning away and going on with his preparations of getting supper. "That is the only thing I have against you. What do you care what is in those bundles? If they were worth anything don't you suppose that the people to whom they were addressed would have come after them? How much money have you got in bank, anyway?" 14

"About forty dollars, I guess, including tips and everything."

"Well, I've got a hundred," said Jack. "You will never be able to go into business by doing this way."

"Lend me your knife and talk about it afterward. I want to get these screws out."

"Take your own knife. I don't want to have mine broken."

"Well, I want you to remember one thing, Jack. If I get anything out of this box, it is mine entirely. You will have no interest in it."

"All right—I will agree to that."

Seeing that he must depend entirely upon himself to get his box open, Julian took his knife from his pocket and went to work upon the screws; but they had been put there to stay, and he finally gave it up in disgust. Then Jack relented and came to his assistance. The strong blade of his knife presently worked the screws loose, and the inside of the box was revealed to them. There was nothing but a mass of papers, which looked so ancient that Jack declared they had been 15 through two or three wars. He took one look at them, and then went on with his work of getting supper.

"What's the use of fooling away your time with that stuff?" said he. "That's all your 'old horse' amounts to. If you are going to spend money in that way, I wish you would get something that is of some use."

Julian did not reply. He took his box to an out-of-the-way corner where he would not be in Jack's way, and devoted himself to the reading of the first paper he took up.

"Who's Haberstro?" said he.

"Don't know him," said Jack.

"Here's a letter addressed to him."

"What is in it?"

"Oh, you want to know something about it, now, don't you?"

"Of course I do. If we can find out who Haberstro is, we must take the letter to him."

Julian began and read the letter, which was written in a very plain hand, and before he had read a page of it he stopped and looked at Jack, while an expression of astonishment came to his face. 16

"Go on with it," said Jack; "we might as well know it all."

Julian "went on with it," and when he got through he had read a very good description of a gold-mine located somewhere out West, and inside the letter was a map which would lead anyone straight to it. There was one thing in it that did not look exactly right, and here is the passage that referred to it:

"They have got the story around that the mine is haunted, but don't you believe it. I worked for almost six months in that mine alone after my partner took sick and died, going down into it and shovelling the dirt in, coming up and hoisting the bucket out, and went through the process of washing, and I never found anything to scare me yet. I took out, with every bucketful I washed, anywhere from ten to fifty dollars; anyway, I got fifty thousand dollars out of it. There is one thing about it: the mine is fully five miles from anybody's place, and in all that region you won't find a man who will prospect anywhere near you. It shows that all the country about Dutch Flat is not played out yet."

A little farther on the letter spoke of the manner in which the miner came to turn his claim over to Haberstro: 17

"You know that very shortly after we got there my partner died, and was buried near the mine. Perhaps that has something to do with the story of the mine's being haunted. I went to work and dug in the claim alone, not knowing anything about mining, until I made the sum that I told you of. Finally I received a letter from some lawyer in Europe, who told me that my father had died and left me heir to all his wealth. He urged me to come home and settle my claim at once, and who should my mind revert to but to you, old fellow, who stood by me when I was sick unto death. I know that we did not have the stamps to buy a mule-halter, but that did not make any sort of difference to you. You stayed at my back until I got well; and as I can't pay you in any other way I give you this mine, hoping it will make you as rich as it did me. More than that, for fear that the mine may play out on you, which I don't believe, I give you the deeds of several little pieces of property located in Denver and vicinity, which you will find will be more than enough to run you, even if you don't choose to go mining. For me, nothing would suit me. You know how you used to rail at me because I wanted to go from one thing to another. After I had accumulated that property in Denver, I had to go and look for claims, and that is the way I come to have this mine.

"I send all these things to you by express, for I am in New York, now, and all ready to sail. By 18 the time you get them I shall be on the deep sea. I forgot to say that the property which I have given to you for your kindness to me is worth, in round numbers, one hundred thousand dollars. Take it, and live happily with it. I don't know that I shall ever see you again; but if I do not, remember that my blessing always goes with you."

"Well, sir, what do you think of that?" said Julian, as he folded up the letter.

Jack Sheldon did not know what to say. He sat with a case-knife in his hand and with one leg thrown over the table, his mouth open, and listening with all his ears to the contents of the letter.

"I tell you that auctioneer uttered a prophecy when he said that some miser had hidden the secret of a gold-mine inside the lid of that box," said Julian. "He told me that when I got home and opened this thing I would bless my lucky stars that I had come to that office to buy myself rich."

"But there is one thing that you don't think of, Julian," replied Jack.

"What's that?"

"That we must make every effort to find this man Haberstro." 19

"Yes," said Julian, with a sigh, "I did think of that. But it seems hard to have so much money in our grasp, and then to have it all slip away."

"Of course it does. But that is the honest way of going at it."

"Here's the deeds for a block of buildings that cost this man twenty-five thousand dollars," said Julian, continuing to examine the papers in the box.

"Oh, put the box away," said Jack. "And he gives it all to this man Haberstro. We must find him, Julian, the first thing we do. Who's that coming upstairs, I wonder?"

The boys turned toward the door, which opened almost immediately, admitting Casper Nevins, the boy who had met Julian at the express office. There was something about the boy that Jack did not like. He could not have told what it was, but there are those we meet in every-day life who have certain traits of character that excite our suspicions. Jack had often warned Julian to keep away from him, and the latter did not cultivate his acquaintance any more that he could help; 20 but, being employed in the same office that Casper was, of course he was thrown into his company oftener than he desired.

"Good-evening, boys," said Casper. "I was on my way home, and I thought I would drop in and see what Julian bought to-day at the express office. You promised to show me if I would come up," he added, turning to Julian.

"I did, and there it is," said Julian, passing over the letter. "Sit down in this chair. We are so poor just now that we have only one chair apiece, but when we get out to our gold-mine we shall have two chairs."

"Ah! You have a gold-mine, have you?" said Casper, with a smile. "When do you start?"

"Read the letter, and you will think we ought to start right away," said Julian, while Jack got up and proceeded with his supper. "We think of starting to-morrow morning."

"I would like to have my hand on your coat-tail about the time you get out there," said Casper. "Now, the question is, does the mine pay anything?" 21

"Read the letter, and you will understand as much as we do."

Casper began the letter, and he had not gone far with it before he broke out with "Jerusalem!" and "This beats me!" and "Fifty thousand dollars!" When he had got done with the letter, he folded it up and passed it back to Julian without saying a word.

"And that is not all of it," said the latter. "Do you see the rest of the papers there in that box? Well, they are deeds of property which amount to one hundred thousand dollars."

"Whew!" whistled Casper. "By gracious! You're lucky—are you not? When do you start?"

"Laying all jokes aside, we don't intend to start at all," said Jack.

"You don't?" exclaimed Casper. "Have you got something better on hand?"

"No, I don't know that we have; but our first hard work must be to find this man Haberstro. It would not be right for us to keep what is in that box without turning the city upside down in order to locate him." 22

"Why, the box was sold to you, was it not?" said Casper, turning to Julian.

"Of course it was. Didn't I pay thirty cents of my hard earnings for it?"

"Did you agree to hunt up this man Haberstro?"

"No, because the clerks did not know where he was."

"Then I say the box and everything in it belongs to you. Undoubtedly the man does not live here any more. He has gone somewhere else. I would not make a precious fool of myself, if I were you. Take the money and say nothing to nobody."

"And go out there and take possession of that property while there is another man waiting for it?" asked Jack, with some heat.

"Yes, sir; that's what I would do."

"Then, sir, you are not honest. I am glad you don't train in my crowd."

"I don't call it dishonest in holding fast to what you have. A hundred thousand dollars! You would not need to go mining at all."

"We are well aware of that; but we must 23 find out where that man lives, if we can. After having exhausted every means to find out, then I would consider that the property belongs to us. Julian, we will have to see a lawyer about that."

"That's what I was thinking," said Julian.

"Well, of all the plumb dunces that ever I saw, you are the beat!" said Casper, getting up and putting on his hat. "I tell you that if that property was mine I would never let anyone know that I had it. I would throw up my position to-morrow, borrow money, go out there and take possession; and you are fools if you don't do it."

And Casper went out, slamming the door behind him. 24

CHAPTER III.

JULIAN IS ASTONISHED.

"Well, sir, what do you think of that?" asked Julian, when he heard the noise the telegraph boy made in running down the stairs. "He really acts as though he were mad about it."

"He is a dishonest fellow," said Jack, once more coming up to the table and throwing his leg over it. "You don't believe everything he said, do you?"

"Not much, I don't," replied Julian, emphatically. "I could not go out there and work the mine as he talks of doing. I should think it was haunted, sure enough."

"Well, put the papers away, and then let us have supper. While we are doing that, we will decide what we are going to do with the box."

"I say, don't let us do anything with it. We will put it up there on the mantel, and 25 when we are through supper one of us will write an advertisement calling upon Mr. Haberstro to come up and show himself. I guess the Republican is as good a paper as any, isn't it?"

"But Haberstro may be a Democrat, instead of a Republican," said Jack.

"Well, then, put it in both papers. That will cost us two dollars—seventy-five cents for the first insertion and a quarter for the second."

It did not take the boys a long time to get their supper. They had nothing but bacon, baker's bread, tea, and a few cream cakes which Jack had purchased on his way home; but there was an abundance, they were hungry, and they did full justice to it. After supper came something that everybody hates—washing the dishes; but that was something the two friends never neglected. The dishes must be washed some time, and the sooner it was done the sooner it would be over with. Then one picked up the broom and went to sweeping, while the other lighted the lamp and brought out the writing materials. 26

"I have already made up my mind what I want to say," said Julian, who, being a better scribe than his companion, handled the pen. "Wait until I get the advertisement all written out, and then I will read it to you."

The pen moved slowly, and by the time that Jack had finished sweeping and seated himself in a chair ready to listen, Julian read the following:

"Information wanted regarding the whereabouts of S. W. Haberstro, formerly of St. Louis. If he will communicate with the undersigned he will hear of something greatly to his advantage. Any relative or friend of his who possesses the above information will confer a favor by writing to the name given below."

"There; how will that do?" said Julian. "By the way, whose name shall I sign to it—yours or mine?"

"Sign your own name, of course. Your place of business is much handier than mine."

"I tell you, Jack, it requires something besides a knowledge of penmanship to write out an advertisement for a newspaper. I have worried over this matter ever since we were at 27 supper, and then I didn't know how you would like it. Now, the next thing is to put it where it will catch the public eye in the morning."

The boys did not intend to let the grass grow under their feet. They put on their coats and turned down the lamp, but before they went out they took particular pains to put the box where they knew it would be safe. They opened the closet, pushed the box as far back as they could on the top shelf, and threw some clothing in front of it to hide it from anyone who might look in there. Burglaries were common in the city, and the boys never left anything in their room that was worth stealing.

The friends did not ride on the street cars, for they believed that five cents was worth as much to them as it was to the conductor, but walked all the distance that lay between them and the business part of the city. They reached the newspaper offices at last, paid for two insertions in each paper, and went away satisfied that they had done all in their power to find Mr. Haberstro. 28

"Now we have done as we would be done by," said Julian, "and I believe a glass of soda water would help me sleep easier. Come in here."

"We don't want any soda water," exclaimed Jack, seizing Julian by the arm and pulling him away from the drug store. "We don't need it. When we get home we will take a glass of cold water, and that will do just as well as all the soda water in town."

"I suppose I shall have to give in to you," said Julian, continuing his walk with Jack, "but I think we deserve a little credit for what we have done. Here we are with a fortune of one hundred thousand dollars in our pockets, and yet we are anxious to give it up if Mr. Haberstro shows himself. I tell you, it is not everybody in the world who would do that."

"I know it, but that is the honest way of doing business. I never could look our master mechanic in the face again if I should go off and enjoy that money without making an effort to find the owner."

In due time the boys reached home and 29 went to bed, but sleep did not visit their eyes before midnight. They were thinking of the fortune that was in their grasp. No one would have thought these boys very guilty if they had kept silent about the contents of that box and had gone off to reap the pleasure which good luck or something else had placed in Julian's hands; but such a thought had never entered their heads until Casper Nevins had suggested it to them. By being at the sale of "old horse" Julian had stumbled upon something that was intended for Mr. Haberstro, and he was just as much entitled to the contents of it as anybody.

"But I would be dishonest for all that," said he, rolling over in his bed to find a more comfortable position. "I never could enjoy that money, for I should be thinking of Mr. Haberstro, who ought to have it. No matter whether he is alive or dead, he would come up beside me all the while, and reach out his hand to take the money I was getting ready to use for my own pleasure. No, sir. We will do the best we can to find Mr. Haberstro, and if he does not show up within any reasonable 30 time, then Jack says the money belongs to us. I can spend it, then, to get anything I want, with perfect confidence."

When Julian got to this point in his meditations he became silent, and thought over the many things he stood in need of, and which he thought he could not possibly get along without, until finally he fell asleep; but the next morning, when he arose and returned Jack's hearty greeting, that fortune came into his mind immediately.

"I tell you what it is, Jack," said he. "If, after waiting a few days, we don't hear from Mr. Haberstro or any of his kin, suppose I go to Mr. Wiggins with it? He will know exactly what we ought to do."

"All right," said Jack. "That will be better than going to a lawyer, for he won't charge us anything for his advice."

"And shall you keep still about this?"

"Certainly. Don't lisp it to anybody. We don't want somebody to come along here and claim to be Haberstro, when perhaps he don't know a thing about what is in the box."

"Of course he would not know a thing 31 about it," said Julian, in surprise. "Haberstro himself don't know what there is in the box. He has got to prove by outside parties that he is the man that we want, or we can put him down as a fraud."

"That's so," said Jack, after thinking a moment. "We must be continually on the lookout for breakers."

Why was it that Jack did not go further, and say that they must be continually on the lookout for the safety of the box when they were not there to watch over it? It was not safe from anybody who knew it was there, and it would have been but little trouble for them to have taken it with them and put it into the hands of Mr. Wiggins. If they had thought of this, no doubt they would have lost no time in acting upon it.

Long before the hands on Jack's watch had reached the hour of half-past six the two friends were on their way toward their places of business, and when Julian reached the office almost the first boy he saw was Casper Nevins, who had denounced them for trying to find out what became of Mr. Haberstro. 32

"Good-morning, Julian," said he. "Have you advertised for that man of yours yet?"

"What do you want to know for?" said Julian, remembering what Jack had said about keeping the matter still.

"Oh, nothing; only I want to tell you that if you get yourselves fooled out of that fortune you can thank yourselves for it. What is there to prevent some sharper from coming around and telling you that he is Haberstro? You didn't think of that, did you?"

"Yes, we thought of it," said Julian, with a smile. "Do you suppose we will take any man's word for that? He must prove that he is the man we want, or else we won't have anything to do with him."

"Pshaw! That is easy enough. I can find fifty men right here in this town who will prove that they are President of the United States for half of what that box is worth. Say!" he added, sinking his voice almost to a whisper, "you haven't said a word to anybody about advertising for him, have you?"

"No; and I have not said a word to you about it either," said Julian. 33

"That's all right, but you can't fool me so easy. I want to tell you right now that there are a good many here who know about it, and that they are bound to have that box. Ah!" he added, noting the expression that came upon Julian's face, "you didn't think of that, did you?"

"Who are they?" asked Julian.

"There were men in the express office yesterday who know all about it. You needn't think you are going to keep that express box hid, for you can't do it. Where did you put it?"

"It is safe. It is where nobody will ever think of looking for it."

"Then you are all right," said Casper, who was plainly very much disappointed because he did not find out where the box was. "But you had better keep an eye out for those fellows in the express office, for, unless the looks of some of them belied them, they will steal that box from you as sure as you are a foot high."

"If they thought so much of the box, why didn't they buy it in the first place?" 34

"That is for them to tell. I don't know but they have somehow got an idea that there is something in it. You are going to get fooled out of it, and it will serve you just right for advertising for Haberstro."

That day was a long one to Julian, for he could not help turning over in his mind what Casper had said to him. When he reached home after his day's work was done he went straight to the closet, paying no sort of attention to Jack, who looked at him in surprise, took a chair with him, and hunted up the box. It was where he put it, and he drew a long breath of relief.

"Now, then, I would like to have you explain yourself," said Jack, after he had waited some little time for Julian to say what he meant by his actions.

"It is there," said Julian, "but I have been shaking in my shoes all day. Did it ever occur to you that some of those people who saw me buy the box at the express office would come up here to take it?"

"No; and I don't believe they will do it."

"Well, Casper said they would." 35

"You tell Casper Nevins to keep his long, meddlesome nose out of this pie and attend strictly to his own affairs," said Jack, in disgust. "It is ours, and he has nothing to do with it. If anybody comes into this room when we are not here, it will be Casper himself."

"He can't; he has not got a key."

"I know that. If he had, we would have trouble with that box. What did he say to you?"

Julian then repeated the conversation he held with Casper that morning, and Jack nodded his head once or twice to say that he approved of it.

"You did perfectly right by declining to answer his question about advertising for our man," said Jack. "What did he want to know that for? If they wanted the box, why did they not buy it in the first place?"

During the next few days the two friends were in a fever of suspense, for they did not want somebody to come and take their fortune away from them. Every man who came into the telegraph office Julian watched closely, 36 for he had somehow got it into his head that Haberstro must be a German; but every German who came in there had business of his own, and as soon as it was done he went out. No one came to see Julian about the box, and, if the truth must be told, he began to breathe easier. Of late he had got out of the habit of looking for the box as soon as he came home, and perhaps the sport that Jack made of him for it was the only thing that made him give it up.

"One would think you owned that fortune," said he. "I don't believe a miser ever watched his gold as closely as you watch that box."

"I don't care," said Julian. "The fortune is ours, or rather is going to be in a few days. Now you mark my words, and see if I don't tell you the truth."

"There's many a slip. We will never have such luck in the world."

"Well, I am going to look at it now. It seems to me that if Haberstro is around here he ought to have put in an appearance before this time. We have waited a whole week without seeing anything of him." 37

"A whole week!" exclaimed Jack, with a laugh. "If you wait a month without seeing him you may be happy. If we keep the box for three months without the man appearing, then I shall think it belongs to us."

Julian did not believe that. He thought that the contents of the box would belong to them before that time. He made no reply, but took a chair to examine the closet. He moved the clothing aside, expecting every minute to put his hand upon the box, and then uttered an exclamation of astonishment and threw the articles off on the floor.

"What's the matter?" asked Jack, in alarm.

"The box is gone!" replied Julian. 38

CHAPTER IV.

WHERE THE BOX WAS.

This startling piece of information seemed to strike Jack Sheldon motionless and speechless with astonishment. His under jaw dropped down, and he even clutched the back of a chair, as if seeking something with which to support himself. The two boys stood at opposite sides of the room looking at each other, and then Jack recovered himself.

"Gone!" he repeated. "You are mistaken; you have overlooked it. I saw it night before last myself."

"I don't care," said Julian, emphatically; "I have taken the clothes all out, and the box is gone. Look and see for yourself."

Julian stepped down from the chair and Jack took his place. He peered into every nook and corner of the dark shelf, passed his hands over it, and then, with something like a sigh, got down and began to hang the 39 clothes up in their proper places. Then he closed the door of the closet, took a chair, and gazed earnestly at the floor.

"Well, sir, what do you think of that?" said Julian.

"Didn't I tell you that if anybody came in here to look for that box while we were not here it would be Casper Nevins, and nobody else?" said Jack.

"You surely don't suspect him!" exclaimed Julian.

"I do suspect him; if you could get inside his room to-night you would find the box."

"Why, then he is a thief!" said Julian, jumping up from his chair and walking the floor. "Shall we go down to No. 8 Station and ask the police to send a man up there and search him?"

"I don't know whether that would be the best way or not," said Jack, reflectively. "Has Casper got many friends among the boys of your office?"

"I don't believe he's got one friend there who treats him any better than I do. The boys are all shy of him." 40

"And well they may be. That boy got a key somewhere that will fit our door, and came in here and took that box. You say he has not any friends on whom he can depend in the office?"

"Not one. If he has any friends, none of us know who they are."

"Then he must be alone in stealing the box from us. He has it there in his room, for he has no other place to hide it. Do you know what sort of a key he has to fit his door?"

"Of course I do. I was with him when he got it. It is a combination key; one that he folds up when he puts it into his pocket."

"Do you believe you can buy another like it?"

"By George! That's an idea. Let us go down and find out. Then to-morrow, if I can get away, I will come up here and go through his room."

That was Jack's notion entirely. He wanted to see "the biter bit"—to know that he would feel, when he awoke some fine morning and found his fortune gone, just how they were feeling now. They put on their coats and 41 locked the door,—it seemed a mockery to them now to lock the door when their fortune was gone,—and, after walking briskly for a few minutes, turned into the store where Casper had purchased his key. When Julian told the clerk that he wanted to see some combination keys, he threw out upon the counter a box which was filled to overflowing.

"Do you remember a telegraph boy who was in here several months ago and bought a combination lock to fit his door?" asked Julian. "I was in here at the time, and I know he bought the lock of you."

"Seems to me that I do remember something about that," said the clerk, turning around to the shelves behind him and taking down another box, "and we have got just one lock of that sort left."

"Are you sure this key will open his door?" asked Julian.

"I am sure of it. If it don't open his door, you can bring it back and exchange it for another."

Julian told him that he would take the lock, and while the clerk was gone to another 42 part of the store to do it up he whispered to Jack,

"I have just thought of something. He has not any closet in his room that I know of, and who knows but that he may have put that box in his trunk? I had better get some keys to his trunk while I am about it."

"Do you remember how the key looked?" asked Jack.

"I guess I can come pretty close to it," answered Julian.

The work of selecting a key to the trunk was not so easy; but Julian managed to satisfy himself at last, and the boys left the store. Julian did not say anything, but he was certain that the box would be in his own possession before that time to-morrow. That would be better than calling the police to search his room. In the latter case, Casper would be held for trial, and Julian did not want to disgrace him before all the boys in the office.

"I will give Mr. Wiggins the box as soon as I get my hands on it, but I shan't say anything to him about Casper's stealing it," said he. "Would you?" 43

"You are mighty right I would," exclaimed Jack, who looked at his friend in utter surprise. "He stole it, didn't he? He was going to cheat Haberstro out of it if he showed up, and, failing that, he would leave us here to work all our lives while he lived on the fat of the land. No, sir; if you get the box you must tell Mr Wiggins about it."

For the first time in a long while the boys did not sleep much that night. Jack was thinking about Casper's atrocity,—for he considered that was about the term to apply to him for stealing their box,—and Julian was wondering if he was going to get into Casper's room and recover the fortune which he was attempting to deprive them of.

"I tell you, that boy is coming to some bad end," said Jack. "I would not be in his boots for all the money he will ever be worth."

"I don't care what end he comes to," said Julian, "but I was just thinking what would happen to us if this key did not open his door. We would then have to get the police, sure enough." 44

Morning came at length, and at the usual hour Julian was on hand in the telegraph office, waiting to see what his duties were going to be. As usual, he found Casper Nevins there. He looked closely at Julian when he came in, but could not see anything in the expression of his face that led him to believe there was anything wrong.

"Good-morning, Julian," said he.

"Good-morning," said Julian. "How do you feel this morning?"

"Right as a trivet. I feel much better than you will when you find that that box is gone," added Casper to himself. "He hasn't found it out yet, and I hope he will not until I get my pay. I have waited and watched for this a long time, and, thank heaven! I have found it at last. I wish I knew somebody who would take that box and hide it for me; but I can't think of a living soul."

All the fore part of that day Julian was kept busy running to the lower part of the city with messages, and not a chance did he get to go up past Casper's room. Two or three times he was on the point of asking Mr. 45 Wiggins to excuse him for a few minutes, but he always shrunk from it for fear of the questions that gentleman would ask him. "Where did he want to go?" "What did he want to go after?" "What was he going to do when he got there?" and Julian was quite certain that he could not answer these questions without telling a lie. While he was thinking it over he heard his name called, and found that he must go right by Casper's room in order to take the message where it was to go. He seemed to be treading on air when he walked up to take the telegraphic dispatch.

"Do you know where that man lives?" asked the operator.

"I know pretty nearly where he lives," answered Julian.

"Well, take it there, and be back as soon as you can, for I shall want to send you somewhere else. What's the matter with you, Julian? You seem to be gay about something."

"I don't know that I feel any different from what I always do," replied Julian. "I will go there as soon as I can." 46

When Julian got into the street, his first care was to find his keys. They were all there; and, to gain the time that he would occupy in looking about the room, Julian broke into a trot, knowing that the police would not trouble him while he had that uniform on. At the end of an hour he began to draw close to Casper's room, and there he slackened his pace to a walk.

"Ten minutes more and the matter will be decided," said Julian, his heart beating with a sound that frightened him. "That boy has the box, and I am going to have it."

A few steps more brought him to the stairs that led up to Casper's room. It was over a grocery store, and the steps ran up beside it. He turned in there without anybody seeing him, and stopped in front of the door. The combination key was produced, and to Julian's immense delight the door came open the very first try.

"I guess I won't lock it," muttered Julian. "I might lock myself in. He does not keep his room as neat as we do ours."

Julian took one glance about the apartment, 47 taking in the tumbled bedclothes, and the dishes from which Casper had eaten his breakfast still unwashed on the table, and then turned his attention to what had brought him there. There was no closet in the room, and the box was not under the bed; it must therefore be in his trunk. One after another of the keys was tried without avail, and Julian was about to give it up in despair, when the last key—the one on Jack's bunch—opened the trunk, which he found in the greatest confusion. He lifted off the tray, and there was the box, sure enough. Julian took it, and hugged it as though it was a friend from whom he had long been separated.

"Now the next question is, are the papers all here?" thought he. "There were seven of them besides the letter, and who knows but that he has taken a block of buildings away from us."

But the papers were all there. However much Casper might have been tempted to realize on some of the numerous "blocks of buildings" which the box called for, he dared 48 not attempt the sale of any of them. It was as much as he could do to steal the papers. Julian placed the tray back and carefully locked the trunk, and then looking around, found a paper with which to do up his box. Then he locked the door, came down, and went on to deliver his message.

"That boy called us foolish because we advertised for Mr. Haberstro," said Julian, as he carefully adjusted the box under his arm. "I would like to know if we were bigger fools than he was. We could have found the police last night as easy as not, and it would have been no trouble for them to find the box. He ought not to have left it there in his trunk. He didn't think that we could play the same game on him that he played upon us."

Julian conveyed his message and returned to his office in less time than he usually did, and, after reporting, told Mr. Wiggins in a whisper that he would like to see him in the back room.

"I know what you want," said Mr. Wiggins, as he went in. "You have been up to 49 the express office, buying some more of that 'old horse.' Some day I am going to give you fits for that. It is the only thing I have stored up against you."

"Can you tell when I did it?" asked Julian, slowly unfolding the box which he carried under his arm. "Haven't I carried my telegraphic dispatches in as little time as anybody? Now, I have something here that is worth having. Read that letter, and see if it isn't."

Mr. Wiggins seated himself on the table and slowly read the letter which Julian placed in his hands, and it was not long before he became deeply interested in it. When he had got through he looked at the boy with astonishment.

"I declare, Julian, you're lucky," said he. "Now, the next thing for you to do is to advertise for Haberstro."

"We have already advertised for him. We have put four insertions in the papers."

"And he doesn't come forward to claim his money? Put two other advertisements in, and if he don't show up the money is yours." 50

"That is what I wanted to get at," said Julian, with a sigh of relief. "Now, Mr. Wiggins, I wish you would take this and lock it up somewhere. I don't think it safe in our house."

"Certainly I'll do it. By George! Who would think you were worth a hundred thousand dollars!"

"It isn't ours yet," said Julian, with a smile. "About the time we get ready to use it, here will come Mr. Haberstro, and we will have to give it up to him."

"Well, you are honest, at any rate, or you would not have advertised for him. This beats me, I declare. I won't scold you this time, but don't let it happen again."

"I'll never go into that express office again while I live," said Julian, earnestly. "I have had my luck once, and I don't believe it will come again."

When Julian went out into the office he saw Casper there, and he was as white as a sheet. Julian could not resist the temptation to pat an imaginary box under his arm and wink at Casper. 51

"What do you mean by that pantomime?" said he.

"It means that you can't get the start of two fellows who have their eyes open," said Julian. "I've got the box."

"You have?" gasped Casper. "You've been into my room when I was not there? I'll have the police after you before I am five minutes older!"

Casper jumped to his feet and began to look around for his hat. 52

CHAPTER V.

CASPER THINKS OF SOMETHING.

Julian stood with his hands in his pockets looking at Casper, and something that was very like a smile came into his face.

"I know what you went in there with Mr. Wiggins for," said Casper; and having found his cap by that time, he jammed it spitefully on his head, "and I just waited until you came out so that I could ask you. I don't need to ask you. I tell you once for all——"

"Well, why don't you go on?" asked Julian. "You will tell me once for all—what?"

Casper had by this time turned and looked sternly at Julian, but there was something about him which told him that he had gone far enough.

"Go and get the police," said Julian. "Right here is where I do business. Look 53 here, Casper: you came into our room and stole that box out of our closet."

"I never!" said Casper, evidently very much surprised. "So help me——"

"Don't swear, because you will only make a bad matter worse. I found the box in your trunk, just where you had left it. The way I have the matter arranged now, there's nobody knows that you took it; but you go to work and raise the police, and I will tell all I know. If you keep still, I won't say one word."

Casper backed toward the nearest chair and sat down. This conversation had been carried on in whispers, and there was nobody, among the dozen persons who were standing around, that had the least idea what they were talking about. If Casper supposed that he was going to scare Julian into giving up the box, he failed utterly.

"I won't give up that fortune," said he, to himself, when Julian turned away to go to his seat. "A hundred thousand dollars! I'll have it, or I'll never sleep easy again."

During the rest of the day Julian was as happy as he wanted to be. The box was now 54 safe in the hands of Mr. Wiggins, and he would like to see anybody get hold of it. Furthermore, Mr. Wiggins had told him to put two more advertisements in the papers, and, if Mr. Haberstro did not show himself in answer to them, the money was his own.

"I do hope he won't come," said Julian. "I don't believe in giving up that fortune."

The boy was glad when the day was done, and the moment he was safe on the street he struck a trot which he never slackened until he ran up the stairs to his room. Jack was there, as he expected him to be, and he was going about his work of getting supper. He looked up as Julian came in, and he saw at a glance that he had been successful.

"I've got it!" shouted Julian; and, catching Jack by the arm, he whirled him around two or three times. "It was in the trunk, just as I told you it was. Mr. Wiggins has it now, and he will take care of it, too."

"That's the best news I have heard in a long time," said Jack, throwing his leg over the table. "Did you tell Mr. Wiggins about the way Casper acted?" 55

"No, I did not. Somehow, I couldn't bear to see the boy discharged. I simply told Mr. Wiggins that it wasn't safe in our room."

"Well, I don't know but that was the best way, after all," said Jack, looking reflectively at the floor. "But I tell you, if I had been in your place I would have let it all out. Now tell me the whole thing."

Julian pulled off his coat, and, while he assisted Jack in getting supper, told him all that passed between Mr. Wiggins and himself, not forgetting how the latter had promised to scold him at some future time for going to the express office and investing in "old horse."

"I hope he will tell you some words that will set," said Jack. "All I can say to you has no effect upon you."

"I will never go near that express office again—never!" said Julian, earnestly.

"I hope you will always bear that in mind."

"I've had my luck, and if I live until my head is as white as our president's I never shall have such good fortune again. I will get bricks the next time I buy." 56

"You had better sit down and write out that advertisement for two more insertions, and after supper we'll take it down and put it in. If Haberstro does not appear in answer to them the money is ours. That's a little better fortune than I dared to hope for."

Anybody could see that Jack was greatly excited over this news, but he tried not to show it. If he had gone wild over it, he would have got Julian so stimulated that he would not have known which end he stood on. He had to control himself and Julian, too. He ate his supper apparently as cool as he ever was, and after the room had been swept up and the dishes washed he put on his coat and was ready to accompany his friend to the newspaper offices.

"Remember now, Julian, we don't want any soda water to-night," said Jack. "If you want anything to drink, get it before you start."

Julian promised that he would bear it in mind, and during the three hours that they were gone never asked for soda water or anything else. 57

"Just wait until I get that fortune in my hands, and then I will have all the soda water I want," said Julian to himself. "But, after all, Jack's way is the best. I don't know what I should do without him."

In due time the boys were at home and in bed; and leaving them there to enjoy a good night's rest, we will go back to Casper Nevins and see what he thought and what he did when he found that he had lost the box he had risked so much to gain. He was about as mad as a boy could hold when he ran down the stairs after his interview with them in their room, and he straightway began to rack his brain to see if he could not get that box for himself.

"Of all the dunces I ever saw, those two fellows are the beat!" said he, as he took his way toward his room. "They have got the fortune in their own hands; no one will say a word if they use it as though it was their own; and yet they are going to advertise for the man to whom it was addressed. Did anybody ever hear of a fool notion like that? I was in hopes that I could get them to go partners 58 with me, but under the circumstances I did not like to propose it. Why didn't I happen into that express office and bid on that box? Gee! What a fortune that would be!"

Casper was almost beside himself with the thought, and he reached his room and cooked and ate his supper, still revolving some plan for obtaining possession of that box. He had suddenly taken it into his head that he ought to go into partnership with the two boys in order to assist them in spending their money, although there was not the first thing that he could think of that induced the belief. Julian had always been friendly with him,—much more so than any of the other boys in the office,—although he confessed that he had not always been friendly with Julian.

"Of course I have little spats with him, but Julian isn't a fellow to remember that," said Casper to himself. "I've had spats with every boy, and some of them I don't want anything more to do with. But Julian ought to take me into partnership with him, and I believe I'll ask him. But first, can't I get 59 that box for my own? That is an idea worth thinking of."

It was an idea that had suddenly come into Casper's head, and he did not think any more about the partnership business just then. Of course their advertising for Haberstro knocked all that in the head; but then if he had the box he could do as he pleased with it. The next day, at the office, he did say something about partnership, but Julian laughed at him. He said that he and Jack could easily spend all that money, and more too, if they had it. It was made in a joking way, and Julian had not thought to speak to Jack about it.

"It is no use trying you on," said Casper to himself, getting mad in a minute. "You can spend all that money yourselves, can you? I'll bet you don't. There must be some keys in the city that will fit your door, and I am going to have one."

From that time forward Casper had but just one object in view, and that was to get the box. He spent three days in trying the different keys which he had purchased to fit 60 the lock, and one time he came near getting himself into difficulty. He was out a great deal longer than he ought to have been with a message, and when he got to the office Mr. Wiggins took him to task for it.

"How is this, Casper?" said he. "You have been gone three-quarters of an hour longer than you ought to have been."

"I went just as soon as I could," replied Casper, who was not above telling a lie. "The man wasn't at his place of business, and so I went to his home."

"Then you are excusable. It seems strange that he should be at home at this hour."

Casper did not say anything, but he was satisfied that he was well out of that scrape. He had not been to the man's home at all. He was trying the lock on Julian's door.

Although he made two attempts without getting in, he succeeded on the third. The door came open for him, and after searching around the room in vain for the box, he looked into the closet.

"Aha! I've got you at last!" said he, as he drew the clothing aside and laid hold of 61 the object of his search. "Now I wish I had my money that is due me from the telegraph office. To-morrow would see me on my way toward Denver."

Hurriedly locking the door, Casper made the best of his way down the stairs and to his room, and put the box into his trunk. Then he broke into another run and went to the office, where he arrived in time to avoid a second reprimand.

"Oh, you feel mighty well now," said Casper, watching Julian, who was talking and laughing with some of the boys, "but I bet you you will feel different in a little while. Now who am I going to get to hide that box for me? None of the boys in here will do it, so I must go elsewhere."

During the rest of the week Casper was as deeply interested in watching the persons who came there as Julian was. He did not advertise for Haberstro, because he did not want to give up the box. He was more than half inclined to go to Mr. Wiggins and tell him he was going to leave when his month was out, but some way or other he did not. Something 62 compelled him to wait, and in three days more he found out what it was. He was in the office waiting for a message to deliver, when Julian came in with a bundle wrapped up in a newspaper under his arm. Casper was thunderstruck, for something told him that Julian had played the same game that he had. He had been to his room and got the box. His face grew as pale as death when he saw Mr. Wiggins follow Julian into the back room, and his first thought was to leave the office before he came out.

"It is all up with me now," said he, rising to his feet and looking around for his cap, which, boy fashion, he had tossed somewhere, on entering the room. "He will tell Mr. Wiggins that I stole the box, and I will be discharged the first thing. I'll deny it," he added, growing desperate. "I haven't seen his box. He did not find it in my room, but got it somewhere else. I will make a fight on it as long as I can."

So saying, Casper sat down to await Julian's return; but the boy came out alone, and the antics he went through drove Casper frantic. 63

"I've got the box," said Julian, when Casper asked him what he meant by that pantomime.

The guilty boy was given plenty of opportunity to "deny it all," but he gave it up in despair when he found that Julian was not to be frightened into giving up the box. The latter was perfectly willing that the police should come there, but if they did, he would tell all Casper had done. He might get Julian in a scrape, but he would get into a worse one himself. He was glad when Julian moved off to his chair and left him alone.

"I guess it is the best way as it is," said Casper, getting upon his feet and looking out into the street. "If he sets the police onto me—good gracious, what should I do? So that plan has failed, and now the next thing is something else. I'll have that box, or die trying to get it."

All that day, while he was in the office or carrying his telegraphic dispatches around the street, Casper thought of but one thing, and that was, how was he going to get that box again? He did not have much to say to anybody, and when six o'clock came he lost no 64 time in getting home. He had evidently determined upon something, for he ate a very scanty supper, changed his clothes, and hurried out again. His changing his uniform for a citizen's suit was something that would have brought him his instant discharge if his company officers had found him in that fix. He could mingle with loafers about the pool-rooms, and no one could have told that he was any different from anybody else. He could drink his beer, too, and no one would suspect that he was going back on the pledge he made to the company. But, then, Casper was used to such things, and he thought nothing of it. More than that, he had an object to gain, and he had already picked out the person whom he hoped to induce to enter into a scheme to possess that box.

"Claus is the fellow I am going to try," said he, as he hurried along toward a pool-room which he often frequented. "He is a German, he is well along in years, and I know he isn't above making a dime or two whenever he gets the chance. Now for it. It is make or break." 65

CHAPTER VI.

A MR. HABERSTRO APPEARS.

As Casper Nevins uttered these words he turned into an entry, ran up a flight of stairs, and opened the door of the pool-room. The apartment was always crowded at night, and the players were mostly young men who ought by rights to have been somewhere else. One end of the room was occupied with pool-tables, and the other was taken up by billiards, which were in full blast. Casper gave out among the players that he was a broker's clerk, and the story seemed to satisfy the young men, who asked no further questions. There was no chance for him in a pool game, and consequently he did not look for it. He looked all around, and finally discovered his man Claus, who was sitting near one of the tables, watching the game.

This man was one of the loafers about the pool-rooms. He always dressed very neatly, 66 but he was never known to have any money. He was a German, and that fitted the name of the man to whom the box was addressed.

"I am living on the interest of my debts," said he, when some one asked what his occupation was. "I never have any money. I don't need it. I can get along without it. You fellows have to work every day, while I do nothing but sit around the pool-room and wait for some one to challenge me for a game."

"But you must make some money sometime, or else you couldn't play pool as often as you do."

"Oh, as to that, I make a dollar or two when I find the right man who can play a little, and sometimes I make more. If I could get a chance to make a hundred thousand dollars I would take it in a minute. After that, I would not be obliged to work."

These remarks were made in the presence of Casper Nevins, who remembered them. After he had stolen the box, and before Julian had got it back again, he thought it best to try him on a new tack. 67

"Supposing you didn't get a hundred thousand dollars the first time trying," said he. "Would not fifty thousand do you?"

"Well, I think I could live on that much. Fifty thousand would tempt me awfully. I wish I had a chance to try it."

"There is Claus, and I am going to speak to him the first thing I do," said Casper. "If there is anybody who can play the part of the missing Haberstro, he is the man."

"Ah! Good-evening, Casper," he exclaimed, as the boy approached him. "How is the brokerage business to-day? Have you made any money?"

"I don't make any. The boss does all that."

"Well, why don't you pick up some money and go in yourself? You will never be a man in the world as long as you stay in the background. Do you want to see me? Here I am, and all ready for business. Is there any money in this thing you have to propose?"

Claus, following Casper's lead, occupied an arm-chair in a remote corner of the room, 68 away from everybody, and Casper sat down alongside of him. It was not any work for him to begin the conversation, for Claus "had given himself away" every time the subject of money was introduced.

"Were you in earnest the other day when you said that if you had a chance to steal a hundred thousand dollars you would try it on?" said Casper. "I want you to deal fairly with me now. I want to know just how you feel about it."

"My dear boy, I was never more in earnest in my life," said Claus emphatically. "Just give me a chance, and you will see whether or not I meant what I said."

"Well, I have got a chance for you to make something," said Casper.

"You have? Let her rip. I am all attention. But hold on a bit. Let us get a cigar. Have you any money?"

"I have ten cents."

"That is enough. Anything to keep our jaws puffing. I can listen a great deal better with a cigar than I can without it."

The two arose from their seats and made a 69 trip to the bar. They lighted their cigars, and Casper paid ten cents for them. It made no difference to Claus that Casper had paid out some of his hard earnings and wondered where his next morning's breakfast was coming from. As long as he got the cigar, it mattered little to him whether Casper had any more money or not.

"Now I am all ready to listen," said Claus, seating himself in his arm-chair once more. "Be explicit; go into all the minutiŠ, so that I may know what I have to do."

There was no need that Claus should tell Casper this, and for the next fifteen minutes Claus never said a word, but listened intently. He told about Julian's habit of going to the express office on the day that "old horse" was offered for sale, until finally he bought the secret of a gold-mine which was hidden away in a box that came near being sold for twenty-five cents. The box was addressed to S. W. Haberstro, and the boys had put four advertisements in the papers asking that man to show himself; and, if he did not show up in reasonable time, the money was to be theirs. 70

"Here is a copy of the Democrat, with a copy of the advertisement in it," said Casper. "I knew you would want to know everything, and so I brought it along. A hundred thousand dollars! Now, why couldn't I have bid on that box? That little snipe does not get any more money than I do, and yet he had to go and buy himself rich."

"Then it seems that you are not a broker's clerk after all," said Claus. "I don't know as I blame you."

"You see I would get discharged if any of the company officers should find me dressed up in citizen's rig," said Casper. "I can go among the boys, now, and have a good time."

"I don't know that I blame you," repeated Claus. "I will keep your secret. Well, go on. I begin to understand the matter now."

"I tell you I was mad when I found out that they were going to advertise for old man Haberstro," said Casper. "I called them everything but decent boys, and went to work to conjure up some plan for getting the box for my own. I got it, too——" 71

"You did? Then you are all right."

"Not so near right as you think I am. Julian got some keys that would fit my door, and went in and stole it."

"Whew! They are a desperate lot; ain't they?"

"That is just what they did; and, furthermore, Julian gave the box into the hands of Mr. Wiggins, our chief telegraph operator. Now, I want you to come down there, pass yourself off for Haberstro, and claim that box. Can you do it?"

Mr. Claus did not answer immediately. He stretched his legs out before him and slid down in his chair until his head rested on the back of it. He was thinking over the details of the plan. Casper did not interrupt him, but waited to see what he was going to say about it.

"And you are willing to give me half the contents of that box if I will get it for you?" said he. "You have given me the hardest part of the work. Where do you suppose that man Wiggins keeps the box?"

"In the bank, of course. He's pretty sharp, 72 and you must look out for that. If we can get that box, I won't go near the mine. I am not going to handle a pick and shovel when I have fifty thousand dollars to fall back upon. I am not going to work every day when I am afraid that something will come up and scare me to death. I will take half the block of buildings described there, and you can take the other half. That is fair, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is fair enough, but I am afraid of that man Wiggins. What sort of a looking man is he?"

"The worst part about him is his eyes. They are steel-gray, and when he turns them on a culprit in the office you would think he was going to look him through. You will have to be pretty sharp to get around him."

"Well, suppose I go and see Julian first. If I can get around him, that will be so much gained."

This was the beginning of a long conversation between Casper and Claus, and when it was done the latter felt greatly encouraged, and told himself that he was nearer getting the box for his own than he ever was before. 73 Casper told him everything he could think of that related to the matter, and when Claus got up, removed his hat and wiped his face with his handkerchief, Casper said that if he would just act that way in the presence of Mr. Wiggins, he would carry the day.

"You act more like a German than I ever saw you act before," said he. "If you will just do that way to-morrow, I will answer for your success."

"I can act the German all over, if that is what he wants," said Claus, with a laugh. "You haven't got another ten cents, have you? Well, let it go. I will go home and sleep upon it."

"But look here," said Casper, earnestly. "If you come to that telegraph office you must not know me. You never saw me before."

"Of course not. I won't give you away. That money is worth trying for. What is the reason that you and I have not some good friends to leave us that amount of money?"

"Because we are not honest enough," said Casper, bitterly. 74

"Honesty has nothing to do with it. We ain't sharp; that is what's the matter with us. Well, good-night. I will go and see Julian to-morrow night, and the next day I may be down to the telegraph office. I want to go easy, because I don't want to spoil the thing by being too brash."

As it was already late, Casper did not attempt to enter any game that night. He went home and tumbled into bed, and for a long time he lay thinking over what he had said to Claus. There was another thing that came into his mind every once in a while, and that was, where was his breakfast to come from?

"I was not going to get any cigars to-night, because ten cents was all I had left," said Casper. "But I could not well refuse Claus. No matter. If he succeeds in getting that box, I will have all the cigars I want."

The next morning Casper went to the office without any breakfast; but the first message he had to carry took him to a saloon where they set a free-lunch table. There he took 75 the edge off his appetite and ate enough to last him until supper-time, when he was to get his pay. Julian was there, looking as happy as ever. Casper did not blame him for that. If he had a box with that amount of money in it, he would be happy, too.

"By George! It is six o'clock," said Casper, at length. "In two hours more I will know what Julian says to Claus. Till then, I must have patience."

Casper received his money when the others did, and without saying a word to anybody set out for home. Julian was not in quite so big a hurry. He walked along with his hands in his pockets, and once, when passing by a baker's shop, he went in and bought some cakes with which to top off their supper. Jack Sheldon always reached home before he did, and Julian found him in his usual act of getting supper. In reply to his ordinary greetings, he answered that there had been nothing unusual going on in the telegraph office, and that no man who said his name was Haberstro had been there to see about the advertisement that had appeared in the papers. 76

"I tell you, Jack, that fortune in the box is ours," said Julian. "That man has had ample time to show up, and it won't be long before we will be on our way to Denver."

"Don't be too sure of that," said Jack. "Haberstro may be off on a vacation somewhere. I shall believe we are in Denver when we get there, and not before."

Almost as Jack said the words there was a sound of somebody coming up the stairs. He stopped in front of the door, and called out to somebody he left below,

"Does Mr. Julian Gray live here? Thank you;" and a moment afterward his rap sounded upon the door.

"What did I tell you?" whispered Jack. "That's Haberstro, as sure as you live."

For an honest boy, Julian's heart fell. His fortune was gone, and there were no two ways about it. He stepped to the door and opened it, and there stood Claus, more neatly dressed than ever.

"Good-evening," said he, while his eyes roved from one boy to the other. "Which one of you is Julian Gray?" 77

"I am, sir."

"I am delighted to meet you," said he; and he thrust out his hand, into which Julian put his own. Then he put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a card on which the name S. W. Haberstro was engraved. "I got belated in my hotel while waiting for the train, and I picked up this paper and saw this advertisement in it. As it happened to be my name, I read it through."

"Come in, sir," said Jack, placing a chair for him. "It is one of four advertisements that we put into the daily papers. Your name is Haberstro, I believe?"

"That is my name. You said you had something of great value to tell me. What is it?"

Julian could not have opened his mouth to save him. He was obliged to let Jack do all the talking. 78

CHAPTER VII.

A PLAN THAT DIDN'T WORK.

Julian Gray took his stand in one corner of the room, with his hands in his pockets and his feet spread out, and looked at this man who called himself Haberstro. He was a German, there were no two ways about that; and he had a habit of taking out his handkerchief and wiping his face with it that nobody but a pompous and well-to-do German ever imitated.

"Do you know of a man of the name of Winkleman?" asked Jack.

"Know him?" exclaimed the German. "Of course I do. He was living here in St. Louis with me, but all on a sudden he took the gold fever and went out to Denver. I was engaged in pretty good business, and so I did not go with him. I never heard what he was doing out there. He—he isn't dead, is he?" 79

"Oh, no. He accumulated some property while he was out there. He got a notice that his father had died in Europe and left all his property to him, and he has gone home to take possession of it."

"Then that accounts for his not writing to me. He always said that his folks were immensely rich, and that some day he would have more than he wanted. What property did he collect out there?"

"He is worth several buildings which are worth a hundred thousand dollars. Furthermore, he has given them to you."

"To me?" cried the German, rising to his feet.

"Yes, to you. And, more than that, he has a mine out of which he took fifty thousand dollars, and you come into possession of that, also."

"Lord bless my soul!" exclaimed the German. "I don't remember that I ever did anything to him to give him so good an opinion of me."

"Did you not nurse him while he was sick?" 80

"Did you not care for your mother when she was sick?" returned the German. "Of course that did not amount to anything. He was my chum, and I had to stand by him."

"Well, he gave you the property for it, anyway. He sent you the deeds by express, and Julian bought them for thirty cents."

"Well, sir, that is a heap of money. I don't know anybody that needs it more than I do. Where is the box now?"

"It is safe in the hands of Mr. Wiggins. We were not going to have somebody come along here and claim to be Haberstro. Have you anybody here in St. Louis to whom you can recommend us? We want to know who you are before we give up the box."

"That is perfectly right and proper. You see, my home is in Chicago, and I know but few persons here. If you think this Mr——what do you call him?"

"Wiggins?" said Jack.

"Yes; if you think he will want somebody to vouch for me, I can give him the names of all the Germans in the city. Where does he hang out?" 81

"The Union Telegraph office. You know where that is?"

"I can easily find it, for I have a tongue in my head. I don't believe I will go near that mine at all. I will sell it."

"You had better not. The miners have a story around that it is haunted."

The German threw back his head and laughed heartily.

"I am not afraid of that. If he took fifty thousand dollars out of it, it is surely worth as much more. Well, if you have told me everything, I guess I had better go back to my hotel. I was going back to my home to-night, but now I am glad I did not go."

"I guess we have told you everything that pertains to the matter," said Jack. "Do you think of any questions you would like to ask us?"

"No; but I may think of some to-morrow. Good-night."

"By the way," said Jack, as if he had just thought of something. "Where were you when this man Winkleman was sick? You were out in the mines, I suppose?" 82

"Oh, no, we were not; we were here in St. Louis. If we had been out at the mines, where no doctor could have been reached, he would have gone up on my hands. Look here—I don't want you to do this for nothing. Make up your minds what you ought to have and I will give it to you. If it had not been for you I would never have seen the box. Good-night."

The German bowed himself out and closed the door behind him. The boys waited until he got to the street, and then Julian took possession of the chair he had just vacated.

"Well, sir, what do you think of that?" asked Jack, using companion's expression.

"I think our fortune is gone up," answered Julian; and then he leaned his elbows on his knees and looked down at the floor.

Jack laughed as loudly as the German did a few moments before. Julian straightened up and looked at him in surprise.

"What do you mean by that?" he exclaimed. "Is a hundred thousand dollars such a sum in your eyes that you can afford to be merry over it?" 83

"No; but you will never lose it through that man. His name is not Haberstro any more than mine is."

"Jack, what do you mean?"

"You were so busy with your own thoughts that you didn't see how I was pumping him, did you? In the first place he told us that Winkleman was sick in St. Louis; and yet Winkleman says in his letter that they were so poor that they could not raise enough to buy a halter for a mule. Now, he would not have used such an expression as that if he had been here in the city, would he?"

"No, I don't think he would," said Julian, reflectively. "He used the words of the country in which he lived."

"That is what I think. In the next place, he said that he was engaged in a paying business here, and consequently did not go with Winkleman to the mines; and then, almost in the same breath, he said he could not refer me to anybody here because his home was in Chicago. You didn't see those little errors, did you?"

Julian began to brighten up. He remembered 84 all the German had said to Jack, but somehow he did not think of it. The box was not lost, after all.

"Now, he must have had somebody to post him in regard to these matters," said Jack. "Who do you think it was?"

"Casper Nevins!" said Julian, who just then happened to think of the boy's name.

"That is what I think. He is bound to have that box, is he not? Don't you give that box up; do you hear me?"

"I am mighty sure I won't give it up," said Julian, emphatically. "I shan't give it up until you are on hand. I had better take Mr. Wiggins into my confidence to-morrow."

"Of course. Tell him the whole thing. Tell him about the mistakes this man made in his conversation with me, and let him draw his own conclusions. I never saw such a desperate fellow as that Casper Nevins is. Now let us go on and get supper."

"I feel a good deal better than I did a few minutes ago," said Julian, with something like a long-drawn sigh of relief. "I thought the box was lost to us, sure." 85

The boys were impatient to have to-morrow come because they wanted to see what the German—they did not know what his true name was—was going to do about it.

"I will tell you one thing, Jack," said Julian. "If that Dutchman goes to-morrow and sees Mr. Wiggins about it, he will get a look that will last him as long as he lives. I ought to know, for I have had those eyes turned on me two or three times. If that man stands against them I shall think he is a nervy fellow."

The night wore away at last, and at the usual hour the boys were at their posts. Casper was in the office, and he seemed to be uneasy about something. He could not sit still. He was continually getting up and going to the door, and then he would come back and walk around the room. When Mr. Wiggins came in and wished them all a good-morning, Julian followed him into the back room.

"Julian, have you some news about that box?" said he.

"Yes, sir; there was a man up to our room and handed us this card, and I thought——" 86

"Halloo," said Mr. Wiggins. "The box does not belong to you, after all."

"Hold on until I get through explaining things," said Julian.

With this Julian began, and told him of the conversation that had taken place between Jack and the German, not omitting the smallest thing. Mr. Wiggins listened intently, and when the story was done he said,

"Somebody has been posting that man in regard to that box. Now, who have you told about it except Jack Sheldon?"

"I don't know as that has anything to do with it," said Julian, who resolved that he would stand by Casper as long as he could.

"Yes, it has; it has a good deal to do with it. Does Casper Nevins know all about it?"

"What do you know about Casper?" said Julian in surprise. He wondered if there was any boy in the office who could do anything wrong without Mr. Wiggins finding it out.

"Because he has been uneasy for the past week. Does Casper know all about it?"

"Yes, sir, he does. He was there when we read the letter." 87

"That is all. I will see you again after a while."

Julian went out and sat down, and in a few minutes Mr. Wiggins came from the back room and spoke to the operator, who immediately sent off a dispatch. Nobody was called to carry this, for the message went straight to the office for which it was intended. Five minutes passed, and then a stout man, who was a stranger to all of them, strolled into the office. One of the boys got up to wait upon him, pushing some blanks toward him, but the stout man did not want to send any telegraphic dispatches.

"I just want to look around and see how you do things here," said he.

"Then take this chair, sir," said Mr. Wiggins. "I guess you will find that we do things about right."

The minutes passed, and all the boys who had congregated in the office had been sent off with messages—all except Casper. There did not seem to be any dispatches for him. The chief operator was busy at his desk, when suddenly the door opened, and the same German 88 who had called at Julian's room the night before, came in. Mr. Wiggins glanced toward him and then he looked toward Casper. The latter never could control himself when he was in difficulty, and his face grew white.

"Is this the Western Union Telegraph office?" said the German, wiping his forehead with his handkerchief. "Do I speak to Mr. Wiggins? Well, sir, I would like to see you about a box that one of your boys bought at a sale of 'old horse' in the express office. That box contains something that is off immense value to me—S. W. Haberstro." And he handed out his card with his name engraved on it.

"There is a box here addressed to a man of that name," said Mr. Wiggins, "but it is in the bank now. I suppose you have plenty of friends here to whom you can refer?"

"I am sorry to say that I have not," replied the German. "My home is in Chicago. I can refer you to all the Germans there."

"Then, would it not be worth while for you to write to some of your friends there and 89 get some letters of recommendation? You see, we don't want to give the box to anybody unless we know who it is."

"That is all right, sir. I have some business on hand in Chicago, and I will go up there and get them."

"That will be sufficient. Good-day, sir."

The German, who appeared to be in a great hurry, closed the door and hastened up the street. As soon as he was gone, Mr. Wiggins beckoned to Casper and went into the back room.

"Who was that man who just went out?" said he, in a tone of voice which did not admit of argument. "Tell me the truth."

"His name is Claus, sir," said Casper.

"Where does he stay, principally?"

"He stays first in one pool-room, and then in another. Where he lives I don't know."

"That will do," said Mr. Wiggins.

"I never have been guilty of such a thing before," began Casper.

"I said that would do," interrupted Mr. Wiggins. "I may see you again after a while." 90

When Mr. Wiggins and Casper got out into the other room they found that the stout man had disappeared. He had gone out about the time that the German disappeared. In half an hour he came back, leaned over the desk, and spoke to the chief operator.

"That fellow is no more Haberstro than I am," he whispered. "His name is Solomon Claus. We have had him up a time or two for vagrancy, and I'll take him up for the same cause, if you say so."

"No; let him go, but keep your eyes on him. He has not done us any harm yet. If he comes here again I will send for you." 91

CHAPTER VIII.

CLAUS CALLS AGAIN.

When the stout man reached the sidewalk he saw the German a short distance in advance of him, still hurrying along as though he had no time to waste. He turned several corners, and at last disappeared up the stairs that led to the pool-room. The detective, for that was what he was, did not seem to notice what had become of the German, but he marked the place where he had gone up and kept on to the station-house. There he changed his coat and hat, and picked up a huge walking-stick which stood in one corner. When he came out on the streets again, everybody noticed that he walked with difficulty, and there was an expression on his face which only those who were intimate with the detective would have thought belonged to him. It was very different from his ordinary appearance. Instead 92 of the frank, open look with which he regarded everybody, it was drawn up as though he was suffering intense pain, from which he could not get a moment's relief.

The detective speedily found the place where the German had disappeared, walked wearily up the stairs, opened the door, and sank into the nearest chair. Then he pulled a pair of eye-glasses from his pocket and became interested in a paper. But he used his eyes to some advantage, and quickly discovered the man he wanted seated off by himself, with his legs outstretched before him and his chin resting on his breast.

"I guess he found some difficulty in getting that box," said the detective, who knew what Mr. Wiggins wanted of him before he came to the office. "You want to go easy, my friend, or I'll have you up for vagrancy again."

There were not so many in the pool-room as there were the night before, and nobody seemed to bother the German; but presently, while he was thinking about it, another party came in. He took off his coat, seized a cue, 93 and looked all around the room for an antagonist, until he discovered the German sitting there doing nothing.

"Halloo, Claus!" he shouted, "come on, and let us have a game of billiards."

"No, you must excuse me," was the reply; "I don't feel in the humor for billiards or anything else."

"Have you anybody on a string that you are trying to make some money out of?" asked his friend. "Come on, and perhaps a game will brighten you up."

"'Claus,'" muttered the detective. "I know you now. I was told to find out what his name was, so I will go back. So this is where you hang out. I will remember you."

The detective hobbled out the door and down the stairs; but by the time he got down to the street his lameness had all disappeared, and he walked as briskly as anybody. He went to the Western Union Telegraph office, told Mr. Wiggins he had discovered that the man's name was Claus, and not Haberstro, and then went back to the station. Casper Nevins was called into the back room a moment 94 afterward, but he was not there more than long enough to receive his discharge.

"I have never done anything like this before," said Casper, trying to beg off. "If you will overlook this——"

"I can't do it," said Mr. Wiggins. "You are a boy that I can't trust. Why, Casper, do you know what will become of you if you do not mend your ways? You will get into the State's prison before you are five years older. I paid you up yesterday, and you have not done anything to-day, and so you can go."

"It would not be of any use for me to ask for a letter of recommendation, would it?" asked Casper. He always had a good deal of audacity about him, but this made Mr. Wiggins open his eyes in surprise.

"Not from me, you can't," he answered. "You will have to go somewhere else to get it."

Casper put on his cap and left the office, and on the way to the pool-room, where he expected to find Claus, he blamed everybody but himself for the disgrace he had got into. 95 He blamed Claus, although it is hard to see what that man had done, for he worked as hard as anybody could to get that box; but he reproached Julian Gray more than all for his interference in the matter.

"Come to think of it, I don't know but I am to blame a little myself," said he, after he had thought the affair all over. "Why did I not dig out the moment I got that box? I would have been in Denver by this time, and enjoying my wealth. It beats the world what luck some people do have."

But Claus was not in the pool-room. He wanted to be alone, so that he could think over the matter, and he had gone out where he would be by himself. The barkeeper did not know where he had gone, and Casper went home to change his clothes. As he pulled his uniform off he told himself that it would be a long time before he ever wore it again. Then he threw himself into a chair and tried to determine what he should do next.

"I have just ten dollars," he mused, taking the bill from his pocket, "and what I shall do 96 when that is gone is another and a deeper question. I'll bet that Claus don't get any cigars out of me to-night."

Meanwhile Julian Gray came in from delivering his message. His face was flushed, and he acted as though he had been running. He made his report, and then went into the back room in obedience to a sign from Mr. Wiggins.

"Well, Julian, your box is still safe," said the latter.

"Has that Dutchman been around here?" asked Julian.

Mr. Wiggins said he had, and then went on to give the boy a complete history of what Claus had done to secure the box.

"I got rid of him very easily," said Mr. Wiggins. "I told him that it would be well for him to write to some German friends in Chicago, where he said he lived, and he said he was going up there on business and would bring the letters back with him. I found out that his name is Claus, and that he hangs out in a pool-room. You don't know him, do you?" 97

No, Julian could not say that he had ever heard of him before.

"Well, don't you let the box go without seeing me about it."

"Nobody shall have it. Mr. Wiggins, I don't know how to thank you for what you have done."

"You are a good boy, Julian, and the only thing I have against you is that you will hang around that express office so much. Some day I am going to give you a good scolding for that."

"You will never hear of my being there again. I am done going there forever."

"I don't think you will have to do it any more. You have your fortune, easy enough."

"Oh, Mr. Wiggins! Do you think it is ours sure enough?"

"Well, perhaps I ought not to speak so positively; it is hard to tell at this stage of the game. I hope you have."

Julian was delighted to hear Mr. Wiggins talk in this way, but before he could ask him any more questions that gentleman had gone back into the office. He then went out and 98 looked around for Casper. One of the boys told him he believed Casper had got the "sack," for he put on his cap and left the office.

"I don't know what he has been doing," said the boy; "do you?"

"Mr. Wiggins knows, and he will not tell," replied Julian. "I wonder what the poor fellow will do now?"

Julian was impatient for night to come, so that he could go home and see Jack about it. It came at last, and Julian never broke a trot until he ran up the stairs and burst into his room.

"Well?" said Jack. "You look happy. Tell us all about that Dutchman."

"There is not much to tell. His name is Claus, and he lives in a pool-room."

"I knew I was not mistaken in him," said Jack, taking his usual seat by throwing his leg over the table. "That man had better go somewhere else."

But that he did not feel inclined to go somewhere else just then was evident, for just as Jack pronounced his name the boys heard 99 his step coming up the stairs. He had a peculiar step, which, once heard, could not be forgotten.

"Well, he is coming again," said Julian. "Now, what are you going to say to him?"

"That depends upon what he has to say to me," said Jack. "Go to the door, let him in, and put out a chair for him."

He rapped on the door the minute he got there, and Julian opened it for him. He looked closely from one to the other of the boys, but did not see anything in their faces to make him hide what he had on his mind. He had a new plan, but it did not promise as well as the one which had been defeated by Mr. Wiggins. He wanted to induce one of them to get the box for him and let him read the papers that were in it. If he could prevail upon them to bring the box out of the bank, he was certain that in some way he could get an opportunity to steal it. He did not intend to go about it slyly; he intended to take it, open and above-board, and let Jack and Julian help themselves if they could. He was certain that a revolver, presented at 100 their heads and cocked, would surely keep them quiet until he had locked the door and got into the street. Where he would go after that he neither knew nor cared. What he wanted was to get possession of the box.

"Ah! Good-evening," said Claus, bowing very politely. "I came back to see you about that box."

"Take a chair," said Jack. "What about the box?"

"Mr. Wiggins said it was in the bank," said Claus, "and I want to know if you could get it out of there and let me read the letter and the papers. You see, the thing may not be for me, and I don't want to go home and bother my friends about it until I know what the box contains."

"Oh! your friends won't care anything about that," said Jack. "You tell them that the box is for you, and they will give you all the letters you want. Besides, I don't think Mr. Wiggins would agree to what you ask."

The German did not like the way Julian was acting. He had kept his eyes roaming from one to the other; but, although the boy 101 occupied his favorite position, with his hands buried in his pockets and his feet spread out, his expression was different from what it had been the night before. There was a smile on his face, and it would not have taken very much to set him to laughing outright. Claus began to think there was something up.

"Why, the box is your own, ain't it?" asked Claus. "You can do what you please with it."

"Not now, we can't. We have told Mr. Wiggins that we wanted him to watch over it for us, and he will have to be present when you read the papers."

"Then you can't get it for me?"

"No, I don't believe I could, Mr. Claus. You don't need anybody to give you a recommend. Go to some of your friends here——"

"Claus! Claus! That is not my name. My name is Haberstro."

Julian grinned broadly, and even Jack did not appear to be above merriment.

"What do you mean by applying that name to me?" exclaimed Claus. "There is my card." 102

"I don't want to see it. I have one already. Your name is Claus, you live in a billiard saloon, and you got a full history of this box from Casper Nevins."

"Young man, I will have you arrested before you are an hour older!" said Claus, getting upon his feet. "I come here and ask a civil question of you, and you insult me!"

"Do so, and we will have Casper arrested for burglary and you for trying to obtain money under false pretenses. The sooner you get about it the better it will suit us."

"Very well—I will have a policeman here in less than ten minutes!"

Mr. Claus went out, and this time he did not bow himself through the door as he had done the night before. The boys heard him going downstairs, and then turned and looked at each other.

"Somebody has been posting those fellows," said Claus, as he hurried away toward Casper's room. "I wonder if there was a detective in there while I was at the office? Two attempts have failed, but the third is always successful." 103

Claus was almost beside himself with fury, but he retained his wits sufficiently to guide him on the road to Casper's room. He found the boy in, seated in a chair, with his elbows on his knees, trying his best to make up his mind what he was going to do, now that he had been discharged from the telegraph office. He had sat that way ever since eleven o'clock in the forenoon, and had not been able to determine upon anything. The first intimation he had that anybody was coming was when the door was thrown open and Claus came in, muttering something under his breath that sounded a good deal like oaths.

"There is no need that you should say anything," said Casper. "You have failed."

"Yes, sir, I have; failed utterly and plump," said Claus.

"And I have been discharged."

"Whew!" whistled Claus. "You are in a fix, aren't you?"

"Yes, and I don't know what I shall do now. Tell me your story, and I will tell you mine."

"Have you a cigar handy?" 104

"No; and I have no money."

"How long before you will be paid?"

"Oh, it will be two weeks yet."

"Then I will have to go down and get some cigars myself. I can think more clearly while my jaws are puffing than I can without."

"You got your last cigar out of me, old fellow," said Casper to himself, when Claus had left the room. "I have but little money, and I am going to keep it." 105

CHAPTER IX.

THE MASTER MECHANIC.

"Well, sir, what do you think of that?" said Julian, when he was certain that Claus had gone down the stairs and out on the street. "He had better try some other way of getting that box."

"He has failed," said Jack, putting a frying-pan filled with bacon on the stove. "Casper Nevins is at the bottom of that. I tell you, that money is safe yet."

"Do you know that I looked upon it as gone when he first came here and handed out his card?" said Julian. "I thought he was Haberstro, sure enough."

"I confess that I thought so, too. Now let us go on and get supper. The next time we save that money, somebody else will have a hand in it."

"Why, will we have to fight for it?"

"It looks that way to me now. We don't 106 know anything about business, and the first thing we know we'll get tripped up."

"I did not think of that," said Julian, drawing a long breath. "I wish Mr. Wiggins were going out to Denver with us. I will get advice from him before we start."

"We have not got out there yet," said Jack, with a laugh. "If we do get there, we will go to the lawyer who drew up those deeds. He must be an honest man."

The boys continued to talk in this way until the room was swept up and the dishes washed, and when bedtime came they went to sleep. The next morning found them on duty again. Casper was not there to greet him and make inquiries concerning the box, but there were other boys there who wanted to know why Casper had been discharged. They appealed to Julian, for he was in the back room shortly before; but he thought the best thing he could do was to keep a still tongue in his head.

"Mr. Wiggins knows why he discharged Casper, and if he won't tell you, I don't know where else you can apply." 107

"You had a hand in it and I know it," said one boy who was enough like Casper to have been his brother. "Maybe you are a spy on us."

"You come out in the back yard and I'll show you who is a spy!" said Julian, rising to his feet. "No one ever accused me of that before. If I am a spy, you want to do your duty right up to the handle."

This was something new on Julian, for we know how hard he worked to keep the police off from Casper's track. Some of the other boys turned away as if they were quite willing to believe that Julian was seeking for promotion, while some others stood up close to him, as if to assure him of their protection.

"If you will stay by me when Mr. Wiggins comes here, I will ask him before you if I had anything to do with Casper's discharge. He will tell you the truth."

But the boys wisely appealed to him not to do that. Since Casper had been discharged, they wanted their skirts clear of him, and the best way to do that would be to say nothing about it. 108

"But, Julian, you want to keep clear of that fellow who called you a spy," said one of the boys. "He has been jealous of you for a long time, in fact ever since the day you came into the office, and just as soon as he gets a good chance he is going to split on you."

"Thank you; I did not suppose I had an enemy in this city. Let him keep watch, if he wants to. My conduct will bear investigation."

Julian did not do his work with his usual energy that day, for he could not bear to think that one boy was acting as a spy upon him. He carried his dispatches as well as he could, never stopping to gaze in at the prize windows or to make one of a crowd who gathered around some show that had stopped for a moment on a corner, and that was as well as anybody could do. Jack laughed loudly when he saw what a gloomy face Julian had on when he told him of the matter.

"What do you care for spies?" said Jack. "Do your duty faithfully, and then you will be all right. In our place we don't have any such things. The boys are always glad to 109 see me promoted, for they think they have a new mechanic to assist them when they get into trouble."

For another month things moved along in their usual way, and nothing was heard from Mr. Haberstro. Julian did not meet Casper or Claus, for they had disappeared completely. He held frequent and earnest consultations with Mr. Wiggins on the subject of the box, put other advertisements in the papers, and finally Mr. Wiggins took Julian down to the bank and talked to the president. It excited Julian wonderfully to know that the box was theirs.

"I should not wait any longer, if I were in your place," said the president. "You have done all that you can to find the owner, and he does not make his appearance. You can go out there and lay claim to the property, and enjoy it; and if at any time this Mr. Haberstro turns up, you can give the property over to him. But I want you to be careful in what you are doing. There are plenty of Haberstros in the world who would like nothing better than to get that box." 110

"By George, Jack," said Julian, when he went home that night, "did I not tell you that that box was ours? I have talked with the president of the bank about it, and he says we can go out there and enjoy that property."

Jack took his usual seat, with his leg thrown over the table, and looked at Julian without speaking. He had never laid great stress on having that box. He supposed that Haberstro would show himself in due time, and all they would have to do would be to give up the money and go on with their work. His good fortune was a little too much for him to take in all at once. A dollar a day was pretty big wages for him, and he supposed that it would last till he learned his trade, and that then he would receive more money. But a hundred thousand dollars, to say nothing of the gold-mine! Why, that mine had already yielded its owner fifty thousand dollars!

"Jack, why don't you say something?" exclaimed Julian. "You don't act as though you were a bit pleased. I wish, now, that I 111 had been a mile away when that box was put up for sale."

Jack roared. He was always ready to laugh when Julian talked in this way.

"I am very glad you were there when it was sold," said he; "but the idea of owning so much money rather takes my breath away. I was just wondering what we would do if some more Haberstros came up and demanded the money. I suppose there are some men like that in Denver, as well as there are here."

"The president cautioned me about that. He told me to be careful in what we did. Now, Jack, when will we start?"

"I don't know. I shall have to see the master mechanic about that. You know that I am as deeply indebted to him as you are to Mr. Wiggins."

"Does he know about the box?"

"Not a thing. I thought I had better see you about that before I broached the subject to him."

"Well, then, tell it to him to-morrow. We don't want to be any longer in getting out there than we can help. We want to be 112 there before the snow flies, or the first thing we know we'll be snowed up."

"Are you going to see Mr. Wiggins about it?"

"I am. Let us go out to Denver at once."

"I tell you it comes hard to say good-bye to those fellows; I have been with them so long that I hate to do it. If I get in trouble in any way, they will always help me out."

The next day Julian talked to Mr. Wiggins about going out to Denver, and the latter's face grew grave at once. He could not bear to let Julian go out there among strangers. He had always had him under his eye, was waiting for a chance to promote him, and now he was going away.

"I will go down and get the box," said he. "And remember one thing, Julian: You may get into a hard row of stumps out there, and I want you to write to me fully and plainly of what you are doing. If you want some money, say so; and if you want to come back here in the office, say that also, and I will try and make room for you."

Julian's eyes filled with tears when he saw 113 Mr. Wiggins go out on the street and turn toward the bank. He found, with Jack, that it was going to be hard work to say good-bye. When he went out into the other room, the boys noticed at once that he had been crying.

"Aha!" said the boy who had once accused him of being a spy, "you have come up with a round turn, have you?"

"Yes," said Julian, "I've got it at last."

"It serves you right!" said the boy. "If Wiggins gave it to you in pretty good order I shall be satisfied. You know now how Casper felt when he was discharged."

"Are you discharged, Julian?" whispered another of the boys.

"I guess I have got something like it," was the reply; "you won't see me here to-morrow."

Julian walked to the window and looked out on the street, and in a few minutes Mr. Wiggins came up with the box. The boy followed him into the back room, all the boys, of whom there were half a dozen in the office, looking on with surprise. Mr. Wiggins's 114 face was grave, but he was not angry, and they did not know what to make of it.

"I think I would do this up and send it by express—wouldn't you?" said he. "If this is put in your trunk, and the cars run off the track and get smashed, your trunk might get smashed, too, and the box with it. Before I put the cover on I will write a letter to our agent in Denver. I have never seen him, but that won't matter; and then, if you want any good advice, go to him. Come in in the course of half an hour—"

"No, sir!" said Julian, emphatically; "I am going to do my duty as long as I stay in the office."

"Well, go ahead; I will give you the box, sealed and addressed to yourself, to-night."

Julian went out and took his seat among the boys, and about half of them felt a little bit sorry for him, but the other half did not. Here was one favorite out of the way, and consequently there was a chance for somebody else. Presently his name was called, and then Julian went away to deliver his dispatch. 115

When six o'clock came, Julian went into the back room and received the package.

"You will be around here before you go?" said Mr. Wiggins, extending his hand. "Then I won't bid you good-bye. Take this box to the express office and send it off. Have you any money?"

Yes, Julian had plenty of money. Did Mr. Wiggins suppose that he was going to spend all his month's wages in two days? He took the box and went out, and took his way toward the express office, wondering what the clerk would say if he knew what was in that package. The clerk turned out to be the same one who had given him the box, but he said nothing about it; and when Julian had paid the express charges on it he came out and started for home. As he was going up the stairs he heard the sound of voices in the room, and opened the door to find a man there, dressed in his best, and with a very smiling face, which he turned toward Julian.

"So this is the boy who bought himself rich," said he, getting on his feet "I know you from the description I have received of 116 your uniform. I congratulate you heartily, but I am sorry you are going to take Jack away from me. When you are awful home-sick, and are short of money, you can write to me, and I will send you something to come home on."

"This is Mr. Dawson, our master mechanic," said Jack.

"I am glad to meet you, Mr. Dawson," said Julian, shaking the man's hand very cordially. "Jack often found fault with me for going to that office, but I struck it once,—didn't I?"

"Well, I should say you did," returned Mr. Dawson, with a laugh; "you couldn't do it again if you were to try it your lifetime."

"Sit down, sir; we will have supper ready after awhile, and you must join us."

"That's just what I came up here for. Jack is going away pretty shortly, and I shall not see him any more, so I came up to be with him as long as I could."

Mr. Dawson moved back his chair so that he would not be in the way, and Julian pulled off his coat and went to work; but he saw by the extra bundles there were on the 117 table that his chum had been going back on his principles. There were cream cakes and peaches by the dozen, as well as sundry other little things that Jack had purchased for supper. It was a better meal than they had been accustomed to for a long time, and if there was any faith in the way that master mechanic asked for peaches, he thoroughly enjoyed it.

"I hope you boys will live this way while you are gone," said he, as he pushed back his chair and declined having any more. "You must remember that a hundred thousand dollars don't go very far. There certainly is an end to it, and the first thing you know you'll be there. Now, I hope you fellows won't object if I smoke a cigar?"

The "fellows" did not object, nor did he raise any complaint when they proceeded to wash the dishes. It was eleven o'clock when Mr. Dawson said it was time he was going home, and when the boys felt the hearty grasp of his hand at parting, they told themselves that there was one friend they were leaving behind. 118

CHAPTER X.

WHERE ARE THE VALISES?

For the next two days Julian did not know whether he stood on his head or heels. Jack went about his preparations very moderately, but the fact of it was, Julian was in a great hurry. He could not help telling himself that if they did not get away from St. Louis, that man Haberstro would appear just at the wrong time, and they would have to go back to work again. He donned a citizen's dress and tied his uniform up neatly in a bundle, calculating to take it down to the office and present it to a boy there who did not act as though he had more in this world than the law allows.

"I will give this up to Hank," said he. "The poor fellow don't have any too much, and perhaps this suit will help him."

Jack accompanied him to the office—it was the first time he had ever been there—and 119 while he was looking around to see how they did business, Julian found the boy of whom he was in search.

"Here's a present I have brought for you, Hank," said he in a whisper. "You asked me yesterday if I had been discharged, and that showed that you were a friend of mine. I told you the truth; I have been discharged, and I am going out to Denver. This is my uniform. Take it and wear it, and think of me."

Julian did not wait for the boy to raise any protests, but laid the bundle down on his seat, and then turned toward Mr. Wiggins.

"I haven't gone yet," said he. "We are going to-morrow night."

"Well, come in and say good-bye before you go," said Mr. Wiggins.

Julian took the opportunity to introduce Jack, who raised his cap respectfully. He listened while Mr. Wiggins congratulated him on his good fortune, and heard some very good advice in regard to saving his money.

"I tell you what it is, Julian," said he, when they had left the office behind them, 120 "everybody who is anybody is glad that we are going to improve ourselves, and many seem to think there is going to be an end to that hundred thousand dollars."

"I'll bet you that it don't come to an end with me," said Julian, emphatically. "I am going to purchase some things that I need, but I shan't touch the principal at all."

The first thing was to go to a store and buy a trunk. Up to this time they had never had any receptacle for their clothes, carrying all their belongings in a traveling-bag. They concluded that one trunk was enough, and, after they had purchased it, Jack shouldered it and was going to take it home.

"Come, now, that won't do," whispered Julian; "it is three miles to our room."

"No matter if it is a thousand," said Jack; "I can take it there."

"Put it down, and I will get a carriage."

"Well, I won't pay for it."

"I will; I don't see what's the use in our being so particular."

Jack put the trunk down, and Julian went out, and very soon returned with a carriage. 121 The boys held a consultation, and decided that, now that they had a conveyance, they might as well stop at some places on the way home and invest in some other articles they needed.

"But I'll tell you one thing," said Jack; "you are keeping this rig too long; I won't pay for it."

It was three hours before the friends got home, and then they had their trunk more than half-filled with new clothing. The hackman carried it upstairs for them, and Julian, having paid him his price, threw himself into a chair to wait until Jack did the packing. In addition to the trunk, the boys bought small traveling-bags, in which they carried several handy little articles they thought they might need during their journey, such as towels, comb and brush; and Julian stowed away in his a book that he had long desired to possess—"The Last Chronicle of Barset," by Anthony Trollope. Jack could hardly conceal his disgust; he was going to look out of the window when they were fairly on the train, and he would see 122 more fun in that than Julian could in reading his book.

"There, sir, I guess it's all done," said Jack, going to the closet to make sure that they had left nothing behind.

"All right; lock the trunk and put the key in your pocket," said Julian. "Now give me half of what this room will come to during the present month, and I will go down and pay the landlady. We haven't anything to eat, so I guess we will have to go down to a restaurant and get dinner and supper all in one."

"I think a sandwich and a cup of coffee would go pretty well," said Jack.

"Oh! I am going to have a better meal than that. Where's the money?"

Jack counted out his share of the rent, and Julian posted off to see the landlady. He was gone a long time, but he came back with a receipt in his hand which he showed Jack, and then the two boys went out to get their dinner. Jack ordered what he had said he would; but anyone who could have seen what Julian sent for would have thought he was a 123 millionaire already. Jack looked on but did not say anything; he was old enough to know that the change in Julian's circumstances would make him reckless for a while. He remarked that he might as well go down to the shop and bid the fellows good-bye, and then it would be done with; so they turned their faces in that direction when they came out, and in a short time they were among the railroad shops. Jack knew where to go; and, after leading his companion through a long workshop, where Julian would certainly have got in somebody's way if he had not stuck close to his heels, finally ushered him into the helpers' room. He shook hands with them one after the other—dirty, begrimed fellows they were, too, looking very unlike the well-dressed men they were when dressed up for Sundays—and presently he came to the master mechanic. The latter threw his arm around Jack, led him away out of earshot of the others, and held an earnest conversation with him. He even put his hand into his pocket, but Jack shook his head and turned away. 124

"Come on, Julian; I guess I have said good-bye to them all," said he, as he led the way to the street. "Every one of those fellows wanted to give me money—as if they didn't know I have enough already. Well, I hope the last one of them will be successful. If they want any money, they can apply to me."

Julian had never seen Jack look sad before. After going a little way on the street, Jack turned and looked at the shop as if he thought he never would see it again. Julian did not know that Jack had so much heart in him.

The next day was devoted to Julian, who went down to the office and took leave of all his friends. Even the boy who had accused him of being a spy came in for a good, hearty hand-shake. He did not know how to take it, but stammered out something about being sorry he had treated Julian in the way he did.

"That's all right," said the boy; "only, the next time don't you accuse any boy of being a spy on you unless you know whereof you speak." 125

Mr. Wiggins had something more to say to Julian. He conducted him into the back room, and kept him there until Jack began to be impatient. When he came out again, Julian was wiping his eyes.

"I tell you, Jack," said he, when they were well on their way to the railroad depot to purchase their tickets, "when one has been here and done the best he could in the office, it comes hard to say good-bye. Every boy—and man, too—has used me white, if I except that fellow who accused me of being a spy. But this isn't the last time we will see St. Louis, I hope. When we get out to Denver, and get fairly settled, we will come back again."

The friends waited a long time at the depot, for the ticket office was not open; but they had much to talk about. What sort of a looking place was Denver? They had not read much about that, and they had somehow got it into their heads that it was a little settlement, and that they should find more wigwams there than houses. But at last the window was opened, and, falling in behind 126 the others, they purchased tickets which were to carry them farther west than they had ever been before.

"Now, the next thing is to get a sleeping-car," said Julian.

"We don't want a sleeping-car," said Jack, catching Julian by the arm and leading him away. "You can lie down on one seat, and I can take the other, and we'll sleep just as well there as we would on a pile of down."

Julian was obliged to give up, but told himself that it would not always be so. He wanted to spend money for something he really needed, and he thought he could sleep better in a sleeping-car than he could in another which was devoted to passengers who were wide awake.

Nothing now remained but to get their supper and call a carriage to take them to the depot. The boys took coffee and sandwiches, and during the meal hardly spoke to one another. That was the last meal they would eat in St. Louis, and they wondered what the future had in store for them. Perhaps, when they got to Denver, they would find that 127 Haberstro had been there already, and by some hook or crook had managed to get the property into his own hands.

"But I don't see how that could be done," said Jack, when Julian hinted at this. "The deeds are in Winkleman's name, and we have them. How is he going to get the property, then?"

"I don't know; but I am afraid he will get it some way."

"If he does, all we have to do is to give it up."

But this was going to be a hard job, in Julian's estimation. He did not confess that much, but it would be disastrous to him to have to surrender those blocks of buildings. He thought of it all that day, and while he was seated in the cars, going with as much speed as steam could put forth to carry him to his destination, it still bothered him. The master mechanic was there to bid them once more a good-bye, and Julian was certain, when he turned away and hung his head down, that there were tears in his eyes.

As long as daylight lasted, Julian was busy 128 looking out of the window as they rushed through the country; but when the lamps were lighted he began to grow sleepy.

Julian was sitting on one bench, and Jack, having turned his seat over, was sitting on the other, and, having arranged their beds, they lay down on them; but it was a long time before they fell asleep.

"Now, you see, if we had a sleeping-car we wouldn't have to go to all this trouble," said Julian.

"Wait until you get too tired to keep your eyes open, and you won't know whether we are in a sleeping-car or not," said Jack; "I am most ready to go off this minute."

Jack's words came out true, for after they had given up their tickets and been furnished with a slip to put in their caps, Julian speedily lost himself in the land of dreams, and the next thing he knew Jack was shaking him by the shoulder. It was broad daylight, and the train was still whirling them onward.

"Can we get anything to eat along here?" said Julian, looking out of the window; "I am hungry." 129

"There is a place a few miles ahead, so I heard the conductor tell a passenger, where we will stop to get breakfast," said Jack. "That was the reason I called you. If you are anything like me, you can eat a whole pan of baked beans."

"Baked beans!" said Julian. "They have something better than that to eat on the railroad. I am going to get a breakfast that is worth the money."

There was another thing that bothered Julian, and that was, he did not have any place to wash; but Jack told him that that would be remedied when they came to their stopping-place. They rode on for a dozen miles or so, and when the whistle sounded, and the brakeman announced fifteen minutes for breakfast, they left their valises in their racks and moved up nearer the door.

"That wakes a fellow up," said Julian, as he plunged his face into a basin of water. "We have to hurry, Jack, for fifteen minutes is not a great while."

The boys' breakfast was all that could be asked, although, if the truth must be told, 130 they were not long in eating it. Julian boarded the train first, and led the way along to their seats; but where were the valises they left there when they went out to breakfast?

"Is this our car?" said Julian, running his eyes over the passengers.

"Why yes, this is our car," said Jack. "There is that red-faced man who sat behind you; he was sitting there when we left St. Louis. But what is the matter with you?"

"Matter enough; our valises are gone!"

"By George! So they are!"

"Say!" said the red-faced man, leaning over the back of the seat. "I saw the man who took those valises, but I supposed he was a member of your party and that you had sent him for them; therefore I did not stop him."

"What sort of a looking man was he?"

"He was a very genteel fellow, but I noticed that he toed in, and that he had a very German cast of countenance."

"I wonder if it was Claus?" said Julian.

"I don't know what his name was, but he got the valises. Say! If I were you I would 131 search the train, and if you find him you can make him give your property up."

"We will do it. I wonder if we are ever going to see the last of that man?"

The train had been gathering headway all the while, and was now running at the rate of thirty-five miles an hour. If Claus, or whoever stole the valises, was on the train, the boys were certain he could not jump off to escape them. 132

CHAPTER XI.

IN DENVER.

"Did the man find anything of value in your valises?" asked the red-faced man, as the boys turned toward the front part of the car.

"He could have bought everything I had in my valise for two dollars," said Jack, with a laugh. "It seems funny that he should want to put himself in danger of arrest for that"

"He got a book in mine," said Julian. "Of course I have read it before, but I wanted to read it again. Say, Jack," he continued, when the latter reached the door and was about to open it, "if the man was Claus, don't you suppose he had an eye on that box?"

Jack released the door and leaned up heavily against it. Such an idea had never occurred to him. 133

"He watched us while we were in St. Louis, and when he saw us ready to come out, he got on the same train with us."

"What a lucky thing it was that we sent that box off by express!" Jack almost gasped. "Of course it was Claus, and we shall not find him on this train, either. He jumped off at that station back there."

"Let us go and see. If he is going to follow us in this way, we are going to be in a fix, the first thing you know."

Jack opened the door and went out, and Julian followed close at his heels. They went slowly through the cars, looking sharply at every man they saw on the train, but nobody with "a very German cast of countenance" could be seen. The next thing was to try the other end of the train. Jack led the way, as before, and when they got into their own car the red-faced man, who seemed to take an interest in their success, said, in a low tone,

"Did you find him?"

"No," replied Jack; "he must have got off at the station. We are going through the 134 sleeping-cars, and, if he is not there, we will have to give him up."

In the next car there was no one who looked like Claus, and when they opened the door of the next car, and entered the vestibuled part of the train, they found themselves in an entry which was fitted up in the most gorgeous manner. A negro porter stood in front of the window looking out, and when he saw who the boys were, he stepped up in front of them.

"Does you want to see somebody on dis train?" he asked.

"Well, I should say we did," replied Jack. "Some one has stolen our valises, and we want to find him."

"Dat's bad. Has you got a ticket?"

"Of course we have. Don't you see the slips in our caps?"

"But I mean a ticket for dis part of de train. If you hasn't got one, you can't go in."

This was a new arrangement to Jack. The last time he travelled on the railroad it was when the hands connected with the railroad-shop 135 gave an excursion and a picnic, and then he had no difficulty in going all over the train; but he saw the beauty of it at once.

"Then we will have to give it up," said he, turning toward the door. "That man may be here and have our valises, and we can't help ourselves."

"Mebbe not," said the negro. "What kind of a looking man was he? I will go over the train and look for him."

Jack described the man as well as he could from the description the passenger had given him, and the negro went out.

"Just see what we would have got we had taken a sleeping-coach," whispered Julian. "No one can come near you except those who purchased tickets at the depot."

"We'll come to that after a while," said Jack. "Wait until we get our money. Just now it seems as though we shall have to be constantly on the watch."

The negro was gone a long time, but our friends found themselves busy in taking a note of all their surroundings. There must have been a good deal of money spent upon 136 that sleeping-car. There did not seem to be a cheap thing about it. One or two passengers, who had slept late and were just getting up, came in, and yawned, and stretched, and prepared to go through their ablutions. They merely glanced at the two boys, and went on with their work. They did not care for the eating-stations that were scattered along the route; when they were hungry, they could go into the dining-coach and get all they wanted.

"I tell you, it is worth while to know where your money is coming from when you travel," thought Julian; "one feels so much safer."

By the time he had reached this conclusion the negro appeared.

"Dar ain't a man on dis train that looks like the one you spoke of," said he. "Dey's all Americans; the last man-jack of them."

"Thank you," said Jack. "Our man has got off at the station. I hope he will get rich on what he found in those valises."

The two friends went back to their own car, and to the inquiry of the passenger who 137 sat behind them replied that the man had left the train as soon as he got the valises. Then they settled down and prepared to enjoy their journey; but it must be confessed that Claus came into their minds very frequently. If he was the one who took their valises, they were certain that they had not seen the last of him yet.

"And to think that that fellow watched us all the while we were in St. Louis," said Jack, leaning over and whispering the words to Julian. "He may watch us after we get in Denver. Who knows?"

But Claus, if that was the man, did not come near them any more during their journey. They grew weary, of course, and Julian, having no book to read, slept most of the way. Their night was passed in much the same way that the first one was, and about two o'clock in the morning they arrived at Denver. The appearance of the city, wrapped though it was in slumber, surprised them. There were as many people running about in the depot as there were in St. Louis, and all appeared to have work to 138 do. The man to whom they had given their check was there to show them the way to their omnibus, and Julian, while he was on the way to it, looked all around for Indians, but did not see any. The hotel was as large as those they had left in St. Louis, and almost before they knew it they were in their room with two beds in it, the porter had carried up their trunk, had bid them good-night, and they were alone.

"Say, Jack, there's more houses than wigwams here, is there not?"

"I was just thinking so myself," said Jack. "Denver is a big city. Now, the next thing is something else. It is something I don't like to think of. That letter which Mr. Wiggins wrote to the agent here may help us some, but we have something to prove after that."

"Well, don't let us worry about that to-night," said Julian. "Perhaps in the morning it will look different."

Julian had never slept in so comfortable a bed before, and when sleep overpowered him he did not know a thing until he opened his 139 eyes in the morning and saw Jack standing at the window, with his suspenders about his waist, looking through the window at some mountains which seemed to be looming up close at hand.

"When we get settled, if we ever do, we must walk out there and take a view from the top," said he.

"How far are they away from here?"

"About two or three miles, probably. I believe if we get on the summit of those mountains we can see California."

"I have just thought of another thing that may bother us some," said Julian. "I don't know whether the express clerks will want us to identify ourselves before they give us that box, but if they do—then what?"

"Although we are in the right, there is always something to bother us," said Jack, seating himself in the nearest chair. "What will we do?"

"We can't do anything except to write to St. Louis. There is nobody here that knows us from Adam."

That was something that bothered Jack 140 during breakfast, but at eight o'clock, the hour when the express offices are generally open, they were directed by the clerk how to reach it, and in process of time drew up before the counter. To Julian's inquiry if there was a box there addressed to himself the clerk placed the box before him, and never asked him who he was or where he came from.

"Now, the next thing is to keep an eye out for the telegraph office. If you see a sign sticking out, let me know it."

"I see a sign already," said Jack, pointing it out.

Julian began to feel a little more at home. He had worked in a telegraph office, and he was certain that he was going among friends. The boys were there, and they came up to wait on him, but Julian went ahead until he confronted the operator at his desk.

"Is Mr. Fay in?" Julian asked.

"Yes, sir. He is in his private office. Would you like to see him?"

"I would thank you first to give me a screw-driver so that I can take this cover off. There is a letter in here addressed to him." 141

The screw-driver was soon forthcoming, and while Julian was at work at it, a hustling little man suddenly stood before him.

"Do you want to see me?" he asked, in a business way.

Julian had by this time taken out the letter, which was placed on top, and handed it to Mr. Fay, who leaned against the counter and read it. The boys watched him closely, and finally saw his eyes light up with surprise.

"This letter has a stamp on it, so I know it is all right," said he. "But this man Wiggins I never heard of. Come into the office."

The boys followed him, seating themselves in chairs that were pointed out to them, while Mr. Fay went on reading the letter. He was utterly amazed, and looked at the two friends as if he could scarcely believe it.

"Which one of you boys is Julian Gray?" he asked. "You are? Then I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. You struck it rich once in buying 'old horse,' didn't you? How long have you been with Mr. Wiggins?" 142

Julian began, and told as much of his history as he was willing that any stranger should know—all except about pulling him out from under the feet of the runaway horses. He thought that that was a sacred matter between him and Mr. Wiggins, and so he said nothing about it.

"And how about your friend, here, John Sheldon?" said he. "You see, I want to get at the bottom of all your doings, so that I can explain it to Mr. Gibson, Mr. Winkleman's lawyer. We know of that man, and we know why he left; but we want to be certain that you have a right to the box."

Jack began and related his story; and although Mr. Wiggins did not say much about it, never having been acquainted with Jack, the tale he told was so honest and truthful that Mr. Fay could not but believe him.

"Well, boys, I will go with you to see Mr. Gibson," said the operator. "It all rests with him. You see, all these things happened eleven months ago, and he has collected considerable money in rent for all these places. You will come in for fifteen or twenty thousand 143 dollars at the start. He may want to ask you some questions."

What Mr. Fay said almost took the boys' breath away. They had hardly anything in their pockets, and to be told that they were worth ten thousand dollars apiece was almost too good for belief. They followed Mr. Fay out on the street—the way he moved proved that he had come up from the ranks—and up the stairs that led to Mr. Gibson's office. They found the lawyer in there, walking up and down, but he stopped long enough to bid Mr. Fay good-morning.

"What have these young men been doing?" said he, pulling up a chair for each one to sit down. "More lawsuits, I suppose."

"No, sir, there is no law in this except what you have a mind to tell us. Read this letter; but first let me introduce the boys."

Mr. Gibson said he was glad to see them, and then commenced the letter, and before he had read it half-way through he whistled and looked at them with intense surprise.

"Well, sir, you have done it, have you not?" said he. "Now, whom have you to 144 prove that you bought this 'old horse' at the express office?"

"Read on, sir, and I think the letter will answer that question for you," replied Julian. "I told Mr. Wiggins about it. That is all he knows of it."

Mr. Gibson finished the letter at last, and then turned and gave the boys a good looking over. He evidently was not thinking about them at all, but about some point of law that had just occurred to him. Finally he said,

"I want you to understand that I believe your story, but in order to be all right in everything, and leave nothing for anybody to pick a flaw with, I would like to know what you did to look up this man Haberstro."

"If I were in your place, Gibson," said Mr. Fay, "I would write to Mr. Wiggins and the president of that bank, and get a full history of the boys. They will tell the truth."

"Let me suggest to you, also, the name of Mr. Dawson," said Jack. "I used to work for him, and he knows all about me."

The lawyer took down the three addresses of the men he wanted to write to. 145

"Have you young fellows any money?" asked the lawyer.

"Yes, sir, a little."

"Will it last you two weeks?"

The two friends were sure it would last them as long as that.

"Where are you stopping?"

Julian replied that they were stopping at some hotel, but they did not know which one.

"Well, Fay will no doubt direct you to a cheaper boarding-house than that. What are you boys going to do with this?" said Mr. Gibson, placing his hand upon the box.

"We want to put it somewhere so it will be safe," said Julian.

"Shall I take charge of it for you? I will put it in the bank. It is most too valuable for me to carry around."

"Yes, sir."

After a little more conversation his two clients went out. The lawyer sat for a long time thinking the matter over, and at last he got up, took the box under his arm and started for the bank. He had decided that he would go to St. Louis that very night. 146

CHAPTER XII.

CASPER NEVINS, THE SPY.

"No, sir," said Casper, leaning over and placing his elbows on his knees, his eyes gazing thoughtfully at the floor; "you don't get any more five cents out of me, yet awhile, to pay for cigars. I have got only ten dollars, and I am anxious to make that do. Now, what shall I go at next?"

Casper Nevins was in a predicament the first thing he knew. He claimed to be an orphan, the same as Julian was; but those who were well acquainted with his history knew that he had a mother in a Western village who was a dressmaker, and who would have been glad to get every cent he could send her. But Casper never sent her any money. On the contrary, he often appealed to her to forward him a few dimes, to pay his debts for pool and cigars. Claus often got into him a dollar or two on the games he lost, 147 and his mother was the only person he had to call on. Now he had lost his position, and the next thing was to find something else to do. He was really afraid he would have to go to work with his hands. He thought of Jack Sheldon, dirty and begrimed as he was when he came from the shop, and wondered how he would look in that fix. And, another thing, he wasn't satisfied that he could get as good a position as Jack held. Aside from being acquainted with the city and carrying the telegraphic dispatches, there was nothing else that he could do.

"I tell you I am up a stump," said Casper to himself; "I shall soon be sweeping out saloons, as Julian did, to pay for my breakfast. I would rather die than do that."

When he had reached this point in his meditations the door opened, and Claus came in with a couple of cigars in his hand. He did not seem to be at all worried over his failure to get his hands upon that box, but he was whistling a jig as he closed the door and offered a cigar to Casper.

"What is the matter with you, any way?" 148 he asked, when he saw the gloomy look on Casper's face. "You act as though you had lost your last friend."

"What am I going to do now?" asked Casper. "I have no trade, no profession, and I must do something to keep myself in grub. There is no pool or cigars for me from this time on."

"Well, let that thing go until I tell you my story," said Claus, who did not like to hear a man talk in this way. He knew that he was to blame for Casper's shortness of funds—a good deal of his hard earnings was located in Claus's own pockets—and he wanted to make him look on the bright side of things while he was in his presence. When he got away where he could not see him, then he could indulge in moody thoughts as often as he pleased.

"I wish I had not played pool with you as often as I have," said Casper, showing a little spirit. "Every time I have crossed cues with you I have always been out three or four dollars. Why don't you play with somebody else?" 149

"Well, if you are going to talk that way I'll go on," said Claus, getting up from his chair. "What I was going to say was that I don't believe that box is gone yet. I have tried twice to get it and have failed; but there is a charm in everything. Three times and out is what I go by; but if you don't want to hear what I have to say, why, good-night."

"Well, sit down," said Casper, who couldn't bear to let Claus go away if he had anything to say concerning that box; "but you yourself would be angry if you were in my fix."

"Oh, I have been that way lots of times. I have been so I didn't know where my next meal was coming from."

"I have been that way, too," said Casper. "The other night you got ten cents of me, and it was the last cent I had in the world; I had to get my next meal at the free-lunch saloons."

"I didn't know you were as hard up as that," said Casper, with surprise. "Have you money with which to get breakfast to-morrow?"

"Not a cent." 150

"Then here are twenty cents," said Claus, putting his hand into his pocket. "Two meals will do you. In the meantime, if you get hard up for something to eat, go to the saloons; that's the way I do."

"Yes, but you always get something else. If I go in there and dabble with their lunch, the barkeeper will want to know why I don't get something to drink."

"Then walk out and go to another saloon. You ain't posted. Now, I want to tell you my story. It isn't long, and I want to ask you a question before I get through."

When Claus said this, Casper settled back in his chair and tried to look interested; but the trouble was, he only succeeded in looking guilty.

"I have just come from Julian's room," continued Claus, "and I threatened him with the police. He called me by my own name, or Jack did, and I want to know who has been telling him that. Did you?"

"I never said a word to him about you or anybody else," said Casper, looking Claus squarely in the eye. 151

"Did you say anything to Mr. Wiggins about it?"

"Never a word. There might have been a detective in the office while you were there."

"A detective? Who was it?"

"I am sure I don't know. But if he knew your name, there was where he got it. You went up to the pool-room after you got through there? Well, did anybody follow you up to see what your name was?"

"There was nobody up there that I saw, and I took mighty good care to watch out. I threatened him with the police for addressing me by that name, and he just as good as told me to go and get them."

"What made you say police at all? What had he done?"

"I wanted him to get the box and let me read the papers in it, because I wanted to be sure that they were intended for me; but he would not do it."

"Of course he would not!" exclaimed Casper, in disgust. "That was a pretty way to do business, wasn't it?"

"I calculated, if he brought the box in 152 there, to steal it away from them," said Claus. "If I once got out on the street, I would like to see anybody catch me. I would have hung around this city for a month but that I would have got away with it."

"And what would I be doing in the meantime?"

"You would have known where I was," said Claus, bending toward Casper and speaking in a whisper. "I would have found means to communicate with you. Of course if I had got that box you would have had a share of it."

Casper did not know whether to believe this or not. Somehow he had felt suspicious of Claus ever since the first night he spoke to him about the box. If the German got it without any of his help, he was sure that he never would see any of it.

"Well, you failed in that scheme, and I would like to know if you have some other means of getting hold of it."

"Certainly I have. Three times and out is what I go by. My next scheme will be to steal the box from them on the train." 153

"How are you going to do that?"

"We will keep watch of them, and when they are ready to go to Denver, we will go, too. You know their habits better than I do, and by keeping your eyes on them—"

"Well, I won't do it," said Casper, emphatically. "They may not go for a month yet, and I must have something to eat in the meantime."

"I will give you twenty cents a day and enough to pay your rent," said Claus. "That will keep you going, won't it?"

"You must give me more than that. I shall need a cigar once in a while, won't I?"

"Then I will give you thirty cents. You don't want to smoke more than two cigars every day, do you?"

The question where Claus earned the money he had was a mystery to every one except himself. When the police arrested him for vagrancy and the justice fined him ten dollars, believing that he was going to shut him up for two months, Claus pulled out a roll of greenbacks as large as one's wrist. The justice gazed at him in surprise and said, 154

"I had no idea that you were so well heeled as that."

"I have a relative in Europe who sends me money once in a while," said Claus.

"Well, get out of here, and don't come into this station any more."

"I won't," said Claus; "and I wouldn't have come in here this time, only the police brought me."

"You must go easy on me, because I haven't too many ducats," said Claus, continuing the conversation which we have broken off. "I think thirty cents a day will see you through in good fashion."

"Of course that puts a different look on the matter. Begin by giving me ten cents to get a cigar with to-night. Thank you. Now, what do you want me to do?"

"You are to begin and keep your eye on Julian, and report to me every day at the pool-room. Whenever you see preparations made for them to go out to Denver, you must let me know it; then we will go, too."

"But how are you going to steal their valises, if they have any?" 155

"They will leave their valises behind them when they go out to get their meals, and I will slip up and get them. You won't have anything to do with stealing them at all."

"That is a bargain," said Casper. "I believe that is the best way yet. But remember—you must keep out of their sight; and I will, too."

A little more conversation was held on the subject, and then Claus took his leave. When the door closed behind him Casper arose to his feet, placed his thumb against his nose, and wiggled his fingers. That was his opinion of Mr. Claus's scheme.

"I know what you mean to do," said he, in a voice that was choked with passion. "You are going to get me out there on the railroad and leave me. But I will see that you don't do it; I will stick closer to you than a brother, and when you get that box I will be close at hand. Now I will go off to some restaurant and get some supper."

The next morning dawned clear and bright, and when Casper opened his eyes his first thought was to get up; but remembering that 156 he had not to go to the office that day, he rolled over and dropped asleep again. But he had to get up at last; and after a good, hearty breakfast, and smoking a cigar, he strolled down toward the telegraph office. Julian was there, sitting in his chair, for he could see him through the window. He had not made preparations to go to Denver yet. And so it was during every day that the boys waited for Haberstro to show up. Julian was as impatient as Casper, and even Claus began to growl for fear there was being too big a haul made upon his money.

"I am not an Astor, to be giving you thirty cents a day to watch those fellows," said he. "If they don't begin to make some move very soon I shall be sorry that I hired you."

"They are going to Denver some time, and if you are bound to have a hand in the box, the best thing for you to do is to keep on hiring me," said Casper. "I know what you want," he added to himself. "If you were to give me every cent of money you have, I would just about get my own back." 157

But not long after this, when Casper was strolling by the telegraph office to see what was going to happen, he saw Julian and Jack go in there. The two boys were dressed in citizens' clothes, too, and that proved that there was something up. While he was wondering whether or not he had better go back and report the matter to Claus, Mr. Wiggins came out and took his way toward the bank. In a little while he came back again with the box under his arm. Casper concluded to wait still longer, and the result proved satisfactory. The two friends came out of the office, and Julian held the door open long enough to say,

"I haven't gone yet; I will come back and bid you good-bye before I start."

"By gracious, they are going!" said Casper, so excited that he could not stand still. "Now, the next thing is to find out when they are going. I guess I will go and see what Claus has to say about it."

Claus was found in the pool-room, and he was playing a game with somebody. He drew off on one side, and Casper hurriedly 158 related what he had to say to him. For a wonder Claus smiled.

"They are going to-morrow night," said he.

"You talk as though you knew all about it. How do you know?" asked Casper, with the accent on the adverb.

"Because Julian has got his discharge, he is dressed in citizen's clothes, and they will have to take to-day in order to bid their friends good-bye and get some things that are necessary for the trip," said Claus. "Watch them closely, and when you see a carriage drive up to their door and a trunk put on, come to me here and I will be ready for you."

"How are you going to get your own luggage down?" asked Casper.

"I don't want any luggage," replied Claus; "I have more money than enough to buy—humph!"

He had intended saying that he had money enough to buy all the clothing he wanted, but seeing Casper's eyes fastened upon him he caught his breath in time and said,

"I have money enough to pay for a night's 159 lodging, and that is all we want. Now you go and do just as I tell you."

Claus turned again to his game and Casper went slowly out of the room. The German watched him, as he opened the door, and said to himself,

"I wonder if that fellow knows what I am up to? He acts like it; but if he does, I would like to see him help himself." 160

CHAPTER XIII.

GETTING READY FOR WORK.

"I know just what you are going to do," repeated Casper, as he ran down the stairs—"you are going to steal the box, and leave me out on the prairie to get back the best way I can. For two cents I would not have anything to do with it."

But in spite of this resolution, Casper, as soon as he reached the street, turned his gaze in every direction in the hope of finding Julian and Jack; but the boys had disappeared. He walked along the streets looking everywhere for them, and finally came to a standstill opposite Julian's room.

"They will have to come here some time, and I will just take my stand here in this door and watch for them," said Casper. "They will not take that box with them, anyhow; it is much too valuable to lug about in a valise. They will send it by express." 161

This was something that had occurred to Casper on the spur of the moment, and he thought seriously of going back to Claus with it; but, on the whole, he decided to keep still about it. He was getting thirty cents a day for doing nothing, and he did not want to bring that to an end too speedily. Claus had plenty of money. Casper had seen the inside of his pocketbook when he took it out to pay him his money, and he might as well have thirty cents of it as not.

At the end of three hours Casper saw the carriage coming up the street. He was certain that he was right in his suspicions, because carriages of that description were not often seen in that by-street; and, more than that, there was a trunk perched in front of the driver. He drew up in front of Julian's room, and a moment afterward the boys got out. Casper saw the driver catch up the trunk and carry it upstairs, and presently he came down again, mounted to his box, and disappeared up the street.

"They are gentlemen now, and of course they could not carry that trunk upstairs," 162 sneered Casper, coming out of his concealment. "Now, I wish I knew when they are going to start. If things were all right between Julian and myself I would go upstairs and find out; but as it is, I guess I had better keep away; he would not tell me, anyhow. I stole that box from him once, and that was where I missed it. I ought to have gone to Denver at once."

After some time spent in rapid walking, Casper once more found himself in the pool-room, and saw Claus busy with his game. Claus drew off on one side, while Casper whispered the result of his investigations to him.

"That is all right," said he, and a smile overspread his face. "You are much better at watching than I thought you were. Wait until I get through here and I will give you a cigar."

"But, Claus, though they had a valise apiece in their hands, they have no idea of carrying the box in them," said Casper; "it is too valuable."

"That's the very reason they will take it 163 with them," whispered Claus. "They will not trust it out of their sight."

"I'll bet you that they will send it by express," answered Casper; "that is what I should do with it."

"But all persons are not as careful as you are," said Claus; and he turned to take his shot at the game.

"You need not think you can soft-sawder me in that style," thought Casper, as he backed toward a chair and took his seat to see how the game was coming out. "You have some other little trick that you want me to play. Well, if it is not too dangerous I'll do it; if it is, I won't."

"There is nothing more that we can do to-night, but I shall expect to see you bright and early to-morrow morning," resumed Claus, as he finished his game and hung the cue up in its proper place. "Here is a dollar. You may get yourself all the cigars you want."

"Thank you for nothing," said Casper to himself, as he turned to leave the room. "The last game I played with you you got an even five dollars out of me. This does 164 not make me straight with you by a long way."

Casper did not rise bright and early the next morning, because he did not think there was any need of it. He spent a quarter of Claus's dollar for breakfast, smoked a cigar, and strolled leisurely down to the telegraph office. He was just in time to see Julian and Jack coming out. The face of the former wore a very sad expression, and there was a suspicious redness about his eyes, which looked as though he had been crying.

"By gracious! I don't think I would shed tears if I were in your place," said Casper, in disgust. "And you are going away with a hundred thousand dollars in your pocket! It beats me, how many people go to make up a world! Julian has been bidding them good-bye in there, and so he must be getting ready to go off very soon. Now I will go and see Claus."

Casper found his companion in guilt at the very place he said he would be; and, for a wonder, he was sitting there alone, in one corner of the room. He told what he had 165 seen, adding that Julian could not keep back his tears when he came out.

"We'll give him something to cry for when he goes out of that car," said Claus, with a wink; "he will be just a fortune out of pocket."

Casper had several times been on the point of asking Claus how he was going to work in order to secure to himself the full possession of all that property. He thought there would have to be some legal steps taken before the agent, or whoever had charge of those blocks of buildings, would be willing for Claus to call them all his own. Suppose the agent should write to some of the many friends he was presumed to have in Chicago, and should get no answer from them; what would Claus do then? All the friends he had were in St. Louis; he did not know anybody in Chicago, and consequently he would receive a check at the very start. If the German thought of this, he did not say anything about it. He wanted first to get the box, and then he could settle these things afterward.

"Well, there is only one thing for you to 166 do now," said Claus, after thinking the matter over; "you must stay around Julian's room, and wait for them to go to the depot. You will find me right here."

"I shall want a cigar to smoke in the meantime," said Casper.

It was right on the end of Claus's tongue to make a flat refusal, but there was something in Casper's eye, which he turned full upon him, that made him hesitate. He growled out something about not being made of money, but finally put his hand into his pocket and produced another dollar.

"You need not mutter so lustily every time I ask you for money," said Casper to himself as he left the pool-room. "I will have to give up this business before long, and I am going to make all I can."

Casper went straight to a restaurant and got his dinner, and with a cigar for company took up his usual hiding-place in the doorway and waited to see what was going to happen. He stayed there until four o'clock in the afternoon, and then began to grow interested. He saw Julian come out and hasten away, 167 and something told him that he had gone for a carriage. But why was it that Casper got so mad, and threw his cigar spitefully down upon the pavement? Julian was dressed in a suit of new clothes, and he looked like a young gentleman in it. The suit that Casper wore was the only one he had, and when that was gone he did not know what he should do to get another.

"That fellow must have received a good many tips while he was in the office," muttered Casper, "or else he saved his money. I wish to goodness I had saved mine, instead of giving it all to Claus."

Julian soon came back with a carriage, and it became evident that they were going to take the train for Denver. Julian and the hackman went upstairs, and when the boys came down again they each wore a traveling-coat and had a small valise in their hands. They got into the carriage and were driven away for the depot.

"Now, then, I am going to see if Claus is fooled," thought Casper, as he hurried off in another direction. "The box is not in those 168 gripsacks; they are not large enough. Now, you mark what I tell you."

"What's the news?" said Claus, who was loitering at one of the windows of the pool-room. "Did you see them go?" he asked, in a whisper.

"I did," answered Casper. "We have just time to get down there, and that is all. You are making a mistake by not taking some baggage along."

"No, I am not. We shall go as far as the station at which the passengers take breakfast, and then we will stop and come back. That is as far as we want to go."

"And come back as empty-handed as we went," said Casper to himself. "I'll bet there won't be anything worth having in those valises."

It took Claus and Casper a long time to walk to the depot, although they went with all the speed they could command; but when, at last, they got there, they found that the ticket office was not open. It was no trouble at all for them to find the boys whom they were seeking; they occupied a couple of seats 169 in the gentlemen's waiting-room, sitting pretty close together, too, and were engaged in earnest conversation.

"Those are the ones, are they not?" questioned Claus. "They are dressed up so fine that I would not have known them."

"Yes; they have new clothes on," said Casper. "They are going off as though they were business men starting out on a vacation."

"That is the way we will travel when we get our money," said Claus, with a wink.

"And when we do get it you may go your way and I will go mine," said Casper to himself; "I am not going to stay around where you are all the while bothering me to play a game with you. I am going to save my money; that's what I will do."

It was shortly after they reached the depot that the ticket office was opened, and Julian went to purchase tickets for himself and companion. Casper watched them until they were safe in the train, and then Claus bought two tickets for Casper and himself, and they took seats in the car behind Julian's. In that 170 way they would keep out of sight. They did not intend to show themselves until the train stopped for breakfast the next morning, and then they would show themselves to some purpose.

The night was a long and wearisome one to Casper, who did not once close his eyes in slumber. He was wondering what was going to be the result of this new scheme of theirs, and telling himself over and over again that it would not amount to anything. It did not look reasonable that the boys should carry their box in a valise, and leave it behind when they went to breakfast while there was so much in it that needed their constant care.

"And then, after he gets the valises and finds that there is nothing in them, that is the time for me to look out," thought Casper. "He won't get away from me if I have to stay awake for two or three nights to watch him."

Finally, to Casper's immense relief, day began to dawn and some of the wakeful passengers to bestir themselves. He arranged his hair with the aid of a comb which he had 171 in his pocket, and then sat on the seat and waited impatiently for Claus to wake up. All night long the German had slumbered heavily, as though he felt at peace with himself and all the world. That was something that Casper could not understand. Here he was, fully intending to steal a fortune from a boy who had come honestly by it, and yet he could sleep peacefully and quietly over it!

"I wonder if I shall be the way he is?" soliloquized Casper. "I will try this once, and if we don't get the box I will go back and go to work—that's the best thing I can do."

It was not long before a brakeman came in and told them that they were approaching the place where they would be allowed fifteen minutes for breakfast; whereupon Casper leaned over and shook Claus by the shoulder.

"It was time you were getting up," said he in a whisper; "it is time to go to work."

"I heard every word that was said," said Claus. "This is the place to which I bought tickets, and it is as far as we shall go. Go forward, and see if they are in the car ahead of us." 172

"But suppose they see me?" said Casper.

"You must not let them see you. Keep out of their sight. If they leave their valises behind when they go out to breakfast, it is all I want."

Casper went, but he walked slowly, as if he did it under protest. When he arrived at the end of the car he found he could not see anything from there, so he opened the door and went out on the platform. He was gone a good while, but when he came back his face told Claus all he wished to know.

"They are there," Casper whispered, "and are getting ready to go out. I saw the valises in the rack over their seats."

"That's all right. Now, when we go out you must keep close behind me. I will come in at the front end of the car as if I had a perfect right there, and if I say anything to you, you must just nod your head."

"What must I do that for?" asked Casper.

"Because there may be somebody looking. I want to convince everybody that I have a right to the valises. Now, you go on ahead, and do as I tell you." 173

Casper did not approve of this plan at all. The understanding between him and the German was that he was to have no hand in stealing the valises, but this looked as though he was the prime mover in the affair. Before he could make any further objection the cars stopped, the gong sounded for breakfast, and the passengers began to move toward the door. 174

CHAPTER XIV.

HOW CASPER WAS SERVED.

"Come on, now, and remember what I told you," said Claus, getting on his feet. "There they go! All we have to do, now, is to go in there and get the valises. You know where they sat, don't you?"

Casper glanced toward the front end of the car, and saw Julian and Jack step down and hurry toward the dining-room. Claus waited until most of the passengers got off, and then, with a motion to Casper to follow him, he went boldly forward and climbed the steps. He opened the door, and, when Casper went in, he said,

"Now tell me exactly where they sat, so that I can pick up the valises without exciting anybody's suspicions."

"Do you see that red-faced man sitting on the right-hand side?" whispered Casper. "And do you see those valises in the rack directly 175 in front him? Well, they are the ones you want."

"All right! We will have them out of there in a jiffy."

"I don't like the way that man looks at us," Casper ventured to remark; "perhaps he knows them."

"It don't make any difference to me whether he does or not. If he says anything to us, we will tell him the valises belong to us, and that we have come after them."

Calling a smile to his face, Claus went down the passage-way, looking at the various valises stowed away in the racks. When he arrived opposite the seat where Julian had sat before he left the train, a look of surprise spread over his countenance, and he stepped in and took them down, one after the other.

"These are ours, ain't they?" he asked, turning to Casper.

"Yes—they are the ones."

"I don't see what those boys put them in here for. Now we will take charge of them ourselves." 176

He passed one valise to Casper, who took it and made his way out of the car, while Claus kept close at his heels.

"Now we want to go somewhere and get out of sight as soon as we can," said Casper, looking around guiltily, and almost expecting a policeman to take him by the collar. "I shall not feel easy until this train goes."

"Well, we don't want to get out of sight just yet," said Claus. "That red-faced man kept his eyes on us, didn't he? Let us see what he will make of it now."

"Why, Claus, you are not going in there?" queried Casper, when his companion led the way toward the waiting-room. "Julian and Jack went in there, and they will be certain to discover us."

"No, they won't. You follow me, and do just as I do."

Casper turned his eyes and looked back at the train. There was the red-faced man, sitting by the car window, closely watching all their movements, and when he saw them enter the waiting-room into which Julian and Jack had gone a few moments before, his suspicions, 177 if he had any, were set at rest, and he settled back in his seat and picked up a newspaper which he had just purchased. Claus kept on to the waiting-room, but he did not stop when he got there. He kept right on through and went out at the other door, and after walking briskly for a few minutes, and turning several corners until he was sure that the depot had been left out of sight, he seated himself on the steps of a deserted house, took off his hat, and wiped his forehead.

"It was not such an awful thing to get those valises, after all," said he. "When that train goes, we will go and get our breakfast."

"But I would like to know what is in those valises first," said Casper. "I tell you, you are fooled. I have felt this valise all over on the outside, and there is nothing in it that feels like a box."

"I don't suppose you could feel anything of that kind in it, because I don't believe the box was put in there," said Claus. "My only hope is that they took the papers out of the box and put them in here; consequently they left the box at home." 178

"Good enough!" exclaimed Casper, catching up his valise and feeling the outside of it, to see if he could feel anything that seemed like papers that were stowed away on the inside of it; "I never thought of that. Now, how shall we go to work to get the valises open? I haven't a key in my pocket that will fit them."

"I haven't, either; but as soon as we get our breakfast we will go up the road a little distance and cut them open. These gripsacks will never be worth anything to anybody after we get done with them."

Even while they were talking in this way they heard the shriek of the whistle twice, followed by the ringing of the bell, and knew that their train was getting ready to start on again; whereupon Claus got up and said he was as hungry as a wolf, and that he must procure a breakfast somewhere.

"I shall not eat much till I find out what those valises are hiding from us," said Casper. "It would be just dreadful if we should fail, after all the trouble we have been to."

By the time they got back to the depot the 179 train was well under way; but Claus went out and looked after it, to satisfy himself that the coast was clear. Then they placed their valises in charge of the clerk at the desk, enjoyed a good wash, and went in and took their seats at the table. Their meal was a better one than they had had served up to them at St. Louis, especially when they were hard up for money; and, after taking their time in eating it, Claus settled the bill, took his valise, and started up the railroad track.

"Have you a cigar?" he asked, before they had gone a great ways. "That is all right. We will go on until we get into that sagebrush, and then we will stop and look into these things. I will take just a hundred thousand dollars for my find."

"I'll bet you will take less than that," said Casper; for, somehow, he could not get over the idea that the box had been sent by express. "There is nothing in them that you want."

It did not take them more than a quarter of an hour to get into the sagebrush; and, after looking all around to make sure that 180 there was no one in sight, they stepped down from the track and seated themselves on the bank beside it. Claus did not waste any time in trying his keys upon the valise, but stretched out his legs and put his hand into his pocket, and when he pulled it out again he held a knife in it.

"The shortest way is the best," said he, thrusting the blade into the valise he held in his hand. "Come out here, now, and let us see what you have."

His knife made short work of the valise, but nothing in the way of papers could be found. It was Jack's valise that he had destroyed, and all he found in it was a brush and comb, and half a dozen handkerchiefs.

"I just knew how it would be," said Casper, despairingly. "You will find the same things in here."

He had never seen Claus look so angry and disappointed as he was at that moment. With a spiteful kick of one foot he sent the valise out of sight in the sagebrush, and was about to send the other things to keep it company, when he happened to think of something. 181

"I guess I'll keep the handkerchiefs and brush and comb for the good they may do me," said he. "Where's your valise?"

Casper handed it over, and in a moment more that valise was a wreck, also. They found things in it similar to those found in Jack's gripsack, with the exception of a book which Julian had purchased to read on his journey, the leaves of which were uncut. Casper took possession of the handkerchiefs and the brush and comb, while Claus slowly rolled up the book and sat with his eyes fastened on the ground. He was mad—Casper could easily see that, and he dared not interrupt his train of thought. Claus sat for some moments communing with his own thoughts, then broke into a whistle and got upon his feet.

"To say that I am disappointed, and angry, too, would not half express my feelings," said he, pulling off his hat with one hand and digging his fingers into his head with the other. "I did not suppose they would send those papers by express, for I know it is something that I would not have done. I would have 182 kept them by me all the while, so that I could see that they were safe. Now, the next thing is to determine upon something else."

"Do you intend to make another effort to get the money?" asked Casper, very much surprised. "Your 'three times and out' did not amount to anything—did it?"

"No, I don't suppose it did," said Claus, who was evidently thinking about something else. "I guess you have done about all you can do, and so you had better go back to St. Louis."

This was nothing more than Casper expected. He had his ten dollars stowed away somewhere about his clothes, together with small sums which he had saved from the amount that Claus had paid him, and so he could pay his way back to St. Louis easily enough; but what should he do when he got there? He shuddered when he thought of it. Here was winter coming on, and unless he should obtain work very soon he would have to go out to where his mother lived, which was all of two hundred and fifty miles from there. And what should he say when he got home? 183 He had gone to St. Louis with big boasts of what he intended to do when he got there, and for him to turn up penniless and friendless at his mother's house was rather more than he had bargained for.

"And what will you do?" asked Casper.

"I haven't had time to think the matter over," said Claus, who was rather surprised that his companion took his discharge, or whatever you might call it, so easily, "but I think I shall go on to Denver."

"And I can't be of any use to you there?"

"No, I don't think you can. I may not be back to the city before next spring."

"I wish you would tell me what you are going to do when you get there. You can't get the box; that will be safe in the bank."

"But perhaps I can pass myself off for Mr. Haberstro. I have some of his cards in my pocket."

"But you will only get yourself into trouble if you try that game. There are people out there who know Haberstro."

"Well, that is so," said Claus, looking reflectively at the ground. "I shall have to 184 think up some way to get around that. At any rate, you cannot be of any further use to me, and so you had better start by the next train."

"Well, you had better give me some money before you turn me off in this way," said Casper. "How am I going to get back to the city without money?"

"Where is that ten dollars you got out of the telegraph office when your time was up?" asked Claus, who did not like it whenever the subject of giving some of his hard earnings was brought up before him. "You have not spent all of that, I know."

"Yes, I have. I have just a quarter, and there it is," said Casper, pulling out of his pocket the coin in question.

"I wish to goodness I had never seen you!" said Claus, shoving his hand into the pocket in which he kept his money. Casper heard the jingling of some silver pieces, and thought that perhaps his companion might be tempted to give him a few dollars. That would be better than nothing, and he would have some money left when he reached St. Louis. "If I 185 had never seen you, I would have more dollars left in my pocket than I have now," said Claus, bringing out a handful of small change.

Casper said nothing in reply. He wanted to see how much Claus was going to give him; and, once he had the money in his hand, he could talk to him as he pleased.

"There are five dollars that I will give you, and you need not ask me for any more," said Claus, counting out the money; "for, if you do, you won't get it."

"I don't know whether five dollars will pay my fare to St. Louis or not," said Casper. "Give me six."

"No, sir; that's all I have to spare. It will take you so close to the city that you can easily walk in," said Claus, turning on his heel and starting toward the town they had just left. "You can walk twenty-five miles very easily."

It was right on the point of Casper's tongue to "open out" on Claus, and give him as good as he sent. Wouldn't he have had more dollars in his pocket if he had never 186 met the man who was anxious at all times to play a game of billiards or pool with him, especially on pay-day, when Casper was known to have money in his pocket? But, on thinking the matter over, he decided that he would say nothing about it. Claus was a pretty big man, and there was no knowing what he would do if the boy made him angrier than he was now.

"He is going to be fooled again," said Casper, as he fell in behind Claus, who walked toward the town as if he were in an awful hurry to get there. "What good will it do him to go on to Denver? He can't get the box there, neither can he cheat Julian out of his money. Julian will find any amount of friends there—I never heard of a boy with a hundred thousand dollars in his pocket who could not find somebody to stand by him—and they will tell him what to do. Oh! why did I make so great a mistake! I ought to have started for Denver the moment I got my hands on that box. Well, I got five dollars out of Claus, anyhow."

Casper sauntered along behind Claus, who 187 was walking rapidly, and when he reached the depot he looked all around for his companion, but failed to see him. Claus had gone off somewhere, and Casper was there alone. 188

CHAPTER XV.

HOW A MINE WAS HAUNTED.

"Well, boys," said Mr. Fay, when they had reached the street and were walking toward their hotel, "I have somehow taken a great interest in you, and I am anxious to see you come out all right. It is the most remarkable thing I ever heard of. You did not know what was in that box when you bought it, did you?"

"No, sir," replied Julian; "it was all sealed up. The auctioneer said something about a miner having hidden the secret of a gold-mine in it, and I bought it for thirty cents."

"The auctioneer happened to hit the matter right on the head. I will go with you in search of a cheaper boarding-house than the one at which you are now stopping, and you had better remain there until Mr. Gibson hears from those people in St. Louis. That 189 will be two weeks, probably. If, at any time, you grow weary of walking about our city, looking at what little there is worth seeing, come down to the office, and we'll sit there and swap a few lies."

Mr. Fay continued to talk in this way while they were walking along the streets, meanwhile turning several corners, and the longer he talked the more the boys saw the traits of his Western character sticking out all over him. He talked like a gentleman, and then spoiled it all by remarking that they would "swap a few lies" when they came around to his office. He had probably been out West so long that he had become accustomed to Western ways of conversation.

At length Mr. Fay turned off from the sidewalk, ascended the steps that led to the door of a house, saying, as he did so, "Now we will go in here and see what we can do," and rang the door-bell. It was a very different-looking house from the one they had been in the habit of living in when in St. Louis. There were no broken-down doors to be opened before they went in, nor any rickety steps to 190 be climbed, but everything was neat and trim, and kept in perfect order. A motherly-looking old lady answered Mr. Fay's pull at the bell.

"Ah! good-morning, Mrs. Rutherford," was the way in which Mr. Fay greeted her. "Let me introduce Julian Gray and John Sheldon. They are looking around for a cheap boarding-house,—not too cheap, mind you,—and I have called to see if you have any place in which to hang them up for the night."

Mrs. Rutherford was glad to meet Julian and Jack, invited them into the parlor, and asked them if they wanted a room together. The boys replied that they did, and she conducted them upstairs, to show them a room that was vacant. They were gone not more than five minutes, and when they came downstairs again Mrs. Rutherford was putting some bills away in her pocket-book, and the boys acted as though they were well satisfied.

"Well, you have found a place, have you?" said Mr. Fay. "Have you jotted down the street and number?" 191

No, the boys had not thought of that, and Julian quickly pulled his note-book from his pocket.

"Your city is somewhat larger than we expected to find it," began Julian.

"You don't find many wigwams around here now," answered Mr. Fay. "We keep spreading out all the time. Can you boys find the way back to your hotel?"

Julian and Jack thought they could find it if they were given time enough, but Mr. Fay thought he had better go with them. It was right on the road to his office, and he walked off so rapidly that his young companions were obliged to increase their speed in order to keep up with him. Before they had gone a great way, Julian, who was anxious to learn all he could about their surroundings, asked how far it was to the mountains behind them. Mr. Fay had evidently answered such questions before, for all he said in reply was,

"How far do you think it is?"

"I think two miles would cover the distance," he answered, for he was determined he would guess enough while he was about it. 192

"How far do you say it is, John?" said Mr. Fay, turning to Jack.

"I would rather be excused from expressing an opinion, but I think we could walk out there in two hours."

"And come back the same day?"

"Why, yes; certainly."

"Now, let me tell you," said Mr. Fay: "If you have made up your minds to go out to the mountains, hire a good, fast walking-horse, and go out one day and come back the next."

"Is it as far as that?" exclaimed the boys, looking at each other with amazement.

"It is all of twelve miles. You must take into consideration that the air is very rare up here, and that things appear nearer than they are. You are 5135 feet above the level of the sea."

"My goodness! I didn't think we were so far out of the world!"

"We have awfully uncertain weather here," continued Mr. Fay, "but still we regard our climate as healthy. Our thermometer sometimes changes as much as forty degrees in 193 twenty-four hours. Since Professor Loomis took charge of the matter, the mercury has changed forty-five times in one day. What sort of a place did you expect to find Denver, anyway?"

"Well, I did not know what sort of a place it was," said Julian. "We thought we should find more wigwams here than houses, and you can't imagine how surprised we were when we found ourselves in a depot full of people."

"Denver used to be full of wigwams, but it is not so now. Until the year 1858 the Indians lived in peace; but in that year gold was discovered by W. G. Russell, a Georgian, on the banks of the river Platte, which is but a little way from here, and that settled the business of the Indians in a hurry. Denver, Black Hawk, Golden City, and many other cities that I can't think of now, were founded in 1859, and a host of immigrants appeared. Since that time we have been spreading out, as I told you, until we have a pretty good-sized city."

"It shows what Western men can do when they once set about it," said Jack. "Now, 194 answer another question while you are about it, if you please. If the mercury changes forty degrees in twenty-four hours, working in the mines must be dangerous business."

"That depends upon where you are working," said Mr. Fay. "If you are at work in a placer-mine, you stand a good chance of leaving your bones up there for somebody to bring home; but if you are working under the ground, it does not make any difference. Are you thinking of going out to Dutch Flat to try your hand at it? I don't know where that is, but you can find plenty of men here who can tell you."

"I have not said anything to Julian about it, but I think that would be one of the best things we could do. You see, we are not settled in that property yet."

"I see," said Mr. Fay. "Gibson may get word from those fellows in St. Louis that you are impostors, and that you stole that box instead of buying it at a sale of 'old horse.' That would be rough on you."

The boys did not know how to take this remark. They looked at Mr. Fay, but he was 195 walking along as usual, with his hands in his pockets, bowing right and left to the many persons he met on the streets, and did not seem to think anything of it. Perhaps it was his ordinary style of talking.

"I am not at all afraid of that," remarked Jack. "If he finds us impostors, we are willing to go to jail."

Mr. Fay threw back his head and laughed heartily.

"I have no idea of anything of the kind," said he, as soon as he could speak. "I was just wondering what you would think of it. But what were you going to say?"

"This property is not settled on us yet," replied Jack, "and we may want something to keep us in grub while we are here. We have a perfect right to work that mine, have we not?"

"If you can find it—yes. Go up there, and if nobody else is working it, pitch in and take fifty thousand dollars more out of it."

"And what will we do if somebody else is working it?"

"You had better give up to them, unless 196 you think you are strong enough to get the better of them. But you need not worry about that. The mine is haunted, and you won't catch any of the miners going around where ghosts are."

"Who do you suppose are haunting it?" asked Julian. "That letter says the writer worked the mine alone, and took lots of money out of it, and never saw a thing to frighten him."

"Perhaps somebody has been murdered up there; I don't know. You won't see anything until you get down in the mine, and then you want to look out. I heard of a mine up at Gold Cove that was haunted in that way. There were a dozen miners tried it, and each one came away without getting anything, although the gold was lying on top of the ground. As often as a miner went below (it was about thirty feet down to the bottom), he was sure to see somebody at work there before him. He was picking with a tool at the bottom of the shaft in order to loosen it up, accompanying every blow he made with a sonorous 'whiz!' which showed that he was an 197 Irishman. Some of the miners retreated to their bucket and signaled to their helper to pull them up, and you couldn't hire them to go into the mine again. Others, with a little more bravery than they had, went up to put their hands on the man, but as fast as they advanced he retreated; and when they got to the end of the shaft, the phantom miner was still ahead, and picking away as fast as ever."

"Then the mine is deserted?"

"Yes, and has been for years. It is one of the richest mines around here, too."

"Why, I should think somebody would shoot him," said Jack.

"Shoot him! He has been shot at more times than anybody could count; but he pays no attention to it. He is a ghost, and he knows you can't hurt him. I never saw it, and, what is more, I don't want to; but I would not go down into that mine for all the gold there is in the hills."

"Did anybody think a murder had been committed somewhere around there?" said Julian.

"I never heard that there was." 198

"Well, I just wish our mine would be haunted with something like that," said Jack. "I would find out what he was, and what business he had there, or I would know the reason why."

"Well, you may have a chance to try it. Does this look like your hotel? Now I will bid you good-bye, and I will see you again to-morrow, if you come around."

Mr. Fay departed, taking with him the hearty thanks of the boys for all his kindness and courtesy, and then they slowly ascended the steps to the office. They had secured one thing by his attentions to them—a boarding-house at which the money they had in their pockets would keep them safely for a month, if it took Mr. Gibson that long to hear from St. Louis; but, on the whole, Jack wished Mr. Fay had not used his Western phraseology so freely.

"Does he want us to work that mine or not?" asked Jack.

"I don't know. He talked pretty readily, did he not?"

"I wonder if that is the way all Westerners 199 talk? Did he scare you out of going up there to that mine?"

"No, sir," replied Julian, emphatically. "Do you know that I rather like that man? He reminds me of Mr. Wiggins, and talks exactly like him."

"What do you suppose it was that those fellows saw in that mine?"

"I give it up. Some of these Western men are good shots with a revolver, and it seems to me they might have struck the fellow if they had had a fair chance at him."

"But he was a ghost, you know."

"Oh, get out! If they saw him there, you can bet that there was somebody there. Some of the miners had their minds all made up to see something, and of course they saw it."

"But how do you account for that 'whiz!' that he uttered every time he struck with his pick?"

"They never heard any 'whiz!' coming from that man; they only imagined it."

"Do you think their ears could be deceived, as well as their eyes?"

"Jack, I am surprised at you. You are big 200 enough and strong enough to whip any ghost that I ever saw, and yet you are afraid to go down in that mine!"

"Wait until we find it, and then I'll show you whether I am afraid or not. Now, if you will go on and pay our bill and have our trunk brought down, I'll go and get a carriage."

In five minutes this was done, and the boys were soon on their way to their boarding-house. 201

CHAPTER XVI.

GOOD NEWS.

For a week after Julian and Jack went to their new boarding-house they had much to occupy their attention—so much, indeed, they did not think of going down to the telegraph office and "swapping a few lies" with the chief operator. Their new home charmed them in every particular. Mr. Fay had not forgotten that he had been a boy in the not so very long ago, and the boarding-house he had chosen for them was such as he would have chosen for himself. The boarders were young men who, like themselves, had come out West to seek their fortunes, and they were all employed in various avocations in the city. Jack noticed one thing, and that was they did not run around of evenings to any extent; or, if they did, they went down to the library, where they spent their time in reading. 202

"Do you know that that is something that strikes me," said Jack one night when they went upstairs to their room. "We ought to join the Young Men's Christian Association."

"Have you forgotten our mine?" asked Julian.

"No, I have not; but I don't believe in going up there in winter. A thermometer that can change so many times within twenty-four hours is something that I want to keep clear of."

"Well, where is the money to come from?"

"Humph!" said Jack, who had not thought of that before; "that's so. Where is it?"

The first thing the boys thought of, when they got up the next morning, was to take a trip to the mountains. Jack was in favor of walking. It was only twelve miles, and the amount they would have to pay out for a horse would keep one of them a week at their boarding-house. But Julian could not see it in that light.

"I tell you, you have never walked twenty-four miles in a day," remarked the latter. "I have done it many a time, but I am not 203 going to do it now, when there is no need of it."

"You act as though you had that money in your hands already," retorted Jack. "Now, I'll tell you what's a fact: I am going to have the same trouble with you that I had in St. Louis. There won't be any 'old horse' for you to spend your money on, but you will squander it in some other way."

"You will see," said Julian, with a laugh. "Come on, now; I am going to get a saddle-horse—one that can take me out there in an hour."

Jack reluctantly yielded to his companion, who made his way toward a livery-stable which he had seen when they came to their boarding-house. There they engaged a couple of saddle-horses which seemed to know what they were expected to do, for when allowed the rein they put off toward the mountains, and went along at a brisk pace. Jack could not get over grumbling about hiring horses to do what they could do themselves, but Julian did not pay the least attention to it. When they had gone a long distance on the road 204 they met a teamster, and of him Jack inquired how many miles they had yet to travel to reach their destination.

"Them mountains?" asked the man, facing about in his seat. "They are a matter of six miles from here."

"If I had a good start for a run I believe I could jump that far," said Jack.

"Yes, it does look that way," said the man; "but it would be a mighty lengthy jump for you. I guess you are a tenderfoot—ain't you?"

"I never was so far West as this in my life."

The man had evidently heard all that he wanted to hear, for he started his team, smiling and nodding his head as if to say that Jack would learn more about distances on the prairie before he had been there long.

The distance was fully as great as the boys expected to find it; and, when they drew up in front of a little hotel in the foothills, the mountains seemed to be as far off as ever. The proprietor came to the door, bid them good-morning in his cheery way, and asked 205 if there was anything that he could do for them.

"How far off are those peaks from here?" questioned Jack.

"Twenty miles," said the man. "You are not going out there to-day, are you?"

"Why, the folks in Denver told us that the mountains were twelve miles away," said Jack, greatly surprised.

"Well, you are twelve miles from Denver now. These little hills here are the beginning of the mountains."

"I guess you may feed our horses and give us some dinner, and then we will go back," said Julian. "Well, Jack, we've seen the mountains."

"Yes, and laid out six dollars for the horses besides," replied Jack, in disgust. "The next time you want anything to carry you, we will go on foot."

The man laughed heartily as he took charge of their horses, and the boys went into the hotel, where they found a fire on the hearth, and were glad to draw up close to it.

"I declare, I did not know it was so cold," 206 said Julian. "I suppose it is warm enough in St. Louis. How high is that city above the sea-level?"

"I don't know," answered Jack, who could not get over the feeling that those people in Denver had played too much on his credulity. "Twenty miles! I guess we won't go up to the top of those mountains, yet a while, and look for California. I wish those horses were back in the stable where they belong."

"We will have them back there in three hours," answered Julian, "and if you don't want me to hire any more horses, I won't do it."

The boys got back to Denver without any mishap, and after that they were eager to see the city. Jack did not have anything to grumble about during the week that followed, for they went on foot, and there were no horses hired. Finally, after viewing all the fine buildings that were to be seen, they thought of the telegraph operator, and decided to take him in the next day; so on Monday they presented themselves at his office. Mr. Fay was there; and, unlike Mr. 207 Wiggins, he did not seem to have much to do, for he was sitting in an easy-chair, with his feet perched upon the desk in front of him, playing with a paper-cutter. The boy who came forward to attend to their wants seemed to have made up his mind that Mr. Fay was the man they wanted to see, and so he conducted them into his private office.

"Halloo! boys," he cried, taking down his feet and pushing chairs toward them; "you are here yet, are you? Have you been out to look at your gold-mine?"

"No, sir," replied Julian; "we could hardly go out there and come back in a week—could we?"

"No, I don't believe you could. I have been thinking about you," continued Mr. Fay, depositing his feet on the desk once more, "and if you know when you are well off you won't go out there this fall. I was talking with a man who has come in from Dutch Flat, and he says it is getting most too cold up there to suit him. He has made a heap of money, and has come here to spend it. I suppose that is what you will be doing when 208 you get to work out there—make all you want in summer, and come here in winter and spend it."

"No, sir," asserted Julian, emphatically; "we have worked hard for what little money we have, and we know how to take care of it. I thought it would not make any difference to us how cold it was if we were working under the ground; I thought you said something like that."

"Certainly, I said so," affirmed Mr. Fay; "but you will have to take provisions with you to last you six months. If you don't, you will get snowed up in the mountains; the drifts will get so deep that you can't get through them."

"I did not think of that," said Julian.

"Well, you had better think of it, for if you get up there, and get blocked by drifts, my goodness!—you will starve to death!"

"Did you say anything to the man about our claim up there?"

"No, I did not, for I did not know where it was located. I will tell you what you can do, though. He is going back in the spring, 209 and he can assist you in getting everything you need."

"We are very much obliged to you for saying that," responded Jack, who felt that a big load had been removed from his and Julian's shoulders.

"I am only speaking of what I know of the man," remarked Mr. Fay. "Miners are always ready to help one another, and I know he will do that much for you. I will tell you where you can see him. Do you know where Salisbury's hotel is?"

The boys replied that they did not. They had been all over the city, but did not remember having seen any sign of that hostelry.

"Well, I will go with you," said Mr. Fay "Come around about two o'clock and we'll start. By the way, that lawyer has got back."

"What lawyer, and where has he been?"

"I mean Gibson—the lawyer that you employed to do your business for you. He has been to St. Louis."

"Good enough!" exclaimed Jack. "He has found out by this time more than we could tell him." 210

"I saw him last night just as he got off the train, and he desired me to tell you, if I happened to see you before he did, that he would be glad to see you around at his office as soon as you could get there," said Mr. Fay. "So you can run down there as soon as you please. You know where he hangs out—don't you?"

Yes, the boys were certain they could find his office without any help, and arose and put on their caps. They told Mr. Fay they would be sure to come around at two o'clock, to go with him to call upon the miner who had recently come from Dutch Flat, bade him good-bye, and left the office.

"What do you think of the situation now?" asked Julian, as they hurried along toward the place where the lawyer "hung out." "Are you still sorry that I bid on that 'old horse?'"

"I only hope there will be no hitch in the business," said Jack. "If he should ask us some questions that we could not answer—then what?"

"We will tell him the truth," said Julian. "He can't ask us any questions that we can't 211 answer. Claus and Casper could go in on telling lies, but that way would not suit us."

As the boys had taken particular note of the location of Mr. Gibson's office, they went there as straight as though they had been in Denver all their lives, ran up the stairs to the first floor, and opened the lawyer's door. Mr. Gibson was there, as well as two men whom he was advising on some law-point they had brought to him to clear up. When the boys came in he stopped what he was saying, jumped up, and extended a hand to each of them.

"I was coming around in search of you fellows as soon as I got through with these men," said he. "How have you boys been, out here, so far away from home? Please excuse me for fifteen minutes or so."

The boys took the chairs he offered them, and for a few minutes kept track of what he was saying; but that did not last long. It was about a fence that a neighbor of the two men had built, but which their cattle had broken down, and they were anxious to get out of a lawsuit for the field of wheat their cattle had 212 ruined. They heard the lawyer advise them, honestly, that they must either compromise the matter or get into a lawsuit, in which case they would have to pay full damages; and while he was talking to them he proved that he was a man who could do two things at once. He opened a drawer and took out two photographs, which he compared with the boys, one after the other. It did not take him long to decide upon this business, and then he devoted himself to the question of fences again.

"It is as plain as daylight to me," said he, as he arose to his feet. "Your cattle broke the fence down, went in, and ate up the man's wheat. It was a good, strong, staked-and-ridered fence, too. There are only two ways out of it: Yon can either settle the matter with him, or you can go to law; and if you do that, you will get beaten."

One of the men then asked him how much he charged for his advice, and when he said "Five dollars," the boys cast anxious glances at each other. If he charged that way for advising a man to keep out of law, what price would he demand for taking care of one hundred 213 thousand dollars? Mr. Gibson showed them to the door, bowed them out, and then turned to the boys.

"I ought to have charged that man ten dollars," he declared, with an air of disgust. "He is always in a row; he never comes here to seek advice but that he wants to beat somebody. Do you recognize these pictures?"

"Of course I do," replied Julian. "This is a photograph of me, and that is my signature on the back; the other one is Jack's."

"I have been to St. Louis since you were here," Mr. Gibson went on. "I called upon the men whose addresses you gave me, and found out all about you. I tried my best to find Mr. Haberstro, but could not do it, and so I have concluded that the money is yours."

"Everything?" exclaimed Julian. "The gold-mine and all?"

"Everything belongs to you," answered Mr. Gibson; and one would have thought, from the way in which he announced the fact, that somebody had left the fortune all to Julian. "Of course, if Mr. Haberstro ever turns up you will have to surrender the 214 money; but I don't take any stock in his turning up. Julian, you now have very nearly twenty thousand dollars coming to you."

"But Jack must have half," said Julian, earnestly. "He has stuck to me like a good fellow, and I don't know what I should have done without him."

"Well, then, that makes you worth ten thousand dollars apiece."

Julian drew a long breath and looked at Jack. The latter leaned his elbows on his knees, whirled his cap in his hand, and looked at the floor. 215

CHAPTER XVII.

MR. BANTA IS SURPRISED.

"You fellows look surprised," said Mr. Gibson, running his eyes from one to the other of the boys. "It seems to me, if a man told me I had that amount of money coming to me, and that I had ten thousand dollars where I could draw on it at my leisure, this room would not hold me; I should want the whole city to splurge in."

The boys made no reply. Jack drew his hand once or twice across his forehead, as if to brush away some wrinkles, while Julian got up and walked to the window.

"You did not expect to get it—did you?" continued Mr. Gibson.

"No, sir, we did not," replied Julian; "but we hoped to get it. We tried our level best to find Mr. Haberstro, following the advice of Mr. Wiggins in everything he told us to do; but he was out of our reach." 216

"He is dead, probably," said Mr. Gibson. "I know just what you tried to do, and all about it. Of course there will be some law to go through with before you can step into the property. Do you wish me to take charge of it for you?"

"Oh, Mr. Gibson, we really wish you would. We know nothing about law, and consequently we should not know how to act."

"And do you wish me to take charge of the rental of your blocks of buildings?"

"Yes, sir; go on just as you did before, and when we want money we will come to you."

"Well, that is a different thing altogether," said Mr. Gibson, looking down at the floor. "The twenty thousand dollars that I told you of is now in the bank, subject to my order. I guess I had better go up there with you and have it changed. You can then get money whenever you want it. By the way, Julian, Mr. Wiggins sent his kindest regards to you; and, furthermore, he gave me a letter which he wished me to hand to you. I've got one for you, Jack, from your boss; what do you call him?" 217

"Master mechanic," replied Jack.

Mr. Gibson opened his desk and took out two letters, which he gave to the boys. The sight of Mr. Wiggins's handwriting on the envelope was almost too much for Julian, for he put the letter into his pocket and walked to the window again.

"There is some good advice in those letters, and I want you boys to follow it out implicitly," said the lawyer. "You will always find me here, ready to tell you what to do in case you get into trouble. You must come to me or to Mr. Fay every time you get into a box. But, first and foremost, don't have anything to do with strangers. There are some of them who are bound to hear of your good fortune, and will take every means in their power to get hold of it. Don't sign any papers unless you bring them to me."

"We have already had a little experience in that line," said Julian, with a smile. "Claus came up to us and tried to pass himself off for Mr. Haberstro, and he is the one who stole our valises on our way here; but he didn't make anything by it." 218

"Yes—I heard all about this man Claus, and about that friend of yours, Casper Nevins. You know enough to steer clear of such fellows in future. Now, if you are all through, we'll go up to the bank."

The boys followed Mr. Gibson out of the office, along the street, turning three or four corners, until they reached the bank. He did not have any business to do with the man who stood behind the desk counting out the money, but he simply asked him,

"Is E. A. in?"

"Yes, sir; he is in his private office," replied the cashier.

The boys did not know who E. A. was, but they found out a moment later, for the lawyer led them into the presence of the president of the bank. He was gray-headed and wore a pair of gold spectacles, but he stopped his work and shook Mr. Gibson warmly by the hand. He looked curiously at the boys, but when the lawyer began his story, talking very rapidly, for there was a card hung up over his desk which said on it, "This is my busy day," he laid down his pen 219 and glanced at Julian and Jack with some interest.

"And you want the twenty thousand dollars changed, so that it will be subject to their order?" said he.

"Yes, sir, that is my errand up here."

The president got upon his feet and walked into the room where the cashier was. When he went, the boys had not more than ten dollars in their pockets that they could call their own; when he came back, they had a small fortune coming to them.

"It is all right," said he. "And which of you boys was it who bid on the 'old horse?'" he continued, extending a hand to each of them. "You are the one? Well, my son, remember that there is an end to your money somewhere, and if you go to work and spend it all without waiting for some more to come in, the end of it is not far off. I wish you good luck."

The boys retraced their steps to the cashier's desk, and the transfer of the property from Mr. Gibson's order to their own was easily completed. Mr. Gibson signed a check, the 220 boys attached their names to a big book which was thrust out at them, and then the cashier wanted to know if they needed any money.

"We would like about one hundred dollars apiece," said Julian.

"Very well; make out a check for it and sign your names to it, and you can get it all right. You will find the checks there on that desk."

The boys accordingly made out their checks for the money, and Mr. Gibson stood watching them, smiling to himself when he saw how the boys' hands trembled, and how anxious they were to have everything correct. The money was paid on the checks, and Julian and Jack put it into their pockets.

"You got it, didn't you?" said the lawyer.

"Yes, sir; thanks to you, we have got it," said Julian. "Mr. Gibson, I can't begin to tell you how much we thank you——"

"Oh, that is all right," said the lawyer, opening the door of the bank; "only, don't get into a fuss and lose it all."

"When we came here," continued Julian, 221 "we had no money at all; now see how different it is! I assure you that we are not going to get into any fuss. The money is safe where it is."

"Well, let it stay there. I am pretty busy this morning, so I beg that you will excuse me. Good-bye."

The lawyer hurried away, and Julian stood a little on one side of the door of the bank, one hand thrust into his pocket where he had placed the bills, and his eyes fastened upon Mr. Gibson as long as he remained in sight.

"Say, Jack," said he, suddenly; "I don't believe Mr. Gibson had any right to give us this money."

"He hadn't?" exclaimed Jack. "Why, it was his."

"No, it was not; it belongs to that Haberstro estate. It seems to me he ought to have got an order from the court before giving any of the money up to us."

"Perhaps he has an order," said Jack.

"Then why did he not say something about it? I would like to know when the court sits. If the Judge finds any blundering in 222 the business, why, then we are up a stump. What will we do if this man Haberstro comes up, all on a sudden, and tells us he wants this hundred dollars?"

"Whew!" said Jack; "I did not think of that."

"But Mr. Gibson probably knew what the decision of the court was going to be or he would not have done this," added Julian, after a moment's pause. "I guess we are all right, but I shall feel better when we have all that property in our hands."

Julian wished now, when it was too late, that he had not spoken to Jack about this. During the dinner hour he was unusually silent and thoughtful, and the landlady's questioning could not get a word out of him. He would arouse up long enough to reply, and then he would fall to thinking again.

"I will never tell you another piece of news as long as I live," said Julian, as they went up to their room to get ready to accompany Mr. Fay to call on the miner. "You always have enough to say at dinner, but to-day you were as solemn as an owl." 223

"I could not help it," said Jack. "If that man who owns this property turns up here, I tell you we shall be in a fix. We shall spend this before the winter is over, and how are we to get a hundred dollars to pay him? I'll speak to Mr. Gibson about that the next time I see him."

"I believe that would be a good plan," said Julian, after thinking the matter over. "I'll bet you that he has some good reason for it."

In due time the boys arrived at Mr. Fay's office, and found him ready to accompany them. All he said was that he was going out for half an hour, and if anybody came to see him he was to be told that he would soon be back; and then he set off, with his long strides, to lead the way to Salisbury's hotel. The boys found it as much as they could do to keep up with him.

"I guess you have been a messenger-boy in your day," said Julian.

"I was a messenger-boy for six years," replied Mr. Fay. "Of course I did not want to hold that position all my life, so I learned telegraphy at odd times, and got my promotion 224 as fast as I was qualified for it, until at last I got where you see me now. That's the way that young men ought to do—look out for promotion."

"We received good news down there at Mr. Gibson's office," continued Julian.

"I knew you would. Have you the property all in your hands?"

"No; there is some law-business to go through with, first. We told Mr. Gibson to go ahead with it, as he did before."

"That was the best thing that you ever did," said Mr. Fay, earnestly. "Gibson is an honest man, even if he is a lawyer, and you will get every cent that is coming to you. Now, then, here we are. You will find this rather a different hotel from the one you first stopped at when you came here, but the old fellow makes lots of money out of the miners. There is nobody stays here except those who have shovelled dirt."

Mr. Fay opened the door as he spoke, and the boys speedily found themselves in the living-room of the hotel. Before they had time to look around them the chief telegraph 225 operator walked up and laid his hand upon the shoulder of a man who sat with his back to him.

"You are here yet, are you, Banta?" said he.

"Yes," replied the miner, looking up to see who it was that accosted him. "I am on hand, like a bogus coin made out of iron pyrites; you can't get rid of me."

"I have brought some boys with me who would like to know something about the mines at which you are working," said Mr. Fay; and he proceeded to introduce Julian and Jack.

Banta speedily proved that he was a gentleman, for he straightway got upon his feet to shake hands with the boys.

"All right," said the miner; "if anybody can tell them about Dutch Flat, I am the man."

"They are going to stay here this winter, and go out with you next spring," Mr. Fay went on.

"All right," said the miner, again; "I will put them where they can dig gold so fast that 226 you won't see anything but gold coming out of the pit."

"But they have a gold-mine up there already."

"They have? Where is it located?"

Mr. Fay could not answer this question, so he stood aside and waited for Julian to tell him the whereabouts of the mine. The boy began by asking him,

"Do you know the mine that Winkleman used to work when he was here?"

Mr. Banta started, and looked at Julian to see if he was in dead earnest. The boy gazed fixedly at him, and the miner finally settled back in his chair and pulled himself down until his neck rested on the back of it.

"Of course I know that mine," said he. "You don't think of working there, do you?"

"We thought some of trying it," replied Julian.

"Pete, what do you think of that?" asked Mr. Banta, pushing his hand against the shoulder of the man who sat nearest him, with his eyes closed, as if he were fast asleep. 227 "Here are two boys going up to Dutch Flat next spring to work the Winkleman mine."

"Well," replied Pete, without lifting his head, "I am glad I am not going up there."

"Are the ghosts so awful thick up there?" asked Julian, who felt his courage oozing out at the ends of his fingers.

"You know something about it—don't you? The ghosts are so thick up there that you can't go down in the mine to shovel a bucketful of dirt without scaring some of them up."

"Well, you will have to excuse me," said Mr. Fay. "I should like to see what those ghosts are, but my work calls me. You will take charge of the boys next spring, will you, Mr. Banta?"

"Sure I will; but they are plumb dunces if they try to work that mine. I will go with them as far as I can, and the balance of the way they will have to depend on themselves."

Mr. Fay said he believed they could do that, opened the door and went out, and Julian and Jack were left alone. 228

CHAPTER XVIII.

GRUB-STAKING.

"Sit down," said Banta, pushing chairs toward the two boys with his foot; "I want to talk to you about that mine. What loon has been so foolish as to grub-stake you?"

"Grub-stake us?" repeated Julian, for the words were quite new to him.

"Yes; he does not expect to get his money back again very soon. I mean the fellow who has furnished you with grub and tools, and such things, to work the mine with."

"We never heard that before; we did not know there was anybody who could grub-stake us."

"Say, Pete, what do you think of that?" said Banta, once more pushing the man who sat nearest him. "Here are a couple of tenderfeet, come away out West from—where did you come from?" 229

"From St. Louis; this is as far West as we have ever been."

"Here are a couple of tenderfeet from St. Louis who didn't know that they could get anybody to grub-stake them," continued Banta. "What do you think of that?"

Pete, who had by this time got his wits about him, straightened up, pushed his hat on the back of his head, and regarded the boys with some curiosity. Julian and Jack looked at him, too, and concluded that he and Banta were partners in working a mine. He was roughly dressed, but there was a good-natured look about him that made the boys take to him at once. There were other men, dressed as miners, in the room, and they all seemed to be interested in the conversation.

"Then I reckon I shall have to tell you about this grub-staking business," said Banta, squaring around in his chair so as to face the boys. "You are going to lay in a supply of things yourselves, I suppose?"

"Yes, we are; and we shall have to depend on you to tell us what to get."

"Well, there is plenty of time between this 230 and spring, and we will have time to talk that over afterward. Now, about this grub-staking business. There are lots of fellows who come out here who haven't got the money to enable them to go prospecting, and what do they do but hunt up some fellow who is willing to buck against a hole in the ground, and get their provisions and tools of him. He gets half of what they make. The men stay out there until they have eaten up all their provisions and then come in; and if they have had good luck, so much the better. But if they have wasted their time in looking for gold where there wasn't any to be found, why, so much the worse; that man is just so much out of pocket.

"Well, along in '90 Pete and me struck this very town, and we flew so light that we couldn't hardly stay on the ground. We didn't have enough to buy our next meal with; but we struck a gang whom we knew, and headed along with them for the gold country. Of course we had nothing, but we managed to strike a grub-stake and went prospecting up there behind Dutch Flat. 231 We lit into that rock and dirt, working like beavers, but the sign didn't come right. It looked well enough at the start, but it did not pan out much. We stuck to it for nearly three months, and then concluded that we had better go down and get another grub-stake and strike in somewhere else. So I stayed up there alone, and Pete went down and brought up the man that employed us. He looked at the hole, liked the looks of it, and wanted us to go farther; but Pete and I couldn't see it in that light. One word brought on another, and he offered us three hundred dollars for the hole."

"For the hole!" exclaimed Julian. "And there was not a sign of gold about it?"

"Now, hold on till I tell you," returned Banta. "There was a little sign of gold about it, but there was not enough to pay Pete and me for digging. We snapped him up quicker'n a flash, and what does that man do? He went down to Dutch Flat, brought up his tools, and set in to working the hole, and before he had gone two feet farther he struck the richest vein you ever clapped your 232 eyes on. He took sixty thousand dollars out of it. Now, some of you fellows talk about hard luck. If any of you can beat that story, I'll give you what little I made on Dutch Flat this summer."

"That was hard luck, I must say," said Julian. "And you lacked only two feet of being rich?"

"Only just two feet," returned Banta, "We might have been running around now with two niggers to drive the team—one dressed as a coachman and the other as a footman. Pete didn't get over pulling his hair for a month after that."

"But we are going to stake ourselves next summer," said Julian. "If we lose, it will come out of our own pockets. Have you been anywhere near this mine that we are going to work?"

"What do you think of that, Pete?" exclaimed Banta. "He wants to know if we have been near his mine. Not much! I'll bet there are two hundred miners on Dutch Flat this minute, and not one of them has ever seen that mine. They have heard about 233 it, they know there is plenty of gold up there, but nobody has ever been near it. The last two that went up there came away so badly frightened that they packed up and left the country so quick that you could not see them for the dust they kicked up along the trail. They saw something down there in the pit, and it took all the pluck out of them."

"What did they see?" asked Julian.

"Well, perhaps I was a little too fast in saying that they saw something," said Banta. "They heard something, and that was as good as though they had seen it. It first began with a scurrying on the ground, as if somebody was hurrying over it. Where it came from nobody knew; it seemed to fill the air all around them. Before they had time to get frightened at this there was a shriek that made it appear as if the pit was full of unearthly spirits, and then all was still; but the fellows had heard enough. The man down below yelled to his partner to pull him up, and when he found himself safe on top he laid down on the ground and swore he would never go down there again. Oh, you boys 234 have something to face, if you are going up there!"

"Could not the sound they heard have been occasioned by bats that had been disturbed while trying to take a rest?" asked Julian. "He had a light, of course."

"Bats!" exclaimed Banta, with deep disgust; "it was a great deal larger than bats. And he could have seen them if he had a light, could he not?"

"And, besides, bats don't shriek that way," said a miner who had not spoken before. "There used to be a miner who was working that pit along with Winkleman——"

"You hold your yawp," exclaimed Banta, fiercely; "I am telling the boys nothing but facts. I want them to know just what they have to face. I don't go into any of this cock-and-bull story about a dead miner. If that man died up there, and was buried, he's there yet, and he can't come out to work in the pit any more."

"What about him?" asked Julian. "We want to know everything connected with the mine, then we will be prepared for anything." 235

"But this thing is not connected with the mine," said Banta; "it is some sort of a story the miners have, and there is not a word of truth in it. They tell about a miner being seen there by everyone who goes down, and when you try to get up to him, he is not there. He goes farther and farther away every time you approach him."

"We have heard that story before," said Julian, with a smile; "Mr. Fay knows all about it."

"Then of course you don't believe it. I have told you the truth about the mine, and now you can go up with me next spring or stay away, just as you have a mind to."

"Oh, we will go with you," said Julian. "I never was interested in any property yet that I was afraid to work just on account of some things you could not see. When we bid you good-bye at Dutch Flat we shall know what there is in that mine before we come back."

"I like your pluck," said Banta; and the look of admiration he bestowed upon Julian more than confirmed his words. "If you 236 live up to that, I hope you will get some gold."

"They say that gold is plenty up there," said another miner. "They say it is lying around under your feet."

"And you never went there to get it!" exclaimed Julian with surprise.

"It isn't as thick as that," said Banta. "Probably every bucketful you send up to be washed will yield you from ten to fifty dollars. You will get rich at that rate."

"Well, I guess we have troubled you long enough," said Julian, rising to his feet. "We are really obliged to you, Mr. Banta, for offering to take charge of us, although we are nothing but tenderfeet. There are no Indians out there, are there?"

"Indians!—no; and if there were some on the warpath, we have miners enough up there to make them hunt their holes."

"I am glad of that; we don't want anything to do with those savages, after what we have read about them. We will see you again, Mr. Banta."

"Do so, and the next time I will tell you 237 what things you want to buy, to make your enterprise successful. Good-morning."

"There's two boys that have gone plumb crazy," said one of the miners, after the door had closed upon Julian and Jack. "I wonder how they got that mine, in the first place?"

"The boys are bound to get gold there, if they can stick it out," said another. "One of the men who came down from there showed me a piece of metal as big as a marble, which he had picked up on the bottom of that pit; but the trouble is, can they stick it out?"

"I believe they will," said Banta, settling down in his chair once more. "That boy who did most of the talking is one who has plenty of 'sand' to see him through. After they get fairly settled, I believe I'll go up and see how they are getting along."

"Then you will go without me," said Pete; "I am as close to that mine as I want to be."

"Well, Jack," said Julian, as he buttoned his coat, "what do you think of our mine? Shall we go up and try it? The miners all think there is gold up there." 238

"We will have plenty of time to talk about that between this time and spring," returned Jack. "Mr. Haberstro may come up before we get ready to start, and demand his money."

"I have no fears on that score," replied Julian. "Did not the lawyer say that he did not look for that? But, Jack, I really believe you are afraid of that mine."

"You need not be. When we get up there, and get things fixed, I will be the first to go into it."

"All right. I'll stand back and let you. Now, Jack, what are we going to do this winter? We can't sit around all the time without something to occupy our minds."

"I have been thinking about that. Let us call on Mr. Fay, and see what he says."

Julian thought this a piece of advice worth acting upon, and they bent their steps toward Mr. Fay's office, where they found him seated, as before, with his feet on the desk in front of him. When he saw who his visitors were, he jumped up hastily and seized each of them by the arm with a firm grip.

"Oh, boys, you surely haven't made up 239 your minds to go up to that mine next spring, have you?" he asked, almost in a whisper.

"Why, yes, sir," said Julian, somewhat surprised by the man's actions. "I reckon it is ours, and we want to see what gold is to be found in it."

"But think of the ghosts you will have to contend with," said Mr. Fay. "You will hear scurrying of feet—What was that?" he continued, looking toward a distant part of his office and pulling the boys around in front of him. "I am certain there is a ghost there."

Julian and Jack began to see into the matter now. The man was so full of his fun that he could not keep it in under any circumstances, and it had come to the surface when he saw the boys come into his office. Perhaps a lingering smile around his mouth had something to do with it.

"I don't believe you heard any ghost there," said Julian; "they are so busy up there at the mine that they have no time to come down here to trouble you."

"All right, boys; sit down. What did Banta say the spirits looked like?" 240

Julian replied that he could not tell, for he had not seen them; and with this as an introduction he went on and repeated the miner's conversation as nearly as he could recall it. Mr. Fay listened, highly amused, and when Julian ceased speaking he said,

"If you can see them, what's the use of your being afraid? And as for that phantom miner, that happened a long ways from here. I ought to be kicked for trying to frighten you."

"It will take something more than that to scare us out," said Julian. "Now, Mr. Fay, we want to ask your advice."

"I am ready to give it. Do you want to invest some property in a gold-mine?"

No; Julian assured him that it had no reference to their property, which was not theirs yet until the court had passed upon it, but it was in regard to their going to school in order to learn something. Mr. Fay was all attention now, and when Julian spoke of joining some mercantile academy, he slapped his hands down upon his knees as if that was the best thing the boys could do. 241

"I have no fears that your money will not prove useful to you," said he; "the idea of your wanting to go to school is a big feather in your caps. Some young men, with such an amount of money as you have coming to you, would loaf around and do nothing until their funds were all gone; but you don't act that way. Believe me, there is an end to that hundred thousand dollars somewhere."

"That is just what the president of the bank told us when we called upon him," said Julian. "We have worked so hard for the little money we have that we intend to take care of it. But, Mr. Fay, we don't believe that Mr. Gibson did right in giving us these funds."

"What's the reason you don't?"

"Why, he said he would have to get word from the court before all the property could be turned over to us—"

"Oh, that's all right; Mr. Gibson knew what he was doing. You will find it all right when the Judge hears the case. Now, do you know where the business college is situated?" 242

Julian was not so sure about that, but he received certain instructions from Mr. Fay that made him think he could find it; so the boys put on their caps and went out. 243

CHAPTER XIX.

GOING TO SCHOOL.

"Is the boss mechanic anywhere about?" asked Jack, who chanced to be the first who entered the college when they found it.

They had opened a door, and found themselves in one of the study-rooms of the school. There were fifty men and women there, all interested with their books, and the best of order prevailed. A young man, whose seat was near the door, on seeing that the boys were strangers, had arisen and asked them what he could do for them.

"The boss mechanic?" he repeated, in a surprised tone.

"He means the man who is at the head of this institution," said Julian. We want to see him for a few minutes, if you please."

"Oh, yes," said the young man, as he gave Jack a looking over. "I guess you have worked at manual labor all your life." 244

"Yes, I have," replied Jack; "I have done nothing but lift heavy iron for a good many years, and now I want to find an easier way of making a living."

"You have come to the right place to find it. Step this way."

The student led the way around the room, passing close to the scholars, some of whom merely glanced up, others paying not the least attention to them, until he opened a door and ushered them into a private office. He introduced the boys as persons who had come there to see the "boss mechanic," and then went out; while a pleasant-faced, elderly gentleman replied that he was the "boss mechanic" of that school, and asked them what they wanted. Jack, who had made a blunder by the first question he asked, remained silent, leaving Julian to do all the talking.

"We want to get an education," said Julian.

"Well, that is what this school can give you," said the man. "What do you want to study?"

"Stenography and type-writing." 245

"And you?" he added, turning to Jack.

"Bookkeeping and writing; I write a fearful hand."

The superintendent, having made a start with the boys, invited them to sit down, and in a few minutes he learned something of the boys' history, and what occupation they had been engaged in previous to coming to Denver. Without telling him anything of their circumstances, they chanced to mention the names of Mr. Fay and Mr. Gibson, and after that Julian thought he seemed to take more interest in them. After a little conversation the boys pulled out their roll of bills and paid for six months' instruction and the books they would need, and then arose to go, after telling him they would be on hand in the morning, ready to go to work.

"I'll tell you what's a fact," said Jack, pausing on the stairs and pulling out his diminished roll of bills; "we will have to go to the bank and get some more money, the first thing you know."

"That is so," replied Julian. "And I have just thought of another thing. Did you see 246 how neatly all those students were dressed? I am going to draw two hundred dollars—"

"Man alive!" said Jack, appalled by the sum mentioned. "Suppose Mr. Haberstro comes up—"

"I don't bother my head about him. We will go and get some money, and then we will go to a tailor's and get some clothes worth having. If Mr. Haberstro is going to appear, Mr. Gibson will show us the way out."

Jack was not convinced by any means, but he kept close by Julian's side until he reached the bank. Julian made out the check for him and he signed his name, and the money was paid to each of them without a word of protest. Jack felt a little uneasy after that. He did not like to have so much money about him. He carried his left hand in the pocket where he had placed the bills, and looked at every roughly-dressed man he met, as if he were afraid that somebody would rob him.

"I don't feel exactly right," said he to Julian. "As soon as we get home I'll put this money in my trunk, and then I know it will be safe." 247

"Don't keep your hand on it all the while, or you will lead somebody to suspect something," said Julian. "Now, here is a tailor shop; let us go in and see what we can do."

Jack fairly gasped when Julian said he wanted the finest suit of clothes there was in the store. He wanted two suits—one for every day and one for Sundays. Of course the merchant was eager to show them to him, and the result was that he ordered the best suits he had ever had in his life. Jack did not believe in expensive clothes, but Julian urged it upon him, telling him that he would look as though he came from the country among all those nicely-dressed students, and Jack finally yielded to him.

"That's the worst expenditure of money that I was ever guilty of," said he, when they were fairly on the street.

"Grumbling again, are you?" was Julian's comment. "Never mind; you will get used to it after a while."

The next thing the boys had in view was to join the Young Men's Christian Association, so that they could get some books to take 248 home with them; and when that was done they considered themselves settled for the winter. They went to school the next day, and from that time until spring opened they never missed a lesson. Jack was rather awkward at first. The hands which had been in the habit of lifting heavy bars of iron could not accommodate themselves to a pen very readily; and oftentimes, when Julian sat in his room, of nights, reading, Jack was there learning to write. No two boys ever behaved themselves better than they did, and it was not long before they became favorites, both with the boarders and others who came there to visit. Jack soon got used to his fine clothes, and wore them as if he had been accustomed to them all his life. They took an evening now and then to call upon Mr. Banta, and they always found him as talkative as ever. Sometimes they became so interested in his tales of life in the gold-camps that it was ten o'clock before they returned home. Mr. Fay and Mr. Gibson also came in for visits occasionally, and once the latter took out a bundle of papers, which he handed to Julian. 249

"What are these?" he asked.

"They are your property," said the lawyer. "You can keep the papers yourself, or you can let me keep them, and I will put them in my till in the bank."

"Do you mean that all comes to us?" inquired Julian, while a thrill shot all through him.

"Yes, sir; the court decided so a week ago."

"Jack," said Julian, turning to his companion, "are you sorry, now, that I went to the express office and invested in that 'old horse'?"

Jack could not say anything. He remembered how he had scolded Julian for that, and he did not want it thrown up to him so often. Julian then went on and told Mr. Gibson what had happened in their room the night he brought the "old horse" home, and the lawyer laughed loudly at his description of it.

"Mr. Gibson, we really wish you would take charge of this matter for us," said Julian. "You hope so, too—don't you, Jack?" 250

"Of course; we don't know what to do with it."

And so the matter was settled, and the boys breathed a good deal easier while they were on their way home. There was one thing that often came into their minds, and that was, What had become of Claus and Casper Nevins? Had they given up all hopes of gaining possession of that hundred thousand dollars? Jack scouted the idea. Casper might have given it up, but Claus would stick to his idea until he got into jail by it. He was not a man who gave up so easily. It is true they had not seen anything of him since they came to Denver, but Jack was sure they would hear from him at some other time.

"You will see," exclaimed Jack, when he confided his opinions to Julian. "You want to be on the watch, or the first thing you know he will jump down on us."

"I guess Mr. Gibson can shut him up very easily," said Julian.

"Yes; but it may happen when Mr. Gibson is not around." 251

"Eh? Do you mean that he will come down on us while we are up at the mine?"

"Such things as that have happened. When you see a German you want to look out."

Things went along in Denver as they usually did, and when winter fairly opened on them the boys thought they had never experienced such cold weather before. But it did not interfere with their business in any way. It was not long before Mr. Banta began to talk to them about the things that would be necessary for them to have if they were going to operate their mine successfully, and the boys had a lengthy list of things they would have to buy. They thought they could get along without some of them, but Banta assured them that everything they had down would be of use to them sooner or later. As time wore on, the prospect of leaving Denver and going off to the mountains alone, where they were destined to encounter some risks that they did not know whether they could stand up against or not, made the boys silent and thoughtful. In Denver they had friends—they 252 were sure of that; but when they got out to their mine they would be left all to themselves, and Julian and Jack did not know what they would make of it. Jack had less to say about it than his companion, but it was plain enough to see that he was not going to back out.

"I tell you I hate to go away and leave all the kind friends we have gathered about us," said Julian, as they left Salisbury's hotel after Mr. Banta had told them that by two weeks from Monday they must be on hand bright and early, all ready to start for the mountains. "I wish I knew what was in that mine."

"So do I; and the only way we can find out is to go and see," replied Jack. "I don't believe in ghosts, but I have heard so much about the things up there in that mine that I am almost ready to give in to them."

There was another thing that Jack thought of, although he did not mention it. Julian had always been one of the first to talk about going to the mine, and he was ready to accuse Jack of cowardice; but when the time for 253 their departure drew near, Julian did not open his mouth. Jack thought of that, but said nothing.

Mr. Banta told them, finally, that they had better go to work and get their things ready, and they set about it in earnest. The first thing they did was to take leave of the students at the college. The boys were all sorry to see them go, and the superintendent said he hoped Julian and Jack had given up the idea of a gold-mine, for they were getting on so rapidly in their studies that he trusted to see them complete the course. He predicted they would come back poorer than when they went away. He had heard of such things before; and, after the young men had eaten up all their provisions, they would be glad to find somebody to grub-stake them back to Denver.

"You will see us back here in the fall," said Julian, confidently. "We are not going to give up our chances of learning something."

"But you may meet your death up there," said the superintendent. "I have often heard of such things." 254

"I was awfully afraid you were going to say something about the ghosts in our gold-mine," said Jack, as they went down the stairs. "You looked at me several times as though you wanted to say something about it."

"It was right on the end of my tongue," said Julian, "but I thought I had better keep still about it. If we should come back here before fall, they would say right away that we had been frightened out and dared not go back."

Mr. Banta was busy getting his own things together, but he found time now and then to overlook the boys' expenditures. Under his instructions they bought three horses,—two of them for riding, the other intended as a pack-horse to carry their utensils,—and then he led the boys away to a gun-shop, where they were to purchase rifles.

"Look here, Mr. Banta," said Julian; "we don't need anything in here. We have got a revolver apiece, and, if the truth must be told, we have spent a good deal of time in practicing with them." 255

"What good will a revolver do you?" asked Banta, greatly surprised. "If we chance to meet any Indians——"

"But you told us there were no Indians," said Julian. "We don't want to shoot at anybody unless they are close at hand. Maybe they will come in handy on the ghosts, you know."

"Well, you don't know anything about the plains—I can see that, plain enough. If you think revolvers are going to do you, why, I am done with you."

"Then we have purchased everything we want, have we?"

"I think so. Be on hand on Monday morning, because we shall be off before the sun gets an hour high."

The boys drew a long breath when they heard this. If they had not talked so much about visiting their mine it is probable that both of them would have backed squarely out. 256

CHAPTER XX.

WATERSPOUTS AND BLIZZARDS.

"Hi! Nellie; get on, there! Strike a trot! We won't get to the mountains in seven years, at this gait."

It was Mr. Banta who spoke, and he emphasized his remarks by making the whip he carried in his hand crack loudly. The old, white bell-mare pricked up her ears and slowly quickened her pace, closely followed by all the pack-mules and horses belonging to the train.

"That old pack-mare knows where we are going as well as we do," said Banta, squaring around and throwing his leg over the horn of his saddle so that he could face the two boys whom he was addressing. "She has been up here so often that she knows every foot of the way. If we get hard up for deer meat, all we have to do is to take her bell off, and then we can go twenty miles out on the prairie, and 257 she will bring us back home again. You can't get lost if you are on her."

"Why do you take the bell off when you want to go hunting with the mare?" asked Julian of Mr. Banta, who, by reason of his age and experience, acted as leader of the company. "Does the noise of the bell frighten the game?"

"That is one reason," replied Banta; "and the other is, we don't want all the pack-mules and horses to follow us. Wherever they hear the bell, they will go to it. If we were on the other side of a wide river, even though it was swimming-deep, and some of these mules don't like water any too well, and should sound that bell a few times, they would all come over. If anything should happen to that old bell-mare, and she should die, we'd send a man on with that bell, and the mules would follow him wherever he went."

It was Monday morning, and the sun was just rising. The cavalcade had been on its way for two hours, for they left the hotel, amid wishes for good luck from all who saw them go, at the first peep of day. They went 258 directly past the hotel at which Julian and Jack had stopped to eat dinner when they first came there, and were now alone in the foothills which arose on all sides of them. There were at least a dozen miners in the company, and they had all set out for Dutch Flat in the hope of digging up a fortune before the winter's storms overtook them. Julian and Jack were there, dressed in rough miners' clothing, and the horse which bore their provisions and tools was with the others who were following the bell-mare.

Anybody could see at a glance that these boys were tenderfeet, and they did not attempt to deny it. Every other miner had a heavy Winchester slung at his back, while the only firearms the boys exhibited were Smith & Wesson revolvers, which they carried strapped to their waists. They did not look forward to the future with as brave hearts as most of the miners did. They could not get the idea out of their minds that the gold they wanted to find was protected by something which they did not want to see. The miners now and then cast curious looks 259 at them, to see if they were not afraid of the prospect before them, but finally came to the conclusion that the boys were "going through with it." The miners were happy, and sang rude songs and cracked jokes with each other; but the boys were busy with their own thoughts, and took no part in what was going on around them.

"And I don't blame them, either," said one miner, in a low voice, to his companion. "I wouldn't take any part in the singing if I were in their place. They are brave enough now, but wait until they have been up to that mine about two days; then we will see them at our camp, frightened to death."

"Banta has rather taken them under his care, judging by the way he keeps watch over them," said the other miner.

"Yes; he was made acquainted with them by some high man in Denver, and so he keeps an eye on them. But he can't go up to their mine with them. More than that, those ghosts will not stop for him or anybody else."

Julian and Jack were not accustomed to being in the saddle from daylight until dark, 260 and the ride was long and wearisome to them. They stopped at noon to eat their lunch and to let their animals crop the grass for a few minutes; but their packs were never removed from them until they halted for the night at a place which showed that there had been a camp before. Lean-to's were scattered around, partly unroofed by the storms of winter, and remnants of fires were to be seen; and Banta said that no one had been there since he and his party made the camp last fall.

"We made this camp while we were going down to the city," said he. "It was raining when we stopped here, and that accounts for the lean-to's. We had a waterspout that night, this little stream was filled twenty feet deep, and some of us began to look wild."

"A waterspout?" queried Jack. "What is that?"

"Why, I don't know that I can describe it so that you can understand it," answered Banta, scratching his head. "It is caused by the large quantity of water that sometimes falls among the hills up-country, and when it all rushes into these ravines—well, you can 261 imagine how it looks, but I cannot describe it. This stream has not much water in it now—you can step across it anywhere; but I have seen it bank full from rains in the up-country, while there was not a drop of it fell here. I remember that night. I was sound asleep in a lean-to. I had told the boys that before morning we would have to get farther up the bank or run the risk of having some of our things carried off, and about midnight I awoke with a feeling that there was something going on. You don't know anything about that, do you? Well, you wait until you have acted as guide for two or three mule-trains, and then you'll know it. Everything depends upon you to see that the train comes out all right.

"I could not go to sleep again when once I woke up, and so I arose and went out. It was still raining heavily, but the brook didn't show much sign of it. I placed myself on the edge of the bank, and hardly had I got there before a long, creamy wave, which extended clear across this gully, crept with a hissing sound across the sand and rocks. 262 Following with equal speed, and about a hundred feet behind it, was another wave, an unbroken mass of water at least five feet in height. It was not rounded into a wave, as at sea or on the lakes, but rose sheer and straight, a perfect wall of water. I knew that in five minutes this little creek would be brim full, so I raised a yell and awoke everybody in camp. The men I had with me were all veterans, and there was no need that I should explain matters. They took just one look at the water, and then grabbed their things and made a rush for the high bank behind the lean-to's. After placing them where they would be safe, they came back and made a rush for the horses. Pete, there, caught the bell-mare, and by dint of pulling and boosting we finally got them to that level spot you see up there."

Mr. Banta pointed to the bank, which seemed almost as straight as the side of a house, and the boys looked on with perfect astonishment.

"How in the world did you get the mules and horses up there?" inquired Julian. 263

"A man can do a heap of things when he is working for his life and for things that he can't afford to lose," said Banta, with a laugh. "Pete has a heap of strength in those arms of his, and when I get hold of a mule's tail and begin to twist it, he goes somewhere as soon as he can. We got them up easy enough, and there we stayed for two whole days, until the water had all passed away. We didn't lose so much as a pound of bacon. But if I had been asleep, like the rest of the fellows were, we would have had a time of it; somebody would have had to swim for his life, and the current ran like lightning, too."

"I did not know you had to look out for water on the plains," remarked Julian. "Is there anything you don't stand in fear of out here? You see, we want to know it all."

"Well, a waterspout is one thing, and a blizzard is the next," said Banta. "I mean a blizzard where the clouds send down chunks of ice at you as big as your fist. Oh, you needn't laugh. Look at that."

Banta stripped up his leggings, and showed the boys a long, ragged scar which he had received 264 in one of the commotions of nature referred to. The wound must have been a dangerous one.

"And the worst of it was, I did not have a doctor look at it for two weeks," Banta went on. "You see, I was out alone, and making the best track I could for the fort. The sky had all along been hazy, and on this day I had to go across the Twenty-mile desert, where there was not a willow-twig big enough for me to get under. When I was about half-way over it began to rain, and in less than an hour afterward the blizzard came a-ripping. My horse and mule were made so frantic by the pelting of the ice that I finally let them go; but before I released the horse I took my knife and cut the saddle and blankets off him. What did I do that for? Because I was too cold to use my fingers. I settled down there on the prairie, put the saddle and blankets over my head, and waited for the storm to cease; but before I did that, there came a big bunch of ice and struck me on the leg. I never had anything hurt so bad in my life."

"How long did you have to stay there?" 265 asked Jack. "I hear that some of these storms last two or three days."

"This one lasted one day, and I was glad to see the ice quit dropping. I was thirty miles from the fort, and I'll bet I didn't do two miles of walking in all that distance. I left everything except my weapons and crawled all the way. This is the saddle, right here."

"I should keep that for the good it had done," said Julian. "Your saddle probably saved your life."

"It will stay with me while I live," said Banta, casting an affectionate look upon the article in question. "Now, boys, suppose you get ready and chop some wood and start the fire. I'll take the things off the animals and straighten up the lean-to. You boys don't know how to make a lean-to, do you? If you take a good look at this one, you will see how it is done."

There was one satisfaction the boys had in listening to Mr. Banta's stories—they were true, every word of them. If any of the "boys" tried to make things different from 266 what they were, Banta always shut them up. That was the reason the boys thought so much of him, and anything he had to say in regard to working their mine was always listened to with the keenest interest.

The change that a few experienced men made in that deserted camp in a short time was wonderful. Every stroke of the axe counted for something, and every step the men made to and from the places they had chosen to make their beds seemed to count for something else; so that by the time Julian and Jack had cut wood enough to last them all night the lean-to's were covered with fresh boughs, those who did not choose to sleep under shelter had their beds made up under the protecting branches of trees, the animals were staked out, and two of the cooks were busy getting supper. It was all done without the least commotion, for each man knew what his duty was.

"If a rain-storm was coming up you couldn't have made this camp quicker," said Julian. "It beats the world how soon men can get ready for the night." 267

"Yes, but that comes from experience, you know," said Banta. "Do you know that I have been thinking of something? When we get up to Dutch Flat, and you get ready to go up to your mine, I believe I will go with you."

"That's the best piece of news I have heard for a long time," declared Julian, who was delighted beyond measure. "We don't ask you to go down in the mine, you understand, but if you will just stay there until we get things fixed you will confer a great favor upon us."

"Yes, I guess I had better see to your wants a little," said Banta. "You are tenderfeet, you have never lived alone in the mountains, and perhaps I can tip you a wink now and then that will be of use to you. You will need the mine cleared away—it has all grown up to grass by this time—and you will need a windlass and a lean-to; and maybe I can be of assistance."

"I know you can; and of great assistance, too. I tell you, I feel easier. I have often wondered how that mine looked, and how we were going to get it in shape to work it, but I 268 don't worry about it now. We are much obliged to you for your offer."

"Oh, that's all right. I remember that I was a boy myself, and any such little help as I have offered you would have been a regular blessing to me. Now let us go and see if supper is ready."

Supper was almost ready, and the neat manner in which it was served up, and the way it was cooked, told the boys that if the miners could always get such food as that, they could work their claims to the best possible advantage.

"Can we help you a little?" said Julian to one of the cooks after the meal was over and the man began gathering up the dishes.

"What a-doing?" asked the cook.

"We want to help you wash the dishes," said Julian.

"Why, bless you, that's no trouble. There is only one way you can help us, and that is by sitting by and looking on. I never yet saw a tenderfoot that didn't get in the way. You will have enough of it to do when you get up to that ghost-haunted mine of yours 269 and have to cook your own meals. You had better take my advice," said the cook, in a lower tone, "and stay down on Dutch Flat with us. There are no spirits down there."

"But it is ours, and I don't see why we can't work it," replied Julian. "If there is anybody there, we will make him show himself."

"You will see," said the cook, going to the camp-fire for a bucket of water. "The next time we see you, you will be all ready to go back to Denver."

The cook struck up a whistle as he began washing the dishes, and the boys, taking this as a gentle hint that he would rather be alone, walked off to another fire which had been kindled in the upper end of the camp. All the miners were gathered about there, and each one of them had a story to tell about some wonderful "find" which he had almost struck, and then ceased digging because he was discouraged by the way the gold "showed up." Banta was there, and after relating three or four stories of his own, he began to stretch and yawn as though he were sleepy, 270 and finally arose and went into his lean-to. The boys followed him, hoping he would say something more about going up to their mine with them; but he talked on other topics until he got into bed, and then he became silent. He had already decided what he would do when they reached Dutch Flat, and there the matter ended. 271

CHAPTER XXI.

THE CAMP AT DUTCH FLAT.

The boys slept as comfortably as if they had been at home in their boarding-house. It is true their blankets were rather hard, and their pillows were not as soft as they might have been, being simply their saddles with nothing but the horse-blankets over them, but they never knew a thing from the time they went to bed until they heard Mr. Banta's voice roaring out "Catch up!"

They found all in the camp busy. Some were raking the embers of the fire together, others were getting ready to cook breakfast, but most of them were engaged in packing the animals. This last was a task that the boys always wanted to see, for the operation was so complicated that they did not think they could ever learn how to do it. The mules were blinded, in the first place, so that they could not kick when the heavy pack 272 was thrown upon their backs, and the man on the near side, who seemed to "boss" the business, placed his foot against the mule's side and called lustily for the rope which the other fellow held in his hands.

"You have more rope there, and I know it," was the way in which he began the conversation.

"Here you are," said his companion, and the rope was passed over the pack to where the other fellow was waiting to receive it.

"Come, let's have a little more rope," repeated the first man.

"There's oceans of it here, and you can have all you want of it."

"Are you all fast there?"

"I will be in a minute. Here's your end."

"All fast here. Now let us see him kick it off," said the first man; whereupon a dexterous twist tore off the blinders, and the mule was free to go and join his companions. It was all done in two minutes, and the pack was safe to last until the train halted for the night.

"Come on, boys," said Mr. Banta, turning 273 to Julian and Jack, who stood, with towel and soap in their hands, watching the operation of packing the animals. "You must get around livelier than this. When you get to digging out gold by the bucketful you won't wait to wash your faces or get breakfast; you'll be down in that mine before the sun is up."

"Are we not going to eat at all?" asked Julian, who was amused at the man's way of telling them that they would be so anxious to find the gold that they would not spend time to cook their meals.

"Yes, I suppose you will have to eat sometimes, but you will hold your grub in one hand and use the spade with the other."

The miners were in a hurry, now, to resume their journey, and it took them about half as long to eat breakfast as they devoted to their supper. Five minutes was about the time they applied themselves to their meal, and when Mr. Banta arose from his seat on the ground and drew his hairy hand across his mouth to brush away the drops of coffee that clung to his mustache the miners all arose, too. In less time than it takes to tell it they were all in 274 their saddles and under way, and when they stopped again for the night they were in a camp which they had occupied on the way down to Denver. Mr. Banta was as talkative as usual, and when he had got his pipe going, and had taken three or four puffs to make sure that it was well started, he began his round of stories, which the boys were always ready to listen to.

They were all of a week in making their journey; and about three o'clock in the afternoon, when the old bell-mare struck a trot, Mr. Banta turned to Jack and gave him a poke with his finger.

"We are almost home," said he, joyfully. "I don't suppose this will seem like home to you, but it does to me, for it is the only home I have."

"Do you never get tired of this business?" asked Julian. "I should think you would like to go back to the States, where you belong."

"How do you know that I belong in the States?" asked Mr. Banta.

"I judge by your way of talking, as much 275 as anything. You were not raised in this country—I am certain of it."

"Well, I will go back when I get enough."

"How much do you call enough?"

"Half a million dollars."

Julian and Jack opened their eyes and looked surprised.

"I've got three hundred thousand now in the bank at Denver."

"Then you are not so badly off, after all. I think I could live on the interest of that much."

"There are some objections to my going back," said Mr. Banta, looking off toward the distant mountains. "When I get back there I will have to settle down to a humdrum life, and there won't be nothing at all to get up a little excitement. Here the thing is different. We live here, taking gold in paying quantities all the time, and the first thing we know we hear of some new placers, which have been found somewhere else, that make a man rich as fast as he can stick a shovel into the ground. Of course we pack up and go off to find the new placers. We have a muss or 276 two with some outlaws, and when we get rid of them we go to work and find out that there is nothing there."

"Then you wish yourself back at Dutch Flat," said Jack.

"That's the way it happens, oftentimes. It is the excitement that keeps us a-going. Now, in the States I would not have any of that."

"Did you find many outlaws in this country when you first came here?"

"They were thicker than flies around a molasses barrel," answered Mr. Banta. "But we have got rid of them all, and your life is just as safe here as it would be in St. Louis. Whenever we go to a new country, the outlaws are the first things we look out for. There's the camp, all right and tight, just as we left it."

The camp covered a good stretch of ground; but then Mr. Banta had not told them that there were fully two hundred miners in it, and of course such a multitude of men, where nobody owned the land, would spread over a good deal of territory. The boys had a fine 277 opportunity to take a survey of the first mining camp they had ever seen. They were surprised at the neatness of it. Things in the shape of old bottles or tin cans were not scattered around where somebody would stumble over them, but such articles were thrown into a ravine behind the camp, out of sight. The most of the miners had erected little log cabins to protect them from the storms of winter, and the others had comfortable lean-to's which served the same purpose. Most of the men were busy with their mines, but there were three or four of them loafing about, and when the noise made by the pack-animals saluted their ears they turned to see who was coming. One glance was enough; they pulled off their hats and waved them by way of welcome.

"Well, if here ain't Banta!" they all exclaimed in a breath. "Did you drop your roll down at Denver and come back to get more?"

"Nary a time," replied Mr. Banta, emphatically. "We got just what we could eat and drink, and that is all the money we 278 spent. Who has passed in his checks since I have been gone?"

(This was a miner's way of asking "Who's dead?")

"None of the boys who are here shovelling for gold," said the man, coming forward to shake hands with Mr. Banta, "but those four outlaws who came up here from Denver to deal out some whiskey and start a faro bank could tell a different story, if they were here."

"They did not get a foothold here, did they?" asked Mr. Banta.

"I'll bet they didn't. We hardly gave them time to unpack their goods before we jumped on them and spilled their traps on the ground. One of the bums grew huffy at that, and he took a wounded arm down for the doctor to bandage up."

"Have any of the boys made their pile?"

"Some have, and some have not. Tommy Moran has struck a vein with sixty thousand dollars in it, and has been loafing around for the last two months, doing nothing. He went out to-day to see if he can get some more. He wants to go home, now." 279

"I should not think he would like to travel between here and Denver with that amount of money about him," said Mr. Banta.

"Well, there will be plenty more to join in with him when he is ready to go. The discouraged ones number a heap. The sign looks right, but the paying-stuff don't pan out first-rate. Some are going home, and the rest are going off to hunt up new diggings."

Having briefly got at the news of what had been going on at the camp while he had been away, Mr. Banta led the way toward his own log cabin, which was fastened up just as it was when he left it. There was one bed, made of rough boards, an abundance of dishes, a fireplace, and one or two chairs, and that was all the furniture to be seen. But Mr. Banta thought his cabin just about right.

"It don't matter how hard it rains or blows, this little house has sheltered me for a year, and has got to do so until my vein gives out. Now, boys, catch the pack-animals and turn them over to me, and I'll soon make things look as though somebody lived here." 280

Julian and Jack managed to secure the pack-animals by catching the bell-mare and leading her up to the door of the cabin, and it was not long before the bundles which they had borne for two hundred miles were placed on the ground, and Mr. Banta was engaged in carrying the things into his house. He unpacked all the bundles except the one that belonged to the boys, and that would not be opened until they reached their mine.

"Are you fellows decided on that matter yet?" he asked. "Had you not better stay with us here on the Flat? We will promise you that no spooks will trouble you here."

"The more you talk about that mine, the more determined we are to see what is in it," answered Jack. "You need not think you can scare us out in that way."

"I like your pluck, and if you are determined to go there, why, I am going with you. It is only five miles, and we can easily ride over there in two hours."

"Where is it you are going?" asked one of the miners, who stood in the doorway unobserved. 281

"You know that haunted mine, don't you?"

"Great Moses! You ain't a-going up there!" said the man; and as he spoke he came into the cabin and sat down in one of the chairs.

"The boys are going there, and I thought I would go with them to see them started," said Mr. Banta. "The mine is all grown up to grass, because there hasn't been anybody up there for some time now."

"No, I should say not!" exclaimed the miner, as soon as he had recovered from his astonishment. "Are the boys plumb crazy? I tell you, lads, when you see——"

"Tony, shut your mouth!" cried Mr. Banta. "The boys won't see anything, but they'll hear something that will take all the sand out of them. I have talked to the boys many times about that mine, during the past winter, but they have their heads set on it, and I don't see any other way than to let them go."

"Well, if we hear anything, there must be something that makes the noise," asserted Julian. 282

"It will be something that you can't see," said the miner, shaking his head and looking thoughtfully at the ground. "Two fellows went up there since I knew the mine, and when they got down to the bottom of the pit they were so frightened that they came down here as fast as they could and struck out for Denver. They were both big, stout men, and were armed with Winchesters and revolvers. If they had seen what made the noise, they would have been apt to shoot—wouldn't they?"

"I should think they would," answered Jack.

"Will you go down into the mine when you get there?" asked the man, turning to Mr. Banta.

"Not much, as anybody knows of," declared the latter, shivering all over. "The ghosts don't bother anybody working at the top, so I shall get along all right."

"Well, that puts a different look on the matter," remarked Tony, evidently much relieved. "Then I shall expect to see you back in two or three days." 283

"Yes, I'll be back by that time," asserted Mr. Banta; and he added to himself, "if anything happens to the boys after that, why, I shall be miles away."

This was the first time that Mr. Banta had anything to say to the miners about what he intended to do when he reached Dutch Flat, but it was all over the camp in less than five minutes. The miner went slowly and thoughtfully out of the cabin, as if he did not know whether it was best to agree to his leader's proposition or not, and it was not long before the men who were busy with things about their houses came up in a body to inquire into the matter. They were filled with astonishment; and, furthermore, they were anxious to see the boys who were going to take their lives in their hands and go up to work that pit, from which strong men had been frightened away. And it was so when six o'clock arrived, and the men all came in to get their supper. Some of the miners declared that it was not to be thought of, and some said that if Mr. Banta was bound to go, they would go with him to see that he came out all right. 284

"You see what the miners think of this business," remarked Mr. Banta, as he began preparations for their supper. "They think you are out of your heads."

"Well, you will not see anything of it, because you won't go into the mine," said Jack.

"You are mighty right I won't go into the mine," declared Mr. Banta, looking furtively about the cabin, as if he expected to see something advancing upon him. "We will go up there and put the pit all right, and then you will have to work it."

"I wonder if there is any gold up there?" asked Julian.

"There is more gold up there than you can see in Dutch Flat in a year's steady digging. The men who have been down in the mine say so."

"Well, when we come back you may expect to see us rich," said Julian, compressing his lips. "And you may be sure that the spooks won't drive us out, either."

This was all that was said on the subject—that is, by those in the cabin; but when the men had eaten their suppers they all crowded 285 into it, and the stories that would have been told of ghosts interfering with miners who tried to take away their precious belongings would have tested the boys' courage; but Mr. Banta did not allow them to go on.

"As I told these boys down at Denver, I am telling them nothing but facts in regard to this mine, and I want you to do the same," said he. "Don't draw on your imagination at all."

Before the miners returned to their cabins, it came about that the boys were going to have a small army go with them on the morrow. At least a dozen miners declaimed their readiness to go with Banta "and see him through," and Banta did not object.

"The more, the merrier," said he, when they had been left alone and he turned down his bedclothes. "Now, you boys can spread your blankets on the floor in front of the fire and go to sleep; I will have you up at the first peep of day." 286

CHAPTER XXII.

THE HAUNTED MINE.

Mr. Banta kept his word the next morning, for the day was just beginning to break when he rolled out on the floor and gave the order to "Catch up." All the miners were astir soon afterward; but there was no joking or laughing going on in the camp, as there usually was. The men went silently about their work of cooking breakfast, or sat smoking their pipes in front of the fire, for their thoughts were busy with that mine up in the mountains. Even the talkative Mr. Banta had nothing to say. He seemed to have run short of stories, all on a sudden.

"Say, Julian," remarked Jack, as they stood by the stream washing their hands and faces, "why don't Banta talk to us the way he usually does? I'll bet he is thinking about what is going to happen to us." 287

"I was just thinking that way myself," replied Julian. "But we have gone too far to back out; we have got to go on."

"Of course we have. I wouldn't back out now for anything."

Breakfast was cooked and eaten, and the same silence prevailed; and that same silence did more to shake the boys' courage than all that had been said against their mine. Mr. Banta answered their questions in monosyllables, and when he had satisfied his appetite he put the dishes away unwashed and went out to catch his horse.

"Take hold of the bell-mare and lead her up the path," said he, addressing the miners who were getting ready to accompany him. "We have to take her and all the stock along, or the boys' pack-horse won't budge an inch."

The miners were talkative enough now, when they saw the boys getting ready to start on their journey. They crowded around them, and each one shook them by the hand.

"Good-bye! kids," said one. "The next time I see you, you will be so badly scared 288 that you won't be able to tell what happened to you up there; or, I sha'n't see you at all. I wish you all the good luck in the world, but I know that will not amount to anything."

"Do you think they can whip all these men?" asked Jack, running his eye over the miners, who were getting on their horses and making ready to go with Mr. Banta.

"That ain't the thing; you won't see anybody; but the sounds you will hear when you get fairly on the floor of that pit you will never want to hear again."

The bell-mare was caught and led along the path, the stock all followed after her, and the miners brought up the rear. Then Mr. Banta opened his mouth and proceeded to talk all the way to the mine.

"You boys may come along here pretty sudden, some time, and if you don't find Dutch Flat you will stray off into the mountains and get lost; so I will just blaze the way for you."

As Mr. Banta spoke he seized a handful of the branches of an evergreen and pulled 289 them partly off, so that they just hung by the bark.

"Now, whenever you see that, you are on the right road," said he; "but if you don't see it, you had better turn back and search for a blaze until you find it."

For once the boys did not pay much attention to Mr. Banta's stories, for their minds were fully occupied with their own thoughts. At last—it did not seem to them that they had ridden a mile—the man with the bell-mare sung out "Here we are!" and led the way into a smooth, grassy plain which seemed out of place there in the mountains, and to which there did not appear to be any outlet except the one by which they had entered it. It was surrounded by the loftiest peaks on all sides except one, and there the plain was bounded by a precipitous ravine which was so deep that the bottom could not be seen from the top. Near the middle of the plain was a little brook, placed most conveniently for "washing" their finds, which bubbled merrily over the stones before it plunged into the abyss before spoken of; and close on the other 290 side were the ruins of the mine—a strong windlass, which had hauled up fifty thousand dollars' worth of gold—and the rope that was fast to the bucket, or rather to the fragments of it, for the bucket itself had fallen to pieces from the effects of the weather, and lay in ruins on the ground. Still farther away stood the lean-to—firmly built, of course, but not strong enough to stand the fury of the winter's storms. Taken altogether, a miner could not have selected a more fitting camp, or one better calculated to banish all symptoms of homesickness while they were pulling out the gold from the earth below. Mr. Banta kept a close watch on the boys, and saw the pleased expression that came upon their faces.

"I know it looks splendid now, but it will not look so before long," said he, with a knowing shake of his head. "Now, boys, let us get to work. We want to get through here, so as to get back to Dutch Flat to-night."

The miners unsaddled their horses, grabbed their axes and spades, and set in manfully to make the "mine all right," so that the boys 291 could go to work at it without delay. Some repaired the lean-to, others laboriously cleared the mouth of the pit from the grass and brush which had accumulated there, and still another brought from the boys' pack the new bucket and rope which they expected would last just about long enough for one of them to go down and up—and they were positive that the boy would come up a great deal faster than he went down. The boys did not find anything to do but to get dinner, and they were rather proud of the skill with which the viands were served up.

"I didn't know you boys could do cooking like this," said Mr. Banta, as he seated himself on the grass and looked over the table—a blanket spread out to serve in lieu of a cloth. "If the cooking was all you had to contend with you could live like fighting-cocks as long as you stay here."

"We had hardly enough money to pay for a housekeeper while we were in St. Louis, and so we had all this work to do ourselves," said Julian. "You must give Jack the credit for this. We kept bachelor's hall while we were 292 at home. He cooked, and I swept out and helped wash the dishes."

"Now, boys," said Mr. Banta, after he had finished his pipe, "I guess we have Julian and Jack all ready to go to work whenever they feel like it. Look over your work, and see if there is anything you have missed, and then we will go back to Dutch Flat. I tell you, I hate to leave you up here in this sort of a way."

"You need not be," said Jack. "If you will come up here in two weeks from now, we will have some gold-dust to show you."

Mr. Banta did not say anything discouraging, for he had already exhausted all his powers in that direction. He inspected all the work, to satisfy himself that it was properly done, and then gave the order to "catch up."

"Of course your stock will go back with us," said he. "You could not keep them here away from that old bell-mare."

"That was what we expected," said Julian; "we may be so badly frightened that we won't think to bring our weapons with us." 293

"I am not afraid to say that I'll risk that," said Mr. Banta, leaning over to shake Julian by the hand. He told himself that the miner's heart was in that shake. It was very different from the clasp of the hand that he gave him when he was first introduced to him in Denver. "Good-bye, Julian. That is all I can say to you."

The other miners rode up to take leave of them, and all looked very solemn. Some had a parting word to say, and some shook them by the hand without saying anything, the man with the bell-mare led off, the stock followed, the miners came last, and in two minutes more they were alone. Julian sat down on the grass feeling lonely indeed, but Jack jumped up and began to bestir himself.

"Come on, boy—none of that!" said he, beginning to gather their few dishes together. "We must get these things out of the way and I must get ready to go into that mine."

"Are you going down to-day?" asked Julian. The time had come at last. For long months Julian had talked about going down into that mine—not boastingly, to be sure, but 294 he had said enough to make people believe he would not back out, and now the opportunity was presented for him to do as he had agreed. "Why can't you let it go until to-morrow?"

"Because I am just ready to go now," said Jack; and there was a determined look on his face which Julian had never seen there before. "I am fighting mad, now, and to-morrow I may be as down-hearted as you are."

"Do you think I am afraid?" exclaimed Julian, springing up and beginning to assist his chum. "I'll show you that I am not! If you want to go first you can go, and I will go the next time."

Julian went to work with a determination to get the dishes done as soon as possible. When they had got them all stowed away where they belonged, Jack stopped to roll up his sleeves, examined his revolver, which he strapped to his waist, lighted his lamp, and led the way toward the mine without saying a word. Julian gave a hasty glance at him and saw that his face was as calm as it usually was, and he began to take courage from that. 295

"It looks dark down there, does it not?" asked Julian, leaning on the windlass and peering down into the pit.

"It is dark enough now, but it will be lighter when I get down there with my lamp," replied Jack. "Now, Julian, are you sure you can hold me up?"

"Of course I can. If I can't, we had better get another man up here."

Jack stopped just long enough to shake Julian by the hand, then seized the rope and stepped into the bucket, his partner holding the windlass so that he would not descend too rapidly. Slowly he went down, until finally the bucket stopped.

"All right!" called Jack; and his voice sounded strangely, coming up from thirty feet underground. "This hole is bigger down here than it is at the top. Somebody has cut away on each side to try to find gold," and at last he started off toward the gully.

Julian leaned over the pit and followed his companion's movements by the light of his lamp. He saw him as he went around to the "false diggings," and finally his lamp disappeared 296 from view as Jack went down toward the ravine. His face was very pale; he listened intently, but could not hear that rustling of feet nor that moaning sound that had frightened two men away from there, and his courage all came back to him.

"I wonder what those men were thinking of when they started that story about this mine being haunted?" Julian muttered to himself. "There is nothing here to trouble anyone."

Hardly had this thought been framed in Julian's mind than there came a most startling and thrilling interruption. The boy was leaning over the pit with his head turned on one side, so that he could hear any unusual sounds going on below, and all of a sudden he sprang to his feet and acted very much as though he wanted to go below to Jack's assistance. He distinctly heard that rustling of feet over the rocks below, some of them made by Jack as he ran toward the bucket, and the other by something else that made Julian's heart stand still. And with that sound came others—moans or shrieks, Julian couldn't tell 297 which—until they seemed to fill the pit all around him. This lasted but a few seconds, and then came the report of Jack's revolver and the sound was caught up by the echoes until it appeared to Julian that a whole battery of artillery had been fired at once.

"There!" said Julian, greatly relieved to know that Jack had seen something to shoot at. "I guess one ghost has got his death at last!"

A moment afterward came Jack's frantic pull on the rope, accompanied by his frightened voice—

"Pull me up, Julian! For goodness' sake, pull me up!"

Julian jumped for the windlass and put every atom of his strength into it. At first the resistance of the bucket was just about what it would have been if Jack had stepped into it; but suddenly the resistance ceased, the crank was jerked out of his hand, and Julian was thrown headlong to the ground.

"What was that?" exclaimed the boy, regaining his feet as quickly as he could. "Jack, did you fall out of the bucket?" 298

There was no response to his question. He leaned over and looked into the pit; but Jack's light had gone out, and everything was silent below. The rustling of feet had ceased, the moans had died away, and the mine was as still as the grave.

"Something has happened to Jack!" exclaimed Julian, running to his lean-to after his revolver and lamp. "I am going down there to see about it if all the ghosts in the Rocky Mountains should be there to stop me!"

Julian worked frantically, and in less time than it takes to tell it he was ready to go down to Jack's help. He hastily unwound the rope until all the length was out except the extreme end, which was fastened to the windlass by a couple of staples, and swung himself into the mine. He went down much faster than Jack did, and when he reached the bottom he let go his hold on the rope, and, holding his revolver in readiness for a shot, he turned slowly about, as if he were expecting that whatever had frightened Jack would be upon him before he could think twice. But nothing came. 299 In whatever direction he turned his light, everything seemed concealed by Egyptian darkness, and finally he resolved to let the ghosts go and turned his attention to Jack. There he lay, close to Julian's feet, his lamp extinguished and his revolver at a little distance from him; and it was plain that he was either frightened or dead, for Julian had never seen so white a face before. His own face, if he only knew it, was utterly devoid of color, and his hands trembled so that he could scarcely use them.

"I would like to know what it was that could make Jack faint away in this fashion," muttered Julian, first looking all around to make sure that nothing had come in sight before he laid his revolver down. "How to get him into that bucket, and the bail over him, is what bothers me just now; but he must go in, and get out of this."

Jack was a heavyweight, and if any boy who reads this has ever been called upon to handle a playmate who remained limp and motionless in his arms he will know what a task Julian had to put him into the bucket. 300 And remember that he must go inside the bail, otherwise he could not pull him out; and the bail would not stay up without somebody to hold it. But Julian worked away as only a boy can under such circumstances, and was just getting him in shape, so that in a moment more he would have had him in, when he noticed that one of his hands was wet. He stopped for a moment to look at it, and at the sight of it he seemed ready to sit down beside Jack and faint away, too.

"It is blood!" murmured Julian. "My goodness! you must get out of here, and be quick about it! What was that?"

Julian straightened up again, but he had his revolver in his hand. That moaning sound was repeated again, but the boy could not tell where it came from. It was not so great in volume as the first one that had saluted Jack, but it was a complaining kind of a sound, such as one might utter who was being deserted by the only friend he had upon earth. Julian stood there with his revolver in his hand, but, aside from the sound which rung in his ears for many a night afterward, 301 his eyes could not reveal a single thing for him to shoot at. Julian thought now that he had got at the bottom of the mystery. Hastily slipping his revolver into his belt, he turned his attention to Jack, and in a few moments had him ready to hoist to the top. Then he seized the rope, and, climbing it hand over hand, he reached the surface, when, throwing off his hat and revolver, he turned around to haul up Jack. 302

CHAPTER XXIII.

HAUNTED NO LONGER.

This time Julian laid out all his strength on the windlass; but the bucket resisted, and he knew that Jack's weight was safely within it. Presently his head and shoulders appeared above the pit, whereupon Julian slipped a bucket over the crank, and in a few minutes Jack was safe above ground. To tumble him out of the bucket and dash into his face some water that he dipped up from the stream with his hat occupied but little of his time, and almost at once Jack opened his eyes and looked about him.

"Well, sir, you saw them, did you not?" asked Julian, with a smile.

"I tell you, you wouldn't have smiled if you had been in my place," replied Jack. "That thing looked awful as it came at me."

"What thing?"

"There is some animal down there who is 303 not going to let us work this mine if he can help it," said Jack, feeling around with his right hand to examine his shoulder. "As I stepped into the bucket with one foot he jumped—my goodness! I don't like to say how far it was; but I saw his eyes shining green in the darkness, and just as I pulled on him he sprang at me, dug his claws into my shoulder, and pulled me out. I thought I was gone up, sure; then all was blank to me. Did you see him?"

"I did not see anything," said Julian. "When the bucket came up easily, as though you were not in it, I went down after you; but I did not see a thing. What was it?"

"You tell. It was some kind of an animal that I never saw before. And didn't he make a howling just before he jumped! I wish you would look at my shoulder; it smarts awfully."

Jack could handle himself well enough now, and it was no trouble for him to roll over on his face and give Julian a chance to view his wounds. His shirt was torn completely off, and underneath were four scratches 304 which went the whole length of his back and spent themselves on the thick waistband of his trousers, which they had ripped in two. Very little blood came from the wounds, and Julian assured him that they were not deep enough to cause him any inconvenience.

"You must have killed him before he got to you," said Julian. "A bear could not jump that far, and if it were a panther—why, you have done something to be proud of. You have done it anyway, for you have cleared up something that scared those two men away from here."

"Do you really think so?" asked Jack.

"I know it."

"But think of the howling he made! It seemed as if the pit was full of bears and panthers, and I didn't know which way to look. Have you got all the blood off? Then let us go down there and see about it. We can't work our mine with those fellows in there. If I killed him at once, how did he come to jump so far? And then he took himself off after clawing me; that is something I don't understand." 305

"You have to shoot one of those fellows through the brain or in the spine, in order to throw him in his tracks. Did you have a fair chance at his heart?"

"I don't know. I simply shot a little ways below that green spot, in the darkness, and the next thing I knew I didn't know anything."

"Because, if you had a fair chance at his heart, a wild animal will sometimes run a good way before he drops. He is down there somewhere, and I'll bet you will find him. But, Jack, there are others that we must get rid of before we own this mine."

"What do you mean by that? I was in hopes I had shot the last one of them."

"Well, you did not. While I was working over you I heard those moans repeated. That proves others are there—don't it?"

"I am going down to clear it up," persisted Jack, who had got upon his feet by this time and started toward the lean-to. "Hold on till I get cartridges to put in this revolver. I used to grumble at you because you spent so much money in Denver, last 306 winter, in shooting at a mark, but I begin to believe you were right and that I was wrong. If I had been as awkward with this shooting-iron as I used to be, you would have got the whole of that hundred thousand dollars to spend for yourself."

"Don't speak about it!" exclaimed Julian, who wondered what he should do if Jack was taken away from him. "I need somebody to grumble at me, and you will do as well as anybody. Are you not going to put on another shirt?"

"Not much, I ain't. Maybe I did not kill that animal, whatever it was and he will come for me again. Now, you hold up and let me go," said Jack, when he saw Julian place one foot in the bucket."

"I am a better shot than you are, and if I pull on one of those ghosts you will see him drop," returned Julian, drawing the other foot in. "Take hold of the windlass and let me down easy. If I halloo, you must lose no time in hauling me up."

Jack was obliged to submit to this arrangement, and he carefully lowered Julian out of 307 sight. When the bucket stopped he seized the rope, and in a moment more stood beside him.

"I am glad it is animals that are interfering with us, for I am not at all afraid of them," declared Jack. "Now, where is that other sound you heard?"

The question had hardly been formed on Jack's lips when that sound came to their ears—not faint and far off, as was the one that caused Julian to handle his revolver, but louder and clearer, as though the animal that made it was close upon them. Sometimes they thought it was in front, and they held their revolvers ready to shoot at a moment's warning, and then, again, it sounded behind them; and in a second more it appeared as if the rocks on each side of them concealed the enemy that was uttering those startling sounds.

"It is the echo—that's what it is," said Julian. "There is only one animal in here, and we can't shoot him any too quick."

Julian, aided by his lamp, led the way cautiously along the subterranean passage, 308 which would have been level but for the carelessness or haste of the men who had worked the pit before them, peering into every little cavity he saw, until at last he stopped suddenly and pointed his revolver at something that lay upon the floor.

"What is it, Julian?" whispered Jack, pressing eagerly to his side.

"Well, sir, you have done it now," answered Julian, bending over and examining the animal as well as he could by the light of his lamp. "This is the thing that frightened the other two men away."

"What is it?" repeated Jack. "A panther?"

"No, sir; this animal will make two of the biggest panthers you ever saw. It is a lion!"

"In America?" said Jack, in astonishment.

"It is what the miners call them, anyway. When we get it into the bucket I will let you have the crank, and we will see if it does not weigh almost as much as you do. This animal is a mother, and her babies are crying for her."

Jack was surprised when he saw what a 309 monster animal his lucky shot had put out of the way, for he did not lay any claim to his skill as a marksman in making that shot. He must have shot her plumb through the heart, or else she would not have died so quickly. She looked as big as a yearling, marked for all the world like the panthers he had seen in the shows which he had attended; but it was her size more than anything else which impressed him. It was wonderful, too, what a change the sight of this animal made in Jack. His courage all came back to him, and after taking a hasty glance at his trophy he took the lead and pressed on toward the farther end of the passage. Every few feet he found what the miners called "false diggings"—that is, places that they had dug, either on the right-hand side or the left, to see if the vein they were following turned that way. In one of these "false diggings" Jack stopped and pointed silently before him. Julian looked over Jack's shoulder, and saw that the miner had dug through the embankment there and into a cave which extended through into the gulch—the boys could see that by the little 310 streaks of light which came in at the other end. On a slight shelf which formed one side of the passageway some leaves had been gathered, and in this bed were two cubs about the size of full-grown cats, while a third had crawled out and was trying, in his clumsy way, to follow his mother into the mine. The little thing was wild, and set up a furious spitting as the boys approached.

"These things account for the noise you heard," remarked Jack, picking up the cub and beating its head against the floor.

"What made you do that, Jack?" exclaimed Julian. "We ought to save the young ones alive."

"Well, suppose we do; what will we raise them on? It is true that we might tell the milkman to leave us an extra quart or two to feed them on, for such little things can't eat bacon and hard-tack. Now, after we get through—"

"By gracious, Jack—look out!" exclaimed Julian, suddenly. "The old man is coming home to see what's the matter with his young ones!" 311

Jack dropped the cub he had picked up, and which he was about to serve as he had the first, and, looking toward the farther end of the passageway, saw that the light was shut off by the head and shoulders of another monstrous lion that had stopped when he discovered the boys. In an instant two revolvers were aimed at the white spot on his chest.

"Be sure you make as good a shot as you did before," whispered Julian, whose face was as pale as Jack's was when he pulled him out of the pit. "It's a matter of life and death with us."

The revolvers cracked in quick succession, raising an echo that almost deafened them. Without a moment's delay they fired again, then threw themselves prone upon the floor of the cave, for they saw the lion coming. He had evidently got all ready for a spring, and when the first two bullets struck him he made it, jumping over them and landing in the pit beyond. The moment he touched the ground two more balls went into him, and then the boys jumped to their feet; for they did not want the lion to spring upon them while lying 312 down. But the animal made no effort to recover his feet; he was too badly hurt for that. He struggled frantically, springing from the ground as high as the boys' heads, and his motions were so quick and rapid that there was no chance to shoot him again; but this lasted only for a few seconds. His struggles grew weaker, and he soon lay upon the floor, stone dead.

"There, sir," said Julian, who was the first to speak; "this is a haunted mine no longer. Our little 44-caliber revolvers did as good work as Banta would have done with his Winchester."

"Whew! I am glad it is all over, and that we were not frightened out of coming here. I don't believe in ghosts, anyway."

"How do you account for that man in the mine up the country who always gets farther and farther away every time anybody tries to touch him?" asked Julian.

"I believe that story originated in the minds of some miners who were afraid to go there. And as for their shooting at him, I don't take any stock in that, either. Now, I 313 will finish what I was going to say when the old gentleman came in and interrupted me. After I have killed these cubs, we will go to work and fill this cave so full of the rocks which some of the miners have left scattered about that there won't be a chance for any other animal to make a commotion in this mine."

The work of dispatching the cubs was very soon accomplished, and then the boys wanted to get the lions above ground, so that they could see how they looked. But when they undertook to lift the "old gentleman," to carry him to the bucket, they found they had more than they could do; so they each took hold of a hind leg and dragged him to the shaft. When they came to put him in, they saw there was not room enough for the cubs, for the bucket would not hold any more.

"I'll go up and haul the old fellow out," said Jack. "I tell you, he is big enough to scare anybody—is he not?"

"Yes," answered Julian, with a laugh; "and if we had been frightened away, and somebody else had found out that they were 314 lions, and not unearthly spirits, it would have been all over Denver inside of a month."

Jack, who said he thought that was so, seized the rope and began working his way toward the top. Then the bucket began to move, and presently Julian saw it go out over the top. In a few minutes Jack came down again, and they got the mother of the family ready to be hoisted up. Julian went up this time, tumbled the lion out beside his mate, and let down the bucket for the dead cubs and Jack, who, when he stepped out, found Julian with his hat off and drawing his shirt-sleeves across his forehead.

"I tell you, Jack, if the dirt you send up weighs as much as these ghosts did, the one who pulls it out will have the hardest part of the work," said Julian. "Now let us sit down and take a good look at them."

The longer the boys looked, the larger seemed to grow the animals that had created so great an uproar in the country for miles around. They regretted they had not brought a tape-line with them, that they might take measurements; but they came to one conclusion—if 315 they found an animal like either of those in the mountains, they would give it a wide berth. They had read of encounters with them by men, and during their stay in Denver had listened to some thrilling stories, told by miners, of their fierceness, and they decided that those men had more pluck than they had.

"Let us take the skins off, and by that time it will be night," said Julian. "We can fill up the hole to-morrow."

"I don't know how to go to work at it—do you?" asked Jack, taking off his hat and scratching his head. "I never did such a piece of business in my life."

"We are not going to take them off with the intention of selling them; we are going to show them to the miners. If we tell them our story without anything to show for it, they will think we are trying to shoot with a long bow. If we make a few holes in the skins by a slip of our knives, who cares?"

The boys went to work on the cubs first, one holding the hind legs and the other doing the skinning, and they got along so well with 316 them that they went to work on the big ones with more confidence. By the time it grew dark the skins were removed, and the carcasses were dragged away and thrown into the ravine. Then the boys began supper with light hearts. The mystery of the haunted mine had been unearthed, and Julian and Jack were ready to dig up the treasure—that is, if there was any there waiting for them. 317

CHAPTER XXIV.

"THAT IS GOLD."

"Jack, come up here; I have something to show you."

"What is it? Have you made yourself rich by washing out the last bucket of earth I sent up?"

"I have something, and it looks like gold. Wait until I haul this bucket up, and then I'll send it down for you."

This conversation took place between Julian and his chum on the third morning after their arrival at the mine. The hole that led into the cave which the lions had made their habitation had been filled up so tight that even a ground-squirrel would have found it a hard task to work his way through; all the little rocks had been cleared away from the floor of the pit, making it an easy matter for them to carry the earth in a basket to the bottom of the shaft, and the digging had been going on 318 for two days without any signs of "color" rewarding their anxious gaze. The buckets of dirt, as fast as they were sent up, were washed in the brook by the aid of a "cradle" which the boys had brought with them, but their most persistent "rocking" failed to leave a sediment behind. All the dirt went out with the water, and the cradle was as clean when they got through rocking it as it was before they began.

"I believe the fellow who wrote that letter must have taken all the gold in the mine," remarked Julian, one night, after they had spent a hard day's work at the pit. "Fifty thousand dollars! That's a heap of money to take out of one hole in the ground."

"I think so myself," replied Jack; "but we will keep it up until our provisions are gone, and then we will go back to Dutch Flat."

But on this particular day Julian, who was washing the dirt at the head of the shaft, thought he saw some settlings in the bottom of his cradle, and forthwith began to handle it a little more carefully. The longer he 319 rocked the more the sediment grew, until at last he had a spoonful, which he gathered up and then approached the mouth of the pit.

"If you have any gold to show me I'll come up before the bucket does," declared Jack; "the bucket can wait."

"I have enough here to buy another block of houses," exclaimed Julian, as Jack's head and shoulders appeared. "What do you think of that?"

"Is it gold or not?" asked Jack, who was inclined to be suspicious. "Maybe it is some of that iron that Mr. Banta told us about."

"That is just what I was afraid of," said Julian; "but I reckon iron pyrites comes in lumps, don't it? If it does, this is gold, sure enough."

The boys did not know what to make of it, and they finally decided that they would put it away until Mr. Banta came up to see how they were getting along, which he had agreed to do at the end of two weeks. The boys spoke of their "find" as iron pyrites, for they did not like to think they would be lucky 320 enough to dig gold out of the ground, and this was not the only spoonful of dust that went into their bag. The bag grew in size as the days wore on, and finally, at the end of two weeks, it was almost full.

"I tell you, Jack, I don't like to show this to Mr. Banta," declared Julian, holding up the bag, and looking ruefully at it. "Perhaps we have done all our best digging all for nothing."

"Well, it can't be helped," was Jack's reply. "They were inexperienced when they first came out here, and there was nobody to tell them whether they had iron pyrites or gold. But we have done one thing that he can't laugh at—we have worked the haunted mine."

Two weeks had never passed so slowly to the boys before. They worked early and late, but they found time now and then to glance toward the entrance of the valley, to see if Mr. Banta was approaching. All this while the bag grew heavier and fuller, until Julian declared that it would not hold another spoonful. 321

"Then we must tie it up tight and hide it somewhere," said Jack.

"What is the use of hiding it?" asked Julian. "Nobody knows that we have been so successful in our haunted mine."

"No matter; such things have happened, and we want to be on the safe side. We must hide it a little way from the lean-to, for there is the first place anybody will look for it."

Julian readily gave in, although he could not see any necessity for it, took a spade, and went with Jack to what he considered to be a good hiding-place. A hole was dug, the bag put in, some leaves were scattered over the spot, and then Jack drew a long breath of relief.

"One would think we are surrounded by robbers," said Julian. "Who do you suppose is going to steal it?"

"I don't know; but I have never had so much money, or what is equivalent to money, in my charge before, and, as I said before, I think it best to be on the safe side."

"Our two weeks have passed, and Mr. Banta ought to be here to-morrow," observed 322 Julian, leading the way back to the lean-to. "I expect he will look for us to be all chawed up."

The very next day Mr. Banta appeared. The boys had found an extra "find" that morning. Julian was rocking the cradle back and forth, and Jack was leaning over his shoulder to see what gold there was in it, when they heard the sound of horses' hoofs on the rocks, and looked up to find the miner and his partner, Pete, standing in the entrance to the valley.

"Now we will soon have this thing cleared up," exclaimed Julian, joyfully. "Mr. Banta, you don't know how glad we are to see you again!"

Mr. Banta did not say anything in reply. He and his partner rode slowly toward them, looking all around, as if they expected to discover something.

"Is it the ghosts you are looking for?" asked Jack. "Come along, and we will show them to you."

"Boys," stammered Mr. Banta, as if there was something about the matter that looked 323 strange enough to him, "you are still on top of the ground. Put it there."

The boys readily complied, and they thought, by the squeeze the miner gave their hands, that he was very much surprised to see them alive and well, and working their mine as if such things as ghosts had never been heard of.

"Did you see them?" he continued.

"You are right, we did," answered Julian. "Jack, pull off your shirt. He has some marks that he will carry to his grave."

Jack did not much like the idea of disrobing in the presence of company, but he divested himself of his shirt and turned his back to the miners. On his shoulder were four big welts, which promised to stay there as long as he lived.

"It was a lion!" exclaimed Mr. Banta.

"That is just what it was. Now come with me and I will show you the skins. We have something to prove it."

The miners followed after the boys, when, as they were about to pass their pit, Julian said he wanted to see them about something 324 that had been worrying them a good deal ever since they first discovered it.

"What do you call that?" he asked, gathering up a pinch of the sediment that still remained in the cradle.

"Good gracious! Do you gather much of this stuff?" exclaimed Mr. Banta, who was all excitement now.

"It is not iron pyrites, is it?"

"Iron your grandmother!" retorted Mr. Banta. "It is gold, and a bag full of that stuff will be worth about ten thousand dollars to you!"

"We have a bagful of it hidden away," asserted Julian; while Jack was so overcome with something, he didn't know what, that he sat right down on the ground. "Jack thought we had best hide it, but I will get it and show it to you."

"Well, well! this beats anything in the world that I ever heard of! Don't it you, Pete?" asked Mr. Banta, dismounting from his horse. "Here's you two, come out here as tenderfeet from St. Louis, who never saw or heard of a gold-mine before, and you come 325 up to this pit, which has all manner of ghosts and other things wandering about it at will,—so much so that they scared away two of the best men we had on Dutch Flat,—and then you get the upper hand of the spirits and make ten thousand dollars out of the mine in two weeks! I tell you that bangs me; don't it you, Pete?"

Jack came up to take the horses and hitch them to swinging limbs, and Mr. Banta turned to Julian and told him he was anxious to see that bag with the ten thousand dollars in gold in it; whereupon Julian caught up a spade and hurried out, and Jack, who had returned to the lean-to, was told to sit down and tell them the story about the haunted gold-mine.

"There isn't much to tell," said Jack, who, like all modest fellows, disliked to talk about himself. "I went down to see what the inside of the mine looked like, and one of the lions pitched onto me and I shot him."

"There's more in the story than that comes to," declared Mr. Banta. "Let us go out and look at the skins; we will hear the straight of the matter when Julian comes in." 326

The skins were rolled up,—they had been stretched on the ground until the sun dried them,—but Jack quickly unrolled them, and the miners looked on as if greatly surprised. They could not understand how one ball, fired in the dark, had finished the lion so speedily.

"It is a wonder she did not tear you all to pieces," said Pete. "You must have made a dead-centre shot."

The other skin was unrolled, too, and by the time the miners had examined it to their satisfaction Julian came up with the bag. Mr. Banta untied it, and one look was enough.

"That is gold," said he; "there is no iron pyrites about that. Now, Jack, you go on and get dinner for us, and we will listen while Julian tell us about those ghosts."

"I told you I did not believe in such things," remarked Julian. "And the whole thing has come out just as I said it would."

"What have you in this pack?" asked Jack. "It looks like provisions."

"That is just what it is. We thought you must be nearly out by this time, and so we brought some along. Let the mule go home, 327 if she wants to; she misses that old bell-mare."

The story which Jack did not tell lost nothing in going through Julian's hands. He described things as nearly as he could see them before Jack's light went out, and told of the lucky shot and the savage shrieks that came up to him through the pit.

"Those shrieks were what got next to me," declared Julian, with a shudder. "I can't get them out of my mind yet. I thought that the ghost had Jack, sure."

"Well, go on," said Mr. Banta, when Julian paused. "There were two lions there—how did you get the other one?"

When Julian told how Jack had taken charge of the matter, and had gone ahead in order to hunt up the other ghost, Mr. Banta acted as though he could scarcely believe it; while Pete thrust his spurred heels out before him and broke out into a volley of such quaint oaths that Julian threw back his head and laughed loudly.

"If you had not done anything else since you have been up here but go to hunt up that 328 lion with revolvers, I should know you were tenderfeet pure and simple," declared Mr. Banta. "Why, boys, that was the most dangerous thing you ever did!"

"Well, we did not know what else to do," explained Julian, modestly. "Jack said the lion would not let us work the mine if he could help it, and so we had to go and find him."

"I know some miners down at Dutch Flat who would think twice before going for that lion with their Winchesters," declared Pete, "and you had nothing but little popguns!"

"They did the work, anyhow," asserted Julian.

"Well, boys, you have been very lucky," said Mr. Banta. "Take your bag of dust and hide it where nobody will ever think of looking for it. And remember—if any person comes here and asks you for money, you are to give him what is in the other bag, and keep still about this full one."

Julian's eyes began to open wide as this hint was thrown out. He looked at Jack, who was by this time engaged in dishing up the dinner; 329 but the latter only shook his head at him, as if to say, "Didn't I say we had better hide that gold while we had the opportunity?"

"Who do you think is going to rob us?" asked Julian, as soon as he could speak.

"I am sure I don't know; but we have some men down at the Flat who would not be any too good to come up here and see how you are getting along. Of course this thing will get all over the Flat in less than five minutes after we get there. We must tell just how we found you; for, if we try to keep it secret, the miners will suspect something and come up here in a body. But if they do that, then you will be safer than if you were alone."

"We don't want any truck with such people," declared Jack. "If we shoot as well as we did at the lion that wore that big skin, you will hear something drop. Now sit up and eat some dinner."

"Jack, I believe you have the most pluck," said Pete.

"He has it all," replied Julian. "He don't say much, but he keeps up a dreadful lot of thinking." 330

Dinner over, the miners lit their pipes, and then Mr. Banta said they wanted to go down into the mine to see how it looked.

"It is my opinion that you won't get much more gold out of here," said he, as he stepped into the bucket. "You are gradually working your way toward the ravine, and when you break through the wall, you will find no color there."

"I don't care," replied Julian. "If it will hold out until we get another bag filled, that will be all we want. We can say, when we get back to Denver, that we have been in the mines."

"And had some adventures there, too," remarked Mr. Banta. "Lower away."

Julian and Pete followed Mr. Banta down to the bottom of the mine, and Jack stayed up above to manage the bucket. They were gone a long time, for Julian was obliged to tell his story over again; and, when they were pulled up, Mr. Banta repeated what he had said before he was let down, namely, that the boys had about reached the end of their vein.

"But even with these bags full, you have 331 got more than some men have who have been on the Flat for two years," said he. "Now, boys, is there anything we can do for you before we bid you good-bye?"

No, Julian and Jack could not think of anything they wanted. They thanked the miners for bringing them some provisions, and offered payment on the spot; but Mr. Banta said they would let that go until the boys had got through working their mine. They shook them by the hand, wished them all the good luck in the world, turned their faces toward home, and in a few moments the sound of their horses' hoofs on the rocks had died away in the distance. 332

CHAPTER XXV.

CLAUS, AGAIN.

"There!" said Mr. Solomon Claus, as he entered at a fast walk the railroad depot, passed through it, and took up the first back street that he came to; "I guess I have got rid of him. Now, the next thing is to go somewhere and sit down and think about it."

Claus kept a good watch of the buildings as he passed along, and at last saw a hotel, into which he turned. He bought a cigar at the bar, and, drawing a chair in front of one of the windows, sat down to meditate on his future course; for this German was not in the habit of giving up a thing upon which he had set his mind, although he might fail in every attempt he undertook. He had set his heart upon having a portion of that money that Julian had come into by accident, and, although something had happened to upset his calculations, he was not done with it yet. 333

"That was a sharp trick, sending off the box by express, when they might as well have carried its contents in their valises," said Claus, settling down in his chair and keeping his eyes fastened upon the railroad depot. "Wiggins was at the bottom of that, for I don't believe the boys would ever have thought of it. I wonder how they felt when they found their valises gone? Now, the next thing is something else. Shall I go home, get my clothes, and spend the winter in Denver, or shall I go home and stay there? That's a question that cannot be decided in a minute."

While Claus was endeavoring to come to some conclusion on these points he saw Casper Nevins coming along the railroad and entering the depot. By keeping a close watch of the windows he discovered him pass toward the ticket office, where he made known his wants, and presently Claus saw him put a ticket into his pocket.

"So far, so good," muttered Claus, as he arose from his chair. "I guess I might as well get on the train with him, for I must go 334 to St. Louis anyhow. Perhaps something will occur to me in the meantime."

Casper was sitting on a bench, with his hands clasped and his chin resting on his breast, wondering what in the world he was going to do when he got back to St. Louis, when he heard Claus's step on the floor. He first had an idea that he would not speak to him at all; but Solomon acted in such a friendly manner, when he met him, that he could not fail to accost him with

"You were trying to shake me, were you?"

"Shake you! my dear fellow," exclaimed Claus, as if he were profoundly astonished. "Such a thing never entered my head! I simply wanted to get away by myself and think the matter over. Have a cigar."

"I don't want it!" declared Casper, when Claus laid it down upon his knee. "I don't believe I shall want many cigars or anything else very long."

"Disappointed over not finding that wealth, were you?" asked Claus, in a lower tone. "Well, I was disappointed myself, and for a time I did not want to see you or anybody 335 else. I have wasted a heap of hard-earned dollars upon that 'old horse.'"

"Have you given it up, too?" inquired Casper.

"What else can I do? Of course I have given it up. I will go back home again and settle down to my humdrum life, and I shall never get over moaning about that hundred thousand dollars we have lost."

"Do you think we tried every plan to get it?"

"Every one that occurred to me. They have it, and that is all there is to it. What are you going to do when you get back to St. Louis?" inquired Claus, for that was a matter in which he was very much interested. He was not going to have Casper hanging onto him; on that he was determined.

"I suppose I shall have to do as others do who are without work," replied Casper. "I shall go around to every store, and ask them if they want a boy who isn't above doing anything that will bring him his board and clothes. I wish I had my old position back; I'll bet you that I would try to keep it." 336

"That is the best wish you have made in a long time," said Claus, placing his hand on Casper's shoulder. "If I was back there, with my money in my pocket, I would not care if every one of the express boys would come and shove an 'old horse' at me. I tell you, 'honesty is the best policy.'"

Casper was almost ready to believe that Claus had repented of his bargain, but he soon became suspicious of him again. That was a queer phrase to come from the lips of a man who believed in cheating or lying for the purpose of making a few dollars by it. For want of something better to do, he took up the cigar which Claus had laid upon his knee and proceeded to light it.

"Well, I guess I'll go and get a ticket," remarked Claus, after a little pause. "I don't know how soon that train will be along."

"'Honesty is the best policy,' is it?" mused Casper, watching Claus as he took up his stand in the door and looked away down the railroad. "Some people would believe him, but I have known him too long for that. I wish I knew what he has in his head. He 337 is going to try to get his hands on that 'old horse'; and if he does, I hope he will fail, just as we have done. He need not think that I am going to hold fast to him. I have had one lesson through him, and that is enough."

Claus did not seem anxious to renew his conversation with Casper. He had heard all the latter's plans, as far as he had any, and now he wanted to think up some of his own. He walked up and down the platform with his hands behind his back, all the while keeping a bright lookout down the road for the train.

"I must go to Denver, because I shall want to make the acquaintance of some fellows there whom I know I can trust," soliloquized Claus. "I can get plenty of men in St. Louis, but they are not the ones I want. I must have some men who know all about mining, and perhaps I can get them to scrape an acquaintance with Julian. That will be all the better, for then I can find out what he is going to do. Well, we will see how it looks when I get home."

For half an hour Claus walked the platform 338 occupied with such thoughts as these, and finally a big smoke down the track told him the train was coming. He stuck his head in at the door and informed Casper of the fact, and when the train came up he boarded one of the forward cars, leaving his companion to do as he pleased.

"You are going to shake me," thought Casper, as he stepped aboard the last car in the train. "Well, you might as well do it at one time as at another. I have all the money I can get out of you, but I am not square with you by any means. From this time forward I'll look out for myself."

And the longer Casper pondered upon this thought, the more heartily he wished he had never seen Claus in the first place. He did not sleep a wink during his ride to St. Louis, but got off the train when it reached its destination and took a straight course for his room. The apartment seemed cheerless after his experience on the train, but he closed the door, threw himself into a chair, and resumed his meditations, for thus far he had not been able to decide upon anything. 339

"I am hungry," thought he, at length, "and after I have satisfied my appetite I will do just what I told Claus—go around to the different stores and ask them if they want a boy. I tell you that will be a big come-down for me, but it serves me right for having anything to do with Claus."

We need not go with Casper any further. For three nights he returned from his long walks tired and hungry, and not a single storekeeper to whom he had applied wanted a boy for any purpose whatever. Sometimes he had sharp words to dishearten him. "No, no; get out of here—you are the fifth boy who has been at me this morning;" and Casper always went, for fear the man would lay violent hands on him. On the fourth night he came home feeling a little better than usual. He had been hired for a few days to act as porter in a wholesale dry-goods store, and he had enough money in his pocket to pay for a good supper. The wages he received were small—just about enough to pay for breakfast and supper; but when the few days were up the hurry was over, and Casper was once 340 more a gentleman of leisure. And so it was during the rest of the summer and fall. He could not get anything to do steadily, his clothes were fast wearing out, and the landlord came down on him for his rent when he did not have a cent in his pocket. Utterly discouraged, at last he wrote to his mother for money to carry him to his home; and so he passes out of our sight.

As for Claus, we wish we could dispose of him in the same way; but unfortunately we cannot. Everybody was glad to see him when he entered the pool-room where he had been in the habit of playing, and more than one offered him a cigar. He told a long story about some business he had to attend to somewhere out West, and when he talked he looked up every time the door opened, as if fearful that Casper would come in to bother him for more money. But Casper was sick of Claus. The lesson he had received from him was enough.

Claus remained in St. Louis for two months; and he must have been successful, too, for the roll of bills he carried away with him was 341 considerably larger than the one which Casper had seen. When he was ready to go he bade everybody good-bye, and this time he carried his trunk with him. He was going out West to attend to "some business," which meant that he was going to keep watch of Julian and Jack in some way, and be ready to pounce upon them when they worked their mine—that is, if they were successful with it.

"That will be the only thing I can do," decided Claus, after thinking the matter over. "They have the buildings by this time, at any rate, so that part of it has gone up; but when they get out alone, and are working in their mine, that will be the time for me to take them. They will have all the work, but I will have the dust they make."

When Claus reached this point in his meditations, he could not help remembering that some of the men who were interested in the mines were dead shots with either rifle or revolver, and that if he robbed the boys he would be certain to have some of them after him, and what they would do if they caught him was another matter altogether. 342

"I can shoot as well as they can," thought he, feeling around for his hip pocket to satisfy himself that his new revolver was still in its place. "If I have some of their money in my pocket, I would like to see any of the miners come up with me."

When Claus reached Denver, his first care was to keep clear of Julian and Jack, and his next was to find some miners who were familiar with the country in the region bordering on Dutch Flat; for thus far Claus had not been able to learn a thing about it. Dutch Flat might be five miles away or it might be a hundred, and he wanted somebody to act as his guide. He put up at a second-rate hotel, engaged his room, and then came down into the reading-room to keep watch of the men who tarried there.

"I must find somebody whose face tells me he would not be above stealing a hundred thousand dollars if he had a good chance," decided Claus; "but the countenances of these men all go against me—they are too honest. I guess I'll have to try the clerk, and see what I can get out of him." 343

On the second day, as Claus entered the reading-room with a paper in his hand, he saw before him a man sitting by a window, his feet elevated higher than his head, watching the people going by. He was a miner,—there could be no doubt about that,—and he seemed to be in low spirits about something, for every little while he changed his position, yawned, and stretched his arms as if he did not know what to do with himself. Claus took just one look at him, then seized a chair and drew it up by the man's side. The man looked up to see who it was, and then looked out on the street again.

"Excuse me," began Claus, "but you seem to be a miner."

"Well, yes—I have dabbled in that a little," answered the man, turning his eyes once more upon Claus. "What made you think of that?"

"I judged you by your clothes," replied Claus. "Have a cigar? Then, perhaps you will tell me if you know anything about Dutch Flat, where there is—"

"Don't I know all about it?" interrupted 344 the man. "Ask me something hard. A bigger fraud than that Dutch Flat was never sprung on any lot of men. There is no color of gold up there."

"Then what made you go there in the first place?" asked Claus.

"It got into the hands of a few men who were afraid of the Indians, and they coaxed me and my partner to go up," replied the man. "But there were no Indians there. I prospected around there for six months, owe more than I shall ever be able to pay for grub-staking, and finally, when the cold weather came, I slipped out."

"I am sorry to hear that," remarked Claus, looking down at the floor in a brown study. "I have a mine up there, and I was about to go up and see how things were getting on there; but if the dirt pans out as you say, it will not be worth while."

"You had better stay here, where you have a good fire to warm you during this frosty weather," said the man, once more running his eyes over Claus's figure. "If you have a mine up there you had better let it go; you 345 are worth as much money now as you would be if you stayed up there a year."

"But I would like to go and see the mine," replied Claus. "There was a fortune taken out of it a few years ago, and it can't be that the vein is all used up yet."

"Where is your mine?"

"That is what I don't know. I have somehow got it into my head the mine is off by itself, a few miles from everybody else's."

"Do you mean the haunted mine?" asked the man, now beginning to take some interest in what Claus was saying.

"I believe that is what they call it."

"It is five miles from Dutch Flat, straight off through the mountains. You can't miss it, for there is a trail that goes straight to it."

"Do you know where it is?"

"Yes, I know; but that is all I do know about it. I saw two men who went there to work the pit, and who were frightened so badly that they lit out for this place as quick as they could go, and that was all I wanted to know of the mine." 346

"Then you have never been down in it?"

"Not much, I haven't!" exclaimed the man, looking surprised. "I would not go down into it for all the money there is in the mountain."

"Did those men see anything?"

"No, but they heard a sight; and if men can be so badly scared by what they hear, they don't wait to see anything."

"Well, I want to go up there, and who can I get to act as my guide?"

"I can tell you one thing," answered the man, emphatically—"you won't get me and Jake to go up there with you. I'll tell you what I might do," he added, after thinking a moment. "Are you going to stay here this winter?"

"Yes, I had thought of it. It is pretty cold up there in the mountains—is it not?"

"The weather is so cold that it will take the hair right off of your head," replied the man. "If you will stay here until spring opens, you might hire me and Jake to show you up as far as Dutch Flat; but beyond that we don't budge an inch." 347

"How much will you charge me? And another thing—do I have to pay you for waiting until spring?"

"No, you need not pay us a cent. We have enough to last us all winter. I was just wondering what I was going to do when spring came, and that made me feel blue. But if you are going to hire us—you will be gone three or four months, won't you?"

Yes, Claus thought that he would be gone as long as that. Then he asked, "How far is Dutch Flat from here?"

"Two hundred miles."

The two then began an earnest conversation in regard to the money that was to be paid for guiding Claus up to Dutch Flat. The latter thought he had worked the thing just about right. It would be time enough to tell him who Julian and Jack were, and to talk about robbing them, when he knew a little more concerning the man and his partner. He had not seen the other man yet, but he judged that, if he were like the miner he was talking to, it would not be any great trouble to bring them to his own way of thinking. 348

CHAPTER XXVI.

CLAUS HEARS SOMETHING.

Never had a winter appeared so long and so utterly cheerless as this one did to Solomon Claus. The first thing he did, after he made the acquaintance of Jake and his partner, was to change his place of abode. Jake was as ready to ask for cigars as Claus had been, and the latter found that in order to make his money hold out he must institute a different state of affairs. He found lodgings at another second-rate hotel in a distant part of the city, but he found opportunity to run down now and then to call upon Bob and Jake,—those were the only two names he knew them by,—to see how they were coming along, and gradually lead the way up to talking about the plans he had in view. It all came about by accident. One day, when discussing the haunted mine, Claus remarked that he knew the two boys who were working 349 it, and hoped they would have a good deal of dust on hand by the time he got here.

"Then they will freeze to death!" declared Bob. "What made you let them go there, if you knew the mine was haunted?"

"Oh, they are not working it now," said Claus. "They are in St. Louis, and are coming out as soon as spring opens. They are plucky fellows, and will find out all about those ghosts before they come back."

"Yes, if the ghosts don't run them away," answered Bob. "I understood you to say they are boys. Well, now, if they get the better of the ghosts, which is something I won't believe until I see it, and we should get there about a month or two after they do, and find that they have dug up dust to the amount of ten or fifteen thousand dollars—eh?"

"But maybe the gentleman is set on those two boys, and it would not pay to rob them," remarked Jake.

"No, I am not set on them," avowed Claus, smiling inwardly when he saw how readily the miners fell in with his plans. "I tried my level best to get those boys to stay at 350 home, for I don't want them to dig their wealth out of the ground, but they hooted at me; and when I saw they were bound to come, I thought I would get up here before them and see what sort of things they had to contend with."

"What sort of relationship do you bear to the two boys?" asked Bob.

"I am their uncle, and I gave them a block of buildings here in Denver worth a hundred thousand dollars and this haunted mine; but, mind you, I did not know it was haunted until after I had given it to them. But, boy like, they determined to come up, brave the ghosts, and take another fifty thousand out of it."

Bob and Jake looked at each other, and something told them not to believe all that Claus had said to them. If he was worth so much money that he was willing to give his nephews a hundred thousand dollars of it, he did not live in the way his means would allow.

"And another thing," resumed Claus. "I would not mind their losing ten thousand 351 dollars, provided I got my share of it, for then they would learn that a miner's life is as full of dangers as any other. But remember—if you get ten thousand, I want three thousand of it."

This was all that Claus thought it necessary to say on the subject of robbing the boys, and after finishing his cigar he got up and went out. Jake watched him until he was hidden in the crowd on the street, and then settled back in his chair and looked at Bob.

"There is something wrong with that fellow," he remarked. "His stories don't hitch; he has some other reason for wishing to rob those boys. Now, what is it?"

"You tell," retorted Bob. "He has something on his mind, but he has no more interest in that pit than you or I have. He never owned it, in the first place."

"Then we will find out about it when we show him the way to the Flat," said Jake.

"Oh, there will be somebody there working the mine—I don't dispute that. But he is no uncle to them two boys. But say—I have just thought of something. We are not 352 going up there for three dollars a day; and if we don't make something out of the boys, what's the reason we can't go to headquarters?"

Jake understood all his companion would have said, for he winked and nodded his head in a way that had a volume of meaning in it. The two moved their chairs closer together, and for half an hour engaged in earnest conversation. There was only one thing that troubled them—they did not like the idea of staying at Dutch Flat, among the miners, until they heard how the boys were getting on with their mine.

"You know they did not like us any too well last summer," said Bob, twisting about in his chair. "If we had not come away just when we did, it is my belief they would have ordered us out."

"Yes; and it was all on your account, too. You were too anxious to know how much the other fellows had dug out of their mines. You must keep still and say nothing."

Claus went away from the hotel feeling very much relieved. Bob and Jake had 353 come over to his plans, and they had raised no objection to them. The next thing was to bring them down to a share in the spoils. He was not going to come out there all the way from St. Louis and propose that thing to them, and then put up with what they chose to give him.

"I must have a third of the money they make, and that is all there is about it," said he to himself. "They would not have known a thing about it if it had not been for me. Who is that? I declare, it is Julian and Jack!"

The boys were coming directly toward him, and this was the first time he had seen them since his arrival in Denver, although he had kept a close watch of everybody he had met on the street. He stepped into a door, and appeared to be looking for some one inside; and when the boys passed him, he turned around to look at them. The latter were in a hurry, for it was a frosty morning, and they felt the need of some exercise to quicken their blood; besides, they were on their way to school, in the hope of learning something that 354 would fit them for some useful station in life. They were dressed in brand-new overcoats, had furs around their necks and fur gloves on their hands, and Julian was bent partly over, laughing at some remark Jack had made. He watched them until they were out of sight, and then came out and went on his way.

"I tell you we are 'some,' now that we have our pockets full of money," soliloquized Claus, who grew angry when he drew a contrast between his and their station in life. "Most anybody would feel big if he was in their place. But I must look out—I don't want them to see me here."

Fortunately Claus was not again called upon to dodge the boys in his rambles about the city. He kept himself in a part of the city remote from that which the boys frequented. The winter passed on, and spring opened, and he did not again see them; but he heard of them through Bob and Jake, who made frequent visits to the hotel where Mr. Banta was located.

"I guess we saw your boys to-day," said 355 Bob, who then went on to give a description of them. "They have it all cut and dried with Banta, and he is going to show them the way to their mine. No, they did not mention your name once. They are going to buy a pack-horse, and load him up with tools and provisions, and are going out as big as life."

"That is all right," said Claus. "Now, remember—I am to have a third of the dust you get."

"Of course; that is understood," answered Jake, who now seemed as anxious to go to Dutch Flat as he had before been to keep away from it. "It would not be fair for us to take it all. Where are you going after you get the money?"

"I haven't got it yet," remarked Claus, with a smile. "Those ghosts may be too strong for the boys, and perhaps they will come away without anything."

"Then we will pitch in and work the mine, ourselves," said Bob. "They say that gold is so thick up there that you can pick it up with your hands. We won't come away and leave such a vein behind us." 356

"What about the ghosts?" queried Claus, who could not deny he was afraid of them. "They may be too strong for you, also."

"If they can get away with cold steel we'll give in to them," said Jake. "But I'll risk that. Where are you going when you get the money? Of course you can't go back to St. Louis."

"No; I think I shall go on to California. I have always wanted to see that State."

"Well, we will go East. Three thousand dollars, if they succeed in digging out ten thousand, added to what we shall make—humph!" said Bob; and then he stopped before he had gone any further.

It was a wonder that Claus did not suspect something, but his mind was too fully occupied with other matters. Where was he going when he got the money? That was something that had not occurred to Claus before, and he found out that he had something yet to worry him.

"You fellows seem to think you will get rich by robbing those boys," remarked Claus, knowing that he must say something. 357

"No, we don't," answered Jake; "but that will be enough to keep us until we can turn our hands to some other kind of work. Now about our pack-horse, tools and provisions. You have money enough to pay for them, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes—that is, I have a little," Claus replied, cautiously, for he was afraid the miners might want more of it than he felt able to spend. "But I tell you I shall be hard up after I get those things."

"You have other money besides what you gave the boys," said Bob. "You can write to St. Louis for more."

"But I don't want to do that. I have with me just what I can spare, for my other funds are all invested."

"Oh, you can get more for the sake of what is coming to you," said Jake, carelessly. "Now, we want to start for Dutch Flat in about a week. That will give the boys time to fight the ghosts and get to work in their pit. Suppose we go and see about our pack-horse and tools."

Claus would have been glad to have put 358 this thing off for a day or two, but he could not see any way to get out of it. He went with the miners, who knew just where they wanted to go, and the horse he bought was a perfect rack of bones that did not seem strong enough to carry himself up to Dutch Flat, let alone a hundredweight of tools and provisions with him. The tools he bought were to be left in the store until they were called for, and the miners drew a long breath of relief, for that much was done. If Claus at any time got sick of his bargain, and wanted to haul out, he could go and welcome; but they would hold fast to his tools and provisions, and use them in prospecting somewhere else.

The morning set apart for their departure came at last, and Claus and his companions put off at the first peep of day. They made the journey of two hundred miles without any mishap, and finally rode into the camp of Dutch Flat just as the miners were getting ready to have their dinner. They all looked up when they heard the newcomers, and some uttered profane ejaculations under their breath, while others greeted them in a way that Claus 359 did not like, for it showed him how his partners stood there with the miners.

"Well, if there ain't Bob I'm a Dutchman!" exclaimed one, straightening up and shading his eyes with his hand. "You are on hand, like a bad five-dollar bill—ain't you? I was in hopes you were well on your way to the States by this time."

"No, sir; I am here yet," answered Bob. "You don't mind if I go and work my old claim, do you? I don't reckon that anybody has it."

"Mighty clear of anybody taking your claim," said another. "You can go there and work it, for all of us; but we don't want you snooping around us like you did last summer."

"What is the matter with those fellows?" asked Claus, when they were out of hearing. "What did you men do here last summer?"

"Just nothing at all," replied Jake. "We wanted to know how much gold everybody was digging, and that made them jealous of us."

"But if you can't mingle with them as you 360 did then, how are you going to find out about the haunted mine?"

"Oh, we'll mix with them just as we did last year, only we sha'n't have so much to say to them," said Jake. "Here is our claim, and it don't look as though anybody had been nigh it."

Claus was both surprised and downhearted. If he had known that the miners were going to extend such a reception as that to him he would have been the last one to go among them. There he was, almost alone, with two hundred brawny fellows around him, each one with a revolver strapped to his waist, and their looks and actions indicated that if necessity required it they would not be at all reluctant to use them. He managed to gather up courage to visit the general camp-fire, which was kindled just at dark, where the miners met to smoke their pipes and tell about what had happened in their mines during the day. This one had not made anything. The dirt promised fairly, and he hoped in a few days to strike a vein that would pay him and his partner something. Another had tapped 361 a little vein, and he believed that by the time he got a rock out of his way he would stumble onto a deposit that would make him so rich that he would start for the States in short order.

"Well, partner, how do you come on?" asked the man who was sitting close to Claus, who was listening with all his ears. "Does your dirt pan out any better than it did last summer?"

"We have not seen the color of anything yet," replied Claus. "I do not believe there is any gold there."

"You are a tenderfoot, ain't you?"

"Yes; I never have been in the mines before."

"And you will wish, before you see your friends again, that you had never seen them this time. If you get any dust, you hide it where your partners can't find it."

There was one man, who did not take any part in the conversation, that kept a close watch on Claus and listened to every word he said. It was Mr. Banta, who wondered what in the world could have happened to bring so 362 gentlemanly appearing a man up there in company with Bob and Jake.

"He must have money somewhere about his good clothes, and that is what Bob is after," said he to himself. "But if that is the case, why did they not jump him on the way here? I think he will bear watching."

Three nights passed in this way, Claus always meeting the miners at the general camp-fire, while his partners stayed at home and waited for him to come back and tell them the news, and on the fourth evening Banta seemed lost in thought. He sat and gazed silently into the fire, unmindful of the tales that were told and the songs that were sung all around him. At last one of the miners addressed him.

"Well, Banta, I suppose this is your last evening with us," he remarked.

"Yes; I go off to-morrow."

"Don't you wish you had not promised to go up there?"

"No, I don't; I shall find out if the boys are all right, anyway. That is what I care the most about. I shall take some provisions 363 with me, and if the boys are above ground I will leave them; otherwise, I shall bring them back."

"Oh, the boys must have the better of the ghosts by this time," said another; "they would have been here before this time if they had not. You will find them with more gold stowed away than they know what to do with."

"And didn't they see the ghosts at all?"

"Why, as to that, I can't say. But they have beaten them at their own game. You will see."

Claus pricked up his ears when he heard this, and when the miners had all drawn away, one by one, and sought their blankets in their lean-to's, he asked of the man who sat near him, and who was waiting to smoke his pipe out before he went to bed,

"Where is Banta going?"

"Up to the haunted mine," was the reply. "You see, he went up there two weeks ago with the boys, and promised to come back in two weeks to see how they were coming on. His two weeks are up to-night." 364

"What is up there, anyway?"

"Well, you can ask somebody else to answer that question," said the miner, getting upon his feet. "I don't know what is up there, and I don't want to know."

The miner walked off and left Claus sitting there alone. He was certain that he was on the right track at last. As soon as Banta came back they would know something about the haunted mine. 365

CHAPTER XXVII.

BOB TRIES STRATEGY.

"Well, what did you hear this time?" asked Bob, who lay on his blanket with his hands under his head and a pipe in his mouth. "Everybody kept still about the haunted mine, I suppose?"

"No, sir; I heard about it to-night for the first time," answered Claus. "Banta is going up there to-morrow."

"Then we will know something about it when he comes back," remarked Bob. "I hope the boys have got the better of those ghosts in some way, and that they are working their mine. Go on, and tell us what you have heard."

Claus did not have much to tell, for the miners had cut the conversation short; but what little he did say created great excitement between those who heard it now for the first time. The boys had got the better of those 366 unearthly spirits in some way, for if the ghosts had driven them out and not allowed them to work their mine, the miners would have found it out long before this time.

"I don't see why Banta put it off for two weeks," said Jake; "I reckon he was afraid of them spirits."

The next day was one which Claus often remembered. There was much excitement in the camp, although it did not show itself. There was none of that singing and whistling going on, but every man worked in silence. Banta and his partner had got off at daylight, and ten hours must pass away before they could look for their return; but evening came on apace, the camp-fire was lighted, and the miners gathered around it and smoked their pipes without making any comments on the long delay of Mr. Banta and the man who had gone with him. There was one thing that troubled them, although no one spoke of it—the mule which had carried their pack-saddle came home alone, and was now feeding in company with the old bell-mare. That looked suspicious, but the men said nothing. 367 For an hour they sat around the fire, and then one of them broke the stillness. He was an old, gray-headed man, experienced in mining, and of course all listened to what he had to say. He spoke in a low tone, as if there had been a patient there and he was afraid to arouse him.

"Ten miles in ten hours," said he, knocking the ashes from his pipe. "Boys, something's got the better of those two men. I remember that several years ago I was waiting for a partner of mine who had gone away to prospect a mine——"

"What was that?" exclaimed a miner, jumping to his feet.

"I heard something, but I don't know what it was," said another.

It was done quicker than we could tell it. In less than a second two hundred men sprang to their feet, and two hundred hands slipped behind them and laid hold of as many revolvers. Of all those men, there was not one who would have hesitated to fight Indians with the fear of death before their eyes, but there was not a single instance of a miner who 368 did not change color at the sound of a noise which seemed to come upon them from no one could have told where.

"Which way did the noise come from?" asked a miner.

"What did it sound like?" queried another.

"There it is!" said the miner who had at first detected it—"it sounds like a horse's hoofs on the rocks. There! Don't you hear it?"

And so it proved. The noise was heard plainly enough by this time, and in a few moments more two men came out of the willows and rode into the circle of light that was thrown out by the camp-fire. They were Banta and his partner; and one look at their faces was enough—they were fairly radiant with joy.

"Halloo! boys," cried Banta. "I declare, you act as though you had lost your best friend; and some of you have revolvers drawn on us, too!"

"Say, pard," said one of the miners, shoving his revolver back where it belonged and 369 extending a hand to each of the newcomers, "where have you been so long? Your pack-mule has been home all the afternoon, and has kept the camp in an uproar with her constant braying. She acted as though she wanted to see your horses. Did you see the boys?"

"Yes, sir, we saw the boys," answered Banta. He did not seem in any particular hurry to relieve the suspense of his friends, which was now worked up to the highest degree, but dismounted from his horse very deliberately and proceeded to turn him loose.

"Well, why don't you go on with it?" asked another miner. "Were the boys all right?"

"The boys were all right and tight, and digging away as hard as they could."

"Did they—did they see the ghosts?"

"Of course they did; and the ghosts are now lying up there with their skins off."

"Were they animals?"

"You are right again. Now, hold on till I light my pipe and I'll tell you all about it. Tony, you ought to have gone up there; you 370 would be ten thousand dollars better off than you are this minute."

Tony was a man who was noted far and near for his success in killing the lions which were so abundant in the mountains. He would rather hunt them than dig for gold, because he was almost sure to get the animal he went after. He was filling his pipe when Banta was speaking, but he dropped it and let it lay on the ground where it had fallen.

"It is the truth I am telling you," declared Banta. "If you don't believe it, you can go up there to that haunted mine and find out all about it. The boys killed them with nothing but revolvers."

Banta had his pipe lit by this time, and the miners crowded around him, all eager for his story. Bob and Jake were there, and no one seemed to pay the least attention to them; but they were impatient to learn all the particulars of the case. There was one question they wanted answered immediately, and that was, Did the boys really have a bagful of dust, or was Banta merely joking about that? Fortunately Tony recovered his wits and his 371 pipe at the same time and asked the question for them.

"Did the boys get ten thousand dollars in two weeks?" he asked.

"Well, they brought a bag out for us to examine, and they thought it was nothing but iron pyrites," said Banta; and then he went on smoking his pipe.

"We took one look at the bag," said his partner, "and we took a big load off the boys' minds when we told them it was gold, and nothing else. Yes, sir—they have it fair and square."

"The boys are going ahead as though there had never been any ghosts there," said Banta; and then he went on to tell the miners everything that had happened during their trip to the haunted mine; and when he got started, he followed Julian's narrative, and paid no attention to Jack's. It was certain that the story did not lose anything by passing through his hands.

"Jack pulled off his shirt," said he, in conclusion, "and he has some wounds on his back that will go with him through life." 372

"And is the gold as thick as they say it is—so thick that one can pick it up with his hands?"

"It is not quite as thick as that," replied Banta, with a laugh. "But every time one washes out a cradleful he finds anywhere from a teaspoonful to three or four which he wants to put in his bag. I tell you, the boys have been lucky."

"I am going up there the first thing in the morning," said a miner. "Here I have been slaving and toiling for color for six months, and I can hardly get enough to pay for my provisions, but I'll bet it won't be that way, now, much longer."

"Wait until I tell you something," answered Banta. "Neely, you can go up there, if you are set on it; there's no law here that will make you stay away. There are plenty of places where you can sink a shaft without troubling the boys any, but whether or not it will pay you is another question. The boys will be down here themselves in less than two weeks' time."

"How do you account for that?" 373

"Their vein is giving out. It will end in a deep ravine that is up there, and there their color ends."

"Why don't they go back farther and start another?" asked the miner.

"It won't pay. The man who started that shaft upon which they are now at work was a tenderfoot, sure enough. There is not the first sign of color about the dirt anywhere. He thought it was a pretty place and so went to work, and the consequence is, it has panned out sixty thousand dollars. But go ahead if you want to, Neely."

Neely did not know whether or not he wanted to go ahead with such a warning in his ears. Banta was an experienced prospector, and he could almost tell by looking at the ground if there was any gold anywhere about there. A good many who had been on the point of starting for the haunted mine with the first peep of day shook their heads, and concluded they would rather stay where they were than go off to a new country. There were three, who did not say anything, whose minds were already made up as to what they 374 would do. They waited until the miners were ready to go to their blankets, and then Bob attracted the attention of those nearest him by saying,

"What Banta says throws a damper on me. The haunted mine is going to play out in a day or two, this place here is not worth shucks, and we are going off somewhere at break of day to see if we can't do better than we are doing here."

"Where are you going?" asked one.

"I don't know, and in fact I don't care much. I'll go to the first good place I hear of, I don't care if it is on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. I came out here expecting to get rich in a few days, and I am poorer now than I was ten years ago. These mountains around here have not any gold in them for me."

"And I say it is good riddance," whispered the miner to some who stood near him. "If you had acted as you did last year, you would have been sent out before this time."

Having paved the way for the departure of himself and companions, Bob joined them and 375 led the way into his own cabin. They seated themselves close together, for they did not want to talk loud enough to be heard by anyone who was passing their camp.

"Well, they have it!" exclaimed Claus, who was so excited that he could not sit still.

"And it is gold, too," declared Jake. "Banta says so, and that is enough."

"In the morning, after we get breakfast," said Bob, "we'll hitch up and take the back trail toward Denver. We will go away from the haunted mine, and that will give color to what I told them a while ago."

"What if you should chance to miss your way?" asked Claus.

"You can't lose me in these mountains; I have prospected all over them, and I have seen where the haunted mine is located a hundred times. What a pity it was that I did not stay there. Sixty thousand dollars! Jake, if we had that sum of money we would be rich."

Jake did not say anything—that is, anything that would do to put on paper. He stretched himself out on his blanket and swore 376 softly to himself, so that nobody but his companions could hear him.

"That will be three thousand three hundred dollars apiece," said Claus, who did not like the way that Bob and Jake left him out entirely. "Remember, I am to have a third of it."

"Of course; and it will be more than that. The boys will have some time to do more digging, and maybe they'll have another bagful. I understood you to say that the boys were pretty plucky."

"You may safely say that," replied Claus. "The way they stood up against those lions, when they did not know what was onto them, is abundant proof of that. You will have to go easy when you tackle them, or some of you will get more than you want."

The three continued to talk in this way until they grew tired and fell asleep—that is, all except Claus, who rolled and twisted on his blanket for a good while before he passed into the land of Nod. But he was out before daybreak and busy with breakfast, while the others brought up the animals and packed 377 them for their journey. There was only one man who came near them, and that was Banta, who wanted to make sure they were not going toward the haunted mine.

"Well, boys, are you going to leave us?" he inquired. "Where are you going?"

"Not giving you a short answer, we don't care much where we go," replied Bob. "There is nothing here for us, and we will go elsewhere. We are going to take the back track."

"Are you not deciding on this matter suddenly?"

"We determined on it yesterday. We decided to go up to the haunted mine if you came back with a favorable report of the condition of things, but you say the lead is played out, and of course that knocks us. Wherever we go, we can't find a much worse place than this."

"Well, boys, I wish you luck, and we'll all go away from here before a great while."

"Why are you so anxious to find out about where we are going?" asked Bob.

"Because I wanted to remind you to keep away from that mine up the gully," answered 378 Banta, looking hard at Bob while he spoke. "The boys have that mine all to themselves, and we are going to stand by them."

"We have no intention of going near that haunted mine," asserted Bob, rather sullenly. "If those boys have gold, let them keep it."

"All right! Then I have nothing further to say to you."

So saying, Banta turned on his heel and walked away. There was nothing insulting in what he said, but Bob and his companions knew that he was in earnest about it. They all kept watch of him as long as he remained in sight, and then looked at each other with a broad grin on their faces.

"I guess Banta didn't make anything by trying to pump me," said Bob. "When we get a mile or two down the gully, we'll save what little provisions we want, push our horses over the bluff——"

"What do we want to do that for?" exclaimed Claus, in great amazement. "Can't we turn them loose?"

"Yes, and have them come back here and join the old bell-mare," said Jake, in disgust. 379 "We have to be in a hurry about what we do, for we must get a long start of the men here. If our nags appeared among the other horses here, the miners would know we had been fooling them and would start for the haunted mine at once."

"Couldn't we tie them up?" asked Claus; "or, we could shoot them. That would be an easier way than pushing them over the bluff."

"But there's the report our pistols would make," replied Bob, turning fiercely upon Claus. "The easiest way is the best. Now, if we have everything we want, let us dig out from here."

The men in the camp saw them when they mounted their horses and started down the gully toward Denver, but there was not one who shouted a farewell after them. When they disappeared from view, Banta drew a long breath of relief.

"It is just as well that they took themselves off before we had a chance to tell them that their room was better than their company. I do not like the way they have been acting since they have been here." 380

CHAPTER XXVIII.

AN INHUMAN ACT.

"I'll bet no men ever went away from a camp before without somebody said good-bye to them," said Jake. "They don't care where we go, or what luck we have, provided we don't go near the haunted mine. If they will just stay that way until to-morrow, they can all come on at once, if they have a mind to."

Claus was the soberest man in the party. He was waiting and watching for that bluff at which their faithful steeds were to give up their lives to make it possible for their owners to get away with the amount they expected to raise at the haunted mine. There was something cold-blooded about this, and Claus could not bring himself to think of it without shivering all over.

"I don't see why you can't tie them there," Claus ventured to say; "they won't make any 381 fuss until we are safely out of the way. It looks so inhuman, to kill them."

"Look here!" said Bob, so fiercely that Claus resolved he would not say anything more on the subject—"if you don't like the way we are managing this business, you can just go your way, and we'll go ours."

"But you can't go yet," interrupted Jake; "we are not going to have you go back to Dutch Flat and tell the men there what we are going to do. You will stay with us until we get that money."

"Of course he will," assented Bob. "When we get through with that haunted mine we'll go off into the mountains, and then you'll be at liberty to go where you please."

"Of course I shall stay with you," said Claus, not a little alarmed by the threat thus thrown out. Then he added to himself, "I reckon I played my cards just right. If I can keep them from searching me, I'll come out at the big end of the horn, no matter what happens to them."

For the next hour Claus held his peace; but he noticed that his horse turned his head 382 and looked down the gully as if he feared they were not going the right away. He did not remember that he had come that route before, but concluded that Bob was gradually leaving the trail behind them, and was veering around to get behind the camp at Dutch Flat. Then the mule which bore their pack-saddle began to be suspicious of it, too, for he threw up his head and gave utterance to a bray so long and loud that it awoke a thousand echoes among the mountains.

"Shut up!" exclaimed Jack, jerking impatiently at his halter. "I hope that bluff is not far away. We'll soon put a stop to your braying when we get there."

In another hour they came upon the bluff, one side of which was bounded by a deep ravine that seemed to extend down into the bowels of the earth, and the other was hemmed in by lofty mountains which rose up so sheer their tops seemed lost in the clouds above. Here again the mule became suspicious, for, in spite of the jerks which Jake gave at his halter, he set up another bray that sounded as if the mountains were full of mules. 383

"Hold fast to him, Jake, until I take his saddle off," said Bob, hastily dismounting from his horse; "I can soon stop that, if you can't. There—his pack is off. Take him by the foretop—don't let him get away from you. Now, then, look at you!"

The mule got away in spite of all Jake's efforts to hold fast to him. The moment the bridle was out of his mouth he dodged the grab that Jake made for his foretop, and with a flourish of his heels and another long bray made for the gully by which he had entered the bluff. The horses made a vain attempt to follow him, and the animal on which Claus was mounted seemed determined to go away, but he was finally stopped by his rider before he reached the gully. Bob and Jake were fairly beside themselves with anger. Bob stamped up and down so close to the ravine that the least misstep would have sent him over the brink, and Jake sat down on the ground and swore softly to himself.

"I tell you, this won't do!" said Bob, coming back to the horses. "Let us put them over without the least delay; and, mind you, 384 we won't take their bridles off at all. That mule will be in camp in less than an hour, so we must make tracks. Let their saddles go, too."

The men went to work at pushing the horses over into the ravine as if they were in earnest. First Bob's horse went; then Jake's; and finally they took Claus's bridle out of his hands and shoved his horse over, too. Claus did not see any of this work. The animals went over without making any effort at escape beyond putting out their feet and trying to push themselves away from the brink; but the miners got behind them, and all their attempts to save themselves amounted to nothing. He heard the horses when they crashed through the branches of the trees below him, and then all was silent.

"What else could we do?" exclaimed Bob, who thought Claus looked rather solemn over it. "Dutch Flat is not a mile from here, and some one there would have heard their whinnying. I am sorry to do it, too, but when there is ten thousand dollars in sight, I don't stop at anything. Now pitch that mule's 385 things over, also, and then we'll get away from here."

This being done, the three, with a small package of provisions on their shoulders, set out once more at a rapid pace, Bob leading the way.

For a long time no one spoke, the travelling being so difficult that it took all their breath to keep pace with Bob; but finally he turned about and made a motion of silence with his hand, and then they began to pick their way through the bushes with more caution. After a few moments he stopped, pushed aside the branches of an evergreen, and after taking a survey of the scene presented to his gaze he made another motion, which brought his companions up beside him.

"We have caught them at it!" said he. 'Julian is on top, and Jack is down below, shovelling dirt. Where are your revolvers?"

"Those fellows from the Flat have not come yet," said Jake, looking all around to make sure that the boys were alone. "Lead ahead, Bob, and remember that we are close at your heels." 386

Leaving his provisions behind him, Bob arose to his feet, stepped out of his place of concealment and advanced toward the pit. Julian was so intent on watching his companion below that he did not hear the sound of their footsteps until they were so close to him that he could not pull his partner up; so he simply raised his head, and was about to extend to them a miner's welcome, when he saw something that made him open his eyes and caused him to stare harder than ever. There was something about that short, fleshy man which he was sure he recognized. It did not make any difference in what style of clothing Claus was dressed in,—whether as a gentleman of leisure or as a miner,—his face betrayed him. He saw that it was all up with him, for he had no time to go to the lean-to after his revolver.

"Pitch that dirt out of the bucket and come up, Jack," called Julian, shaking the rope to attract the attention of his comrade. "Claus is up here."

There was a moment's silence; then Jack's voice came back in no very amiable tones. 387

"Get away with your nonsense!" he exclaimed. "If I come up there again for just nothing at all, I pity you! If Claus is there, make him show himself."

"Why, he's your uncle," asserted Bob, who began to wonder if that was the first lie that Claus had told them.

"That man?" exclaimed Julian. "Not much, he ain't. Jack, is Claus your uncle?"

"Tell him to come down here and I'll see about it," said Jack, who could not yet be made to see that there was something really going on at the top. "That makes two I have against you, old fellow."

"No, you haven't got anything against me," said Julian. "Here is Claus. Don't you see his face? Any man who would claim such an uncle as that—"

"That is enough out of you!" interrupted Jake. "Fetch that partner of yours up, and then bring out your money—we must get away from here in a hurry."

"Well! well!" cried Jack, who happened to look up and catch a glimpse of Claus's face. "I will come up directly." 388

"Say, you, down there," called Bob, bending over the shaft, "if you have a revolver down there, be careful that you keep it where it belongs."

"Don't worry yourself," answered Jack; "I haven't anything in the shape of a revolver about me. Hoist away, Julian."

The dirt was emptied out by this time, and Jack stepped into the bucket and was promptly hoisted to the top. Then he stood waiting for the three men to make known their wants; but he devoted the most of his time to scrutinizing the face of Claus, to whom he was indebted for the presence of the other two.

"Do you think you could recognize me if you should chance to meet me again anywhere?" asked Claus.

"Certainly, I could," answered Julian; "I would recognize you if I saw you in Asia. You are bound to have some of that money, are you not?"

"That is just what I am here for," said Claus, with a grin. "You have one bagful and another partly full, and we want them both as soon as you can get them." 389

Jack was astonished when he heard this, for Mr. Banta had told him to keep the full bag hidden where no one could find it. How, then, did Claus know anything about it? Julian was equally amazed; but, after thinking a moment, he turned on his heel and led the way toward their lean-to. Bob and his companion kept close by the side of the two boys, for they did not want them to find their revolvers before they knew something about it. They had heard from various sources that the boys were fair shots, and they did not want to see them try it on.

"Well, Claus, you slipped up on one thing," said Julian; "you didn't get any of that block of buildings—did you?"

"Come, now, hurry up!" insisted Bob. "Where are those bags?"

"Here's one you have been talking about," answered Jack, pulling the head of his bed to pieces and producing the article in question. "Julian, you know where the other one is."

While Jack was engaged in performing this work the revolvers were kept pointed 390 straight at him, for fear he might pull out another one and turn it loose upon them before they could draw a trigger. But the boys did not seem to care any more about the revolvers than if they had been sticks of wood that were aimed at them. Claus had a revolver, but he did not seem inclined to use it.

"Are you sure it is gold in here, and not something else?" asked Bob.

"You have got the bag in your hands, and you can look and see for yourself," said Jack.

"Go out in front of the lean-to and sit down on the ground so that I can watch you," said Bob. "Jake, go with that boy and dig up the other one. Is this all you have made since you have been here?"

"Yes, that's all. Now, what are you going to do with us?"

"I'll tell you when Jake comes back. Is there much more of that lead down there?"

"Well, you have charge of the mine, now, and there is no law to hinder you from going down and finding out," retorted Jack. "Claus, where are you going? I don't expect to see 391 these gentlemen any more, but I should like to keep track of you."

Claus did not see fit to answer this question, and in the meantime Julian and Jake returned with the other bag. 392

CHAPTER XXIX.

A TRAMP WITH THE ROBBERS.

"Oh, it is gold!" exclaimed Jake, as Bob took the bag and bent over it; "it is not iron pyrites."

"Stow that about your clothes, Jake, and then we'll go on," said Bob; "and we want you boys to gather up provisions enough to last you for three or four days. But, in the first place, where are your revolvers?"

"Don't you see them hung up there, in plain sight?" asked Jack, pointing to the articles in question, which were suspended from the rack of the lean-to, in plain sight. "What are you going to do with us?"

"We are going to take you a three days' journey with us, and then turn you loose."

"Why can't you let us go now?" queried Julian. "We have nothing else that is worth stealing."

"No, but you are too close to Dutch Flat," 393 Jake replied. "We haven't got anything against you, and when we get out there in the mountains—"

"You might as well shoot us on the spot as to lose us among these hills. I pledge you my word that we will not stir a step—"

"That is all very well," interrupted Bob with a shake of his head which told the boys that he had already decided on his plan; "but, you see, it don't go far enough. If you don't go to the miners, the miners will come here to you, so we think you would be safer with us. Gather up your grub and let us get away from here."

The boy saw very plainly that Bob and Jake wanted to make their escape from the miners sure; so Julian collected some bacon and hard-tack, which he wrapped up in a blanket and fixed to sling over his shoulders. There was one thing that encouraged him—"if he did not go to the miners, the miners would come after him"—and proved that they must in some way have had their suspicions aroused against Bob and Jake. Jack also busied himself in the same way, and in a 394 very few minutes the boys were ready to start.

"I must say you are tolerably cool ones, to let ten or fifteen thousand dollars be taken from you in this way," remarked Bob, who was lost in admiration of the indifferent manner in which the boys obeyed all orders. "I have seen some that would have been flurried to death by the loss of so much money."

"If Claus, here, told the truth, they have a whole block of buildings to fall back on," answered Jake. "But maybe that is a lie, too."

"No, he told you the truth there," said Julian. "He tried to cheat us out of those buildings while we were in St. Louis—"

"I never did it in this world!" declared Claus, emphatically.

"Did you not claim to be our uncle?" asked Julian.

"Uncle!" ejaculated Jack. "Great Scott!"

Claus did not attempt to deny this. Bob and Jake were almost within reach of him, and they looked hard at him to see what he would say, and he was afraid to affirm that there was no truth in the statement for fear 395 of something that might happen afterward. He glanced at the boys, who were looking steadily at him, and Jack moved a step or two nearer to him with his hands clenched and a fierce frown on his face, all ready to knock him down if he denied it; so Claus thought it best not to answer the question at all.

"You won't think it hard of me if I hit him a time or two?" asked Jack.

"Come here and behave yourself," said Julian, walking up and taking Jack by the arm. "I think, if the truth was known, he is in a worse fix than we are."

"But he claims to be my uncle!" exclaimed Jack.

The tone in which these words were uttered, and Jack's anger over the claim of relationship, caused Bob and Jake to break out into a roar of laughter.

"We'll take your word for it," said Bob, as soon as he could speak; "but we can't waste any more time here. Follow along after me, and Jake will bring up the rear."

Bob at once set off to the spot where they 396 had left their provisions, and, having picked them up, led the way down the almost perpendicular side of the ravine until they reached the bottom. Now and then he would look over his shoulder at Jack, who was following close behind him, and would break into another peal of laughter.

"So you didn't want that fellow to claim relationship with you?" said he. "Well, I don't blame you. He has done nothing but tell us one pack of lies after another ever since we met him. The only thing that had the least speck of truth in it was that we should find you here at the haunted mine."

This remark was made in a low tone, so that it did not reach the ears of Claus, who was following some distance behind. If Claus had not seen already that he was in a "fix," he ought to have seen it now.

"Now, perhaps you wouldn't mind telling us what you are going to do with us," Jack ventured to say, in reply.

"Well, the men there at Dutch Flat are hot on our trail now," asserted Bob.

"How do you know that?" 397

"Because our mule got away from us when we tried to shove him over the bluff. We wanted to destroy everything we had that we could not carry on our backs, but he got away from us. Banta warned us against coming up here, and we fooled him by making him believe we were going straight down to Denver; but he will be after us now. If he comes, he had better take us unawares; that's all."

"We don't want to see that fight," remarked Jack. "You'll let us go before that comes off?"

"Oh, yes; when we get you so deep in the mountains that you can't find your way back readily, why, then we'll let you go. If you behave yourselves, you won't get hurt."

Bob led the way at a more rapid pace when they reached the bottom of the gorge, jumping from rock to rock, and climbing over fallen trees that lay in their road, and Jack followed his example. He knew that Bob was making the trail more difficult to follow, but it was done in order to keep out of argument with his charge; for Bob often stopped, 398 whenever he came to a place that took some pains to get over, and saw that those who were following him left no tracks behind them.

"There!" said Bob, pulling off his hat and looking back at the way they had come; "I reckon Banta will find some trouble in tracking us up here. I am hungry, and we'll stop here and have something to eat."

After they had satisfied their appetites they took a little time to rest, and then set off again at a more rapid pace than ever. It was almost dark when they stopped to camp for the night. The boys were tired, and they showed it as soon as they had disposed of their bacon and hard-tack by wrapping their blankets about them and lying down to sleep, with their feet to the fire. Their slumber was as sound as though they were surrounded by friends instead of being in the power of those who had robbed them of their hard-earned wealth.

It seemed to them that they had scarcely closed their eyes when they were awakened by the sound of footsteps moving about, and 399 threw off their blankets in time to see Bob cutting off a slice of bacon. It was as dark as pitch in the woods, and the boys did not see how Bob was to find his way through them.

"It will be light enough by the time we have our breakfast eaten," said he, in response to the inquiry of Julian. "You have a watch with you. What time is it?"

Julian had a watch with him, it is true, but he had been careful how he drew it out in the presence of Bob and Jake. It had no chain attached to it, and the boy was not aware that Bob knew anything about it; but he produced the gold timepiece and announced that it was just five o'clock. This was another thing over which Julian had had an argument with Jack, who believed that, with the money he had at his disposal, he ought to have the best watch that could be procured, and, in spite of Jack's arguments, he had purchased the best American patent lever he could find. Jack's watch was an ordinary silver one, and he said that by it he could tell the time when dinner was ready as well as he could by a good timepiece. 400

"Do you want this watch?" asked Julian, because he thought the man who would steal his money would not be above stealing his watch also.

"Oh, no," replied Bob, with a laugh; "you can keep that. I wanted your money, and, now that I have it, I am satisfied."

By the time breakfast was cooked and eaten there was light enough to show them the way, and Bob once more took the lead. There was no trail to guide them—nothing but the gully, which twisted and turned in so many ways that Julian almost grew heart-sick when he thought of finding his way back there in company with Jack. More than once he was on the point of asking Bob if he did not think they had gone far enough, but the man had been so friendly and good-natured all the time that he did not want to give him a chance to act in any other way. So he kept with him during that long day's tramp, looking into all the gullies he crossed, and once or twice he slyly reached behind him and pulled down a branch of an evergreen that happened to come in his way. 401

"That's the way our women used to do in old Revolutionary times when they were captured and wanted to leave some trail for their rescuers to follow," soliloquized Julian; "but Bob doesn't take any notice of it."

"Well, I reckon we'll stop here for the night," remarked Bob, when it got so dark that he could scarcely see. "This is as far as we shall ask you to go with us, Julian. I suppose you are mighty glad to get clear of us."

"Yes, I am," assented Julian, honestly. "If you will give us what you have in your pockets, you can go your way and we will make no attempt to capture you."

"Oh, we couldn't think of that! You have wealth enough to keep you all your lives, and I have struggled for ten years to gain a fortune, and to-day I have just got it."

"What would you do if somebody should catch you along the trail, somewhere? You would come in for a hanging, sure."

"Don't you suppose we know all that? It is a good plan for you to catch your man before you hang him. We have two revolvers apiece, and you know what that means." 402

"You don't count Claus worth anything, then," remarked Jack.

"Eh? Oh, yes, we do," exclaimed Bob, who wondered what Claus would think of him for leaving him out entirely. "But Claus is not used to this sort of business, you know. He could make a noise, and that is about all he could do."

"We know we should come in for a hanging if those fellows at Dutch Flat should ever get their hands on us, but when they do that we'll be dead. You need not think we are going to stay in this country, where everybody has got so rich, and we be as poor as Job's turkey all the while. We have just as good a right to be rich as they have."

When Jake got to talking this way it was a sure sign that he was rapidly getting toward a point which Bob called "crazy." He was always mad when he spoke of others' wealth and his own poverty; and the boys, who were anxious to get him off from that subject, began their preparations for supper. They were glad to know they had gone far enough with the robbers to insure their escape, and they 403 were disposed to be talkative; but they noticed that Claus was more downhearted than he had ever been. He lit his pipe, leaned back against a tree, and went off into a brown study.

"I suppose he'll get a portion of the money that was stolen from us," said Jack, in a low tone.

"No, he won't," answered Julian in the same cautious manner. "He has been promised some of that money, but I'll bet you he don't get a cent of it. He is here in these fellows' power, and they'll take what they please out of him."

The boys, although as tired as they were on the previous day, were not by any means inclined to sleep. In fact they did not believe they had been asleep at all until they heard Bob moving around the fire. It was five o'clock by Julian's watch, and his first care was to find out what had become of Claus, who lay muffled up, head and ears, in his blanket; but he would not have stayed there if he knew what was going to happen to him during the day. 404

"Now perhaps you will be good enough to tell us what route we have to travel in order to get out of here," said Jack.

"Have you a compass with you?" asked Jake.

No, the boys had none; they did not think they would need one when they were surrounded by friends who knew the woods, and consequently they had not brought one with them.

"You know which way is east, don't you? Well, place your backs to the sun, and keep it there all the time. Dutch Flat lies directly west of here."

"That will be good if the sun shines all the time," said Julian. "But if it goes under a cloud—then what?"

"Then you will have to go into camp, and stay until it comes out again," replied Bob. "But at this time of the year you have nothing to fear on that score. Are you going already? Well, good-bye. Why don't you wish us good luck with that money we took from you?"

"Because I don't believe it will bring you 405 good luck," said Jack. "We worked hard for it, and we ought to have it. I wish you good-bye, but I don't wish you good luck."

"Shake hands with your uncle, why don't you?" asked Bob.

"Not much!" returned Jack. "If that money doesn't bring him some misfortune I shall miss my guess."

Julian and Jack shouldered the blankets which contained the few provisions they had left, plunged into the thicket, and were out of hearing in a few minutes. The robbers sat by the fire without making any effort to continue their journey, and presently Bob turned his eyes upon Claus.

"Now, my friend, it is time for you to go, too," said he. 406

CHAPTER XXX.

HOME AGAIN.

Claus had been expecting something of this kind. It is true he had a revolver, but by the time he could reach back to his hip pocket and draw it he could be covered by Jake, whose weapon lay close at hand. There was but one thing to be done—he had to surrender. Instead of getting three thousand dollars for his share in the robbery, he would be turned loose in that country, two hundred miles from anybody, without a cent left in his pockets—that is, if Bob searched him.

"Well," said Claus, "I suppose you want all the money I have around me. I should think you might leave me a little."

"How much have you?" asked Bob.

Without saying a word, Claus unbuttoned his vest, worked at something on the inside, and presently hauled out a belt, which he 407 handed over to Bob. It did not stick out as though there was much money in it, and when Bob began to investigate it, all he drew forth was twenty-five dollars.

"You are a wealthy millionaire, I understood you to say," exclaimed Bob, in great disgust. "This looks like it!"

"I told you, when I had purchased the pack-mule, provisions and tools, that I should not have much left," answered Claus. "That's all I have, and if you take it from me I shall starve."

"Stand up!" commanded Jake, who was as disgusted as Bob was. "You are sure you haven't got any about your clothes? But, first, I'll take possession of that revolver."

The revolver having been disposed of, Jake then turned his attention to feeling in all Claus's pockets, but he found nothing more there—Claus had evidently given them the last cent he had.

"Take your little bills," said Bob, throwing Claus's belt back to him. "If you are careful of them, they will serve you till you get back to Denver." 408

"And when you get there, you can go to one of those men who own that block of buildings and borrow another thousand or two. Now, get out of here!" put in Jake.

"I thank you for this much," returned Claus. "But I should thank you a good deal more if you would give me my revolver. I may want it before I reach Denver."

"Give it to him, Jake. He hasn't pluck enough to shoot at us or anybody else. Make yourself scarce about here!"

"They think they are awful smart!" thought Claus, when he had placed some bushes between him and the robbers. "Why didn't they think to look in my shoe? I have three hundred dollars that they don't know anything about. Now I guess I'll go back to St. Louis; and if anybody ever says anything to me about an 'old horse,' I'll knock him down."

We are now in a position to take a final leave of Claus, and we do it with perfect readiness. Did he get back to St. Louis in safety? Yes, he got there in due course, but he had some fearful sufferings on the way. In the 409 first place, he was nearly a week in finding his way out of the mountains; and by the time he reached a miner's cabin he was so weak from want of food that he fell prone upon the floor, and stayed there until the miner came from his work and found him there. Of course he was taken in and cared for, and when he was able to resume his journey he offered to present the miner with every cent he had,—twenty-five dollars,—to pay him for his kindness; but the miner would not take it.

"You will need every cent of that before you get to Denver," said he. "The food and care I have given you don't amount to anything. Good-bye, and good luck to you."

He was nearly three times as long in finding his way back to Denver. He tried to buy a horse on the way, but no one had any to sell. He now and then found a chance to ride when he was overtaken by a teamster who was going somewhere for a load, but the most of his journey was accomplished on foot. His long tramp never cost him a cent, for everybody pitied his forlorn condition. 410

"I tell you, if I had been treated this way by those robbers I wouldn't look as bad as I do now," Claus often said to himself; "I would have seen California before I went home."

All this while, Claus was on nettles for fear he would see some of the men from Dutch Flat who were in pursuit of him; but the trouble was, the miners all went the other way. They never dreamed that Claus was going home, but saddled their horses at Mr. Banta's command, and, making no attempt to follow the devious course of the robbers through the mountains, took the "upper trail," and did their best to shut them off from the towns toward which they knew the men were hastening to buy some more provisions. What luck they met with we shall presently see.

No man ever drew a longer breath than Claus did when he came within sight of Denver. He went at once to the hotel where he had left his clothes, but the landlord did not recognize him and ordered him out of the house; but he finally succeeded in making 411 himself known; and, now that he was safely out of reach of the miners at Dutch Flat, he had some fearful stories to tell of his experience.

"You know I left my clothes with you on condition that you would keep them for me for a year," said Claus, who thought that was the wisest thing that he ever did. "Well, I want them now. I have the key to my trunk, so everything is all right."

Claus was not long in recovering from the effects of his journey, for he could not help thinking that Mr. Banta, or some other man who belonged to the Flat, would find out that he had gone to Denver and come after him; so he remained there but two days before he took the cars for home.

"Now I am safe," said he, settling down in his seat and pulling his hat over his eyes; "I would like to see them catch me. But what shall I do when I get back to St. Louis? I must settle down into the same old life I have always led, and that will be a big come-down for me."

Claus is there now, spending his time at the 412 pool-rooms, where he makes the most of his living, and ready at any time to talk about the mines and the terrible experience he had there.

And where were Julian and Jack all this while? To begin with, they were in the ravine, making all the haste they could to leave the robbers behind and reach the haunted mine before their provisions gave out. That troubled them worse than anything.

"If our grub stops, where are we going to get more?" asked Jack. "I don't believe there is a house any nearer than Dutch Flat."

"And we can't get there any too soon," returned Julian. "At any rate, we are better off than Claus is. What do you suppose they intend to do with him?"

"I suppose they intend to divide the money with him. What makes you think they would do anything else?"

"From the way they treated him. If we could learn the whole upshot of the matter, you would find that they don't intend to give him a dollar." 413

"I wish we could see Mr. Banta for about five minutes," said Jack. "I don't like to give up that money. It is the first we ever earned by digging in the ground, and I was going to suggest to you that we keep some of it."

Julian replied by lengthening his steps and going ahead at a faster rate than ever. He, too, did not like to confess that the money was lost,—that is, if they could only get word to Mr. Banta in time. He did not know where the robbers were heading for; but, with two hundred men at his back, Julian was certain he could come up with them before they had left the country entirely.

"But I hope they will not hurt the robbers," said Julian. "If they will just get the dust, that is all I shall ask of them."

About five o'clock in the afternoon, when it began to grow dark in the ravine, Julian, who had been all the time leading the way, stopped and pointed silently before him. Jack looked, and there was the camp they had occupied two nights before.

"We are on the right road, so far," said he. 414 "If we don't miss our way to-morrow we are all right."

The boys had not stopped to eat any dinner, and for that reason they were hungry. They spent a long time in cooking and eating their bacon, and Julian said there was just enough for two more meals. He did not like to think of what might happen when it was all gone, and, after replenishing the fire, bade his companion good-night, wrapped his blanket about him, and laid down to rest; but sleep was out of the question. A dozen times he got up to see the time, and there was Jack, snoring away as lustily as he had done at the haunted mine. Julian wished that he, too, could forget his troubles in the same way, but when morning came he had not closed his eyes.

Julian proved to be an invaluable guide, for that night they slept in the first camp they had made after leaving the haunted mine. If he had always known the path, he could not have brought his companion straighter to it.

"Now keep your eyes open for the trail we made when we came down from our mine, 415 and then we are at home. But I say, Julian, I shall not be in favor of staying here. All our money is gone, I don't feel in the humor to work for any more, and we will go down to Dutch Flat."

"And we'll stay there just long enough to find somebody starting out for Denver, and we'll go with him," replied Julian. "I don't want anything more to do with the mines as long as I live."

The night passed away, and the next morning, without waiting to cook breakfast, the two boys started to find the trail that led up the bluff to the haunted mine. They were a long time in finding it—so long, in fact, that Julian began to murmur discouraging words; but finally Jack found it; and now began the hardest piece of work they had undertaken since they left the robbers. The cliff was as steep as it looked to be when they gazed down into its depths from the heights above, and they did not see how they had managed to come down it in the first place.

"Are you sure the mine is up here?" asked Julian, seating himself on a fallen tree to 416 rest. "I should not like to go up there and find nothing."

"Didn't you see the trail we made in coming down?" inquired Jack. "Of course we are on the right track; but if you spend all your time in resting, we shall never be nearer the top than we are this minute."

Julian once more set to work to climb the hill, and in half an hour more Jack pushed aside some branches that obstructed his way and found himself in plain view of the mine. Julian was satisfied now, but declared he could not go any farther until he had recovered all the wind he had expended in going up the bluff; but Jack wanted to see that everything in the camp was just as they left it. He walked on toward the lean-to, and the first thing that attracted his attention was that his goods had been disturbed. The skins were gone, some of the blankets were missing, and there were hardly provisions enough to get them a square meal. Julian came up in response to his call, and was obliged to confess that there had been other robbers while they were absent. 417

"Let us dish up the few provisions left, take those things we want to save, and dig out for the Flat," said Julian. "I am sure there is nothing here to keep us, now."

"And we'll leave the dirt-bucket here for somebody else to use," added Jack. "If he thinks there is a lead down there, let him go and try it. I did not send up enough dust the last time I was down there to pay for the rope."

At the end of an hour the boys resumed their journey, each one loaded with a few things they wanted to save, and in two hours more they arrived within sight of Dutch Flat. Some few of the men had already given up their workings and were sitting in front of the store, smoking their pipes; but one of them speedily caught sight of the boys, and the miners broke out into a cheer. In a few seconds more they were surrounded, shaking hands with all of them, and trying in vain to answer their questions all at once.

"This is no way to do it," declared Julian. "Let us put our things in the cabin and get our breath, and I will tell you the story." 418

"In the first place," began Jack, as he deposited the things with which his arms were filled and came out and seated himself on the doorsteps of Mr. Banta's cabin, "let me ask a few questions. I won't delay the story five minutes. Where is the man who owns this house?"

"Mr. Banta?" said one of the miners. "He took the upper trail two or three days ago, and rode with all possible speed in the direction of Mendota. He hopes in that way to cut off those villains."

"He will do it, too, for they have no horses," said Julian.

"No horses? What did they do with them?"

"I don't know, I am sure," answered Julian, in surprise. "They were on foot when they came to rob us."

"Why, their mule came up here a few hours after they left, and made the biggest kind of a fuss, and Banta suspected something at once. He called for some men to go with him, and he went as straight as he could to your mine. You were not there, and that 419 proved that those miners had paid you a visit."

"We are going to get our dust again!" said Julian, slapping Jack on the shoulder. "But I hope they won't hurt the robbers after they catch them."

"Well, that is rather a difficult thing to tell. A man who comes into a mining-camp and watches his chance to steal money instead of working for it, takes his life in his hand."

"Then they must have been the ones who disturbed our things," said Jack.

"Probably they were. They brought the skins of the ghosts back, and also some of your provisions. They are there in his cabin now. Now let us have that story." 420

CHAPTER XXXI.

CONCLUSION

When Julian had fairly settled down to tell his story, which he did by crossing his right leg over his left leg and clasping his hands around his knee, he discovered that there was not so much to be told as he had thought for. His adventure with the robbers was nothing more than might have happened to any one of the miners who were standing around him; the only question in his mind was, would the other miner have fared as well as he did?

"They came to our mine and stole our dust; but I don't see how they found out about the full bag. Mr. Banta told us to be careful about that."

"Why, Mr. Banta told it himself!" remarked one of the miners. "He said you had a bagful hidden away."

"You see, he had to do it, or the men here 421 would have become suspicions and gone up to your mine in a body," explained another. "Go on—what next?"

"They took the full bag, as well as the half-empty one, and told us we would have to go with them on a three days' journey into the mountains, so as to keep you fellows here in ignorance of the robbery as long as possible but they took us only a two days' journey, and then told us we had gone far enough. That's all there was of it."

"Is that all you have to tell?" asked one.

"Well, no. They went away from here on horseback, you said. Now, what did they do with their animals? They were on foot when they came to see us, and they never said 'horses' once during the two days we were with them."

"Probably they rode their horses as far as they could, and then killed them."

"No doubt they pushed them over a bluff," said a man who had not spoken before.

"We did not see any horses; of that much we are certain. The only thing I can't see into is, what they did with Claus after we went 422 away. Of course they agreed to give him a portion of the money they got off us."

"Maybe so, but I don't think they did it. Go on—how did they treat you?"

"As well as they knew how," answered Julian, emphatically. "That is the reason why I hope Mr. Banta will be kind to them if he catches them."

"Well, you'll see how he'll treat them," retorted a miner. "You'll never see those three men again."

Julian became uneasy every time the men spoke of the way the miners would use their prisoners if they found them, but he knew it would be of no use to say a word. If anything was done to them, he was in hopes the miners would get through with it before they came to camp. He was not used to any Western way of dealing with criminals, and he thought he was getting too old to become used to it now.

This was the way Julian told his story, in answer to numerous questions of the miners, who finally heard all they wanted to know. In regard to what had happened to Claus, 423 none of the miners had any idea. He did not get any of the dust that was stolen from the boys, and he would be lucky if he got away with a dollar in his pocket.

"Do you know, I have been on the watch for them fellows to get into a squabble of some kind before we saw the last of them?" remarked a miner. "That Bob was a regular thief—one could tell that by looking at him. The short, pursy fellow—you called him Claus, didn't you?—looked like a gentleman; but his face did not bear out his good clothes."

The miners then slowly dispersed, one after the other,—some to their work, and some to lounge in front of the grocery, smoking their pipes,—and the boys were left to themselves. Their first care was to get something to eat, for they had not had a sufficient quantity of food, the bacon and hard-tack they first put into their blankets having disappeared until there was none left. Provisions were handy in Mr. Banta's cabin, and when they had got fairly to work on it they heard a sound from the miners whom they had left outside. 424

"Here they come!" shouted a voice. "Now we'll see what will be done with those prisoners!"

The boys looked at each other in blank amazement. They had caught the robbers, so their dust was safe; but what were they going to do with the culprits, now that they had captured them?

"I declare," said another miner, at length, "they haven't brought any prisoners with them! And there's Tony, with his arm tied up in a sling!"

The boys had by this time reached the door, and saw Mr. Banta, accompanied by a dozen miners, ride into the camp. The boys looked closely at them, but could not see anybody that looked like Bob and Jake; but Tony did not seem to have left all the fight there was in him up in the mountains, for he raised his rifle and flourished it over his head.

"Halloo! Mr. Banta," shouted Julian. "You meant to catch them, did you? But I guess you came out at the little end of the horn." 425

"Well, there!" exclaimed Mr. Banta, stopping his horse and addressing himself to his men; "didn't I tell you those boys would come back all right? Put it there, kids!"

Julian and Jack shook hands with all the returning miners before they saw an opportunity to propound any other questions; and then, when they did ask them, they did not get any satisfactory answers.

"Did you get our dust?" asked Jack.

"Yes, sir! And the men—ah!" said Mr. Banta, who stopped and looked around at the miners as if he hardly knew what to say next.

"Well, what about the men?" inquired Julian. "You saw them, of course."

"Oh, yes, we saw the men; and when we asked them where the dust was that they stole down here at the haunted mine, they took it out of their clothes and gave it to us. Ain't that so, boys?"

The men around him nodded their heads emphatically, as if to say their leader had told nothing but the truth, but there was something in their faces that told a different 426 story. The boys concluded they would ask no more questions while Mr. Banta was around, but when he went away they were sure they would get at the truth of the matter.

"And, Julian, there's your money," continued Mr. Banta, who had been trying to take something out of his coat-pocket. "There is the full bag, and there is the other. The next time I leave you with such an amount of money to take care of, I'll give you my head for a football."

"Why, Mr. Banta, you told them all about this!" asserted Jack, laughingly.

"No, I never!" shouted Mr. Banta.

"Didn't you tell the men what we had done and all about the dust we had?" asked Julian. "You did tell them, and the robbers were sitting by the camp-fire, and heard it all."

"Eh? Oh, well—I did say—I could not well help it—let us go into the cabin and see what you have to eat."

Mr. Banta lost no time in getting into the cabin, for the boys had asked a question he could not answer, and when they followed him in he was engaged in filling his pipe. 427

"We rode to the haunted mine and found you were not there, so we came back and took the upper trail on the way to Mendota," said the miner, talking rapidly, as if he hoped to shut off any questions the boys might have ready to ask him. "We had a good time. We found the men there and asked them for the money, and they gave it over as peaceable and quiet as could be. Now, don't let us hear any more about it. You know the whole of the story. Is this all you have to ease a man's appetite? Why, I could eat it all myself!"

"That's a funny story," whispered Jack, as he and Julian went to the spring after a bucket of water.

"Well, keep still," said Julian. "He told us not to say anything more about it, and that's just the same as an order. We'll get the straight of the matter yet."

"Who will you go to?"

"We'll go to Tony for it. He was the man who was shot in the fracas, and he will tell us all about it."

It was two days before Julian had an opportunity to speak to Tony in private. Tony's 428 right arm was injured so badly that he could not use a shovel, and the boys volunteered to go down in his mine and help him—a voluntary act on their part which gained them the good-will of all the miners. One day, when Tony was sitting by his mine smoking his pipe and Julian was waiting for Jack to fill up their bucket, the latter thought the chance had come, for Tony was unusually talkative that morning.

"Now, there is no need that you should keep this thing away from us any longer," said Julian, suddenly. "Who shot those two men?"

Tony was taken off his guard and looked all around as if he was waiting for some one to suggest an answer. Finally he took off his hat and dug his fingers into his hair.

"Who said anything about shooting a man?" he asked.

"No one has said anything about it this morning, but I just want to know if everything I suspect is true," answered Julian, with his eyes fastened on Tony's face.

"Some one who was there can't keep his 429 mouth shut," remarked Tony, in great disgust. "Mr. Banta said he didn't want you to know anything about it, and here that man has gone and blowed the whole thing! But you'll remember that I didn't say a word about it—won't you?"

"No one shall ever know what you tell me," asserted Julian. "Did you shoot them?"

"Well, I couldn't help it—could I? We came up with them just before we got to Mendota. We rode right plump onto them before we knew it, and without saying a word they began to shoot. If they had had rifles, some of us would have gone under; but they had nothing but revolvers, and the first thing I knew something went slap through my arm, and I began to shoot, too. I got in two shots while you would be thinking about it, and then Mr. Banta looked through their clothes and got the dust. We went down to Mendota and reported the matter to the sheriff, and he sent up and buried them."

"It is a wonder to me that they didn't arrest you," said Julian. 430

"Who—me? What did I do? The men were shooting at us, and I was defending myself. It would have taken more men than they had there to arrest me, for any man would have done the same. Anyhow, we got your money back. Say! Don't lisp a word of this to Mr. Banta. He would go for me hot and heavy."

Julian was obliged to promise again that Mr. Banta should never hear a word of what Tony had told him; but that night he told it to Jack, who said that his "funny story" had come out just as he thought it would.

"You said you didn't want them to deal with the culprits here in camp, and you have your wish," said Jack.

Not long after that the miners, discouraged, packed up, by companies of half a dozen or more, bid good-bye to their associates, and struck out for other localities. Dutch Flat was "played out," there was no gold there for them, and they were going where they could do better. Some of them talked of going home, while others, whose "piles" were not quite as large as they wished, were going to 431 try it again for another year. Mr. Banta lingered there for some time, and then he, too, astonished the boys by bringing up his tools and telling them that next day he would strike for Denver.

"And when I get there I don't think I shall stop," said he. "I have been away from my home in the granite hills so long that I won't know how to act when I get there, and I can't learn any younger than I can now. I am going as far as St. Louis with you, and then I shall strike off alone."

This put new life into the boys. As soon as it became known in camp that Mr. Banta was going away, a dozen others joined in with his party, and when they rode away from the camp the few miners who were left behind cheered themselves hoarse. The boys had been "to the mines," had met with some adventures while there, and they were ready to go back among civilized people once more.

Their stay in Denver did not last more than a week, and the boys were made to promise, over and over again, that after they had seen their friends in St. Louis they 432 would go back there to live. Everything they had in the world was there, the Western country seemed to agree with them, and there they would remain. They had not yet completed their course at the business school, and when that was done they must look for some useful occupation in which to spend their lives.

Mr. Banta proved that he had some money in the bank before he had been in Denver two days. The boys left him at his old hotel, clad in a miner's suit, and looking altogether, as he expressed it, "like a low-down tramp," and when they saw him again they could hardly recognize him. The barber had been at work on him, the tailor had done his best to fit him out; but the squeeze he gave their hands proved that he was the same "old Banta" still. The boys never forgot him; his kindness had saved them many a dollar.

After taking leave of Mr. Banta at St. Louis the boys took up their quarters at a leading hotel, and for two weeks devoted themselves to calling upon their friends. As they signed their names to the register Julian whispered, 433

"I have often thought, while I have been carrying messages here in the city and looked into this hotel while hurrying past it, that the men who could put up at a first-class house like this must be a happy lot, and now I have a chance to see how it goes myself. Jack, let us go down and have a glass of soda water. Why don't you grumble about that the way you did the last time we were here?"

But Jack did not feel like grumbling—he was too happy for that. He did not think, while he was finding fault with Julian for the wages he had spent at the express office in buying 'old horse,' that he was one whose fortunes hung upon the letter that was to tell him about The Haunted Mine.

THE END.

THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO.'S POPULAR JUVENILES.

HARRY CASTLEMON.


HOW I CAME TO WRITE MY FIRST BOOK.

When I was sixteen years old I belonged to a composition class. It was our custom to go on the recitation seat every day with clean slates, and we were allowed ten minutes to write seventy words on any subject the teacher thought suited to our capacity. One day he gave out "What a Man Would See if He Went to Greenland." My heart was in the matter, and before the ten minutes were up I had one side of my slate filled. The teacher listened to the reading of our compositions, and when they were all over he simply said: "Some of you will make your living by writing one of these days." That gave me something to ponder upon. I did not say so out loud, but I knew that my composition was as good as the best of them. By the way, there was another thing that came in my way just then. I was reading at that time one of Mayne Reid's works which I had drawn from the library, and I pondered upon it as much as I did upon what the teacher said to me. In introducing Swartboy to his readers he made use of this expression: "No visible change was observable in Swartboy's countenance." Now, it occurred to me that if a man of his education could make such a blunder as that and still write a book, I ought to be able to do it, too. I went home that very day and began a story, "The Old Guide's Narrative," which was sent to the New York Weekly, and came back, respectfully declined. It was written on both sides of the sheets but I didn't know that this was against the rules. Nothing abashed, I began another, and receiving some instruction, from a friend of mine who was a clerk in a book store, I wrote it on only one side of the paper. But mind you, he didn't know what I was doing. Nobody knew it; but one day, after a hard Saturday's work—the other boys had been out skating on the brick-pond—I shyly broached the subject to my mother. I felt the need of some sympathy. She listened in amazement, and then said: "Why, do you think you could write a book like that?" That settled the matter, and from that day no one knew what I was up to until I sent the first four volumes of Gunboat Series to my father. Was it work? Well, yes; it was hard work, but each week I had the satisfaction of seeing the manuscript grow until the "Young Naturalist" was all complete.—Harry Castlemon in the Writer.


GUNBOAT SERIES.
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Frank the Young Naturalist. Frank before Vicksburg.
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Frank in the Woods. Frank on the Prairie.
 
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Don Gordon's Shooting Box. The Young Wild Fowlers.
Rod and Gun Club.
 
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The Houseboat Boys. The Mystery of Lost River Ca˝on.
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COMPLETE CATALOG OF BEST BOOKS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
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THIS WELL-KNOWN SERIES OF BOOKS is recognized as the best library of Copyright Books for young people, sold at popular prices.

THE AUTHORS represented in the Roundabout Library are not only the best well-known writers of juvenile literature, but the titles listed comprise the best writings of these authors,

OVER 100 TITLES are now in this Library and all new titles will be selected with the same care as in the past, for stories that are not only entertaining but equally instructive and elevating. This respect for wholesome juvenile literature is what has made and kept the Roundabout Library better than any other library of books for Boys and Girls.

OUR AIM is to maintain the supremacy of these books over all others from every viewpoint, and to make the superior features so apparent that those who have once read one, will always return to the Roundabout Library for more.

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Across Texas. By Edward S. Ellis.

Adventures in Canada; or, Life in the Woods. By John C. Geikie.

Alison's Adventures. By Lucy C. Lillie.

American Family Robinson, The; or, The Adventures of a Family Lost in the Great Desert of the West. By W. D. Belisle.

Bear Hunters of the Rocky Mountains, The. By Anne Bowman.

Ben's Nugget; or, A Boy's Search for a Fortune. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Bob Burton; or, the Young Ranchman of the Missouri. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Bonnie Prince Charlie; A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden. By G. A. Henty.

Brave Billy. By Edward S. Ellis.

Brave Tom; or, The Battle that Won. By Edward S. Ellis.

By England's Aid; or, The Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604). By G. A. Henty.

By Pike and Dyke; A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic. By G. A. Henty.

By Right of Conquest; or, With Cortez in Mexico. By G. A. Henty.

By Love's Sweet Rule. By Gabrielle Emelie Jackson.

Cabin in the Clearing, The. A Tale of the Frontier. By Edward S. Ellis.

Camping Out, As Recorded by "Kit." By C. A. Stephens.

Camp in the Foothills, The. By Harry Castlemon.

Cornet of Horse, The. A Tale of Marlborough's Wars By G. A. Henty.

Cruise of the Firefly. By Edward S. Ellis.

Dear Days, A Story of Washington School Life. By Ada Mickle.

Diccon the Bold. A Story of the Days of Columbus. By John Russell Coryell.

Do and Dare; or, A Brave Boy's Fight for Fortune. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Dog Crusoe, The. A Tale of the Western Prairies. By R. M. Ballantyne.

Dog of Cotopaxi, The. By Hezekiah Butterworth.

Doris and Theodora. By Margaret Vandegrift.

Dr. Gilbert's Daughters. By Margaret H. Matthews.

Dragon and the Raven, The; or, The Days of King Alfred. By G. A. Henty.

Elam Storm, the Wolfer; or, The Lost Nugget. By Harry Castlemon.

Elinor Belden; or, The Step Brothers. By Lucy C. Lillie.

Esther's Fortune. By Lucy C. Lillie.

Floating Treasure. By Harry Castlemon.

Four Little Indians. By Ella Mary Coates.

Family Dilemma. By Lucy C. Lillie.

Floating Light of the Goodwin Sands, The. By R. M. Ballantyne.

For Honor's Sake. By Lucy C. Lillie.

Four Boys; or, The Story of the Forest Fire. By Edward S. Ellis.

Fox Hunting, As Recorded by "Raed." By C. A. Stephens.

Freaks on the Fells. By R. M. Ballantyne.

Gascoyne, the Sandalwood Trader. By R. M. Ballantyne.

Girl's Ordeal, A. By Lucy C. Lillie

Gorilla Hunters, The. By R. M. Ballantyne.

Great Cattle Trail, The. By Edward S. Ellis.

Hunt on Snow Shoes, A. By Edward S. Ellis.

Hartwell Farm, The. By Elizabeth B. Comins.

Hector's Inheritance; or, The Boys of Smith Institute. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Helen Glenn; or, My Mother's Enemy. By Lucy C. Lillie.

Helping Himself; or, Grant Thornton's Ambition. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Honest Ned. By Edward S. Ellis.

Haunted Mine, The. By Harry Castlemon.

In Freedom's Cause. A Story of Wallace and Bruce. By G. A. Henty.

In the Reign of Terror; The Adventures of a Westminster Boy. By G. A. Henty.

Jack Midwood; or, Bread Cast Upon the Waters. By Edward S. Ellis.

Joe Wayring at Home; or, The Adventures of a Fly Rod. By Harry Castlemon.

Kangaroo Hunters, The; or, Adventures in the Bush. By Anne Bowman.

King's Rubies, The. By Adelaide Fulaer Bell.

Lady Green Satin. By Baroness Deschesnez.

Left on Labrador; or, The Cruise of the Yacht "Curlew." By C. A. Stephens.

Lena Wingo, the Mohawk. By Edward S. Ellis.

Lenny, the Orphan. By Margaret Hosmer.

Lion of the North. The; A Tale of the Times of Gustavus Adolphus. By G. A. Henty.

Luke Walton; or, The Chicago Newsboy. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Lynx Hunting. By C. A. Stephens.

Limber Lew, the Circus King. By Edward S. Ellis.

Marion Berkley. By Elizabeth B. Comins.

Missing Pocket-Book, The. By Harry Castlemon.

Mysterious Andes, The. By Hezekiah Butterworth.

Northern Lights. Stories from Swedish and Finnish Authors.

Off to the Geysers; or, The Young Yachters in Iceland. By C. A. Stephens.

On the Amazon; or, The Cruise of the "Rambler." By C. A. Stephens.

On the Trail of the Moose. By Edward S. Ellis.

Orange and Green; A Tale of the Boyne and Limerick. By G. A. Henty.

Oscar in Africa. By Harry Castlemon.

Our Boys in Panama. By Hezekiah Butterworth.

Our Fellows; or, Skirmishes with the Swamp Dragoons. By Harry Castlemon.

Path in the Ravine, The. By Edward S. Ellis.

Plucky Dick; or, Sowing and Reaping. By Edward S. Ellis.

Queen's Body Guard, The. By Margaret Vandegrift

Question of Honor. By Lynde Palmer.

Righting the Wrong. By Edward S. Ellis.

River Fugitives, The. By Edward S. Ellis.

Romain Kalbris. His Adventures by Sea and Shore. Translated from the French of Hector Malot.

Rose Raymond's Wards. By Margaret Vandegrift.

Ruth Endicott's Way. By Lucy C. Lillie.

Shifting Winds; A Story of the Sea. By R. M. Ballantyne.

Snagged and Sunk; or, The Adventures of a Canvas Canoe. By Harry Castlemon.

Squire's Daughter, The. By Lucy C. Lillie.

Steel Horse, The; or, The Rambles of a Bicycle. By Harry Castlemon.

Store Boy, The; or, The Fortunes of Ben Barclay. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Storm Mountain. By Edward S. Ellis.

Struggling Upward; or, Luke Larkin's Luck. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Tam; or, Holding the Fort. By Edward S. Ellis.

Through Forest and Fire. By Edward S. Ellis.

True to the Old Flag; A Tale of the American War of Independence. By G. A. Henty.

Two Bequests, The; or, Heavenward Led. By Jane R. Sommers.

Two Ways of Becoming a Hunter. By Harry Castlemon.

Under Drake's Flag. A Tale of the Spanish Main. By G. A. Henty.

Under the Holly. By Margaret Hosmer.

Under the Red Flag; or, The Adventures of Two American Boys in the Days of the Commune. By Edward King.

Ways and Means. By Margaret Vandegrift.

Where Honor Leads. By Lynde Palmer.

Wilderness Fugitives, The. By Edward S. Ellis.

Wild Man of the West, The. By R. M. Ballantyne.

With Clive in India; or, The Beginning of an Empire. By G. A. Henty.

With Wolfe in Canada; or, The Winning of a Continent. By G. A. Henty.

Wyoming. By Edward S. Ellis.

Young Adventurer, The; Tom's Trip Across the Plains. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Young Circus Rider, The. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Young Conductor, The; or, Winning His Way. By Edward S. Ellis.

Young Explorer, The; or, Among the Sierras. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Young Miner, The; or, Tom Nelson in California. By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Young Ranchers, The; or, Fighting the Sioux. By Edward S. Ellis.

Young Wreckers The. By Richard Meade Bache.

JACK HAZARD SERIES.
6 vols. By J. T. TROWBRIDGE $7.25
 
Jack Hazard and His Fortunes Doing His Best.
The Young Surveyor. A Chance for Himself.
Fast Friends. Lawrence's Adventures.

CHARLES ASBURY STEPHENS.

This author wrote his "Camping Out Series" at the very height of his mental and physical powers.

"We do not wonder at the popularity of these books; there is a freshness and variety about them, and an enthusiasm in the description of sport and adventure, which even the older folk can hardly fail to share."—Worcester Spy.

"The author of the Camping Out Series is entitled to rank as decidedly at the head of what may be called boys' literature."—Buffalo Courier.

CAMPING OUT SERIES.

By C. A. STEPHENS.

All books in this series are 12mo. with eight full page illustrations. Cloth, extra, 75 cents.

Camping Out. As Recorded by "Kit."

"This book is bright, breezy, wholesome, instructive, and stands above the ordinary boys' books of the day by a whole head and shoulders."—The Christian Register, Boston.

Left on Labrador; or, The Cruise of the Schooner Yacht "Curlew." As Recorded by "Wash."

"The perils of the voyagers, the narrow escapes, their strange expedients, and the fun and jollity when danger had passed, will make boys even unconscious of hunger."—New Bedford Mercury.

Off to the Geysers; or The Young Yachters in Iceland. As Recorded by "Wade."

"It is difficult to believe that Wade and Read and Kit and Wash were not live boys, sailing up Hudson Straits, and reigning temporarily over an Esquimaux tribe."—The Independent, New York.

Lynx Hunting: From Notes by the Author of "Camping Out."

"Of first quality as a boys' book, and fit to take its place beside the best."—Richmond Enquirer.

Fox Hunting. As Recorded by "Raed."

"The most spirited and entertaining book that has as yet appeared. It overflows with incident, and is characterized by dash and brilliancy throughout."—Boston Gazette.

On the Amazon; or, the Cruise of the "Rambler." As Recorded by "Wash."

"Gives vivid pictures of Brazilian adventure and scenery."—Buffalo Courier.






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