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Title: The Award of Justice - Or, Told in the Rockies - A Pen Picture of the West
Author: Barbour, A. Maynard (Anna Maynard), -1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Award of Justice - Or, Told in the Rockies - A Pen Picture of the West" ***

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THE AWARD OF JUSTICE

OR

TOLD IN THE ROCKIES.

A Pen Picture of the West.

BY

A. MAYNARD BARBOUR,

AUTHOR OF "That Mainwaring Affair."

"Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof."--Ecc. vii, 8.

CHICAGO AND NEW YORK:

RAND, McNALLY & COMPANY,

PUBLISHERS.



Copyright, 1897, by Rand, McNally & Co.

Copyright, 1901, by Rand, McNally & Co.



DEDICATION.

To W. James Barbour,

 My co-worker in this pleasant task,
 at whose suggestion it was undertaken,
 and by whose inspiration it has been guided,
 from inception to completion,
 this book is affectionately dedicated
 by the author,

A. MAYNARD BARBOUR.



THE AWARD OF JUSTICE

By A. Maynard Barbour.



CHAPTER I.


The Pacific Express was due at Valley City at 1:45 p.m. Within ten
minutes of that time, a spring-board wagon, containing two young men
and drawn by a pair of bronchos, suddenly appeared around one end of
the dingy little depot. One of the men, dressed in a tweed traveling
suit, jumped hastily from the wagon, while the other, who looked like
a prosperous young ranchman, seemed to have all he could attend to in
holding the restive little ponies, who were rearing and kicking in
their impatience at being compelled to stand.

"I'm afraid, Ned," he said, "that you'll have to look out for your
traps yourself; these little rats haven't been driven for four days,
and they're feeling pretty frisky."

"All right, Tom," responded the other, diving under the seat of the
spring-board and bringing out the said "traps," which consisted of two
grips, a rifle case, a set of fishing rods, and, last but not least, a
large, square case which he handled with great care, and now held up
to his companion saying,

"See that, Tom? that's my set of cameras; they're fine too, I tell
you."

"But why do you bother to take them around with you all the time, like
that?" inquired his friend.

"Oh," replied Ned, "I do that so as to be ready to catch any choice
scenes I come across; I'm making a collection of views, you know, and
I expect to get a good many on this trip. By the way, I got some
stunning views over there at your place this morning, just before
breakfast."

"The dickens, you did!" exclaimed Tom, suddenly remembering a
ludicrous predicament in which his guest had caught him.

"Oh, yes," said Ned, "and when I get away at a safe distance I'm going
to develop them and send them to you. I've got an awfully fine--well,
by Jove, if that isn't just my luck!"

Ned had just deposited his belongings on the depot platform and in
doing so, noticed a piece of blackboard propped up against the wall,
on which were chalked these words, "Train 3 ours late." His eyes
seemed riveted to the spot.

"What's the matter now?" asked Tom, who took in the situation at a
glance.

"Matter! Why, that blasted train is three hours behind time."

"Too bad!" said Tom, with a grin; "if I'd only known that I needn't
have driven my horses so hard."

"Oh, confound those little beasts of yours;" exclaimed Ned, "a little
exercise won't hurt them, but to think of three hours in a place like
this! and say, don't you know how to spell out here?"

"Well," said Tom, coolly, "I don't hold myself personally responsible
for the wording of that blackboard, but I suppose that's the phonetic
spelling they used to talk about when I lived east; you see we've
adopted it out here, for we westerners have to rustle lively, and
don't have time for old-fashioned ways."

"I see," said Ned, rather sarcastically; "perhaps you can tell me why
they don't 'rustle' that train along on time."

"I suppose," replied Tom, "it's on account of that wreck two days ago;
you know your train was ten hours late yesterday."

"Yes," assented Ned, gazing about him with an expression of intense
disgust; "I got here after dark; that's how it comes about that I
never realized until the present moment what a paradise this place is.
Valley City! I can't see more than a dozen buildings here."

"That's probably because you're so near-sighted, my dear boy,"
replied Tom; and Ned, who was very sensitive on the subject of his
near-sightedness, colored, and readjusted his eye-glasses, while he
asked in a tone of despair:

"Well, what am I to do in this beastly place, anyhow?"

"You might take a stroll about the city," suggested Tom, "if you get
lost you'll have to inquire your way of some of the police. I would be
delighted to stay and keep you company, but work on the ranch is
rushing and I must hurry back; so I'll wish you good luck and
good-bye."

"All right, old fellow," said Ned, shaking hands in a slightly
patronizing way, "if you ever get out of this country, and find
yourself within the limits of civilization again, just take a run down
to the 'Hub' and see me."

"Much obliged," said Tom, turning around for a parting shot; "I say,
Ned, while you're waiting for the train, you'd better get out your
cameras; you might catch some more 'stunning views' you know," and
lightly snapping his whip, he started off, the bronchos standing on
their forefeet with their heels in the air.

"Good-bye, Tom," Ned called, after the rapidly retreating spring-board,
"if you ever had any brains to lose I'd be anxious about you, but I
guess you're safe enough."

Tom's only reply was a crack of the whip, and he and the ponies soon
disappeared in a cloud of dust, leaving Ned to survey his surroundings
at his leisure.

In the foreground was the low, dingy depot, and on the platform,
leaning against the building as though their spinal columns were
unable to support them, were two specimens of the genus homo, which
were entirely new to the young Bostonian. He gazed at them with
undisguised interest, being unable to determine whether they were
cow-boys or miners, these being the two classes into which, as he
imagined, the western population was about evenly divided. That they
immediately classified him, in their western vernacular, as a
"tenderfoot," and a remarkably verdant specimen at that, was not owing
to their superior penetration, as it was a self-evident fact.

Mr. Edward B. Rutherford, Jr., prided himself upon being a
resident of Boston, a son of one of her best families, and a
graduate of Harvard, and it is scarcely to be wondered at if he
felt himself slightly superior to ordinary mortals who had not been
blessed with these advantages. Nevertheless, the fact remained that
Mr. Rutherford's personal appearance could not be considered
especially prepossessing, even when moving in his own sphere where
he felt himself, as he would have expressed it, "en rapport" with his
surroundings; under other circumstances, as at the present time, it
very nearly approached the ludicrous. He was small in stature, but
his bump of self-esteem was developed in an inverse ratio to his
size. He seemed to be making a constant effort to maintain his
dignity at the proper level, in which direction he was greatly
assisted by a pair of eye-glasses, perched on a very large and
decidedly Roman nose. It had been claimed by his college chums
that the eye-glasses were worn for this especial purpose; be that
as it may, without their assistance, his task would certainly have
been a difficult one, as his eyes, which were very full and round,
and surmounted by a pair of extremely high-arched eyebrows, gave him
always an expression of exaggerated surprise and bewilderment,
which, when intensified as on the present occasion, rendered his
appearance very far from the otium cum dignitate to which he aspired.
But upon very few is the "giftie" bestowed, "to see oursel's as
ithers see us," and to many besides the junior Mr. Rutherford, such
a vision would be anything but satisfactory.

At the present time, however, Rutherford's only troubles were his
immediate surroundings, and the problem of how to pass the next three
hours. The loungers, who by this time had changed to a sitting
posture, and who were staring at him with an unwinking fixedness which
made him rather nervous, did not seem very congenial companions. The
town consisted of merely a few, straggling, unpainted buildings, while
in every direction extended the apparently interminable stretches of
undulating prairie, partially covered with sage brush and wild cactus.
Though early in the season, the heat was intense, and the glare of the
sunlight reflected from the patches of white, chalk-like sand, was so
blinding as to seem unendurable.

The interior of the depot was even more cheerless than the exterior. A
rusty stove, minus one leg, two or three battered benches, a flaming
circus poster, and an announcement of the preceding year's county fair
constituted the entire furnishing and decoration. No signs of life
were visible, the window into the ticket office being closed, while
from somewhere within the little inclosure, a telegraphic instrument
clicked with a cheerful pertinacity that to Rutherford seemed simply
exasperating.

In the course of half an hour, however, the monotony was relieved by
the appearance of half a dozen soldiers, who strolled over from a
neighboring fort, about two miles distant. Rutherford had soon
introduced himself to them, with a formality which they considered
highly amusing, and they entertained him with tales of various
thrilling adventures and hair breadth escapes, nearly all invented for
the occasion, to which he listened with an open-mouthed astonishment
that elicited many winks and grins from the blue-coats. Finally, two
of them escorted him to a small Indian camp, about a mile distant,
which was hidden from view by a sandy knoll, where, in some cottonwood
brush, beside a small creek, they found half a dozen tepees, around
which were squatted twenty or thirty disreputable-looking Indians,
their ponies tethered in the brush near by. The bucks were sullen and
uncommunicative, maintaining a solemn silence broken only by an
occasional grunt. Their dress was a combination of Indian costume and
articles purchased from the white people, the latter being put on to
suit the individual taste of the wearer, without the least regard to
the use for which it was originally intended. One, who seemed a leader
in the camp, in addition to his native toggery of feathers, beads and
brass rings, wore trousers of striped bed-ticking, two or three pairs
of gayly colored suspenders knotted together for a belt and sash, and
a flaming red necktie braided in his hair. The squaws in their
blankets were quite socially inclined, and the wig-wams at a little
distance looked very romantic to the young easterner, but the odors
wafted from them were sufficient for him, and he declined to penetrate
any further into the mysteries of an Indian camp; and after taking one
or two views of the Indians and their tepees, he returned to the
depot.

It was now nearly train time, and the number of loungers and loafers
had increased amazingly, considering the size of the town. There were
thirty or forty of them, all more or less resembling the first
specimens, and Rutherford wondered where they stowed themselves away,
not realizing that many came in from little shacks scattered over the
prairies; for to them, the coming of the train from the east was the
one great event of the day.

Among them Rutherford noticed a man, who, though clad as roughly as
the others, yet had an individuality so distinct from them as to be
noticeable even to a stranger. He wore an old soft hat and rough
blouse, his trousers being tucked into a pair of heavy, hobnailed
boots that reached to his knees. He was tall and stooped slightly, but
there was none of the slouching figure and gait that characterized
those around him. His movements were quick, and, when standing
motionless, there was something in his very pose that conveyed an
impression of alertness and of latent strength. His back was turned
toward Rutherford, who was watching him under a sort of subtle
fascination, when suddenly he wheeled, facing him. His eyes were keen
and piercing, and as he looked for an instant at Rutherford with an
expression of suspicion and distrust, and then seemed to survey his
diminutive figure with a quick glance of contempt, that young man felt
a sudden and violent terror in his inmost soul, which was not lessened
when his eyes fell upon a sheath knife and huge revolver in the
stranger's belt. Involuntarily Rutherford's hand went to his hip
pocket, where reposed a dainty, pearl-handled Smith and Wesson,
38-calibre, but he immediately regretted the movement, for the
blue-black eyes watching him scintillated for a moment with a cold,
steel-like glitter, and the lips under the heavy, black beard curled
with a smile of fine scorn, that made our young hero exceedingly
uncomfortable.

The whistle of the approaching train afforded him unspeakable relief,
and at the first opportunity he put himself and his belongings aboard
with a celerity very remarkable in one of his usual dignity.



CHAPTER II.


As the Pacific Express was speeding westward across the prairies, a
young man, half reclining among the cushions of the smoking car, was
enjoying a choice Havana. He took no note of external objects as they
flashed with almost lightning rapidity past the car windows, and he
seemed equally unconscious of the presence of his fellow passengers.
His dress and manner, as well as his nonchalant, graceful attitude,
and even the delicate poise of his cigar, were all indicative of
wealth and refinement, and of a courtesy innate, not acquired. His
head was slightly thrown back, and with half-closed, dreamy eyes, he
watched the coils of blue smoke wreathing and curling above his head,
but his mind was actively engaged in planning the details of the new
life opening up before him in the west. Walter Everard Houston, of New
York, the possessor of a million in his own name, and prospective heir
to many millions more, was en route for a small mining camp, far west,
in the heart of the Rockies, where he was to fill the position of
bookkeeper and corresponding secretary in the office of a mining
company, at a salary of one hundred dollars per month.

Mr. Houston's parents had died when he was very young, and he had been
tenderly reared in the home of his uncle, his mother's brother, Walter
Everard Cameron. Even now, as he watched the blue coils above his
head, his memory was going back to the time when he had entered that
beautiful home. He recalled the different members of that lovely
family, as they then appeared to him; the dark, patrician face of his
aunt, with its wondrous beauty, which, in the following years had
been so softened and deepened by sorrow that now it was almost
saint-like in the calm look of peace and love which it wore, with the
soft, snow-white hair surrounding it like a halo of glory. Then his
beautiful cousin Edna, with her sunny hair and starry eyes, and her
wonderful voice filling the home with music. She had married soon
after he entered the family, and went with her husband to a distant,
western city, often returning to visit the old home. How well he
remembered the last visit! Her baby was then nearly two years old; he
could not now recall her name, but she was a little, golden-haired
toddler, with her mother's eyes and voice. His cousin was suddenly
called home by a telegram that her husband was ill; then, in a day or
two, came the news of a frightful railroad accident, a collision and a
fire which quickly consumed the wreck. Edna was rescued from the
flames, unconscious and dying, but no trace could be found of the
little one. Then followed word of the death of Edna's husband; he had
died a few hours later than the accident occurred, ignorant of the
terrible fate of his wife and child.

Next came the memory of his cousin, Guy Cameron, but a few years older
than himself; dark and beautiful like his mother, proud spirited and
headstrong, the pride of his parents, but through him came their most
bitter sorrow. Through fast living and gambling he became deeply
involved, and forged his father's name to several checks, amounting to
nearly a hundred thousand; then, overcome by shame and remorse, he had
fled in the night, no one knew whither. His father payed the full
amount of the debt, without even betraying his son's guilt, and then
for years employed the most skillful detectives, trying to bring back
the wanderer to the love and forgiveness which awaited him; but in
vain, no trace of him existed. The father had long ago given up all
hope of ever seeing his boy again, and doubted whether he were living.
Only the sweet-faced mother, strong in her mother-love and in her
faith in God, believed that he would yet return, and was content to
watch and wait.

Meantime, Everard Houston had become like a son to Mr. and Mrs.
Cameron. After leaving college, he had been taken by his uncle as a
partner into his enormous banking house, and intrusted more or less
with the charge of various departments of business with which he was
connected, and he had proven himself worthy of the trust reposed in
him.

For a number of years, Mr. Cameron had been president of a large
investment company, which, among other properties, owned a number of
mines in the west which had been represented to be very valuable, and
which, at the time of purchase, possessed every indication of being
heavy producers of very rich ore. Lately, these mines had not been
yielding the profit which it was reasonable to expect from them, and
there were indications of bad management, if not of dishonesty, at the
western end of the line. One or two so-called experts had been sent
out to investigate, but they had after all so little knowledge of
practical mining, that they were unable to produce any tangible
evidence against the company who constituted their western agents,
although their reports had only tended to strengthen Mr. Cameron's
belief that there was underhanded and dishonest dealing somewhere,
which could only be detected by a person on the ground whom the
western company would not suspect of being personally interested.
Happening to learn, through a Chicago firm who were friends of Mr.
Cameron's, that the western company were desirous of getting a
bookkeeper and confidential clerk, it was decided, after consultation,
to send out Everard Houston to take this position. Accordingly, he had
gone to Chicago, and the firm there had written a letter to the mining
company, recommending him as a young man of their acquaintance, of
exceptional ability, reliable, and thoroughly to be trusted in all
confidential matters. The company had responded favorably, offering
the position to Mr. Houston for one month on trial, at one hundred
dollars, his traveling expenses to be paid by them. If he proved
satisfactory, they would retain him as long as would be mutually
agreeable, and if his services proved as valuable as expected, would
increase his salary. Mr. Houston was, therefore, on his way to the
mines to accept this position, together with the munificent salary,
and hoped to prove so satisfactory as to soon be admitted to the
"confidential" clerkship, in which event he anticipated being able to
accomplish a nice little piece of detective work.



CHAPTER III.


Mr. Houston was aroused from his pleasant revery by the rather noisy
entrance of a young man, who, with flushed face, and manner more
indicative of self-assertion than self-possession, passed down the car
and took a seat facing himself. This was none other than our friend,
Rutherford, who, having secured his berth in the sleeper, and arranged
his belongings to his entire satisfaction, immediately repaired to the
smoking car to soothe his perturbed and agitated spirits by a cigar.

From under his heavily drooping eyelids, Houston regarded his
vis-a-vis with concealed amusement, for he was an apt student of human
nature, and possessed an unusual degree of insight into the
characteristics of those with whom he was thrown in contact.

Rutherford, on his part, was watching Houston with his usual degree of
interest and curiosity. Each was measuring the other from his own
standpoint: Houston's prompt decision was,--"A good-hearted fellow,
but something of a cad;" while Rutherford's vague surmises, summed up
verbally, would have been,--"Nice looking sort of fellow, a gentleman;
guess he's got the stuff, too; 'twon't do any harm to make his
acquaintance."

An opportunity for this soon presented itself, for as the conductor
passed leisurely through the car, examining tickets, Rutherford
discovered that their destinations were the same, and hastily drawing
his card case from his pocket, said:

"As we seem likely to be fellow travelers for a while, I should be
pleased to make your acquaintance; allow me," at the same time
offering his card.

Houston took the card, greeting him courteously, and giving his own
in exchange. He half smiled as he looked at the diminutive slip of
cardboard with its Boston address made unnecessarily prominent, while
Rutherford, after scanning the card he held, bearing simply the name
of W. E. Houston, remarked with a decidedly upward inflection,

"You are from--?"

"From Chicago," Houston replied promptly.

"Ah," Rutherford responded, "then I suppose you are quite familiar
with this part of the country."

"Well, not exactly," replied Houston, smiling, "Chicago, I'll admit,
seems inclined to embrace a small part of the state of Illinois within
her city limits, but I never heard of her attempting to claim the
prairies of the Missouri valley among her suburbs."

"Well, no," said Rutherford, laughing, "not quite so bad as that, I
guess, but perhaps I didn't convey my meaning very clearly; my idea
was, that living in one of the western cities, you know, perhaps you
were out this way often."

"On the contrary, this is my first trip out here."

"Indeed! A pleasure trip, I presume?"

"No, I am out on business," replied Houston, not caring to state very
definitely just then the nature of his business.

"Well," said Rutherford, settling himself into an attitude more
comfortable than graceful, "I came out on a pleasure trip, but I must
say that so far, the pleasure has been rather an uncertain quantity;
for the last forty-eight hours, I haven't seen much besides dust,
Indians and desperadoes."

"Forty-eight hours!" exclaimed his companion, "you surely have not
been on this train that length of time."

"Not on this train; I stopped off last night to see an old friend of
mine that has a ranch out here," and forthwith, Rutherford launched
into a recital of his experiences of the last few hours, not omitting
a description of the man whose appearance had struck such terror to
his heart and expedited his departure from Valley City.

"I tell you, he was a man I wouldn't like to meet in the dark; he was
armed to the teeth, and there was a look in his eye that was awfully
unpleasant."

Mr. Houston judged from his companion's manner that he had not been
particularly pleased at meeting this alleged desperado in broad
daylight, but he courteously refrained from any such insinuation, and
as supper was just then announced, the young men adjourned to the
dining car, and the experiences of Mr. Rutherford were, for the time,
forgotten.

Nothing special occurred that evening, except that the monotony of the
journey was slightly relieved by the train entering upon the Bad
Lands. For some time, Houston and Rutherford stood upon the rear
platform, enjoying their cigars, and watching the strange phenomena of
that weird region; on all sides, vast tracts of ashen gray or black,
as if burnt to a crisp, with no sign of life, animal or vegetable, the
lurid lights flashing and playing in the distance, until it seemed as
though they might be gliding through the borderland of Dante's
Inferno.

Their cigars finished, they separated for the night, to be agreeably
surprised by the delightful change that met their eyes the following
morning. Houston was already at the breakfast table enjoying the
scenery, when Rutherford sauntered into the dining car. They exchanged
greetings, and the latter dropped into a seat facing his companion,
exclaiming as he did so,

"Well, say now, this looks a little more like civilization, doesn't
it?" and having ordered his breakfast and helped himself to fruit, he
proceeded to watch the beautiful panorama flashing past in the
sunlight.

They were passing through one of the most fertile valleys of the
northwest. Away to the south, a beautiful river glistened like a broad
ribbon of silver, and leading from it was a gleaming net-work of
irrigating canals and ditches, carrying the life-giving waters over
thousands of broad acres; some already green with grass and alfalfa,
while others were dotted with scores of men and horses opening the
brown earth in long, straight lines of furrows, or scattering
broadcast the golden grain.

Far in the distance, faintly outlined against the blue sky, was a
fleecy, cloud-like mass, grayish blue at the base, with points here
and there of dazzling whiteness, which Houston had known at once as
the first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains, but which Rutherford failed
to notice.

"Well," said the latter, withdrawing his head from the window, and
preparing to attack his breakfast, "it seems to me, after nearly
forty hours of nothing but prairies, it's about time to see some
mountains."

"They're in sight now," responded Houston quietly.

"What!" exclaimed his companion, dropping his knife and fork in
haste.

"You can see them now; I've been waiting for you to recognize them,"
said Houston, smiling; "look off there to the southwest," he added, as
Rutherford was readjusting his eye-glasses, preparatory to a careful
survey of the horizon.

"Well, I'll be blessed!" ejaculated the latter, "I supposed those were
clouds. My! but they must be mighty far away, twenty-five miles, I
expect, at the least."

"Sixty miles, at least," said Houston, glancing at them, "perhaps
more."

"Pardon me, gentlemen," said a bland voice across the aisle, and the
young men, turning, saw a much-bejewelled individual, with a florid,
but very smiling face; "I see you have not yet become accustomed to
the vast distances of this great country of ours in the northwest.
Those mountains which you are discussing are about ninety miles
distant."

Rutherford's eyes expressed an immense amount of incredulity, while
Houston simply bowed silently. The man continued:

"The wonderful rarity of our atmosphere in these altitudes is
something that has to be experienced in order to be thoroughly
understood and appreciated, or even believed. You tell an eastern man
of the great distances here at which you can see and hear, clearly and
readily; he will immediately doubt your veracity, simply because it is
without the line of his experience. Now I myself, personally, with my
own, unaided vision, have been able to count the mules in a pack-train
sixty-three miles distant, and have repeatedly held conversations at
a distance of fifteen miles."

"Guess the conversation was pretty much all on one side, wasn't it?"
asked Rutherford, adding sotto voce to Houston, "as on the present
occasion."

"Ah, no, indeed not," the man replied; "I see, my young friend, that
you are inclined, like all strangers, to be a little incredulous and
skeptical, but if you remain in this country of ours any length of
time, that will soon pass away, very soon."

"I don't think I care to remain here very long then, if it will have
any such effect on my brain as that," said Rutherford.

"You are inclined to be facetious, my friend; that is all right, I
appreciate a little witticism myself occasionally. By the way," he
continued, evidently determined to get into conversation with Houston,
"I suppose you young gentlemen are out here on business, looking for
valuable investments in this wonderful country."

At the word "Business" Mr. Rutherford instantly assumed his dignity,
dropping into the slightly drawling tone he always used on such
occasions, and which he intended as an extinguisher on any person whom
he deemed too familiar.

"Well, no," he replied, twirling an incipient mustache, "at least, not
so far as I am concerned; I am just out on a sort of an extended
pleasure trip, you know."

"Ah, your friend is a business man, I judge; perhaps," turning to
Houston, "we can interest you in some of our rare bargains in the line
of real estate, improved or unimproved, city or country; or possibly
in our mines, gold or silver properties, quartz or placer, we have
them all."

"You seem to have a 'corner' on this part of the northwest?" remarked
Rutherford, rather sarcastically.

"Indeed, young man, we have a good many 'corners,' pretty valuable
ones, too," the man replied imperturbably, still watching Houston, who
replied in a courteous but indifferent tone:

"I am out here on business, but am not in a position to make any
investments at present, nor do I expect to be for some time."

"Ah, your business?" asked his interlocutor.

"I am an accountant," he replied quietly.

The man seemed satisfied. "Well, gentlemen," he said, rising from the
table, "I am glad to have met you, and hope to have the pleasure of
seeing you later in our city. Allow me to present my card, and if
there is anything we can ever do for you in our line, please give us a
call," and smilingly handing each a card, he bowed himself out of the
car.

"Well, by Jove!" exclaimed Rutherford, his grammar getting a little
mixed, "either that man's a fool, or he thought we were; I don't know
which."

"Probably the latter," said Houston, smiling; then glancing at the
card beside his plate, he read, "J. D. Wilson, President of the
Northwestern Mining, Land and Investment Company, Silver City;" and he
was the prospective clerk of The Northwestern Mining, Land and
Investment Company!



CHAPTER IV.


An hour or two later, the Pacific Express was slowly winding up the
long mountain grade, the engine puffing and wheezing in apoplectic
fashion, and occasionally emitting short shrieks of protest. The
mountains, which had gradually been assuming shape and color, were now
looming up in grand proportions, their rugged outlines clearly defined
against the sky. Already the mountain breezes, fragrant with the
breath of tamarack, spruce and pine, stole in on adventurous wings
through the car windows; lifted locks, both golden and silvered, from
heated brows, kissed a fretful infant into peaceful slumber, turned
the pages of novels and flapped newspapers so persistently that their
readers were compelled to abandon them, and brought new energy and
inspiration to the languid, listless passengers, so that they began to
evince symptoms of interest in their surroundings.

In his favorite lounging attitude, Houston sat, his eyes fixed on the
mountains, moment by moment growing more distinct in their rugged
grandeur, a half-smile of amusement playing over his face, as he
recalled the interview with the president of The Northwestern Mining,
Land and Investment Company. Upon inquiry, he had learned that Mr.
Wilson had boarded the train at a little way station, before daylight
that morning, and the zeal displayed by that gentleman in thus seeking
to ascertain something regarding the characteristics of his future
clerk, by anticipating his arrival in this manner seemed to Houston
decidedly amusing, and at the same time furnished him a clue
concerning the character of one of the men with whom he was to be
associated.

He was aroused by the entrance of Rutherford, who, having learned that
the train would make stops among the canyons they were approaching,
was getting his kodak and plates in readiness, preparatory to taking
impressions of some of the finest views.

After a few moments, the conversation drifted to the subject of their
destination, which they would reach in three or four hours.

"I suppose," said Rutherford, addressing his companion rather
hesitatingly, "I suppose you will remain in Silver City for some
time?"

"I am not quite certain," he replied, "my impression is, however, that
I shall not be detained there more than a day or two."

"Indeed! then are you going on farther west?"

"No, I expect to go out among the mines for a while."

"Among the mines! Now I should think that would be fine; you'll have a
chance to see western life in earnest. So you are interested in mines!
Well, I thought something of the kind when you said you were out on
business. No wonder you were so cool with old Boomerang this morning,
and didn't care for any of his wonderful investments."

Houston was silent for a moment, a curious smile playing over his fine
features; then watching Rutherford keenly through half-closed eyes, he
said,

"On the contrary, instead of being a mine owner, as you surmise, I am
the employe of a mining company, and 'old Boomerang,' as you call him,
is the president of that company."

Rutherford sat for an instant as if petrified; then managed to gasp,
"Great Heavens! are you associated in business with that man?"

"Yes," said Houston, looking almost as if he enjoyed the situation,
"associated as employer and employe. I am going out to fill the
position of accountant for the same company of which he is president."

"Oh, I see; you are just going to take the position. Did you know all
the time who he was?"

"I had no more idea than you until I saw his card; but I think he knew
me, was looking around, in fact, to see what his new clerk was like."

"The old beast!" exclaimed Rutherford. His face was a study, it
represented so many conflicting emotions; several times he seemed
about to speak, then remained silent, looking more and more perplexed.
He was sorely puzzled; Houston was the embodiment of courtesy and
refinement, his every word and gesture revealed a man of wealth,
education and culture,--and yet, a clerk, and for such a man! and
strangest of all, he seemed to feel no chagrin in speaking of his
position.

Houston's voice broke in pleasantly upon his cogitations: "I saw it
would never do for you to travel about here under such erroneous
impressions; imagining you were associating with a heavy capitalist,
or a mining broker, when--"

"Oh, hang it all!" interrupted Rutherford, brusquely, "What difference
does it make? You're a gentleman, anybody can see that. I'll own up
that it did knock me out at first to find you were connected in any
way with that old chap; but I know you're all right, and I had no
business questioning around as I did about your affairs; I beg your
pardon, and I'll explain now why I did it. I'm a stranger out here,
and I've taken an awful liking to you, and when we get to Silver City,
if you don't mind, I'd like to keep in with you until I get a little
accustomed to the ways out here; that is, if you've no objections."

"That's all right," responded Houston cordially, "stay with me as long
as you like; and now, let's go out and take a look at the mountains,"
and the two young men shook hands, each feeling a sort of presentiment
that the friendship begun under these peculiar circumstances was one
for life, and such it proved.

On reaching the rear platform they discovered that the train was
following the course of a river winding through a rocky gorge that
grew narrower, moment by moment. The walls grew higher and steeper at
every turn, while towering above and beyond were the mountain peaks.
They stood clinging to the railings, and watching the rapidly changing
scene, as the train swerved and swept from one direction to another,
following the winding of the river.

Suddenly the walls shot upward almost perpendicularly for hundreds of
feet, shutting out the sunlight, leaving nothing visible but a narrow
strip of sky; and still the great rocks came closer and closer, until
little more than the width of the car was left, and it seemed that in
a moment that must be crushed. The ponderous wheels were slowly
revolving over a trestle bridge of steel, mortised into the rocks,
while the deafening echoes reverberated between the narrowing walls,
and rippled the surface of the river flowing deep and black below.
Then suddenly another swift, sharp turn, and they were out in the
dazzling sunshine, amidst a scene of untold beauty and grandeur.

Here, at the entrance of the canyon, the train stopped, giving the
passengers an opportunity to alight and enjoy the scenery. On all
sides rose masses of rock, some fashioned in wondrous beauty, others
in forms weird and fantastic; some gray and rugged, some tinted with
intermingling shades of color, and others sparkling in the sunlight as
though studded with gems innumerable. Here and there were piles of
rock, crimson and green and golden, resembling the moss-grown,
ivy-covered castles of the olden time. Farther on were mountains
covered with heavy forests of pine, through which the winds sighed and
whispered mysteriously, while at their feet the little streams
lingered lovingly long enough to catch the whispered secrets, and
bear them away, laughing and singing, on their journey toward the
great sea.

The train moved slowly on to another canyon, more grand in its awful
solitude than the first, surrounded on all sides by walls nearly a
thousand feet in height. At one side, a broad sheet of water,
shimmering in the sunlight, fell, like a bridal veil, down the
precipitous rock, with a deafening roar disappearing into unseen
depths below, while at the base of the canyon lay a lake of sapphire,
in whose calm, untroubled depths, rocks and cascade and sky were
mirrored in perfect beauty.

Slowly the train wound its way upward, until it paused again near the
summit of the range, on the "divide," the boundary line between the
east and the west. There were the serried ranks of the mountains,
vast, solemn, grand; and in that awful solitude, under the spell of
that eternal silence, a sense of the infinite hushed every tongue, and
each one stood with bated breath, as if on holy ground. On every side
the billowy ranges surged, like the gigantic waves of a storm-tossed
ocean suddenly congealed to stone, while here and there, towered
mighty peaks, like huge sentinels, their brows seamed with furrows
plowed by the hand of the centuries, their heads white with the snows
of countless ages.

Here two tiny streams flowed side by side, then separated; the one to
start on its long journey toward the old Atlantic, the other toward
the Golden Gate, to mingle its waters with those of the sunset sea.

Slowly the passengers returned to the train, stopping on their way to
gather the little wild flowers growing between the loosened
rocks,--frail mountain children of the sun and wind,--to be preserved
as souvenirs of the "divide."



CHAPTER V.


Rutherford had so diligently improved the opportunities afforded by
the stopping of the train, in securing views of some of the finest
scenes, that when the divide was reached, he had only two plates
left. These he quickly used, and then gave himself up to silent
contemplation and enjoyment of the beauty around him. Very slowly and
regretfully he and Houston followed the example of the others, and
turned toward the waiting train, like them, picking the delicate
wild flowers and pressing them in their note books.

It was during the first of these stops, at the entrance to the
canyons, that Rutherford, hastily glancing up from his work, saw,
standing among the passengers, a little in the background, the man
whom he had last seen at the Valley City depot. He was standing in the
same alert, watchful attitude, but the soft hat was drawn downward
over his face concealing his eyes, and the knife and revolver were
hidden by a rough jacket. He was not then looking toward Rutherford,
but was facing in another direction, where Houston was strolling among
the rocks, and when, a few moments later, Houston sauntered over to
observe his work, Rutherford called his attention to the man, but he
was nearly hidden behind a group of men, only a little of his figure
being visible. Later, when they were again seated in the car,
descending the western grade, Rutherford asked his companion whether
he had succeeded in getting a glimpse of the man.

"Yes," said Houston, "a glimpse and no more; once or twice I was near
him, but his face was turned the other way. I passed him in taking the
train, but I had only a hurried glimpse of his face; it seemed to me
that it was a face of unusual intelligence for a man of that class, as
I should judge him to be a miner, but I did not think he looked
particularly dangerous."

"Wait till you see his eyes," said Rutherford, then inquired, "By the
way, did you see the old mining chap anywhere?"

"Oh, yes," said Houston, laughing, "twice; once with a townsite map
spread out before him, talking real estate to a couple of men, and
again in the smoking car where he was playing poker."

"I didn't see him out looking at the mountains."

"No, probably they have no interest for him, except just so far as
they contain gold mines."

They talked of the mountains, and Rutherford suddenly exclaimed, "I
wish I could find some way of getting out and camping right among
the mountains themselves. I don't care to stop in any little
half-civilized western town for any length of time, but if I could
just go right out into the heart of the mountains somewhere, and
stay for a few weeks, that would be an experience worth having."

Houston smiled; "How would you like a trip out into the part of the
country where I am going? As near as I can make out, it is twenty-five
miles from the nearest town, just a rough mining camp, with very few
people aside from the miners."

"Why," replied Rutherford, "I think that would be fine; anyhow, I'll
try it if you have no objections; it will be a change anyway."

And so it was decided that Rutherford should extend his pleasure trip
into the mining camp, and Houston was pleased with the arrangement,
for, notwithstanding the work which he had planned, he expected to
find many lonely hours and monotonous days, little dreaming of the
interests that awaited him, or that he was entering upon the most
eventful portion of his life.

At about one o'clock the train arrived at Silver City, a town of about
fifteen thousand inhabitants. The young men, as they left the train,
caught a glimpse of the indefatigable Mr. Wilson as he was boarding a
street car in company with two intended victims which he had already
secured. They took a carriage, and as they were whirled rapidly
through the steep, narrow streets on their way to the hotel, the
little city seemed to them like a thoroughly typical, western, mining
town. The town was surrounded by mountains, and prospect holes and
abandoned placer diggings could be seen in every direction, while
interspersed among the business blocks of brick and stone, were tiny
cabins, built of logs,--all relics of the earlier days when Silver
City was but a large mining camp.

After lunch, Houston started forth in search of the city office of The
Northwestern Mining, Land and Investment Company, which he found
without difficulty. He was surprised to discover that business there
was conducted on something of a co-operative plan, as the one large
room in which he found himself constituted the offices of some
half-dozen mining and real estate companies, and was occupied at the
time by eight or ten different men, each seated at his own desk, and
separated from his neighbors by a little wooden railing. A broad aisle
extended through the center of the room, and at the farther end were
two or three accountants' desks, two large safes and two typewriters.

The whole arrangement seemed to Houston extremely crowded and
confusing, but he afterward learned that it had its advantages; as
certain deeds, contracts and leases could be so easily mislaid and
lost; then too, it had an effect upon the minds of some of their
patrons that was particularly desirable, as they usually left the
office in a state of such bewilderment, that they were unable to tell
with any degree of certainty, just which one of the many high-sounding
companies it was, with which they had entered into agreement, and as
the eight or ten men were each connected in some way with all of the
companies, they all came in for a share of the profits, no matter who
was the victim.

Houston having inquired of a white-haired, benevolent-looking
individual at his right, for Mr. Wilson, was politely directed to the
third desk on the left-hand side. Here he found Mr. Wilson, who
greeted him effusively, and introduced him to Mr. Blaisdell, the
general manager of the company. The secretary of the company was, at
that moment, doing duty in another part of the room, as president of
The North American Townsite & Irrigation Company, consequently Houston
did not meet him until later.

As Messrs. Wilson and Blaisdell were just then engaged with a
customer, they begged Mr. Houston to excuse them for a few moments,
which he did very willingly, and thus was afforded an opportunity to
observe the two men closely. Mr. Blaisdell had rather a long and
narrow face, and what is called a "sandy" complexion; his hair, face
and small goatee (he wore no mustache) were all of the same, light,
indefinite color; his eyes were small and pale blue, while his lips
were thin and tightly compressed. His face, when at rest, had a
sanctimonious expression which was sadly at variance with the
avaricious, grasping look which it instantly assumed when animated. He
said little, but Houston soon discovered that he was in reality the
head man of the company, while Mr. Wilson was but the mouthpiece.

In the twenty or thirty minutes which elapsed before these gentlemen
could give Mr. Houston their undivided attention, he obtained
sufficient insight into their characters, and enough of an inkling of
their business methods, to make him more determined than ever to
unearth their schemes, and doubly anxious to succeed in the role which
he had assumed.

As soon as they were at liberty, Mr. Wilson and the general manager
turned very smilingly toward their new clerk, and after some questions
regarding his business qualifications and experience, all of which he
answered in a manner very satisfactory, they proceeded to give him
detailed instructions relating to his future duties in the branch
office, at the mining camp.

"Of course," remarked Mr. Wilson, "you understand that as you become
accustomed to the business, greater responsibility will devolve upon
you; for the present, you are to have charge of the books and our
correspondence from that point; and when you have sufficiently
familiarized yourself with the details of the business, we shall
expect you, in Mr. Blaisdell's absence, to take charge of the office,
to receive the reports of the different superintendents and foremen of
the mines, and if necessary, to inspect the work at the mines
yourself, occasionally, in order to see that our instructions are
being carried out."

Houston thought that this included quite a range of work for an
accountant, but as he was only too glad of the opportunities which
would thus be afforded him for his own investigations, he raised no
objections.

"I suppose, Mr. Houston," added Mr. Blaisdell, very deliberately, "it
is unnecessary to say that in a position of this kind, we require the
utmost secrecy on your part regarding the affairs of the company. In
giving you this very responsible position, we repose great confidence
in you, and we expect you to prove yourself worthy of it."

"Oh well," chuckled Mr. Wilson, "I should say, judging by Mr.
Houston's appearance on the train this morning, he understands the art
of preserving a golden silence as well as any one I ever saw. It was
all I could do to get a dozen words out of him."

Mr. Blaisdell smiled in a way that Houston understood he had received
a full account of the meeting on the train. There being little more to
be said, Houston inquired regarding accommodations at the camp,
stating that a young acquaintance of his wished to remain in the
mountains for a week or two.

"Is he interested in mines?" inquired Mr. Blaisdell.

"Oh, no," replied Houston, "he is the young man who informed Mr.
Wilson he was out on an extended pleasure trip, and he imagines it
would be great sport to be out in a genuine mining camp for a while,
as far from civilization as possible."

"That's all right," responded Mr. Blaisdell, "I was only going to
state that we allow no visitors through the mines except those who are
personally interested, or who have intentions of becoming purchasers,
but if your friend merely wants to stop among the mountains for the
fun of the thing, why, he's welcome to stay all summer for aught I
care. As to accommodations, I think we can fix you both very
comfortably. There are two boarding houses near the mines, for the
miners, of course you would not go there; but old Jim Maverick and his
wife run a boarding house about a quarter of a mile from there that is
very good, and is a sort of stopping place for any tourists that find
their way out there. I stop there myself, and I know Maverick and his
wife are glad of all the boarders they can get. I believe they already
had a lady when I was there last week, a school teacher or something
of that sort, who had just come, and I think you will find it very
comfortable there."

Having learned that they would have to start for the camp at eight
o'clock the next morning, Houston took his leave, promising to be in
readiness at that time. He next visited a number of assay offices,
where he learned a good many valuable points regarding the different
classes of ore in that vicinity; then having purchased two or three
works on practical mining and mineralogy, which he thought might be of
assistance to him, he returned to the hotel, where he entertained
Rutherford until dinner with an account of their trip to be taken on
the morrow and the accommodations that awaited them, with the added
attraction of the society of a solitary school teacher, whom their
imaginations already depicted as of uncertain age, with short hair and
spectacles. Many were Rutherford's speculations concerning this
individual.

"I've had the pleasure of the acquaintance of two specimens of that
class," said he, "one was in the Catskill Mountains; she had a
geological fad, and went out every morning with a little hammer, to
hammer among the rocks all day; the other was a botanist, and returned
every evening about covered with plants which she had pulled up, root
and branch; I wonder which of them this one will resemble."

"We shall soon see," said Houston.



CHAPTER VI.


Nearly twenty-five miles from the nearest town, and not a human being
visible from the point of observation occupied by Miss Gladden, as she
slowly swung backward and forward in her hammock under the pines, half
way up the mountain side; and the only sign of human life was a faint,
blue smoke curling upward among the evergreens on one side, at the
base of the mountain.

Directly at the foot of the mountain lay a small lake of azure blue,
at one end of which was a narrow bridge crossing the stream which
formed the outlet to the lake, and from which a footpath wound in the
direction of the solitary house from which the smoke ascended. At the
other extremity of the lake, where the gulch narrowed into a deep
ravine, walled with irregular masses of gray rock, a mountain stream
came dashing down over the ledges, forming a series of cascades, and
with a final leap plunged into the azure waters. It was a wild,
solitary place, and had there been another human being visible, he
doubtless would have been much astonished at the sight of a young
lady, dressed in the height of fashion, lazily swinging to and fro,
half way up the pine covered mountain.

But for Miss Gladden the charm of the situation lay in its solitude;
she was tired of society, and, glad to free herself for a while at
least from its conventionalities, was congratulating herself upon her
good fortune in finding this retreat, all unconscious that others were
already entering into her little world, soon to enter into her heart
and life.

As she swung dreamily under the pines she was aroused by a clear,
musical voice calling her name, and turning, saw the lithe, slender
form of Lyle Maverick, the daughter of her host, rapidly approaching.
Although Miss Gladden had been but a few days among the mountains,
there already existed between her and Lyle Maverick a mutual
admiration, though each was, as yet, unconscious of the admiration of
the other.

Lyle secretly worshipped Miss Gladden as the most beautiful being she
had ever seen, nor was it strange, for Leslie Gladden had all her life
received the homage always yielded to beauty, and from hearts far less
susceptible than that of this untutored child of the mountains; but
Lyle, notwithstanding her surroundings and her disadvantages, was
proud spirited, and did not proclaim her admiration for the beautiful
stranger. Miss Gladden, on her part, admired the imperious mountain
maid, as the loveliest specimen of uncultured, untrained girlhood,
just blossoming into womanhood, that she had ever met. She wondered
how she came to be so unlike her surroundings, and what would be the
result if this wild mountain flower could be transplanted to some more
favorable spot, there to receive the care and nurture bestowed on so
many far less beautiful. She had within the last few days, led by a
desire to know the proud, shy girl, made a companion of her; this was
a new experience for Lyle, and was fast deepening her admiration for
Miss Gladden into confidence and regard.

Miss Gladden watched Lyle now, as she came up the mountain path, as
fleet of foot and graceful in every motion as a deer, her head thrown
proudly back, her wavy hair rippling over her shoulders to her waist,
and shining in the sunlight like fine spun gold.

"Oh, Miss Gladden," she exclaimed, as, having reached the group of
pines, she threw herself carelessly at the foot of one of them, "the
solitude and isolation which you have prized so highly are to be
invaded by two new boarders of masculine gender."

A slight frown gathered on Miss Gladden's face, at the prospect of
intruders thus encroaching upon the mountain retreat which she was
beginning to regard as hers exclusively. Lyle, watching her, saw the
frown, and continued, her eyes dancing with mischief:

"They are city gentlemen, too, from the east; from Chicago and from
Boston, only think of the honor conferred upon us! They have come from
the land of civilization and culture to the wild west, to see how we
barbarians live; at least that is the object of one of them who is out
on a pleasure trip, for that is usually the meaning of western
pleasure trips."

"Lyle, are you not rather severe? They come for the sake of the
scenery, or as I have, for rest."

"A few for rest perhaps, but scenery? nonsense! Look at the majority
of your 'western stories,' as they are called; how much is there in
them of scenery? A few lines here and there, but pages devoted to
descriptions of western life with its ignorance and uncouthness."

"But stories of western life usually contain a great deal of
originality and piquancy; that is why they are popular."

"Possibly," said Lyle dryly, "but I have seen very little originality
in the life I have led here. It may seem original to outsiders; it is
monotonous enough to those who live it, year after year. The scenery
of the west is grand, I love it, and if I could see it with such eyes
as yours, eyes accustomed to beauty in all its infinite kinds and
degrees, and with a mind cultivated, fed on the choicest thought than
can be culled not only from our own country and in our own tongue, but
from other countries and in other tongues as well, I would appreciate
the beauty about me more keenly than I can now; but I despise this
life in which I have been reared, a life of ignorance, coarseness,
brutality and deceit. Here I have lived for the past ten years, here I
am likely to live for ten, twenty years to come."

Both were silent for a few moments, while Miss Gladden watched the
beautiful face, in this instance an index of an equally beautiful
soul, and she marveled more than ever. At last she said gently:

"Lyle, dear, pardon me for asking such a question, but you are an
anomaly; how is it, living all these years as you have, in these
surroundings, that you have so good an education? You have evidently
read considerable, and you converse well; you cannot be called
ignorant."

"No," the girl replied sadly, "I am not quite so ignorant as a
stranger would think to see me, but I have learned just enough to make
me realize how little I do know, and that little I have acquired by
stealth. I could read a very little when we came here from some small
town, somewhere in the east, I have forgotten where, and I wanted to
learn, but father forbade it; he said he wouldn't have any of his
children putting on airs, that what was good enough for him would have
to do for them. He has always been severe with me, I suppose he didn't
want any girls, that's what mother says. Mother was always as kind to
me as she dared to be, but she was afraid to help me to learn
anything, and she couldn't have taught me much anyway. I studied every
little bit of print I could come across, if it were nothing more than
a scrap of newspaper, I was so anxious to be able to read. Then, when
I was about twelve years old, a little girl who stayed here one summer
with her governess, left some of her old, worn-out school books and
writing books. I hid them in my room as carefully as if they had been
diamonds, and pored over them every chance I could get for the next
year. About that time, I got acquainted with one of the miners who had
been here a long time, a strange, silent man, who was very different
from the others, and who kept by himself. He seemed to take a great
liking to me, and I consider him to-day the best friend that I have in
the world. He found out how I was studying and trying to learn, and he
helped me, for he had had a fine education. He bought books for me,
not only school books, but choice books to read, stories, poems and
plays, and he has talked with me a great deal, and told me about
places and people and authors, and so has saved me from being a total
ignoramus."

"How kind!" exclaimed Miss Gladden, "I don't wonder that you consider
him your friend. Is he here now?"

"Yes," replied Lyle, "he has been away for a few days, but he came
back last night, and I went down to his cabin to see him. He brought
me some beautiful books, but I keep them at his cabin most of the
time, so no one at the house will get hold of them."

"Does he live alone?" asked Miss Gladden.

"No, an Irishman, who has a pretty good education, lives with him most
of the time; he is quite a musician and is teaching me to play the
violin. 'Mike' they call the Irishman, and my friend is 'Jack'; the
other miners nicknamed him 'Lone Jack,' but nobody, I suppose, knows
what their real names are."

"Why, how interesting!" exclaimed Miss Gladden. "Why haven't you ever
told me before? It sounds like a story with a deep-laid plot, and a
typical villain lurking somewhere."

"There are plots enough, and villains enough, but Jack is not one of
them," quietly replied the girl, with a curious expression.

"Would he let me come and see him?" inquired Miss Gladden.

"He might, if I asked him, but you would find him very uncommunicative.
He does not care for strangers. He was telling me last night about a
comical, dudish looking fellow whom he saw on the train, and who got
off at Silver City, and he said he was coming up here into the
mountains in company with another young gentleman; he thought I would be
likely to see them, and I think they are the new boarders."

"Why, have you seen them?" asked Miss Gladden, in surprise.

"Yes," laughed Lyle, "one of them, from my post of observation behind
the kitchen door, and he did appear so ridiculous with his gold
eye-glasses, looking as solemn as an owl, and glancing around with
that expression of supercilious curiosity, as though he expected to
find us all wild Indians, or something of the sort."

"Ah, that accounts for the little tirade against western pleasure
tourists I heard when you first came up. Evidently the eye-glasses did
not produce a very favorable impression on you."

"Well," retorted Lyle, "see him yourself, and see what impressions you
will receive."

"Well, my dear," said Miss Gladden, "as it is nearly dinner time, I
would suggest that we adjourn to the house, alleviate these pangs of
hunger, take an observation of the gold eye-glasses and report our
impressions later."

"Agreed," said Lyle merrily, and the two began to descend the
mountain.



CHAPTER VII.


Houston and Rutherford were promptly at the depot, as agreed, to take
the early morning train to the mines.

Mr. Blaisdell met them with a great show of cordiality, his thin lips
contracted into a smile which was doubtless intended to be very
agreeable, but which produced a sensation exactly the reverse.

"Well," Rutherford began, with his peculiar drawl, when he and Houston
were seated together in the car, with Mr. Blaisdell safely engaged in
conversation at a little distance, "I can't say that I'm any more
favorably impressed with Mr. Buncombe, or whatever his name is, than I
was with old Boomerang yesterday. That fellow looked like a silly,
pompous, old fool, and this one like a sly, old villain. I wish he'd
stop that confounded, wolfish grin of his, it makes me feel
uncomfortable, he looks as if he knew he had his prey just dead easy,
and his chops were watering in anticipation. I say, old fellow, I
don't think much of this Buncombe-Boomerang combination of yours, and
I guess it's a good thing I'm along with you till we find out what
sort of a trap we're getting into."

Houston smiled; Rutherford had expressed his own opinion a great deal
nearer than he cared to admit. He had seen enough of the men with whom
he was to be associated to convince him that they were villains,
cowardly villains too, the very sort of men that would be most
desperate and dangerous when cornered; but he was fast laying his
plans, and now the only drawback seemed that he would have no
assistant, and he felt the time would come when he would need one, and
some one familiar with mining. An expert from the east would not do,
he would be suspected; and a detective would not possess the necessary
information regarding mining in general, and these mines in
particular. At times, a vague idea of taking Rutherford into his
confidence came into his mind, but he was not ready to do this yet, if
at all.

All this flashed through Houston's mind as Rutherford made the above
remark, and he answered:

"I don't apprehend any particular danger at present, but I am glad you
are with me."

"The question with me is," continued Rutherford, "how I'll amuse
myself during your office hours in such a region as this; I don't
imagine I'll find a great many congenial companions."

"You seem to have forgotten the school teacher," Houston remarked,
with a quiet smile.

"Oh, bother the school ma'am! I had forgotten her. I suppose she'll be
as graceful as a scalene triangle, and about as entertaining as a
mummy. They're mostly that kind, or else the gushing, adoring sort,
that can't talk of anything but Browning, or Emerson, or theosophy, or
something of that kind; and the most conceited lot of creatures that
ever lived."

Meanwhile, the train wound in and out among the mountains, stopping
for a few moments at a small town where huge smelters were pouring
forth their clouds of dense smoke, darkening the air until it seemed
more like night than day; then on a few miles farther, to the little
station known as the "Y," so-called on account of the form of the spur
tracks owned by the mining company, by which the ore was brought down
from the mines above.

At the station was a store containing general mining supplies, with
the post-office in one front window, a boarding and lodging house, and
three or four saloons and gambling houses, these last designed to
catch the wages of the miners from the surrounding camps.

Mr. Blaisdell having found one of the superintendents who had come
down with a team for supplies, they were soon on their way up the
gulch, and in the course of an hour were left at the office buildings,
while the team went on to the mines.

Here Rutherford waited in the outer room of the little unpainted,
frame building, while Mr. Blaisdell took Houston into the further
room, and introduced him to Morgan, the general superintendent, and to
his work, at the same time. Then, having seen Houston duly installed
at his post of duty, perched on a wabbly stool, before a rickety,
ink-bespattered desk, beside a window gray with the dust and smoke of
ages, through which a few straggling sunbeams fell, Mr. Blaisdell
sailed complacently forth to escort Rutherford to Jim Maverick's
boarding house, whither the baggage had already been taken by the
team; then, all necessary arrangements for rooms and board having been
completed, he went out to the mines, leaving Rutherford alone in the
camp of the Philistines. He found no one, however, more formidable
than Mrs. Maverick, an old woman bent nearly double, with white hair
and hollow, deep-sunken eyes, so faded it was impossible to tell what
their original color might have been, and the "help," a stout,
red-cheeked, coarse-featured girl of fifteen, whom Mrs. Maverick
called "Minty," but who rejoiced in the euphonious name of Araminta
Bixby, and who ogled and grinned at Rutherford until he found the task
of preserving his dignity more difficult than ever.

In the course of an hour he sauntered down to the office to meet
Houston, and a little later the two sat in the porch of the low,
wide-spreading house, partly frame and partly of logs, the roof of the
porch supported by the trunks of slender trees, unhewn, from which
even the bark had not been removed.

From the porch there was a view of the lake, and in the distance the
gleaming cascades, while just opposite, the gulch road followed its
winding course and disappeared among the mountains.

Presently there came up the winding road three men, apparently father
and sons,--low-browed, heavy-eyed, brutal looking creatures,--who
followed the foot path up toward the house, and glaring sullenly at
the young men, shuffled around to the back door.

"Evidently mine host and his sons," remarked Houston.

"Well," replied Rutherford, "I think if I see a few more such
specimens as those, I'll take the first train out. Say though, I
haven't seen a sign of that school teacher, I begin to think she is a
myth."

"Sh!" said Houston quickly, under his breath, "see what you think of
this!"

Rutherford turned in the direction Houston was facing, and had two
beings just then descended from the mythical regions, he could not
have been more astonished than at sight of the pair approaching from
the lake. The first was a young girl, apparently about sixteen, but
tall and well developed, the scant garments that she wore revealing
the beautifully rounded outlines of her form, her carriage free and
every movement full of grace. Her face was exquisitely beautiful, the
features refined and perfect as though chiseled in marble; her eyes
shone with a star-like brilliancy, and her hair fell about her
shoulders like a mass of burnished gold.

Beside her was a woman several years her senior, equally beautiful,
but an altogether different type of beauty; more mature, more perfect
and more rare. Tall and splendidly developed, she moved with a queenly
grace. Her face was classical in its contours, the profile resembling
that of some of the old Grecians, while its beauty was so refined, so
subtile, it could not be easily described. Perhaps the eyes were its
chief attraction; large and dark, and of Madonna-like depth and
tenderness; soulful eyes that reflected every emotion of the pure,
womanly nature, as the calm lake mirrors the sunlit sky or the
lowering storm-cloud, the silvery moon or the lightning's flash. The
wavy, auburn hair, tinged in the sunlight with red gold, was gathered
into a knot near the top of a shapely, well-poised head, while stray
curls clustered rebelliously about the broad, fair brow, forming a
shining aureole.

Like a vision, the pair passed silently into the house, leaving
Rutherford, for once in his life, speechless, and Houston watching
him, apparently enjoying the situation.

"What's the matter, my boy?" he asked, in a low, laughing tone, "Are
you spell-bound?"

"Spell-bound? well, slightly!" responded Rutherford. "Great Heavens,
Houston! do they have such women as those out here?"

"Evidently they have some fine samples of the genuine article, but I
am not prepared to state how large a stock they carry. I'm positive of
one thing though, that within the last three minutes you have changed
your mind about taking the next train out. Not all the desperadoes and
villains you've met from Valley City out, could drive you away from
the mountains now."

"You're right, they couldn't," said Rutherford, with a broad grin,
"not if I know myself; no, sir, when I'm in the line of duty nothing
can scare me out of it worth a cent, and just now I feel it to be my
duty to solve some of the mysteries thickening around me, among them,
that of the mountain nymphs."

"Altogether too substantial for mountain nymphs, my boy," said
Houston, "and you will please remember, while pursuing your line of
duty, that I have vouched for your good behavior here, and am in a
measure responsible for you, and I don't want to get into any trouble
on your account."

Rutherford cleared his throat, and rising slowly with all the dignity
he could muster, looked gravely over his glasses at Houston in exact
imitation of Mr. Blaisdell, and in an oracular tone remarked:

"And you will please remember, my young friend, that I am out here as
your duly constituted guardian, and as such, it is my duty to form the
acquaintance of these--ahem!--these fair daughters of Eve, and judge
for myself whether or not they will be suitable companions for an
unsophisticated youth, like yourself."

"Good!" said Houston, and after a few more jokes, dinner being
announced by the moon-faced Minty, they went in to partake of their
first meal in what Rutherford styled the "Hotel de Maverick."



CHAPTER VIII.


A few moments later, Houston and his friend had been duly presented by
Mrs. Maverick, to Miss Gladden and to "our daughter, Lyle," the former
in a gown of soft, clinging material, of a delicate, golden tint,
combined with a reddish brown velvet, which suited her style of beauty
to perfection; and Lyle, in dainty white apron, her beautiful hair
loosely plaited in an enormous braid, prepared to act in the capacity
of waiter.

Never were guests served so deftly, or with such grace and dignity;
she seemed absolutely free from all coquettish airs, and although the
glances of the two gentlemen were about evenly divided between the
beauty at their side and the fair waitress, Lyle carried herself with
an equanimity that was remarkable. Not until the arrival, later, of
the other boarders, Morgan, the general superintendent, and Haight,
the mining expert,--so-called, though his expertness embraced much
beside mining,--was there any change in her demeanor; then her eyes
flashed, her lips curled, and a look of superb scorn passed over her
face, an expression that reminded Rutherford unaccountably of the face
he had seen at Valley City.

Old Jim Maverick and his sons were not present, having taken their
meal hastily in the kitchen. Beside her husband and sons, poor, old
Mrs. Maverick was positively refined. She was a kind-hearted, motherly
woman, and looked as though, in her younger days, she might have been
very pretty, but poverty, hard work and abuse had very nearly
obliterated all traces of youthful bloom, and her face had a hopeless,
appealing look which was pathetic.

A little later, Mr. Blaisdell arrived, rubbing his hands and smiling
in his usual complacent manner, and he entertained the guests for some
time with anecdotes of western life, some of them very well told, but
in most of which it was noticeable that he bore a very prominent
part.

After dinner, Houston returned to the office in company with Morgan
and the expert, two new characters which he was studying attentively.
The former was a tall, raw-boned individual, with a genial,
good-natured manner, but a weak face; one who would willingly be a
tool for any villain, but an unreliable tool. He would betray his best
friend, and knowing nothing of honor himself, he did not believe in
its existence, among men or women. To him, all men were rogues, all
business simply gambling on a large scale, and his only care was to be
on the winning side.

Haight was a small, dark man, with soft, insinuating manner, and, in
accordance with his pet theory that every person, high or low, rich or
poor, might sometime be useful to him in the furtherance of his own
objects, he treated every one with punctilious politeness. To some his
manner might have been pleasing, but to one with any degree of
penetration, the crafty, scheming nature under the thin veneer was
very apparent.

Meanwhile, Rutherford had rather reluctantly accepted an invitation
from Mr. Blaisdell to go through the mills and visit one or two of the
less important mines. The young easterner was soon much interested,
as, after having explored one of the smaller mines, the Peep
o'Day,--which he thought very appropriately named as he glanced upward
from a depth of a few hundred feet,--he was taken to the mills, and
there saw the various stages through which the ores pass in the
process of reduction. He almost forgot his dislike of Mr. Blaisdell
as he listened to his explanation of the different classes of ore, and
the various kinds of treatment which they required, and met some of
his old college acquaintances,--the sulphates, nitrates, carbonates,
and other members of that numerous family,--in new and startling
array; for Mr. Blaisdell was thoroughly at home in chemistry and
mineralogy, and enjoyed nothing so much as airing the knowledge he
possessed in that one direction. Of other branches of science, and
even on subjects of general information, he was profoundly ignorant,
although blissfully unconscious of the fact.

Rutherford was next shown the method by which the ore ready for
shipment was conveyed down the mountain to the cars on the spur
tracks, hundreds of feet below, by means of a rail tramway on trestle
work, some three thousand feet in length, having a grade of nine feet
per each hundred feet, over which cars of ore were passing, operated
by gravity, the weight and velocity of the descending, loaded car,
carrying the empty car upward. He thoroughly enjoyed these novel
scenes, and congratulated himself upon the many picturesque mining
views which he would add to his collection.

As they were passing through one of the sorting rooms, they came upon
Mr. Haight seated before a large table covered with specimens of ore,
which he was examining with a powerful microscope, while beside him
were various chemical and mechanical appliances for testing the
different ores. Rutherford was enthusiastic in his admiration of the
specimens, particularly those from the copper mines, with their
beautiful coloring,--the blending tints of green and purple and
blue,--and he created considerable amusement by his ecstasies over a
large sample of iron pyrites, which he had mistaken for a splendid
specimen of gold ore. Altogether it was a novel and pleasant
experience for him, and when he joined Houston later, he felt himself
considerably wiser in western lore.

After supper, Mr. Blaisdell and Haight returned to the office for a
private conference regarding some new ores which the latter had been
testing. Morgan strolled down the gulch in the direction of the Y,
drawn by the attractions of the gambling house and dance hall, leaving
the two strangers to seek their own amusement, or to be entertained by
Miss Gladden; they chose the latter, and, since among the mountains as
on the ocean, friendships are quickly formed, the three were soon
chatting as pleasantly, out in the low, rustic porch, as though their
acquaintance dated back a number of days, instead of only a few hours.
At the kitchen door, old Jim Maverick and his sons, with a dozen or so
miners, lounged about, smoking their pipes, and enlivened by the
blushing, giggling Miss Bixby.

With the latter crowd Lyle would never mingle, much to the indignation
of Maverick himself, and the chagrin of two or three would-be
admirers, and not feeling at liberty to join, unasked, the group in
the porch, she withdrew to her little room up-stairs, and taking from
its hiding place one of the new books her friend had brought her,
she was for a while unconscious of everything else. Then, as the
twilight deepened, she closed the book, and having again concealed it,
sat watching the stars just beginning to appear, one by one, and
musing, as she often did, on her own life. Why had she not, with her
passionate love of the beautiful and her thirst for knowledge, been
given the birth and training, the social advantages of any one of
that little group below? Or, if the fates had decreed that she must be
born in such ignorance and degradation, and spend her life in such
surroundings, why had they not given her a nature corresponding to
her environment, as indifferent and unaspiring as that of the
phlegmatic Miss Bixby? Why must she always feel as if she had been
born to a better life than this, when in all probability, it must
always go on in the same old routine which she hated and despised?
She wondered what Jack meant by the questions he had asked her so
often lately, as to where they had lived before coming to the
mountains, and regarding her earliest recollections. Well, what were
her earliest recollections? Something so shadowy she could not
determine whether it were remembrance or imagination; but it was a
vague idea of light and music and beauty; and why was it that when
she heard or read of that bright life, so foreign to her, of which she
had never had one glimpse, that it all seemed somehow half familiar?
She did not believe she would be very awkward or out of place, if she
could step for the first time into some of those bright scenes as
she imagined them; why did it all seem so home-like to her?

Meanwhile, the little group below were discussing the same problem
that Lyle herself was trying to solve.

"I cannot understand," Rutherford was saying, "how such a style of
beauty, so delicate and refined you know, could ever exist in such
surroundings."

"She is a mystery," added Houston, "and unless I am greatly mistaken,
she has a nature as sensitive and refined as her face."

"You are right, Mr. Houston," replied Miss Gladden, "she possesses
a refinement of nature that is wonderful; and not only that, she
has a brilliant intellect if she could only have advantages, and
notwithstanding all the difficulties and obstacles with which she
has had to contend, she has already acquired a fair education, is
remarkably well informed and a good conversationalist."

A few moments later, Lyle was aroused from her revery by a familiar
voice calling her, and coming down stairs, found Miss Gladden awaiting
her.

"You runaway!" she exclaimed, "why have you been hiding when you
should have been helping me entertain the new guests?"

"I didn't think you needed any help," replied Lyle, brightly.

"You never made a worse mistake in your life," said Miss Gladden,
leading the way out on the porch. "I have been trying to tell these
gentlemen something about this country around here, and I have only
succeeded in betraying my own ignorance."

Both gentlemen greeted Lyle pleasantly, and Houston rose and gave her
his chair with a grave, gentle courtesy which was new to her, and
which she was quick to observe and appreciate. For some time they
chatted of the surrounding country, Lyle telling them where the
finest scenery, the best hunting and fishing and the pleasantest
picnic grounds were to be found.

"About a quarter of a mile from here," she said, "in Strawberry
gulch is a small canyon that has been fitted up for tourists and
excursionists, and every summer numerous camping parties come out from
Silver City for a few days or weeks. There is a fine lake at the head
of the canyon, a boat house, and a good supply of boats, tents,
and almost everything needed for camp life."

"Have there been any camping parties yet?" asked Houston.

"Not yet," replied Lyle. "It is too early; they usually begin coming
in July; we are likely to have snow-storms out here in the mountains
yet."

"Snow-storms!" they all exclaimed; "What!" said Miss Gladden, "after
such warm weather as this?"

"Oh, yes," said Lyle, "this is only the early warm weather we always
have in May, but it will be much colder again before summer really
begins in earnest; though the weather is never so severe here as in
the gulches farther up the mountains."

"It seems to me," said Rutherford, "I've heard of the greatest number
of 'gulches' out here, and some of them have the most remarkable
names; very original, certainly."

"Their names are mostly indicative of their early history," Lyle
answered; "there are a number of them in this vicinity,--Last Chance
gulch, Poor Man's gulch, Lucky gulch, Bloody gulch, and so on."

"Has this gulch where we are, any such euphonious title?" inquired
Miss Gladden.

"This one has two names, equally euphonious and equally historical; it
is now called Spotted Horse gulch, but years since it was known as
Dead Man's gulch."

"That sounds cheerful!" commented Miss Gladden.

"Is there a ghost story connected with the gulch, Miss Maverick?"
inquired Houston.

"Yes," said Lyle, "several of them, for the miners are mostly very
superstitious. Years ago, when there were no well developed mines
here, only a few prospects, a man who had just sold one of the
properties, was murdered for his money, about half way between here
and the mines, where the road is so narrow and passes under the
overhanging rocks. He rode a spotted horse, and from the indications
when he was found a few days after, he must have made a desperate
fight, for both he and the horse were shot several times. Ever since,
it has been said that the spotted horse goes up and down the gulch at
night, sometimes alone, and sometimes with his rider, and so the gulch
received its name."

"Is that story still believed here?" asked Houston.

"More or less," replied Lyle. "There is just enough faith in it, that,
excepting Jack," and she nodded slightly to Miss Gladden, "there is
not a miner in camp who could be hired to pass through that part of
the gulch at midnight, for fear of seeing the phantom horse and his
rider."

"Possibly," said Miss Gladden, "it would be well for us to adjourn for
the night, or we may have a glimpse of the phantoms; it must be after
ten o'clock."

"After ten, impossible!" exclaimed Rutherford, springing to his feet;
"I beg your pardon, ladies, for having detained you so long; I never
dreamed it was so late."

"The long twilight here deceives one, I have hardly become accustomed
to it myself," said Miss Gladden.

"The ladies will surely pardon us," said Houston, "since it is through
their making the time pass so pleasantly that we have trespassed."

They separated for the night, and a little later, Mr. Blaisdell and
Haight came up from the office, but Morgan did not return until
daylight was beginning to tinge the eastern sky.



CHAPTER IX.


A number of days passed uneventfully. Houston was occupied in getting
familiarized with the work at the office, having first created an
epoch in the history of that institution by having the windows
thoroughly cleaned.

One of the noted characters of the mining camp was a small boy who,
when he could scarcely walk, had, on account of his fearless spirit
and indomitable pluck, been dubbed with the name of "Bull-dog." The
name was so appropriate, and the little fellow himself so proud of it,
that as he grew older it was forgotten if he ever had any other; if he
had, no one knew what it was. He was now nearly twelve years of age,
as small as most boys of eight or nine, but he possessed the same
spirit as of old. Bull-dog was the oldest of five children; his
parents lived at the Y, a worthless, disreputable pair; he spent very
little time under the parental roof, and filial respect was entirely
left out of his composition, and no wonder! He was a favorite among
the miners, spending much of his time in the camp, and the shrewd
little fellow was very observant of what went on around him, and very
keen and worldly-wise in his judgment of human nature as he found it.

He speedily made the acquaintance of Houston, and when the latter came
down to the office on his second morning, he found the boy awaiting
him, and an idea occurred to him.

"Say, Bull-dog, can you wash windows?" he asked.

"Bet yer life," was the laconic reply, accompanied by a grin.

"What will you charge me for washing these four?"

The small individual surveyed the windows critically, then answered:

"Six bits."

"Go ahead," said Houston, "let's see how good a job you can do."

Two hours afterward the windows were shining, and Houston paid the
little fellow an equally shining dollar, instead of the six bits, thus
making of Bull-dog a friend for life, and one whose friendship
afterward proved of great value.

Nearly every afternoon found Lyle at Jack's cabin, diligently reading
or studying, guarded by Rex, the faithful collie, who would let no one
but Lyle enter the cabin while Jack and Mike were at their work. Two
or three evenings of each week she spent there, reviewing her lessons
with Jack, or listening, either to the stories which he and Mike told
of other countries, or to the music of Mike's violin, fierce and wild,
or sweet and pathetic, according to the mood of the musician. The
cabin, built of logs and plaster, and consisting of two rooms and a
small attic, resembled miners' cabins in general, with the exception
of the second and inner room. Here, the floor was nearly covered with
skins of animals, while on the walls were shelves and brackets,
hand-carved in delicate designs, and filled with books and choice
pictures, beautiful etchings and photographs of various works of art.
A few larger pictures hung on the walls, framed in some of the same
skillfully carved work. The pine table, covered with a brightly
colored spread, was strewn with finely bound volumes, and scattered
about the room were several comfortable folding chairs, which Jack had
bought in some of his trips to Silver City. A rude fireplace had been
built in one side of the room, over which were arranged artistically
two or three rifles, and the heads and horns of various animals, while
on the mantel was a fine collection of ores. Altogether, it was a
pleasant room, and gave more evidence of good taste, education and
refinement than could have been found for more than a score of miles
in that region. This was Jack's sanctum, and none but his two friends,
Lyle and Mike, were ever allowed within it.

In this room, a few evenings after the arrival of the two strangers,
Lyle was sitting with her friends. The weather was already much
cooler, and a bright fire was burning, before which Rex was
comfortably stretched, while he watched the faces of his two friends,
Jack and Lyle, who, having finished their usual reading, were silent
for a few moments, looking into the fire and listening to Mike as he
sat in his corner, his eyes closed, his head bent lovingly over his
violin, while he evoked some of the wild, plaintive airs of his native
country.

Jack was the first to speak, as he asked in a low tone, "You have met
the young men I spoke of the other evening?"

"Yes," replied Lyle, still gazing into the fire, "they are stopping at
the house."

"How long will they remain?"

"The younger one, the one you particularly admired, is to stop for a
few weeks only; the other will probably remain permanently, as he is
bookkeeper for the mining company."

Jack gave an almost imperceptible start, but slight as it was, Lyle
noticed it, and turning quickly, saw a peculiar expression of mingled
surprise, perplexity and annoyance on his usually immobile face.

"Bookkeeper for the mining company!" he exclaimed, "are you sure you
are correct?"

"I can only quote for my authority the Honorable J. O. Blaisdell," she
replied archly, "you surely wouldn't doubt his word under any
circumstances, would you? You look surprised; did you consider Mr.
Houston one of the 'lilies'?"

Jack looked at her inquiringly.

"One of the 'lilies' like Mr. Rutherford," she explained, "who 'toil
not neither do they spin,' I supposed him one at first, but I think
differently now; I believe he would always be a worker of some kind,
whether it were necessary or not; at the same time I don't believe it
is exactly necessary for him to be a bookkeeper."

"You seem to have made a study of him," remarked Jack, quietly.

"Of course," answered Lyle, "what else are my eyes and my small stock
of brains for, but to study everybody and everything that comes in my
way? Besides, it's rather interesting to find a person of some depth,
after such shallow people as Mr. Blaisdell and Haight, and that
class."

"Sometimes, Lyle," said Jack, slowly, "these deep people make a
dangerous study; they are likely to become too interesting."

"Never you fear for me, Jack," said the girl, with considerable
spirit, but kindly, "I know too well how the world would look upon old
Jim Maverick's daughter, to carry my heart on my sleeve."

Both were silent for a moment, Jack watching her face intently. Mike
had left the room. Lyle continued, in a gentler tone,

"Mr. Houston is a perfect gentleman; he would make a safe study for
me, even if I didn't realize my position. He reminds me of you, Jack,
in some ways."

"Of me!" said Jack sarcastically, "your Mr. Houston would doubtless
feel nattered at being compared to a weather-beaten miner."

"You were not always a miner," retorted Lyle quickly, "and you are a
gentleman, and always will be."

"In your opinion, child," said Jack pleasantly; then turning the
subject, he asked, "What do you think of the 'lily' as you styled him,
Mr. Rutherford, I think you called his name?"

"Oh, he is a gentlemanly fellow, not so ridiculous as he looks;
good-hearted, but not deep like the other,--not half so interesting to
study."

"Very well," replied Jack, "go on with your 'study,' but I wish you
would make a little more of a study of yourself and of your own life,"
and as he spoke, he carelessly took up a magazine and began turning
the pages.

"I don't know why," answered Lyle slowly, at the same time going over
to the table where she had caught sight of a photograph which had
evidently been concealed by the magazine, "my life before you became
my friend and teacher would not make an interesting study for any
one.--Oh, Jack, whose picture is this? and when did you get it?"

"That?" said Jack, answering indifferently, but watching her face
keenly, "Oh, that is a picture I've had a great while."

"But, Jack, I never saw it, did I?"

"No, Lyle, I haven't seen it myself for years, until to-night."

"Not for years? how strange!" said Lyle in a low tone; then looking
wistfully at the picture, she said, half to herself, "She must have
been some one you loved some time."

"She was very dear to me," he replied, so quietly that Lyle said
nothing, but remained looking long and earnestly at the photograph. It
was the picture of a young girl, a few years older than herself, but
much more matured, and wondrously beautiful. The features were almost
perfect, and the eyes, even there, seemed so radiant and tender. There
seemed a wealth of love and sympathy in those eyes that touched Lyle's
lonely heart, and her own eyes filled with tears, while she gazed as
if under a spell; then she asked in a sort of bewildered tone:

"Jack, I never saw her, did I?"

"Certainly not while you have been here," he replied, "I cannot say
whom you may have seen before that."

"Before I came here," repeated Lyle dreamily, laying down the picture
and preparing to go, "that is a sort of blank for the most part. It
seems as though this hateful life had obliterated everything before
it; the early years of my life seem buried out of sight."

"Try to resurrect them," said Jack, adding, "Keep your eyes and ears
open, and let me know results. Had I not better go home with you?"

"Oh, no, thank you," said Lyle, smiling brightly, "it isn't late."

"Then Rex must go," and Rex who was only waiting for the word bounded
to the door to signify his readiness.

After Lyle had gone, Jack took the picture, and after looking at it
sadly for a moment, replaced it in the little case in his trunk where
it had lain so long, and then sat down by the fire, muttering,
"Strange she did not see the resemblance! I hoped she would; there
could not be two faces more alike."

All the way home, Lyle was thinking of the beautiful face, wondering
where she had seen it, that it should seem so familiar, and after
dismissing Rex with a caress, she sat for some time in the low porch,
trying to solve the mystery.

"It is no use," she said to herself at length, "it is no face I have
ever seen, unless in some of those strange dreams I used to have."

Going into the house, she found her parents had retired. Rutherford
sat in his room reading, waiting for Houston, who was working late
that night, Mr. Blaisdell having gone back to the city for a day or
two. Miss Gladden was writing in her room, but Lyle would not disturb
her, and going quietly to her own little room, she was soon sleeping
peacefully, and the beautiful face was for a time forgotten.



CHAPTER X.


The next morning was several degrees colder, and there were
indications of a snow-storm. Within doors, the atmosphere betokened a
coming storm, as old Jim Maverick was several degrees more quarrelsome
and ugly-tempered than usual. He glared sullenly at Lyle, as she
stepped quietly about the kitchen, preparing the early breakfast that
he and the boys took before starting for their work.

Finally he growled, "What was you doin' out so late last night? Pretty
time 'twas when you come in, where'd you been?"

Lyle seemed to take no notice of his questions for a moment, then
replied, without a glance at him:

"I was not out late; I went out for a walk early in the evening, and
came back early, but I staid out on the porch."

"Oh," he replied with a sneer, "so you was settin' out there waitin'
for the new clerk to come home, wasn't you?"

"I didn't even know he was out of the house," said Lyle, indifferent
to his sneers, so long as he did not mistrust where she had really
spent the evening.

"Oh, no, of course not! I understand you pretty well, and don't you
forgit it, always puttin' on your damned airs round here, too nice for
any of your own folks; I'd like to see you made a fool of by some of
the dudes you're so stuck on."

"You never will have that pleasure," replied Lyle, coolly, "I know too
well the opinion that people have of you and your family, to ever be
in any danger of being made a fool of."

Old Jim's face grew livid with rage, and he clenched his hand with an
oath, but hearing some of the boarders coming in to breakfast in the
next room, he only hissed, with a terrible leer:

"Never mind, even if you are my child, with that doll-face o' yourn,
you might rope in that rich young feller for a few thousands."

Lyle staggered under the insult as if she had received a blow, and
pale and trembling, went into the next room to wait on the guests. She
was relieved to see that Rutherford was not there; she felt she could
not have faced him while those words of her father's were ringing in
her ears. There was only Mr. Houston, who greeted her with his usual
gentle courtesy, and Morgan, whom she despised.

Out in the kitchen, however, her cause was being championed by Mrs.
Maverick, the fire flashing from her faded eyes, as she talked in a
manner very unusual for her.

"You may abuse me as much as you like, Jim Maverick," she was saying,
"I've had nothing but abuse from you for the past twenty years, and I
don't never expect nothing else, but if you ever lay a hand on that
girl, or speak to her like that again, you'll be sorry for it. I can
make you smart for it, and you know it, and I'll do it too."

The boys, Joe and Jim, aged respectively twenty and eighteen, stared
at their mother in astonishment, but their father, several shades
paler, ordered them from the house; then advancing toward his wife,
shaking his fist and cursing her, he exclaimed:

"You damned old fool! do you think you can try to scare me? you'll
find 'tain't very healthy business for you."

"Kill me, if you want to," she replied doggedly, "but you'll find it
won't make you any better off; I've fixed you for that."

"What do you mean?" he asked, now thoroughly frightened.

"Mean!" said his wife, as she saw that she at last had the brute in
her power, "it means that you've got to let that girl alone, and
behave yourself to me, or you'll wish you had, that's all."

Just then, Minty entered on the scene, her round eyes wide open with
astonishment, and Lyle entering an instant later from the breakfast
room, Maverick slunk away to his work.

Meanwhile, the other boarders were gathering in the breakfast room,
Miss Gladden and Rutherford being the last to enter.

"Whew!" exclaimed the latter, rubbing his hands, "this seems a little
wintry, doesn't it? Looks like a storm, too!"

"Yes," said Morgan, glancing up, "we'll probably have a snow-storm
before noon."

"How do you pleasure seekers intend to spend the day?" inquired
Houston, addressing Miss Gladden and Rutherford.

"I think I shall spend it beside the fire," replied Miss Gladden,
shivering slightly, and sitting down for a moment beside the little
box stove, where a wood fire was crackling and spluttering; "I haven't
quite decided what to do, because I didn't come out here prepared for
snow-storms."

"I believe," said Rutherford, "I'll take a day off and develop some of
the pictures I've taken lately, and sort over my collection of
views."

"That will be delightful," exclaimed Miss Gladden, smiling brightly at
Lyle who had entered the room in time to hear Rutherford's remark, "We
will make Mr. Rutherford entertain us with his collection, won't we
Lyle?"

Lyle smiled in assent, but Miss Gladden very quickly detected traces
of trouble in her face, and determined, if possible, to gain her
confidence, and find the cause. Rutherford also noticed the change in
her appearance, and remarked, after she had again left the room:

"Miss Maverick doesn't look like herself this morning, I wonder what
is the matter."

"I think there has been a storm of some kind in the kitchen," Houston
replied, "I heard pretty loud talk when I first came in."

"Yes," said Morgan, joining in the conversation, "she and the old man
have some high old times, once in a while; and one thing is curious,
the girl never seems afraid of him, and that's more than can be said
of many of the men around here."

"Why," asked Houston, "is he considered dangerous?"

"He is a pretty tough customer," said Morgan, "I guess there's no job
too dirty for him to do, if he's only paid for it;" and then added
carelessly, "that's the kind of a man Blaisdell likes to have 'round
once in a while."

"What does he do?" asked Houston, "does he work in the mines?"

"He used to," replied Morgan, "but he don't do any more underground
work, he--"

"Doesn't he?" interrupted Haight, with a peculiar emphasis.

"Oh, yes, in some ways, plenty of it," laughed Morgan, "but I was
speaking of the mines; he's a sort of foreman now in one of 'em, and
tends to the sorting of the ore occasionally; helps Haight out
sometimes, when he has a particularly delicate job on hand," and
Morgan winked across the table at the expert, who smiled knowingly in
return.

Lyle coming into the room again, the talk regarding Maverick ceased,
but when she had left, Morgan continued:

"She's a queer girl; she gives it to the old man sometimes, up and
down; the boys don't dare give him any lip, but she's no more afraid
of him, than--"

"Than she is of you," again interrupted Haight, with a smile that
seemed to discompose Morgan considerably, for he colored and bit his
lip.

Miss Gladden looked annoyed, as did Houston, and Rutherford, feeling
something was amiss, unintentionally said about the worst thing he
could just at that moment.

"I think Miss Maverick is an awfully nice girl."

"We all think so," said Haight, in his blandest manner, "Mr. Morgan
especially."

"Oh," said Morgan, angrily, but trying to speak indifferently, "she's
nice enough, as nice as girls of her class generally are."

With a look of scorn and contempt that neither Haight nor Morgan soon
forgot, Miss Gladden rose from the table and left the room, while
Rutherford exclaimed indignantly:

"Whatever 'her class' is, she is deucedly your superior, you
contemptible puppy!"

Lyle just then entering, there was an ominous silence for an instant;
then Houston, rising from the table, remarked in a cool, even tone:

"There has been enough said for the present, but" turning toward
Morgan and Haight, "I've something to say to you two, a little
later."

Morgan put on his hat and started sullenly for the office, but Haight,
assuming his most ingratiating smile, stepped up to Houston, and, in a
low tone, began to apologize. Houston interrupted him.

"There is no need of any words here," he said coldly, "I shall call on
you at the sorting rooms this morning, and shall then have something
to say to you, but I wish no words from you, at all," and retiring to
his room, he left Haight in a state of considerable trepidation. He
hurried after Morgan, and soon overtook him.

"I say," he began, "we've got that new fellow stirred up, and I wish
we hadn't; I don't want any trouble."

"Hang you, you little, sneaking coward!" answered Morgan, "if you
didn't want trouble, why didn't you hold your tongue? Whatever fuss
there is you've kicked up yourself, with your own smartness, so what
are you whining about?"

"Oh, well, you know my principles, Morgan; I never want quarrels with
anybody; you know the old saying, 'the good will of a dog is better
than--'"

"Oh, shut up!" said Morgan, "you make me tired! You're a damned
coward, and that's all there is about it. It's my opinion, though, in
the case of this dog, that his bark is a good deal worse than his
bite."

Meanwhile, Houston was preparing to go to the office.

"Say, old boy," said Rutherford, "hadn't I better go down with you?
You may have some trouble, you know, and I shouldn't wonder if they
would be two pretty nasty fellows to meddle with."

"Much obliged, Ned," said Houston, "but I can take care of those two
fellows, and twenty more just like them. Haight is an out and out
coward, he wouldn't fight any more than he would cut his own throat.
Morgan would show fight, perhaps, but I'd finish him up before he even
knew where he was."

"I guess I put my foot in it, saying what I did," said Rutherford,
staring through his eye-glasses in a meditative manner, "but it did
make me hot, their insinuating things in that way about such a nice
little girl as Lyle, and before Miss Gladden, too."

"There will be no more of it, that is certain," replied Houston
decidedly, and he was gone.



CHAPTER XI.


A few moments later, Houston stepped briskly into the office. Morgan
sat at his desk, sorting some mining reports, and looked up with a
sullen, defiant glance, but Houston ignored him, and going to his own
desk, began making preparations for his day's work.

Bull-dog, who, since washing the windows, had constituted himself
office boy, had built the fire and was now sweeping. Houston greeted
him pleasantly, but his keen eyes at once detected trouble between
Houston and Morgan, and he was immediately on the alert.

After the little fellow had finished his work, and Houston supposed he
had gone, he walked with a firm, decided step, over to where Morgan
stood lounging and looking out of the window. Morgan turned, and angry
as he was, he could not help a feeling of admiration for the splendid,
athletic form standing, firm as a rock, before him. Houston's keen,
dark eyes looked straight into his own, and for a moment, not a muscle
of his face moved, the finely cut features might have been chiseled in
stone; then he spoke, in even, measured tones, cold and cutting as
steel itself:

"Mr. Morgan, I have this much to say to you, and it will be well for
you to remember it; that if I ever hear another insinuation against
that young lady of whom you were speaking this morning, or an
improper word of any kind in the presence of either of those ladies at
the house, I will put you in such shape, that you will not be able to
come to the office for a week; and more than that, there will be no
office work here for you."

"What do you mean by that last threat?" asked Morgan defiantly.

"I mean just this; that I know enough about you, that if I should
repeat what I know to Mr. Blaisdell, you would not remain in this
office one day longer."

Morgan grew pale. "You seem to know a great deal for a man that's been
here no longer than you have. I suppose Lyle Maverick has been filling
you up with stuff about me."

"She has never mentioned your name to me, and you will do well not to
bring her name into this conversation."

"Seems to me you're wonderfully particular about old Jim Maverick's
girl," Morgan sneered, "I suppose you want her for yourself, though I
should think the other one--"

Morgan never finished his sentence; a blow that he afterwards said was
"worse than the kick of a mule," had closed one eye.

With an oath, he made a terrible lunge toward Houston, but he knew
nothing more until about fifteen minutes later, when he found himself
lying on the floor, under the long desk, on the opposite side of the
room, while Houston stood a few feet away, watching him.

"You dirty contemptible cur!" said Houston, "do you think because you
have no sense of honor, because you are so vile you can have no idea
of what purity means, that every one is like yourself? You deserve to
be kicked like a dog; come out from there and fight, why don't you?"

"I don't believe I'm very anxious to, if you'd just as soon excuse
me," said Morgan, who had gradually assumed a sitting posture, and was
passing his hand over his eye and jaw. Then, looking up with as much
of a grin as he could muster, with his rapidly swelling face, he
said, "Give it up, Houston; you're a better man than I am; I'll let
you boss this ranch."

"Do you mean," asked Houston sternly, "that from this time there will
be no more insinuations against ladies, and no innuendoes in their
presence?"

"Yes, I agree," said Morgan, "I'll never say anything myself, and I'll
smash any other fellow that does; I think," he added, reflectively,
"that you've showed me how pretty well, though I'd a little rather
you'd practiced on some other fellow, Haight, for instance."

"I'll attend to Haight," said Houston, helping Morgan to his feet, and
smiling grimly at the figure he made.

An hour later, Houston presented himself at the sorting rooms, where
Haight met him with many smiles, offering to show him through the
rooms.

"Another time will do, Mr. Haight," said Houston coldly, "I have
business with yourself this morning."

"Oh, yes," said Haight, as if the thought had just occurred to him,
"that unfortunate business at the table this morning; Mr. Houston, I
am more than sorry for what happened, and assure you, that, so far as
I am concerned, it shall never occur again."

"It will be much better for your interests that it should not,"
replied Houston; "I have not been in the habit of hearing such
insinuations against ladies, or such language in their presence; and
there is something more I have to say to you," he continued, as he saw
Haight was trying to speak; "you were bookkeeper for the company, for
a while, were you not?"

"Certainly," replied Haight in a tone of surprise, "I kept the books
for a few months last year."

"So I have been informed since coming here, and I wish to state that
the other day I had occasion to refer to some of the old books kept by
you, and I very soon found evidences of a few shady transactions on
your part that I think you would not care to have come to the
knowledge of the company."

"You must be mistaken, Mr. Houston," said Haight, trying to preserve a
calm exterior, but paling visibly; "it must have been some of Mr.
Johnson's work you found."

"No, Mr. Haight," said Houston firmly, "it was your own work, in your
own writing, and very bunglingly done at that; a man would not need to
be an expert accountant,--and that is what I am,--to detect the
fraud."

"Mr. Houston," interrupted Haight, in trembling tones, "everything
here shall be as you wish, and I will help you too,--I can be of
use to you,--if you will just say nothing. There were certain
circumstances that I cannot now explain, that justified the
transactions you allude to; and as I have told you, I regret what
occurred this morning, and it shall not be repeated. But really,
Mr. Houston," he continued, "I had no idea that my teasing Morgan
this morning would have such an effect; you see, what I was joking
about was really to Miss Maverick's credit; it seems that a few
weeks ago, he was rather smitten with her and attempted to be what she
thought was a little too familiar, and she gave him a black eye,
and--"

"He has another one now," said Houston, rising abruptly.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Haight.

"Yes, and there will be more black eyes if there are any more
insinuations of that character," and Houston returned to the office,
leaving behind him a bitter enemy, but one whose enmity would be
concealed by a cloak of friendship.

Meanwhile, while Houston was pursuing his chivalric course, Miss
Gladden, sitting by the fire in the deserted breakfast room, was
planning in what way and by what means she could best help her young
friend in whom she felt such an interest. The scene at the table had
given her a new insight into Lyle's surroundings; the rudeness and
insult to which the beautiful girl was likely to be subjected in such
a home, the possible dangers to which she might also be exposed, and
she was more than ever determined to win the confidence of the
reserved, proud-spirited girl.

In the midst of her reflections, Lyle entered the room, and Miss
Gladden saw there were still traces of trouble in her face.
Unconscious of the friends who were beginning to care for her welfare,
Lyle had felt that morning as though she could endure her life there
no longer. She had felt by a sort of instinct that she was in some way
connected with the talk at the table, and she knew that both Morgan
and Haight would not hesitate to injure her by their insinuations, in
retaliation for the manner in which she had met their advances.
Thirsting for human sympathy, her heart quickly responded to Miss
Gladden's words, as she told Lyle of her interest in her, her sympathy
for her, and her desire to help her, and in reply to one or two
questions, she spoke freely of the trials she had suffered, inevitably
connected with a life such as hers, and touched by the kindness of her
new-found friend, Lyle continued:

"The insults and insinuations of those men, and others like them,
are bad enough, but I expect nothing else from such as they, but
when one receives insult from the source where one would expect
protection,--that is hardest of all," and with flushed cheeks and
quivering lips, Lyle related the scene with her father, and his
words to her, while Miss Gladden looked inexpressibly shocked.

"I was almost desperate this morning," she said in conclusion, "I felt
as though I could not live such a life any longer; I must go
somewhere, anywhere, to get away from it. Mother says that nothing of
that kind shall ever happen again, that father is in her power in some
way, and she will not let him abuse me; but it is this whole wretched
life that I despise, if I could only be freed from that!"

"I hope, dear, your life will not always be like this," said Miss
Gladden, "it shall not be if it is in my power to prevent it; perhaps
I may be able to brighten it in some way."

"You have already," said Lyle gratefully, "I shall be happy now, as
long as you are here; after you are gone away,--" she shuddered
slightly, then added, "who knows what may happen before that time?"



CHAPTER XII.


A few hours later, a wild, mountain storm was raging outside, the wind
roaring down the canyon from the icy fields above, driving the fast
falling snow in every direction, with blinding fury.

Within doors, however, a happy group were seated around the fire,
oblivious of the storm outside, or with just enough consciousness of
its fury to add to the enjoyment of the warmth and comfort inside.

Miss Gladden was, as usual, becomingly gowned in a house dress of
rich, warm color, while she had persuaded Lyle to put on a dark blue
dress of her own, which, with a very little change, fitted as though
originally intended for her, and also to dress her beautiful, golden
hair high on her head, thus producing a change in her appearance which
astonished even Miss Gladden herself.

The perfectly fitting gown revealed the outlines of her well developed
and finely proportioned form; its color seemed to enhance the delicacy
of her face and the brilliancy of her eyes, while the graceful
coiffure showed to good advantage the beautifully shaped head, and
added to her dignity. She seemed suddenly to have been transformed
from shy, reserved girlhood, to graceful, royal womanhood.

As she, with Miss Gladden, entered the room where Rutherford awaited
them, that young gentleman started suddenly, and turning, gazed at the
regal little beauty, with her golden coronet, in undisguised
admiration, much to the amusement of both ladies.

"Great Cæsar!" he exclaimed, "what metamorphosis is this? Excuse me,
Miss Maverick, I really couldn't help it; I thought you were a sort of
little girl, you know, and you are,--begging your pardon,--a very
beautiful young lady."

Both ladies laughed merrily, and Miss Gladden secretly resolved that
Lyle, in the future, should always be dressed becomingly, if her
influence could accomplish anything in that direction.

The afternoon passed very pleasantly in looking over the beautiful
views which Rutherford had collected since he left his distant,
eastern home. The pictures taken among the mountains had developed
finely, and they all grew enthusiastic over them. Then there were
pictures of his friends, in groups and singly, and in laughable
combinations and positions; among them, some which Rutherford had
taken of his friend, Tom Durston, and his family, at the ranch where
he had stopped over night on his way out. There was one of Tom
himself, in a futile attempt to milk a refractory cow, where he lay
sprawling ingloriously upon the ground, the milk bucket pouring its
foaming contents over him, the excited cow performing a war dance,
while two others, more peaceably inclined, looked on in mild-eyed
astonishment: chickens were flying in every direction, with
outstretched necks and wings, while in the background, a company of
geese were hissing their disapproval of the scene.

The girls laughed until the tears were in their eyes. "How did you
ever get such a picture? and so perfect!" they asked.

"Oh, I just happened to," he answered, "I was out that morning, with
my kodak all ready, looking for a subject, and I saw Tom milking, and
thought it would be fun to take a picture of him to send back to the
class-boys, you know; I held the kodak up and was just ready--when
that old cow sent him flying quicker than lightning, and I caught the
picture all right. I'm going to mail him one copy."

There was a picture of Tom's baby, taking his bath, his mouth wide
open and his eyes shut, crying lustily for his mother, who had
deserted him to run to Tom's assistance. Then there were pictures of
Rutherford's home and friends, among them, that of a brother, older
than himself, which particularly attracted Lyle's attention; she
looked at it long and earnestly. He was sitting in an easy attitude,
smoking a cigar, and looking at the face of a beautiful, dark-eyed
girl, of about her own age, which appeared above him, encircled by
the light clouds of smoke,--just the face and no more. Rutherford
stated that it was his brother and their only sister, and explained
the process by which it was taken, but the picture remained in Lyle's
memory for many a day.

After a while, Houston, returning a little early on account of the
storm, joined them, and the four friends spent the most enjoyable
evening which they had yet known together, notwithstanding the storm.

It had been an eventful day. To Lyle, and one or two of the others, it
was the beginning of a new life, though they did not then realize it;
the first, faint flush that heralds the coming of the sun to brighten
the new day, but which is so subtle and silent, that few are aware of
its presence.

Houston, on his return to the house at noon, had given, in answer to
Rutherford's eager inquiries, an account of the "skirmish" as he
called it. Rutherford was so proud of his friend, and of the victory
he had won, that at the first opportunity, he told the story to Miss
Gladden, before Houston had even returned to the office. Miss Gladden
was enthusiastic in her admiration of the course he had taken, so
different from many of the young men she had known in wealthy,
aristocratic circles, in thus defending a poor, friendless girl,
subject to insult because she had the misfortune, under such
circumstances, to be beautiful; and obeying the impulses of her
noble-hearted, high-spirited nature, she went to Houston, as she saw
him standing alone a few minutes after dinner, and extending her hand,
with a bright smile, said:

"Sir Knight, I want to thank you, in Lyle's name and my own, for the
chivalric course you have taken this morning."

She could get no further; Houston, still holding her hand, interrupted
her.

"Do not thank me, Miss Gladden; I have only done what it is the duty
of every true man to do."

"Then," said Miss Gladden, interrupting him in turn, "true men must be
exceedingly rare. I know very few, Mr. Houston, who would champion
the cause of a girl in Lyle's circumstances, in the manner you have
done," and then, with much feeling, she spoke of some of Lyle's
trials, and of her own determination to help her.

A beautiful woman is never so lovely as when defending the cause of
some sister less fortunate than herself, and Houston thought he had
never seen Miss Gladden so beautiful as at that moment, and the
thought must in some way have conveyed itself to his eyes, for there
was something in his glance that brought a bright color to Miss
Gladden's cheek, and an added tenderness to her soulful eyes;
something that remained with her all that day, and somehow made life,
even in the heart of the mountains, shut out from the rest of the
world, look more inviting, more alluring than it had ever done
before.

With Houston, also, the memory of those eyes with their depths of
tenderness, and the hand whose touch had thrilled him with its
magnetism, lingered, and brightened all that stormy afternoon.

To Lyle, this day seemed the beginning of a new epoch in her solitary,
isolated life. For the first time, she had found genial companionship,
human sympathy and love, and chivalrous protection; for Miss Gladden
had hastened to tell her of the part Mr. Houston had taken in her
defense; and as the slowly maturing bud suddenly unfolds in the
morning sunlight, so in the new light and warmth which she had found
that day, her nature had suddenly expanded into mature, conscious
womanhood.

That evening, as the little group of friends were separating for the
night, Miss Gladden having already gone up-stairs, Lyle, with a new
dignity and grace, walked over to where Houston stood by the fire,
with dreamy, thoughtful eyes.

"Mr. Houston," said she, in low, sweet tones, "Miss Gladden has told
me of your kindness toward me to-day, and though she has thanked you
for us both, yet I wish to thank you personally."

"Miss Maverick," he replied in his grave, gentle manner, "you are more
than welcome to any kindness I can do for you, but do not thank me for
what I did to-day; that was nothing, I would have been a beast not to
have done that little."

"If you could know," she said, earnestly, "how rare such kindness and
protection have been in my past life, you would realize that it does
not seem like 'nothing' to me."

To Houston, Lyle seemed much less mature than Miss Gladden, and though
he had been quick to observe the added charm in her manner that
evening, still she seemed to him little more than a child. Her words,
and something in the expression of those star-like eyes, touched him
deeply, and taking her hands in his, he answered tenderly:

"My dear child, I am very sorry for the loneliness of your past life,
and I want you, from this time, to regard me as a brother, and if
there should be any way in which I could protect you, or help you, do
not hesitate to tell me freely."

For the first time in all those weary years within her recollection,
Lyle went to her rest that night with a heart satisfied; for as yet,
only the surface of her affections had been stirred, and the hidden
depths below were still unfathomed, awaiting the influence of some
mightier power.



CHAPTER XIII.


The snow-storm detained Mr. Blaisdell in the city rather longer than
he intended, and Houston had improved the time in going over all the
old books and office records which were available.

The books of the company he could examine at his leisure, on some
pretext or other, in Morgan's presence, but his extra work, which had
occupied his evenings, consisted in going over the old letter files,
mining reports and assay statements, making copies of whatever he
found that would be of value to him later. He had found evidence of
fraudulent transactions in the books of the company, and of these he
had made careful memoranda, but so far, the greatest amount of
evidence which he had secured, had been discovered in the old letters
written by Mr. Blaisdell to other members of the company at Silver
City, and received by him in return. These were copied exactly into a
set of small books which he had brought for that purpose, and he had
also made tracings and blue print copies of plats and maps of the most
important mines, and of the plans of their underground workings.

What he now particularly desired was some turn of affairs that would
necessitate his visiting the mines, and give him an opportunity to
become familiar with their workings, and that, in some way, he could
gain access to the books and papers of the main office at Silver City,
as he would there find records of the business transacted directly
with the company in New York. He had taken the precaution to bring
with him copies of letters on file in the New York offices, but he now
felt that much of the most important evidence was contained in the
office at Silver City, and was the missing link which he would need
before going much farther, and as he sat at his desk one bright
morning, a few days after the storm, mentally reviewing the whole
situation, he was planning how he could best secure this also.

Morgan, still carrying a few scars, sat with his legs crossed on top
of his table, reading a newspaper, when the door opened, and Mr.
Blaisdell entered.

"Well, boys, good-morning," was his greeting, as he glanced quickly
around the office, and Morgan's feet suddenly descended to the floor.
"What's the matter with your eye, Morgan?"

"Oh, nothing, been sparring a little, that's all."

"Been down to the mines this morning?"

"No, sir, not yet; I thought maybe you'd be up and want to give some
directions before I went down."

"Very considerate!" remarked Mr. Blaisdell sarcastically, "you know I
would come to the mines myself, anyway, and could give directions
there just as well as here. Get ready to go down there with me, I'm
going in a few minutes."

Going over to Houston's desk, he glanced hastily over the books, gave
some instructions, and saying that he wished to see him later, went
out to join Morgan.

"Morgan, how did you get that eye?" he asked again.

"Oh, Houston and I had a little set-to the other day, and he hit me
pretty hard, that's all."

"What was it about?" demanded Mr. Blaisdell.

"Nothing much," answered Morgan, carelessly, "we had some words about
that girl of Maverick's; I guess he's a little stuck on her himself,
and was afraid I'd be in his way, or something of the kind; I got mad
and hit him, or tried to, and he gave me a knock-out."

"I was going to say that he doesn't look as though you had hit him
very hard," remarked Mr. Blaisdell dryly, and then continued, "Well, I
don't see the use of coming to blows over Maverick's girl, or any
other for that matter, they're not so scarce as all that. Jim's girl
has got a pretty face, but she isn't worth fighting about, that I can
see."

There were reasons for Mr. Blaisdell's superior indifference to Lyle's
attractions, as she had been compelled more than once, in a most
emphatic manner, to check attempts at undue familiarity on his part,
notwithstanding the fact that he was a much-married man, living with
his third wife, his table surrounded with "olive plants"--fifteen in
number--of all sizes and descriptions, and regarded in the bosom of
his family as a model husband and father.

Late in the afternoon, Mr. Blaisdell returned to the office, looking
very weary and somewhat worried. Morgan remained at the mines the rest
of the day. Mr. Blaisdell went over the books with Houston, and after
expressing considerable satisfaction at the work which he had
accomplished, he sat down by himself, and seemed lost in thought for
some time. At last he said:

"Mr. Houston, I've been thinking for some time that we need a little
extra help in the office at Silver City, and yet not enough that it
has seemed advisable to employ another bookkeeper. Our books there are
getting behind, and a little mixed, too, I'm afraid. Mr. Lewis, our
bookkeeper, is quite an old man, and he has charge of two or three
sets of books for the different companies, and it is not to be
wondered at if he occasionally gets a little confused; and it occurred
to me while sitting here, that perhaps you might be willing to come
down, for a day or two, and straighten out the books for us."

Houston seemed for a moment to be weighing the matter very deliberately.

"Of course I could do it," he replied, "but it would involve
considerable extra time and expense for me, and I would want extra
compensation."

"Oh, of course," responded Mr. Blaisdell, readily, "I understand that;
indeed, I was going to remark that you have already accomplished so
much work, and your methods seem to be so exact and, at the same time,
expeditious, that we will consider your term of probation here at an
end; we agreed to raise your salary at the end of the month, if your
services were satisfactory; they are eminently so, and I will take the
responsibility of paying you one hundred and twenty-five dollars for
this first month also. As to your fare back and forth between here and
Silver City, of course we will pay that."

"Then," said Houston, smiling and inwardly congratulating himself, "I
do not see but that it is settled that I go to Silver City whenever
you are ready."

"Very well," said Mr. Blaisdell, "you will not need to go down there
for ten days or so, as the time will make no appreciable difference in
the state of affairs there, and I shall need you here during that
time, as some parties are coming out from the east to look at some
mining properties, and both Morgan and myself will probably have to
spend most of our time at the mines."

That evening, at the boarding house, Houston sat apparently interested
in a game of chess between Miss Gladden and Rutherford, but in
reality, paying close attention to a conversation carried on in low
tones between Mr. Blaisdell and Morgan. Only an occasional sentence
was audible, but he could gather enough to satisfy himself regarding
the nature of their plans.

"Clean the rubbish out of the shaft, and set a couple of men to work
there for a day or two," Mr. Blaisdell was saying; a few words were
lost, and then he said, "Whenever I hear what day they are coming up,
we'll put on a good force."

"They'll have their own expert with them, I suppose?" asked Morgan.

"Yes," answered Mr. Blaisdell, "but if he's like the most of those
eastern experts, Haight and I can fix him very easily."

A little later the conversation ended, Mr. Blaisdell saying, as he
rose to go to his room:

"It is a confoundedly poor property, but I think a few tons of ore
from the Yankee Boy will sell it all right."

This remark gave Houston considerable food for reflection, as the
Yankee Boy was one of the richest properties owned by the New York
company. He had that day received his first letter from his uncle, in
New York, sent under cover of an envelope from the Chicago firm, and
written in reply to a letter from himself mailed immediately upon his
arrival at the mines; and Mr. Blaisdell and Morgan having left,
Houston retired to his room to make his first report of the
information he had secured and seemed likely to secure, concerning the
ways and means of the western mining company; leaving the chess
players deep in their game, and Lyle watching them.

Lyle, though keeping up her studies afternoons, had not been down to
Jack's cabin since the evening he had shown her the picture, partly on
account of the storm, and partly because she feared her father might
be watching her.

Jack had wondered at her absence, thinking perhaps her new friends had
something to do with it; but on this night, Jack had other company, as
Bull-dog had ensconced himself in Mike's chair beside the stove, and
having also appropriated Mike's briar pipe,--its owner being
absent,--was smoking with all the gravity and self-possession of an
old-timer, and entertaining Jack with his quaint talk.

"Say," he said at last, clasping his hands about his knee, and holding
the pipe between his teeth, "have ye seen that new feller up at the
orfice. Mister Houston, they call him?"

Jack replied, very indifferently, that he had seen him once or twice.

"Well, now, he's a Joe-dandy, a regular cracker-jack; an' he's goin'
ter be boss of that whole shootin' match, Morgan an' that little,
black, snaky feller, an' old Blaisdell, too, if he don't look out fer
hisself."

"What makes you think so?" asked Jack, much amused.

"I don't think so, I know it. He's got more sand than all the rest of
'em put together, an' he ain't afraid of nobody. 'D ye hear 'bout that
fight that him 'n Morgan had?"

"No, did they fight?" inquired Jack, much surprised.

"Did they fight!" exclaimed the little Arab, removing the pipe from
his mouth, and shaking his head with evident satisfaction at the
remembrance of the scene, "well, I should smile! Morgan, he tried hard
enough ter fight, but the other feller did him up in 'bout the
sixteenth part of a second!"

"Were you there?" asked Jack, laughing.

"I was peekin' through a crack in the door; they s'posed I'd gone, but
I see somethin' was up when Mister Houston first come in, an' I just
makes up my mind I'll see the fun through, an' when I goes out, I
bangs the door hard, and then opens it agin, careful like, and peeks
in; an' Mister Houston, he had walked over ter where Morgan was, an'
had lit into him 'bout somethin' or ruther he'd ben sayin', an' if he
didn't lay down the law ter him, I'll eat my hat. An' then Morgan he
sets out to give him some of his lip, and by Jiminy! 'fore he could
spit the words out, biff! comes a stunner right in his face, and shut
one eye. My, wasn't he mad though! Then he goes ter give the other
feller a punch in the head, an' Houston, he ducked the purtiest ye
ever see, and let out a blow at Morgan's jaw, an' gee-whizz! Morgan
goes a flying across the room, and lan's under the big desk, and he
never come to fer 'bout twenty minits. My, but 'twas the slickest
knock-out ye ever see, Corbett couldn't a done it slicker hisself! an'
I rolled down them steps a laughin' so I 'most died. I went back after
he'd come to, an' Mister Houston was a tellin' him ter come out an'
fight, but he didn't seem ter wan'ter very bad, an' I see the fun was
over, so I come away."

Jack had laughed heartily over Bull-dog's description of the scene;
now he asked:

"What was the fight about?"

"Well," said Bull-dog, gravely replacing his pipe in his mouth, "'s
near 's I could make out, 'twas 'bout some girl."

"What girl?" inquired Jack, rather quickly.

"Well, the new feller, he didn't call no names, but I heerd Morgan say
somethin' 'bout Lyle Maverick, an' so I guess 'twas her, but I knew
you was always kinder sweet on her yourself, an' so I wasn't goin' ter
say nothin', 'cause, 'nless you're a scrapper, you won't stand no sort
of a chance with that feller."

"All right, Bull-dog," said Jack, "I'm something of a 'scrapper'
myself, but I don't expect to get into any trouble;" the tone was
kind, and he spoke with a half smile, but the keenly observant eyes of
the boy detected a shade on Jack's face. However, all conversation was
suddenly checked by the entrance of Mike, who, in a manner more
forcible than ceremonious, dispossessed Bull-dog of his chair and
pipe. The little waif soon took his departure, but it was some time
before the cloud on Jack's brow was dispelled.



CHAPTER XIV.


For the next day or two, Houston saw very little of either Mr.
Blaisdell or Morgan, as they spent most of their time at the mines,
but his own work was greatly increased, as copies of mining reports
regarding the Sunrise mine, and duplicate sets of statements of the
assay values of samples of ore taken from its various shafts, were to
be made out with the greatest care. There were tracings and blue
prints to be made from the original plats, by which it was to be shown
that the vein of the Sunrise mine was but an extension of that of the
Morning Star, one of the famous North Star group of mines; and there
were also very important and strictly confidential letters to be
written, under Mr. Blaisdell's directions, to the Silver City office,
more particularly to Mr. Rivers, the secretary of the company, whom
Houston had not yet seen.

The Sunrise mine which was suddenly looming up into such prominence,
was one of which Houston had never heard, but judging from the rich
samples of ore produced, and the testimony of experts and assayers, it
seemed to be one of the most valuable properties in that locality; but
to Houston, situated as he was, behind the scenes, it only afforded an
additional glimpse of the business methods of the company.

As he still sat at his desk, having just completed his day's work,
Morgan came in and threw himself down heavily into a chair, taking his
favorite attitude, with his feet crossed on the table, and his hands
clasped behind his head.

"You look tired, Morgan," commented Houston.

"I am tired," he replied, "too tired to breathe if I wasn't obliged
to; this has been a hard day's work, and if old Blaisdell sells that
mine, as he expects to, he'll have to divy up pretty liberally."

Houston turned around facing Morgan, with a peculiar smile.

"The Sunrise mine seems to have developed wonderfully within the past
few days," he remarked quietly.

Morgan laughed; "You'd think so," he replied, "if you could have seen
it four days ago. There hasn't been a day's work done on it for over a
year; some of it had caved in, and even the main shaft was pretty well
filled up with rubbish. Now that's all cleaned out, and the few places
where there is any quantity of ore in sight show up to good advantage,
and we've hauled eight or ten tons of ore from the Yankee Boy down
onto the dump, so it makes a pretty respectable showing. Oh, the boss
is a cuckoo for any job of that kind."

"Does the mining company own the Yankee Boy?" asked Houston.

"No," answered Morgan, "that whole group of mines is owned by a set
of New Yorkers; this company out here is their agent, that's all."

"And New Yorkers are not supposed to know all the ins and outs of
their western agent's mining deals," commented Houston.

"Well, I should say not! There's a good many things going on that they
are not supposed to know about, and that they wouldn't be very likely
to get onto, either, some of 'em, even if they were right on the
ground. Some of those ducks are pretty green, and fellows like
Blaisdell or Rivers can make them believe most anything. If Blaisdell
was half as smart as he makes some of those eastern fellows think he
is, he would have been a rich man before this."

"Why," said Houston, in surprise, "Blaisdell is quite well off, isn't
he?"

Morgan's only answer was a significant shake of the head.

"What!" exclaimed Houston in astonishment.

"Really, he is not worth a dollar," answered Morgan, "every nickle's
worth of property that he ever had, that he hasn't lost outright, has
been put into the hands of his wife, or his sons, or somebody or
other, heaven knows who, I don't, nor nobody else."

"Well, I am surprised," said Houston, "he seems shrewd and sharp in
business matters, and I supposed he was a rich man. He must have made
considerable money, what has become of it?"

Morgan shrugged his shoulders; "Have you seen old Rivers yet?" he
inquired.

"The secretary? No, I've never met him."

"Well," continued Morgan, "you probably will, in a day or two, he'll
be likely to come up with the eastern party; and when you've seen him,
you've seen the biggest rascal, and at the same time the slickest duck
there is on this side of the divide, and I doubt if there's any on the
other side can beat him. Old Blaisdell's pretty smooth, but he ain't a
circumstance to Rivers. Rivers will rob you of your last dollar, and
make you think he's your best friend all the time. Oh, he's a lulu,
and no mistake!"

Further conversation was prevented by the entrance of Mr. Blaisdell,
with a fine lot of ore samples with their assay values attached, which
he arranged on his desk, his thin lips drawn back meanwhile in his
accustomed self-satisfied smile. When this was done, he turned to the
young men.

"Well," he began, with a low chuckle of delight, "I've got word my
party is coming all right. Haight just got a telegram from Rivers,
that Winters had wired him that he and his son and the expert would be
in Silver City, on to-morrow's train, so I will have to go back to the
city to-night, to be in readiness to meet them. Let me see, this is
Wednesday, they arrive Thursday; Morgan, set the men to work on that
mine Friday morning; we will be up here in the course of the forenoon,
you see that everything is in first-class order. Houston, are those
statements and tracings all ready?"

"They are," replied Houston.

"Very well, put them up as quick as you can, I'll take them to the
city with me, and the team will be here in half a minute; I want to
catch that six o'clock train. I didn't expect to have to go to-night,
but that telegram has hurried up matters. Morgan, you keep everything
straight to-morrow, and be ready for us Friday morning."

"Shall I send a team down?" asked Morgan.

"No, no matter about that, I'll take Joe Hunt's team there at the Y,
it will be a rather more stylish turnout than one of the mining teams.
Everything is here O.K. I suppose," as Houston handed him the papers
he had requested, "all right, there's my team; well, so long, boys,
don't get into any more fights while I'm gone," and he was soon
rattling down the canyon toward the Y, while Houston and Morgan began
to make preparations for closing the office.

"Well," said Morgan, as he stood looking out of the window, and
waiting for Houston to put away his books and papers for the night, "I
can just imagine the little scene that will be enacted down there at
the main office to-morrow, it would be as good as a play just to watch
it. There will be old Wilson, with his diamonds and palaver,
expatiating on the country and the mines; and Blaisdell, with that
dignified way of his, talking of nitrates and sulphides, and so many
milligrams equaling so many grains troy, and so many gramestons in so
many pounds avoirdupois, and all that razzle-dazzle, and Rivers, not
saying much of anything, but smiling, and calculating how many
thousands he is going to put in his own pockets."

Houston laughed, and was about to reply, when Rutherford came in, as
he often walked down to meet Houston and accompany him to the house.

"Come in, Ned," said Houston, "you should have been here a minute ago;
Morgan has been giving some verbal portraits of the mining company.
Your descriptive powers are excellent, Morgan, and you seem to know
these men pretty well."

"Know them," said Morgan, swinging himself astride a chair and folding
his arms upon the back, while Rutherford perched upon a large writing
table, and Houston leaned against his long desk, with his arms folded,
"Know them, I should think I ought to. I worked in the Silver City
office as bookkeeper for a year before coming out here, and six months
of that time I boarded in Blaisdell's family; and as his wife hates
Rivers' wife, and couldn't say enough about her, I knew about as much
of one family as the other before I came away."

"Does Mr. Blaisdell try to impress his better half with a sense of his
intellectual superiority, as he does the rest of his fellow mortals?"
asked Rutherford.

"If he ever did," answered Morgan, "he must have got bravely over it
some time ago; she treats him with a contempt that would have cured
him of that habit. I've sometimes thought that the reason he swells so
much out among people is because he's so unmercifully snubbed at
home."

"I see," said Rutherford, "just a natural effort to keep his
self-respect in equilibrium."

"Has he many children?" inquired Houston.

"Well, no," said Morgan, "not many, only fifteen."

"Only fifteen!" said Houston, in astonishment, while Rutherford
exclaimed, "Oh, come off now, you're joking!"

"No joking about it," said Morgan seriously, "I took the old man's
word for it. I tried several times to count 'em, but had to give it
up, it seemed that every day I saw a new one. Some of 'em are as old
as I; you see this is his third wife, and some of the children are
older than she."

"I think," said Rutherford, "I'd like a wife younger than my
children."

"He seems to," replied Morgan, "they're as spooney as can be, when
they're not quarreling."

"Oh, deliver me!" said Rutherford, "I don't want to hear any more
about them. How about that other man, Rivers? He hasn't such a surplus
of children and wives, has he?"

"Well," said Morgan slowly, "I guess if his children could all be got
together, there'd be more of 'em than of Blaisdell's, and he has full
as many wives, only, in his case, they are all living."

"Great Scott!" said Rutherford, "is he a Mormon?"

Morgan shook his head, and Houston said:

"Morgan, I think in your efforts to be entertaining, you are drawing
slightly on your imagination, thinking that we are fresh enough to
believe anything you choose to tell us."

"No, it's all true, whether you believe it or not. That man left a
wife and family of children somewhere in New York State, more than ten
years ago, and ran away with another woman; they have five or six
children, and here, about three years ago, since I came here, he got
his divorce from the first woman, and married this one. Then he spent
last winter in San Francisco, and it seems now, that he circulated
around there under another name,--and his name is no more Rivers, than
mine is Jenks,--and passed himself off for an unmarried man, and now
there's a woman there has entered suit against him, for breach of
promise."

"Well," said Rutherford, descending from his elevated position, "I
move that we adjourn to the boarding house at once; if I hear any
more such stuff, I'll lose my appetite."

"The mystery to me is," said Houston, when they were started on their
way to the house, "how such a man is allowed to live and do business
in a respectable community."

"Oh," said Morgan carelessly, "he isn't any worse than the rest of
'em, only he's a little more out and out with it; and the rest of 'em
know it, and as long as they all live in glass houses, they don't any
of 'em want to throw any stones."

"It cannot be quite as bad as that," said Houston.

"Well, I've found 'em all about alike, men and women too, for that
matter, though I believe you shut me off from expressing my views
about women."

"But you certainly would not include all women in such an assertion?"
said Houston.

"I don't know why not, as far as my experience goes, they're all off
the same piece."

"Why, man," said Houston indignantly, "what are you talking about? You
had a mother once, you do not mean to traduce her memory?"

For a moment, Morgan was silent, then he replied in a tone that
sounded very unlike his usual voice:

"Yes, I had a mother once, and that is what has made me what I am;
sometime I will tell you about her."

And nothing more was said until they reached the house.



CHAPTER XV.


Friday morning, word was received from Mr. Blaisdell, over the
private wire connecting the office at Silver City with the mines,
that he and Mr. Rivers would be up on the first train with a party of
four, and to have everything in readiness for them; also to make
arrangements for their accommodation at the boarding house. Morgan
had already placed a small force of men at work on the mine, and
after carrying out Mr. Blaisdell's instructions, remained himself at
the mine, superintending the work.

It was one of those perfect days, so frequent among the mountains; a
cloudless sky, and the air so clear that one could see the most
distant mountain peaks with wonderful distinctness. The weather was
again warm, yet the air was cool and invigorating, and aromatic with
the breath of the evergreen forests clothing the sides of the
mountains and foot hills, while everywhere, the spring flowers were
adding their color and beauty to the scene, their fragrance rising
continuously, like an invisible cloud of incense, on every hand.

At about eleven o'clock, Houston heard the noise of the approaching
team, and stepping to the window, saw a three-seated, open wagon,
drawn by a pair of powerful horses. On the back seat, with Mr.
Blaisdell, was an old gentleman, evidently Mr. Winters, and on the
second seat, facing them, were two whom Houston judged to be Mr.
Rivers and the junior Mr. Winters; but he took little notice of them,
for his attention was arrested by one of the two young men sitting on
the front seat, with the driver. The figure looked wonderfully
familiar, but the face was almost wholly concealed by a broad-brimmed,
soft hat. The team stopped, and at once the passengers prepared to
alight; the hat was suddenly pushed back, revealing to the astonished
Houston, the shining spectacles and laughing face of Arthur Van Dorn,
his college class mate and chum.

The men were alighting, and it was evident that Mr. Blaisdell was in a
most genial frame of mind, he fairly beamed on every one; but Houston,
not waiting to meet him, made a hasty retreat into the back room, to
decide quickly upon his course of action. Nearly a thousand plans
occurred to him, but none seemed feasible. If Mr. Blaisdell were the
only member of the firm present, he felt he would have little
difficulty, but the presence of Mr. Rivers made it considerably harder
for him.

Meanwhile, in the front room, Mr. Blaisdell was receiving his guests
in the most effusive manner, reminding Houston, even in his dilemma,
of a gushing school girl.

"Mr. Winters, let me assist you, you must be exceedingly weary; here,
take this chair, you will find it a little more comfortable; sorry not
to have more luxurious quarters in which to receive you, but this is
the wild west, you know. Mr. Rivers, won't you see that Mr. Winters is
comfortable, while I wait on his son. Mr. Lindlay, let me show you
these specimens of ore, I think you will appreciate them as few can."

In the midst of all this effusion, Mr. Rivers suddenly appeared in the
back room. He was a small man, quite bald, with small, twinkling,
peering eyes, and a quick motion of his head from one side to the
other that reminded Houston of a ferret. Seeing Houston, his eyes
twinkled until they nearly closed, he smiled, and extending his hand,
said:

"Ah, the new clerk, Mr. Houston, I suppose; very glad to meet you."

At that moment Mr. Blaisdell entered; "Well, Mr. Rivers, you have
found Mr. Houston, I see; Mr. Houston, this is Mr. Rivers, the
secretary of the company. I was just looking for you, Houston, I want
you to come in and meet the people in the other room."

"In a moment, Mr. Blaisdell," said Houston, "but first, will you and
Mr. Rivers just look over something I have found here. This looks to
me as though a serious error had been made in this report regarding
the Sunrise mine, and as you will probably need it to-day, had it
better not be corrected?"

"Error in the report of the Sunrise!" said Mr. Blaisdell, adjusting
his spectacles, "let me see; why yes, that is an error, and a bad one,
too, I am glad you called our attention to it; look here, Rivers," and
the two men were deeply engrossed in a study of the papers before
them.

Houston improved the opportunity to reconnoiter the situation in the
front room. Mr. Winters and his son were in a close consultation. The
third man was busily engaged in looking at some ores, his back towards
the door, while beside him stood Van Dorn, indifferently watching him.
Houston gave a slight cough that attracted Van Dorn's attention; he
turned, and seeing Houston, his face brightened, and he was about to
spring forward to greet him, when the latter, with a quick motion of
his hand, gave him the signal of their old college days, its
equivalent in the western vernacular being, "Don't give me away," at
the same time putting his finger on his lips. A look of intense
surprise flashed across Van Dorn's face, but he grasped the situation
at once, and silently giving the return signal, he turned and walked
in the opposite direction with the most nonchalant manner imaginable,
and Houston knew that his secret was safe. A few moments afterward,
"Mr. Houston, our private secretary," was introduced to the entire
party, and a hearty grip from Van Dorn's hand, which Houston returned
with interest, was the only sign of mutual recognition.

"Well friends," said Mr. Blaisdell, blandly, having looked at his
watch, "it is now so near noon, that when we have allowed Mr. Winters
ample time for rest, we had better proceed to the house and have our
dinner, before going to the mines."

"If you dine at noon," replied Mr. Winters, in a very genial, yet
dignified manner, "there is scarcely time for a very extended
exploration, but don't discommode yourselves in the least, gentlemen,
on account of my age and feebleness. I have always enjoyed perfect
health, and notwithstanding my gray hairs, I don't believe I am much
older than my friend, here, Mr. Blaisdell."

"Not older than I am, sir!" exclaimed Mr. Blaisdell, who prided
himself upon his youthful appearance, "why, how old do you take me to
be?"

"Much older than you look," replied Mr. Winters, "I am sixty-five, and
you are at least sixty, although you look ten years younger than
that."

"You have certainly proven yourself a Yankee by your guessing," said
Mr. Blaisdell, slightly disconcerted, while the others joined in a
general laugh at his expense, "I wouldn't have thought you would have
made so good a guess as that, neither did I think you were so near my
own age."

"You have the advantage of me now," returned Mr. Winters, pleasantly,
"but if we live twenty years, as I expect to, I'll then look younger
than you, for I have the better health of the two."

"Have you ever visited the west before, Mr. Winters?" inquired Mr.
Rivers.

"Yes, a few times," replied the old gentleman, while the mining
expert, an Englishman, with large blue eyes, full face and blond
mustache, smiled quietly at Van Dorn and Houston, who were seated near
each other; "I've been west once or twice a year for the last ten
years."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Rivers, with considerable surprise, while the
younger Mr. Winters said with a laugh, "Oh, you couldn't keep father
at home in New York, any more than you could one of these Indians out
here; he's got to be roaming around all over the country continually.
If he didn't drag me about with him everywhere, I wouldn't object."

"You have been out in this country often, I suppose," said Mr.
Blaisdell, addressing the expert, who replied coolly, with a very
slight accent:

"No, sir; I simply come out 'ere once in a w'ile, you know, just as an
accommodation to Mr. Winters."

"You live in New York, I suppose?"

"No, sir; my 'ome is in London," he replied, with an air that seemed
to indicate he did not care for any further conversation.

"Blaisdell," said Mr. Rivers, "I thought you said something some time
ago, about dinner; if the ride in the mountain air has given the rest
of these gentlemen such an appetite as it has me, we would like to see
that dinner materialize before very long."

On the way to the boarding house, Van Dorn managed to walk with
Houston, and exclaimed in a low tone:

"Good heavens, Everard, what does this mean? What are you masquerading
around in this style for?"

"Don't ask me to explain now, there are too many around; after dinner
we will go down by ourselves, and I'll tell you the whole story. I may
want a little advice from you, as you're a mining expert yourself."

"Don't let any of these people out here know that," Van Dorn answered
quickly; "Mr. Winters has introduced me as an inventor of some mining
machinery that they use, just out here looking around for the pleasure
of it; you know I did invent an amalgamator that is being used to some
extent; but I'm not supposed to know anything about practical
mining."

Houston laughed; "How about the Englishman?" he asked.

"He's no fool," said Van Dorn quickly, "though he is playing verdant;
only comes out here to accommodate Mr. Winters, and so forth; that's
all right, but he accommodates Mr. Winters pretty often. He's a fine
expert and understands his business thoroughly, only I happen to be a
little more familiar with the ores in this locality, as I spent a good
many months out here in the mountains two years ago, experting mines;
not in this camp of course, but only a few miles from here. Mr.
Winters himself is sharp, and with Lindlay and myself out here, he's
not going to be very badly taken in."

"Good!" said Houston, "and now there is one thing more before we get
to the house. You remember Morton Rutherford?"

"Mort Rutherford, of old college days? well, I should say so; what
about him?"

"His brother is stopping here, you will see him at dinner."

"What!" interrupted Van Dorn, "little Ned? What under heaven is he
doing out here? Are you two fellows out here incognito making love to
rustic maidens? or what are you doing?"

"No, Ned is out here in his own name, you won't need be under any
restrictions with him, but what I want to say is this: Don't let him
know who I am, or that you used to know me, or that I know his
brother."

"Anything else I'm not to let him know?" queried Van Dorn, taking out
a small note book.

"No, put up your book, or Mr. Blaisdell will think I am giving you
pointers on the mine. But this is how it is; Rutherford met me on the
train coming out here, introduced himself to me, took a fancy to the
mountains, and decided to stay a few weeks. He thinks I am--what you
found me--the clerk for this company, and my home in Chicago. I am not
ready to explain matters to him yet, so just simply appear as if you
had never met me or heard of me till to-day."

"But how is it Ned didn't know you? Didn't you ever see him when you
visited Mort?"

"No, I was there only once, and he was away at school at the time, and
then he never went to Yale, you know, he is a Harvard graduate."

"Oh, I see; all right, I'll be mum."

A sharp turn in the road brought the house into view, with Rutherford
seated on the porch, reading a magazine.

He glanced up with his usual assumption of dignity, as the party
approached, but catching sight of Van Dorn, at the rear of the little
procession, his magazine and his dignity were suddenly flung to the
winds, and he bounded down from the porch like a school-boy.

"By Jove! Hello there, Van Dorn, how do you do? Great Scott! how did
you ever come out here? I'm awfully glad to see you."

"Very glad to see you, my dear boy," said Van Dorn, heartily, "but the
mystery to me is, how do you happen to be here?"

Mr. Blaisdell looked on greatly astonished and amused by Rutherford's
impetuous greeting.

"Well, Mr. Rutherford," he remarked, "you seem to have met an old
friend; ah, yes, I see, you are from Boston, and so is Mr. Van Dorn."

Introductions followed, and the party sat down to dinner. Houston,
seated between Van Dorn and Rutherford, did not lack for entertainment,
but he had been at the table but a few seconds when he became aware
that Miss Gladden was not there. He waited till the meal was nearly
over, and then quietly inquired of Lyle whether Miss Gladden were ill.

"Oh no," Lyle answered, in a low tone, "Miss Gladden thought best, as
so many gentlemen were to be here, and on business, to let them have
the table to themselves."

After dinner, Houston started a little early for the office, and Van
Dorn took his hat, saying:

"If you'll excuse me, gentlemen, I'll walk down with Mr. Houston. You
know I'm not so crazy on mining as you are, and I'd like to see
somebody for a change, that can talk on some other subject."

"Go ahead," said Mr. Winters, "I suppose you'll want to go through the
mines in our company, though, by and by."

"I probably will have to go in your company, if I go at all," Van Dorn
replied carelessly, "my choice is rather limited."

"You'll be here this evening, won't you Van?" said Rutherford, who was
then engaged in a sort of one-sided conversation with the Englishman.

"I suppose so," Van Dorn answered.

"All right, I'll see you later," Rutherford responded.

The confidential clerk and the young inventor strolled down the road
together, and the officers of the mining company never dreamed of the
results.

Half an hour later, Mr. Blaisdell and Mr. Rivers rose to return to the
office, and the others followed their example, with the exception of
Mr. Winters, who said:

"If you boys are in a hurry to start, all right, go ahead; I'm going
to take my after-dinner smoke out here on the porch," at the same time
producing a fine meerschaum.

"Now, father, don't you get left behind," said his son jokingly.

"Get left, you young rattle-brains! I'll have my smoke out and be down
there at the office, before you are ready to start; your old father
generally 'gets there' in as good time as you can make."

"I'll tell you what we will do, Mr. Winters," said Mr. Blaisdell, "the
road to the mine branches off just below here, and we can just as well
drive around here and call for you."

"All right, Mr. Blaisdell, that will be perfectly satisfactory,
whatever suits you young fellows, suits me."

"Very well, then, Mr. Winters," said Mr. Blaisdell, "we 'young
fellows' will be along in the course of half an hour," and they went
down the canyon, leaving the old gentleman in the low porch, deep in
the enjoyment of his pipe.



CHAPTER XVI.


As the quondam class-mates disappeared together down the winding road,
Houston gave his friend, as succinctly as possible, an explanation of
his presence there in the capacity of clerk, briefly outlining his
plans, and stating what he had been able so far to accomplish.

Van Dorn was intensely interested, and through his own practical
knowledge and experience, was able to give Houston some valuable
information, and to make some important suggestions.

Houston was quick to see that here was just the help he would need a
little later; he also knew that opportunities for seeing his friend
would be limited, he must act promptly.

"Arthur," he asked rather abruptly, "how soon do you go east?"

"In about two weeks."

"Any special engagements for this summer?"

"Nothing particularly important at present."

"You remember my uncle, don't you?"

"I remember Mr. Cameron perfectly, though I have not seen him for a
number of years."

"I suppose, for a sufficient consideration, you would come out here on
business for us, at any time?"

"Like Lindlay, 'just to accommodate,' I suppose," laughed Van Dorn,
and continued, "Everard, old boy, I am at the service of yourself and
your uncle, and we'll say nothing about 'considerations' until
afterward; then arrange it between yourselves."

"We will not require your time and services without ample compensation,"
returned Houston, "but you will be just the man I will need later; an
expert, familiar with this locality, in whom my uncle will repose perfect
confidence, and whom the company here will not suspect."

"But Mr. Cameron may not place much confidence in the harum-scarum
sophomore that visited his home a few years since, if he remembers him
at all," said Van Dorn, with a little laugh.

"My word will be enough for that," said Houston, "I will write a
letter this afternoon for you to take to him. There are the gentlemen
now, coming down the road; I will see you again this evening, and
probably to-morrow. I wonder what has become of Mr. Winters?"

"Probably he is taking his afternoon smoke," said Van Dorn. "I think
the old gentleman would throw up the whole mining deal rather than
sacrifice that. After what you've told me of this mining concern out
here, I've considerable curiosity to see this famous mine they've been
writing about. I've got an idea just about how it will pan out, but
I'll say nothing till I've seen it."

"Let me know your impressions, later," said Houston.

"Agreed," answered Van Dorn, and the party outside having nearly
reached the door, the subject was dropped.

Meanwhile, Mr. Winters, seated in the rustic porch, his attention
divided between the picturesque scenery surrounding him, and the
spirals of blue smoke which he loved to watch, was in no hurry to
exchange his present enjoyment for subterranean explorations; the rest
and solitude seemed doubly welcome after the last few weeks of
travel.

Rutherford, who lingered a few moments after the others had gone, did
not find him very socially inclined, and picking up his magazine from
the floor, where it had reposed since Van Dorn's appearance, he
started up the canyon for a stroll among the rocks by the lake.

It is to be feared that Mr. Winters, under the combined influence of
his pipe and the warm sunshine, was very nearly asleep. It is certain
that he never heard the sound of soft, trailing garments beside him,
nor did he appear to be in full possession of all his faculties, until
two arms rested lightly on his shoulders, and a pair of small, white
hands were clasped across his eyes.

Such a proceeding, under such circumstances, naturally had the effect
of very quickly restoring his faculties to their normal condition, but
on trying to turn his head, he found it held as firmly as in a vise,
by the hands which had been quickly removed from his eyes, while a
mischievous voice announced imperiously:

"Guess who it is, and you are free!"

"Guess!" exclaimed the old gentleman in some perplexity, "why, if I
were at home, I would know this was one of my little girl's tricks,
but I cannot imagine who it is here."

There was a musical, rippling laugh, as the hands were withdrawn,
and Mr. Winters, turning quickly, came near losing his pipe in
astonishment.

"Bless my soul, Leslie! what does this mean? Well, well! so it was my
little girl after all, up to her old tricks; but, child, how came you
out here, in such a place as this?"

At that moment, Houston or Rutherford would scarcely have recognized
Miss Gladden, could they have seen her seated beside Mr. Winters with
all the careless abandon of a child, laughing merrily in answer to his
numerous questions, while he playfully pinched her cheek, or pulled
her ear. To Mr. Winters, however, she seemed like one of his own
children, for Leslie Gladden was an orphan, and Mr. and Mrs. Winters,
having been deeply attached to her parents, and having no daughter of
their own, had always regarded her as a daughter, and much of her life
had been passed in their home.

"Well, puss," said Mr. Winters, having answered her inquiries
regarding his family, "seems to me it's about time you gave an account
of yourself; what are you doing here? and what have you been doing
since last Easter? and where are Helen and her husband?"

"One question at a time, if you please, sir," said Miss Gladden.

"That's right, giving the old man orders, as usual; we always spoiled
you, Leslie. Well, in the first place, what possessed you to leave us
in the way you did? We understood you had gone to spend Easter with
Helen; and the next we heard, Helen wrote her sister that they were
going to spend the summer traveling in the west, and that you were to
accompany them."

"I will explain that a little later; what is the next in order?"

"Is Helen here with you?"

"No, sir, she and George are in Denver."

"And who is stopping here with you?"

"No one; do you think I need a guardian, or a chaperon?"

The old man's eyes twinkled; "You always were an independent sort of a
girl, and pretty level-headed, too, I must admit; but, my dear child,
is it safe for you to be out here alone among the miners, and this
rough class of people?"

Miss Gladden laughed; "Did you see any very rough people to-day at
dinner?"

"Why no, to be sure, I did not, but then, there must be many of them
out here in this neighborhood."

"I never see them," said Miss Gladden, "I associate only with the
people you met to-day; no one here knows that I have wealth; so
really, I am safer here than at home, where I am known."

"But there is no society here," protested the old gentleman.

"I came here to get away from society; there is plenty of refined and
pleasant companionship, and if I have friends here, I know they are
sincere friends, not money worshipers, or fortune hunters."

"Oh, I see," said Mr. Winters, "the princess is out here in disguise,
seeking some knight who will love her for herself alone, and not for
her fortune."

"No," said Miss Gladden gravely, "I have not come out here seeking for
any knight, but to escape from a base, dishonorable and cowardly
knave."

"Has your cousin Humphrey been annoying you again?"

"Yes, he and his mother made life a burden to me, that was my reason
for leaving home as I did. Humphrey has sunk nearly every dollar of
their property by his profligacy, and now, he and his mother are
determined to have my fortune. Aunt exhausted all her stock of
melodramatic and sentimental language and her tears in trying to get
me to fulfill what she called my father's 'dying wish,' by marrying
that debauchee and libertine; then she tried threats, and finally
became so wild with rage, that she reminded me of the will, and told
me I should never marry any one else; that Humphrey should have the
property, as my father intended, sooner or later, if not with me, then
without me. I knew Helen intended to come west, and I went to her and
asked to let me travel with them. Now, you know my reason for leaving
so suddenly, and for not writing. We have all enjoyed our trip very
much; you know George came out on business, and when he was occupied,
of course it was pleasanter for Helen that I was with her. While we
were at St. Paul, George met some mining men, and he immediately began
to have symptoms of mining fever, and hearing of the mines out here,
he brought us out, among the mountains and miners. We came out when
the weather was warm and delightful, and Helen and I roamed over the
mountains while George explored the mines. Then he decided to go to
Denver, and I would probably have accompanied them, though I had
become attached to this place, but just then I heard that my cousin
had traced me to St. Paul, and was in pursuit, to renew his attentions
to me, so I decided to remain here where he will be less likely to
find me. Helen and her husband are in Denver, sworn to secrecy
regarding my whereabouts."

"Well, well!" exclaimed the old gentleman, meditatively, "I wouldn't
have thought your aunt would so far have forgotten herself. It was
unfortunate that your father made such a will, leaving everything to
Humphrey in case of your dying unmarried, but that was when you were
both children, and he was very fond of the little fellow. Leslie, my
dear, I wish you were married."

"But I am not, and perhaps never likely to be," Miss Gladden answered
merrily.

"Yes, and you might have been married twenty times over," said Mr.
Winters, shaking his head, "and my own boy, Harry, among the lot."

"Once is enough for me, papa dear," said Miss Gladden lightly, yet in
a more tender tone, "when the right one comes; but it could never have
been Harry, any more than his brother, Richard; you and mamma were
like parents to me, and the boys both seem like brothers."

"Have you found the right one, yet?" asked the old gentleman, watching
her keenly.

"As I told you, I am not looking for a knight," she answered brightly,
but the color deepened on her cheek, "if he ever comes, he must find
me."

Mr. Winters noted the telltale flush, and slowly shaking his head,
remarked, "I don't know, Leslie, about the advisability of leaving you
here; you were always inclined to be very philanthropic, and it would
be like you to adopt some young man out here, thinking you had money
enough for yourself and him, too; that clerk down at the office, for
instance, or this kid that was prancing around in eye-glasses."

"The 'kid' as you call him," Miss Gladden answered demurely, "has
plenty of money of his own, and Mr. Houston seems abundantly able to
take care of himself; if I adopt any one, it will be that beautiful
girl who waited on you at dinner."

"What is that, my dear?" said the old gentleman, brightening, "I
noticed that girl at the table to-day; she is remarkably fine looking,
and seemed to conduct herself like a perfect lady; who is she?"

Miss Gladden, in her enthusiastic manner, began telling him of Lyle,
and of the interest she had taken in her, but before she had proceeded
very far, the team appeared at the junction of the roads, the men
calling Mr. Winters.

"Bless my stars, if there isn't the team!" he exclaimed, "well my
little girl, good-bye for the present, you will see us both this
evening," and having given Miss Gladden a promise that neither he nor
his son would betray her secret, he hastened down the road to the
waiting team.

"Well, boys," he said, stopping to carefully empty the ashes from his
pipe on a projecting ledge of rock, "I will have to give you credit
for being on hand very promptly; that was about the shortest half hour
that I can remember."

A loud, ringing laugh greeted this remark, which caused Mr. Winters,
who was replacing his pipe in its case, to look up in mild wonder.

"That's one on you, father," called his son, while Mr. Blaisdell
remarked, "The time evidently has passed very pleasantly."

"What is the origin of all this mirth?" demanded Mr. Winters, as he
seated himself with considerable dignity.

"It seems," said Mr. Rivers, in explanation, "to be because you were
so unconscious of the lapse of time; we were delayed in getting
together our papers, and it is over an hour since we left the house."

"I looked for you at every turn of the road," said his son.

"I didn't," said Van Dorn, "I thought he had fallen asleep over his
pipe; I never dreamed he was disgracing the whole crowd of us by such
open flirtation as that,--I wish we had brought along a chaperon."

"Well, gentlemen," said Mr. Winters very deliberately, "all I have to
say is, that had you been in my place, the time would have seemed
equally short to you, and I don't think there's one of you but would
have been mighty glad to have been in my place."

"Mr. Winters," said Mr. Blaisdell, "I begin to think you're the
youngest man of our party."



CHAPTER XVII.


With many jokes and much hilarity, the mining party proceeded on their
way. Arriving at the mines, they found Morgan and Haight awaiting
them, who were duly introduced to the party, the English expert
looking at Haight with much the same expression with which a mastiff
might regard a rat terrier.

Everything being in readiness, they began the descent of the long
incline shaft, Mr. Blaisdell and Haight leading the way with Mr.
Lindlay, while Mr. Rivers followed with Mr. Winters and his son and
Van Dorn, Morgan bringing up the rear.

It was nearly three hours before they reappeared at the surface, and
to a physiognomist, their faces, as they emerged from the mouth of the
shaft, would have furnished an amusing study.

Mr. Blaisdell looked irritated and annoyed, but jubilant. He had been
thoroughly disgusted by the conduct of the English expert. Instead
of taking Mr. Blaisdell's word regarding the mine, corroborated as
it was by undisputable evidence in the shape of mining reports,
surveyor's notes, and maps, he had insisted on ascertaining for
himself the important data, the width, dip and course of the vein,
and the measurement of various angles and distances, with a
persistency and accuracy that was simply exasperating. He also picked
up samples of ore in the most unexpected places which he examined
with the closest scrutiny. But having taken his measurements and made
his examinations, the results were immediately jotted down in his
note book, and the samples dropped in his pockets, without a word,
which convinced Mr. Blaisdell that the expert knew very little of his
business, and was probably either doing this to keep up appearances,
or to gain a little information for his own benefit. Not a word had
been said contradicting the statements he had made, not a question
raised implying any doubt of their correctness;--evidently they were
just the kind of purchasers he wanted, and his firmly set jaws and
tightly compressed lips expressed his satisfaction.

Mr. Rivers scanned the company keenly with his ferret-like glances;
such unexpected acquiescence on their part made him slightly
suspicious and very watchful. The thought uppermost in his mind was,
"Either these people know absolutely nothing about mining, or they
know too much for our good." He had intended going back to the city
that evening, but he now decided to remain over.

Mr. Winters, senior, reappeared, wearing the same expression of
benevolence and dignity with which he had entered the mine. He seemed
serenely unconscious of the existence of deceit or fraud in business
transactions generally, and in mining negotiations in particular. Only
those well acquainted with him could detect from the exaggerated
twinkle of his eyes, that something had more than ordinarily amused
him.

Van Dorn and Lindlay had agreed before hand that they would keep
entirely separate, and each pursue his own course of investigation
independently of the other,--Van Dorn of course not being able to take
any measurements, as he was not supposed to be an expert,--and compare
notes later. As the two emerged into daylight and their eyes met, Van
Dorn's laughing, blushing face would have betrayed him, had any one
known his real business there, but a young inventor, exploring mines
just for the fun of the thing, is supposed to find plenty of
amusement. Under the big, blond mustache of the Englishman, a pair of
lips curled scornfully, and his eyes rolled wildly for a moment, but
that was all.

As the gentlemen gathered around the dump, the last vestige of Mr.
Blaisdell's irritation seemed to have disappeared, as he blandly
expatiated upon the quantity and quality of the ore.

Van Dorn's eyes sparkled as he saw the shining lumps from the Yankee
Boy, and he and Lindlay exchanged quick glances.

"Look at that," said the latter, quickly extracting from his pocket a
sample of the Sunrise ore and placing it beside a piece taken at
random from the dump; "does any one pretend to tell me that those are
from the same vein?"

"It is a different class of ore altogether," replied Van Dorn, "such
ore as that never would be found under the conditions existing in that
mine, but I'll be blest if I wouldn't like to see the mine it did come
from."

Mr. Rivers had observed this little side conversation and Van Dorn's
close scrutiny of the samples, and was at his side in a moment,
inquiring in his smoothest tones:

"What do you think of that ore, Mr. Van Dorn?"

"Very fine ore, so far as I can judge," said Van Dorn carelessly, "I
would like to see it run through that concentrator and amalgamator of
mine; if these men ever get through talking about mines, Mr. Rivers, I
must get you and Mr. Blaisdell interested in my machinery."

At the suggestion of Mr. Lindlay, the party next paid a visit to the
Morning Star mine, that being the one which Mr. Blaisdell had declared
was on the same lead as the Sunrise. This they found to be a valuable
mine, but there was not the slightest indication of the vein being
identical with that of the Sunrise, its strike carrying it in a
totally different direction, and its characteristics being wholly
dissimilar.

As it was too late for any further mining explorations, the team was
ordered, and preparations made for a return to the house.

Lindlay and Van Dorn, by mutual agreement, started up the canyon road
together, in advance of the others.

"Boys, where are you going?" called Mr. Winters.

"Going to walk on ahead," answered Van Dorn.

"Just as cheap to ride," said Mr. Winters.

"Plenty of room," added Mr. Blaisdell.

"We can't wait for you, you're too slow," laughed Van Dorn.

"Give our places to those gentlemen," said Lindlay, indicating
Haight and Morgan, and with rather a painful emphasis on the word
"gentlemen."

"Egad!" he exclaimed a few moments later, "Van Dorn, what do you think
of that for a mining proposition?"

"It's pretty tough, in fact, about the toughest I ever saw," replied
Van Dorn, "but then, you remember we got a hint at Silver City that
they were sharpers."

"Sharpers!" exclaimed Lindlay, "but I don't call them sharpers; I can
admire a good, genuine piece of keen rascality, don't you know, for I
can play just as sharp a game myself as the best of them, but w'en it
comes to such downright, beastly work as this, so blundering and
bungling you know, w'y it looks too much as though they thought we
were all born idiots, to be very complimentary."

"I'll admit it looks that way," said Van Dorn, laughing, "it doesn't
look as though they had a very flattering opinion of our acquirements,
or our natural penetration, if they suppose we can be gulled in this
way. They are about the worst set of mining sharks I've ever had the
pleasure of meeting, and I shall tell Houston so."

"By the way, that Mr. 'Uston seems a very decent sort of a man,"
commented Lindlay.

"He's a fine fellow," responded Van Dorn warmly, "you see I know him,
he's a friend of mine, but don't say anything till we get out of
here."

"A friend of yours! and w'at in the deuce is he doing out 'ere, among
such a beastly lot?"

"He is out on a piece of detective work on his own account," and Van
Dorn briefly gave Lindlay an outline of what Houston had told him. A
prolonged "Ah--h" from Lindlay was the only response.

"I thought I'd better tell you," said Van Dorn, "for fear you would
include him in the lot out here, and be down on him with the rest. He
is a splendid fellow, and I want you to know him."

"That I will," responded the Englishman, "'ere, give 'im my card, and
tell 'im I'll be very glad to 'elp 'im out a bit any time if he needs
it later, you know; I would like to see 'im get the best of these
fellows."

"I will tell him," replied Van Dorn, "he may give you a letter of
introduction to his uncle. They are all fine people, and, as you say,
I would like to see Houston get the best of these rascals; I believe
he will, too, though he will have to lay low for a while yet, and
there may be some pretty dangerous work for him before he gets
through."

The pedestrians and the remainder of the party reached the house at
nearly the same time, the latter having been slightly delayed in
starting. Although a little late, Houston and Rutherford, with Miss
Gladden and Lyle, were awaiting them in the porch. The rare beauty of
the two ladies elicited expressions of admiration from both Lindlay
and Van Dorn, the latter exclaiming:

"They evidently have some fine specimens of ladies out here, and no
mistake; there seems to be no fraud in that direction. No wonder the
old gentleman was so indifferent as to whether we called for him or
not!"

Miss Gladden extended a welcome, both cordial and graceful, to Mr.
Winters and his son, and also to Van Dorn, whom Rutherford introduced
as an old friend. Other introductions followed, and the entire company
entered the long, low dining room, whither Lyle had already preceded
them to see that everything was in perfect readiness. Exclamations of
surprise and pleasure were heard on all sides, as the table had been
tastefully decorated by the skillful fingers of the ladies, with wild
flowers, and their beauty and fragrance filled the room. A very social
meal followed, interspersed with jokes and repartee, and pleasant
reminiscences. Toward the close, Mr. Blaisdell entertained them with
amusing sketches of western life, and soon was relating some of his
first mining experiences, when he had just come from the east, a newly
fledged mining expert.

"I was asked, in company with another expert, a western man, much
older than I, to examine some properties for some mining men. They
were all experienced miners, old hands at the business, and they
regarded me, a young graduate from an eastern mining school, with no
practical knowledge that they knew of, as totally incompetent to
advise them, and, I think, invited me more out of courtesy than
anything else; perhaps also, out of benevolent intention to give me an
opportunity to learn something about mines.

"The evening previous to the day the examination was to be made, they
met for a little conversation regarding the history of the mine, and
to make plans for the following day. Of course, our talk was
principally of mining in general. Well, didn't I play 'green' that
evening. You can bet your sweet life that I did!"

Here Lindlay elbowed Houston, who in turn nudged Van Dorn. The last
named gentleman telegraphed across to the younger Winters and
Rutherford, and there seemed imminent danger of a general explosion;
however, Mr. Blaisdell thought it was all in appreciation of his
story, and blandly continued:

"I think when we broke up that night, the rest of them must have
wondered among themselves why they had been such fools as to invite
me. But I was only anxious for the time to come to go down into that
mine. It was a property which the company had bought when it was
nothing but a prospect, but which had then possessed every indication
of being a wonderful producer of very rich ore, and it was supposed
that with a little further development it would make a very fine
property. The company had immediately proceeded to develop the mine,
following the vein, as they supposed, for several hundred feet, but it
did not amount to anything worth speaking of. Occasionally they would
find croppings of very rich ore, but no true vein, and they had
finally determined to call in one or two experts, and after an
examination, decide whether it was worth the expenditure of any more
money, or whether it had better be abandoned.

"Well, aside from having received a fine education in this branch
of science, I had worked a good deal in some of old Nature's
laboratories, and was more familiar with these things than they
thought. I knew, from their talk, that they were not following the
course of the vein, though they thought they were, but of course, I
said nothing of that kind; I was playing green.

"The next day we went down into the mine, and I found just what I
expected to find; that they were simply following a false lead, and in
reality, going farther and farther from the vein every move they made.
There was the original vein to start with, and they had struck a false
lead close beside it, and were going down; digging down lower and
lower, while the true vein was right over their heads, and those
miners and that confounded expert that knew so much more than I did,
didn't any of them know enough just to look up there and see it. Why,
near the point where they had first started, I could see the ore
shining in places over my head, and there were croppings of it all
along.

"Well, to make a long story short, I advised them to stick to the
mine, and the expert advised them to abandon it. A little while
afterward, I asked them what they would take for the mine; of course
they thought that an additional proof of my greenness that I should
talk of buying it, but I hung on, not appearing very anxious about it
of course, for then they might suspect something. You won't believe
me, but I bought that mine for five hundred dollars, cash, and they
thought I was the biggest fool and tenderfoot that ever came out here.
I tell you, I made sure of a good, clear title to that property, and
then I went to work. I followed the old, original vein, and in less
than six weeks I had gold just a pouring out of that mine. My! but
didn't that company try to get back then! but I wouldn't have anything
to do with them; I told them I was a greenhorn and a tenderfoot, and
they had better let me alone. Well, sir, I worked that mine eighteen
months, and cleared, over and above all expenses, one hundred and
fifty thousand dollars, and then I sold it for half a million, and
those other fellows have been kicking themselves ever since."

There was a hearty laugh at the termination of the story, and the
company adjourned to the porch and the open space surrounding the
house, for the evening.

Taken all in all, there was in that little company sheltered under the
old house that night, a strange combination of plots and counter
plots, secrets and mysteries; and to Houston himself, as he sat a
little apart from the others, watching the group with thoughtful eyes,
it seemed a curious coincidence, that, on that evening, and at that
place, there should be assembled so many of the principal actors in
the drama which he knew must ere long be enacted, and he was unable to
shake off a vague presentiment that this was the opening scene. Just
what would that drama be, he wondered, would it be comedy or tragedy?
never, with all his foresight, dreaming the depth of tragedy so soon
to follow, or recognizing as such, some of the chief actors, even then
passing within his ken.

On one side of the low porch was seated Miss Gladden, entertaining Mr.
Winters and his son, while behind her, Lyle was standing with
unconscious grace, and a far-away, dreamy look in her eyes. Just
across the entrance, on the other side, were Lindlay, Van Dorn and
Rutherford, the last two engaged in animated conversation regarding
old times, Lindlay occasionally joining with them, but most of the
time watching Miss Gladden, with much admiration expressed in his
usually critical face. Mr. Rivers sauntered back and forth before the
house, smoking, while, at a little distance, Mr. Blaisdell, Haight and
Morgan were talking together. Jim Maverick, coming from behind the
house, touched his hat as a salute to Mr. Blaisdell, and after a quick
glance of suspicious distrust at the elder Mr. Winters, shuffled off
in the direction of the miners' quarters. A little later, a man with
powerful, athletic frame, who walked with quick, elastic step, and yet
as though conscious of his power, passed the house, followed by a fine
collie. His hat was drawn low over his eyes, partly concealing his
face, but this did not prevent his watching the group on the porch
with close, keen scrutiny. Houston and Rutherford started slightly,
and exchanged glances, for they had recognized their fellow passenger
from Valley City, and they would doubtless have made some comment, but
that just then Miss Gladden spoke:

"Lyle, dear, I wonder who that can be; he is dressed like a miner, but
his carriage and appearance is that of a gentleman."

"That," answered Lyle, in a low tone, "is Jack; he is a miner, and he
is also a gentleman."



CHAPTER XVIII.


Several days had elapsed since the eastern party, accompanied by Mr.
Blaisdell and Mr. Rivers, had returned to the city, and, as yet,
nothing had been learned of their decision regarding the mine. The
extra force of men on the Sunrise had returned to their regular
shifts, and the work at the mining camp was going forward in the old
routine, with the monotonous precision of clock-work.

Houston was quietly pursuing his own way, conscious that the task
before him involved difficulty and danger. He was aware that Haight,
notwithstanding his obsequious politeness, was one of his worst
enemies, and would injure him in every underhanded way within his
power, as, beneath the smooth, smiling exterior, Houston could detect
a deep, subtle malignity toward himself; and he rightly judged that
Jim Maverick, the tool of the mining company, would be the instrument
Haight would use when he was ready to work his revenge.

Maverick, from the first, had hated Houston with that instinctive
hatred which such vile natures, groveling in their own degradation,
always feel toward those moving on a higher plane, in an atmosphere
untainted by the putrescence which is their natural element. Maverick
knew that, to a man like Houston, his own baseness and villainy were
written in his face, and even in his slouching, cringing gait, as
plainly as though branded in letters of fire, and this was sufficient
to kindle his anger against him, and Haight, by his talk, added fuel
to the slowly smoldering fire. At home, but more particularly among
the miners, in the camp or at the Y, Maverick expressed his views
regarding Houston in language abounding with profanity and obscenity,
and many were the muttered threats of what he would do should the
object of his hatred ever cross his path.

Houston, meanwhile, was quick to discern the danger signals, and was
laying his plans wisely and well. His own work in the office of the
mining camp was nearly completed; there remained yet the information
to be gathered from the Silver City office, to which he was now
expecting to be called any day, and then the work of familiarizing
himself with the mines. When this should be accomplished, the end, for
which he was working and waiting, would be very near.

As he sat in the office one afternoon, reviewing the past few weeks,
he felt that he had succeeded thus far, even beyond his hopes. The
coming of Van Dorn and the acquaintance formed with Lindlay would be
of untold value to him in his work. A little later, Van Dorn would
come to his assistance without arousing suspicion, not being known as
a mining expert, and when the time came for the final denouement,
Lindlay would accompany Mr. Cameron to the mines, as he was a skilled
expert, and having already visited the mines, could furnish testimony
as to the fraud practiced by the company.

Thus far, everything had gone well, and the weeks of work in a
secluded mining camp, to which he had looked forward with anything but
pleasurable anticipations, had in reality proven,--he was surprised to
admit to himself,--among the pleasantest of his life. He would really
have many regrets on leaving the mountains to return to his old home,
he had formed such pleasant associations; and then, he suddenly became
conscious that, of his life among the mountains, there was little he
would miss, excepting a pair of dark, soulful eyes, in whose depths he
had failed to detect the least shadow of falseness or unworthiness;
mirrors of a sweet, womanly nature, strong, pure and beautiful, which
with a quick, ready sympathy entered into his feelings, and often
seemed to fathom his unspoken thoughts, and clothe them with language
of her own.

Houston started in astonishment, and, locking the office, took a
circuitous and little traveled road, determined to fully understand
his own heart before he again looked into those eyes with their depths
of sincerity and truth.

For many years he had been the recipient of flattering attentions from
fond papas and aspiring mammas. Invitations to club dinners, banquets
and the most recherche lunches, on the one hand, were evenly balanced
by cards to receptions, soirees and afternoon teas, on the other. Had
he passed heart-whole through all these sieges, only to fall a victim,
here and now?

He had admired Miss Gladden from the first; then, in their mutual
sympathy for Lyle, they had been drawn closer together, and since that
time,--yes, he could see it all now.

Of Miss Gladden herself he knew very little, except that she was a
true, noble woman; he needed no words to tell him that. Rutherford had
learned from conversation with her, that she was an orphan, and had
been traveling with friends because her home was made unpleasant by
some of her relatives; and both had judged that she was probably, in
a measure, dependent upon wealthy relatives.

This much Houston did know, however, that he loved Leslie Gladden,
that she was worthy of his love, and that life without her would not
seem worth the living. He believed that she loved him, and his heart
thrilled with the thought, that if so, it was for himself, not his
wealth, that she cared. Before he reached the house, his mind was
fully decided:

"I love her for herself," he soliloquized, "not caring whether she is
rich or poor, and I believe she does, or will, love me in like manner.
In any event, I must learn my fate before the arrival of my uncle."

As Houston approached the house, Miss Gladden and Lyle were standing
together in the porch. He greeted both ladies with even more than his
usual courtesy, but as his eyes met those of Miss Gladden, there was
that in his glance, which in itself, was a declaration of his love for
her. Lyle, with her quick intuition, read the meaning, and with her
natural sense of delicacy, as quickly withdrew, leaving them together.
For an instant, Miss Gladden's eyes dropped before Houston's glance,
while a lovely color suffused her cheek; then she raised her eyes,
meeting his with an answering glance, and in that mutual recognition,
though no word was spoken, they knew that they were lovers, and that
was enough for the present.

Of late, the four friends had spent much time together; sometimes
climbing the mountains, to watch from their lofty summits the setting
sun, slowly descending amid clouds of flame, whose glowing colors were
reflected from the surrounding peaks in ever varying tints; the rose
changing to amethyst and violet, and the violet deepening to purple;
while far below, the canyon lay wrapped in soft, gray twilight. Or,
sometimes, taking one or two boats from the little boat-house built
for the accommodation of summer tourists, they rowed about the lake in
the moonlight.

On this particular night, Rutherford proposed a row, in one of the
larger boats, the entire length of the lake, to the cascades, to which
the rest readily acceded. The ladies soon appeared in light, fleecy
wraps, Miss Gladden carrying a fine guitar, which called forth
exclamations of pleasure from the gentlemen.

"Good!" said Rutherford, "that will be just the thing; now we will
have some music."

"Miss Gladden," said Houston, "why have we not been favored in this
way earlier?"

"Oh," she replied, archly, "it has never been a necessity until
to-night, but a long row in the moonlight would not be perfect without
music."

This was their first trip to the end of the lakes, and they found
the scene beautiful beyond description. On one side an almost
perpendicular wall of rock; in the opposite direction, the mountain
ranges stretching far away in the distance, with snowy peaks gleaming
here and there, like watch towers; while just before them, the
shimmering cascades in the wondrous beauty of the moonlight, the deep,
unceasing roar seeming to rise and fall with a rhythm of its own.

For the first few moments, they sat in silent admiration of the beauty
around them; then Miss Gladden touched the strings of the guitar, and
began singing in a rich contralto, in which Houston joined with a fine
baritone, while Rutherford added a clear, sweet tenor. Their voices
blended perfectly, and accompanied by the sweet notes of the guitar,
the music floated out over the lake, the lingering echoes dying away,
in the distance.

Lyle took no part in the song, but sat listening with parted lips and
dreamy eyes. When the song was finished, she exclaimed:

"Oh, please do not stop, I love to listen to you; it reminds me of
something I have heard long ago, I don't know when or where."

"Do you never sing, Miss Maverick?" asked Rutherford.

"Only sometimes for myself," she said, "I know only two or three songs
that I have heard others sing."

"But you have a sweet voice," said Houston, "will you not sing for
us?"

"If you will overlook any mistakes, I may," answered Lyle, "for I
probably do not sing correctly, as I know nothing of music."

"Certainly, Lyle, we would like to hear you," said Miss Gladden.

As simply, and as free from self-consciousness as a child, Lyle began
her song, her eyes fixed on the distant shining peaks, and her only
accompaniment the music of the cascades.

               "Love is come with a song and a smile,
                Welcome love with a smile and a song;
                Love can stay but a little while:
                   Why can not he stay?
                   They call him away;
                Ye do him wrong, ye do him wrong,
                Love will stay for a whole life long."

Whether Lyle sang correctly that night was never known; even the
beautiful words of the old song that seemed so appropriate to the
occasion, were forgotten before she had sung more than two or three
lines, and her listeners sat entranced, spell-bound, by the voice of
the singer; a voice of such exquisite sweetness and clearness, and yet
possessing such power and depth of expression, that it thrilled the
hearts of her listeners, seeming to lift them out of all consciousness
of their surroundings, and to transport them to another world; a
world

            "Where the singers, whose names are deathless,
            One with another make music, unheard of men."

As the last note died away, a long, deep sigh from Houston seemed to
break the spell, and Miss Gladden looking up, her eyes shining with
unshed tears, said, as she pressed Lyle's hand:

"My dear, we have found our song-queen, our nightingale. We can all
learn of you, and never equal you."

Houston had been strangely moved, and as he spoke, there was a slight
tremor in his voice.

"I have heard, in all my life, but one voice like that, and that was
one who died when I was a child."

Lyle looked surprised.

"Has no one ever told you you could sing?" asked Miss Gladden.

"I never sang for any one, excepting once, for Jack," answered Lyle.

"What did he say of your voice?" inquired Miss Gladden.

"He said, like Mr. Houston, that he had heard but one voice like mine,
but that he did not like to hear me, so I have never sung since,
excepting by myself."

"Lyle," said Miss Gladden suddenly, "how old is this man whom you call
Jack?"

"Possibly forty, perhaps a little less," she answered indifferently.

A new thought had flashed into Miss Gladden's mind. For some time she
had doubted whether Lyle were really a child of Maverick and his wife,
she was so utterly unlike them; could it be possible that Jack, whose
life seemed so much a mystery, was the father of Lyle? Was that the
reason for his interest in her? and had Lyle had some beautiful
mother,--unfortunate perhaps,--whose life had suddenly gone out, as
the little life had just begun, and whose memory was recalled too
vividly by Lyle's song? Miss Gladden determined, if possible, to find
a clue to this mystery.

The boat was now on its homeward way, and a song with which all were
familiar having been found, the four voices blended in exquisite
harmony.

"It seems to me there are some rare treats in store for us," was
Rutherford's comment, as the friends separated for the night; then, a
few moments later, when alone with Houston, he exclaimed:

"By Jove, Houston! but what a voice that girl has! I never heard
anything like it in my life. I didn't say much before Miss Gladden,
for fear she might think I didn't appreciate her singing, and I
certainly did, for she sings magnificently."

"You need have no fear of any sensitiveness on Miss Gladden's part,"
said Houston quickly, "in the first place, their voices are altogether
different, there is no comparison between them; and in addition, Miss
Gladden's regard for Lyle is so disinterested and unselfish, there
would be no room for any feeling of that kind. We must all acknowledge
that Lyle certainly has a wonderful voice; as I said before, I have
heard but one like it."

"Great Heavens!" said Rutherford, with more feeling than Houston had
ever seen him manifest, "I'm sorry for that girl, Houston."

"Why?" asked Houston quietly.

"Why, only to think of her beauty and intellect, and such a voice as
that, and then think of her parents, and the life to which she is tied
down here."

"Granting the parents and present life," said Houston, "is that any
argument that she will always be 'tied down here' as you say?"

"I think it would always fetter her in a measure; it will leave its
imprint upon her mind, or at least her memory, and although she is
not in her proper sphere here, yet her life here, and all its
associations, would be likely to make her feel out of place in a
higher sphere,"

"I think not," said Houston, watching Rutherford closely, "I think if
she could be removed from here, and given a thorough education, there
would remain no trace whatever of the early life."

"But what about the question of heredity?" asked Rutherford,
"there must be bad blood there, when and where would it make its
appearance?"

"That would be a serious question," replied Houston, "providing she is
the child of these people; I have always had grave doubts of that, and
Miss Gladden has often expressed the same."

"By Jove! I never thought of that! It seems likely enough, too. What
do you think, that she was stolen?"

"No," said Houston slowly, "that does not seem so probable as that she
may have been some child that they were hired to take."

"In that case," said Rutherford, "I should think the uncertainty
regarding her family and origin, would be almost as bad as the
certainty in the other case."

"It might seem so to some people," Houston replied, adding with a
smile, "especially to a Bostonian, who prided himself upon his 'blue
blood'."

"Oh," said Rutherford, coloring, "I'm not pursuing this inquiry on my
own account at all, I was only thinking of her prospects generally.
I'm not interested in that direction."

"In what direction are you interested, if I may ask?" said Houston,
experiencing, for the first time, a little twinge of jealousy.

"In the direction of the 'Hub,' my dear boy," Rutherford replied, with
another blush.

"Spoken like a true Bostonian!" said Houston approvingly.

"Yes, sir," continued Rutherford, "there's a little girl belongs back
there in Boston, that's more to me than all the ladies you can produce
in this part of the country, or any other, no matter how beautiful
they may be; and she's not bad looking either. Her parents took her to
Europe for a little trip this spring, and Boston seemed so lonesome,
that was the reason I came west."

"Good for you, Ned, you have my best wishes," said Houston, shaking
hands with his friend, "but really, you and Lyle had seemed so fond of
each other's society lately, that I thought perhaps it was to be your
destiny to rescue her from her unhappy fate."

"Well, as to each other's society," said Rutherford, very slowly, "of
late we have been restricted to that or none, for you and Miss Gladden
have been growing so unconscious of us, that we've had to console with
each other; but then, I understood how 'twas, for I've been there
myself, you know, and I'm ready to offer congratulations and all that
sort of thing, whenever they are in order."

Houston appeared very unconscious of Rutherford's meaning, as he
inquired, "How does Lyle herself regard your attentions? There must be
no trifling with her, I have too much regard for her myself, for
that."

"Miss Maverick is not a girl to be trifled with," replied Rutherford,
"I think a good deal of her, since I am better acquainted with her,
and respect her and she knows it, but I think she realizes the sort of
anomalous position that she occupies, and that is why I say I am sorry
for her. She is far too brilliant for her surroundings, and yet not
fitted for a much higher place."

"Not at present," replied Houston, "but with her natural endowments
and her innate delicacy and refinement, comparatively little training
and culture would be necessary to fit her for almost any position in
life."

"I wonder what will be her fate."

"Time will tell," replied Houston, who had his own plans.



CHAPTER XIX.


Houston had been called away to the office at Silver City, a telegram
coming one afternoon for him to come down by the next train.
Rutherford was at that time expecting to leave in a few days, to
continue his pleasure trip to the coast, having already prolonged his
stay among the mountains far beyond his first intentions; but at
Houston's request, he agreed to remain over until the latter's return,
which he expected would be in about ten days.

A few days after Houston's departure, Lyle started out one afternoon
for the little cabin, at an hour a little later than she went to
pursue her studies, or for reading. She knew that at this time, Jack
usually came off his shift, as he and Mike were expert miners, and
always completed their task some time in advance of the others.

She had not seen Jack since the visit of the party from the east,
although she was at the cabin but a few evenings preceding that event,
and had explained her long absence. Now she had special reasons for
wishing to meet him, and she hastened on, hoping to find him alone.
When she reached the cabin, Jack had just come from the mine, and
Mike, fortunately, had gone down to the Y for needed supplies, and
would not return for some hours.

After talking a little while, Lyle skillfully brought the conversation
around to Mr. Houston, and stated that he was in Silver City.

"What is he doing there?" asked Jack, in a tone of surprise, "Is he
going to remain there?"

"No, he has gone over temporarily to assist the company in that
office, as he said they needed extra help; he thought he would be back
in about ten days."

"He seems to make a very efficient clerk for the mining company," said
Jack, with a peculiar emphasis which Lyle did not understand, but in
which she detected a flavor of sarcasm.

"He seems efficient in whatever he undertakes," she replied with a
light laugh, "clerking, fighting or love-making, he is successful in
all."

"How has he succeeded in love-making?" asked Jack quickly.

"Ask Miss Gladden," was Lyle's smiling rejoinder.

"Is he really in love with her, do you think?"

"Judging by indications, it is a case of genuine love on both sides,
which, contrary to the old proverb, does run smoothly so far. I think
they are engaged."

"And you are left out in the cold?" asked Jack kindly, but watching
her keenly.

"You would not think so, if you could know how kind they are to me,"
Lyle answered, "you and they are the only friends I have ever known."

"How about Mr. Rutherford? Isn't he a friend of yours, too?"

"Mr. Rutherford is a gentleman," she replied slowly, "he always treats
me with respect, and we have very pleasant times together, but he
never forgets that I belong to one station in life, and he to another.
He is altogether unlike Mr. Houston and Miss Gladden; I wish you could
know them, Jack, and that they could know you."

"They probably have no desire to form my acquaintance, and I have no
need to form theirs. It is rather late in the day for me to make
friends now."

"But Jack," said Lyle, in almost a pleading tone, "Miss Gladden wishes
to meet you, and has repeatedly asked me to inquire if she might come
and see you."

"What is her motive for wishing to see me?"

"I think because I have often spoken of you as my friend; then she
said recently, that she would like, if possible, to take me east with
her, and give me a musical education, and she would like to talk with
you about it."

"Has she or Mr. Houston heard you sing?"

"Yes."

"What did they say of your voice?"

"Miss Gladden seems to think I have a wonderful voice, and Mr. Houston
said he had heard but one like it in all his life."

Jack had risen, and was looking out of the window, his back toward
Lyle; after a few moments he spoke, in an unusually gentle tone.

"You can say to Miss Gladden, that if she wishes to see me regarding
you, she is welcome to come. Though I seldom receive callers, and have
no wish to meet strangers, I am willing to meet a true friend of
yours."

"Then, under those conditions," said Lyle, with almost a tone of
triumph in her voice, "you would meet Mr. Houston."

"Why?" asked Jack, quickly, turning toward her.

"Because he is my friend."

Jack shook his head, and began pacing the room. "No," he said, as
gently as ever, but very firmly, "I would rather not meet him."

Lyle looked troubled. "Jack," she said earnestly, "you have always
appeared rather peculiar regarding Mr. Houston; tell me candidly, are
you his friend, or his enemy?"

"Why!" he exclaimed in surprise, stopping before her, and looking into
her earnest face, with a smile, "How should I be either? Am I not
perfectly neutral? Are we not strangers?"

Lyle shook her head decidedly. "I cannot say whether or not you are
strangers, but you are not neutral toward him; I have seen all along
that you have some strong feeling toward him, but whether of kindness
or enmity, I cannot tell, but I must know."

"Why must you know?" he asked, resuming his walk.

"Perhaps I can tell you later," she replied, "but, as you are my
friend, I must know whether you are, or will be, his friend, or his
enemy."

For some moments Jack was silent, and when he spoke his voice was full
of some strong emotion:

"My dear child, I have no reason for any enmity toward him, and if he
is the true, honorable man that you think he is, God knows I would
stand by him, even to death itself."

"Then, if he was in difficulty or danger, and needed help, you would
help him, would you not?" asked Lyle eagerly.

"My child," he answered gravely, "you must explain yourself; you
certainly can trust me. I promise you this, I will not harm him or
betray him, whatever may be the difficulty."

"You are sure there is no one to hear us?"

"I will make sure," he answered briefly, and bidding the collie guard
the outside door, he then closed the door between the two rooms, and
sat down near Lyle.

"You remember," she began, "the evening you passed our house?" He
nodded. "Well, among the strangers there that night, were an English
expert, Mr. Lindlay, and a Mr. Van Dorn, who, they said, was an
inventor of some mining machinery. A little while after you passed, I
took a book and went out by the lake to read, sitting down behind a
thick group of small evergreens. I read as long as I could see, and
then sat for some time, thinking, and watching the reflection of the
moon in the lake. Then the moon went behind that tall peak, you know,
across the lake, and it was quite dark; but I remained there thinking
so deeply that, although for a few minutes I heard low voices talking,
I paid no attention to it, supposing it was simply some people going
up the mountain, till suddenly I was aroused by Mr. Houston's voice,
only a few feet from me, saying in a low tone, 'There may be
considerable danger ahead of us, but you are just the one I need, and
you will be well compensated,' and Mr. Van Dorn answered, 'Hang
compensation! if I can help you get the best of these rascals, I'm
going to do it, just for the gratification of the thing,' and then I
heard the Englishman, with his peculiar accent, saying something I
couldn't quite catch, but it seemed to be to the effect that he would
help Mr. Houston against what he called the 'domned scoundrels.'

"At first, I wanted to leave, but I couldn't without their seeing me,
and having to make explanations, and making it embarrassing all round;
and then the thought flashed through my mind that Mr. Houston was a
good friend of mine, and perhaps if I stayed, I might be able to help
him if he should be in any danger later, as he spoke of, so I remained
there.

"I haven't time to tell you all I heard, but this is what I learned:
He is not a clerk at all, but is out here in the interest of some rich
company in the east, with which an uncle of his is connected. This
eastern company have for some time suspected crooked work on the part
of the company here, and he has come out in the capacity of bookkeeper
and clerk to get all the information he can against them. He has
obtained all the proofs he can get in this office, and said he was
going over in a few days to the main office at Silver City,--and that
is where he is now,--to see what he can find against them there. When
he returns he is going to examine the mines that this eastern company
own, as fast as he can get opportunities, and it seems this Mr. Van
Dorn is a mining expert himself, though no one out here knows it, and
when Mr. Houston is ready, he is to come out here with some of his
mining machinery that he is going to set up in the mills, to show the
company his new method of reducing ores, but his real object in coming
will be to help Mr. Houston carry on his investigations against the
company. Then, when they have obtained all the information and proof
they need, they will telegraph Mr. Houston's uncle,--Mr. Cameron, I
think was his name,--and he and the English expert will come out
together, unexpectedly to the company, and I think they said they
would prosecute the officers of the company for fraud."

Jack's face was concealed with one hand, but Lyle could see that he
had grown very pale, and beneath the heavy, black beard, his lips were
moving under the influence of some deep emotion. She continued:

"My reason for wishing to confide this to you was, that I heard Mr.
Van Dorn ask Mr. Houston if there was any one among the miners whom
he could trust to help them, as he said without the assistance of some
one, familiar with the mines and their different workings, the
undertaking would be much more difficult and dangerous; and I thought
at once of you, Jack. You have often told me of the dishonesty and
fraud practiced by the company, and said that you would like to see
some of their schemes exposed, and I thought you would be just the one
to help Mr. Houston, and no one would be likely to suspect you
either."

She paused a moment, then added, "He has enemies working against him,
and he ought to have some one to help him."

"Who are his enemies?" asked Jack.

"Haight, for one, and my father and all the men that he can influence;
and you know, that if they once suspected what he is doing, they would
not hesitate, for one moment, to kill him."

"They would not," said Jack, quietly but decidedly, "and among the
mines it is a very easy thing to put a man out of the way."

"Then you will look out for him, and help him, will you not?" said
Lyle, rising to go.

"Yes, child," he answered with unusual tenderness, "you do not know
what you are asking, but since hearing what you have told me, no harm
shall come to your friend that I can prevent, no matter what it costs
me."

"But Jack," said Lyle anxiously, going to him and laying her hands in
his, "this will not put you in danger, will it? My idea was that you
could give him information, and no one would ever suspect you; but you
have been too true a friend to me, for me to put you in any danger."

"You need have no fear," he answered, "I did not refer to any
particular danger of that kind. I am only glad you have told me what
you have. Had I learned it in any other way, I would have wished to
help your friend. When he returns, say nothing to him of having asked
me to help him; I will find him in my own way."  Lyle thanked Jack
heartily, and as she looked up into his face, her beautiful eyes
unusually bright, and her cheeks flushed with emotion, he seemed
strangely touched, and bending over her, kissed her reverently on her
forehead, for the first time in their acquaintance.



CHAPTER XX.


Nearly a week after the departure of Houston for Silver City, as
Morgan was passing the sorting rooms one morning, on his way from the
mines to the mills, he heard Haight calling him.

"Hello, there, Morgan, the Sunrise deal is off."

"Off? who says so? Got a wire from the boss?"

"Yes, she just came, about fifteen minutes ago."

"What's the matter? did the old man say?"

"Nothing very definite; 'party writes property not satisfactory,'
that's all he says."

"Hang it! I should think it looked good enough for 'em. Well," he
growled, "there's so much hard work gone for nothing," and thrusting
his hands deeper into his pockets in his disgust, Morgan started on
his way, but Haight detained him.

"Hold on a minute; say, Morgan, you don't suppose that they caught on
to our deal, do you? or that anybody put 'em onto it?"

"Who was there to put 'em onto anything?" asked Morgan.

"Oh, the confidential clerk, may be; he was on such good terms with
Johnny Bull and the dude."

Morgan shook his head. "He's too much of a sucker for the company, and
knows too well which side his bread is buttered, for business of that
kind."

"I don't know about that," said Haight, "he's a dude and a tenderfoot
himself, and likes to toady around with those eastern snobs; what else
were they hob-nobbing with him for, if they didn't think they could
get some information out of him? I've got my own ideas on that subject
and I'm going to make some investigations, and if I find I'm correct,
he'll find pretty quick where he will be; I've no use for him any
way." "I haven't any more use for him than you have," answered
Morgan, "but he ain't a very safe fellow to fool with now, I can tell
you, and I don't think you want to run up against him yourself."

"I don't know as I've said anything about running up against anybody,"
said Haight, "that isn't my style, but I'll run him out of this
country in one way or another, see if I don't."

"You think you're pretty smooth," Morgan called over his shoulder, as
he started for the mills, "and if you want to undertake the job, all
right; for my part, I don't care to have much to do with him."

Two or three evenings later, as Lyle sat in her favorite nook beside
the lake, book in hand, watching for the return of Miss Gladden who
had gone with Rutherford for a short row, she was much surprised to
see Haight approaching, wearing his most ingratiating smile. For a day
or two, he had, on several occasions, when unobserved by the others,
treated her with a marked politeness intended to be very flattering,
for the thought had occurred to him that possibly through her he might
get some information regarding Houston.

"Ah," he said now, seating himself at a little distance from her, and
with a glance at the book which she had closed and laid aside, "I fear
I have interrupted your reading."

"I was not reading," she replied, "I was merely glancing over a book
of Miss Gladden's while awaiting her return."

For a few moments he talked in a light, frivolous manner, but Lyle,
suspicious of some ulterior motive in his coming, did not respond very
favorably to his efforts at conversation. At last he said, very
pleasantly:

"This is a favorite resort of yours, is it not, Miss Maverick?"

"Yes, I come here frequently," she replied.

"I judged so," he continued carelessly, "I saw you out here the
evening the eastern party was at the house, and I remember the English
expert and his friend took a walk in this direction, with Mr. Houston.
I suppose they were talking over the mine they had looked at, and
took Mr. Houston along thinking he might be able to give them any
additional information they needed. I wonder what they thought about
that mine," he added, watching Lyle, "I suppose you must have
overheard some of their conversation."

Lyle was not taken off guard, however, and answered indifferently, "I
heard voices, but I was so absorbed in thought I paid little attention
to them; it was some time before I even recognized them."

"But you certainly must have overheard some of their conversation,"
said Haight, in his smoothest tones, "can you not recall anything said
about the mine?"

"There was nothing whatever said about the mine," she replied, "and if
there had been, I am not in the habit of listening to conversations
and repeating them."

"Of course not, under ordinary circumstances," Haight rejoined,
smiling, "but you know 'all is fair in love and war' and in mining
deals, and as I am interested in behalf of the company, and we
have, as yet, heard nothing from the party, you see I naturally had
a little curiosity regarding their conversation that evening. You
are sure they said nothing of the mine, or that Mr. Houston gave
them no information?"

Lyle rose, her eyes flashing with scorn and indignation, as she
replied, "Why should Mr. Houston give them any information? As I have
told you, there was nothing said about the mine; so far as I could
judge, the gentlemen were talking of their own personal affairs; and
it is false that you have received no word from the eastern party, for
I heard you and Morgan talking at the table yesterday of the deal
having fallen through, and you suspect Mr. Houston of dishonorable
conduct only because you judge every one to be like yourself," and
without giving him opportunity to reply, she turned and walked in the
opposite direction toward the boat which she saw approaching in the
distance.

Haight walked away toward the house, conscious that his interview had
been a failure, but more than ever determined to work his revenge upon
Houston, and upon Lyle also, when the right time came.

Lyle determined, for the present, to say nothing regarding the
interview, and met her friends without any allusion to what had just
occurred.

After assisting Miss Gladden ashore, Rutherford returned to the boat,
while Miss Gladden and Lyle started homeward. The former could detect
in Lyle's manner signs of unusual excitement, but asked no questions,
as she did not think it best to force her confidence.

"Lyle, when are you going to take me to call on your friend, Jack?"
she inquired.

"Any time you wish," Lyle answered, "I spoke to him the other day
about your coming, and he said you would be most welcome."

"Then he graciously consented to receive me! Very well, suppose we go
now, it is not late."

Arriving at the cabin, they found Jack and Mike sitting outside the
door, watching the last fleeting colors of the gorgeous sunset. Miss
Gladden was duly introduced, and invited within, and since the bashful
Irishman could not be prevailed upon to enter the cabin, Jack
entertained his guests alone.

Miss Gladden, from Lyle's description of her friend, had expected to
find in Jack a gentleman, but she was totally unprepared for the
polished courtesy, the courtly ease and grace without a trace of
self-consciousness or restraint, with which, though clad in rough,
miner's clothes, he received her in the little cabin, and as she
conversed with him, she found her respect for him increasing every
moment.

To Jack, isolated as he had been for years from refined, intellectual
associations, it seemed like a glimpse into another, and not
unfamiliar world, and the deference and respect expressed in Miss
Gladden's manner were especially gratifying.

Very easily Miss Gladden led the conversation, avoiding, with
intuitive delicacy, all allusions to himself or his surroundings, till
at last she said:

"I have taken such an interest in my friend, Lyle, and she has so
often spoken of your kindness to her, that I have wished to meet you,
for I feel that in her welfare, we have a mutual interest."

Jack smiled gravely, as he replied, "I have endeavored to help her as
best I could under existing conditions, and notwithstanding the fact
that the ways and means have been exceedingly restricted, she has
proven herself an apt pupil, and has made good progress."

"Indeed she has," said Miss Gladden, "and with her ability, it seems a
pity that she should not have every possible advantage."

"To me," he replied, "it seems a great pity that so much of her life
has already been spent among such disadvantages, the greater part of
the most valuable portion of her life wasted."

"Not entirely wasted," said Miss Gladden, "for what you have taught
her will be of inestimable value to her always."

"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Lyle, "what would my life have been without
you?"

"I have laid the foundation so far as I was able," said Jack, smiling,
"but it was time, long ago, for the superstructure to be builded."

"One reason why I wish to see you," continued Miss Gladden, "was to
ask you what you would think of the feasibility of my taking Lyle east
with me, when I return."

"If you are willing to do that, Miss Gladden," said Jack, slowly, "I
can see nothing in the way of its practicability except to gain the
consent of Mr. and Mrs. Maverick, and that might prove a formidable
obstacle."

"He does not call them her parents," thought Miss Gladden, "does he
know she is not their child?"

Jack continued. "If it had not been for that difficulty, I would
gladly myself have furnished the means for a moderate education for
Lyle, but I knew Maverick's decided objection to her possessing even
the most rudimentary knowledge. I am of the opinion also, though I may
be in error, that he would not allow her to leave home."

"You are right, Jack," said Lyle, "if I were to wait for his consent,
I would never leave here, or have any advantages."

"May I inquire," said Jack, addressing Miss Gladden, "at what time you
expect to return east?" A faint color tinged Miss Gladden's cheek, as
she replied:

"I have not yet decided just when I will go east, but probably the
latter part of the summer."

"Ah, well," he answered, with a slight smile, "I hope that between now
and that time, some arrangement can be made to Lyle's advantage; but
if I may make any suggestion, it would be this; that nothing be said
at present regarding this subject to either Mr. or Mrs. Maverick, as
it would only arouse their opposition, and perhaps lead to some
unpleasant results."

After a few moments' further conversation, Miss Gladden thanked Jack
for his kindness, and rose to go. At the door they found Mike, and
while Lyle chatted merrily with the witty Irishman for a moment, Miss
Gladden turned toward Jack, saying in a low tone:

"I would like to have a talk with you regarding Lyle, some time when
she is not present; may I come and see you by myself some day?"

"Certainly," he responded, "I would be pleased to see you."

For a moment, Miss Gladden stood in silent admiration, watching this
man whose life seemed wrapped in so much mystery, while he replied to
some laughing questions of Lyle's.

He was, even now, a splendid specimen of manhood, although his
shoulders were slightly stooped, and silver threads gleamed here and
there in the black hair and beard, making him look older than his
years. He had a face of remarkable beauty also,--with fine, clear-cut
features,--though browned with exposure, and bearing the lines that
only the fingers of sorrow can trace. His face did not resemble
Houston's in the least, but something in his manner reminded Miss
Gladden of her lover, and she watched him with a sort of fascination.

As she and Lyle walked homeward together, the latter asked:

"What do you think now of my friend, Miss Gladden?"

And Miss Gladden replied thoughtfully, "I think, my dear, that he is
one of earth's heroes."



CHAPTER XXI.


The ten days which Houston was to spend at Silver City had expired,
and his work there was completed. He had followed much the same plan
as in the office at the camp, doing the work of the company by day,
and pursuing his own investigations at night.

Mr. Blaisdell had at first objected to his working evenings, telling
him the company had no wish to make a slave of him, but upon Houston's
representing that it was an absolute necessity in order to accomplish
the needed work within a given time, he allowed him to have his own
way. He had been able to get together much additional proof regarding
the fraudulent transactions of the company, even ascertaining in what
direction much of the revenue due the New York company had gone.

He was present when the company received the brief but pointed letter
from Mr. Winters, in which he stated that the property shown them had
not been what they were looking for, and that they had found something
more satisfactory in another direction.

"Well, Blaisdell," said Mr. Rivers, in his quick, incisive way, "I'm
not in the least surprised."

"Not surprised!" echoed Mr. Blaisdell, "Why not? I confess I'm
surprised and disappointed."

"It's just what I expected," again chirped Mr. Rivers, "just what I
told you all along."

"I knew you said you were rather suspicious just in the direction
where I felt the surest of them."

"Just so," said Mr. Rivers, "I said all along, 'those fish won't bite
worth a nickel.'"

"Well," said Mr. Blaisdell, with a heavy sigh, "all we can do is to
try again."

"And next time, I'd advise you to have a little more bait, or else
don't tackle so big a fish."

It was Houston's last evening in Silver City, and he sat in the hotel
lobby reading letters which had just come from his uncle and Van Dorn,
under cover from the Chicago firm, as usual.

Mr. Cameron was delighted to have met Van Dorn and the Englishman, and
had engaged both men to remain in New York, awaiting word from
Houston, when he should be ready.

The closing paragraph in Van Dorn's letter he read and re-read with a
smile, it was so characteristic of his friend:

  "I have had one of my machines carefully packed, and it now stands
  addressed, ready to accompany me to your mining camp on short
  notice, where I will show your people the latest method for the
  reduction of ores; and if the mining company itself is not pretty
  well reduced' before we get through, my name is not that of

                                                Your friend,
                                                  ARTHUR VAN DORN.

  P. S. 'The mills of the gods grind slowly,
        But they grind exceeding small.'"

As Houston folded his letters, his attention was attracted by loud
talk among a group of men in another part of the lobby. Sauntering in
that direction, he heard an excited voice exclaim:

"I tell you, they're the biggest frauds on the face of the earth. If
there's a dishonest scheme, or a sharp, underhanded little game that
they're not onto, I'd like to know what it is."

"Which company do you mean?" inquired another speaker.

"I mean the mining company represented by Rivers and Blaisdell, with
old Wilson as a figure-head. I can't remember all their long-winded
names, but the whole combination is rotten, from beginning to end,
nothing but a set of lying, scheming, thieving rascals."

"That's right," said an old gentleman who had not spoken before,
"they're a tough lot."

"Tough!" echoed the first speaker, "I should say so! One of their
little games is to take charge of mining claims for eastern parties.
The parties send on money for development work, but do you suppose it
is used in developing the mines? Not much! By and by, the first these
parties know, they have forfeited their claims through lack of
representation, but don't you think the company are not watching out,
ready to jump the claim the very day the time expires. Sometimes
they'll hire some poor Swede to locate the claim for them, and then
assign it to them for a trifle. In that way, I've heard of their
getting possession of the same claim over and over again."

"I've heard pretty hard stories about Blaisdell," said another, "but I
guess he don't make much for himself, for as fast as he fleeces other
people, Rivers fleeces him."

There was considerable more talk in the same strain, but after the
group had separated, Houston, who had learned the name of the
principal speaker, approached him as he was standing alone, and said,
in a low tone:

"This is Mr. Hartwell, I believe; my name is Houston. Mr. Hartwell, I
heard your remarks a little while ago concerning the North Western
Mining Company and its officers. I am one of the clerks of that
company, and I wish to know if you are prepared to substantiate the
statements you have made here to-night."

"Yes," the man exclaimed with an oath, "I'll substantiate every word
I've said here to-night, and I can get you a dozen more that will tell
you more about that company than I can."

"Never mind about the others, for the present," replied Houston
coolly, "what you have said to-night is likely to come to the ears of
the company, and what I want to know is this; would you swear in court
to what you have said here?"

"I tell you," said Mr. Hartwell, with another oath, "I'll swear to it
ten times over, and if I ever have a chance, I'll down you and your
cursed company till you won't know that you ever existed," and then
seeming to take Houston as the representative of the entire
corporation, he poured upon him a torrent of vituperation and abuse
which was very amusing to Houston, who was only thinking of securing
a witness for the prosecution, by and by.

"Well, Mr. Hartwell," he said at last, "you seem so anxious to express
your feelings, we may give you an opportunity later. For the present,
I wish you good evening," and he walked smilingly away.

Mr. Hartwell looked after him in amazement; "By George!" he
soliloquized, "but that fellow's a cool duck, anyhow! I couldn't faze
him a particle."

The next morning, Houston, in company with Mr. Blaisdell, took the
early train for the mines. He could not help contrasting this with his
first trip over the same road. Then, he was a stranger, with his
entire work before him, uncertain of success in his undertaking; now,
his preparatory work was nearly done, and though the most difficult
part of his task yet remained, he felt that success was sure. But the
contrast which to him seemed, most striking, was in his own feelings,
for though conscious of enemies and having no knowledge of the friends
ready to assist him, he yet felt a certain pleasure in returning to
the mines, as though returning home; and he realized as never before,
that hidden away in the heart of the mountains was the source from
which henceforth must flow all his earthly happiness.

Arriving at the office, they found no one there, and Houston
immediately began an attack upon the work accumulated during his
absence, while Mr. Blaisdell proceeded to the mills and mines.

On his way he met Haight, and the subject of the unsuccessful mining
deal was at once taken up.

"They simply wrote that the property was not what they wanted, and
that they had found what they were looking for elsewhere," said Mr.
Blaisdell in explanation.

"They seemed well enough satisfied when they were here," remarked
Haight.

"That was my impression," said Mr. Blaisdell, "but Rivers seems to
think differently. He says he was suspicious of them all the time,
because they said nothing one way or another, after seeing the
property; but my impression was that they were very well pleased."

"Certainly," answered Haight, who always made it a practice to have
his opinions coincide with those expressed by the person with whom he
happened to be talking, especially if it were for his interest to do
so; "everything seemed satisfactory as far as I could judge. It is my
opinion, Mr. Blaisdell, and has been for some time, that something
must have been said by some one to prejudice those people against the
mine; that is the only way I could account for the deal falling
through as it did."

"But who was there to say anything prejudicial? We were all interested
in selling the mine."

"I don't care to call any names, Mr. Blaisdell, but I don't think it
best to take people into our confidence till we are pretty sure of
them."

"Oh, you allude to Mr. Houston, but you are mistaken there; why,
Haight, that fellow is working for our interests, and he has saved the
company considerable money already in the way he has straightened the
books and detected crooked work; he's going to be invaluable."

"He'll work for our interests just as long as it is for his interest
to do so, but I imagine anybody could buy him off pretty easy. He's
one of your swells; see how he dresses and what hightoned notions he
has for a man in his position, and then tell me he wouldn't take a
little tip on the outside if he got a chance."

"I think you are mistaken," said Mr. Blaisdell slowly, "still, of
course, there might be something in what you say; I'll think it over,"
and the subject was dropped for that day.

Houston was very busy until nearly noon, but left the office a little
earlier than usual, as he was anxious to meet Miss Gladden a few
moments in advance of the others, if possible.

She was outside the porch, training some vines which she and Lyle had
transplanted from among the rocks by the lake. Her back was toward the
road, but hearing Houston's step, as he approached the house, she
quickly turned, and in the depths of her luminous eyes he read a
welcome that made his return seem more than ever like a home-coming.
Clasping warmly the shapely little hand extended to him in greeting,
he drew it within his arm, and having led her to a comfortable seat
within the porch, he drew his own chair close beside her, where he
could watch the lovely face, so classic and perfect in its beauty, and
clothed, when animated, with a subtle, spirituelle radiance.

"You are very welcome," said Miss Gladden, as he seated himself, "we
will all have to celebrate your return, for we have missed you very
much. Have you been well?"

"Very well," replied Houston, smiling, "except for a touch of
homesickness occasionally when I remembered our evenings among the
mountains, or on the lake. It was fortunate that my evenings were so
crowded with work, or the malady might have proved quite serious."

"Our evenings have not been nearly so pleasant without you," said Miss
Gladden, "we were all becoming frightfully dull and vapid, but I think
we will now recover our spirits."

"I have learned one thing," said Houston, "that it is not any
particular place or surroundings that constitutes home for us, so much
as the presence of those who are dear to us. Imagine how it would have
seemed to me, three months ago, to have called this place 'home,' but
it seems wonderfully home-like to me to-day."

"As to what constitutes a home, I am scarcely qualified to judge,"
said Miss Gladden, "for I hardly know what a home is; but my idea is,
that any spot where my best loved ones were, would be home to me."

"And with such sentiments as those," Houston responded, "you would
make any spot on earth home to those whom you loved."

"I should hope to," she replied, and added archly, "and if they loved
me, I think I would succeed."

"I fear," said Houston, smiling, "that we are very old fashioned and
far behind the spirit of modern times, which considers love of small
account in the elements that constitute a home."

"I consider it an indispensable element, nevertheless," she replied,
earnestly, "for I have seen too much of so-called homes where it did
not exist, and they were not even successful imitations of the genuine
article; their hollowness and wretchedness were only too apparent."
She paused a moment, then continued:

"To me, the home seems like one of the old-time temples; a place to be
kept sacred to peace and purity and love; from which the sin and
strife of the outside world should be faithfully excluded; whose
inmates, on entering, should leave behind all traces of the evil and
discord of the outer world, as the Oriental leaves his dust-laden
sandals at the door of his sanctuary."

"I have never known any other than such a home as that," said Houston,
slowly, "and it is the only true home."

"Pardon me," said Miss Gladden, "but are your parents living? I have
often wondered."

"No," he replied, "my parents died when I was a mere child, but the
faint recollection of my early home, and the memory of my uncle's
home, which has been mine also, correspond very closely with the
picture you have just drawn."

"Then with you it is a reality," she answered, "but with me, only an
ideal."

"Miss Gladden," said Houston very earnestly, but with great
tenderness, "will you not let me help you to make a reality of your
ideal?" Then, as she did not immediately reply, he continued, "The
love that we believe in as the foundation of a true home, is not
lacking on my part. I love you, Leslie, so much that life with you
anywhere would seem perfect and complete, while life without you, even
in a palace, would not seem worth the living. Can you love me enough
to share my life and home, whatever it may be, as my wife?"

He had taken her hand, and she did not withdraw it, but looking in his
face, she asked:

"Would you make me your wife, knowing so little of me as you do?"

"I think I know enough," he replied, "I know that you are a pure,
true-hearted woman; I know that whether you love me or not," her eyes
dropped, "there is no one you love better than me; and though I do
not know it, I am almost sure that you do care for me in some degree,
am I not right?"

She looked up into the face bending over her, and Houston read his
answer in her eyes, and even had she tried to speak, he gave her no
opportunity for doing so.

"To think of your conceit!" exclaimed Miss Gladden, a few moments
later, "in having the assurance to say that I cared for no one more
than you, whether I loved you or not; how did you ever come to make
such an assertion?"

"Your eyes betrayed you," he answered, while she blushed, "they often
tell tales, but I have noticed they always tell the truth, and I knew
they would never have told me some secrets that they have, if there
was any one else you cared for."

The sound of approaching footsteps interrupted their conversation, and
brought them back to the common, every-day affairs of life, and
turning, they saw Rutherford coming up the path from the lake, where
he had gone for a stroll.

"Hello, Houston!" exclaimed the latter, catching a glimpse of his
friend, "when did you come? Well, I'm awfully glad you've got back,
we've missed you, old fellow, I can tell you."

"Welcome home!" said a sweet voice, and Houston saw the starry eyes
and golden crowned head of Lyle framed in the door-way, and hastened
to greet her. She met him with a woman's grace, and with a child's
affection looking frankly out of her lovely eyes. After his brief
absence, Houston was impressed by her beauty as never before. "I
didn't know the child was so beautiful," he thought to himself, "I
believe she grows lovelier every day, and she reminds me strangely of
some one I have seen long ago."

"Oh, by the way," said Rutherford, as the friends seated themselves
around the dinner table, "I've just received a letter from my brother,
and he says he is coming out here."

"Your brother!" exclaimed Miss Gladden and Houston, "What! coming here
among the mountains?"

"Yes," he replied, "he happened to be in New York when Van Dorn got
back, and from his description of the place, and mine, he says he
would like to see it. He is coming out to the coast by another route,
and wants me to meet him in San Francisco, and then we will stop here
on our return."

"Then you are coming back again," said Miss Gladden; "that will be
lovely, and we will be delighted to meet your brother with you."

"Indeed we will," added Houston cordially, "what time do you expect to
be here, Ned?"

"My brother wants to get here, he says, in about six or eight weeks,
so it will probably be some time in August."

Lyle had said nothing, but had listened to the conversation, a
thoughtful, far-away look stealing into her eyes; and the rest of the
boarders arriving just then, nothing more was said on the subject.

Haight greeted Houston with his usual smiling politeness, but Morgan
looked sullen, and Mr. Blaisdell was gloomy and taciturn. Haight's
influence was working, and he could afford to smile. Lyle was quick to
note the situation, and also to detect in Haight's face an expression
of ill-concealed triumph, and as their eyes met, he read that in her
face that boded no good to himself.



CHAPTER XXII.


Mr. Blaisdell having returned to the city that same day, everything
went forward in the same regular routine as prior to Houston's
absence, and evening found the four friends seated on the summit of an
immense rocky pile, watching the grand and rugged scenery surrounding
them illumined by the glowing colors of the sunset sky. They had been
talking of Rutherford's intended trip to the coast, when Miss Gladden
said:

"Mr. Houston, how early can you join us to-morrow afternoon? We are
going to have a little picnic party of four, in honor of your return,
and also to give Mr. Rutherford pleasant memories of his last days
among the mountains."

"Oh," said Rutherford, "now I understand; I've wondered what you
ladies were so mysterious about all day; you've been holding secret
sessions and making cabalistical signs to each other all the
afternoon. Well, as this picnic is partly on my account, I'm sure I
feel flattered and shall be delighted to attend. Houston, old boy,
when can we look for you?"

"I think, considering the importance of the occasion, I can be ready
to join you at three o'clock," replied Houston, while the ladies
expressed their approval.

"There seems to have been a great deal of mysterious consultation
about this affair," remarked Rutherford, "what is the program for
to-morrow?"

"Well," said Miss Gladden, "for one thing, we must have plenty of
music; have neither of you gentlemen any musical instruments with
you?"

"Not I," replied Houston, while Rutherford answered, laughing, "I have
a banjo that I brought along to amuse myself with in case I got
lonesome, but I've had no use for it so far, I've had such good
company here."

"A very graceful compliment, thank you," said Miss Gladden, smiling,
"but bring the banjo by all means, we will have use for it to-morrow,
and I have just thought of something else for the occasion,--but I'm
not going to divulge all my plans, we must keep something for a
surprise, mustn't we, Lyle?"

Lyle laughed merrily; "I'm not going to tell a single plan of mine;
you will all find when we reach the place, what a mountain picnic
means."

"But can we not even know where we are going?" asked Rutherford, with
a tragic air.

"You would not know if I should tell you," responded Lyle, "we are
going to Sunset Park."

"Sunset Park!" they exclaimed, "where is that?"

"Is it in any way connected with the Sunrise mine of recent fame?"
inquired Houston.

"No," replied Lyle, "it is across the lake; you remember the landing I
showed you among the rocks? You follow the broad trail leading up the
mountains, and you will come to a beautiful plateau on the west side,
as level as a floor,--but I'm not going to tell you about it, you must
first see it for yourselves."

The next morning, immediately after breakfast, while Houston still
stood talking with Miss Gladden and Rutherford, the graceful form of
Lyle suddenly darted past them, her face nearly concealed by an
enormous sunbonnet.

"Lyle, you gypsy, where are you going?" called Miss Gladden.

For answer, she turned and waved her hand with a merry laugh, then
ran, fleet-footed as a deer, to the edge of the lake, and unfastening
one of the little boats, was in it and rowing out upon the lake as
dextrously as a professional oarsman, before those watching her could
even guess her intentions.

"Great Cæsar! but that girl can row!" exclaimed Rutherford, with all
the enthusiastic admiration of a newly graduated collegian.

"Where is the child going?" asked Houston.

"Probably to the picnic ground," said Miss Gladden, "but what for, I
cannot imagine."

The sunbonnet was waved saucily in the air, and then instead of
steering for the landing place as they expected, the boat suddenly
disappeared around a corner of the rocks, in the opposite direction,
while there came ringing out on the air, in mocking tones, the words
of the old song:

                  "I saw the boat go 'round the bend."

No one saw Lyle when she returned, a couple of hours later, and not
even Miss Gladden knew that she was in the house until she made her
appearance at the dinner table, with a very demure face, exceedingly
pink fingers, and wearing an air of deep mystery that no amount of
joking could diminish.

After dinner, Lyle made two or three trips across the lake, carrying
mysterious baskets and dishes. In one of these journeys she was
intercepted by Miss Gladden, who was lying in wait for her, and who,
tempted by the delightful aroma, lifted the cover of one of her
dishes.

"Strawberries!" she exclaimed, "and wild ones! Where did you get them,
Lyle? They are the first I have seen out here."

"They are the first that have ripened," she replied, "I went over to
the gulch for them this morning, but don't say anything about them,"
she added, as she stepped into the boat with her treasures, "I'm going
to cache them until they are needed."

"Going to do what?" said Miss Gladden.

"Going to 'cache' them, hide them away among the rocks," she replied
laughing, and, taking the oars, she was soon speeding across the
lake.

It was a merry party that started out two or three hours later.
Houston carried the banjo, as Rutherford had his precious camera and a
lot of plates, having declared his intention of immortalizing the
occasion by taking a number of views for the benefit of their
posterity. Miss Gladden had her guitar, and to the great astonishment
of the gentlemen, Lyle appeared, carrying a fine old violin. It was
Mike's, which she had borrowed for the occasion at the suggestion of
Miss Gladden, and in reply to the expressions of wonder from the
gentlemen, Miss Gladden said:

"This is the surprise I planned for you, but wait till you have heard
her; I never heard her myself until a day or two ago."

With song and laughter they crossed the lake, and having reached the
landing place among the rocks and fastened their boats, proceeded up
the mountain. Here they found a flight of natural stone steps, at the
head of which a broad trail wound around the mountain, until, having
passed a huge, shelving rock, they suddenly found themselves on a
plateau, broad, grassy, and, as Lyle had said, "as level as a floor."

Groups of large evergreens afforded a refreshing shade. Underneath the
trees an immense, flat rock, covered with a snowy table-cloth and
trimmed with vines and flowers, gave hint of some of the more
substantial pleasures to be looked for later. At a distance gleamed
the silvery cascades, their rainbow-tinted spray rising in a perpetual
cloud of beauty. Far below could be seen the winding, canyon road,
while above and beyond, on all sides, the mountains reared their
glistening crests against the sky.

For a time they gave themselves up to the enjoyment of the scene,
till, at Miss Gladden's suggestion, the tuning of the various
instruments began, interspersed with jokes and merry, rippling
laughter. Amidst the general merriment, Houston, with an air of great
gravity, produced from his pocket the different parts of a flute,
which he proceeded to fit together, saying:

"When you were speaking last evening about the music for to-day I had
entirely forgotten the existence of this flute, but after we went to
our room, Ned persisted in practicing on that unmusical instrument of
his, and in searching in my trunk for a weapon of self defense, I
found this, and it answered my purpose so well then, I brought it with
me to-day."

The music was a success, and it seemed as though the musicians would
never grow weary, but when, at Miss Gladden's request, Lyle sang
"Kathleen Mavourneen," her sweet, rich tones blending with the wild,
plaintive notes of the violin, her listeners again seemed entranced by
the witchery of the music, as on the night when first they heard her
sing, and were only aroused by the sound of hearty, prolonged cheering
from the canyon below.

Looking over the edge of the plateau, they discovered a party of about
a dozen people, in a wagon drawn by six horses, who had stopped to
listen to the music, and give their panting animals a chance to rest.
Behind them was a line of three or four pack mules, laden with tents,
cooking utensils and bedding.

"A camping party!" exclaimed Lyle, "the first of the season; they are
on their way to Strawberry gulch."

On catching sight of the group above on the plateau, the ladies below
began waving their handkerchiefs, and the gentlemen were loud in their
cheers and calls for more music.

"Give them another song, Miss Maverick," said Rutherford, "that is a
decided encore."

Once more raising her violin, Lyle sang "The Maid of Dundee," and
never did song or singer meet with nobler applause, for the cheers
from below in the canyon were joined with those from above on the
plateau, and were echoed and re-echoed among the rocks, the last
reverberations dying away and mingling with the roar of the distant
cascades.

As the camping party seemed in no haste to continue their journey,
Miss Gladden with the gentlemen then came forward to the edge of the
plateau, and all joined in singing a few familiar songs, some of them
accompanied by the guitar and the violin, after which, the party in
the canyon, with much waving of hats and handkerchiefs, and many
cheers in token of their appreciation, passed on their way.

After this little episode, a gypsy fire was kindled, and in a short
time the rock table was spread with a dainty feast; chicken
sandwiches, mountain trout, which Lyle had caught in the morning,
delicately broiled, and the sweet, wild strawberries served in various
ways, all equally tempting and delicious. After the feast, Houston
proved himself an adept upon the violin, and he and Rutherford gave a
number of college songs, and old plantation songs and dances,
accompanied by the violin and banjo.

At last, as the long, gray twilight was slowly deepening, and the
stars silently marshaling their forces in the evening sky, the two
boats drifted across the lake, only guided, not propelled, by the
oars, and the air, for a while, was filled with song. As they slowly
approached the shore, however, the singing gradually ceased. For a
while Rutherford talked of the coming of his brother; then he and Lyle
were silent, but from the other boat, at a little distance, came low,
murmuring tones. They had just entered upon the first pages of that
beautiful story, old as eternity itself, and as enduring; the only one
of earth's stories upon whose closing page, as we gaze with eyes dim
with the approaching shadows of death, we find no "finis" written, for
it is to be continued in the shadowless life beyond.

Rutherford was thinking of some one far away, under European skies,
and wishing that she were present with him there, to make his
happiness complete.

And Lyle, with that face of wondrous beauty, yet calm and inscrutable
as that of the sphinx, had any power as yet passed over the hidden
depths of her woman's nature, and troubled the waters? Were those
eyes, with their far-away look, gazing into the past with its strange
darkness and mystery, or striving to pierce the dim, impenetrable veil
of the future? No one could say; perhaps she herself was scarcely
conscious, but as they landed, Miss Gladden noted the new expression
dawning in her eyes, and as the friends and lovers separated for the
night, each one avowing that day to have been one of the most
delightful of their whole lives, she wound her arm about Lyle in
sisterly fashion, and drew her into her own room. Lyle, as was her
custom, dropped upon a low seat beside her friend, but was silent.

"Are you looking backward or forward, to-night, Lyle?" asked Miss
Gladden, taking the lovely face in both her hands, and gazing into the
beautiful eyes.

Lyle's color deepened slightly, as she replied:

"I hardly know; it seems sometimes as if I were looking into an
altogether different life from this, a different world from that in
which I have lived."

"How so, my dear?" inquired her friend.

"I scarcely know how to describe it myself," she replied; then asked
abruptly, "Miss Gladden, do you believe we have ever had an existence
prior to this? that we have lived on earth before, only amid different
surroundings?"

"No," answered Miss Gladden, "I can see no reason for such a belief as
that; but why do you ask?"

"Only because it seems sometimes as if that were the only way in which
I could account for some of my strange impressions and feelings."

"Tell me about them," said Miss Gladden, interested.

"They are so vague," Lyle replied, "I hardly know how to describe
them, but I have always felt them, more or less. When I read of life
amid scenes of refinement and beauty, there is always an indefinable
sense of familiarity about it all; and since you and Mr. Houston have
been here, and I have lived such a different life,--especially since
we have sung together so much,--the impression is much more vivid
than before; even the music seems familiar, as if I had heard it all,
or something like it, long ago, and yet it is utterly impossible,
living the life I have. It must have been only in my dreams, those
strange dreams I used to have so often, and which come to me even
now."

"And what are these dreams, dear? You have never before spoken to me
of them."

"No," Lyle answered, "I have never spoken of them to any one; they
have always been rather vague and indefinite, like the rest of my
strange impressions and fancies; only they are all alike, it is almost
precisely the same dream, no matter when it comes to me. There is only
one feature that is very clear or distinct, and that is a beautiful
face that is always bending over me, and always seems full of love and
tenderness. Sometimes there are other faces in the background, but
they are confused and indistinct,--I can only recall this one that is
so beautiful. Then there is always a general sense of light and
beauty, and sometimes I seem to hear music; and then it is all
suddenly succeeded by an indescribable terror, in which the face
vanishes, and from which I awake trembling with fright."

"And you say you have had this dream always?" queried Miss Gladden.

"Yes, ever since I could remember. I don't seem to be able to recall
much about my early childhood, before I was five or six years old, but
these dreams are among my earliest recollections, and I would
sometimes awake crying with fright. After I met Jack, and he began
teaching me, my mind was so taken up with study, that the dreams
became less frequent, and for the last two or three years, I had
almost forgotten them, till something seemed to recall them, and now
it occurs often, especially after we have had an evening of song. I
know I shall see that beautiful face to-night."

"But whose face is it, Lyle?" questioned Miss Gladden; "surely, it
must resemble some one you have seen."

Lyle shook her head; "I have never seen any living person whom it
resembled. That, together with all these strange impressions of which
I have told you, is what seems so mysterious, and leads me to half
believe I have lived another life, sometime, somewhere."

Miss Gladden sat silently caressing the golden head. Her suspicions
that Lyle had had other parents than those whom she knew as such, were
almost confirmed, but would it be best, with no tangible proof, to
hint such a thought to Lyle herself? While she was thus musing, Lyle
continued:

"What seemed to me strangest of all, is, that though I cannot remember
ever seeing a living face like the one in my dream, I have seen what I
believe is a photograph of it."

"When? and where?" asked Miss Gladden quickly, hoping to find some key
to the problem she was trying to solve.

"A few weeks after your coming, and at Jack's cabin," Lyle replied.

"Did Jack show you the picture?"

"No, I do not know that he intended me to see it, but it was lying on
the table that evening; I took it up and looked at it, but he did not
seem to want to talk about it. I have never seen it since, and he told
me that until that evening, he had not seen it for a long time."

"And did you recognize it as the face of your dreams?"

"Not then; it seemed familiar, but it was not until after I reached
home that I remembered my dream, and from that time, the dream
returned. I see the face often now, and it is just like the picture,
only possibly a little older and sweeter."

"And you have never spoken to Jack about the picture since?"

"No, for I have not seen it, and he has never alluded to it. He
admitted that evening it was the picture of some one he had loved
dearly, and I have since thought perhaps he would rather I had not
seen it."

Miss Gladden was silent; her old theory regarding Jack's being the
father of Lyle, seemed to her now more probable than ever. She
believed the picture to be that of Lyle's own mother, who, it seemed
evident, had lived long enough that her child remembered her in her
dreams, though unable to recall her face at other times.

Very tenderly she bade Lyle good-night, determined that her next call
at the little cabin should be made as early as possible.



CHAPTER XXIII.


Houston and Rutherford, on retiring to their room, after the breaking
up of the picnic party, donned their slippers and smoking jackets, and
having lighted their cigars, and slipped into the easiest possible
attitudes, prepared to devote the next few hours to a confidential
tete-a-tete. The next day Rutherford would start on his journey to the
coast, and naturally there were many topics of mutual interest to be
discussed on this, their last night together for a number of weeks.

Houston felt that the time had come for taking Rutherford into his
confidence regarding his own work and plans, for it was evident that
Van Dorn had posted his brother, and Rutherford would soon learn the
truth from him, if in no other way. For a while Rutherford talked of
his brother.

"I knew he was intending to come west this summer, and I expected to
meet him in some of the cities along the coast, but I supposed he
would return by one of the southern routes. I'm awfully glad he has
decided to come back this way," he added, "for I would enjoy it of
course, to come around and see you again, and then, I'd like to have
you meet Mort. He and I are not a bit alike, but I think he's a
splendid fellow, and I think you and he will like each other."

"I haven't a doubt of it, Ned," Houston replied, with an air of
confidence rather surprising to his friend; "in fact, I think I will
be as glad to meet him as you yourself;" then, as Rutherford's eyes
expressed considerable wonder at such unexpected cordiality, he
continued:

"I've been thinking, for some time, Ned, that the friendship you have
shown for the low-salaried clerk and bookkeeper whom you met on your
way out here, deserves some degree of confidence in return, and this
evening seems to be the best time for giving you a little explanation
regarding the man whom you have called your friend for the last few
weeks."

"Why, certainly, if you wish," Rutherford replied, with slight
embarrassment, "but then, it isn't at all necessary, you know; that
is, unless it is your choice, for your salary or your position doesn't
cut any figure with me. Whatever your circumstances may be, I know as
well as I need to know that you are a gentleman; anybody can see that,
and I have told my brother so."

"I am much obliged to you, Ned," Houston answered, with difficulty
restraining a smile, "but I am going to begin by saying that your
brother knows me a great deal better than you do."

Rutherford's face expressed so much astonishment, that it resembled
nothing so much as an exaggerated exclamation point. Houston
continued:

"I have never in my life known what it was to have an own brother, but
the one who for many years has held that place in my heart is Morton
Rutherford, and I think he will tell you that of all his class mates,
there was not one with whom he was upon more intimate, confidential
terms, than Everard Houston, of New York."

"Everard Houston! Great Scott!" exclaimed Rutherford, springing to his
feet, "why I remember that name well; he was Mort's best friend. You
don't mean to say you are the same? Why, I thought you said you were
from Chicago!"

"I was from Chicago, when you met me," answered Houston, smiling, "but
I had come from New York less than ten days before."

"Well, by Jove!" said Rutherford, walking up and down the room, "I am
floored completely! If you had once said you were from New York, I
might have suspected who you were, but Chicago! and then," here he
stopped and gazed at his friend with a comical look of perplexity,
"why, Everard Houston was the nephew and adopted son of W. E.
Cameron."

"Certainly," assented Houston.

"Well then, what in thunder,--if I may ask the question,--are you
doing out here with this confounded Buncombe-Boomerang mining
company?"

"That is just what I wished to tell you to-night," Houston replied,
"but we must talk low, for walls sometimes have ears," and placing a
chair for his friend near his own, he proceeded to tell him of his
object in coming out to the mining camp, of the work which he had
accomplished, and of his plans for what yet remained to be done.
Rutherford listened with much interest, deepening into admiration for
his friend.

"And now," said Houston, in conclusion, "you will see why I could not
very well reveal my identity to you when we first met. I knew you as
soon as I saw your card, but I was a stranger in this part of the
country, with a certain role to play, uncertain of success, and, not
knowing what difficulties or obstacles I might meet, thought there
would be less danger of unexpected complications, if you thought me
just what I appeared to be."

"You thought about right, too," said Rutherford, "for I'm awfully
careless about anything of that kind, always putting my foot in it,
you know; and I don't see how you ever could come out here, a perfect
stranger, and carry everything along as smoothly as you have. Well, I
remember I was awfully mixed there on the train, when you told me you
had come out here to work for that company, for I thought all the time
that if you were not a gentleman, then I never saw one; and it's lucky
I did have sense enough to think of that, or I might have made a
confounded chump of myself."

"You would have cut me, would you?" asked Houston, laughing, "I was
looking out for that, and would have considered it a rich joke if you
had."

"Rather too rich, I should say," said Rutherford, coloring. "Mort has
always ridiculed me for that sort of thing, and told me I'd make a
precious fool of myself some day; I don't intend to be snobbish,
though he says I am, but that's just my way somehow, unless I happen
to like a person. Mort is different from me; he will get along with
all sorts of people, you know, but I never could."

"You are all right," answered Houston, "you are a little conscious of
your blue blood now and then, but as you grow older you will think
less about that, and you have as good a heart as Morton, when a person
is fortunate enough to find it."

"Say," said Rutherford, suddenly, "if you and Mort were class mates,
you must have known Van Dorn."

"Certainly," said Houston, smilingly watching the blue coils of
smoke from his cigar, "and when I first saw him with the Winters
party, I knew my little game was up, unless I got my work in very
expeditiously," and he described the little pantomime which took
place in the office shortly after Van Dorn's arrival, much to the
amusement of Rutherford, who exclaimed:

"Great Scott! but you fellows played that game well, no one ever would
have dreamed that you had known each other."

Houston then told of the plan for Van Dorn's coming in a few weeks,
and later, for the arrival of Mr. Cameron with Lindlay.

"Oh," Rutherford exclaimed, "now I see why Mort is so anxious to get
here at just about a certain time; he knows all about this, and wants
to be in at the death himself; well, that suits me exactly. But say,
old fellow, isn't this going to be a pretty nasty piece of business
for you about that time?"

"It would be if any one should get hold of this before the right time
comes, but I do not anticipate any trouble, because I intend to be so
guarded that nothing regarding my work will be known or suspected
until my uncle is here, and we have them securely trapped.

"It will require a cool head and a level one to carry this thing
through, and accomplish what you have undertaken," said Rutherford
thoughtfully, as he took one or two turns up and down the room, "and I
guess you are the right one for the work. Van Dorn will be just the
one to help you, too, he's pretty cool and quick-witted himself, but I
should think you would both need a third party, somebody who has been
on the ground for a long time and who understands all about the
working of these things."

"It would be of great assistance to us, and I intend to keep a
look-out, and if it is possible to find such a person, and one whom we
can trust at the same time, I shall secure him."

"Well, I'm sure I wish you success, and I shall be anxious to hear
from you while I'm gone, and know how you are coming on."

They smoked silently for a few moments, then Rutherford said:

"By the way, Houston, how about the congratulations I told you some
time ago I was ready to offer whenever the occasion required; are they
in order now? or shall I reserve them until my return?"

"They are in order whenever you choose to offer them," Houston replied
quietly.

"Indeed! well, I'm glad to hear it, I thought it about time. I
congratulate you most heartily, and tender you both my sincerest
wishes for your happiness. I tell you what, old fellow, I think you've
found a splendid woman, and I think, too, that you are wonderfully
suited to each other. Seems strange, doesn't it? to think of a pair
like you two, finding each other in a place like this!"

"It is rather unusual, I admit," said Houston.

"Yes," added Rutherford, "taking into consideration all the
surroundings, and the why and wherefore of your coming here, I think
it borders on the romantic."

A moment later he asked, "Does Miss Gladden know what you are doing
out here?" Houston shook his head, in reply.

"Doesn't she know who you really are?"

"Not yet," Houston answered, "no one out here knows any more about
that than you did two hours ago."

"Whew!" said Rutherford, "she will be slightly surprised when she
finds that old Blaisdell's clerk and bookkeeper has a few cool
millions of his own, won't she?"

"I hope she will not object to the millions," said Houston with a
smile, "but I have the satisfaction of knowing that they were not the
chief attraction; she cares for me myself, and for my own sake, not
for the sake of my wealth, and I am just old fashioned enough to
consider that of first importance."

"And when will she learn your secret? not until the closing scene of
the last act?"

"I cannot tell just when," Houston answered, "that will of course
depend a great deal upon circumstances."

Rutherford then became confidential regarding his own hopes for the
future, and gave Houston a description of his fiancee, and a brief
history of their acquaintance and engagement.

"Grace is all right," he said in conclusion, "but her father is
inclined to be a little old-fogyish, thinks we are too young for any
definite engagement, and wants me to be permanently established in
some business before we are married, and all that; when I can't see
what in the deuce is the difference so long as I have plenty of stuff.
So the upshot of it all was that he and his wife took Grace to Europe,
and they're not coming back until the holidays, and if, by that time,
we have neither of us changed our minds, and I am settled in business
and all that sort of thing, we can be married. There's no danger of
our changing our minds, so that's all right, but I declare I don't see
the use of a fellow's tying himself down to some hum-drum business,
when there's no need of it."

"It isn't a bad idea though to find some business for which you are
adapted, and stick to it," was Houston's reply; "that was the advice
my uncle gave me when I returned from college, and he offered me the
choice of going into business with himself, or selecting something
else that I liked better."

"Grace's father wants me to go in with him, but excuse me; if I went
into business with any one, it would be somebody nearer my own age,
where I'd have about as much to say as the other fellow, not an old
man, and my father-in-law, in the bargain."

"You may find something you will like, within the next few months,"
said Houston, with a peculiar smile; "By the way, Morton used to say
he was going to stick to journalistic work; how is he succeeding?"

"Splendidly; you know he is one of the associate editors of the
Dispatch, then he contributes regularly to several of the leading
magazines, and lately he has some work of his own on hand besides, a
work on some sort of scientific research: yes, he has succeeded
well."

So long did their conversation continue, that when they at last went
to rest, it was nearly time for the surrounding peaks, standing like
huge sentinels against the dark, eastern sky, to catch the first faint
flush of the approaching day.

They were a little late in making their appearance in the breakfast
room. Miss Gladden and Lyle were awaiting them, but the others had
gone. There was time for only a hasty breakfast before the team, going
to the Y for supplies, which had been engaged to take Rutherford to
the morning train, was at the door.

"Well," said the latter, having seen his baggage safely aboard,
including the familiar square case containing his precious cameras,
"I've had a delightful time here, and I'm awfully glad I'm coming back
again."

"So are we, Mr. Rutherford," said Miss Gladden, "and we will be very
glad to welcome your brother also, and do all in our power to make his
visit a pleasant one."

"It is doubtful whether he will ever want to leave here," Rutherford
responded, "for he appreciates anything of this kind even more than I
do. He'll grow wild over these mountains. Well, Miss Maverick," he
continued, shaking hands with Lyle, "I thank you for all you've done
to make my visit so pleasant, and I'm glad that we will only say
good-bye for a little while."

"I am also," she replied, "and I wish you a pleasant journey and a
speedy return."

"This is not 'good-bye,' Mr. Rutherford," said Miss Gladden, extending
her hand, "it is only 'au revoir.'"

"That is right," he answered, then added in low tones, "Miss Gladden,
I have already congratulated Mr. Houston, and I hope you will accept
my congratulations and best wishes also. I think almost as much of him
as of my own brother, and I could not wish either of you any happier
fortune than I believe you will find in each other."

In a few moments Houston and Rutherford were riding rapidly down the
canyon. At the office, where Houston had to prepare some orders for
the driver, he and Rutherford took leave of each other.

"Be good to yourself, old fellow," said Rutherford, "and keep us
posted just how you are coming on; and say," he added, lowering his
voice, "I'll keep you posted of our whereabouts, and if anything
should happen, and you need help, wire us and we'll be here by the
next train; you can count on two brothers now, instead of one, you
know."



CHAPTER XXIV.


A day or two after the departure of Rutherford, Miss Gladden, having
learned from Lyle at what hour Jack usually completed his day's work,
set forth upon her visit to the cabin. She felt that her errand might
prove embarrassing both to Jack and herself; she wished to obtain some
clue regarding Lyle's parentage; at least, to learn what his
suspicions, or possible knowledge might be concerning the matter, and
taking into consideration the contingency that she might be his own
child, whose existence he had kept secret for reasons of his own, it
was a subject which would require very delicate handling.

She found Jack at the cabin, and alone, and his courteous greeting,
containing less formality and more cordiality and friendliness than
on the former occasion, made her task seem far less difficult. He
ushered her into the pleasant little sitting-room, and she noted
even more particularly than on her former visit, the exquisite
taste betrayed, not only in the furnishings of the room, but in
their very arrangement.

After chatting a few moments regarding the little circle of friends at
the house, in whom he seemed to take more interest than she would have
expected from a man of his secluded life, the conversation naturally
turned to Lyle, and Miss Gladden said:

"I have wished to see you regarding her because you seem to be the
only one among those living here who appreciates her ability, or
cares for her welfare; and you have known her and her surroundings so
long, I believed you could give me some suggestions and advice
regarding what is best to be done for her, even now, while she remains
here."

"I have taken a great interest in the child ever since I have known
her," Jack replied, "and I am only too glad that she has found another
friend, and that friend a lady; and if I can assist, by suggestion or
otherwise, I shall be most happy to do so."

"I asked your opinion the other evening," continued Miss Gladden, "as
to taking her east with me, but there were other matters pertaining to
her welfare, on which I wished your opinion and advice, but I could
not so well speak of them before her, so I asked for this interview."

Miss Gladden hesitated a moment, almost hoping that Jack might make
some remark which would give her a cue as to the best method for her
to pursue in seeking the information she desired, but his attitude was
that of respectful attention, and he was evidently waiting for her to
proceed.

"I have felt attracted toward Lyle from the first," she began slowly,
"not alone by her wondrous beauty and grace of manner, but even more
by her intelligence and intellectual ability, her natural refinement
and delicacy, which, considering her surroundings, seemed to me simply
inexplicable. From the very first, she has been to me a mystery, and
as I become better acquainted with her, the mystery, instead of being
lessened, is only deepened."

She paused, but he offered no comment, only bowed gravely for her to
continue.

"I could not, and I cannot yet, understand how one like her could ever
have been born, or could exist in such surroundings as hers; and the
fact that she has existed here, her beautiful nature untainted,
unsullied by the coarseness, the vulgarity and the immorality about
her, to me seemed an indication that she was of an altogether
different type, born in another and far higher sphere. I saw she was
unhappy, and I determined to win her confidence, and in so doing, from
a vague suspicion I have gradually arrived at a firm conviction that
Lyle is not the child of those whom she calls her parents."

Jack manifested no surprise, neither was there anything in his manner
to indicate that this was a subject upon which he had any knowledge.
He simply asked very calmly,--almost indifferently it seemed to Miss
Gladden,--

"Have you discovered any direct evidence in support of this conviction
that she is not their child?"

"No tangible evidence," replied Miss Gladden, "nothing, of course,
that could be called proof, but there are what I consider very strong
indications."

"Are the indications on Lyle's part, or on the part of Mr. and Mrs.
Maverick?" inquired Jack.

"On both sides," replied Miss Gladden, "I have very little to say
regarding Mrs. Maverick; she is a kind-hearted woman, and seems to
treat Lyle with consideration and some degree of affection; there is
very little of the latter, but perhaps it is all of which she is
capable, for I should think life with that brute would quickly crush
out all the affection, if not all the intelligence, in a woman's
nature; but the neglect and ill treatment of Maverick himself towards
Lyle surely indicate that she is no child of his."

"Your remark regarding Mrs. Maverick might be still more applicable to
him, that he is incapable of anything like affection or kindness."

"Of course he is," replied Miss Gladden quickly, "but I can not
conceive of a man being quite so low as to be without even animal
instincts; I cannot believe that a father would insult and degrade his
own daughter as he has Lyle, and as he would continue to do, if he
were not restrained through fear of his wife."

For the first time, Jack started. "Fear of his wife, did you say, Miss
Gladden? Pardon me, but I think that brute fears neither God, man nor
devil, and how you can assert that he is in fear of his wife, whom he
has always abused mercilessly, I cannot imagine."

"It is a fact, nevertheless; for one morning after he had been
exceedingly abusive and insulting in his language toward Lyle, Mrs.
Maverick told her that he was, in some way, in her power, and that it
should never occur again; and it never has."

Jack rose, and began to pace the room.

"Did you hear her say that, Miss Gladden?"

"No, Lyle told me of it."

"Had Lyle any idea of what she meant by it?"

"She did not seem to have; nothing was ever said regarding that phase
of the subject; she only seemed relieved that Mrs. Maverick promised
to prevent a repetition of her father's abuse of her."

Jack seated himself. "You spoke of some reasons on Lyle's part for
your conclusions; what were they?"

Miss Gladden then told him of Lyle's strange impressions and of her
dream, but made no allusion to the photograph, wishing to reserve that
until later.

Jack looked thoughtful. "I wonder that she has never spoken to me
regarding this dream," he said at length.

"She told me she had not had the dream so often since having been
occupied with her studies and reading, probably that accounts for her
not speaking of it; lately she says it has returned."

Both were silent for a while, then Miss Gladden asked:

"Do you not think these dreams and impressions are indications of an
early life, far different from this?"

"I do," he replied gravely.

"That was my opinion," then, determined to get some expression from
him, she continued:

"I am so attached to her, so desirous, if possible, to rescue her from
this wretched life, that I am anxious to get some clue as to her true
parentage; that is why I have come to you, her friend. I thought
possibly you might be able to aid me in getting some evidence, or some
information regarding her early history."

Miss Gladden was watching Jack keenly, to note if her words produced
any effect on that immobile face. She was not disappointed: he
started, almost imperceptibly, and as he fixed his dark eyes upon her
own, she noticed, as never before, how keen and piercing, and how
eloquently beautiful they were. Miss Gladden's eyes did not drop
before his searching gaze; she was determined that he should read
only sincerity and candor in their depths, and make his answer
accordingly. When he spoke, his voice was unlike its usual smooth,
even tone; it was tender and deep, full of some strange emotion, and
reminded her wonderfully of her lover.

"Miss Gladden, may I ask,--for I believe you will answer me truthfully
and candidly,--what ever led you to suppose that I could give you any
information regarding Lyle's early history?"

"I will answer you candidly, as you wish," she replied; "the thought
first occurred to me of coming to you for advice regarding Lyle,
simply because I regarded you as her best friend, in fact, until I
came, her only friend. Then a remark accidently dropped by Lyle, as to
what you had once said of her singing, that it reminded you of but one
voice which you had heard, but that you did not like to hear her, led
me to think that perhaps she was in some way connected with some one
you had known, and that possibly that was the reason for the special
interest you took in her welfare.

"Then there was something more, in connection with her dream," and she
told him how Lyle had at last identified the pictured face which
seemed so familiar to her, as the dream-face of her childhood, and how
immediately after the dream had returned.

"After she told me this," continued Miss Gladden, "you will see that I
naturally concluded that the face was that of her mother; that her
mother, her parents, and probably her early life were known to you;
and I will frankly admit, that except that it seemed incredible that
you would allow her to remain in these surroundings, if my hypothesis
were correct, I would have believed that you were her father, and that
grief from bereavement or separation, had caused you to choose this
life for yourself and her."

Jack had again risen and was slowly pacing the room. Miss Gladden
could read no sign of displeasure in his face, though she detected
indications of some powerful emotion, and of acute suffering. He
seemed battling with old-time memories, and when at last he seated
himself and began speaking, there was a strange pathos vibrating
through the forced calmness of his voice, and the piercing eyes, now
looking so kindly into her own, had in their depths such hopeless
sadness, that Miss Gladden's heart was stirred by a pity deeper than
she had ever known, for she instinctively felt that she was in the
presence of some great, despairing sorrow.

With a smile of rare sweetness and beauty, he said: "Your candor and
frankness deserve confidence in return, and I will give it so far as
it is within my power to do so, and yet I fear that you will be
disappointed. Your surmises are incorrect in many respects, and yet
contain a great deal of truth, and I will try, so far as possible, to
be as frank with you as you have been with me. In the first place, I
must say to you, that regarding Lyle's true parentage, whether or not
she is the child of the Mavericks, I know, positively, nothing more
than do you, yourself."

He smiled as he noted Miss Gladden's look of astonishment, and
continued:

"Like you, I have my suspicions that she is not their child, and have
had them since first seeing her, years ago. As in your case, my
suspicions long ago changed to conviction, and my convictions are
probably even deeper than yours, for the reason, that in form, in
feature, in voice and manner, in every expression and gesture," his
voice trembled for an instant, but he controlled it, "she is the exact
counterpart of another; some one whom I knew in a life as remote, as
far from this as it is possible to conceive. But I have no direct
proof, not a shadow of tangible evidence with which I could confront
Maverick and denounce him with having stolen the child, and, knowing
him as I do, I know that for Lyle's sake, until I have some such
proof, it were better to remain silent."

"Pardon me for interrupting you," Miss Gladden exclaimed, "but that is
a contingency that never entered my mind, that Lyle had been stolen
from her parents! That is far worse than anything I had dreamed of."

"Nevertheless, if she is not their child, she was stolen, and just in
proportion as the former is improbable, the latter is probable, almost
certain. You will now see wherein your supposition that my interest in
her was due to her connection in my mind with some one I had formerly
known, was correct. I took a special interest in her for this reason;
it was a pleasure to teach her, to note her mind expanding so rapidly,
to watch her as she developed physically and mentally; every day
growing more and more like the one I had known. I enjoyed tracing the
resemblance day by day, though it often caused me almost as much pain
as pleasure,--but when I heard her sing, that was too much,--it was
more than I could bear,--it was like compelling some lost soul in
purgatory to listen to the songs of paradise."

There was a tremor in Jack's voice, and he paused, touched even more
deeply by the sympathetic tears glistening in the beautiful eyes full
of such tender pity, than by the bitter memories passing before his
own mind.

"What has perplexed me most," he continued, "is the fact that Lyle has
seemed unable to recall anything relating to her early childhood. I
have tried in every way to arouse her memory, and that was my chief
object in allowing her to see the photograph of which she told you;
but, as she often says, the first few years of her life seem to be
only blank. I cannot account for that."

"Still," said Miss Gladden, "these dreams of hers show that there are
memories there, and something may yet recall them to her mind."

"That has been my hope," he replied, "that is what I have been waiting
for all these years, for her mind to recall some incident, or some
individual, that would furnish the needed proof as to her parentage."

"Do you think," asked Miss Gladden, after a pause, "that it would be
wise to give Lyle a hint of our suspicions?"

"I have thought it might be well, if possible, to arouse her own
suspicions by some process of reasoning on her part, not by any
suggestions of ours."

"May I inquire whether those whom you consider her true parents are
still living?"

"They both died many years ago."

"Then, if her identity could be proven beyond a doubt, would there be
any one to give her such a home as she ought to have?"

"Yes, there are those who would be only too glad to give her such a
home as very few have the good fortune to possess."

"And have they never made any inquiry for her?" Miss Gladden asked in
surprise.

"They have no idea that she is living; her parents died under peculiar
circumstances, and she was supposed to have died at the same time."

"Then ought we not," said Miss Gladden thoughtfully, "both for her
sake and theirs, to let them know that she is living, and help them to
find her?"

"Unless they could see her for themselves," he replied, "they would
probably be rather skeptical, and require very positive proof
regarding her claims, they have believed her dead for so many years.
But even though I may have known Lyle's mother, I am not in
communication with her friends, and would not be the proper person to
present her claims to them."

For a few moments, Miss Gladden sat silently watching the play of the
light and shade on the mountain side across the ravine, opposite the
cabin, as the shadows cast by the light, floating clouds, followed
each other in rapid succession.

Jack seemed to be thinking deeply, and when he at last spoke, it was
with great deliberation:

"For a long time, as I have become more and more convinced of Lyle's
identity, I have been anxious to have her taken away from these
surroundings, and placed in the home to which I believe she has a
right; but without tangible evidence with which to establish her
claims, and also to prove Maverick's guilt, I could think of no
feasible plan, nothing that did not seem likely to result in failure,
and leave Lyle possibly in a worse condition than at present. I will
now say to you, Miss Gladden, in confidence, that I think before very
long, the way will be opened for Lyle to find the home and friends
that I consider are really hers. Through information given me in
confidence, I have learned that some of those whom I believe to be
most closely related to her and who would be most interested in her,
did they know of her existence, will in all probability be out here on
business this summer; if they do not recognize Lyle, I shall be
greatly disappointed."

Miss Gladden's face expressed the delight she felt. "Is it possible?"
she exclaimed, "Why, I cannot conceive of anything lovelier! If she
has been stolen all these years, and her people unconscious of her
very existence, to have them appear on the scene, and recognize and
claim her, will seem like a beautiful bit of fiction interwoven in our
prosaic, every-day life, or like the closing scene in some drama,
where the wrongs at last are all made right. To think what happiness
it will bring to them, to her and to us!"

Jack's face grew strangely serious. "I shall be glad for her sake;" he
replied, then added: "Sometimes, Miss Gladden, wrongs are righted only
at a terrible cost, and what seems to you like the closing of a
peaceful drama, may prove a tragedy to those who are concerned in
it."

Then, before she could reply, he said, in a different tone, as though
to change the conversation:

"It will not be best to mention what I have told you to any one; there
is no knowing what course Maverick might pursue if he had a hint of
it, for he is a desperate man; but if there is any way in which Lyle's
mind could be carried back and made to recall something of her past
life, I wish it might be done."

Miss Gladden had risen, preparatory to taking leave. Having given a
searching glance around the room, she turned toward Jack, saying
wistfully:

"Am I asking too much? Could I see the photograph which you allowed
Lyle to see?"

For an instant Jack hesitated; then he replied, "I am willing you
should see it, but you must not expect me to say anything concerning
that picture or myself. I have spoken to you in confidence regarding
Lyle, but I can go no further."

"I will not ask it," she replied.

Without a word, he went to a small trunk, concealed by a fine
bear-skin, and taking therefrom the picture, silently handed it to
Miss Gladden.

She uttered a low cry of surprise, and then stood for some time
intently studying the lovely face in every detail. When she returned
the picture to Jack's hands, there were tears in her eyes, as she
exclaimed, "How beautiful! and how like Lyle!"

"I hoped she would see the resemblance," he replied.

"It seems almost incredible that she did not," answered Miss Gladden,
"except for the fact that she has the least self-consciousness of any
one I ever saw; it is doubtful if she would recognize her own
picture."

For a long time Jack stood watching Miss Gladden, as, having thanked
him for the interview, she walked slowly up the winding road. His eyes
grew strangely wistful and tender, very unlike their ordinary
expression, and a smile, sad but sweet, played about the usually stern
lips.

"He has chosen well," he murmured at length, "they are well suited to
each other; Heaven grant nothing may ever mar their happiness!" and
with a heavy sigh, he turned and entered the cabin.



CHAPTER XXV.


As Miss Gladden slowly followed the winding canyon road on her
return from the little cabin, the thoughts flashing through her mind
very strongly resembled the lights and shadows which she had watched
chasing each other across the mountain side. While she had gained
very little direct information, Jack's theories had strengthened
her own convictions, though placing the matter in a slightly
different light. She had a very vivid imagination, and looked
forward with anticipations of keenest pleasure to the coming of
Lyle's friends,--whoever they might be--and their probable recognition
of her; and yet she could not forget Jack's words regarding the
terrible cost which might be involved, resulting in possible tragedy,
and an indefinable dread seemed at times to overshadow all other
thoughts, and perplex her. Not dreaming, however, that the words
could refer to herself, or those in whom she was most deeply
interested, she tried to banish this feeling by planning what
course would be best to pursue regarding Lyle, and determined to
confide the whole matter to Houston, and ask his advice. So
absorbed was she in her own thoughts and plans, that not until she
had nearly approached the house, did she observe the presence of
strangers.

A party of eight or ten ladies and gentlemen, including three or four
tourists from the east, had come out from Silver City. They had come
with wagons, bringing a large tent which was to be put up for those
who could not be accommodated in the house. They proved to be very
pleasant people, and during the ensuing ten days of their stay, Miss
Gladden and Lyle seldom saw each other apart from their guests. There
were numerous excursions to various points of interest, moonlight
rides on the lake and impromptu dances.

Houston at this time was more than usually occupied, as the day after
the arrival of the camping party, Mr. Blaisdell unexpectedly appeared
upon the scene. He arrived quite early in the morning, having been
brought by special train from the Y. He found Houston alone in the
office, and greeted him with a cordiality quite surprising to the
latter, considering his taciturn, dissatisfied manner when at the
mines a few days before. He seemed in no hurry to leave the office,
but remained talking for some time concerning business affairs at
Silver City.

"I may want you to run over there, just for a day, while I'm here," he
said at length, "for I expect to remain out here for about a week. By
the way, Houston, I hear you pitched into old Hartwell one night, over
there at the hotel, for some remarks he made about the company."

"Ah," said Houston, "how did you hear of that?"

"There was a friend of mine there, who overheard Hartwell's talk, and
afterward saw you go up and speak to him. Having seen you in our
office, he had a little curiosity as to what was going on. He said
Hartwell cursed you up hill and down, but that you were so damned cool
the old fellow couldn't rattle you. Hartwell told him afterward that
you threatened to compel him to substantiate all he had said, and he
was glad that the old fellow, for once, found somebody that wasn't
afraid of him."

"Oh, no," said Houston, quietly, "I didn't see any reason for being
afraid."

"Well," said Mr. Blaisdell, "I liked your spirit all right, but then,
men like Hartwell are not worth paying any attention to. He is
interested in another company, so of course he tries to run down ours,
and he has a certain clique that he has persuaded to think just as he
does. I never think it best to notice any of his remarks."

"If he had simply made a few remarks," said Houston in reply, "I would
of course have let them remain unnoticed, but he had continued his
harangue for nearly an hour before I spoke to him, so I thought it as
well to have a word with him myself."

"Oh, that was all right, perfectly right on your part, only I have
adopted the policy of letting barking dogs alone."

After a little further conversation, Mr. Blaisdell looked over the
books, and finding everything in satisfactory shape, remarked:

"You seem to have familiarized yourself very thoroughly with the work
so far as you have gone, and in a very short time. You will doubtless
remember, Mr. Houston, that when we engaged you, you were told that we
should probably need your services later at the mines, in assisting
the general superintendent. Morgan's work is increasing lately, and I
have been thinking that I would much prefer to have a trustworthy
person like yourself, assist him, even if we have to employ another
bookkeeper, than to put on an entirely new man at the mines. I am
going out to the mines this afternoon, to see how Morgan is getting
along, and I think that to-morrow we will close the office, and you
had better go out with me, and I will show you the work that I wish
you to have charge of there. It probably will not take all your time,
you will still be in the office more or less, at least enough to
superintend the work in case I bring out a new man. He will simply
work under your direction and supervision, the responsibility will all
devolve upon you."

For the next day or two, Houston's time was spent at the mines,
familiarizing himself with the underground workings, and becoming
acquainted with the different classes and grades of ore, and the
various methods of mining and reducing the same.

This was just the opportunity for which Houston had been waiting, and
he entered upon his new work with a zest and enthusiasm that delighted
Mr. Blaisdell, and even won the esteem of Morgan. On the second day,
to Houston's great joy, he was given charge, under Morgan, of what was
known as the "Yankee" group of mines, containing the Yankee Boy, the
Yankee Girl and the Puritan, the three most valuable mines in which
the New York company was interested.

In passing through one of these mines, Houston noticed two miners
working together with wonderful precision and accuracy, and on looking
at them closely, recognized in one of them, the man whom Rutherford
had pointed out to him on the train from Valley City, and of whom he
had heard Miss Gladden speak as Lyle's friend. The man seemed to pay
little attention to his being there, and on coming out, Houston
inquired of Mr. Blaisdell concerning him.

"I can tell you nothing about him," replied Mr. Blaisdell, "except
that he and his partner, the Irishman, are the two most expert miners
we have. They live by themselves, and refuse to mingle with the other
men, consequently they are not very popular among the miners, but of
course that cuts no figure with us, so long as they are skilled
workmen."

The next day, Houston went to Silver City, on business for Mr.
Blaisdell, and while there, sent the following message over the wires,
to Van Dorn:

"Everything in readiness; bring machinery at once."

Upon his return to the mining camp to enter upon his new duties,
Houston resolved to make a careful study of the men working under him,
both foremen and miners, for the purpose of determining whether there
were among them any whom he could trust sufficiently to seek from them
whatever assistance might be necessary for himself and Van Dorn in
their future work.

Accordingly, for the first few days, he spent considerable time in the
mines, apparently examining the workings, but in reality watching the
men themselves. Among some of them he saw black looks and scowls, and
heard muttered comments regarding himself: "Git onto the dude!" "D'ye
see the tenderfoot?" "Thinks he's goin' to boss us, does he? we'll
show him a trick or two." These were mainly from Maverick's consorts,
and men of their ilk, ignorant and brutal. Houston paid no attention
to their remarks or frowns, but continued his rounds among them,
conscious that he was master of the situation, meanwhile giving
instructions to the foreman who accompanied him. As he passed and
repassed Jack and Mike, working together with almost the automatic
precision of machinery, he stopped to watch them, attracted partly by
admiration for their work, and partly by a slight interest in the man
who had been his fellow passenger, and concerning whom he had heard
such various reports.

During the slight pause in their work, the Irishman eyed him
curiously, with indications of his native drollery and humor betraying
themselves in his mirthful face; he seemed about to speak, but Jack,
with set, stern features, was ready, and the work continued without a
word. In that brief interim, however, Jack had fixed one of his keen,
piercing glances upon Houston, which the latter returned with one
equally searching, and though not a muscle relaxed in that immobile
face, covered with dust and grime, yet a strange thrill of mutual
sympathy quivered and vibrated through the soul of each man, and
Houston knew that he had found a friend.

"There is a man among a thousand," he thought as he walked away, "a
man of honor, in whom one could place unbounded confidence; no wonder
Lyle has found him such a friend!"

At the next pause in their work, Mike's feelings found expression:

"Begorra! but the young mon is progressin' foinely, to be put over the
loikes of us, and bein' as how most loikely he niver sit foot in a
moine, till comin' out into this counthry!"

Jack's face had grown strangely set and white: "We are to be his
friends, remember that, Mike," he said, in a voice unnaturally stern.

"Frinds!" exclaimed the astonished Mike, "Be-dad! and whin did I iver
know ye to make frinds with ony of owld Blaisdell's men befoor?"

"Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut, Mike," was Jack's only reply
as he again began work, and Mike had nothing to do but to follow his
example.



CHAPTER XXVI.


In a short time Houston had become perfectly familiar with his new
surroundings. He was thoroughly at home in the underground workings,
readily finding his way in the labyrinth of shafts, tunnels and
cross-cuts extending for miles in all directions, and connecting the
various mining claims one with another.

He knew the name and face of nearly every man employed in the various
shifts, and by his keen perception and insight, was able to form a
very correct estimate of their character and standing in that little
community. Though no words had been exchanged between himself and Jack
beyond those of the most commonplace greetings, yet his respect for
the man, and confidence in him, increased with each day, and was
plainly indicated by his manner toward him whenever they met.

As he watched the men, in his frequent rounds through the mines,
most of their faces were to him as an open book, on some of whose
pages he read histories of misfortune and loss, or crime and shame in
the past, and on others, of eager ambitions and bright hopes for the
future. There were men with gray hair and bowed forms, whose dull
eyes and listless step told of hopeless, irretrievable loss; men
of intelligence and ability whose recklessness or whose despondency
told of some living sorrow, worse than death; there were some whose
stealthy, shrinking gait and watchful, suspicious glance bespoke
some crime, unknown to their fellows, but which to themselves seemed
ever present, suspended, like the sword of Damocles, above their
heads.

But even to Houston, Jack remained a mystery, and as he noted the
powerful, athletic form, the profile of patrician beauty, perfect as
though chiseled in marble, the hair and beard black and glossy as the
raven's wing, though touched with silver here and there, he found
himself unable to read the history of that life.

"There is a man," he soliloquized, "my equal, if not my superior, in
birth, in education, in intellectual ability; how came he here? What
has wrecked his life?"

But the dark, piercing eyes, turned on him for an instant, gave no
answer to his query.

As he and Morgan, their day's work completed, were returning to the
house, Houston made some inquiries regarding the men, and from the
information given by Morgan concerning some of them, found his own
judgment of them correct.

"And who is the man called 'Jack,' who works with the Irishman?"

"Heaven knows, I don't, nor nobody else," replied Morgan; "he came
here about six or seven years ago, I guess, at least; he was here when
I came, and was considered an expert then. He never would have
anything to say to the other men, and always lived by himself till the
Irishman came; he was another queer sort of duck and was a first-class
miner, too, so him and Jack has worked together and lived together
ever since, but Jack is boss."

"Are they the only miners living by themselves?" asked Houston.

"The only single men; there's six or seven of 'em that are married and
have families, like Maverick; they have very good shacks, furnished by
the company, but all the single men, excepting them two, live at the
quarters. By the way, have you ever been down to the quarters?"

"No," replied Houston, "but I should like very well to visit them."

"All right, we'll go to-night if you like; I go down there myself once
in a while and listen to their stories; they've most of 'em had some
queer experiences, and they can spin as many yarns as a lot of
sailors, any time."

Later in the evening, Houston, having excused himself to the ladies in
general, and Miss Gladden in particular, accompanied by Morgan, was on
his way to the miners' quarters. The latter were situated but a short
distance from the office, on the road to the mines, and consisted of
two boarding houses and four bunk houses. Farther down the road were
the stables for the horses used in hauling supplies; also blacksmith
and carpenter shops, and a storehouse.

A rather novel scene presented itself to Houston as he approached.
Scattered about on the ground, and loafing in the door-ways in all
attitudes and positions, were over a hundred men, of various ages,
classes and nationalities, but principally Cornishmen, or, in
western vernacular, "Cousin Jacks." Many of them were strangers to
him, being employed in other mines than those with which he was
familiar, but among them were many of his own men. From the
door-way of one of the bunk houses came the strains of a violin,
while in another, a concertina shrieked and groaned, and from all
directions came the sound of ribald songs, coarse jests and
boisterous laughter. Here and there were groups of men engaged in
playing poker or seven-up, where little piles of silver and gold
were rapidly changing hands, to the accompaniment of muttered oaths.
At one side, Maverick and a few kindred spirits seemed trying to
outrival one another in profanity and obscenity, while at some
distance from them, was a large company of the better class of
men, some lounging against trees and rocks, some sitting or lying
at full length on the ground, but all listening with unmistakable
interest, to a man, gray and grizzled, with a weather-beaten but
kindly face, who evidently was entertaining the crowd with tales of
his own early life.

As Houston and Morgan approached, the speaker stopped; some of the men
half rose from their recumbent positions out of respect for the "new
boss," and all eyed him rather curiously, though not unkindly. Houston
recognized many of his own men among them, and greeted them with a
pleasant "Good evening, boys."

"Hullo, Billy," said Morgan, addressing the old miner, "what do you
know to-night?" then noting that he was watching Houston with a half
smile on his rugged face, he added, "Thought I'd bring the boss down
to see you and the rest of the boys to-night."

"Good evenin' boss," responded the old fellow, while a merry smile
twinkled in his eyes, "I expect this is your first visit to a reg'lar,
genuwine minin' camp?"

"My first, perhaps, but not my last," said Houston, with a winning
smile.

"That's right," said the old man approvingly, as he proceeded to
refill his pipe; "I've been a watchin' you, off and on, down there at
the mines, bein' as I'd heerd you was a tenderfoot, and I must say
you've took a holt as if you was an old hand at the job."

"Oh, yes," Houston replied, "with a little determination, a person can
pick up anything of that kind easily. I think, with a little practice,
I could make a pretty successful miner; it would require grit and
stick-to-it-ativeness, that's all."

"'Grit and stick-to-it-ativeness,' that's good," said the old miner,
highly pleased, "well, you seem to have plenty of 'em both, and plenty
of good muscle, too," with an admiring glance at Houston's fine,
athletic form.

"See here, Billy," said Houston pleasantly, after chatting a few
moments, "when we came, it looked very much as though you were telling
stories to the crowd here, and the boys all seemed very much
interested; now we want you to go on with your story, we would enjoy
it as much as the rest."

"Let me see," said Billy, "I don't remember just where I was, but I
guess I'd finished as you come up."

"Never mind, you can start another," said Houston.

"Yes, Billy, give us another," chimed in the boys.

"Go ahead, pardner," added Morgan, "spin us a yarn, that's what we
came for."

"I was only tellin' the boys about the old days when I came out to the
mines, and for the first few years after," Billy began.

"Those must have been interesting times," said Houston.

"Int'restin'? I should say so! You fellows don't know nothin' about
minin' compared to them days; I tell you, things was lively then. I
was there at Leadville when it was opened up, and you couldn't get
anybody to look at you without payin' 'em a good, round sum for it;
couldn't get a place to roll yourself in your blanket and lie on the
floor short of five or ten dollars; folks bought dry goods boxes and
lived in 'em. Then I was down here when they opened up the Big Bonanza
mine, in Diamond gulch, not far from Silver City. I tell you boys,
them was high old times, everything was scarce and prices was
high,--flour was a hundred dollars a sack, and potatoes seventy-five
dollars a bushel,--but money was plenty,--or gold dust,--we didn't
have no money, everything was paid for in gold dust. 'Twas pretty
tough in them days, too, everybody went armed to the teeth, and guns
and knives was used pretty free."

"Was that in the days of the vigilantes?" asked Houston.

"Yes, they come along soon after, they had to. There was desperate
characters here, but the vigilantes made short work of 'em, they
didn't even give 'em time to say their prayers. I tell you, the
gambling houses and the dance halls, and all them places was lively in
them days. There wasn't many words over a game, if any quarrels come
up, they was settled pretty quick with the revolver or bowie knife."

"There must have been some high stakes played in those days," Houston
remarked.

"High? well, yes, rather; I've seen men sit down to a game worth
anywhere from fifty to two or three hundred thousand, and get up
without a cent in the world."

The old man paused to relight his pipe, and having puffed reflectively
for a few moments, settled himself with the air of a man who has a
long story to tell, and the surrounding miners evidently so understood
it, for they shifted their positions accordingly, and prepared to
listen.

"Speakin' of gamblin'," he began, "puts me in mind of something that
happened among the camps on the other side of the range, nigh onto
fifteen years ago. A gang of us boys was in Dandy Jim's gambling hall
one night. The place was crowded, I remember, and we was all tryin' to
make our fortunes on the high card. Some of us was dead broke, but
them that hadn't the stuff borrowed from them that had, sure of better
luck next time. They was all so deep in the game that none of 'em
noticed a seedy-lookin' chap who come in, kinder quiet like, and set
down to the faro table and began to play. I guess I was the only one
who noticed him, and at first, I couldn't make him out, but after a
bit, I remembered him as 'Unlucky Pete.' That man had a history. When
I first saw him, some eight or ten years before that night, he had
just come west with his wife, a pretty little woman, and had a good
team of horses and a new wagon. He was a reg'lar border character, and
whenever a new country was opened up for settlement, him and his wife
was the first on the ground, ready to make a run to secure a home.
Pete was prosperous, till one night, in a quarrel over a game of
cards, he killed his man, and from that time his luck changed. He
secured one or two good claims, but lost title to them; he lost his
horses, and as fast as he bought other horses, they died or was
stolen, and everything went against him. He wandered from one country
to another, but bad luck met him at every turn. The last I seen him
was some two years before; then him and his wife and two or three
babies was goin' over the country in an old, broken-down wagon. The
wheels was held together with wire and ropes, and the canvas top was
in rags and tatters; the horses was the poorest, skinniest creatures
you ever see, and him and his wife looked off the same piece.

"Well, somehow or 'nuther, I knew him that night, though he looked
harder than ever, and had an old slouched hat down over his face. He
looked like a man that was pushed pretty close to the wall, and had
got down to his last nickel. Well, he set down there to the table, and
threw a silver dollar on the high card; then pulled that old hat down
clean over his eyes, and never spoke, or looked one way or another.
The high card won, and the dealer paid the bet, and pushed the money
over to Pete, but he never stirred.

"Well, that high card kep' a winnin' till there was a big pile of
money there, but Pete, he never stirred, no more'n a stone. The
dealer, he got mad and begun to swear, but Pete didn't move.

"'Somebody wake that fool up,' says he, with an oath.

"A fellow sittin' next to Pete shook him, and then tore off his hat.
Well, boys, I'll never forget that sight, it makes me sort o' shiver
now, when I think of it; there set a dead man at the table before that
pile of gold.

"The dealer started to rake in that pile o' money, but about a dozen
revolvers was p'inted at him, and he decided not to be in too big a
hurry about it.

"'What's the use anyway?' says he, 'the man's dead and the money's no
good for him, and besides, nobody knows who he is.'

"'I do,' says I, jumpin' up.

"'And I,' says another fellow, 'the man just come into camp a day or
two ago, and his family's starvin'."

"Well, we bundled that money up pretty sudden, and a half a dozen of
us started to find the folks; we found 'em, too, but the wife was
dead, starved to death, and the children wouldn't have lasted much
longer. The oldest, a girl about eight years old, told that they had
nothin' to eat for two days, and her father found the dollar, and
started down to the store for food, but soon after he left the cabin,
the mother died.

"We buried Pete and his wife in one grave, and then with the pile of
money we got good homes for the children, and some of it was to be
used in givin' 'em a good eddication, and the last I heerd, they was
comin' on well. But I've never set down to a game sence, that I
haven't thought of the night I played faro, with a dead man at the
table."

At the conclusion of the old miner's story, a little suppressed thrill
of excitement ran through his audience. Morgan, who had seemed
restless and ill at ease, rose to go, and Houston, finding it much
later than he supposed, after a few pleasant words with the boys, bade
them good night, and hastened after Morgan, who was already sauntering
up the road a little way in advance.



CHAPTER XXVII.


"Well," said Morgan, as Houston overtook him, "what do you think of a
'genuwine minin' camp,' as Billy calls it?"

"The quarters are much more extensive than I supposed," replied
Houston, "I never realized before that there were so many men employed
here; some of them are good fellows, too, I enjoyed my visit to-night
immensely."

"I generally like to come down and listen to them once in a while,"
said Morgan, "but somehow, I didn't care to stay there to-night, that
story of Billy's made me feel sort of creepy; I'm feeling a little off
to-night, anyway."

"That was a strange story the old fellow told, almost bordering on the
improbable, it seemed to me, but I suppose there are a great many
strange occurrences in a country like this."

"Yes, lots of things happen here, and folks think nothing of 'em, that
would be considered improbable anywhere back east."

"Are you from the east?" inquired Houston.

"Yes, part way," said Morgan, "not from way back, though, I've never
been farther east than Ohio. I was born in Missouri, and raised in
northern Iowa."

He was silent for a moment, then continued: "I believe I told you one
day that sometime I'd give you a bit of my life; I guess now's as good
as any time, and when you've heard it, maybe you won't wonder at some
of my views.

"As I said, I was born in Missouri; when I was about three years old,
my folks moved to Iowa. I can just remember my father being with us at
that time, but I never saw him after I was three and a half or so, and
when I got old enough to think about it and ask for him, mother told
me he was dead, and I never knew anything different till years after.
We were always moving, I remember, from one place to another, and
though we never had any money saved up, yet we lived well and never
wanted for anything. Mother used to have a good deal of company, and
be away from home considerable, but she was always kind to me, and I
was a soft, warm-hearted, little chap in those days, and I know I
thought the world of her.

"We lived together till I was about ten years old, and then times
began to get pretty close; mother didn't have any money, and we had to
pinch to get along, but she was always good to me.

"Finally she decided to go to Denver; said she had heard of an opening
there for her to run a boarding house and make money, but she didn't
want to take me with her, and sent me to a brother of hers, living in
Ohio. That was the end of all happiness for me. He was a man old
enough to be my grandfather, for mother was the youngest of a large
family. He and his wife lived by themselves, for they had no children,
and a meaner, stingier old couple never lived. Mother wrote pretty
often at first, and always sent money, but don't you think I ever got
any of it. They never mentioned my mother to me, and they wouldn't let
me speak of her.

"Well, things went on from bad to worse, and finally, when I was
fourteen, I run away. I stole rides on freight cars when I could, and
when I couldn't do that, I tramped, till I got to St. Louis, and got a
place there in a third-class hotel as bell boy. While I was there, I
picked up a good many little accomplishments that have stuck to me
ever since, gambling and swearing, and so on. I got to be pretty
tough, I know, but in spite of it all, there was one good spot about
me yet,--I thought the world of my mother. I staid in St. Louis two
years; in that time I had only heard from mother twice, but she sent
me money both times, and wrote me kind letters, though she never said
anything about my coming to see her."

By this time, they had reached the main road, and as Morgan seated
himself on a rock to finish his story, Houston followed his example.

"I made up my mind I wanted to see her, so I took what little money I
had saved up, about eighty dollars, and started for Denver. The last
letter I had from mother, she said she was running a house on a
certain street, and I supposed of course it was a boarding house. I
won't tell you her real name; Morgan wasn't her name, nor mine
neither, I took it afterwards, but I'll call her name Johnson. I got
to Denver, and happened to meet an old acquaintance of mine named Tim,
who took me to a fifth-class boarding and lodging house where he was
staying. Tim had only been in Denver a few days, and knew very little
of the city, but we found a crowd of old-timers at the house, and
after a while I asked for Mrs. Johnson who kept a boarding house on
such a street. The men all laughed and began to guy me; I got hot and
was going to sail into them, but Tim persuaded me to go out with him,
and we started in to paint the town.

"Well, we'd been out about two or three hours, when we came to a
dancing hall, the toughest we'd seen,--a regular dive,--and we went
in, bound to have some fun. The place was full of tough-looking subs,
and a lot of frouzy, dowdy girls, and what they lacked in good looks
they made up in paint and brass,--such brazen faces I never saw. Half
way down the hall was a big, fat woman, with her hair blondined, who
seemed to have charge of the place, and was giving orders to the man
behind the bar. They had some loud talk, and something in her voice
took my attention, and I looked at her; just then she turned 'round
facing me, and great God! it was my mother! I knew her in spite of the
blond hair and the paint, and she knew me. She gave one awful shriek,
and then fell in a dead faint, and when she came to half an hour
after, she went into hysterics, and screamed and raved and cried
nearly all night.

"I was so dazed, everything was going round and round, and I thought
the world was coming to an end; and it would have been better for me
if it had. The next day, she was able to see me, and I went to her
room, and I guess I must have staid three or four hours. She told me
then, that her husband was living, but that he quit her back in Iowa,
and that he claimed I was not his child. She cried and begged me to
stay with her, but I left her that day. That was fifteen years ago,
and I have never seen her since. From that time, the last tie that
bound me to even a belief in anything good was gone. I took a
different name, and came up here in this part of the country. Once I
found a girl I liked, but just as I began to think something of her, I
found she was like all the rest of 'em. I've no faith in man or woman,
and don't believe there is any such thing as honor or virtue. If there
are some people who seem virtuous and honorable, it is simply either
because they have been so placed that there was no temptation to be
anything else, or because they have succeeded in keeping up
appearances a little better than other folks."

As Morgan paused, Houston spoke very slowly and kindly:

"Your experience has certainly been a sad one, Morgan, and I am truly
sorry for you; sorry most of all that it has produced such an effect
on you."

"Well," said Morgan, "I guess it don't make much difference, one way
or another, what we think or what we do."

"Your mother's opinions and actions seem to have made considerable
difference in your life," answered Houston, quietly.

"Yes, by George! I should say so!" replied Morgan, gloomily.

"Perhaps your opinions and your conduct are wrecking some other life,
in like manner. There is not one of us who does not exert a powerful
influence on those about us, one way or the other, to build up and
strengthen, or to wreck and destroy."

As there was no reply, Houston said: "I am very glad you have given me
this sketch of your life, Morgan, I shall always feel differently
toward you, remembering this."

"Yes," said Morgan, rising, "I wanted you to know, and I thought this
was as good a time as I would have. You will remember it, whatever
happens," he added ambiguously, as he started slowly down the road, in
an opposite direction from the house.

"Which way are you going?" asked Houston, also rising.

"Down to the Y."

"What! are you going that distance as late as this?"

"Yes," replied Morgan, "I don't go all the way by the road; there's a
cut across that makes it a good deal shorter, and I'll have plenty of
time."

They both stood a few moments watching a tall, dark figure that had
been pacing up and down the road all the time they had been talking,
sometimes approaching quite near, then retreating out of sight. They
both recognized it as Jack.

"He's a queer duck," muttered Morgan, "wonder what he's doing, this is
rather late for a constitutional;" then added, "I wish I had some of
the money that chap's got."

"Why, has he money?" inquired Houston.

"He must have," was the reply, "he never spends anything, just hoards
it up; he's got enough any way to help me out just now, if I could
only have it."

"Are you in need of money?" asked Houston, quickly, "if so, I will
gladly accommodate you."

"Much obliged," replied Morgan, starting down the road, "but I can get
along for the present. Luck has been against me a little lately, but I
guess it will turn all right," adding, as he looked back over his
shoulder, "if it don't turn too late, like 'Unlucky Pete'."

As Houston walked rapidly up the canyon toward the house, he saw Jack
again approaching, and glad of an opportunity to meet this man toward
whom he felt such a powerful attraction, he slackened his pace as Jack
came up, and greeting him cordially, stopped and entered into
conversation with him. To his surprise, he found Jack's manner far
less reserved than on the few occasions when they had met in the mine.
He seemed as ready to stop as Houston himself, and though he spoke
with a dignity of tone and manner utterly unlike an employe, the icy
reserve was gone, and in its place, there was in his voice the genuine
ring of friendliness.

After a few moments of ordinary conversation, Jack remarked:

"You are not often out in this locality at this hour, and alone."

"No," Houston replied, "but I have been visiting the miners in company
with Morgan, and remained there later than I intended. Then a talk
with Morgan out there among the rocks delayed me still longer."

"Pardon me," said Jack, "but I suppose you are aware that you have
enemies here."

"Yes," said Houston, slightly surprised, "I am conscious of that
fact."

"And," continued Jack, lowering his tone, "you are probably also aware
that this enmity is likely to increase, so that unless you exercise
great caution, your life will be in danger?"

Houston was startled, not so much by the suggestion of personal
danger, as by the thought that this man seemed to understand something
of his position there. Was it possible his secret was known? It could
not be, but if it were,--his nerves quivered, not with fear for
himself, but with apprehension lest his whole scheme should in some
way prove a failure.

These thoughts flashed through his mind with the speed of lightning,
but Jack was quick to read them, and before Houston could make any
reply, he continued:

"I desire to have a private interview with you, as early as possible,
and as we will wish to be perfectly secure from interruption, as well
as from all danger of being overheard, I wish you would come to my
cabin, there we can talk with perfect safety. And now, as a key to
this contemplated interview, allow me to say that I fully understand
your mission here; but have no fear, your secret is absolutely safe.
My only reason for wishing to meet you is, that I desire to aid you if
you will permit me. Will you fix an evening for this conference of
ours?"

"Certainly," said Houston cordially, his momentary surprise giving way
to the confidence which he had felt in this man, since first meeting
him, face to face.

An engagement was made for the near future, and with a cordial
hand-clasp, the two men parted.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


The next evening, as Houston stood for a few moments in the little
porch, watching a game of lawn tennis which had been hastily
improvised by the merry crowd, Lyle suddenly left the group of players
and joined him. Looking at him rather archly, she asked:

"Do you expect to remain out as late to-night as you did last night?"

"I don't know just how late I may be detained," he answered, smiling,
"Why? are you keeping a watchful eye upon me?"

"Certainly," she replied, "Mr. Rutherford used to call himself your
guardian, and now that he is gone, I must make his place good;" then
she added more seriously, "This is an altogether different country
from what you have been accustomed to; it is not particularly pleasant
or safe for one to keep late hours here, especially if he has
enemies."

Houston was somewhat surprised by this second warning, but he answered
lightly:

"Yes, I know I am in what Ned used to call 'the camp of the
Philistines,' but you do not think I have any dangerous enemies, do
you?"

"It is only fear of detection that keeps some of them from being
dangerous," said Lyle, who saw Miss Gladden approaching, "don't give
them any opportunities for working their spite in the dark."

Miss Gladden just then came up, and Lyle soon resumed her place among
the players.

"Going out again this evening, Mr. Houston?"

"Yes, Miss Gladden," replied Houston with mock gravity.

"Excuse me, Everard," she answered, blushing, "but when so many
strangers are about, I am obliged to be very circumspect, you know."

"There are no strangers within hearing at present, Leslie," he
replied, "but isn't it nearly time for this crowd to take its
departure?"

"Yes, they expect to leave to-morrow."

"Thank Heaven!" exclaimed Houston devoutly.

Miss Gladden laughed merrily.

"Well," he continued rather savagely, "I hope, after they are gone, we
can enjoy our evenings again as we used to. For the last ten days, I
have scarcely had an opportunity for a word with you, unless we
deliberately gave the whole company the cold shoulder, which, of
course, would not answer."

"And so," said Miss Gladden laughing, "you wreak your revenge upon
poor me these last two evenings, by taking yourself away, where I
cannot even have the satisfaction of seeing you, while I talk to
somebody else."

Houston smiled; "I am obliged to go out this evening, Leslie, I have
an engagement to-night, with Jack, at his cabin."

"With Jack!" exclaimed Miss Gladden, "then you have made his
acquaintance!"

"No, I can scarcely say that, for I never exchanged a half dozen words
with him before last evening. This interview to-night is wholly on
business."

"Well," said Miss Gladden, who saw the players beckoning to her, "I am
glad you are going to meet him. I saw him the other day, and had a
talk with him regarding Lyle, and I wanted to tell you about it, but
have had no opportunity. I think you will find him one of the most
perfect gentlemen you ever met," and with a little farewell wave of
the hand, she left him to rejoin the players who were waiting for
her.

Half an hour later, Houston found himself in the inner room of the
little cabin, alone with Jack, while at the outside door, Rex was
stationed as guard.

Already the twilight was beginning to gather in the little room, but
even in its soft, shadowy light, Houston noted the evidences, existing
on all sides, of a refined nature, a nature keenly appreciative of
beauty in all its forms.

"I hope," said Jack, seating himself near his guest, "that you will
excuse the gathering darkness; I thought it more prudent not to have
a light, as it might attract attention, I am in the habit of sitting
so much in the twilight, myself."

"A light is not necessary," Houston replied, "the twilight is very
pleasant, and the moon will be up presently, and will afford us all
the light we need."

There was a moment or two of silence, while Houston waited for his
companion to broach the subject of the evening. He was anxious to
ascertain how much regarding himself and his errand there in the camp,
Jack really knew, and more particularly, to learn, if possible, how he
had become possessed of his knowledge.

Jack, on his part, was wondering whether, with their brief acquaintance,
he could give Houston any assurance that the latter would consider
sufficient to warrant taking himself into full confidence concerning
his work and plans, so that he could render the assistance he desired.

"You were doubtless somewhat surprised," he began very deliberately
and slowly, "by my request, last evening, for this interview."

"Yes," replied the other, "I will admit that I was surprised, more
especially by the reason which you gave for your request,--that you
understood my position here, and desired to help me."

"Did it never occur to you that, to a person with any degree of
penetration, any ability at reading a man's character and habits of
life, your position here, as clerk for a disreputable mining company,
would, of itself, seem an anomaly, and be liable to excite the
suspicion that you had some ulterior object in view?"

"I think," said Houston, with a smile, "you are supposing a person
with keener perceptions than are possessed by many in this locality."

"They nearly all possess them to a certain degree, in a latent,
uncultivated form, perhaps, but still there. For example, what is the
true secret of Maverick's hatred toward you, of Haight's enmity,
except that they recognize by a sort of instinct that you belong to an
altogether different sphere from that in which they move? They cannot
reason it out perhaps, but they feel it;--your language, your conduct,
your manner, the very cut of your clothes, though but a plain
business suit, proclaim to one who can read, and reason from these
things correctly, and deduct their results therefrom, that you are a
man of the highest culture and refinement, of high moral character,
and of wealth. Consequently, the question arises, 'What are you doing
here?'"

"Pardon me, I do not intend to be personal in my remarks," replied
Houston, "but in my opinion, only a person who has himself moved in
the highest circles of life would be able to reason in this manner."

"Possibly," said Jack, "they would be better able to classify you,
as it were, and assign you to your true position, but these others
feel keenly that you are not of their world, but they are generally
incapable of drawing any conclusions from their observations, as very
few of them have the reasoning faculty, and hence, they would not be
likely to question your object or motive in holding this position. My
design, however, in thus calling your attention to these facts, is
simply to show you that you need not be greatly surprised when I say
that from your first coming here, I have felt that you were no
ordinary employe; that you were merely holding this position
temporarily, either in your own interests, or in the interests of
some one else,--but not in the interests of the mining company.
Notwithstanding the fact that I live a very secluded life, I yet have
means of ascertaining nearly all that is going on around me, and I
will say to you truthfully, that I learned the secret of your
mission here without even asking a question."

"I can scarcely understand," said Houston, "how you came to be the
recipient of this secret, since you do not mingle with others, and
apparently take very little interest in their affairs."

"Perhaps," said Jack, in low, musical tones, "you would be able to
understand the situation better, did you know that your secret was
told me by a friend of yours, who believed that, through my very
isolation and loneliness, I could the better assist you."

"A friend of mine!" exclaimed Houston, in surprise, "Is it possible
that my eastern friends are known to you, and that some one of them
has written you?"

"No one has written me, the story was told me by a friend of yours
here."

Instantly there flashed into Houston's mind the memory of Lyle's
warning, and also of Miss Gladden's declaration that she had seen and
talked with Jack, but how could his true position be known to either
of them?

"I have but two friends here, at present," was his reply, "and they
are women."

"True women are the truest friends," said Jack tersely.

"But how can either of them know anything regarding my work here?"

"I will tell you," and very briefly Jack gave Houston an account of
how his plans had first become known to Lyle, and of her subsequent
interview with himself, begging his assistance in Houston's behalf.

Houston was inexpressibly astonished and touched to find that the
beautiful girl, whom he had considered friendless and helpless, and
whom he had defended through a sense of chivalry, had, in return,
served him so nobly and so opportunely. He resolved to see her and
express to her his appreciation of what she had done, as early as
possible.

"I think," said Jack, in conclusion, "you will admit that by this
means I have obtained a thorough understanding of what you wish to
accomplish."

"You understand it perfectly," Houston answered.

"You will also admit that, after the years of experience that I have
had in these particular mines, I must be thoroughly conversant with
affairs in connection therewith, and could probably render you just
the assistance you will need."

"Most certainly you could," responded Houston quickly, "I know of no
one in the entire camp who could assist us so well as you."

"Then," said Jack, "the next and only consideration is, whether you
have that degree of confidence in me, that you would feel warranted in
trusting me implicitly,--"

"Enough said," said Houston, interrupting him hastily but cordially,
"I have that confidence in you, that, even if you had not sought this
interview, sooner or later, I would have come to you for assistance."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Jack, in surprise, "may I ask why?"

Houston hesitated a moment, and then replied:

"I believe, though we have met so recently, we may speak together as
friends, or as brothers; you spoke a while ago of the faculty of
perception; please credit me with possessing it in some degree myself,
and while I do not wish to be personal or intrusive in my remarks, I
am sure you will allow me to say, that if there is any degree of
incongruity between my appearance and the position I hold, it
certainly exists in a much greater degree in your own case. I, of
course, know nothing of your past life; I wish to know nothing of it,
except so far as you yourself would tell me, should you ever choose to
do so, but this much I do know, and have known from the first, that
you are vastly superior to your surroundings here. You claim,--and you
are correct,--that I have had the advantages of excellent birth and
breeding, of culture and wealth, but you are not one whit behind me in
any of these things. Added to all this is the experience which you
have accumulated in these late years, in this particular branch of
work; surely it was not strange that I felt your acquaintance would be
invaluable, could I but secure your friendship sufficiently for you to
be interested in my plans."

The moon had risen, flooding the little room with a soft, pale light,
but Jack was sitting in the shadow, and Houston could not see the
effect produced by his words. He wondered a little that Jack made no
response, and, after waiting in silence for a moment or two,
continued:

"There is one other consideration which you have not mentioned, and
which must not be omitted, and that is compensation."

A sudden movement on Jack's part caused Houston to pause for an
instant, but nothing was said, and he proceeded:

"I could not think of asking you to share the difficulties and dangers
of this work without abundant compensation. Mr. Cameron, my uncle, who
is interested--"

"Stop!" said Jack, putting up one hand as if to ward off a blow; his
voice was hoarse, almost stern, and vibrated with some strange, deep
emotion; "If you ever speak to me again of compensation, I will
utterly refuse to help you in any way."

"I beg your pardon," said Houston, in a low, gentle tone, "I intended
no offense, and I shall certainly respect your wishes."

"There was no offense," replied Jack, more calmly, "but you spoke a
few moments since of friendship; that word, to a man living the life I
have lived, means volumes; whatever I do, let it be done for
friendship's sake."

"So let it be!" responded Houston solemnly, strangely moved by Jack's
manner.

For a long time they talked of the work before them, and Houston spoke
of the expected arrival of Van Dorn within the next day or two, who
was to remain until the end.

"The end is not far distant," said Jack, "for after his coming I can
give you nearly all the additional proof needed," and he then
proceeded to give information concerning matters of which Houston had
not, as yet, obtained even a clue. An arrangement was made whereby
Houston and Van Dorn, after the arrival of the latter, were to meet
Jack at the cabin, and perfect their plans for the brief campaign
before them.

At last, as Houston rose to take his leave, he said: "I hope you will
pardon the remark, but while I have not the least doubt of your
friendship toward me in this, I cannot overcome the impression that
you also have some personal interest in this matter."

"Possibly," replied Jack, gravely, still standing in the shadow as
Houston stepped forth into the moonlight, "but not in the way in which
you think."



CHAPTER XXIX.


The camping party had returned to Silver City, and the old house among
the mountains slowly subsided into its former quiet. Lyle's time had
been so occupied by the numerous demands made upon her by the
departing guests, that Houston had found no opportunity for speaking
with her, as he had planned the previous evening.

When the day's work was completed, he, with Miss Gladden and Lyle, sat
in the little porch, watching a brief but furious mountain storm,
which had suddenly sprung up, preventing them from taking their
customary evening stroll.

To the ordinary beauty of the scene around them was added the grandeur
of the tempest, forming a spectacle not easily forgotten. Around the
summits of the lofty peaks the fierce lightnings were playing,
sometimes darting back and forth like the swords of mighty giants,
flashing in mortal combat; sometimes descending swiftly in fiery
chains, then seeming to wrap the whole universe in sheets of flame;
while the crash and roll of the thunder echoed and re-echoed from peak
to peak, the lingering reverberations still muttering and rumbling in
the distance, as the fierce cannonading was again renewed. The wind
rushed, roaring and shrieking, down the canyon, while the rain fell in
gusty, fitful torrents.

At the end of half an hour, only a few stray drops were falling, the
sun suddenly burst forth in a flood of golden light, and against the
dark background of the storm-cloud, a rainbow spanned the eastern
horizon, its glorious tints seeming almost to rival the gorgeous
colors of the western sky.

Soon after the storm had passed, Haight was seen approaching the
house. As he came up, he handed a telegraphic dispatch to Houston,
saying:

"Just got a wire from the boss for you and Morgan; did you know
anything about this kind of an arrangement?"

Houston opened the telegram, and read:

  "Van Dorn up to-morrow to set up machinery on trial; may not be
  able to come myself for a day or two. Have Morgan and Houston give
  him all help they can spare, but not to interfere with work.

                                                         Blaisdell."

Houston read the message carefully, then said to Haight, who stood
awaiting his reply:

"I knew nothing of their having made any definite arrangement. I
remember hearing Van Dorn say something to Mr. Blaisdell, just before
they all went away, about bringing one of his machines out here, but
Blaisdell didn't seem to give him any encouragement at that time."

"He evidently has roped the old man in on it, at last," said Haight,
seating himself.

"It looks like it," Houston answered indifferently.

"What is the machine anyway?" Haight inquired. "Is it any good?"

"I cannot tell you," replied Houston, "because I know absolutely
nothing about it, except that it is for the reduction of ores. I heard
Van Dorn allude to it two or three times while he was here, and he
seemed quite enthusiastic about it, which I thought was, of course,
perfectly natural. Where is Morgan?" Houston continued, "have you told
him?"

Haight shook his head; "Morgan is at the Y, I suppose, as usual, and
nobody will see him before sometime to-morrow. Have you noticed that
fellow lately, Mr. Houston? Half the time he don't seem to know what
he's about."

"I have noticed that he scarcely appears like himself, of late,"
Houston replied; "he seems to have some serious trouble."

"He's been losing pretty heavy lately, I guess, that's what's the
matter; he's awful reckless in his gambling, it's neck or nothing,
with him. I tell you," Haight continued, watching Houston sharply,
"Morgan would get the G.B. pretty sudden if the boss got onto the way
he's carrying sail."

"Possibly," said Houston, quietly, "but he will not know of it from
me."

"No?" said Haight, with a curious, rising reflection.

"No, indeed," responded Houston, with some warmth, "when a man is in
trouble, it is no time to give him a push downward; besides, I would
not do or say anything to injure Morgan, anyway."

Haight looked up curiously, and even the faces of the ladies expressed
a slight surprise.

"I didn't know you and Morgan were such good friends," Haight remarked
wonderingly.

"I do not know," said Houston, "that either he or I consider that we
are particular friends, though we are friendly enough, but I have
learned this about Morgan; that whatever his principles, or his manner
of life may be, he is far less to be blamed than people would
ordinarily suppose."

"Well," said Haight, rising, "Morgan and I have been together, off and
on, for the last three years, but I don't know anything about him
except just what I have seen for myself, what anybody can see; of
course his way isn't my way, but then, we don't any of us think alike,
and I've never had any fault to find with him, and we've got along
together first rate. I suppose," he continued, "you will give
directions in the morning for that fellow and his machines, for it
isn't likely that Morgan will be around much before ten o'clock."

"Very well," said Houston, "I will be up early and will see that one
of the six-horse teams is at the Y to meet him, and I can get through
at the mines in season to be at the office by the time he will reach
there; he probably will not get up before noon, with all that load."

Happening to glance toward Lyle, as Haight withdrew, Houston read
in her eyes, in their look of eager expectancy, and the firm
determination expressed in her face, that she fully understood the
meaning of what had passed.

It was equally evident that Miss Gladden had received no hint of the
situation, for at almost the same instant she inquired:

"Is Mr. Van Dorn going to erect one of his reducing machines here?"

Houston answered in the affirmative.

"He will be likely to remain here some time, then, will he not?"

"In all probability," Houston replied, "it must take considerable time
to get one of those machines in perfect running order."

"Then of course he will be here when Mr. Rutherford returns, with his
brother; they were all such intimate friends, it will be pleasant for
them to meet here. But I am surprised," she added, "that he is
bringing one of his machines such a distance as this."

"Why so?" inquired Houston.

"Because, Mr. Winters told me that although the amalgamator was
undoubtedly a valuable invention, and would prove a great success in a
mining country, Van Dorn was too indolent to even try to introduce it
among mining men, as it would require too much exertion on his part."

Houston smiled at this accurate description of his class mate.

Miss Gladden continued: "Mr. Winters said that Van Dorn was a fine
fellow, but that he was never so happy as when engaged in some little
scheme, apparently doing one thing, and in reality, doing something
else, as when he was acting as mining expert for Mr. Winters."

"Well," said Houston, laughing, "if that is the characteristic of Mr.
Van Dorn, it will not be best to mention it here, as the officers of
the company are very suspicious anyway, and very guarded as to who is
permitted to have access to the mines and mills, and we might
unconsciously make it rather unpleasant for him."

The next morning, Houston went very early to the stables to order a
team and three or four men to the Y to meet Van Dorn. Having given all
necessary instructions, he returned to the house, but it was still
early, and there was no one but Lyle in the breakfast room.

At a signal from Houston, she approached the door-way, where he
remained standing, as from that position he could easily watch both
the porch and the interior of the room, to assure himself that they
were safe from listeners.

"I have just discovered recently," he began in a low tone, "that I am
indebted to you for securing valuable assistance for me in my work
here."

"Why?" she asked quickly, in surprise, "did Jack tell you that it was
I who asked him to help you?"

"Certainly," replied Houston, "I naturally wished to know where he
obtained his information, and he told me of your interview with him,
and your persistent efforts in my behalf. I want to thank you, for I
appreciate your conduct under such circumstances; you acted wisely and
nobly, and did the very best thing that could have been done."

"I am glad that I have your approval," she replied, "my overhearing
what I did was unintentional and unavoidable, but having learned your
plans, and that you needed help, I sought it from the only one
competent to give it, and at the same time perfectly true and worthy
of your confidence."

"You certainly made a noble use of the knowledge you had obtained;
there are very few, Lyle, who could have been trusted with such a
secret, and who would have proven so trustworthy."

"If you will pardon me for saying it, Mr. Houston, there is one other,
whom you could, and, in my opinion, should trust with this."

Houston looked at her inquiringly.

"I mean Miss Gladden," was her response.

"I see you have given her no hint," he said, smiling.

"Not a word," Lyle answered, "it was not my place to do so; you know
best what you wish her to know, and when, but I think you ought to
confide in her fully, for she is a noble woman; you could trust her,
and she would help you."

"I realize that," Houston replied, "but I did not wish her to be
worried by this; there will probably be more or less danger before it
is all over, and I thought she would be happier not to know."

Lyle lifted her beautiful head proudly, with a gesture so full of
grace, Houston could not but observe it.

"If I were in her place," she said, slowly and firmly, and with
peculiar emphasis, "and my lover were in any danger, I would far
rather know it, and give him my help, if possible, my prayers and
sympathy at any rate, than to remain in ignorance, and perhaps
unconsciously hinder him."

Houston looked at Lyle in astonishment; was this clear-headed woman
the untutored, untrained child of the mountains whom he had always
regarded with a tender, chivalric regard, almost akin to pity?

Lyle continued; "Do not think that even if you refrain from telling
her this secret, she will not know that it exists; she will be quick
to see indications of a secret understanding between yourself and
others,--between yourself and myself, even,--in which she has no
share. Will that seem to her like confidence, or even justice, on your
part. It will be better for her, for you and for me that you tell her
your plans fully, for you will find her strong and true and brave,
whatever the end shall prove."

"My dear Lyle," said Houston, slowly, "I believe you are right, and I
will never consider you a child again; but I cannot understand how
you, with your youth and inexperience, can think and act so wisely and
well."

"We none of us know what we can do or be," she answered gravely, "till
an emergency arises, and we are suddenly shown what is required of
us."

"I will follow your suggestion at the first opportunity," Houston
said, after a pause, "I shall tell Miss Gladden all that you know
regarding my plans and my work, with but one reservation; for the
present, I do not wish her to know that Mr. Cameron is related to
me."

Lyle looked slightly surprised, "Very well," she answered, in a tone
of assent, adding, "You are his nephew, are you not?"

"His nephew and his adopted son," Houston replied, with a peculiar
smile.

"Ah!" she replied quietly, "I understand; Miss Gladden is to know
nothing at present of your wealth."

"I have won her love with love, not with gold," he said proudly, "but
she will find, by and by, that the latter is not lacking."

A remark of Miss Gladden's, which she had made in confidence, soon
after her engagement to Houston, was suddenly recalled to Lyle's mind;
"Whether he has money or not, I do not know or care, for I have enough
for both of us."

A curious smile flitted over her face for a moment, but she only said,
"You must be very wealthy!"

"I have enough," Houston responded, "to give to Miss Gladden the home
of which she is worthy, but which she has never known; and," he added,
"there is one thing, my dear Lyle, upon which we are both agreed;
that our home, wherever it shall be, shall be your home also, as our
sister."

For a moment, Lyle's lips quivered, and she was unable to speak. At
that instant, Haight entered the breakfast room, darting at them a
look of curiosity and suspicion, as they stood together in the
door-way. Houston was pleased to see Lyle's perfect self-control.
Without stirring in the least from her place by his side, she asked,
in the most matter-of-fact tone, whether Mr. Van Dorn would be likely
to arrive from the Y in season for dinner, and what room it would be
best to prepare for him.

"You had better let him share my room, in case he has no objections,"
Houston answered indifferently, "for you like to keep your rooms in
readiness for guests as much as possible, and Rutherford, when he
returns, will probably room with his brother."



CHAPTER XXX.


As Houston was hurrying up from the mines at about eleven o'clock, on
his way to the office, he met Morgan, just started on his rounds, and
was shocked at the change which a few hours had made in his
appearance. His heavy gait, his pale, haggard face and bloodshot eyes,
told, not only of late hours and terrible dissipation, but of some
severe mental strain, also. Morgan half smiled, as he saw Houston's
look of pained surprise.

"Yes," he said, "I know I look pretty hard this morning, but I was up
late; I guess I'll be all right in a day or two. What's this Haight's
been telling me about one of those fellows coming out here with some
mining machinery? Which one is it, that English dude?"

"No," answered Houston, "Van Dorn, the one with glasses, he was the
inventor, you remember."

"Well, if he's invented anything that will make old Rivers hand out
any cash, he'd better get a patent on it, that's all I've got to say.
How in thunder the old man ever gave his consent to his coming out
here, monkey-fooling around with his machines, is more'n I can make
out; but if the company want him up here, I'm sure I don't care a
damn. The boss himself isn't coming up, is he?"

"Not for a day or two," replied Houston.

"Well," said Morgan, with one of his characteristic shrugs, "I guess
I'll have to spruce up a bit, before he comes."

"That is so, Morgan," said Houston, kindly, "I wouldn't want Mr.
Blaisdell to see you as you look this morning; I'm too much a friend
of yours myself for that."

"Oh well, I'll be all right before he gets here. Who's going down to
meet that fellow and his contraptions?"

"I sent Hayes down with two or three men, and a six-horse team, early
this morning."

"Good for you!" laughed Morgan, starting on his way, "You'd make a
first-rate boss 'round here; guess I'll have to give you a raise."

Houston walked slowly down the road after Morgan left him, having
apparently forgotten his haste. The story which Morgan had told him a
few nights before, of his own life, had awakened his pity for the man
as nothing else could have done. He felt that Morgan was in serious
trouble, and in danger of losing his position, and that he was already
where it would take very little to drive him to complete ruin. He
resolved to seize the first opportunity that presented itself, to try
to ascertain the cause of his trouble, and to assist him in any way
that he possibly could.

On reaching the office, he found considerable work awaiting him, and
for a while, all other thoughts were banished from his mind. About
noon, a heavy rumbling and rattling attracted his attention, and,
going to the door, he saw the slowly approaching team, winding from
side to side of the steep, canyon road, the powerful horses straining
and panting under the heavy load. Perched on the top of the load,
under a wide-spread umbrella, and fanning himself with his straw hat,
was Van Dorn, his face irradiated by a broad smile as he caught sight
of Houston. Two of the men walked beside the team, blocking the
wheels with rocks, as the horses were occasionally stopped to rest. As
they came within speaking distance, Van Dorn sang out merrily:

"I say, Houston, this is what I call up-hill work; it has been a
pretty hard pull all the way."

"Yes," said Houston, "particularly hard on you, judging by appearances."

Van Dorn laughed, and proceeded to close his umbrella, while an
expansive grin broke over the face of one of the workmen, trudging
along the hot, dusty road. At the brow of the hill, the team again
stopped to rest, and Van Dorn descended from his lofty position,
Houston meanwhile giving instructions to the driver:

"Drive over to the stables, Hayes, and take the horses off and let
them rest; after dinner, put on another set of horses, and drive to
the mills; we will be there to see to the unloading."

"Well, Everard, old boy, how are you?" exclaimed Van Dorn, as they
started for the office; "I started within five hours after I received
your telegram, and here I am, at your service."

"When did you reach Silver City? yesterday?" inquired Houston.

"Yesterday!" exclaimed Van Dorn, "my dear boy, do you think the world
was made in one day? No, sir; I got in the day before, and spent the
remainder of that day, and all of yesterday in cultivating the good
graces of your company. I went straight for their offices, and it took
all the arguments and persuasion I could muster, with some treating,
and a good deal of judicious flattery thrown in, before I could get
the old fellows to consent to my giving the machine a trial. I got
around Blaisdell pretty easy after I had flattered him a little, but
that Rivers is a beast! Said he didn't see why I was so anxious to
have them test the machine, and all that! I explained, of course, that
this was the first I had ever brought it out into the west, and they
were so well known that if I could only get their endorsement, and so
on and so forth. Oh, I want to tell you all about it later, and if you
don't acknowledge that I'm a born diplomat, I'll give up; but at
present, my first business must be to allay these pangs of hunger,
they are becoming unendurable."

"Certainly, we will go to the house at once," said Houston, preparing
to close the office.

"Wait a minute!" said Van Dorn, diving furiously into his pockets; "I
attended to that little business that you wrote me about, just
according to directions, and I want you to see if it is perfectly
satisfactory before we go any further, and then I'll have it off my
mind; why, confound it! where is that thing anyway?" he exclaimed,
turning a half dozen pockets inside out, and emptying a heterogeneous
collection upon the desk before him. "Oh, here it is! I knew I had it
safe somewhere; there now, Everard, I took as much pains as if it had
been for myself, it was one of the finest stones I could find; I think
it is a beauty, and I hope you will like it."

He handed a small case to Houston, partially open, from whose depths
of white velvet a superb diamond ring flashed forth its wondrous rays,
seeming almost to brighten the dingy little room in which they were
standing.

"It is indeed a beauty," said Houston, "perfect! I could not have made
a better selection myself. I knew I could trust to your good judgment,
Arthur, and I am exceedingly obliged; I'll do as much for you when you
are ready for a ring of this kind."

"All right, I'm glad if you like it. I believe I sent my congratulations
by letter, but I'll renew them now. I only hope the lady herself will
be pleased with the selection."

On their way to the house, Van Dorn said: "Ned Rutherford has gone to
the coast to meet his brother, I suppose."

"Yes; you probably know he and Morton are intending to stop here on
their return?"

"Yes; Mort, as soon as he found you were here, and especially after I
gave him an inkling of what was going on, said he should certainly
stop as he came back. You ought to have seen him though, when I told
him you were out here! Good gracious! he was simply thunderstruck! He
said Ned had been writing all along about a Houston, from Chicago,
that he had met on the train, and that he was a fine fellow, and all
that; but of course he never dreamed it was you."

The remainder of the day passed very swiftly, for there was much to be
done. After dinner, Houston and Van Dorn went down to the mills and
superintended the unloading and unpacking of the machinery; then, as
it was too late in the day to begin preparations for its erection,
Houston visited the mines, Van Dorn accompanying him only a little way
into the main shaft. As they came out together, half an hour later,
and started for the office, Van Dorn drew a small piece of ore from
his pocket, saying:

"I've discovered now where that fine ore on the dump of the famous
Sunrise lode came from."

"Yes," said Houston, "and you will make other discoveries, shortly."

At the office there was much to be said on both sides; Van Dorn giving
his friend messages and directions from Mr. Cameron, and giving also
the particulars of his interview with the company, and how he had
finally obtained their consent for the erection of the machinery at
their mills.

Houston, on his part, related what he had been doing in the few weeks
intervening since Van Dorn's former visit, and explained his new
position as assistant superintendent of the group of mines in which
they were most interested.

Van Dorn whistled; "That's good!" he exclaimed, "I wondered how it was
that you were going in and out among the mines in that way, I thought
that was something new. Have you found any one whom we can trust to
help us?"

In reply, Houston told his friend of Jack, of his experience and skill
as a miner, and of his offer to help them.

Van Dorn was greatly interested, and before they were aware, the
afternoon had passed, and it was time to close the office and return
to the house.

At the supper table that evening, the diamond ring appeared, flashing
on the white, shapely hand of Leslie Gladden, and she herself looked
radiantly beautiful.

After the meal was over, Morgan, who was still pale and haggard, and
had been very silent at the table, pulled his hat down over his eyes,
and started down the road.

"Morgan," called Houston, "where are you going?"

"I dun'no," he answered moodily, "down to the Y, I guess, by and by."

"Well, hold on a minute, I will walk down with you a ways; I want to
see you."

"All right," responded Morgan, walking on very slowly.

Houston hastily excused himself to Miss Gladden and Van Dorn, and
hurrying after Morgan, soon overtook him. For some time, Houston
talked with him regarding the work for the next day, and the men who
could best be detailed to help Van Dorn. They had reached the same
spot where they had stopped to talk a few nights before, and, as then,
were seated on the rocks. At last, the business arrangements were all
completed, and Morgan made a move as if to start, and then Houston's
real errand in overtaking him became apparent.

"Morgan, you are not fit to be out to-night, you must have rest, you
will break down living this way."

"Yes," said Morgan, raising his hollow, heavy eyes to Houston's face,
"I'm about done up, that's a fact."

"I wouldn't go to the Y to-night, if I were you; come back to the
house and get a good night's rest, it will make a different man of
you."

Morgan looked undecided for a moment; "'Twouldn't be no use going up
there now," he answered gloomily, "I couldn't rest if I tried. I
haven't slept scarcely any for three nights; but I ain't going to stay
out late to-night as I've been doing; I shan't play after midnight.
I'm going to have two or three games just to see what luck I'll have,
and if I don't have luck, why, that ends it, I ain't going to play all
night."

"Morgan," said Houston earnestly, "you spoke the other night about
money; now, as I told you then, if you need any money, I'm your
friend, and I'll gladly accommodate you with whatever you need."

For the first time in all their acquaintance, Morgan's careless,
indifferent manner changed, and for a few moments he seemed touched.

"Yes, I believe you," he said, after a pause, "I believe you're more
of a friend to me than anybody else. Blaisdell would kick me out
quicker'n it takes to say so, if he knew just how I stand to-night.
Even Haight's got the big-head and puts on his airs since he's seen
I'm down; you're the only one that's showed me any kindness."

"Now, Morgan, just say what money you need, and you shall have it; I
want to help you out of this," said Houston.

"No," said Morgan, decidedly, "if I am a gambler, and all that, I
ain't going to take the wages from a fellow that works for less than I
do, to help me out of trouble. The Lord knows you've earnt your money,
for you've worked faithful."

"Never mind about that, Morgan," said Houston, hastily, "I'm not
wholly dependent on my salary; I had a good little sum of money laid
by before I came out here; there is plenty, I will not miss it, and
you are welcome to it."

"Much obliged to you, Houston, but I can't take it,--not now, at any
rate,--maybe I'll call on you for it to-morrow, if I don't have luck
to-night."

"You are welcome to it whenever you want it," said Houston cordially,
his hand on Morgan's shoulder; "I only wish you were not going to the
Y to-night."

"Well," said Morgan, as he rose slowly, "don't think I don't
appreciate your kindness, for I do. You've heard me say that I didn't
believe in honor in anybody; I guess I'll have to take that back, for
if there is such a thing as honor, you've got it. I don't know how it
is," he said, with a heavy sigh, then added slowly, "I guess you've
been raised different somehow, from most of us out here. The Lord
knows how I was raised."

He started a few steps down the road, hesitated, and came back.

"Houston, there's one thing I want to say to you, for you've been good
to me, that's this; look out for Haight; he's no friend of yours, and
I guess you're sharp enough to know it, but maybe you don't know what
a sneaking, cowardly cur he is; look out for him!"

"Thank you, Morgan, I will."

"He ain't like me," he continued, "if I don't like anybody I let 'em
know it, and fight 'em fair and square; you can tell that by the way I
bucked up against you, when you first came here," and he smiled at the
recollection, the first time he had smiled in the whole conversation.

"Morgan," said Houston, "I've been sorry for that a good many times
since; if I had known about you then what you have since told me, I
never would have been so severe in my judgment of you."

"Oh, that was all right," he answered, "it did me good; I didn't like
you very well at first, but I've always had a liking for you ever
since. Well, so long!" and with a faint smile, Morgan went on his
way.

Houston stood watching him for a few moments, then turned back in the
direction of the house, little thinking how, or where, they would meet
again.



CHAPTER XXXI.


The next morning dawned fair and cloudless, giving promise of one of
those royal days, so frequent in the almost perfect climate of the
higher altitudes.

Long before noon the heat would be intense, but in the early morning
there was wafted down from the mountain side, where the pines were
nodding and whispering so mysteriously, a cool, exhilarating breeze,
which kissed the surface of the azure lake, sleeping so peacefully,
and, awakening immediately into smiles, it lay rippling and dimpling
with laughter in the sunlight.

The vines, transplanted by Miss Gladden and Lyle, under their
fostering care, had transformed the little porch into a bower of
beauty. Here stood Van Dorn, his fair, almost feminine face flushed
with pleasure, and his blue eyes sparkling, as the light breeze played
with the auburn curls clustering about his forehead, and he looked
forth on the beauty of the scene.

"Ah--h!" he exclaimed, drawing a long breath, "isn't this refreshing
after the stifling heat and dust of the journey out here? Isn't it
glorious?"

"It is," responded Houston, "this is one of the mornings when it is a
joy just simply to live and breathe."

Houston was fired with new ambition that morning; he would no longer
have to work alone, keeping his anxieties and doubts, his plans and
discoveries alike to himself; from henceforth he would have
companionship, counsel and assistance, and he felt a new interest and
enthusiasm.

Immediately after breakfast, the two set forth upon their first day's
work. Going first to the mills, Houston secured the services of two or
three men who could be spared from the ordinary work, to assist Van
Dorn in making preparations for the erection of the machinery; then he
left for his early visit to the mines.

It was nearly ten o'clock when, having finished his round of duties at
the mines, and coming up to the surface from the cool, underground
workings, he found the heat almost unendurable, and strolled over to
the mills, to see how Van Dorn was progressing. The latter did not
seem averse to stopping for a few moments, and for a while, the two
chatted and laughed with the old, careless abandon of their college
days, without a thought of the more serious side of life, until,
something being needed for the work, which Houston thought was in the
tool-house, they proceeded together to look for it.

Houston was still searching for the needed implements, when Van Dorn,
who was near the door, called out:

"I say, Everard, here's a small specimen of humanity who seems to be
looking for you in a desperate hurry," and an instant later, he heard
a familiar voice say:

"Is the boss in there, mister? Le'me in quick, I wan'ter see 'im!"

Turning quickly, he saw Bull-dog, breathless, pale and quivering with
excitement.

"Say, boss," he gasped, before Houston could speak, "they want
yer--down ter the Y,--Morgan has shot hisself!"

"What is that, boy?" exclaimed Houston hoarsely, clearing the space
between them at a bound.

"Morgan's shot hisself, 'n they sent us fer yer,--me'n Hank,--he's out
there," with a backward jerk of his thumb over his shoulder toward the
open door.

Houston sprang to the door; another boy was talking excitedly with Van
Dorn, while his horse stood, panting heavily and covered with dust and
foam.

"Here's the man you want," said Van Dorn, turning a white face toward
Houston, "Great God, Everard!" he exclaimed, "Morgan has killed
himself!"

"He is not dead!" exclaimed Houston, turning towards the boy.

The latter nodded; "They found 'im shot through the head, 'n this was
in his hand, 'n the cops won't let nobody in till you come," and he
handed Houston a bit of paper.

It was a scrap of newspaper, crumpled and spattered with blood, and,
as Houston smoothed it out, he read on the margin, in characters
wavering and almost illegible, written with a trembling hand, but
still Morgan's writing, "Send to the camp for Houston, he's the only
friend I've got."

For an instant, it seemed to Houston as though the glorious sunlight
had suddenly turned to blackness, a blackness in which the scrap of
paper gleamed white before him, its red spots glowing like spots of
flame. He seemed again to see Morgan as he looked when parting from
him the previous evening; the haggard face, with its hollow eyes and
faint, pathetic smile, and as he recalled his words in reply to his
own repeated offers of money, there seemed a new meaning in them;
"Maybe I'll call on you for it to-morrow if I don't have luck
to-night."

But Houston realized there was no time to waste, and in a few moments
he was mounted on a powerful gray horse, on his way to the Y,
notwithstanding Van Dorn's protests on account of the intense heat,
having requested the latter to explain his absence at the house. Just
as he was about to start, Bull-dog begged to be allowed to ride with
him, to which Houston consented, and lifting the little fellow up,
seated him in front of himself. Very little was said, for the horse
seemed to understand what was expected of him, and sped like the wind
down the narrow canyon road, but Houston's hand rested kindly on
Bull-dog's shoulder, steadying the slender frame, and, at the same
time, warming the heart of the forlorn little waif, to whom even the
touch of kindness was something exceedingly rare.

Houston's mind was occupied with thoughts of the terrible scene he was
rapidly approaching, as well as with memories of his last interview
with Morgan on the preceding night. At last, having crossed a ravine,
the horse slackened his pace, as he climbed the steep ascent on the
other side, and Houston, almost unconsciously, spoke his thoughts
aloud.

"Poor Morgan!" he said, with a heavy sigh, "poor fellow! If I could
only have saved him from this! God knows I would have given him any
amount of money to have prevented this."

"'Twouldn't ha' been no use, sir," Bull-dog broke in quickly, eager to
console Houston, "'twouldn't ha' been no use to have give 'im money,
'cause, ye see, them fellers that he played with would ha' got it
all."

"Who were they?" inquired Houston.

"Oh, there was Faro Dick and Slicky Sam, and a lot of 'em; Morgan
wasn't no match for fellers like them, they was all too swift fer
him."

"How do you know?"

"Oh, I seen 'em playin' lots o' times, and they're all reg'lar
sharpers, 'n Morgan, he'd got reckless, 'n he didn't stan' no show
against 'em."

Houston looked down wonderingly and pityingly upon the little fellow,
young in years, but who knew so much of the dark side of life, but
nothing more was said, as, having reached the top of the hill, the
station was close at hand.

Having left his horse in charge of one of the company's men, Houston,
accompanied by Bull-dog as guide, proceeded across the street, to the
group of dirty, disreputable-looking buildings containing the saloons,
gambling houses and dance halls. He had little need of a guide, for,
before the shabbiest and most disreputable of the entire lot, was
gathered a motley crowd, gazing with awestruck curiosity at the
building in which had been enacted the tragedy of the night before. It
was a saloon with gambling rooms in the rear. Here Morgan had played
his last game,--just to see what luck he would have,--as he had said
to Houston, and from which he had come forth ruined, despairing,
desperate.

Passing through the crowd of jabbering Chinamen and "dagoes," of
miners off shift, drawn hither by curiosity, and of gamblers of all
grades from the professional expert to the "tin-horn," Houston found
his way around the corner of the building, down into an alley, dark,
dismal and reeking with filth. Here were groups of slatternly, unkempt
women, some of whom stared at him with brazen faces, while others
slunk away, not quite lost to shame.

At last they came to a rickety stair-way, and as they neared the top,
Bull-dog whispered:

"There's some of 'em now; that tall feller is Faro Dick, he deals down
stairs, and the little, black feller is Slicky, and that short, fat
one, that's Brocky Joe."

The group gathered about the door-way at the head of the stairs eyed
Houston curiously as he approached. He gave them only a quick, keen
glance, but in that glance he had detected the trio named by Bull-dog,
and they cowered visibly beneath the scorn and contempt which flashed
from his eye, while the entire group of loungers made way, impelled
partly by an unconscious respect for the broad, powerful shoulders,
and splendid, athletic frame.

Down a dark, narrow hall, Bull-dog led the way to a door guarded by
two men, who touched their caps respectfully to Houston. They were two
of the mining company's watchmen, who were kept at the station to
guard their property, and to preserve order generally, and hence were
designated by the gamins of the place as police and "cops."

Silently they unlocked and opened the door for Houston, and one of
them entered with him. It was a small room, evidently a woman's, and
its general squalor and dilapidation were made more apparent by
tawdry, shabby bits of finery strewn here and there. Curtains of red
damask, faded and ragged, hung at the window, excluding the daylight,
and on a small table a kerosene lamp had burned itself out. But
Houston took little notice of the room; as his eyes became accustomed
to the dim light, he saw but one object.

Across the bed in one corner of the room, lay Morgan, his left arm
thrown out across the pillows, the other dropped at his side, and a
revolver clenched in his right hand. His head was turned slightly to
one side, exposing the ghastly wound near the temple, his face was
blackened and mutilated, but still bore traces of the terrible strain
of those last few hours of life.

Houston stepped back, even his firm nerves quivering, and his heart
throbbing with a great sorrow for the life so suddenly quenched in the
darkness of despair.

On a chair were Morgan's hat and coat, where he had thrown them, and
as Houston turned toward the little table, he saw there a newspaper
from which a scrap had been torn. Taking the bit of paper, containing
Morgan's last message, from his pocket, he compared them; it fitted
exactly, and beside the paper lay a bit of pencil with which those
last words had been written, and to Houston, with his keen perception
and vivid imagination, the whole scene of the previous night with its
minute and pathetic details, seemed passing before his vision. He
turned to the watchman:

"Open the window," he said, and his voice sounded strange even to
himself, "draw back those curtains, this place is stifling."

Upon inquiry, Houston found the watchman could give him very little
information. In passing down the alley at about eight o'clock that
morning, his attention had been arrested by screams issuing from the
building. On rushing up-stairs, he saw a crowd gathering about the
door of this room, and, on entering, was shocked at the sight
revealed. Mollie, the girl who usually occupied the room, was
screaming hysterically, but when able to talk explained that she had
been out all night and had but just returned. Morgan was in the habit
of coming to the room, and had a key, but he had not been there of
late, having gambled every night till daylight.

Her screams had attracted nearly the whole neighborhood, some of whom
corroborated her statements, and one or two testified to having heard
a shot sometime about midnight, but nothing had been thought of it, as
it was supposed to be some row in the gambling rooms below. The
watchman had ordered the crowd out of the room, and sent the messenger
for Houston, and also a telegram to Silver City for the coroner, who
was expected on the noon train.

As it was nearly noon, Houston decided to step over to the depot,
leaving the room in charge of the watchman. On his way, he heard
various comments from groups gathered here and there. Passing a
half-dozen miners, he heard one of them say:

"If he'd 'a been a union man, we'd 'a taken care of 'im, but he worked
for the bosses, and helped 'em to make big money, and now, let the
bosses take care of 'im and bury 'im."

A bitter smile crossed Houston's face, and stepping into the little
telegraph office, he sent a message, first, in his own name, to one of
the undertaking firms of Silver City, for everything that was needed
to be sent up by the special freight that afternoon; and then a brief
dispatch to Mr. Blaisdell, stating what had occurred, but that the
affairs of the company were all right, and there was no necessity for
his coming to the camp immediately.

A few moments later, the train arrived, bringing the coroner, and as
quickly as possible the inquest was held. Very few facts were
developed beyond those already learned by Houston, excepting the
extent of Morgan's losses. These included not only everything which he
had possessed, even to his watch and a few pieces of jewelry, but in
addition, a large sum of money advanced him by Brocky Joe. Those with
whom he was playing testified that he had quit shortly before
midnight, and left the hall rather hastily. At the time, they thought
he had gone to borrow more money, and perhaps try his luck at some
other place, but nothing more was seen of him, and they soon forgot
the occurrence.

When all was over and the crowd was slowly dispersing, Houston saw
several members of the gambling fraternity approaching him, headed by
the two designated by Bull-dog as Slicky Sam and Brocky Joe. The
latter, a stout, red-faced individual, with flaming necktie and
blazing diamonds, was evidently speaker for the entire party.

"We would like," he began, in a high-pitched, falsetto voice, "to
express our regrets for what has occurred, and I wish to state on
behalf of my associates here, and also personally, that there was no
ill feeling toward your friend, and I am perfectly willing to overlook
the small amount of indebtedness; and if there is anything we can do,
in the way of sharing the burial expenses, or anything of the kind, we
shall be glad to do so."

"Your assistance is not needed," replied Houston, in a cold, cutting
tone, "you have already done your work; you and your ilk have brought
him where he is, and that is enough," and he turned abruptly from
them.

As he re-entered the room, he met Mollie, who cast an appealing glance
at him. She could not have been over twenty years of age, but she
looked worn and haggard. Her hair was disheveled, large, dark rings
encircled her heavy, lusterless eyes, now swollen with weeping, and
there was a look of helpless and hopeless despair in her glance that
aroused Houston's pity. It was a new experience for him to be brought
into contact with these wrecked and ruined lives, and sorrow for the
one life which had gone out so suddenly and needlessly, made him
pitiful toward all.

A look of pity, a word of pure, disinterested kindness, was something
new in the life of the poor creature before him, and she began sobbing
afresh:

"He's gone," she moaned, "and I don't want to live no longer."

"Did you care so much for him?" asked Houston, wonderingly.

"Yes," she sobbed, "I never cared for nobody but him. I thought once
he cared for me, but after a while I found he didn't, and then I went
to the bad as fast as I could, but still I cared for him. I never was
very good, for I never had no chance to be, but I'd 'a been different
from what I am, if he'd only 'a cared for me."

Houston went back into the wretched room, and looked long and sadly at
the one who, in his last moments of despair, had called him his
friend. He recalled the story told him that night among the rocks; he
thought of the life ruined by a mother's neglect and sin, and now of
another life shut out in hopeless misery because of his indifference
and neglect, and Houston realized at that moment, as never before, the
influences, for good or for evil, extending from one human life to
another, spreading onward and onward,

                 "As wave follows wave across the sea,"

till the widening circles at last touch the shores of eternity.

An hour or two later, when Houston stepped over to the depot to meet
the incoming special freight, he was somewhat surprised to see Mr.
Blaisdell step from the train, and in his white face, his firmly set
mouth with its hard lines, and his pale blue eyes, it could readily be
seen that he knew nothing of pity or mercy for the man who had served
him so faithfully.

"I did not expect you so early, Mr. Blaisdell," said Houston, as they
exchanged greetings, "I thought after receiving my dispatch you would
feel no anxiety, and would probably not come out till the evening
train."

"Your telegram was a great relief," Mr. Blaisdell answered in an
excited tone, "but I was all ready to come, as, from the tenor of
Haight's message this morning, I feared the worst. You are sure the
affairs of the company are all right?"

"Perfectly sure," replied Houston, calmly, "so far as money is
concerned, poor Morgan has wronged no one but himself."

"Well," said Mr. Blaisdell, with a sigh of relief, "I am glad to hear
that, but this is an outrageous affair,--simply outrageous,--a man in
his responsible position, trusted as he has been, coming to such an
end as this, under such circumstances and amid such surroundings! It
is a disgrace to himself, and to those associated with him in
business,--to the entire company!"

The thought flashed through Houston's mind that a deeper disgrace than
this awaited the company, but he only replied:

"I had not looked at it in that light, Mr. Blaisdell; I, as one of his
associates, certainly feel no disgrace attached to myself. I had
thought only of the terrible pity for a life so needlessly ruined and
lost."

"Pity!" said Mr. Blaisdell, contemptuously, "If a man willfully
degrades himself and disgraces his friends, I have no pity for him, he
deserves none for such dishonorable, dishonest conduct."

"His dishonesty, as you term it, must have been of rather an unusual
type," said Houston, "since I offered him money only last night, and
he refused to take it."

"So you knew of his habits and offered him money? It was your duty to
have reported him to me."

"I do not need you, Mr. Blaisdell, or any one else, to tell me what my
duty is here," replied Houston, with dignity, "I did not know until
recently to what extent Morgan was gambling, and when a man is in
trouble, I will never give him a push downward."

One of the workmen just then came to Houston for instructions
regarding the shipment which he had ordered from Silver City, thus
attracting Mr. Blaisdell's attention in that direction.

"What is this, Houston?" he exclaimed angrily, "what does this mean?
You certainly had no right, no authority to order these things; the
company will not pay one cent toward the burial of a man who has
proven himself so unworthy of the confidence reposed in him."

"Mr. Blaisdell," said Houston, calmly, but in a tone his employer had
never heard before, "there is not the least necessity for the company
to pay one cent, or for you to feel any concern in this matter. I have
ordered these things myself, personally, upon my own responsibility."

For the first time Mr. Blaisdell had found an employe who evidently
did not stand in fear of him, and surprise held him silent for a
moment.

"Very well," he answered, in an altered tone, "but I must say I can
see no reason for such a quixotic proceeding on your part; I never
supposed you and Morgan were particular friends."

"Here is my reason," Houston replied, handing him the bit of paper
bearing Morgan's last words; "When a despairing man, in his last
moments, appeals to me as his friend, and his only friend, even though
that man were my worst enemy, I would feel in duty bound to do for him
everything that a friend could do."

Mr. Blaisdell returned the slip, and there was a new respect indicated
in tone and manner, as he replied:

"I don't know but you are right, do as you think best. I am going up
to the camp, you can come whenever you are ready."

"I shall be there in a few hours," said Houston, and they separated.

A little later, everything that he could do had been done, and as
Houston looked for the last time upon the pale face, where the angel
of death was already smoothing out the lines traced by the last few
days of suffering, and softening the features into a look of
contentment and peace, he was glad that in the last moments of that
life, there had come faith, even in one human being.

Early the next morning, a little group was gathered in a beautiful,
secluded spot, on the mountain side, overlooking the station. Houston
and Van Dorn were there, and a clergyman from a little parish in a
small town a few miles distant, to whom the sad story had been told,
read the simple but impressive words of the burial service and offered
a brief prayer. And, as the weary body was lowered to its final
resting place, at the foot of the murmuring pines, there came to the
minds of Houston and Van Dorn the memory of the burial of a class-mate
in the old college days, and simultaneously their voices rose on the
clear, morning air, blending in the words chanted on that former
occasion:----

             "Rest, brother, rest in thy last, long sleep."

Slowly the little company dispersed, each going his own way. Upon
Houston's mind the events of those last twenty-four hours had left an
impression never to be effaced, but to most in that community one
human life, more or less, was of slight significance. To them, life
was but one great game, in which fortune, reputation, character,
everything which they possessed, whether much or little, was staked on
the high card. No wonder that little thought was given to the losers,
dropping out, one by one!



CHAPTER XXXII.


The following days were crowded with work for Houston. A bookkeeper
was immediately sent over from Silver City to do the office work, but,
excepting Houston, the company had no man, both competent and who
could be trusted, to fill Morgan's position. It was therefore arranged
that for the next few weeks, until they could ascertain the address of
a former superintendent, who had recently returned east, and
communicate with him, Houston was to superintend the working of all
the mines.

This involved much additional work and responsibility, but Houston
filled the position so satisfactorily and showed such business tact
and executive ability, that Mr. Blaisdell, on his return to Silver
City, had fully determined to retain him permanently as superintendent
at the mines, and, if possible, secure Barden, their former man, as an
assistant.

"I tell you, Rivers, that Houston is a capable man, wonderfully
capable," he said, having related to the remaining officers of the
company Houston's success in filling Morgan's position.

"It seems to me, Blaisdell," said Mr. Brunnell, the benevolent looking
old gentleman whom Houston had seen on his first visit to the offices,
and one of the board of directors, "it seems to me you had better look
out for him yourself; that young man is rising so fast, he's likely to
oust you yet."

"Well, no, I guess not," replied Mr. Blaisdell confidently, with his
complacent smile, "I don't think you fellows could get along without
me, just yet. I don't know what we would do with him, though, in case
of any disagreement, he's as independent as though he were a
millionaire instead of a salaried clerk; he would never care a rap for
anything we might say, he would take his own way every time," and Mr.
Blaisdell gave an account of his interview with Houston at the Y.

"Humph!" sniffed Mr. Rivers contemptuously, "You'd better let me
manage that fellow, Blaisdell, he'll run away with you."

"He'll run away with those mines up there, Blaisdell," chuckled Mr.
Brunnell, peering over his glasses at the general manager, who was
strutting pompously about the office.

"Well, you fellows may joke as much as you please," said Mr.
Blaisdell, a little testily, "I tell you the man is smart."

"Confound it! I know he's smart; I tell you he's too damned smart for
you!" responded Mr. Rivers, who had very little respect for Mr.
Blaisdell's business ability, but found him a very convenient
cat's-paw.

As early as possible after the completion of the new arrangements at
the mines, Houston and Van Dorn, in accordance with a previous
engagement, visited Jack at his cabin. The hour was late, and as they
entered the room already familiar to Houston, a lamp was burning
brightly, but a heavy screen hung over it, concentrating the light
upon the table beneath, on which lay various drawings and tracings,
and allowing only a dim light to pervade the room.

Houston introduced Van Dorn, whom Jack greeted with characteristic
courtesy, though with something of his old reserve, and having seated
his guests, he at once proceeded to the discussion of the business
which had brought them together.

In reply to an inquiry of his regarding the present situation of
affairs, Houston informed him of the arrangement just completed by
which he was to have entire charge of the work at the mines for the
next few weeks, until the coming of Mr. Barden.

"Your present position is much more favorable for your work," replied
Jack, "it is exceedingly doubtful whether the company will have any
use for the services of Mr. Barden."

Houston then stated briefly what had been done since Van Dorn's
arrival, adding in conclusion, "Of course, we would have accomplished
more within this time, had it not been for the confusion and changes
resulting from Morgan's sudden death."

"Yes," said Jack, "that has hindered you temporarily, but it will
result to your advantage. All that I regretted was that an examination
which I hoped you and Mr. Van Dorn might be able to make last week,
immediately upon his arrival, will now have to be postponed until next
week, but even that is better as it is."

"How is that?" inquired Houston, with much interest, "to what do you
refer?"

"I refer to the Lucky Chance mine; are you familiar with that
property?"

"Not especially," said Houston, "I have paid no attention to it, as it
was not one in which our company was interested, nor one of which I
was in charge. Since the recent change, I have visited the mine once
with Mr. Blaisdell, but we only went in a short distance, and he
informed me there was but little work done there, and but few men
employed."

"Yes," replied Jack, with peculiar emphasis, "but that 'little work'
as he terms it yields the company a larger percentage than any other
single mine which they own."

Houston's face expressed considerable astonishment. "You surprise me,"
he exclaimed, "because I thought I knew their best paying properties,
and I never would have supposed that was one of them, either from my
own observation, or from anything I have heard of it."

"It would not be for the interests of the company to have much said
regarding the mine, or to have the workings investigated very closely.
You are probably aware that the claim adjoins the Yankee Boy?"

"Certainly," answered Houston, "I am aware of that fact."

"Very well," replied Jack, rising and going to the table. "I have
prepared some diagrams here which I would like you and Mr. Van Dorn to
examine. Here you will see," he continued, as they drew their chairs
near the table," the boundaries and underground workings of the Lucky
Chance mine, with their approximate measurements. Please look them
over and see if you detect any irregularities."

Both Houston and Van Dorn studied the diagram carefully for a moment,
when the latter exclaimed:

"Why, the main tunnel extends more than a hundred feet beyond the
boundary line."

"Now allow me to substitute this diagram," said Jack, spreading a
larger tracing before them. "This is the same as the other with the
addition of a portion of the boundary lines and underground workings
of the adjoining claim, the Yankee Boy."

"Ah, I see," said Houston, "the tunnel from the Lucky Chance has been
carried beyond the boundary line in such a direction as to strike the
vein of the adjoining claim."

"That is it exactly," said Van Dorn, "no wonder the mine pays well!"

"As I stated before," continued Jack, "these measurements, and, to a
certain extent, the course of the tunnel, are given approximately, as
I had no means of ascertaining the exact data, but I know they are
essentially correct. It only remains for you, gentlemen, to verify
this, by making an examination of the tunnel and taking the courses
and measurements exactly, and also by comparing the ore now taken out
with that originally found in the mine, and with the ore of the Yankee
Boy, and you will then have evidence of the greatest fraud which has
been perpetrated upon the rightful owners of the Yankee Boy, and which
has been carried on for the last four or five years."

"But how did you discover this?" asked Houston.

"I first came here," replied Jack, "shortly after the sale of the
Yankee Boy group of properties had been consummated. Within a few
months afterward, the company located the Lucky Chance mine;
development work was carried forward as rapidly as possible, quite a
number of men being employed, of which I was one. It was evident that
in locating this mine, the company hoped they had struck an extension
of the vein of the Yankee Boy lode; it proved of an entirely different
character, however, yielding rather a low-grade ore. The claim was
surveyed and patented as soon as the necessary amount of improvements,
required by law, had been placed upon it. After obtaining patent, the
company then extended the tunnel in an entirely different direction,
and, as you will find upon investigation, beyond the boundary line,
until it intersected a portion of the Yankee Boy vein. Here a body of
very rich ore was struck, and the mine has been a paying property ever
since. For this last work very few men were retained, and but few have
been employed there since, those few being men whom the company
thought could be trusted, or upon whom they had some hold by which
they could compel them to silence. I was employed there until very
recently, and from the first had a thorough understanding of the
course and extent of the different workings, and consequently am
perfectly familiar with them."

"Everard," said Van Dorn, for whom work of this kind possessed a
special attraction, "I think this is just about the kind of an
expedition we will like."

"I think so myself," Houston replied, "but at the same time, it is the
most risky piece of work we have yet undertaken, and we will have to
depend upon our friend here for suggestions and advice. You will of
course accompany us?" he added, turning to Jack, who had withdrawn
from the table and was sitting in the dim light.

"Certainly," responded Jack, "it would be a very dangerous undertaking
for two strangers to go through that part of the mine without a guide
at any time, especially at night, and it will be at best, a hazardous
piece of work."

"How many are employed there? and what class of men are they?"
inquired Houston.

"About a dozen on the night shift," Jack replied, "mostly Cornishmen,
but whatever their nationality, it is usually the most treacherous
and brutal men that we have that are employed by the company in that
mine. Maverick used to work there until he was transferred above
ground. It will not be necessary for us to come in contact with
very many of them, however, as they are so widely scattered through
the mine, and on the night shift next week, there will be four
men,--a father and three sons,--who will do just about whatever I
say, especially if a little money is given them. Mr. Houston's new
position as superintendent, will aid us very materially. A visit from
him, with me as guide, will not excite suspicion, but Mr. Van Dorn
will be suspected in a moment, and we must disguise him."

Van Dorn whistled softly.

"Could you assume the Irish dialect, on an occasion like this, Mr. Van
Dorn?" Jack inquired.

"An' shure," exclaimed Van Dorn, with the broadest accent imaginable,
"an' will yez be afther tellin' me, be-dad! why I should not shpake me
own mither tongue?"

Both Houston and Jack laughed at Van Dorn's ready answer.

"You will do," Jack said quietly, but in a tone so rich and musical as
to chain the attention of his guests while he proceeded to plan the
details of their visit to the mine.

In an hour or two, the modus operandi had been fully decided upon, and
nothing remained but to fix the night for their expedition, and this
it was thought best to leave to be determined by circumstances the
following week. The instruments needed for taking measurements were to
be taken down beforehand by Houston, and concealed in a safe place
near the mine, and on the night of the examination, he was to go from
the house directly to the mine, where he would be joined by Jack and
Van Dorn, the latter dressed in a suit of Mike's mining clothes, and
personating him as closely as possible.

All arrangements being now as nearly complete as possible, Houston and
Van Dorn bade their host a cordial good night, and walked cheerfully
homeward, in the cool, night air, under the star-lit sky, all
unconscious of a pair of eyes, which from behind a large rock, had
eagerly watched for their appearance, and followed their every
movement.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


As Houston and Van Dorn disappeared around a turn in the road, the
figure of Haight emerged into the starlight from behind a large rock
where he had been concealed most of the time during their stay at the
cabin. Incidently he had seen them on their way to visit Jack, and the
lateness of the hour combined with the direction in which they were
going, aroused his curiosity to such a degree that he followed them at
a distance, and having seen them enter the cabin, his suspicious
nature was at once on the alert.

"I guess I'll find out what in the devil this means," he said to
himself, as he paused behind a rock at a little distance, determined
to ascertain what he could regarding their movements.

It was a long and wearisome watch; once or twice he ventured near the
cabin, to see whether by closer observation he could obtain any clue
to what might be going on within, but the closely shaded window gave
no sign, and beyond an occasional low murmuring of voices, nothing
disturbed the silence, except once a low, ominous growl from Rex, as
he caught sight of Haight's skulking figure from his station just
outside the door.

When at last the door opened, and Houston and Van Dorn stepped forth
into the calm night, the lynx-eyed watcher failed to detect anything
beyond a friendly leave-taking, after which the two walked homeward,
chatting in the most commonplace manner imaginable.

"By George!" he soliloquized, as he followed at a safe distance, "I
wonder if I haven't had my labor for my pains! But that did look
mighty queer anyhow, their going 'round to see the old chap, and I'll
wager there's something in it, too. I shouldn't wonder if that Van
Dorn is out here in the interest of that old party who was looking at
mines a while ago, and with Houston's help is going to get a few
pointers. Jack knows pretty well what is going on around here, and
may be a little money would make him talk. I'm going to keep watch of
some of these smart people, and I know of one or two that will help me
about it. If I can get hold of anything, I'll report it to Rivers;
Houston has pulled the wool over Blaisdell's eyes, but Rivers won't
have anybody monkeying round these mines, and if I can once put him on
the track, there'll be a few less of these swells about, and it will
be money in my pocket."

Late as it was when Houston and Van Dorn returned to the house, Miss
Gladden and Lyle had not retired. Houston had told Miss Gladden the
secret of his business there in the mining camp, and, true to Lyle's
prediction, he had found her, while quick to realize the dangers of
his position, yet able to assist him by her readiness to enter into
his feelings, her interest in his plans and her timely suggestions.
Once she had met Jack since learning Houston's secret, and in a few,
well-chosen words, had conveyed to him her knowledge of the fact that
he was giving her lover aid and protection in his work, and her
gratitude therefor.

She and Lyle were aware of the import of the visit to the cabin that
night, and they sat in the dusky shadows, looking out into the night,
alternately talking in low tones, and listening for the return of
Houston and his friend.

Miss Gladden was the first to catch the sound of her lover's voice, as
he and Van Dorn approached the house, and a moment later, they heard
the ringing laugh of the latter.

"They are evidently in good spirits," remarked Lyle, "their visit must
have been a satisfactory one."

"Mr. Van Dorn seems so jubilant they must have made some new
discoveries," said Miss Gladden, "he never seems so happy as when he
is ferreting out some fraud, or unearthing some dishonest scheme."

"There is material enough here to make his happiness complete for some
time," said Lyle rather bitterly, "I only wish every one of the guilty
parties could be brought to justice, but I doubt whether they ever
will be."

"Why?" exclaimed Miss Gladden in surprise, "do you think Mr. Houston
will fail after all?"

"No, not that necessarily," Lyle answered, "but even if he succeeds in
getting his evidence together, and his friends come out from the east,
I do not believe they will ever succeed in securing the ones who are
most guilty, who have planned and plotted the whole thing. Over and
over again, people whom they have wronged and defrauded have brought
suit against them, but to no purpose; they are continually involved in
litigation, but they always manage to evade the law in one way or
another, I do not claim to understand how."

"I would not think they could escape with all the evidence accumulating
against them now," said Miss Gladden thoughtfully.

"You wouldn't think so," replied Lyle, "but you don't know them. Who
is that?" she asked suddenly, catching sight in the dim light of a
figure approaching the house.

"It looks like Haight," said Miss Gladden, "but why is he creeping
along so cautiously?"

"I believe he has been following Mr. Houston," said Lyle, quickly,
"wait a minute, keep perfectly quiet, so he will think every one is
asleep up stairs," and in an instant, she was going swiftly and
noiselessly down the stairs. The door at the foot of the stairs was
partially open, and Lyle could hear Haight, as, after opening the
outside door very carefully, he stepped lightly toward the room
occupied by Houston and Van Dorn; here he paused and listened, but
evidently hearing nothing, he cautiously made his way across to the
room of Mr. and Mrs. Maverick, the door of which was ajar.

"Jim!" he whispered, "Jim, wake up!"

"Who's that? What d'ye want?" came the response in a surly tone.

"Sh! don't make any noise," he whispered, "it's Haight; get up and
come out on the porch, but be quiet about it; I want to have a talk
with you."

A muttered assent was given, and Haight tip-toed softly out to the
porch, and sat down.

Lyle crept up-stairs again to Miss Gladden.

"Don't be frightened," she said, "but I believe Haight must have seen
or heard something;" and she hastily told what she had overheard.

"Now," said she in conclusion, "the window on the porch is open, and
as soon as they are both outside, I will go there and listen. Even if
I cannot hear all that is said I will probably catch enough to learn
what is going on. You wait for me and keep perfectly quiet."

A few moments later, Maverick shuffled out on the porch and sat down
beside Haight with a growl.

"Damned pretty time, I sh'd think, to talk! What in hell do you
want?"

"Well, you were long enough getting out here," said Haight, in his
smoothest tones, all unaware of a figure that had glided to the open
window behind him, and now knelt within six feet of him. "Now quit
your growling, for you and I are good friends, Jim, and I want your
advice. Jim," he continued in a lower tone, "what would you think two
fellows like Houston and Van Dorn would want with that old chap,
Jack?"

"Huh?" said Maverick, rather stupidly, "what are ye drivin' at?"

"Wake up! you're half asleep, Jim! Your two dandy boarders here only
just came home about twenty minutes ago; they've been for the last
three or four hours down there in Jack's cabin, with the windows all
shut tight and curtains down, and still as death. What do you suppose
that means?"

"Damned if I know," was the laconic response.

"Now, Jim, don't be so uncommunicative; there may be something in this
for you and me if we just put our heads together, 'two heads are
better than one,' you know, so set your thinking machine to work and
grind out some ideas."

"Well," said Maverick, slowly, "I dun'no what that Houston, damn him,
would be runnin' 'round after Jack for, unless he wanted to get some
p'inters on the mines some way."

"That's it, go ahead!" said Haight.

"Houston," continued Maverick, with an oath and applying a vile
epithet, "is too all-fired smart to notice anybody, and Jack's
another, so they'd be likely to hitch."

"That's right," said Haight, "now what object would he be likely to
have in getting information from Jack?"

"I dun'no," said the other, "unless mebbe he's paid by somebody on the
outside."

"Well," said Haight, "I guess we've got about the same idea of it;
it's my opinion he is paid by somebody, and that somebody is Van Dorn,
or whoever's backing him. I don't put much stock in this machinery
business of his; he don't act like a fellow that needs to go peddling
machines about the country, and I notice he don't seem in any great
rush about putting it up, now he's got here; he ain't one of the kind
that has to rustle for a living, like you and me. I think he's just
out here getting pointers on the mines for that old fellow that was
here a while ago, and he's probably paying Houston a good, round sum
for helping him along, and now they've got Jack roped in on the
deal."

"Well," said Maverick savagely, "if that's their game, I guess 'twill
be dead easy stoppin' it any time we're a mind to; these 'ere mines is
awfully unsafe places for a tenderfoot to be prowlin' 'round in," and
he laughed a cruel laugh, very familiar to the listener at the
window.

"That's so," assented Haight, "I think we'd better keep close watch of
these fellows, and if they get too fresh, just have 'em laid out with
a sandbag or two."

"Better'n that," said Maverick, "to take 'em some time in the mines;
folks like them are likely to get dizzy and fall some times, or get in
the way of the ore buckets and be knocked silly."

"Well, I'll tell you what I want you to do; I'll keep watch, and if I
know of their going down to the cabin again, I want you to put some
men on to watch out for them; we'll investigate and find out what is
going on. Put on what men you please, and have them report to me, and
we'll find out what this means, and make our plans accordingly."

"That there's a damned ticklish place to get any of the men to go late
at night," said Maverick reflectively.

"Why so?"

"That place is harnted, ye know, by the man on the spotted horse."

"Oh, nonsense!" ejaculated Haight.

"It's a fact though; he rides up and down there once in a while, and I
wouldn't want ter see him myself."

"Oh, hang your ghost!" said Haight, impatiently, "tell your men if
they see it to shoot it."

"That wouldn't do no good," responded Maverick doggedly, "It's the
sight of it brings bad luck, and sometimes death. There was a fellow
here two years ago, he seen it one night, and the next day he was
killed in the mines; they said the ghost had called him."

"Well," said Haight, rising, "It would be well if your ghost would
only call Houston and Van Dorn some night; but I want you to do as I
say, anyway."

Lyle, who had caught nearly every word of this conversation, now rose
quickly and retreated to the kitchen, knowing she would there be safe
from detection, and could also judge of their movements. Nothing
further was said, however; Haight went stealthily up-stairs to his
room, and Maverick, after cursing to himself a few moments, was soon
snoring profoundly, and Lyle then returned to Miss Gladden's room. She
felt a sickening sensation as she repeated the conversation to her
friend, and realized all that it meant. Miss Gladden was inexpressibly
shocked:

"Lyle, my dear child, is it possible that they would go to such
extreme limits as that. I had thought that he would be in danger of
some assault in the dark, or something of that kind, but to trap him
in the mines! I never dreamed of anything so cowardly, so dastardly!
He will be in constant danger in the performance of his daily round of
duties."

"Dear Leslie," said Lyle,--for thus Miss Gladden had of late requested
her to address her,--"I have told you, you did not realize what a
place this is, and the worst of all is, that it is my father who is
planning this, after all the kindness which you and Mr. Houston have
shown me! What must you think of us?"

"Of you, my dear child? I love you and trust you the same as ever,"
exclaimed Miss Gladden impulsively, "he is no father of yours!"

Lyle, in her grief, did not notice the import of Miss Gladden's words,
but she exclaimed passionately:

"I will never call that man father again as long as I live, and if it
ever comes to that, I will shoot him, rather than let him injure Mr.
Houston." Then, a moment later, she added more calmly:

"I must not allow myself to become excited, I must think and plan. Do
you know, I was so glad that they have not, as yet, found the real
clue to what is going on, and do not even suspect the truth, and they
must not be allowed even to surmise it; as long as they do not, Mr.
Houston is comparatively safe, and they must not be allowed to watch
him, or get any clue to his movements."

"But how can you prevent it, dear? You know the country and the people
so much better than I, that you can plan and direct far better than I
can; you command, dear Lyle, and you will find me ready to obey,
afraid of nothing, not death itself, if I can only help him and save
him from his enemies."

"You had better write a note to him to-night, to give him quietly in
the morning, as you may not have an opportunity for a long talk with
him so early, and tell him what I have told you. Then he can probably
make arrangements with Jack by writing, so that he will not need to go
to the cabin again at present; or, if necessary, I can go for him."

"But what will they do about their intended examination of the mines?
They will surely be watched then."

"All they can do is to make their plans as quietly and secretly as
possible, and then go prepared for the worst, but I think I can help
them there; I have a scheme of my own, something that occurred to me
while listening to their conversation, which I will tell you later."

The note was written, and it was nearly daylight, when the two at last
retired, to rest possibly, but not to sleep.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


For the next ensuing days there were no more visits to the cabin.
According to Lyle's suggestion, a few notes were quietly exchanged
between Houston and Jack; thus their plans were maturing, while there
was nothing which outsiders could detect.

Meanwhile, Haight had bestowed considerable attention upon Miss
Araminta Bixby, to the unspeakable delight of that individual, and had
so ingratiated himself into her favor that she only too gladly
consented to play the part of spy on the movements of Houston and Van
Dorn. The two Maverick boys had also agreed to report to him whatever
they were able to learn concerning these two.

Houston and Van Dorn, however, did not seem quite so intimate of late.
They were apparently as good friends as ever, but were not so
frequently seen together. Nearly every evening, Van Dorn started out
for a stroll, sometimes with Lyle, sometimes alone, often sauntering
in the direction of the cabin, but never seen to enter; while Houston,
after spending an hour or two with Miss Gladden, would walk down to
the mines, and entering the various tunnels, or descending the shafts
of one mine and another, would watch the night shift at their work, or
inspect the workings, occasionally taking measurements here and there.
On one of these trips Jack accompanied him, and on their return, they
completed the arrangements for the visit to the Lucky Chance mine, the
following night.

On the afternoon of the next day, Houston returned to the house a
little earlier than usual, having finished his work for the day at the
mines and mills, and as he with Miss Gladden and Lyle, sat in the
little porch, they were joined a few moments later by Van Dorn. In low
tones the plans for the evening were discussed.

"Of course," said Houston, "we shall go prepared for trouble, but I
do not anticipate that we shall meet with any. Even if we are watched,
our course of procedure will differ so slightly from what we have
followed for a week past, I think it will not excite suspicion."

"They have watched me so many evenings to no purpose, they may be off
guard to-night," said Van Dorn.

"Don't flatter yourself that you will escape 'Minty's' espionage for a
single night," replied Lyle, "she would remain out all night watching
you to gain a smile from Haight in the morning."

Van Dorn laughed. "So it is the charming Miss Bixby whose watchful eye
is upon me!" he exclaimed, "I think I will have to enter the lists as
Haight's rival, and see if I cannot win such faithful devotion upon
the right side."

"After you are gone," said Lyle, "I will soon be able to tell whether
there will be men sent out to watch you to-night; and I shall act
accordingly," she added, with a smile at Miss Gladden.

"Why, Miss Maverick, what will you do?" inquired Van Dorn, "you must
not expose yourself in any way."

"I will be in no danger," she answered smiling.

"I have no idea what Lyle intends to do," said Houston, "but I have
great confidence in her plans, for she knows this class of people
better than we, and I have found her judgment to be relied upon, on
every occasion so far."

Lyle's beautiful eyes spoke her thanks for his words of appreciation,
as she asked:

"At what hour will you have completed the examination, and be ready to
leave the mine?"

"Probably very near twelve o'clock," Houston replied, "we cannot
accomplish our work much before that time, and I do not wish to be out
much later."

"Well," said Lyle, merrily, but with a slightly mysterious air, "if
you are out at that hour, you may see the phantom horse and his
rider."

"Why, how is that?" inquired Van Dorn wonderingly, while Houston
remarked:

"If we see nothing more than phantoms, we shall be very happily
disappointed."

"All right," she responded, "if the ghost walks to-night, don't be
surprised," and hearing some one enter the dining room to make
preparations for the evening meal, she left them, and the subject of
conversation changed immediately.

A few hours later, Houston started as usual for the mines. There was
nothing out of the ordinary course of affairs in this, except that the
leave-taking between him and Leslie was unusually tender, but of this
no one knew but themselves. A little earlier, Van Dorn had left for
his customary stroll, giving Lyle an invitation to accompany him,
which she declined on the plea of being very busy. She immediately
withdrew to the kitchen, and smiled to herself presently, as she saw
Minty, with an air of great importance, starting out in the same
direction. She had been gone about half an hour, when Lyle, who was
again seated in the porch, caught sight of her moon-shaped face
peering around the corner of the house in frantic endeavors to attract
Haight's attention. As he was facing in almost an opposite direction,
her efforts were unavailing, and Lyle, who could with difficulty
restrain a smile, added to her embarrassment by inquiring in the
blandest tones:

"What is it, Araminta? do you wish to see me?"

At the mention of her name, Haight turned suddenly, just as the
blushing Miss Bixby was stammering out his name, and catching his eye,
she began nodding vigorously, to signify the importance of her
errand.

For once, Haight's punctilious suavity upon which he prided himself,
deserted him, and exclaiming, partly in anger, and partly as a blind,
"Confound it! what does the fool want of me?" he disappeared around
the house, while Lyle exchanged glances with Miss Gladden, and the
inoffensive young bookkeeper, recently imported from Silver City,
looked on in mute astonishment.

At the kitchen door, Haight found his agent and spy, her face shining
with delight that she at last had some news to impart.

"He's went in there to-night, Mr. Haight," she cried breathlessly, "I
seen him; I've watched him every night, but he's never went in till
to-night."

"You fool!" exclaimed Haight, angrily, "why couldn't you come around
and give me the tip on the quiet, instead of standing there grimacing
like an idiot, making a fool of yourself and me, too? Where are the
boys?"

Such a greeting was too much for Minty, after her faithfulness; her
anger was too great even for words, she was speechless and without
deigning even a look at Haight, she went into the house, and rushing
to her room, burst into a storm of tears, vowing then and there,
between her sobs, that she would tell Mr. Van Dorn every word that
Haight had said about him.

Meanwhile, Lyle, from her post of observation in the kitchen, saw
Haight call Jim Maverick out from among a group of miners who had
congregated for an evening's visit, and after a few words, Maverick
signaled to one of the miners, who, with his two companions, came over
and joined them. A few moments later the three started down the road,
and Lyle heard Haight's final instructions to them:

"Get onto what those fellows are about, if you have to stay till
morning, and if you want any help, send Jake back."

She knew the men; they were cruel and treacherous, and she was
confident that they were well armed, but they were at the same time,
cowards, and returning to Miss Gladden, she whispered:

"I shall try my little experiment to-night, and I do not believe there
will be any trouble."

It was quite dark when the men who had been sent to watch for Van Dorn
reached the little cabin. A lamp was burning within, as could be told
by the lines of light around the edge of the dark shade at the window,
but beyond this, there was neither sign nor sound. Having assured
themselves that there was no way by which they could ascertain what
was going on within, the men sat down behind a little clump of
evergreens, and filling their pipes, prepared to await developments.
Scarcely had they done so, however, when the light suddenly went out.

"What the divil do they think they're givin' us?" said one of the men,
with an oath.

"They seen us mos' likely, and they're tryin' to fool us that there's
nobody there."

"They can't play no such trick on us as that, damn 'em," said the
first speaker, but at that instant the cabin door opened, and two
figures came out. The men sprang quickly to their feet, making no
sound, and listening intently. They heard the lock click in the door,
and Jack's voice bidding Rex take care of the house, to which he
barked in reply; and then came Mike's broad voice:

"The saints presarve us! but the baste knows more than mony a mon, I'm
afther thinkin'."

"That he does," replied Jack, "and he is far more faithful."

The men, astonished, slunk back into the brush, their keen eyes
watching every movement of the two as they passed; there was no
mistaking those figures, or the rough clothes which they wore; it was
Jack and Mike, and their powerful muscle was too well known throughout
the camp, for any man, even the most brutal, to have the slightest
wish to tackle either of them.

As Jack and his companion passed out of hearing, the men dropped to
the ground, and for a moment the air resounded with their profanity,
while they held a brief consultation.

"They've tricked us, and that feller's hidin' 'round here," said the
leader, "or else he went on ahead to the mines; he hadn't no time to
go back to the house, for we'd 'a met 'im. There's somethin' in the
wind to-night," he added with an oath, "and I'm goin' to find out what
'tis. You fellers git after them two and keep 'em in sight; the boss
is down there, and mebbe the other feller, too; if ye see 'im, send
Jake to me, and I'll come 'round there and we'll lay for 'em. If he
ain't there, he's here, hidin' somewhere, and I'll watch and settle
his hash for 'im all right when he does show up."

"We'd better git some more of the boys," said Jake, "if we're goin' to
tackle them fellers with Jack and Mike along; that ain't no kind of a
job I'm hankerin' after."

"You damned fool!" said the first speaker, "who's said anything 'bout
Jack and Mike? They'll come back the way they've went, and them others
will start up the canyon for the house, and if we three can't hold
'em up, my name ain't Pete Brody; now git!"

Jack and his partner had met Houston in the Yankee Boy mine. As they
emerged from the shaft a little later, the piercing eyes of Jack and
Houston caught a glimpse of two figures skulking among the rocks at a
distance. Van Dorn was at a slight disadvantage, being somewhat
near-sighted, and having been obliged to take off his glasses when
donning Mike's costume.

"I know them," said Jack, "they are two of the three that were outside
the cabin, and one of them is about the biggest coward that breathes;
we could dispose of a regiment of such men, but I prefer to get along
without trouble if we can."

They started for the other mine, Houston taking the lead and Van Dorn
following, while Jack brought up the rear.

"They are following us," said Jack, after two or three quick glances
behind him, "but at a distance; we will probably have a nearer view of
them later, when we leave the mine."

As they proceeded through the tunnel of the Lucky Chance mine, they
met very few of the miners; they touched their caps to Houston with a
sort of sullen civility, and greeted his companions with rough jests,
which Jack received with his usual taciturn manner, but to which Van
Dorn, from underneath his disguise, responded with bits of Irish
blarney and wit, which greatly amused his associates.

Meanwhile, Pete Brody, as he kept his solitary watch before the cabin,
was surprised by the sudden return of Jake.

"Have ye found 'im?" he inquired eagerly, "Is he down there with the
boss?"

"No, he's not there."

"Then, what in hell are you back here for?"

"Bud sent me," answered Jake; "he said to tell ye they've gone into
the Lucky Chance, and what do ye be thinkin' o' that?"

"The Lucky Chance!" exclaimed Pete, "then there's some diviltry a
goin' sure, for the old man, he don't let nobody into that mine
'thout he's along; and if that Van-what's-his-name ain't down there
he's right here, that's all, and here I stays."

"And me and Bud, we're to watch out for the boss?"

"Yes, lay for 'im and overhaul 'im, and find out what the divil is
goin' on."

"I guess he's a pretty tough feller to handle, from all I've heerd,"
remarked Jake reflectively.

Pete responded with an oath. "Knock 'im silly, he'll be easy 'nough
handlin' then."

"Ye don't mean for to do 'im up, do ye Pete?"

"Well, I guess nobody'd feel very bad if ye did."

Jake went down the road, and Pete was alone once more. After waiting a
while, he determined to ascertain, if possible, whether there was any
one within the cabin. As he approached the door, there was a low
savage growl from the faithful watcher within. Very stealthily he
tried to open the door, but it was locked, and in response there was
such a furious onset upon the other side, accompanied by such fierce
growls, that he started back involuntarily.

It was nearly twelve o'clock, and Pete was growing desperate, and
anxious to put an end to his long watch. He retreated to the road, and
stood looking at the cabin, trying to decide whether he should break
in the window and shoot the dog, and run the risk of being shot in
return by whoever might be concealed within, when his attention was
suddenly arrested by a strange sound, as of heavily muffled footsteps
close behind him. He turned quickly, and in the starlight beheld a
sight that seemed to chill the blood in his veins. Not more than fifty
feet distant, and slowly approaching him, were the spotted horse and
his ghostly rider.

Every detail was perfect, like the description he had often heard
given by others who had seen the frightful apparition: the man dressed
in his miner's clothes, carrying the empty bag from which the gold had
been stolen; his face ghastly white, and the blood streaming from his
breast, while horse and rider were partially shrouded by a white
covering which floated from behind them.

Nearer and nearer came those strange footsteps, closer and closer the
fearful sight, and still Pete stood, as if turned to stone, his eyes
starting from their sockets, his hair rising, but unable to move or
speak.

Suddenly a long, low groan issuing from the ghastly lips seemed to
break the spell, and with one terrible shriek, Pete gave two or three
bounds out of the road, and ran for his life, jumping and leaping over
the rocks and through the brush, like a wild man.

The ghost gave a low, rippling laugh of satisfaction, and turning the
horse, rode rapidly back in the direction from which it had come,
until striking the road from the house to the mines, where the horse
trotted briskly for some distance, but on nearing the mines, once more
resumed his funereal pace.

The two men concealed in the brush along the road had no warning of
the approaching phantom, until they caught the sound of the strange
footsteps, and peered cautiously out, only to see the fearful sight
that Pete beheld shortly before.

"Holy Moses!" exclaimed Jake, with a yell, "it's the ghost!" The men
jumped simultaneously into the road, and started for the miners'
quarters, screaming like maniacs. The ghost followed in swift pursuit
until they were some distance past the mines; the men then being
safely disposed of with no danger of their return, it turned slowly in
the direction of the Lucky Chance mine.

Houston and his friends, having accomplished their task, stepped forth
from the tunnel into the starlight, looking carefully and searchingly
in every direction.

"There is no one to be seen at present," said Houston in low tones,
"they may be concealed about here, or we may meet them on the road to
the house."

"Very probably," Jack replied, "we must now proceed with the utmost
caution. Mr. Van Dorn and I will accompany you to the house, and he
had better then go with me to the cabin, in case there should be spies
watching for our return, and it will be safer for him to remain there
until nearly daylight, as none of the men will be out at that time,
and he can return to the house unobserved."

They had gone but a short distance, however, when, passing around a
curve in the road, they beheld a sight that filled them with
astonishment.

"Shades of the departed!" exclaimed Houston, "what kind of an
apparition is this?"

Jack studied the approaching figures for an instant, a smile of
amusement lighting up his usually stern features, while Van Dorn
hastily slipped on his glasses for a better view.

"That," said Jack, "is evidently the famous phantom of Spotted Horse
gulch, but who has originated the idea?"

"It must be Lyle," said Houston, "she said the ghost would walk
to-night."

"Well, by George!" exclaimed Van Dorn, "that is pretty good anyway."

Slowly the ghost approached, giving the interested observers an
opportunity to note the details of the make-up; the ghastly face, the
heavy beard of dark colored wool, the narrow strips of red flannel
streaming from breast and side, and even the heavy woolen socks upon
the horse's feet, muffling the sound of his steps. Suddenly the slouch
hat was raised, and the shining eyes of Lyle looked out from the
strange disguise, as she announced in triumphant tones:

"The road is clear, and you are safe!"

"Lyle," said Houston, "how did you ever think of this? Did you devise
this masquerade?"

"The idea was mine," she answered, "it occurred to me the other night
while listening to their talk, but Miss Gladden helped me to carry it
out."

"And was it a success?" asked Van Dorn wonderingly, having more
practical knowledge of mines than of miners, "Were the men frightened?"

"You would have thought so, could you have seen Pete Brody," Lyle
replied, with a low laugh, "I believe he is running yet, and I
wouldn't be surprised if Jake has lost what few wits he ever
possessed."

"It was one of the best schemes that could have been devised," said
Jack, gravely, adding, "We probably owe you more than we know."

Quietly and safely the little party proceeded up the winding road, and
having reached their several destinations, all were soon at rest. Even
the spotted horse, securely stabled in his accustomed place, gravely
munched his wisp of hay without a thought of the ghostly escapade in
which he had borne so prominent a part.

But in the miners' quarters consternation reigned, as Pete and Bud
related their experiences, Jake being utterly incapacitated for
speech. Even to Jack and Van Dorn, Mike had a fearful tale to tell of
the sight he had witnessed, while alone with Rex in the cabin, and it
was some time before his perturbed Irish fancies could be soothed; and
"the night that the ghost walked," was one long remembered and
frequently recalled by many of the denizens of the little mining
camp.



CHAPTER XXXV.


After the events leading up to the examination of the Lucky Chance
mine, it was considered best for a while to pursue very nearly the
same line of conduct that had been followed for the last ten days,
carefully avoiding any abrupt change which might attract attention.
All necessary data had now been secured, and Houston felt that he
could better afford to remain quiet for a brief time and reconnoiter
the situation, than by any hasty move to excite further suspicion at
the present time.

At the breakfast table the next morning, however, the thoughts of all
present were partially diverted into different channels, by the
arrival of a telegram for Houston which proved to be a message from
Ned Rutherford, to the effect that he and his brother were on their
way to Silver City, and would be at the mining camp within the next
twenty-four or thirty-six hours.

Haight had been exceedingly angry on learning from Maverick, early in
the morning, of the failure of the men to report anything definite
concerning the movements of those whom they had been sent out to
watch. He had accomplished nothing, and was uncertain what course next
to pursue, and he too, decided to remain quiet for the present. He
continued to watch Houston and Van Dorn, his ugly suspicions only half
concealed by the smiling exterior which he tried to assume. He had
hastened to make peace with Minty, as he feared the results which
might follow should his plottings become known to Houston, not
dreaming that the latter had woven such a web around, not the mining
company alone, but including also its principal employes, that in
remaining where he was, a fate far worse than his fears awaited him.

During the day, Miss Gladden and Lyle busied themselves with
preparations for the expected guests. A room on the ground floor,
adjoining and connecting with the one occupied by Houston and Van
Dorn, and with a view of the lake and cascades, was put in readiness;
and books, sketches and bric-a-brac contributed by Houston and Miss
Gladden, and tastefully arranged by Lyle, relieved the blank walls and
plain furniture, and made the place look quite attractive.

Houston was jubilant over the information acquired by their expedition
of the previous night; nothing out of the usual course occurred that
day, and returning earlier from his customary visit to the mines than
he had done of late, the remainder of the evening was devoted to music
and song.

After Miss Gladden and Lyle had gone up-stairs, they sat for some time
talking over the events of the last few days, and anticipating the
coming of Rutherford and his brother on the morrow. Many were Miss
Gladden's surmises regarding the stranger, and Lyle then learned for
the first time that he was an intimate friend of Houston's.

"Everard tells me that though Ned is a pleasant fellow and good
hearted, yet he is not in the least like his brother. He says Morton,
as he always calls him, is a most perfect gentleman in every sense of
the word, and a scholar of rare intellectual attainments, fond of
scientific research, and a brilliant writer."

"I judged from his picture that the two brothers were very unlike,"
said Lyle, "and from your description he will be in many respects a
new specimen to come under my limited observation; I will have to make
a study of him, and see if he is at all like my idea of a literary
person. I would not suppose, though, there would be much to interest
him here; the only rarities he will find are possibly new phases of
ignorance and coarseness and crime."

Miss Gladden thought, as she looked at Lyle, that if the new-comer did
not find rare beauty of mind and soul, as well as of form and face, in
that secluded region, he certainly must be very unappreciative; but
she only said:

"You seem to have forgotten what Ned said of his brother, that his
love of the beautiful was so intense, he doubted whether he would ever
want to leave the scenery and surroundings here."

"That was simply one of Mr. Rutherford's extravagant expressions,"
Lyle replied, "the natural surroundings here are certainly beautiful,
but their beauty only makes the conditions mentally and morally the
more painfully conspicuous, and if I can see the contrast so plainly,
who have always lived here and known no other life, how must it look
to one such as he!"

"Why do you always insist upon it so strongly that you have never
known any other life than this?" inquired Miss Gladden.

"Why?" asked Lyle, in surprise, "I suppose simply because it is a
fact, the one hateful truth that I despise, and so I say it over and
over to myself, to check these foolish dream-fancies of mine, that
seem as if I had known something better sometime."

Lyle spoke with more bitterness than Miss Gladden had ever heard
before, and the latter answered gently:

"If I were in your place, Lyle dear, I would not try to check these
fancies; I would encourage them."

Lyle gazed at her friend in astonishment. "Encourage them!" she
repeated, "I don't understand your meaning, why would you advise
that?"

"To see to what they would lead, my dear." Then, as Lyle looked
bewildered, she continued:

"Did it never occur to you, Lyle, that these fancies, as you call
them, might possibly be an effort on the part of memory to recall
something, long ago forgotten?"

"I never thought of such a possibility," she replied, slowly.

Miss Gladden threw one arm about her caressingly.

"If these were mere fancies why should they occur so persistently, and
why should there be this sense of familiarity, of which you have
spoken, with other and far different associations than these, unless
there is some distinct image hidden away in the recesses of your
brain, which your mind is trying to recall?"

Lyle had grown very pale; she had caught the idea which Miss Gladden
was trying to convey, and her form trembled, while her lips and
delicate nostrils quivered with suppressed agitation.

"Leslie," she cried, "do you mean that you think it possible there is
any reality in it,--that I have ever known a different life from
this,--a life anything like that which seems to come back to me?"

"I think it not only possible, but probable," said her friend, drawing
the trembling girl closer to herself, "and that is why I want you to
encourage these impressions, and see if you will not, after a time, be
able to recall the past more definitely."

"But why do you believe this?" questioned Lyle, "How did you ever
think of it?"

"When you first told me of your fancies, as you called them, and of
your dreams, constantly recurring since your earliest childhood, I
felt that they must be produced by something that had really occurred,
some time in the past, but perhaps so long ago that only the faintest
impression was left upon your mind; but however faint, to me it seemed
proof that the reality had existed. The more I have questioned you,
the more I have become convinced of this, and I find I am not alone in
my opinion."

"Have you talked with Jack, and does he think as you do?" Lyle
questioned. Miss Gladden answered in the affirmative.

"Is that the reason he has asked me so often regarding my early
life?"

"Yes, he has questioned you, hoping you might be able to recall
something of those years which you say seem to you only a blank. We
can only surmise regarding your early life, but if you could recall
some slight incident, or some individual, it might prove whether our
surmises were correct." Then, as Lyle remained silent, Miss Gladden
continued:

"That face which you always see in your dreams, must be the face of
some one you have really seen and known."

"Yes," Lyle answered dreamily, "I have often thought of that, and have
tried to remember when, or where, it could have been."

For a few moments, both were silent; Lyle, in her abstraction,
loosened her hair, and it fell around her like a veil of fine-spun
gold. An idea suddenly occurred to Miss Gladden, and rising from her
chair, she gathered up the golden mass, and began to rearrange and
fasten it, Lyle scarcely heeding her action, so absorbed was she in
thought.

When she had completed her work, she looked critically at Lyle for a
moment, and seeming satisfied with the result, asked her to look in
the glass. Half mechanically, Lyle did as requested, but at the first
glance at the face reflected there, she uttered a low cry, and stood
as if transfixed. Miss Gladden had arranged her hair in a style worn
nearly twenty years before, and in imitation of the photograph which
Jack had shown her. The effect was magical, as it showed Lyle's face
to be an exact counterpart of the beautiful pictured face.

To Lyle it revealed much more, for to her astonished gaze there was
brought back, with life-like distinctness and realism, the face of her
dreams; the one which she had seen bending tenderly over her since her
earliest recollection, and which had seemed so often to comfort her in
the days of her childish griefs when she had sobbed herself to sleep.

Suddenly, Miss Gladden saw the face in the glass grow deathly white,
and Lyle, quickly turning toward her friend, exclaimed:

"I see it now! That is my mother's face that I have seen in my dreams!
And I have seen it living some time, somewhere, but not here. These
people are not my parents; I am no child of theirs. Oh, Leslie, tell
me, is this true?"

Very gently Miss Gladden soothed the excited girl, telling her that
while her friends knew nothing as yet, for a certainty, regarding her
parentage, they felt that she, in her early life, had had a home and
surroundings far different from those she knew here, and that they
hoped ere long, with her help, to arrive at the whole truth.

"But how did I ever come to live here with these people?" inquired
Lyle, a new fear dawning in her eyes, "do you suppose they were hired
to take me?"

"No, never," said Miss Gladden, "as nearly as we can judge, you must
have been stolen."

"And do you think my own parents are now living?" she asked.

So far as she was able to do so, Miss Gladden explained the situation,
as Jack had told it to her, making no reference, however, to what he
had said regarding the possibility of Lyle's friends coming to the
mountains, where they would be likely to recognize her. Of this, Miss
Gladden herself understood so little, she thought best not to allude
to it now.

"But why has Jack never told me of this, and of my mother? He must
have known her," said Lyle.

"You must remember, dear, that he had no proof that any such relation
really existed; as I understood him, he with others, supposed that
this child was not living, but he was struck with the resemblance
between you and the mother of this child, and the relationship
occurred to him at first as the merest possibility, but grew almost to
a certainty, as the resemblance between you increased; and yet, you
can see that under the circumstances, while you were under the control
and in the power of these people, it would not be best to say anything
until he had some proof as to your identity."

"I see," Lyle answered, thoughtfully, "but now that I remember her as
my mother, do you suppose that he would talk with me about her, or
help me to find my true relatives?"

"I hardly know how to answer you," said Miss Gladden slowly, "there is
some mystery about it all, dear, that I do not understand; he might
perhaps talk more freely with you, but with me he appeared willing to
say very little regarding your mother, or your friends. Still, he gave
me a hint, so vague and shadowy I scarcely understood it, but to the
effect that he thought there might, before long, be an opportunity
for a meeting between you and those whom he believed to be your
friends."

"Well," said Lyle, after a pause, "Jack is a true friend to me, he
knows what is best, and I can afford to wait with even such a
possibility to look forward to. I will not wait in idleness either, I
shall try to find some clue, some evidence as to who I really am, and
something tells me I will succeed." Then she added tenderly, "Do you
know, I believe, whoever my mother may have been, Jack must have loved
her."

"She certainly was very dear to him," replied Miss Gladden.

They talked till far into the morning hours, and as they finally
separated for the night, Lyle approached her friend, and throwing her
arms about her neck, she exclaimed, almost in tears:

"Oh, Leslie, you can never know how glad I am that you have shown me
this, and shown it to me to-night! I have felt so disgraced, so
degraded by the life here, it seemed as if I were a part of it all, a
part of my own hateful surroundings but now, I know I am not; now,"
she continued, lifting her head proudly and raising her arms slowly
with a beautiful gesture, "they can fetter me no longer! The chains
that have held me so long and so cruelly are already bursting; even
now, I can rise above them; soon, I shall be free!"



CHAPTER XXXVI.


Do coming events cast their shadows before? Did the silently-waving
pinions of the angel who "troubled the waters" give any hint of his
beneficent approach? However that may be, certain it is that on the
morning of the day in which the hitherto untroubled depths of Lyle's
womanly nature were to be stirred by the mightiest of influences,
there came to her a prescience, thrilling and vibrating through her
whole being, that this day was to be the crisis, the turning point of
her life. On that day, she was to meet one whose influence upon her
own life she felt would be far greater than that of any human being
she could recall.

Lyle was not in love. As yet, she knew nothing of what love might be,
but she possessed rare depth of feeling. In her lonely, secluded life,
she had known few emotions, but those few were deep and lasting; and
when, a few months before, she had incidentally seen the photograph of
Morton Rutherford,--only one among many, all unknown to her,--it had
left an impression upon her heart and brain, never to be effaced.

His was no ordinary face; it would attract the most casual observer,
and to one gifted with Lyle's wonderful insight and perception, and
possessing her fine susceptibilities, there would be revealed such
rare strength and beauty of mind and character combined, that, once
seen, it might not be easily forgotten.

To Lyle, in her isolation, it seemed a glimpse of a kindred soul, and
she had often wondered what the living face itself might be, and what
acquaintance and friendship with such a soul might mean. She had
looked forward to his coming to the camp with mingled pleasure and
dread. She thoroughly understood the position which she held in the
estimation of the younger Mr. Rutherford; would his brother regard her
with the same half pitying, half patronizing admiration? Would her
narrow, restricted life seem so small and poor to him, with his
superior attainments, that he would altogether ignore her? Or would he
be able, like Mr. Houston and Miss Gladden, to overlook her hateful
and hated environment, and help her rise above it?

These were the questions which for the past few weeks had perplexed
and troubled her; but the revelation which had come to her on the
previous night had changed the whole current of her thought. What
matter now, how mean or debasing her surroundings, since no taint
from them could attach itself to her? What matter if her life had
been cramped and restricted, since she was soon to rise above it
into the life for which she had been created? Perhaps her natural
sphere was not, after all, so unlike that in which her friends
moved, to which even he was accustomed, the stranger, whose coming
she now anticipated with a strange, unaccountable thrill of
expectation. Would he, with that wonderful power which she felt he
possessed, to elevate or to crush the souls with whom he came in
contact, would he recognize her true sphere, as her other friends
had done, or would he be blinded by her surroundings?

She could not rest; she rose and looked forth upon the glorious dawn
of the new day, and was impressed as never before, with the beauty of
the vision which met her eyes. To her, it seemed like the dawning of a
new epoch in her life; nay, more than that, like the dawning of a new
life itself.

Impatient of restraint, she left the house, and went out into the
morning fresh from the hand of the Creator, as yet undefiled by
contact with human life. Hastily climbing a series of rocky ledges,
she reached a broad plateau, and looked about her. The life which she
had so hated and despised seemed suddenly to have dropped forever out
of sight, and she was conscious only of a new beauty, a new glory
surrounding her.

The mountains, blushing in the first rosy light, lifted their
gleaming, glory-crowned spires heavenward; the cascades chanted
in thunderous, yet rhythmic tones, their unceasing anthem of
praise, their snow-white spray ascending skyward, like clouds of
incense, while the little flowers, clinging to rock and ledge and
mountain-side, turned their sweet faces upward in silent adoration.
The place seemed pervaded by a spirit of universal adoration and
praise, and instinctively, Lyle bowed her head in silent worship;
and as she did so, there came to her, as though revealed by the
lightning's flash, the vision of her mother kneeling beside her, in
those dim days so long ago, clasping her tiny hands within her own,
and teaching her baby lips to lisp the words of prayer.

For a long time she knelt in that temple made without hands, till
mountain and valley were bathed in glorious sunlight; and when at
last, she descended the rocky footpath, she felt, as she looked forth
upon the new life opening before her, no fear, no shrinking, but
strong to go forward and meet her destiny, whatever it might be.

All were impressed that morning by Lyle's manner, the added dignity
of bearing, the new expression that looked forth from her soulful
eyes, though none but Miss Gladden understood the cause.

At the breakfast table, the final plans were made for the reception of
the guests to arrive that day. Word had been received that they were
already in Silver City, and would come out on the noon train. Houston
had telegraphed to the Y for the best team there to be in readiness to
bring them up to the camp, and an hour or so before noon, he and Van
Dorn were to take two horses and ride to the Y to meet them, and
accompany them on their ride up the canyon. A late dinner was to be
served upon their arrival, when the two ladies would be present, as
Lyle no longer acted in the capacity of waiter, Miss Gladden having
some time before insisted that she should preside at the table, and
the blushing Miss Bixby, after much painstaking effort, having been
finally educated up to the point of performing that ceremony very
creditably.

"Everard," said Miss Gladden after breakfast, as Houston stopped for
his customary chat with her before starting out on his daily routine,
"did you observe Lyle this morning? I never saw her look so lovely;"
adding playfully, "I wonder you did not fall in love with her, she is
far more beautiful than I."

"Allow me to be judge," he replied, "though I will admit that I think
she grows more beautiful every day. But as to falling in love with
her, I doubt if I would have done that even had I not met you. From
the first she has seemed to me unaccountably like a sister; I cannot
explain why, unless it was because of that child-like, almost
appealing manner she had at that time. She has none of it now,
however, she is developing very rapidly into a noble womanhood, and
yet I still have the same feeling toward her, and I think she regards
me as a brother."

"That is true," said Miss Gladden, "she cares for you more than for
any of the others, but only, as you say, as a brother. Her heart does
not seem to be very susceptible."

"She may be none the less susceptible," Houston replied, "but she
realizes her position here, and she is far too proud spirited to carry
her heart upon her sleeve."

Miss Gladden then related to Houston the events oi the preceding
night, and Lyle's sudden recollection of her own mother. He was much
interested.

"I am more than glad," he replied, "doubtless the memory of her early
childhood will gradually come back to her, and we may be able to
ascertain her true parentage. I hope so, at least, for I believe
Maverick to be an out and out scoundrel, capable of any villainy, and
I would like to see him brought to justice."

The room set apart for the expected guests, as well as the dining-room,
was decorated with wild flowers and trailing vines, and in this
pleasant employment, and the preparation of a few dainty dishes for
the table, the forenoon passed swiftly.

The noon train had scarcely come to a stop at the little station at
the Y, when Ned Rutherford was seen rushing impetuously from the car,
his camera case as usual in one hand, at sight of which the two young
men waiting on the platform burst into a hearty laugh.

"There he is," said Houston, "the same old Ned!"

"The very same old boy!" added Van Dorn, as they hastened to meet
him.

"Hullo, Everard!" cried Ned, jumping upon the platform, "I say, but it
seems mighty good to see you again! How are you, Van Dorn?"

"How are you, Ned?" said Van Dorn, extending his hand, "we wouldn't
have known you if it hadn't been for that camera box of yours!"

"That so?" answered Ned, good-naturedly, "well, I always considered it
indispensable, but I didn't suppose my identity would be lost without
it."

Meanwhile, Houston had hastened to meet the elder brother, and it
could readily be seen that they were more than ordinary friends.

"Everard, old fellow!" he exclaimed, in response to Houston's
greeting, "this is the greatest pleasure I've had in many a day. I
never dreamed that the Houston of whom Ned wrote such glowing accounts
was my old friend."

"I used to think sometimes," said Houston, "when Ned was writing you,
that I would like to send you some reminder of old times, a college
password or signal that you would understand; but at that time, I
didn't know Ned very well, and of course I was anxious to conceal my
identity here."

"That was right," said the elder Rutherford, with a comical glance at
his brother, "Ned is rather injudicious, he belongs to that
unfortunate class of people, with the best of intentions, who usually
succeed in doing as much mischief as others with the worst."

"Right you are there," said Ned, "I'm always putting my foot in it one
way or another; I wouldn't advise anybody to make a confidant of me,
I'd give them away sure. I say, Everard," he continued, while his
brother and Van Dorn exchanged cordial greetings, "how are you getting
on, and how is the Buncombe-Boomerang combination?"

"We have been very successful so far, everything is nearly in
readiness, and the combination as you call it, cannot exist much
longer; we will give you full particulars later."

"And how are the ladies?" Ned inquired further.

"They are well, and waiting to give you and your brother a royal
welcome."

"Thank you," Morton Rutherford replied, "I am quite anxious to meet
them, Ned, of course, can speak for himself."

"That he can, and generally does when the right time comes," responded
that individual, "you will find I am a universal favorite here, in the
camp of the Philistines."

In a little while they were on their way to camp, Houston and Morton
Rutherford occupying the back seat of the light, canopy-top wagon,
while Van Dorn and Ned took the forward seat with the driver, the
horses and baggage following with one of the mining teams.

Morton Rutherford gave his friend a glowing account of his journey
through the west, dwelling at considerable length on his enjoyment of
the scenic routes. As they wound upward through the canyon, he grew
ecstatic over the wild beauty and rugged grandeur extending in every
direction, and when they finally drew rein before the long, low
boarding house, nestling at the foot of the mountain, with its rustic,
vine-covered porch, and surrounded on all sides by the wild scenery of
that region, his admiration knew no bounds.

"What a delightful retreat!" he exclaimed, "what a study for an
artist!"

Within the porch, among the vines, the ladies awaited their coming,
and Lyle, looking forth from her shady retreat, saw the face whose
image had been imprinted on heart and brain, and at a glance she read
all she had expected to find, and more. There were the fine features,
expressing such depth and power, and yet such delicacy of thought and
feeling, the intellectual brow, the dark, expressive eyes, all as she
had seen them in the picture; but what picture could convey the living
beauty of the whole? It was the face of one whom women would worship,
and men would follow even to death.

The gentlemen approached the house, Houston and his friend leading the
way. Miss Gladden advanced to meet them, and as Houston introduced Mr.
Rutherford, she extended to him a most gracious and graceful welcome,
and also to Ned. Her gown was white, of soft, clinging material,
trimmed with quantities of rich, rare lace, and brightened here and
there with touches of crimson and gold. She wore a few costly jewels,
and the diamond hilt of a tiny dagger glistened and scintillated in
her auburn-tinted hair. She looked very beautiful, and as Mr.
Rutherford paused to respond to her welcome with a few courteous
words, he thought his friend was surely to be congratulated on the
prize he had won.

Meanwhile, Ned had discovered Lyle, as she stood partially hidden
among the vines, awaiting her turn, and hastened to greet her in his
impetuous fashion.

"How do you do, Miss Maverick? I'm awfully glad to see you. I want you
to know my brother," and his cheerful voice sounded on his brother's
ear, as he replied to some remark of Miss Gladden's.

"Morton, I want to introduce you to our nightingale; Miss Maverick,
allow me to make you acquainted with my brother."

With a rare smile lighting up his face, Morton Rutherford turned
toward the speaker, and as he did so, saw a vision of the most royal
young womanhood his eyes had ever beheld. She, too, was dressed in
white, but it was a filmy, cloud-like mass, with trimmings of ethereal
blue. She wore no jewels, but a crown of golden hair gleamed like a
coronet above her head, and her delicately molded face had a
spirituelle beauty and radiance unlike any living face he had ever
seen, and which he could only compare to the exquisite Madonna faces,
painted by artists of the old world, and of the olden time.

And Lyle, coming forward with unconscious, queenly grace, looked for
an instant into that face whose subtle power she already felt, her
wondrous, starry eyes, luminous with a new, strange light, meeting his
with their depth of meaning, their powerful magnetism, and from that
brief instant, life for each was changed, wholly and completely;
whether for good or ill, for weal or woe, neither as yet could say.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


It was a very congenial little company that somewhat later gathered
about the dinner table. There were no outsiders present on this
occasion to check their conversation, and the room resounded with
merry laughter as the young men related various reminiscences of their
college days, or as Lyle gave her eastern friends some amusing
glimpses of western life.

Morton Rutherford added his share to the general enjoyment, as he gave
in an inimitable manner which fascinated his listeners, sketches of
places and people he had met in his western journey; but a close
observer would have noticed that his dark eyes often wandered to the
face of the fair hostess, presiding at the table with such dignity,
and his thoughts much of the time were far removed from the subject of
conversation.

Of the strange, wild tumult in Lyle's breast there was no token, save
in her heightened color, and the added brilliancy of her eyes.

The plain, but wholesome mountain fare disappeared rapidly before the
appetites sharpened by the bracing air of that altitude, and still the
little company lingered at the table, loath to tear themselves away.

Plans were made for a few days and evenings of genuine enjoyment,
before proceeding any further with the business in which all were so
deeply interested. Houston and Van Dorn would of course be more or
less confined by their work, and it was voted that, during the day,
Mr. Rutherford should be entertained by the ladies, or, as the hunting
and fishing season had now opened, he and Ned would be able to find
considerable sport in the surrounding country. But the evenings were
to be spent by the entire party in visits to the different points of
interest and beauty already familiar to some of their number.

"And one of the first places to visit," said Ned Rutherford, at this
point in the conversation, "will be the cascades; we will go out there
in boats, you know, with the guitar and violin, and have music just as
we did the first time we ever went out. Great Scott! but I never will
forget that night as long as I live!"

"With the ladies' approval, that will be one of our first trips," said
Houston.

"You play and sing, do you not, Mr. Rutherford?" Miss Gladden
inquired, addressing the elder brother.

"Yes, occasionally," he answered, with a peculiar smile.

"What instrument do you use?"

"I can accompany myself on several different instruments," he replied,
"but the violin is my favorite; it is capable of more expression than
most others."

At last the little party adjourned to the porch, and Lyle, under the
pretext of some household duties, excused herself, and escaped to her
own little room. Here her forced composure gave way, and her highly
wrought feelings found relief in a passionate burst of tears, though
why she wept, she could not have told.

Unconsciously to herself, perhaps, Morton Rutherford had of late
become the hero of her thoughts, partially on account of her high
estimate of him, and also because of the sympathy which she felt would
exist between them in taste and thought and feeling. She had dreamed
of a friendship with him, perhaps more perfect and helpful than any
she had yet known; but they had met, and in that one glance had been
revealed to her a natural affinity deeper than any of which she had
ever dreamed, and the impossibility of a calm, Platonic friendship
between kindred spirits such as theirs.

Unconsciously to herself, Lyle had that day crossed the great divide,
and womanhood, with its dower of love and joy, of pain and suffering,
was henceforth hers. The mightiest element in her nature, which had
lain dormant all these years, its power unsuspected even by herself,
was now aroused, and even while she felt the throbbing of its new
life, as yet, she knew not its name. She was young, her observation
and her experience had been limited, and there had been no one to
prepare her for the certain awakening of this mighty power, before
whose conquering sway all else must yield.

She grew more calm, and as she reviewed the few friendships she had
known,--the helpful kindness and tenderness of Jack in whom she had
confided her childish griefs, the chivalry of Everard Houston, who
from the first had constituted himself her champion and protector, and
even the pleasant kindliness of Ned Rutherford, whom she scarcely
deemed more than an acquaintance,--there was suddenly revealed to her
quickened perception the distinction between friendship and love, and
instantly she recognized the stranger who had taken possession of her
heart: Love had come. Love was to be henceforth king, and she stood
trembling and abashed in the presence of the new sovereign. Her tears
flowed silently, but she was far from unhappy; love, even unknown and
unreciprocated, brings its own sweet reward.

Whether her love would ever be returned by the one whose glance had
awakened it in its might, she dared not even think. She knew not, as
yet, in what light he would regard her. Notwithstanding the friendship
and esteem manifested by the younger brother, she fully understood the
insurmountable barrier which his pride had placed between himself and
her. Would it exist in the mind of the elder brother also? Or would
his keener insight, his superior perception discern her true
position? Time alone would tell.

A little later, calm and queenly as ever, Lyle rejoined the little
group, who had strolled out a short distance from the house, and were
seated beside the lake, in the cooling shadow of a large rock.

She could not help observing the smile of pleasure with which Mr.
Rutherford welcomed her approach, but she would not yet trust herself
to hold any protracted conversation with him, and giving him only a
bright little smile of recognition, she seated herself beside Ned, and
began a playful badinage, as they had been accustomed to banter each
other on his former visit. Morton Rutherford watched them curiously,
listening to the war of words with a half smile, and evidently
absorbed in his own thoughts, as, for a while, Miss Gladden and Mr.
Van Dorn had the conversation to themselves, Houston having gone to
the mines.

As the shadows began to lengthen, and the sun seemed hovering over a
snow-crowned peak that stood out boldly against the western horizon,
Houston was seen approaching the house, and at a little distance,
Maverick and his two sons. Lyle, who was then standing on the outer
edge of the group, talking with Miss Gladden, was quick to observe a
sudden movement on Ned's part, as, turning toward his brother, he made
some brief remark in low tones, regarding the approaching trio. She
well knew the tenor of his remark, and watched closely to see its
effect.

She saw Morton Rutherford glance in the direction indicated by a
slight motion of Ned's head, and then, though he betrayed no surprise
by word or movement, an expression of astonishment crossed his face,
but only for an instant. His features grew white and stern, and he
watched every movement of the three figures, as, with stealthy,
slouching gait and suspicious looks, they stole around the corner of
the house, and the expression of his eye seemed to Lyle like that of a
judge passing sentence on a condemned criminal.

He did not look at Lyle immediately, perhaps he was conscious of the
eyes watching him so narrowly from under the heavily drooping lids,
fringed with long, golden lashes, but when he did look toward her,
there was a depth of meaning in those dark eyes which she could not
fathom.

Twenty-four hours before, Lyle standing there, under those circumstances,
would have been crushed with humiliation, but in the light of the
revelation of the night before, she met his glance with an expression
which to him seemed utterly inscrutable. There was neither shame nor
apology written on her face, as with a calm, bright smile, and the same
self-possessed manner, she turned and passed into the house.

Upon entering the dining-room, Lyle heard angry words in the kitchen,
and paused to listen. The voice was Maverick's.

"Who in hell is that new feller you've got up here?"

"That's the brother of the young feller that was here a spell ago,"
answered the voice of Minty, who was just emerging from the pantry.

"Damn you! who asked you to say anything? Git out of here," he roared,
and Minty made a hasty retreat into the cellar.

"Who's that new feller out there?" he again demanded of his wife.

"His name is Rutherford, and he's a brother of the young man that come
out here with Mr. Houston," was her reply.

"What's his business here?"

"I guess he hain't got none, he seems to be out here for pleasure like
his brother."

"Pleasure!" growled Maverick, with an oath, "there's too many of 'em,
damn 'em, out here for pleasure; I'd give some of 'em some pleasure
that they ain't a lookin' for, if I had a chance."

His wife made no response.

"What's that girl Lyle tricked out in such finery for?" he next
asked.

"They're clothes that Miss Gladden give her," Mrs. Maverick replied,
"and it saves us jest so much, so you needn't growl; besides she looks
nice."

"Looks nice!" said Maverick, contemptuously, "you're always bound to
stick up for her! Look here, old woman," he added, in a lower tone,
but which Lyle could hear, "have you been tellin' that girl anything?
She don't own me for her daddy lately, I notice; now, if you've been
puttin' her or anybody else onto anything of the kind, I can tell you
you'll be damned sorry for it before you git through with me."

"I hain't said a word, it's jest a notion she's took, I dun'no why. I
hain't said nothin' nor I ain't a goin' to, as long as you behave
yourself, Jim Maverick, but the proofs is all ready in case you don't
treat me and her jest as you'd orter."

A terrible oath burst from Maverick's lips, but the entrance of the
two boys and Minty, prevented any further conversation on this
subject; and Lyle, seated in the little porch whither she had
retreated from the dining-room, reflected on what she had just heard,
its meaning seeming very clear to her in the light of what Miss
Gladden had told her the night before.

There were proofs then in existence, probably in that very house, as
to her identity. Her friends were correct in their surmises: she had
been stolen, and the villain who had committed the deed, even now
trembled with apprehension lest his villainy should become known.
Those proofs she must have, and it would be worse than useless to
demand them of either Maverick or his wife. She must search for them.
This she resolved to do, day by day, as opportunity afforded, until
there should be no nook or corner which she had not thoroughly
explored.

As Lyle recalled all that occurred within the past twenty-four hours,
the most eventful period within her recollection thus far, she felt
that she had virtually broken with the old life and all its
associations, and that she stood upon the threshold of a new life,
higher, nobler,--perhaps sweeter,--than any of which she had ever
dreamed.

The return of the little company of friends to the house interrupted
her thoughts, but not before she had decided fully as to her future
course.

After supper, it was decided to spend that first evening on the summit
of one of the nearest mountains, to watch the glories of the sunset,
and to give Morton Rutherford a bird's-eye view of the beautiful
scenery, before introducing him to its details.

But on the second evening, the entire party set forth for the trip to
the cascades, for which Ned was so especially desirous.

Mr. Houston and Miss Gladden led the little procession, Houston
carrying her guitar. Ned had constituted himself Lyle's escort by
taking the violin, and they came next, while Morton Rutherford and
Arthur Van Dorn brought up the rear.

Their two boats were already awaiting them, and Ned, having assisted
Lyle to a seat, turned to Van Dorn.

"Mr. Van Dorn," he said in his blandest tones, "may we have the
pleasure of your company in our boat?"

As Van Dorn laughingly accepted the invitation, Morton Rutherford
turned toward his brother, saying:

"Are you not going to extend an invitation to me, also?"

"Unfortunately," said Ned, with as much dignity as he could assume,
"this boat will seat but three people."

"Is that so!" replied his brother, with a curious downward inflection,
"unfortunately, then, for Mr. Houston and Miss Gladden, you will have
to take the other boat, as I am going in this one myself," and
stepping lightly into the boat, he pulled it quickly out into the
water, leaving Ned in a state of bewilderment, alone on shore, as Mr.
Houston and Miss Gladden were already seated in their boat, and
watching this little by-play.

There was a general laugh at Ned's expense, as he clambered into the
other boat, exclaiming good-naturedly:

"Well, Mort, that's an awfully shabby trick, but then, it's all I can
expect of you, anyhow."

"It's all you deserve, after such attempted selfishness on your part,"
replied his brother.

They rowed across the lake in the soft light, the glory of the setting
sun still reflected from the surrounding peaks, the music of their
boat songs accompanied by the dip and plash of the oars.

At last they reached the cascades, and rounding a little promontory,
the glory of that wondrous scene suddenly burst upon them. For a
moment Mr. Rutherford sat speechless, and Lyle, facing him, silently
enjoyed his surprise and his ecstasy as keenly as he enjoyed the
wonderful beauty about him. In his face, she read the same capacity
for joy or for suffering which Nature had bestowed upon herself, and
when his eyes suddenly met hers again, he saw the tears glistening in
their shining depths, and with quick, intuitive sympathy, readily
understood the cause.

For a while they rowed back and forth in almost silent admiration;
then the boats were brought side by side at the foot of the cascades,
and the air resounded with song; sometimes their voices all blending
together in exquisite harmony, then in twos and threes, while
occasionally, some beautiful old song would be given as a solo.

It had been an evening of rare enjoyment for each one, and they were
just about to turn their boats homeward, when Ned Rutherford
exclaimed:

"I say, don't let us leave this spot until Miss Maverick sings that
song she gave us the first time we came out here, the first we ever
heard her sing. I never can forget that song, and it is always
associated with this place."

The others joined in the request. Lyle hesitated. Could she trust
herself to sing that song to-night? It was easy to sing when love had
come to another's heart, but could she sing it now that he had come to
her own?

She consented, and the oars rested once more. With her eyes fixed on
the distant mountains, Lyle began her song:

                "Love is come with a song and a smile."

At the first words, Morton Rutherford started, and as he fixed his
eyes on the beautiful singer, her fair form and shining hair outlined
against the silvery cascades, it seemed to him the loveliest sight of
his whole life.

Her voice, exquisitely sweet as she began, gained in expression and
power, until she sang as she had never sung before; and as the last
notes died away, Houston, bending his head low, whispered to Miss
Gladden:

"Leslie, my dear, do you think now that Lyle's heart is not
susceptible? She never could sing that song in that way if she knew
nothing of love."

And Miss Gladden made no reply, for her own heart was too full for
words.

The song was ended, and Lyle's eyes suddenly met the dark ones fixed
upon her face, and though no words were spoken, she read in their
depths that hers was not the only heart to which love had come.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


That night the diminutive lamp that did duty in the room assigned to
the two brothers burned till long past the hour of midnight. By its
dim light, Ned Rutherford indited a letter to his fiancee, while his
brother quietly paced back and forth, the entire length of the small
apartment, his hands clasped behind him and his head thrown back,--his
usual attitude when in deep thought.

"Getting up another article on the application of electric force?"
inquired Ned, as he paused to watch his brother.

"No," was the reply, "I am thinking at present of a force far more
subtle and more powerful than that of electricity."

"Why, how's that?" asked Ned in surprise, "I thought electricity was
one of your pet hobbies."

"Never mind about my pet hobbies," said his brother, with a smile,
"just continue your writing for the present."

Half an hour later, as Ned folded and sealed the voluminous letter,
and placed upon it the long, foreign address, his brother, watching
him with a curious half smile, said:

"I shall have to give you credit for a great deal of constancy, Ned,
more than I really supposed you possessed."

"How's that?" asked Ned, with a slight blush, "to what do you refer."

"To your fidelity to your affianced," Morton replied, "under the rather
adverse circumstances that attend your suit, and notwithstanding
the unusual attractions by which you have been surrounded here."

"Well, as to that," said Ned, slowly, "I don't know as I deserve so
very much credit. Houston appropriated Miss Gladden to himself pretty
soon after we came here, and besides, she isn't exactly my style,
after all; she would suit Houston a great deal better than me."

"Ah," said his brother, quietly, "and what of the younger lady?
Perhaps she is not your style, either?"

"Well, no, I should say not," Ned replied, with the least perceptible
scorn in his tone, "not but what she is a lovely girl, and I respect
her, and feel sorry for her, but I should think one glimpse of her
family would decide that question, once for all."

"Ned," said Morton Rutherford, pausing in his walk, directly in front
of his brother, "is it possible that you are so blind as not to see
that Miss Maverick, as you call her,--I prefer to call her Lyle,--has
no connection whatever with the family in which she lives?"

"Do you think so?" Ned inquired, with surprise, "I remember Houston
and Miss Gladden expressed the same opinion when I was here before,
but I don't think they had any proof that such was the case, and even
if it were so, I don't see how it helps the matter much, for nobody
knows to what sort of a family she really does belong."

"Ned," said his brother, indignantly, "I know nothing of the opinion
of Houston or Miss Gladden upon this subject, but where are your own
eyes, and where is your reason? If you discovered one of the rarest
and most beautiful flowers known to exist in the plant world, in a
heap of tailings out here among these mines, would you immediately
conclude that, because you had found it there, it must be indigenous
to the spot? Look at that girl, and tell me if there is one trace in
feature, in form, in manner, or in speech, of plebeian blood, and then
will you tell me that she is in any way connected with people such as
these? They are not merely plebeian, they are low, debased, criminal.
They are criminals of the deepest dye, not only capable of any
villainy, but already guilty, and to such a degree that their guilt
has made them shrinking, skulking cowards."

"But, Mort, if you are correct, and I don't say that you are not, how
does she come to be in such a place as this, with no memory of
anything different?"

"Through the villainy of that man whom you pointed out to me as her
father; through his villainy, and in no other way."

"You think she was stolen?"

"I do; I can see in his face that he has committed some terrible
crime,--perhaps many of them,--and he is afraid to look a stranger in
the eye; and a glance at that beautiful girl is enough to fasten upon
him one of his crimes. She is from a family whose blood is as pure
from any taint, physical, mental, or moral, as is your own, and unless
I am greatly mistaken, she is not wholly unconscious of this
herself."

"Great Heavens!" exclaimed the younger brother, "I never dreamed of
all this! If it is really as you think, I only wish we could find her
true home, and have her restored to it, and make that scoundrel suffer
for his crime."

"If it is among the possibilities, it shall be done," said Morton
Rutherford, quietly, but in a tone which startled Ned with its volume
of meaning. The latter looked up in quick surprise, a question on his
lips, but he knew his brother's face too well; the question was not
asked, and he only said:

"Good for you, Mort, and here's my hand; I'm with you on this,
whatever you do."

For the next few days, nothing of any special import occurred at the
camp. Houston, soon after the arrival of Morton and Ned Rutherford,
had written to his uncle that preparations were now about completed,
and everything was so nearly in readiness that he and his party had
better come out immediately to one of the western cities, from which
they could be summoned by telegraph on short notice. Accordingly, Mr.
Cameron had already left New York, and in company with his attorney
and the English expert, was now on his way west, Mrs. Cameron also
accompanying him as far west as Chicago, where she was to stop with
friends while he went on to the mines, as she had insisted that she
would feel much happier to be nearer her husband and Everard, so that
she could more easily reach them in the event of any trouble at the
mines.

Van Dorn was progressing well with his work, and the machine would
soon be ready for its trial test, though he said he would in all
probability first have to go to Silver City, in order to have replaced
one or two small but important parts which had been broken in the
long, westward journey.

Lyle, in the midst of the strange happiness which had lately come to
her heart, had not forgotten her resolve to search for the proofs, of
such importance to her. On the contrary, she had now a new and
powerful incentive which gave additional zest to her efforts,
although, thus far, they had proved unsuccessful.

One afternoon, after having made a particularly thorough but fruitless
search, she stole quietly out of the house, and following the little
path along the shore of the lake, soon found herself in her favorite
retreat among the rocks, a secluded place from which there was no sign
of human habitation; only the mountains in their vast solitudes were
visible, their silent grandeur more eloquent than words. It was a spot
that she had loved even in her childhood, and which had, in later
years, been her resort for study and reflection.

In a brief interview with Jack, at the cabin, the previous evening,
she had told him of her increasingly distinct recollections of her
mother, of the angry words between Maverick and his wife which she had
overheard, and of her search which she felt would yet result in her
obtaining possession of the necessary proofs of her identity.

To her surprise, Jack, while commending the course which she was
taking, yet seemed strangely averse to talking much with her upon the
subject. At last, as she was leaving the cabin, he had taken her hands
in his, saying, in a strangely tender tone:

"My dear Lyle, because I say little, you must not think I take no
interest in this affair which concerns you so closely. I am deeply
interested, more deeply than you will probably ever know, but it is
for many reasons a painful subject to me, one full of bitter memories;
but I have one favor to ask of you, my dear child, which I know you
will grant for the sake of the memory of the happy hours we have spent
together,--it is this; that whatever proof you may succeed in finding,
you will first bring to me."

"Certainly I will, dear Jack," Lyle had replied, wondering at his
manner, "in whom should I confide if not in you, who have been my
first and best friend."

And he, his dark, piercing eyes looking into the depths of her own,
their gaze softened by tender affection, had replied:

"Yes, your friend always, Lyle, remember that; none truer or more
devoted to you or your welfare; but before long, my dear, your heart
will learn, if it has not learned already, the difference between
friendship and love."

With burning cheeks and tearful eyes Lyle recalled his words, and
pondered deeply on the strange bond that seemed, in some way, to exist
between his life and hers, but the longer she tried to solve the
problem, the deeper and more obscure it seemed.

In the midst of her reflections, she heard a light step upon the rocky
footpath, and looking up, saw Morton Rutherford approaching. So
absorbed was he in the study of the masses of rock about him, on which
had been traced by the finger of the centuries, in wonderful
hieroglyphics, the early history of the earth, that for a time he was
unconscious of her presence there. When he saw her he raised his hat
and came quickly forward.

"I beg your pardon," he said, in deep, musical tones, "I supposed
myself alone with my own thoughts; am I intruding? if so, send me away
at once."

"No, stay, if you please," said Lyle.

"Thank you," he answered, seating himself on the rocks at a little
distance, "you appeared so lost in thought I feared my coming might
annoy you."

"No," she replied, "my thoughts were too perplexing, I was growing
weary of them."

Mr. Rutherford glanced at the surrounding mountains; "Were you, too,
trying to fathom the mystery of the eternal hills?" he asked.

"No," was her reply, "I have never attempted anything so far beyond me
as that; I have found more mysteries in every-day, human life than I
could solve."

Morton Rutherford was silent for a few moments, then he said in low
tones:

"I hope you will pardon me when I say, that to me, your own life here,
under the existing circumstances and conditions, is a mystery, one
which seems capable of but one solution."

"And what would be your solution?" she asked quickly.

He saw that she understood his meaning, and was watching him intently,
eagerly, and he said:

"Permit me to reply to your question by asking one in return. Do you
not believe that your life had a beginning elsewhere than here, and
under far different conditions?"

"It is more than a belief with me, it is a certainty, and yet, strange
as it may appear to you, this knowledge has come to me but recently,
and even now, I know nothing of what those conditions may have been,
except that they were totally unlike these that exist here."

"You interest me very much are you willing to tell me how you arrived
at this knowledge of which you speak?"

Very briefly, and without going into details, Lyle, in response to the
magnetic sympathy of those dark eyes, gave a vivid outline of her
life, and of the vague impressions which of late were becoming
distinct recollections, and of her hope of soon finding tangible
evidence regarding the life which was daily growing more and more of a
reality.

Mr. Rutherford listened with intense interest to the strange story,
and when she had finished, he said slowly, as he took a short turn up
and down the rocky path:

"Believe me, I have not listened to this through mere, idle curiosity;
much as your story has interested me, it has not surprised me, for I
read the truth almost from our first meeting."

Lyle gave him a smile of rare sweetness and deep significance; "I am
glad to know that," she said simply.

"Why so?" he asked, pausing and seating himself beside her; "Did you
think I could fail to recognize the soul that looked out to welcome me
when I first came, no matter amid what surroundings I found it?" Then,
as she remained silent, he continued, his tones thrilling her heart as
no human voice had ever done before:

"Since the hour that I first met you, Lyle, life has changed for
me,--I think perhaps it will never be quite the same again for either
of us. I know that I love you with a love that, whether reciprocated
or not, can never die; that henceforth, you will be,--you must be,--a
part of my very life. Let me care for you and help you; let me help
you in your search for the home for which you were created, and of
which you are worthy; but, Lyle, before you search any farther for
that home, will you not consent to become the queen of my home, as you
are already the queen of my heart?"

Lyle lifted her head proudly, though the tears glistened on the long,
golden lashes; "Do you ask me that, here and now, knowing nothing as
yet, of what the future may reveal?"

"I do; I have no fear for the future if I but have your love. Do you
think that, perhaps, in the days to come, amid other and different
surroundings, you might find some one whose love your heart would
choose in preference to mine?"

"Never!" cried Lyle, impulsively, turning with outstretched arms to
him, "You are the only one I have ever loved,--the only one I could
ever love!"

"Then that is enough for me," he replied, drawing her closely to his
breast; "you have come forth from the years of the wretched past, with
a soul star-white and shining, and I have no fears for the future."

When the little group of friends assembled that evening, it was not
long before some one discovered that a small diamond ring, of
exquisite, antique design, which Morton Rutherford had worn, had, in
some manner, become transferred to Lyle's hand. "Wear this, for the
present," he had said, in taking it from his own hand, "until I can
obtain a costlier one for you," but Lyle had insisted that once placed
upon her hand, there it must remain, as she would prize it far above
any other which money could buy; and such had been the final
decision.

When this significant fact had been discovered by one of the little
company, the intelligence was speedily telegraphed to the rest, and
Morton and Lyle soon found themselves the recipients of hearty and
affectionate congratulations from the others.

The astonishment depicted on Ned's face, when he comprehended the turn
affairs had taken, was beyond description, but in the little
excitement which prevailed for a few moments, it passed unnoticed, so
that he had sufficiently recovered himself to join very gracefully in
the general congratulations when his turn came.

A few hours later, however, as he went out for a stroll with Van Dorn,
while his brother and Houston started out in the direction of Jack's
cabin, his astonishment found expression.

"Great Scott! but I never was so dumfounded in my life! I tell you
what, Van, I believe people lose their wits when they are in love!"

"On whose experience do you base your highly original remark, your
brother's or your own?"

"Well, both, and lots of others besides. I never yet saw a person who
was in love that didn't act just the reverse of what you would expect,
or of what they would under ordinary circumstances. Now, look at us
two, for instance. Look at me! Everybody calls me rash and impetuous,
and Mort is always lecturing me for it, and it's always my way to rush
head-first into anything that comes along, and here I've been making
love, in the regular, orthodox fashion, to a girl I've known ever
since I wore knickerbockers, and playing propriety and all that to my
prospective father-in-law; and now see Mort! the most precise,
deliberate fellow you ever saw, never says or does anything that isn't
exactly suited to the occasion, you know; and here he goes and tumbles
head over heels in love with a pretty girl the first time he sees her,
and when he doesn't know a blessed thing about her, and, by George!
engages himself to her before he's known her a week! If that isn't a
case of clear-gone lunacy, then I never saw one."

Van Dorn laughed; "Well, of the two, I should prefer your brother's
form of lunacy to yours; if I ever was to be in love, I should want
the misery over as quickly as possible."

As Houston and his friend, having made a brief call at the cabin, rose
to take their leave, the former observed Jack watching Rutherford's
face with a degree of interest unusual for him to manifest in a
stranger.

"I want you and my friend, Rutherford, to know each other the little
time he will be here," he said, addressing Jack, "for though I have
never known what it was to have a brother in reality, he seems to me
to more nearly fill that position than any one I have known, and I
have told him of your kindness and assistance, and the strange bond
that has seemed to unite us from the first, though we met as
strangers, so he naturally wishes to meet you."

There was a peculiar quiver of the lips under the heavy, black beard,
as Jack replied, in deep, full tones, "Mr. Rutherford's face carries
with it its own recommendation, and the fact that he is as a brother
to yourself will insure him a double welcome here as often as he
pleases to come during his stay."

Houston passed onward into the outer room, pausing to chat with Mike,
while Morton Rutherford lingered, and extending his hand to Jack, said
in low tones:

"I have another reason for wishing to meet you. From what Lyle has
told me, I know you to have been, until very recently, her only
friend, and to you, as to her friend, and perhaps, in one sense, her
guardian, I wish to state that I love her, and have been so fortunate
as to win her love in return; and that I hope before very long, my
home will be hers."

"Yes, I know," Jack responded, briefly.

"What! has she already told you?" Rutherford asked in surprise.

"Only unconsciously; but I read soon after your coming, that her heart
was no longer her own."

Then grasping Rutherford's hand warmly, he added, in tones vibrating
with some deep emotion.

"You have chosen better than you know. I believe I can trust her and
her happiness in your hands. God bless you both! and may He bless you
in proportion to your love and fidelity toward her!"



CHAPTER XXXIX.


The following day, Mr. Blaisdell suddenly made his appearance at the
camp, accompanied by Mr. Rivers and a mining expert who had come out
in the interests of a Chicago firm, looking for good paying
investments. Houston had received no word of their coming, and the
first intimation which he had of their arrival was the sight of the
three gentlemen, as he approached the house at dinner time.

"How are you, Houston?" said Mr. Blaisdell, pausing in his walk up and
down before the house, and extending his hand, "How's the work
progressing?"

"Finely," replied Houston, "the output is steadily increasing, week by
week."

"Keeps you pretty busy, I suppose? Well, I hope we can give you a
little help before long; we've located Barden at last, and he starts
for the west next week. Let me introduce you to Mr. Parsons, a mining
expert from Chicago; Mr. Parsons, this is Mr. Houston, our general
superintendent."

Houston exchanged greetings with the stranger, and with Mr. Rivers,
the latter watching him closely, though saying very little.

Dinner was served as quickly as possible, as Mr. Parsons was limited
for time, and was to return to Silver City on the evening train. Most
of the conversation at the table was on mines and mining, Mr.
Blaisdell trying to impress each one present, Mr. Parsons in
particular, with his extensive knowledge, both theoretical and
practical, on all that pertained to the subject, as well as with a
sense of the immense value of the properties owned by the company.

"Mr. W. E. Cameron, of New York, owns some very valuable mines out
here, I understand," said Mr. Parsons casually, his innocent remark
producing rather a startling effect upon the minds of his listeners,
though they, one and all, succeeded in preserving a calm exterior.

"He has an interest in some very fine properties," replied Mr.
Blaisdell blandly, though with a visible contracting of the muscles
about the mouth, "you are acquainted with Mr. Cameron, I presume?"

"Oh, no, on the contrary, I never even met the gentleman, but he is
extensively known among the leading business houses of Chicago, and he
was pointed out to me, the day I came away, as the owner of some of
the finest mines in this locality," Mr. Parsons explained, thereby
carrying consternation to the heart of every one present.

"Did I understand you to say that Mr. Cameron was in Chicago?"
inquired Mr. Blaisdell, while Mr. Rivers' restless eyes were at once
on the alert.

"Certainly, he was there the day I left; at least, a gentleman with
whom I happened to be talking about western investments, pointed him
out to me, and cited him as the owner of western properties."

"Ah, yes, did you hear anything said as to whether he was coming this
way?"

"Nothing, nothing whatever, except what I have stated."

"It's all right," said Mr. Rivers, speaking for the first time, and in
his quick, incisive way; he feared Mr. Blaisdell had betrayed his
anxiety; "all right, only we would like to know his whereabouts, as it
will be necessary to wire him in a day or two, regarding some ore
shipments. Can you give us the hotel where he was stopping?"

"I am very sorry that I cannot oblige you, but I have not the least
idea where he was located; I simply saw him passing on the street."

"It is of no consequence," replied Mr. Blaisdell, with assumed
indifference, "we can of course ascertain his present address from the
New York house; it will take a little more time, that is all. We had
better proceed to the mines at once, if Mr. Parsons is ready."

When they had left and Haight was on his way to the mills, the four
young men held a few moments' consultation outside the house.

"By Jingo!" exclaimed Ned Rutherford, "it looks as though old Buncombe
was going to get on to our surprise party that we're planning for him!
What are you fellows going to do about it?"

"Well," said Van Dorn. "I'm not sure whether this is going to
interfere with our arrangements or not; what do you think, Everard?
will the company 'smell a rat' anywhere?"

"They are evidently alarmed at the possibility of Mr. Cameron's coming
out here, but there is nothing yet to arouse their suspicions against
us, so I do not think it will interfere materially with our plans at
present. They will be able to learn nothing of my uncle's movements
from the New York house, as he will have forestalled them there. He
had but just reached Chicago when this Parsons left, and as he and Mr.
Whitney wished, if possible, to remain there a few days, to consult
with a legal firm who are personal friends of theirs, I think it best,
in case this company remains quiet, to take no action yet for two or
three days; but if the officers of the company begin to appear
suspicious, or as if they were trying to cover their tracks, the
sooner we telegraph for our party, the better; get them here as
quickly as possible."

"Yes, that will be best," said Morton Rutherford, "if their suspicions
are aroused, we cannot be too expeditious, for they will be desperate
when they find themselves cornered."

"We must hold ourselves in readiness to act promptly," Houston added,
"probably within twenty-four hours we will be able to decide which
course to pursue."

Houston went to his work determined to keep a close watch on the
movements of Blaisdell and Rivers. A couple of hours later, however,
the three men entered the mill where he was engaged superintending the
weighing of some ore; Mr. Rivers went at once to Haight's little
private office, while Blaisdell approached him with the expert.

"Mr. Houston," he said, "just take Mr. Parsons through the mills and
entertain him for the next half hour. Mr. Rivers and myself will be
engaged about that length of time."

Houston complied with the request, and in a very short time discovered
that Mr. Parsons' knowledge of metallurgy and mineralogy was
exceedingly limited, but that in exact proportion to his own
ignorance, he had been profoundly impressed by the knowledge which Mr.
Blaisdell had aired for his especial benefit, and the parrot-like way
in which he repeated some of the expressions which Mr. Blaisdell kept
as his "stock in trade," was very amusing.

Meanwhile Houston was deeply interested in the private meeting held in
Haight's little dingy room, as he felt certain that some issues were
being discussed and decisions reached that would, in their results, be
of the greatest importance to him, and he awaited the reappearance of
the general manager and secretary with considerable expectancy.

He was not disappointed; a glance at their faces revealed that the
subjects under discussion had not been pleasant. Mr. Blaisdell's face
was white, and set in hard, determined lines, while that of his
companion was flushed with anger, and his cunning, crafty eyes were
full of suspicion, as they glanced repeatedly in Houston's direction.

"Mr. Parsons," said Mr. Blaisdell, "we will have to ask you to excuse
Mr. Houston, as we have a little business with him, and if you will
step over there in the office and sit down, we will have completed our
business in half or three-quarters of an hour; by that time the team
will be here, in readiness to take us to the train."

After a few moments of desultory conversation about the work which
Houston knew to be only preliminary, during which Mr. Rivers moved
about in a nervous, restless manner, Mr. Blaisdell said:

"Mr. Houston, we hear some rather strange reports concerning your
conduct lately; your actions have certainly been highly censurable,
and the least that can be said is that you have exceeded your
authority here in a very marked degree."

"In what respect have I exceeded my authority?" demanded Houston,
folding his arms, with an expression on his face that made the
general manager regret that he had begun the encounter; but it was too
late to retreat, besides, Rivers was watching him!

"In your manner of discharging the duties assigned to you; you have
taken advantage of your position in the most reprehensible and
unworthy way, and have overstepped the bounds when you had no right
whatever to do so."

"I shall have to ask you to be a little more explicit, Mr. Blaisdell,"
Houston replied.

"Why don't you come to the point, Blaisdell?" said Rivers impatiently.
"What's the use of beating about the bush? The long and the short of
it is just this," he added, turning to Houston, "you have been taking
upon yourself what did not concern you, prying around, late at night,
in mines with which you had nothing whatever to do, in company with
miners who had no more business there than you had."

"To what mine do you refer?" asked Houston, with exasperating
persistency.

"I mean the Lucky Chance, and you know it," retorted Rivers angrily.

"Mr. Rivers," said Houston, in a tone that Blaisdell had heard on a
former occasion, and with a steel-like glitter in his eyes that was
anything but attractive to either of the gentlemen present; "Mr.
Blaisdell knows, if you do not, that since my first coming here,
whatever kind of work has been assigned to me, I have thoroughly
familiarized myself with it. When I was given charge of these mines I
had reason to suppose that each and every mine owned by the company
was included under my supervision, and if there were any which the
officers of the company, for reasons of their own, wished excluded
from such supervision, it was their business so to inform me. I have
not been so informed. Mr. Blaisdell himself took me into that mine,
and nothing was said to lead me to suppose that that mine was any
exception to those placed in my charge, and your informant, if he
chose so to do, could tell you that I have inspected in like manner
each and every mine under my supervision, taking with me one or both
of the same men, when the mine happened to be one with which I was not
familiar."

"His intentions were all right," interposed Mr. Blaisdell, "he was
over-zealous, that was all."

"Intentions be damned!" said Mr. Rivers, angrily, "he was altogether
too officious, and I won't have it; people in my employ have to know
their place and keep it."

"That is all very well," said Houston, in cutting tones, "but I will
not ask you, Mr. Rivers, or any one connected with this company, to
tell me my place."

"What!" exclaimed Rivers in a rage, "let me tell you, young man, it is
to your interest to be a little careful."

"Is it?" answered Houston scornfully; "Mr. Rivers," he added,
advancing toward that gentleman, "why don't you discharge me? Wouldn't
that be to your interest?"

Mr. Rivers saw he had gone too far; "No," he answered quickly, though
sullenly, "we have said nothing about discharging you; you are too
efficient a man for us to lose."

"No, Houston," added Mr. Blaisdell, "we wouldn't think of discharging
you, you're too good a man."

"No, I'm not too good a man," replied Houston, facing them both with
a look which they understood; "you don't discharge me simply
because,--you don't dare to!" and he emphasized the last words with a
heavy blow upon a rude desk standing near.

Blaisdell and Rivers exchanged glances, and for a moment were
speechless. The former was the first to recover himself.

"Come, Houston," he said, in a conciliatory tone, "we won't have any
more words; we all understand one another pretty well, and there'll
be no more complaints or trouble. You go on pretty much as you have
done, and it will be all right. It's time we were getting back now,
but I'll be out here next week with Barden, and we'll fix things
up satisfactory all 'round."

"When will he get here?" asked Houston.

"The latter part of next week."

Houston thought an instant, his party would be there the first or
middle of the week.

"Very well," he replied, "I tender my resignation now, to take effect
when he comes."

"Oh, no, Houston, no indeed, why, we couldn't think of such a thing,"
said Blaisdell, really alarmed, while Rivers maintained a sullen
silence.

"I am not particularly anxious to hold this position, I can assure
you; there is very little in it but hard work."

"Oh, well, well, you stay by us a while longer, and we'll take you
into the company yet."

"No," said Houston, "it would be no use taking me into the company, I
wouldn't know my place, or keep it," and with that parting shot, he
turned and left them.

"Blaisdell," said Rivers, his face relaxing for a moment into a grim
smile, "it's just as I told you, your smart young man is too smart for
you. It's my opinion we've caught a tartar;--we're afraid to keep him,
and we don't dare let him go."



CHAPTER XL.


As Houston, on the following morning, in the execution of his daily
round of duties, happened to be passing the Yankee Boy mine, his
attention was arrested by a quantity of powder deposited near the
mouth of the shaft, which the workmen were preparing to take below.

"What is the meaning of this?" he inquired sternly. "Who has given any
orders for this powder to be brought here?"

"Them was the boss's orders, sir," replied one of the men, respectfully.

"The boss? whom do you mean?"

"Begging your pardon, sir, I meant the boss as was up here yisterday;
Mr. Haight, he told me this morning as these was the orders he give
him."

"Haight," said Houston, as, a few moments later, he entered the office
of that individual, "did Mr. Blaisdell leave orders yesterday for
powder to be taken over to the Yankee Boy mines?"

"Yes," replied Haight, with his usual smile, "and I intended to have
spoken to you about it this morning, but I forgot it."

"What is his object? any blasting to be done?"

"Yes, we had quite a long consultation together yesterday, he and
Rivers and I, and we decided that it would pay to do some extensive
drifting in those mines, and a good deal of that rock will have to be
blasted."

"How soon is this blasting to begin?"

"Well, I can't say exactly, just how soon, probably within the next
seven or eight days."

"In what direction is the drifting to extend?"

Haight looked slightly surprised but replied: "We're a little
undecided about that, just what course to take; Rivers was for one
thing, and Blaisdell and I for another. After they have blasted a
ways, we can tell something from the character of the rock in what
direction it will be best to run the drift."

After a few more questions, some of which Haight did not answer so
readily as might have been expected, Houston left him. He did not
proceed at once to the building where Van Dorn was at work, but first
returned to the mines, where he discovered that the powder was not
only being stored in the Yankee Boy group, but also in the Lucky
Chance, and one or two others of the surrounding mines. A little later
he made an errand to that part of the mills where Van Dorn was to be
found, and quietly calling him to one side, related to him what he had
discovered, and his talk with Haight.

Van Dorn was more familiar with mines, their methods of operation, and
the rules governing their underground workings, than Houston, and he
immediately exclaimed:

"By George! that fellow is a fool, Everard, or else he was simply
'stuffing' you; to drift in the direction he mentioned would be a
useless expenditure of time and money, there would be nothing in it,
it is utterly absurd!"

"I mistrusted as much," said Houston, "and I have my own opinion as to
the meaning of all this, but I wished to get your idea of the matter.
What do you think of it?"

"It looks to me," said Van Dorn slowly, "as though they were making
preparations to blow up these mines, at a moment's warning."

"That," said Houston, "was just the conviction that forced itself upon
my mind when I saw that powder, though I will admit I had never once
thought of their resorting to such measures as that."

"It's about the only thing left for them to do, by George! after the
shape in which they have got things; their idea probably would be, in
the event of Mr. Cameron's coming, to destroy in this way all the
evidence, as they think, existing against them. It shows pretty
conclusively that they have no suspicions of us, for if they knew the
evidence in our possession they would blow us up rather than the
mines. You will telegraph at once for Mr. Cameron, will you not?"

"At once; we must get him here as quickly and as quietly as we can;
before they put their plans into action, if possible."

"That is the thing to do; they probably will take no action unless
they hear of his coming. We ought to get a dispatch off before
night."

"We will," Houston replied, with quiet decision.

"How will you manage it? It will look rather suspicious for you or me
to leave our work and go down to the Y with a message."

"Give Morton our dispatch and cipher book, and he will attend to it
better than you or I, for he is an expert operator."

"By George! that's so, I had forgotten it; he learned telegraphy there
at college just to amuse himself, and had a battery in his room; well,
that's fortunate, he will be just the one for us."

"It is nearly noon," said Houston, consulting his watch, "we will see
Morton at the house, and arrange the message between us, and he will
send it immediately."

After dinner, there was a brief consultation in Houston's room with
the result that the following dispatch was formulated, written in
cipher, and addressed to Mr. Whitney, at Chicago, the attorney from
New York, accompanying Mr. Cameron:

  "Come at once, no delay; go to Arlington Hotel, Silver City; keep
  dark, do not register. Van Dorn will meet you at hotel."

Houston realized that they were now rapidly approaching the final
denouement,--the closing act of the drama which might yet prove a
tragedy,--and as he placed the folded slip of paper in Morton
Rutherford's hand, he said with a sigh:

"This is the beginning of the end."



CHAPTER XLI.


As Morton Rutherford's fingers touched the key of the little
instrument that was to send forth that fateful message, it was the
unconscious touching of a secret spring which was to set in motion a
succession of events of which he little dreamed.

He remained at the station until the answer came back over the wires:

  "Leave Chicago to-night; will follow instructions to the letter."

This was on Saturday. On Tuesday the expected party would reach Silver
City, where they were to be met by Van Dorn, who would furnish them
all details and accompany them on the evening train to the Y, from
which point Houston and Morton Rutherford would convey them by team to
the mining camp.

From Saturday until Tuesday only! but those intervening days were full
of a strange excitement for the little group of friends who were in
the secret, and there was that constant sense of expectancy, combined
with an alert watchfulness, which kept the nerves tense and rigid, and
rendered the mind unusually clear and active.

On Monday, Van Dorn left for Silver City, his errand ostensibly being
to replace the broken portions of the machinery, now nearly finished,
which were necessary for its completion.

All felt that the climax to which they had looked forward was now very
near, and Lyle, who perhaps realized the situation the most keenly of
any, was restless and excited, something very unusual for her.

Her search, thus far unsuccessful, had not been abandoned, and as she
sat in the little porch on that particular afternoon, idle because she
could not fix her attention upon book or work, it seemed as if the
years of her early life among the mountains stood out with more than
usual distinctness. Among other trifling objects, there was suddenly
recalled to her memory a box which used always to stand in Mrs.
Maverick's little bed-room, and which had looked wonderfully
attractive to her childish eyes on account of a flowered red and green
paper with which it was covered. Once, overcome with infantile
curiosity, she had tried to open it, and had received a severe
whipping therefor. She could remember it very distinctly now, a box
about eighteen inches square, with no fastening, but always securely
tied with a stout cord. Late years it had been removed to the little
attic and she had forgotten it. Where was it now? She had not seen it
for months, or was it years? What could it have contained?

Miss Gladden was occupied with a new magazine. Morton and Ned
Rutherford had gone out for a stroll among the rocks. Quietly Lyle
slipped up-stairs, and going to the dark, dusty attic, began searching
for the object so suddenly recalled to mind.

She could find no trace of it, however, and had about concluded that
it must have been destroyed, when her attention was arrested by a pile
of old clothing and rubbish on the floor in a particularly dark
corner, behind some large boxes. A slight examination revealed that
there was some solid substance underneath. Hastily overturning the
rubbish, her eyes descried in the dim light the identical red and
green papered box familiar to her childhood.

With an exclamation of joy she dragged it forth from its hiding place,
and going over to the one tiny window, covered with dust and cobwebs,
she sat down with the newly found treasure, first arranging a pile of
old bedding as a screen between herself and the door, to preclude all
possibility of her whereabouts being discovered.

With fingers trembling with excitement, she undid the fastenings of
the heavy cord and slowly lifted the cover, not knowing exactly what
she expected or hoped to find, but certain that the key for which she
had searched was close at hand.

Within the box lay a large parcel wrapped in a newspaper, worn and
yellow with age, and pinned to the parcel was a letter, addressed in a
cramped, almost illegible hand:

                               "To Lyle,
                      to be read after my death."

Lyle recognized the writing,--it was Mrs. Maverick's, whose
educational advantages, though exceedingly limited, were yet superior
to those of her husband, in that she could read and write, though she
had little idea of the rules of grammar or orthography.

Lyle unpinned the letter and turned it over curiously in her hands for
a moment; then she laid it aside, saying to herself:

"I will first see what this package contains, and will probably open
that later."

She lifted the parcel and began removing the paper wrappings, which
burst like tissue and dropped in pieces, leaving a mass of fine
cambric and dainty laces and embroideries, from which was exhaled a
perfume, faint and subtle, and yet which recalled to Lyle so vividly
the memories of that long-ago forgotten time, that she seemed like one
awakening from a long oblivion to the scenes of a once familiar life.
For a moment, she grew faint and dizzy, and, closing her eyes, leaned
against the wall for support, while she tried to grasp the vision that
seemed just ready to open up before her. But it passed, and with a
sigh she opened her eyes, her gaze falling on the contents of the
package which had fallen open.

She saw the dress of a little child,--apparently about two years of
age,--a marvelous creation of the finest of white linen and the
daintiest of embroideries; lying within it was a broad sash of blue
silk, neatly folded together, a pair of tiny, blue silk stockings,
and little kid shoes of the same delicate shade; but the shoes and
sash, as well as the dress, were soiled and blackened as if they had
come in contact with charred wood.

The dress and the little undergarments each and all bore the initials
"M. L. W.," and Lyle pondered over them with wondering eyes, while
handling with reverent touch these relics of her childhood,--a
childhood which she could not recall.

As she unrolled the blue sash, there dropped from within its folds a
small, pasteboard box, which she hastily opened, exposing to view a
tiny gold locket and chain of rare workmanship and exquisite design.
Upon touching a little spring, it opened, and Lyle gave a low cry of
delight, for there was revealed the same beautiful face which she had
seen in Jack's cabin,--the face of her mother. For some time she gazed
at it through fast-gathering tears, then happening to note the
engraving on the inside of the case, opposite to the picture, she held
it closer to the light, to discern the delicate characters of the
inscription, and read:

                     "To Marjorie Lyle Washburn,
                     Upon her second birthday."

Lyle Maverick no longer, but Marjorie Lyle Washburn! She repeated the
name over and over to herself,--the magic talisman by which she was to
find the home and friends she sought!

Kissing the locket reverently, she replaced it in the box, and folding
together the little garments, she again took up the letter. She
studied it for a moment, then resolutely breaking the seal, began to
read its contents. It was slow work, for the writing in many places
was so poor as to be nearly illegible, but, with burning cheeks and
eyes flashing with indignation at what it revealed, she read it to the
end.

In uncouth phrases and illiterate language, and yet with a certain
pathos, Mrs. Maverick told the story of the death, years before, while
their home was east, in Ohio, of her own little girl between two and
three years of age, and her inconsolable sorrow. A few months
afterward, Jim had suddenly returned from a neighboring town where he
was working, bringing with him a beautiful little girl of the same age
as her own, but unusually advanced for her years, whose father and
mother he claimed had been killed in a railroad accident, and of whose
friends nothing could be learned. His wife had accepted his story in
good faith, and welcomed the motherless little one to her own lonely
heart. Unknown to Jim, who had charged her to burn them, she had also
preserved the garments worn by the little stranger on that day.

But the little one did not take kindly to her new surroundings but
cried piteously for her mother, night and day, even refusing food of
all kinds, until she was suddenly taken with a strange illness which
lasted for many weeks. When she finally recovered, all memory of her
former life seemed to have been completely blotted out of her mind,
and she no longer called for her mother, except occasionally in her
sleep. Very soon after they had come out to the mines, and nothing of
any importance occurred until Lyle was about seven years old.

At that time, Jim had suddenly made his appearance at the house one
day, appearing both angry and frightened, and had ordered his wife to
keep Lyle locked up, on pretext of punishing her, until he gave
permission for her release. He would give no explanation, and by his
curses and threats compelled her to obey.

That day, a fine-looking, elderly gentleman, who had just arrived from
the east to purchase some mining property, came to the house for
dinner, and took his meals there for the two days following, during
which time, Lyle was not allowed her liberty. Not until nearly a year
later did Mrs. Maverick learn that the eastern stranger, whose coming
had so terrified Maverick, was Lyle's grandfather. Jim then confessed
that he had taken the child from the wreck where its mother had lost
her life, and brought her west with him, knowing whose child she was,
and keeping her out of revenge for some wrong which he claimed this
man had done him years before.

In vain his wife urged to have the child returned to her rightful
home; he threatened her life if she ever breathed the secret to any
living soul. A sense of guilt made her unhappy for a time, but as
years passed she grew more indifferent to it, and as she saw, more and
more, how utterly unlike any of her own family Lyle was growing, she
no longer cared for her as she had done, though she tried to treat her
kindly. Jim's hatred of Lyle seemed to increase with every year, until
his wife sometimes feared that he would resort to personal violence.

As she found her own health and strength failing she began to reflect
upon the terrible position in which Lyle would find herself in case of
her own death, left alone with Maverick and his two sons, and to save
her from such a fate, she had resolved to write this letter,
acquainting Lyle with her own history so far as she was able to give
it.

At the close she begged Lyle not to think too harshly of her or
consider that she was altogether to blame in this matter, and
expressed the wish that she might some day find her own friends from
whom she had been taken.

It would be impossible to describe Lyle's emotions as she finished the
perusal of this strange letter; joy that she had finally found the
evidence she sought, and an intense longing to see those from whom she
had been so cruelly separated all these years, mingled with a fearful
apprehension lest this knowledge might have come too late, when those
whose affection she would claim, might have already passed beyond the
limits of finite, human love, into the love infinite and eternal. And
deep in her heart burned indignation, fierce and strong, against the
one who had wrought all this wretchedness,--carrying additional sorrow
to a home already bereaved, robbing her of the love that was
rightfully hers and of the dower of a happy childhood which could
never be restored,--all to gratify his cowardly revenge!

In the midst of these reflections, Lyle suddenly recalled the promise
she had given Jack that he should be the first to learn of her
success. It was now time for him to be at the cabin and she would have
an opportunity to see him before the return of the others to the
house. Accordingly, she restored the empty box to its hiding place,
and having concealed the most of its contents in her own room,
started forth on her joyful errand, taking with her the tiny locket
and the letter.

As she approached the cabin she saw Jack sitting with Rex in the
door-way and knew that he was alone. Jack, to whom her face was an
open book, read the tidings which she had brought before they had
exchanged a word. He rose to meet her, and looking into her radiant
face, he said in gentle tones and with a grave smile:

"You have good news! Have you found what you hoped to find?"

"I have," she replied, "and you who have shared all my troubles must
be the first sharer of my joy."

Together they entered the cabin, and seated in the little, familiar
room, Lyle told the story of her discovery, and opening the locket,
placed it in Jack's hands.

For a moment he gazed silently at the little trinket, then he said in
low tones, as if half to himself, "It is she, and you are her child,
as I have always believed," then added, "I rejoice with you, Lyle, I
am glad for your sake."

But even as he spoke, Lyle, notwithstanding the exuberance of her own
joy, could not fail to observe in his face indications of poignant
pain, as he looked at the lovely pictured face, and as she repeated
the name inscribed opposite.

"Jack!" she suddenly exclaimed, "have I made you suffer by my
thoughtlessness? Forgive me!"

"No, my dear," he answered tenderly, "you have caused me no pain; if I
suffer, it is on account of bitter memories of which you as yet know
nothing, and I pray you may never know. What letter have you there?"

Lyle read the letter, Jack silently pacing up and down the room,
listening, with a look of intense indignation deepening on his face,
until she had finished.

"It is as I have suspected all these years," he said, "the dastardly
villain! the scoundrel! Thank God, it is not yet too late, there are
those who can and will right the wrong, so far as it is possible to
right it."

At Lyle's request, they compared the picture with the photograph in
Jack's possession; they were one and the same, except that the latter
had been taken a few years earlier.

"Jack," said Lyle earnestly, "can you tell me anything about my
relatives? Are my grandparents living? and had my parents brothers or
sisters?"

"I have learned quite recently that your grandparents are still
living," Jack answered slowly, after a pause, "as to the others I
cannot say; even of your own mother I can trust myself to say but very
little, it is too painful!"

"What would you advise me to do now?" Lyle asked wistfully, but with
slight hesitation. "What would be the best course for me to take?"

With an expression unlike anything she had ever seen on his face, and
a depth of pathos in his voice she had never heard, he replied very
tenderly:

"I can no longer advise you, my dear Lyle; take these proofs which you
have found to Everard Houston; he can advise you now far better than
I; show them to him, my dear, and you will have no further need of
counsel or help from me, much as I wish it were in my power to give
both."

"To Mr. Houston?" Lyle had risen in her surprise, and stood regarding
Jack with tearful, perplexed astonishment; there was a hidden
significance in his words which as yet she could not fathom. "I do not
understand you, Jack; why do you speak as though you could no more be
to me the friend and counselor that you have been?"

He smiled one of his rare, sweet smiles. "Do as I have suggested,
dear,--then you will understand; and I shall want to see you for a few
moments again to-night, after you have seen him."

Somewhat reassured by his smile, and yet perplexed by his manner, Lyle
left the cabin and slowly returned to the house, everything about her
seeming unreal, as though she were walking in a dream.

Miss Gladden was chatting with Morton and Ned Rutherford, and in reply
to Lyle's question whether Mr. Houston had returned, stated that he
was in his room, having just come up from the mines.

"Thank you, I will see him just a moment," Lyle responded, passing
into the house.

"You have not heard any bad news, have you?" asked Miss Gladden
apprehensively, noting the peculiar expression on Lyle's face.

"No," the latter answered with a smile, "it is about nothing regarding
himself that I wish to see him, only something concerning myself."

The door stood open into Houston's room, and Lyle could see him
standing by the table, arranging some papers which he proceeded to
sort and tie up in separate parcels.

In response to her light knock he glanced quickly around, and
observing her unusual expression, advanced to meet her, thinking, as
did Miss Gladden, that possibly she had heard something appertaining
to the present situation of affairs at the camp.

"Good evening, Lyle, come in; you look as though you were the bearer
of important news of some kind."

"I have news," she replied, "though of importance only to myself; I
need a little counsel, and was told to come to you."

"You know, Lyle, I will only be too glad to give you any advice, or
render any assistance within my power."

"Thank you," she answered, at the same time producing the little box
and the letter. "Leslie has probably told you of the manner in which I
learned that the proofs as to my true parentage and my own identity
existed within this house, and of my search for them since that
time."

Houston bowed in assent.

"To-day," she continued, "my search proved successful, in so far as
that I have discovered my own name, and also the proofs that I was
stolen by that villain, Maverick, in a spirit of retaliation and
revenge; but I have as yet no knowledge as to who or where my friends
may be. Naturally, I took these proofs to Jack, and asked his advice
as to the best course to pursue, and he has sent me to you."

"I am more than glad to hear this, my dear Lyle," responded Houston
cordially; "I have always felt a great interest in you, and it will
give me much pleasure if I can assist you in finding your friends, and
I shall appreciate it highly if Jack has intrusted me with this
responsibility."

Taking the locket from the box, Lyle handed it, unopen, to Houston,
saying as she did so, "This is the only clue I have by which to
find my friends; it contains my mother's picture, and my own
name,--Marjorie Lyle Washburn."

"Washburn!" exclaimed Houston in surprise, pausing as he was about to
open the locket. "Washburn! Marjorie Washburn! That sounds familiar,
both those names occur in my uncle's family, his wife and his
daughter,--ah, I recall it now, that was the name of my cousin's
little daughter. Strange!--what! what is this?" He had opened the
locket and was gazing in astonishment at the beautiful face.
"This,--this is her picture, the picture of my cousin, Edna Cameron
Washburn! What is the meaning of this?" And, unable to say anything
further, he looked to Lyle for an explanation.

She, too, was nearly speechless with astonishment. "What did you say
was her name?" she stammered.

Houston repeated the name, while a strange light began to dawn in his
face.

"She was my mother," Lyle said simply. She could say nothing more, the
walls of the little room seemed to be whirling rapidly about her, and
she could see nothing distinctly.

Faintly, as though sounding far in the distance, she heard Houston's
voice as he exclaimed:

"Can it be possible? and yet, you resemble her! Why have I never
thought of it before? She had a little daughter Marjorie, whom we
always supposed was killed in the wreck in which her own life was
lost."

"And this," said Lyle, holding out the letter, but speaking with great
effort, for the room was growing very dark, and a strange numbness
seemed stealing over heart and brain, "this tells that I was stolen
from the side of my dead mother who was killed in a wreck--" She could
get no farther, and she knew nothing of his reply. A thick darkness
seemed to envelop her, fast shutting out all sense even of life
itself. There was a sound for an instant like the deafening roar of
waters surging about her, and then she seemed sinking down, down into
infinite depths, until she lost all consciousness. For the first time
in her life she had fainted.

Houston caught her as she was falling, and a moment later the little
group outside were startled by his sudden appearance.

"Leslie," he said, in quick, low tones, "you and Morton come to my
room. Lyle has fainted."

"What is the trouble, Everard?" asked Ned, springing to his feet.
"Anything serious?"

"I think not," was Houston's reply. "Her fainting was the result of
over-excitement. Come into my room, Ned, when she has revived, I think
I have made a discovery in which we will all be interested."

When he returned Lyle was beginning to revive, though unable to speak,
and leaving her in the care of Leslie and Morton for a few moments,
Houston hastily scanned the letter which Lyle had given him, soon
reading enough of its contents here and there to get a correct idea of
the whole.

Both Miss Gladden and Morton Rutherford realized that something had
transpired out of the usual order of events. Each believed it
connected with some discovery relating to Lyle's early history, but of
what nature the discovery might be they had no clue.

As soon as she was able to speak Houston was at her side, and she read
in his face the confirmation of the truth which had dawned upon her
mind as he had repeated her mother's name, but which had seemed to her
past belief.

"It is really true, and I have not been dreaming?" she asked.

"It is most certainly true, my dear Lyle," Houston replied, "and I am
very glad to find that you, who have seemed to me like a sister from
our first acquaintance, will soon be my sister in reality."

Stooping, he kissed her on the forehead, and then in reply to the
glances of astonishment on the part of the others, he said:

"Leslie, I will have to prepare you for a double surprise, and since
we four are now members of one family, I can speak here without
reserve. When I first won your love, my dear, it was as the salaried
clerk of a disreputable mining company. I was old-fashioned enough to
wish to win your love with love, to feel assured that you cared for me
for my own sake. Lately, you have known that I was the representative
of Mr. Cameron, of New York, but you did not know that I was Mr.
Cameron's nephew and adopted son,--his son in all respects, excepting
that I have not taken his name." He paused a moment, and laid his hand
affectionately on Lyle's shoulder. "I now have a pleasant surprise for
you both. I wish to introduce you to Marjorie Lyle Washburn, my cousin
and my adopted sister."

With a burst of tears, Miss Gladden knelt beside Lyle, throwing her
arms about her neck, while Lyle whispered:

"Dear Leslie, you have been like a sister to me in my poverty and
loneliness. I am glad we will not be separated in the life of love and
happiness that awaits me. We will be sisters still, more closely
united than ever."

Turning to Morton Rutherford, whose emotion seemed nearly as deep as
Miss Gladden's, Houston said:

"Morton, you remember hearing of my beautiful cousin Edna, and of the
sad death of herself and her little daughter, as we always supposed.
This is her daughter, and I know that when my uncle and aunt meet her,
they will adopt her as their own daughter in her mother's place."

It would be impossible to depict the scene that followed, the surprise
and delight of Miss Gladden, or the deep joy of Morton Rutherford, but
by and by, when they had become more calm, a knock was heard. Houston
opened the door, and Ned Rutherford, looking in, was entirely unable
to comprehend the scene. Houston held in his hand a small gold locket
and a photograph which he seemed to be comparing with each other. Lyle
looked very pale, but radiantly happy. Morton was standing near,
while Miss Gladden still knelt at her side, her eyes overflowing with
tears of joy.

"Come in, Ned," said Houston cordially. "We want you here to complete
the family group."

Ned looked rather bewildered, as he replied: "I just wanted to inquire
for Miss Maverick, to know if she was better."

"She is much better," said Houston with a smile, but before he could
say anything further, Morton turned toward his brother, saying in
gentle, quiet tones, but with a look in his eye which spoke volumes to
Ned's inner consciousness:

"Ned, this is Miss Maverick no longer, but Miss Washburn, the
grand-daughter of the Mr. Cameron whom we expect here to-morrow."

Poor Ned Rutherford! If he had ever laid any claim to dignity and
self-possession, they both deserted him now. Utterly bereft of speech,
he stood for a moment as if petrified. Then approaching Lyle, he
stammered:

"I beg your pardon, Miss,--Miss Washburn, but that is always Mort's
way, to spring anything on me in such a fashion as to knock me out
completely. I beg your pardon for appearing so stupid, and I
congratulate you on the good news, and extend you my best wishes,
Miss----"

"Oh, call me Lyle," she interrupted, with a rippling laugh. "I have a
right to that name yet."

"Is that so?" said Ned, with the air of a drowning man clutching at a
straw. "Thank you; I'm glad that's left for a sort of land mark, you
know. I'll call you 'Lyle' then, 'till I can get accustomed to the new
name," and he sank in a heap in the nearest chair.

The letter was read, and bitter were the denunciations against
Maverick.

"The scoundrel! He ought to be lynched this very night," said Ned.
"That's the way they do those things out here."

"Not late years, Ned," corrected his brother, "and even if they did,
that would not be best."

"It is a question with me," said Houston, "situated just as we are at
present, and with Mr. Cameron expected in a few hours, whether it
would be wise to do anything about this until after his arrival."

"I think not," said Morton, "under the circumstances, you do not want
to arouse the antipathy of any of the miners before Mr. Cameron's
coming, and as Maverick knows nothing of this discovery, he will of
course remain here, and Mr. Cameron can advise in this matter as he
thinks best."

And this was the final decision.



CHAPTER XLII.


A few hours later Lyle stood in the gloaming, taking leave of Jack, in
the quaint, cozy room in the cabin, little dreaming that they stood
there together for the last time.

They had talked long and earnestly of the new life opening up before
her, and her tears flowed fast as she recalled the happy hours they
had spent together, or as she anticipated the days to come. Her tears
were not the only ones, but the friendly twilight, rapidly deepening,
concealed the others.

"And to think that you have known so much of this all the time, and
did not tell me!" she exclaimed.

"It was best, my little one, best for each of us. I was constantly
planning how I might bring this about when the right time came. That
time has come, and as my little girl, whom I have loved as deeply as
any one in the future can ever love her, and whom I have cherished and
helped to the extent of my limited power, goes forth into this new
life, I can and will rejoice in the joy, the love and the happiness
that will be hers. And I know that amid new scenes, new friends and
new loves, she will never quite forget the old friend and the old
love."

"Never, Jack; I could never forget you, and Everard and Morton will
never forget you. They are coming to see you to-night. Dear Jack, why
could you not give up this lonely life, and go with us to the east?
We would all love you and make you one of us, and our home would be
yours."

"My dear child," he replied with a slight shudder, "you know not what
you ask. I know the love that prompted it, but never ask it again."

"Very well," said Lyle, with a sorrowful submission, "but I know what
I can do." And she put her arms about his neck. "I will come out to
the mountains and visit you here."

Then, as he remained silent, she queried:

"You would be here, wouldn't you, Jack, where I could find you?"

Oh, the agony which his strong, loving heart endured! How could he
tell her that even then he never expected to look upon her face again!
He could not. He only said:

"I cannot tell, dear, my life is an erratic and wandering one. No one,
not even I, can say where I may be."

"But you have not lived a wandering life lately; you have lived here
for many years."

"Because the lodestone, the magnet of my heart was here," he answered
half-playfully, half-tenderly. "When that is gone, I shall be likely
to fly off in a tangent again."

"Oh, Jack, you must not talk so. I want to see you in the years to
come. I must and I will. I feel it," she added brightly.

For answer, Jack, for the first time, placed his arms about her, and
for a moment folded her closely to his breast. Then, bending his head,
he kissed her reverently, first on the forehead, then on the lips,
saying, "God bless you always, my dear child!"

She returned the kiss, and as he released her, she whispered:

"Good-night, dear Jack!"

"Good-night, my dear," he answered, adding under his breath, "and
good-bye!"

After she had gone, he sat in the gathering darkness alone, lost in
thought. The collie, returning from attending Lyle on her homeward
walk, divined, with keen, unerring instinct, the sorrow in his
master's heart, and coming close, laid his head upon his knee, in
mute sympathy and affection. His master stroked the noble head, but
his thoughts were far away, and he was only aroused at length by the
sound of voices, as Everard Houston and Morton Rutherford entered the
cabin. The moon had now risen, and the little room in which he sat was
filled with a soft, silver radiance.

Jack rose to meet his guests, and his quick ear detected the vibration
of a new emotion in Houston's voice, and as they exchanged greetings,
there was something in the clasp of their hands that night that
thrilled the heart of each one as never before.

At heart, Jack was glad of the presence of Morton Rutherford. He
feared that alone with Houston, after the events of that day, and in
the light of the anticipated events of the morrow, his own emotions
might prove too strong, weakening the perfect self-control which he
felt he must now exercise. The presence of Rutherford acted as a
tonic, and restored the desired equilibrium.

"Mr. Houston already knows my aversion to a lamp, and if you do not
object, Mr. Rutherford, we will sit for a while in the moonlight."

"By all means," said Rutherford. "I myself dislike the glare of a
bright light for genuine, friendly intercourse. A soft, subdued light
is much more conducive to mutual confidence and interchange of thought
and feeling."

"Jack, my dear friend," said Houston, after a few moments of general
conversation upon indifferent subjects, an effort on Jack's part to
ward off the inevitable which he felt was surely coming, "You have
added very materially to our happiness to-day, in that you have helped
us to a happy solution of some of the mysteries that have perplexed
us, and in doing this, have brought us all into much closer relations
with one another."

"You refer, of course, to Lyle," Jack replied, "but while I am very
glad to have contributed to your happiness, I really deserve no credit
therefor. I have suspected the relationship for some time, and was
only waiting for the necessary proofs, which I felt would be found in
good time."

"But that is not the only mystery you have solved for us, or for me,"
said Houston. "I think we now have a reason for the interest you have
manifested in Lyle, and the kindness you have shown her; and, speaking
for myself, I believe I have found a clue to the strange bond of
mutual sympathy which has united us almost from our first meeting,
even before we had exchanged one word; notwithstanding the coldness
and reserve of your manner, I felt that back of it all you were my
friend, and so it has proved. There has sprung up between us an
affection which I believe to be mutual, and of a depth and power
remarkable for such a brief acquaintance. But to-night there seems, to
my mind, to be a reason for this, which I have been so blind as never
to suspect."

"And what may that reason be?" inquired Jack, calmly.

"You will understand of course, my dear friend, as I have often said
to you, I have no wish to question you regarding your life in the
past, or to lead you to make any statements regarding yourself which
you would not make freely and voluntarily; but to me it is evident
that, although we met as strangers, you must sometime have been at
least a trusted friend of the members of my uncle's family, if not
more intimately connected with them."

After a pause Jack replied, slowly:

"As you are aware, I once knew Lyle's mother, and her memory is still
unspeakably dear to me. I also knew the other members of Mr. Cameron's
family, but that was all long ago in that past which is gone beyond
recall, and to which any reference only brings the most bitter pain.
When I learned your name and your true business here, I knew, of
course, to what family you belonged, and I may have felt some degree
of interest in you on that account, but the deep affection between us,
which is, as you say, mutual, is, on my part, wholly for your own
sake, because I knew you worthy of it. Regarding Lyle, I observed the
wonderful resemblance between her and her mother, and it has been to
me a source both of joy and of pain, especially of late, since it has
grown so marked, and I have sometimes wondered that you did not
observe it for yourself."

"Now that I can see the resemblance so plainly, it seems strange that
I did not think of it before," Houston replied. "She has always
reminded me vaguely of some one, I could not recall whom. I can only
account for it from the fact that I really saw my cousin Edna but
seldom after I went to my uncle's home, as she was married very soon,
and then we saw her only occasionally until her death, which occurred
when I was only about twelve years of age. Consequently, my
recollection of her was not particularly distinct. I am anticipating
the meeting between her and my uncle and aunt,--they will recognize
her immediately, and I am confident they will adopt her as their own
daughter, in her mother's place."

Jack started almost imperceptibly. "You do not expect Mrs. Cameron
here with her husband?"

"She will not come out with him, but she insisted on coming as far as
Chicago, so that she would be able to reach us more readily in case of
trouble, and I have thought to-day, since this recent discovery, that
if the case against the company seems likely to take some time, I
might go on to Chicago and bring her out to meet Lyle, and I would, of
course, like her to meet Leslie, also."

Jack remained silent, and withdrew a little farther into the shadow.
It was Morton Rutherford who spoke now.

"Did you not once tell me, Everard, in the old college days, that Mr.
Cameron had lost a son also?"

"Yes," said Houston, with a sigh. "That was a far heavier blow for
them than the death of their daughter. He was their joy and pride,
their hearts were bound up in him."

"Ah," said Jack, in a voice almost cold in its even calmness. "I
remember that Miss Cameron,--as I knew her,--had a brother. Is he also
dead?"

"We are compelled to believe that he must be dead," Houston answered,
after a pause, in a tone of deep sadness. "He left home soon after his
sister's death, and we have never heard from him since, though his
parents searched for him, not in this country alone, but in others as
well."

"I beg your pardon for having alluded to it, Everard," said
Rutherford, "you never told me the particulars, and I did not realize
they were so painful."

"No apologies are necessary among us three friends," Houston replied.
"Guy's parents and I are the only living human beings who know, or
ever will know, the reason for his leaving as he did. My uncle spent
vast sums of money and employed detectives all over the world in his
efforts to find him, and to let him know that the old home was open to
him, and would always be just what it had been in the past. But it was
of no avail, we could not even get any tidings of him, and uncle, long
ago, gave him up for dead, though Aunt Marjorie believes that he is
still living, and that he will yet return."

"The faith of a good woman is sometimes simply sublime," replied
Rutherford, "and a mother's love is something wonderful. To me it
seems the nearest divine of anything we meet on earth."

There was no response from the figure sitting motionless in the
shadow. At that moment it required all the force of his tremendous
will power to stem the current of almost uncontrollable emotion,
surging across his soul.

But the moments passed, other topics were introduced and discussed,
and Jack joined in the conversation as calmly as the others.

"I suppose," he remarked, as, a little later, he accompanied his
guests to the door, "I suppose that before this time to-morrow, Mr.
Cameron will have already arrived at the camp?"

"Yes," Houston replied, "we expect him over on the evening train, with
Van Dorn."

As Houston and Rutherford took leave of Jack, there was something in
his manner, something in the long, lingering hand-clasp which seemed
more like a farewell than like a simple good-night, at which they
silently wondered.

Could they have looked in upon him an hour later, they would have
understood the cause. Silently he moved about the room, gathering
together the few little keepsakes among his possessions which he most
prized. These he placed in a small gripsack which he carefully locked,
saying to himself, as he looked around the room with a sigh, "Mike can
have the rest."

Then going to the window, he stood looking out upon the calm, moonlit
scene, which for many years had been the only home he had known.

"This is my last night here," he soliloquized, "my work here is done.
After to-morrow, Everard Houston will need me no longer, everything in
which I can render him assistance is now done, and his friends will
afford him all needed protection. Lyle has found her own, her future
is provided for. The wrongs which I have witnessed for years in
silence, will be righted without any assistance of mine. There is
nothing more for me to do, and to-morrow I will start forth on the
old, wandering life again."

His head dropped lower; he was thinking deeply.

"He said the old home was open, and would always be what it had been
in the past. Home! What would that not mean now, after all these
years! But that was long ago. I am dead to them now,--dead and
forgotten. They will be happy with their new-found daughter, and
Everard will be to them as a son, their happiness will be complete,
and I will not mar it by any reminders of the wretched past."

He glanced upward at the surrounding peaks.

"To-morrow I go forth again into the mountains,--those towers of
refuge and strength,--and in their soothing solitudes I shall once
more find peace!"

Then he retired. But to Jack, resting for the last time in his cabin
home, to those then peacefully sleeping in the little mining camp, or
to the others speeding westward through the night, on the wings of
steam, there came no vision, no thought of what the morrow was, in
reality, to bring.



CHAPTER XLIII.


Tuesday morning dawned,--a day never to be forgotten in the history of
the little mining camp, or in the lives of many outsiders as well.

A strange thrill of subdued excitement ran through the little group,
assembled before breakfast in the porch, as they realized that the day
to which they had looked forward with varying anticipations had at
last arrived; and there was, unconsciously, a look of watchful
expectancy on every face.

Even Nature herself seemed in sympathy with them. For a few days the
heat had been intense, devouring with its scorching breath every
vestige of verdure on the mountain sides and foothills, and leaving
them dull and dun. On this particular morning the heat seemed more
terrible than ever, and there was not a breath of air stirring to cool
the oppressive atmosphere. The earth and sky were suffused with a
bright, red light, which gradually died away into a dim, purplish
haze, through which the sun ascended like a ball of fire; while every
blade and leaf hung motionless, as if awaiting breathlessly the coming
of some great catastrophe.

"This portends a storm," said Houston, as he watched the strange
phenomena.

"Yes," added Morton Rutherford, "an electric storm, and, if I am not
mistaken, a very severe one."

"How strange!" exclaimed Leslie, in a low tone, to Lyle, "everything
is so hushed and still; it seems as if the elements, like ourselves,
were just waiting."

"I don't like it," Lyle answered, "it seems ominous," and she
shuddered visibly.

There was little breakfast eaten that morning, and the group of
friends adjourned to the porch on the pretext of watching the weather,
thereby attracting the attention of Haight, who still remained at the
table.

"What's in the wind now, I wonder," he soliloquized.

"There was some kind of excitement here last evening, and everybody
seems on the qui vive this morning. I guess I'd better look into
this," and calling Minty to him, he gave her a quarter, with his most
insinuating smile, saying in low tones:

"You find out to-day, if you can, whether there's anything unusual
going on among those folks out there, and let me know."

She pocketed the money with her customary giggle, as she responded,
nodding her head emphatically, "You jest betcher life I will."

Haight then departed for the mills, and Houston soon after left for
the mines, while an hour or two later Morton Rutherford, taking one of
the horses, rode leisurely in the direction of the Y, where he was to
await a telegram from Van Dorn, immediately upon the arrival of the
Eastern train at Silver City.

In due time the message came, in cipher:

  "Party arrived all right; over on evening train."

To which Rutherford replied as follows:

  "All quiet here. Will wire later if anything occurs."

Then starting on his return up the canyon, he urged his horse forward
with all possible speed, conscious that the most critical time was now
approaching, and fully decided regarding his course of action on
reaching the camp.

At the mines, Houston found everything progressing as usual, the work
going forward in the same unending, monotonous routine.

At the Silver City office of the mining company, however, the greatest
excitement was prevailing. Having been utterly unable to obtain any
clue as to the whereabouts or the intentions of Mr. Cameron, the
mining company, to guard against being taken wholly by surprise, had
devised a new scheme. Every morning had found Mr. Wilson seated on the
early train which left Silver City for the East at five A. M., and
which was sidetracked at a small station about ninety miles distant,
to give the right of way to the regular, West-bound Pacific Express.
Here both trains stopped for about fifteen minutes, affording Mr.
Wilson ample opportunity to pass through the West-bound train, and
satisfy himself whether or not there were any old acquaintances
aboard. Failing to find the party for whom he was seeking, he himself
returned to Silver City on the same train.

On this particular morning, however, upon cautiously entering one of
the sleepers, he had seen, seated in one section, apparently in close
consultation, three gentlemen, one of whom he immediately recognized
as Mr. Cameron. Opposite and facing him, was an elderly man whose face
Mr. Wilson was unable to see, but the back of whose head presented a
severely judicial appearance, while at Mr. Cameron's right was seated
the English expert who had come out early in the season with Mr.
Winters' party. Evidently, Mr, Cameron was en route for the mines.

Mr. Wilson had hastily retreated, and, stopping at the little station
only just long enough to send a wire to the company, had returned to
the east-bound train, to continue his journey indefinitely, which had
not been a part of the programme prepared by the officers of the said
company in common with their various other plans. But Mr. Wilson had
suddenly come to the conclusion that there were other localities
better suited to his health just at that particular time than the
great and glorious North West which had so long been his favorite
theme, and whose praises he had so persistently sung.

It was about ten o'clock when Mr. Wilson's telegram, announcing his
discovery, reached the Silver City office, creating general
consternation. After a hurried consultation, numerous papers and
documents were hastily stored in a private vault belonging to the
officers of the company, a dispatch was sent out over their private
wire to Haight, informing him of the situation and giving certain
instructions; after which Mr. Blaisdell and a confidential clerk
betook themselves to the depot to await the arrival of the Pacific
Express. Concealing themselves among the crowd, they watched Mr.
Cameron and his associates as they left the train, and having waited
till they were safely ensconced within a carriage, ready to start for
their hotel, Mr. Blaisdell then ordered his clerk to take another
carriage and follow them, remaining at the hotel long enough to
ascertain all he possibly could concerning their movements, after
which he was to report at the office.

Turning once more toward the crowd, Mr. Blaisdell expected to meet Mr.
Wilson, but to his astonishment and perplexity, he was nowhere to be
seen. From the conductor, however, who had thought Mr. Wilson's
conduct rather peculiar, he learned the facts in the case.

"Yes, sir," said that individual in conclusion, swinging himself on to
the departing train, "if that's the man you're looking for, he's
vamoosed sure, and judging by the way he got aboard that train, he'll
be traveling for some time to come."

Great was the indignation of the remaining officers of the company on
learning of the sudden departure of their worthy president, and it was
not lessened when, upon investigation at the office, it was discovered
that Mr. Wilson had not only relieved the company of his presence, but
of all the available funds in their private vault as well, which, at
that time, happened to be considerable; nevertheless, for obvious
reasons, it was decided best to say nothing about it for a few days.

The clerk, on his return from the hotel, stated that none of Mr.
Cameron's party had registered, but had gone immediately to their
rooms, where they had ordered a private lunch served. He had seen
nothing more of them, but had seen Van Dorn there, however, and upon
inquiry had learned that he had been there since the preceding day,
apparently waiting for some one, evidently this party, as, immediately
upon their arrival, he had sent a cipher dispatch to some one at the
Y; and one of the party had been heard to inquire quite particularly
at what time the evening train would leave Silver City for Cokeville,
a small station near the Y.

It was evident that Van Dorn was in league with Mr. Cameron's party,
and that they intended going out to the camp that evening; prompt
action was necessary. A message was sent to Haight, and after his
reply, it was decided that desperate measures were also necessary.

While Morton Rutherford was leisurely riding toward the Y, Haight,
sitting at his desk in his dingy, stifling office, suddenly heard his
name clicked by the little telegraphic instrument near him. Having
given the usual signal in return, the following message came over the
wire with peremptory haste:

  "Get everything in readiness at once; Cameron coming on eastern
  train with mining expert and attorney. Get everything ready for
  the final touch and await further instructions in about two
  hours."

Haight sprang to his feet, and calling one of the men, ordered, "Send
Maverick to me as quickly as you can."

In a few moments the slouching figure of Maverick stood in the
door-way.

"Come in, Jim, and shut that door," said Haight, in a quick, decisive
tone that Maverick knew meant business.

"Jim, in what shape is the powder in those mines? How long would it
take to get everything ready for action?"

Maverick's eyes gleamed; here evidently was to be a piece of work such
as he enjoyed!

"The powder's all there," he replied, "all there, jest in the right
places, an' all there is ter do is ter lay the trains 'round there an'
fix a few fuses; 'twouldn't take more'n half an hour, or sech a
matter."

"Think you could get it all done at noon, while the men are away?"

"Yes, easy."

"Very well, now listen; you are to get everything ready so that it
will be nothing but 'a touch and a go,' as soon as I say the word,
understand? Get everything ready this noon, give the men warning that
there's going to be some blasting, and then, as quick as you've had
your dinner, you be around here prompt, and stay within sight of this
room till I send you word to quit. You know the rest, what directions
Blaisdell left the last time he was here; you know what you're to wait
for, and if you get a signal from me, you know what you're to do."

"You bet I do, and I'll do a damned good job, too," Maverick replied,
with a grin; "but what's the signal, boss?"

"Let me see, I want something you'll recognize without any trouble,
and that nobody else would notice, or think meant anything. Where will
you be?"

"Out there, behind them rocks; I can see your winders plain from
there."

"Yes, but if I made you any signal there, or put anything in the
window, others would see it as well as yourself."

"I'll tell you what, boss," said Maverick, glancing at the window on
the right of Haight's desk, where hung an old, dilapidated shade,
which had been lowered its full length in an effort to keep out the
intolerable heat, "you let that there shade hang jest as it is till
you want me, and when I see that yanked up, I'll know what it means,
and you'll hear from me in jest about ten minits at the latest. But
say, boss, what's all this racket about, anyhow? Some o' them eastern
chaps comin' out here?"

"That's none of your business, Jim," said Haight in a joking way, "you
attend to what you've been told, and don't meddle with what don't
concern you."

"Is old Cameron comin' out here?" persisted Maverick, with an
expression of fear and hatred combined, visible in his countenance.

"Cameron!" exclaimed Haight, with a slight start, and wondering at
Maverick's appearance, "What do you know about him?"

"I know he owns these 'ere mines, damn him!" answered Maverick
doggedly.

"Do you! Well, that's enough, go along, you're not interested in
Cameron."

"Ain't I though!" said Maverick with a snarl and an oath, the hatred
and wrath increasing in his face; "Me'n him has got an old score to
settle yet. I only wisht he was a goin' ter be in them mines this
afternoon. When's he comin'?"

"I don't know," answered Haight shortly, "probably before very long
though."

"When you git word he's comin' I wan'ter know it, that's all," growled
Maverick.

"Well," said Haight, beginning to lose his temper, "when you see that
curtain raised, you may know he's coming, and pretty damned quick too;
now get out of the way, and attend to your business. Remember I've
told you to give the men warning."

"Yes," said Maverick, with a leer, "'specially the new superintendent,
you'd like me ter give 'im an extra warnin' I s'pose."

There was a corresponding leer on Haight's face, as he replied with a
peculiar grimace,

"You've had your orders; if you are particularly anxious to give
anybody an extra warning, go ahead!"

With a low, cruel laugh, Maverick withdrew, and a few moments later
was shuffling along in the direction of the mines intent upon the work
of destruction assigned to him, his face distorted with mingled fear
and rage, his usually dull eyes gleaming with the fires of revenge.

Haight hastened to the house to take a hurried dinner, and having
learned from Minty that Morton Rutherford had gone to the Y, he again
charged her to immediately report to him whatever she might learn, and
returned to the office to await further instructions from the
company.

To Houston, constantly on the alert for danger signals, Haight's
hurried and excited manner was the first indication of approaching
trouble. It was evident that the company had received some inkling of
impending danger, but of the extent of their information, or the
nature of their communications with Haight, he had no means of
ascertaining. Stating that he wished to see Morton Rutherford
immediately upon his return, and that he would be at the Yankee Boy,
near the entrance to the incline shaft, he hastened back to the mines
at an earlier hour than usual.

Finding Jack and Mike who had already returned, he told them of his
surmises, and arranged a set of signals,--a certain number of blows on
the rocks above them,--whereby he would give them warning if he found
indications of immediate danger, upon which they were to make their
escape in an opposite direction, by means of a tunnel, designated as
tunnel No. 3, where he would speedily join them.

On returning to the shaft, he found the majority of the men returning
to their work as usual, Maverick having given them no warning, partly
through his own cowardice, and partly through a determination that
Houston should have no hint of what was to follow.

Meanwhile, the long threatened storm was rapidly approaching with
signs of unusual severity. Heavy clouds had obscured the sun and were,
moment by moment, growing denser and blacker, while the heat was, if
possible, more intense than before. There was that ominous calm that
presages the coming of the tempest, while the air grew oppressive
almost to suffocation. In the distant canyons, far up among the
mountains, could be heard the muffled roaring of the wind, while the
branches began to sway occasionally under the first hot breath of the
approaching hurricane, which seemed like a blast from a furnace.

On through the fast-gathering storm rode Morton Rutherford, urging
forward his foam-covered horse, feeling by a certain, unerring
intuition, that that ride through the winding canyon was a race
between life and death. Having reached the camp, and left his
dripping, panting horse at the stables, he walked rapidly on to the
house, arriving shortly after Houston had left, and just in time to
meet Maverick, hurrying to the house for a bit of food, his work of
preparation having taken longer than he anticipated.

One look at his malignant, demon-like face convinced Rutherford that
he had arrived none too early, and that his own plans must be put in
execution very soon.

Pausing only long enough to exchange a few words with his brother and
the ladies, in reply to their eager questions, he hurried on to the
mines, he and they all unaware of a figure skulking behind him, in the
fast-deepening gloom, in the direction of the mills. From an open
window, aided by the peculiar condition of the atmosphere in those
altitudes before a storm, which transmits the slightest sound with
wonderful distinctness, Minty had overheard most of the conversation,
and was hastening to fulfill her contract with Haight.



CHAPTER XLIV.


Morton Rutherford was not the only one who had observed the
expression on Maverick's face. To Lyle it seemed she had never seen
such venomous malignity as was in the look which he gave her.
Stepping into the dining room a few moments after Morton had left, she
heard imprecations and curses mingled with her own name and that of
Mr. Cameron, and realized at once that their secret was known; then,
as he hastily left the house, she heard a few words of bitter hatred
which would have no special meaning to his wife, but which Lyle,
knowing what Houston and his friends had been anticipating for the
last few days, readily understood.

The wind was now raging down the canyon with terrific force, but Lyle
had but one thought, to warn those whom she loved and save them from
danger. Catching up a light wrap which she threw about her shoulders,
she rushed out of the house, passing Miss Gladden and Ned, who were in
the porch watching the storm, and who tried to detain her.

"Lyle, what is the matter? Where are you going?" they cried.

"To the mines!" Lyle answered, raising her voice above the roar of the
storm; "They are going to fire the mines, and they are all there,
Morton and Everard and Jack. I must warn them if I can!"

"Lyle, come back!" shouted Ned, "let me go!"

She shook her head; "I must go, I know the mines," she cried, and
turning ran down the road, battling with the terrific wind, and was
out of sight, almost before they realized what had happened.

Meanwhile, Morton Rutherford had found Houston without difficulty.
"They are coming, Everard," he announced, in a low tone, "they will
be here to-night. What are the indications here?"

"I judge from Haight's manner, that word of some kind has been
received from headquarters, but just what is to be done, or whether
there is any immediate danger, I cannot yet tell."

"I am going over to Haight's office for a few moments," said
Rutherford, "I may catch some message from the company that will show
us the situation."

"Just what I was intending to suggest," said Houston.

"You will remain here until I come back?"

"Yes, unless I should detect some certain signs of danger; in that
case I shall warn the men, and shall start for tunnel No. 3, that part
of the mine will be safe for a while, in any event."

"Very well, you will probably hear from me within twenty or thirty
minutes," and Rutherford started for the mills.

Haight, on returning to the office from dinner, waited some little
time for the expected dispatch. At last it came:

  "Cameron just arrived with Englishman, Lindlay, and attorney;
  going out to the mines on evening train. Are at Arlington Hotel,
  Van Dorn at same hotel and in telegraphic communication with some
  one at the Y. There is a conspiracy somewhere; what do you know?
  Answer at once; is everything ready?"

He was still studying the contents of the telegram, wondering just
what the conspiracy might mean, when Minty slyly entered, and by means
of the information she had secured, furnished him the needed key to
the situation. In a few moments the following answer was returned:

  "The truth is out; have just discovered Houston is Cameron's
  nephew, out here in his interests; Van Dorn et al. working with
  him. Cameron coming out to-night for the grand coup. Everything is
  ready awaiting your orders."

Just as the message was sent, Maverick passed on his way to his post,
and seeing him, Haight stepped to the door and called him:

"I say, Jim, I've learned the truth at last about that superintendent
of ours, damn him! You seemed so interested in old Cameron this
morning, I thought you'd like to know that it has turned out that this
Houston is his nephew."

"Houston, old man Cameron's nephew!" gasped Maverick, with a terrible
oath, and growing fairly livid, "How'd ye get onto that?"

"No matter how, Jim, but it seems he's been out here all summer
getting onto some of our little business ways and reporting to the old
man, and now he's got the old fellow out here to see the fun. Never
mind, Jim, I guess the fun will be on the other side after all. I'll
attend to my business and you'll attend to yours, but I thought you'd
go at it with a better relish after this little piece of news."

Maverick passed on his way, regardless of the storm, incapable of
coherent speech, muttering oaths and curses intermingled with the
vilest epithets, Haight watching him with a grim smile for a few
moments. Then going back to his office, he had but just reseated
himself at his desk, when Morton Rutherford entered the outer room.
"Damn him! what is he sneaking around here for?" Haight soliloquized,
at the same time hastily transferring a revolver from his desk to his
pocket, "I'll spoil that mug of his if he attempts any funny business
here."

This movement was seen by Rutherford, who was watching him closely,
but he appeared to take no notice of it and entered the office as
usual, with a civil greeting to Haight. The latter sprang to his feet,
taking his position close by the shaded window, his right hand
grasping the revolver in his pocket.

Rutherford's lips curled with scorn and contempt as he looked at
Haight; he saw there could be no semblance of civility between them,
it was to be open war.

"You are a coward!" he said.

"And you are a sneak," Haight hissed in reply, "prying around here
when you had better be minding your own business."

"Let me tell you that I am attending to my own business, and you will
find before you are much older, that I have more right here than
you."

For a moment Haight hesitated, astonished by Rutherford's words and
manner, then was about to make some reply, when the click of the
instrument attracted his attention. Keeping his eye on Rutherford, he
gave the answering signal with his left hand, then listened intently
for the message. It came, containing the final orders and the farewell
words of the Silver City office:

  "Send the mines to hell, and Houston and his crowd with them. Look
  out for yourself. Good-bye."

In his interest in the message, Haight seemed, for an instant, to have
partially forgotten Rutherford's presence, his eyes dropped toward the
instrument, and in that instant, Rutherford cleared the space between
them at a bound, gripping Haight firmly with one hand, while with the
other he knocked the revolver which Haight had hastily drawn, half way
across the room. With a single blow he knocked Haight to the floor,
partially stunning him, but as he regained his senses, he rolled over
towards the window, and with a strength born of desperation, struggled
to his knees, and before Rutherford realized what he was trying to do,
the shade flew upward to the top of the window. Even then, Rutherford
would have thought little of it, had not Haight betrayed himself by a
leer of fiendish triumph. In an instant Rutherford understood that it
had been some pre-arranged signal.

"You cowardly villain!" he exclaimed, and pausing only long enough to
give him a blow which left him unconscious on the floor, he rushed
forth into the darkness and fury of the storm, in the direction of the
mines.

As he did so, he stumbled against a small boy, running even more
swiftly in the same direction.

"Mister, Mister Houston! is that you?" rang out Bull-dog's voice,
above the storm.

"No, my boy, I am going to find Mr. Houston, to save him if I can."

"Oh, sir, let me go! I know about it, they're goin' to fire the mines,
I heerd Jake say so, and I was a goin' to find Mister Houston myself;
I'll get there quicker, 'n I know the mine better 'n you."

"But, my boy, you risk your own life," said Rutherford.

"Never mind that, sir; Mister Houston, he's been my friend, 'n his
life's worth more'n mine anyhow; I'll risk it," and he was already
rushing on ahead, shouting back to Rutherford, "You go to the tunnels,
sir, you can help him there."

"Tell him the signal has been given!" called Rutherford, and Bull-dog,
swinging his ragged hat in reply, sped swiftly on through the raging
wind.

Rutherford paused for a moment, then started in the direction of the
tunnels. At that instant, Lyle, still struggling against the fury of
the wind, had just reached the ground surrounding the mines; in a few
seconds more she would have been within the fatal boundary line, but
Bull-dog's voice, as he rushed past, warned her back.

"Go back, go back, Miss Lyle! they've given the signal to fire the
mines, I'm goin' to warn 'em; don't be afraid, I'll save 'em, Mister
Houston and Jack," and with these words, he rushed on, disappearing
through the incline shaft.

Lyle retreated a few steps, and then paused, looking wildly about her,
dreading, expecting, she scarcely knew what.

Suddenly the darkness seemed divided by a blinding flash, which spread
into a sheet of flame, enveloping her within its lurid folds, while
peal after peal of deafening thunder crashed and roared about her, and
the lightning flashed and gleamed till it seemed as if earth and sky
were commingled in one mass of flaming combat.

Scarcely had the blinding flashes died in darkness, and the
reverberations of the thunder still echoed and re-echoed among the
surrounding mountains, when the earth began to rock and vibrate
beneath her feet; there was the sound of a terrific explosion, she
felt for an instant a strange sensation as if floating through the
air,--then she knew nothing more; she had been thrown to the ground,
unconscious, by the shock.

Meanwhile, down the rough, narrow road, leading to the mines, Leslie
Gladden and Ned Rutherford were making their way, having started
immediately after Lyle, but unaccustomed to the furious mountain
storms and unfamiliar with the road, they made slow progress in the
darkness and tempest.

"Miss Gladden, this is too hard for you," said Ned, as they paused
once, gasping for breath, "I don't believe it is safe either, you
ought never to have come."

"What do I care for difficulty or danger?" she replied, "Think of Lyle
going through this storm alone; I only pray she may not have been too
late!"

Scarcely had she finished speaking, when, without an instant's
warning, the timber through which they were passing suddenly seemed
one mass of blinding flame, while almost simultaneously came the
deafening crash of the thunder.

"Great Heavens! that must have struck awfully near us!" exclaimed Ned,
but no cry escaped from Leslie's lips, as, shuddering, she clasped his
arm more closely and struggled bravely on.

It was not until a few seconds later, when there came the sound of the
terrible explosion, followed by the bursting and crashing of the
rocks, while the ground quivered and trembled as though shaken by an
earthquake, that, for an instant, her courage failed, and with a low
cry, she sank to the ground, shivering with horror. But only for an
instant, and then she rose to her feet, dizzy and trembling from the
shock, but brave and determined as ever.

"Come," she said hoarsely, "we must hasten; perhaps we can help them
in some way, even if we are too late to save them."

Speechless from a horrible, sickening realization of all which that
terrible shock might mean to those whom they were striving to save,
Ned silently helped her forward. They had gone but a few steps, when
there suddenly burst upon the dark and stormy heavens a dull, red
glare, which grew brighter moment by moment, and on emerging from the
timber into the open ground, a frightful scene met their gaze.

Dense clouds of smoke were pouring from the shafts of the nearest
mine, while, at a little distance, could be seen the mills, their
whole interior already ablaze with light. In that end of the buildings
containing the sorting rooms and Haight's office, the fire was raging,
having come in contact with quantities of chemicals which had
increased its fury.

"Great Cæsar!" ejaculated Ned, "the mills were struck, and are on
fire."

But Leslie uttered a sharp cry, and ran swiftly down the path to where
Lyle lay unconscious, followed quickly by Ned.

"Poor child, poor child!" she moaned, "oh, merciful heaven, she came
too late, and they are all lost!"

Then, as she knelt beside the unconscious form, there came another
terrific explosion, which seemed to jar even the rocks about them to
their very foundations, while from the already smoking shafts, the
flames now issued, towering higher and higher, and adding new terror
to the scene.

Men were seen running from all directions, from the distant groups of
mines, rushing to the burning mills, where the little fire corps
belonging to the camp, were already engaged in a futile battle with
the flames; but around the Yankee Boy mine there was no sign of life.

The rain now began to descend in torrents, and the first dash of the
storm seemed to revive Lyle, whom Leslie and Ned had raised to a
sitting posture in their efforts to restore her to consciousness.
Slowly she opened her eyes with a bewildered look, then springing to
her feet, still weak and trembling, but resolute and determined, she
gazed about her at the flaming shafts and burning mills, and suddenly
cried,

"Oh, I can remember now! I remember it all, it has come back to
me,--the terrible wreck, the burning cars all around us, and my mother
crushed in the wreck; then the people carried us out and they put me
down beside her, lying so white and still, and then,--then that
villain came and took me away,--I can see it all," and she
shuddered.

Then looking at Leslie and Ned, who were watching her with startled
faces, she seemed trying to recall the present situation. Before
either of them could speak, however, there came the report of another
explosion, more distant and deeper underground than any that had yet
occurred, and the sound seemed to bring back to Lyle the memory of her
last moments of consciousness before the first terrible shock, while
the faces of her companions were blanched with terror.

"I know now," she exclaimed quickly, "I was too late, but Bull-dog
warned them, and they are probably safe; we must go to the tunnels,
they will make their escape there, and we may help them."

She ran swiftly down the path leading the way, while they followed
only too gladly, their hearts filled with new hope.

The men, finding it impossible to check the flames at the mills, were
flocking in the direction of the Yankee group of mines. Fearing,
however, to approach very near the scene of danger, they gathered in
groups here and there, while a company of wretched women, the wives
and daughters of the few married men who worked in the fated mines,
ran hither and thither, sobbing and wringing their hands in their
agony of fear and suspense for their own loved ones. Seeing Lyle
leading the way to the tunnels, they all, men and women, followed in
the same direction.

The fury of the storm had passed; a heavy rain was still falling, but
the wind had subsided, and the clouds had lifted and were already
breaking away.

Arriving at the tunnels, they found a crowd of men, among them a
number who had made their escape from the mines. The hearts of Ned
Rutherford and Lyle throbbed with joy as they descried Morton standing
among the crowd, but Lyle's heart sank again with sickening dread as
she saw no signs of Everard Houston or of Jack, while Leslie Gladden
moaned in despair. Morton Rutherford was unhurt, except for a few
bruises from flying rocks, and he was pleading with some of the men,
and offering large sums of money to any one or two who would go with
him into the tunnel in search of Houston and some of the missing men.

"Mr. Houston told me that this part of the mine would be safe for some
time," he shouted, "and I will pay a thousand dollars to any one who
will go with me as guide."

For a moment no one responded, then one of the men who had escaped,
spoke,

"No sir, I wouldn't go back in that there mine for five thousand
dollars, I'm out, an' I stays out," while another added, "'Twouldn't
be of no use, sir; mos' likely he was catched in some o' them
cave-ins; he stopped to give us all warnin' an' he was about the last
one to start."

"Cowards!" exclaimed Lyle, stepping forth among them with blazing
eyes, "he risked his life to save yours, and you will not even try to
save him. Morton," she added, turning toward her lover, "I know every
step of the tunnels, and I will go with you."

The men slunk back like whipped curs, but made no response. The miners
employed by the company throughout this group of mines were of the
lowest class, and they were none too friendly to Houston, while the
better class of men employed in the other mines were not familiar with
these workings.

Morton Rutherford advanced to meet Lyle; "My darling," he said, in low
tones, "I cannot allow you to subject yourself to danger."

"I would rather share the danger with you," she replied proudly,
"besides we must save them."

"I will go, too," said Ned eagerly, "I surely can help."

Lyle was about to suggest that he remain with Miss Gladden, but Leslie
herself interposed.

"No, no, I do not need him," she said earnestly, "I would suffer no
more waiting alone, and he may do much good."

At that instant, two young men from another group of mines stepped
forward; "If you please, sir," said one of them, "we don't want no
money, and we can't act as guides, not being acquainted with the lay
of things around here, but we'd like to help you, for we like Mr.
Houston, and we're his friends."

Their offer was gladly accepted, and preparations were hastily and
silently made by the little party. Wet cloths and sponges were
fastened across the lower portion of their faces, to prevent their
inhaling the smoke and gases, while ropes were securely tied about
their waists, the ends of which were to be held by persons on the
outside. A frequent jerking of the rope would assure those outside
that all was right in the tunnel, but a suspension of the jerking
would indicate that that person had been overcome by the gases, and he
would be immediately drawn out to the fresh air, by those at the outer
end of the line.

Pausing only for a bright smile of encouragement to Leslie, Lyle led
the way into the tunnel, followed by Morton and Ned, the two miners
bringing up the rear, and all disappeared in the subterranean
darkness.



CHAPTER XLV.


When Bull-dog's voice rang out above the storm, with its warning to
Lyle, Houston, standing near the entrance of the shaft, alert,
watchful for the first indication of danger, heard the words
distinctly and acted instantly.

Having given the usual danger signal, he shouted, "To the tunnels,
boys, for your lives! The mine has been fired, go to the tunnels!"

On returning from giving the agreed signal to Jack and Mike, he heard
Bull-dog's voice above him in the shaft, calling his name and shouting
the warning.

"Come, my boy," shouted Houston in return, "we'll start for the
tunnels."

"Yes sir, I'm a comin', I know the way, but don't you wait fer me
'cause you may git catched."

"I shall not leave you, Bull-dog, we'll go together," Houston
answered, waiting for the little figure gliding swiftly toward him in
the darkness.

Suddenly the rocks by which they were surrounded began to quiver and
vibrate; there was a deafening roar followed by a terrific crash, and
an instant later, a mass of loosened rock was tearing its way through
the shaft.

"Cling to the wall, Bull-dog," shouted Houston, at the same time
seizing a projecting ledge with a vise-like grip, and swinging himself
upward, where he hung by his hands and wrists. It was a horrible
position, but his powerful, athletic muscles bore the strain until the
grinding, tearing mass had passed, and he dropped, scratched and
bruised, but otherwise unhurt, to the ground.

As he did so, he heard a faint moan, and hastening in the direction
from whence it came, found Bull-dog, who, unable to spring high enough
to escape the passing rocks, had been swept along and partially buried
under the debris that followed.

"My boy, are you hurt?" asked Houston, bending over him in the
darkness, and removing as fast as possible the mass of crushed and
broken rock under which he lay.

"Not much, I guess," replied the little, familiar voice, in tones that
tried to be brave and cheery, but which quivered with pain, "I tried
to hold on, Mister Houston, but that big rock was a little too much
fer me."

As Houston at last freed him, the little fellow tried to rise, but
sank quickly back, with an involuntary cry:

"I guess I'm done fer--Mister Houston," he gasped faintly, "but I
don't care--if you only--get out safe."

The smoke and gases were now pouring down the shaft, and Houston
realized that there was no time to be lost. Very tenderly he lifted
the little form in his arms, and began, as rapidly as possible, the
descent of the shaft, groping his way amid the rocks, toward the cut
leading to the tunnels, through which he hoped to escape.

The motion roused Bull-dog who had fainted. "Mister Houston," he
cried, "don't mind me--I wanted to save you, and I guess you can make
it yet, if you hurry and don't bother with me; I won't mind bein' left
here, 'cause I'll know then that you're safe."

"Don't you worry, my boy," replied Houston, and his own voice
trembled, "we'll reach daylight all right, but we'll reach it
together; I'll never leave you."

There was no reply except a contented, confiding nestling of the
little head against Houston's shoulder; then, as a second explosion
thundered above them, jarring the foundations of the rocks once more,
he murmured drowsily, "There she goes again," and sank into
unconsciousness.

The smoke was now so stifling that Houston was obliged to go upon his
hands and knees, carrying Bull-dog in one arm; his progress was
necessarily slow, but to his great joy he succeeded in finding the cut
leading to tunnel No. 3; then, to his horror, he discovered that the
entrance was blocked by a mass of earth and loose rock which had caved
in.

Laying Bull-dog carefully down, he examined the obstruction, and
found there was a small opening at the top, and that the mass was of
such a character that it could easily be removed with pick and
shovel, but he had nothing. With desperate energy, he began
tearing away the earth and rocks with his hands, then to his intense
relief, after a few moments' work, he heard voices on the other
side. Houston listened; it was Jack and Mike, who, having waited for
him in the tunnel, expecting him to join them immediately, had
become alarmed at his non-appearance, and were returning with
their picks and shovels, which they had taken out with them, calling
him and searching for him.

Houston shouted, and they hastened to the rescue, and the entrance was
very quickly cleared sufficiently for Houston to crawl through. Before
passing through, himself, however, he lifted Bull-dog, and carefully
handed the unconscious form to Jack.

"Who is this?" the latter asked in surprise.

"Bull-dog, the little hero who has saved our lives by sacrificing his
own," Houston replied.

"Is he still living?"

"Yes, but unconscious."

Silently and tenderly Jack handed the little fellow to the tender-hearted
Mike, who at once started toward the tunnel with his burden, while
Jack turned to assist Houston.

At that instant, there came the third explosion, which was farther
underground than either of those preceding. It was but a short
distance from them, and an immense scale of overhanging rock quivered
for an instant, then fell, throwing its fragments in every direction.
Mike, at the distance which he had already gained, escaped unhurt.
Jack and Houston sprang in opposite directions, but the pieces of
flying rock overtook them, though they escaped being buried beneath
the mass as it fell. They were both thrown to the ground; Houston
staggered to his feet, badly bruised and cut and his left arm broken,
but Jack remained motionless.

Hearing Houston's call, Mike quickly returned, and he and Houston
found that Jack was still alive, though badly injured about the head.
The full extent of his injuries they realized they would be unable to
ascertain until they could reach the surface. Together they consulted
as to the best course to pursue. Mike wished to go back and get help
immediately, but Houston insisted that they must first remove Jack and
little Bull-dog as speedily as possible, as there was danger of other
explosions following now in rapid succession, and also danger from the
smoke and gases of the gradually approaching flames, which were
consuming the timbering of the various shafts, and would at length
communicate with the tunnels also.

Instructing Mike to lay Jack's head across his shoulder, Houston then
clasped his right arm closely about Jack's neck and shoulders. Mike,
carrying Bull-dog on one arm, with the other was to lift Jack
underneath the knees; and in this way they started for the tunnel.

Houston suffered excruciating pain from the arm hanging helpless
at his side, but he traveled forward without a murmur, scarcely
conscious of his own suffering in his anxiety for Jack. The cut was
comparatively short, but their progress was slow.

Nearly overcome by the suffocating gases and the smoke, and faint from
pain and loss of blood, Houston had just staggered into the tunnel,
when he heard the welcome sound of the voices of Lyle and of Morton
Rutherford, and knew that they were saved.



CHAPTER XLVI.


Meanwhile, the work of destruction went swiftly forward, explosions
following in quick succession and with terrific force, throughout the
Yankee group of mines, and the adjoining claims; while the flames from
the burning shafts were rivaled by those which spread from the mills
to the shops, storehouses and stables, and finally, to the miners'
quarters, till all were speedily reduced to ashes.

Around the entrance to tunnel No. 3, a large crowd had gathered, not
only from the various mines, but also from neighboring mining camps,
all anxiously awaiting the return of the rescue party.

At last they appeared. The first to emerge into daylight, was Ned
Rutherford, bearing in his arms the crushed and mutilated form of
little Bull-dog. Behind him came Houston, partially supported by one
of the young miners and by Lyle, his left arm hanging at his side, his
face deathly white beneath the blood and grime, but firm and dauntless
as ever. As he stepped forth into the light, a wild cheer rose on the
air, but Houston, raising his right hand with a deprecatory motion,
silently pointed backward toward the tunnel, where, slowly emerging
into view of the crowd, were Morton Rutherford and Mike, carrying,
with the assistance of the other miner, the bleeding and unconscious
form of Jack.

The cheers were hushed, and the crowd silently surged about Houston
and the two motionless, unconscious forms laid side by side upon the
ground, their heads pillowed upon the rough jackets of the men, folded
and tenderly placed beneath them by the hands of Lyle and Leslie, the
latter half fainting with excitement.

The men crowding about Houston congratulated him with a hearty
hand-clasp, unaccompanied by words, except for an occasional inquiry
as to his own condition.

"I am all right," he said in reply to the latter, "my arm is nothing,
the merest trifle; my only thought is for the two lives which I fear
have been sacrificed for mine."

Anxiously he bent above the prostrate forms. Jack's head was
frightfully gashed, and his heavy, labored breathing indicated that
his brain was already affected. Houston spoke a word to Morton
Rutherford, who quickly withdrew, and taking the swiftest horse in
camp, was soon speeding down the road to the Y, in a second race
against death.

Houston next knelt beside Bull-dog; a faint fluttering about the heart
was the only sign of life. The little waif was well known among the
mining camps of that vicinity, and there were few dry eyes in the
crowd as Houston told the story of his heroism.

Houston saw the end was very near, and gently slipped his right arm
under Bull-dog's head. Slowly the little fellow opened his eyes,
looking, with a happy smile, into the face bending so tenderly over
him. At that instant, the sun, bursting through the clouds, threw a
ray of golden light in shining benediction across the little white
face. His eyes brightened still more; "We're safe!" he whispered
joyously. There was a slight quiver, and the little form was still.

The sun, shining as brightly and serenely as though storms were
unknown, looked down into that beautiful canyon upon a strange scene
of ruin, desolation and death. Amid the wreck and debris of the
explosions, lay the little hero who had saved so many lives that day,
upon his face a child-like smile which it had never worn in life;
while farther on down the canyon, beside the smoking embers of the
milling plant, lay the one whose signal had wrought all this
destruction. The men, rushing into the burning mills, had found the
electrical apparatus in ruins, as though torn to pieces by giant
hands, and beside it upon the floor lay Haight, a ghastly sight, his
face blackened and distorted, his right arm and side seared and
shriveled, by the mighty servant who had suddenly burst its fetters.

Slowly and tenderly Jack was borne to the house, and laid in the room
which had been Houston's, which Lyle had made ready for him with
loving care, her tears falling fast as she recalled his farewell of
the preceding night. To the house came also his two faithful friends,
Mike and Rex, for the little cabin was no more, Jack had indeed spent
his last night beneath its roof, though the succeeding night, to which
he had looked forward, was far different from his anticipations.

Days afterward, his gripsack, packed with such care on that last night
in the cabin, was found by Houston concealed among the rocks, where
Jack had hidden it on the morning of that eventful day, intending,
when his work was done, to set forth upon his wandering life once
more.

Morton Rutherford, on arriving at the Y, had sent the following cipher
dispatch to Van Dorn:

  "Come out on special at once. The mines have been fired by
  telegraphic orders from Silver City office. Everard badly cut and
  arm broken, but not seriously injured. Jack but just alive. Bring
  surgeons and nurse as quickly as possible."

Having sent this message, and finding there was a very good physician
at the Y, he sent him at once to the camp, to remain there until the
surgeons should arrive, doing meantime all in his power to relieve the
sufferers. Then giving orders for one of the company's men to take his
horse, and replace it with a fresh one, Morton returned to the station
to await Van Dorn's reply.

At the house, Jack was being cared for by Mike and one of the older
miners, who had had considerable experience in nursing, Houston doing
everything which his crippled condition and the intense pain he was
suffering, would permit.

On the arrival of the physician from the Y, he first visited Jack, and
leaving directions to be carried out for his temporary relief, next
attended to the setting of Houston's arm and the dressing of his
wounds. The operation required some time, but at last it was
completed, and Houston returned to Jack's room.

The room had been darkened, and in accordance with the physician's
directions, Jack's beard had been shaven and his hair closely cut, to
relieve his head as much as possible. His breathing was more natural,
but he lay quiet and motionless as before.

As Houston approached the bed in the dim light, he scarcely recognized
his friend, so great was the change in his appearance, but as he drew
nearer, he started visibly. Something in the smooth face and closely
clipped head seemed wonderfully familiar, and carried him back to the
days when he had first entered his uncle's home. Bending over him for
an instant, he scanned the features more closely. It was enough! The
face with its patrician features carved in such perfect beauty, though
lined by sorrow, was the face of his cousin,--his boyish hero and
ideal.

With a quick, dry sob, Houston turned from the bedside, more deeply
moved than any of his associates had ever seen him.

"Great God!" he exclaimed, in low tones, "it is Guy Cameron! my cousin
Guy!" and bending over the unconscious form once more, while the great
tears coursed slowly down his face, he murmured:

"Guy, dear old fellow, and you have known me all this time! God grant
this has not come too late!"

With a low cry, Lyle had sprung to Houston's side, while Leslie and
Ned Rutherford followed, and the others looked on in mute wonder and
astonishment. Her quick ear had caught the name.

"What name did you say?" she cried eagerly, "Did you say Guy Cameron?
Is Jack--my Jack--is he my mother's brother?"

Houston bowed in assent, he could not speak.

"Oh," moaned Lyle, "no wonder that he loved us so! and we have not
loved him half enough!" and dropping on her knees beside the bed,
sobbing bitterly, she seized the hand, nearly as white as the sheet
upon which it lay, and covered it with passionate kisses.

A few moments later, Morton Rutherford entered the room; Lyle was
still kneeling by the bedside; beside her was Leslie, quietly weeping.
Ned's eyes were suspiciously red, while in one corner, honest-hearted
Mike was vainly trying to check his fast-flowing tears upon the
sleeves of his blouse. Morton looked quickly toward the strangely
altered face upon the pillows, and was struck by its wondrous beauty.

Glancing inquiringly at Houston, as he advanced to meet him, he asked
anxiously:

"Is he worse?"

"No, there is no change yet, one way or another," Houston replied in
low tones, and continued, "Morton, we were speaking last night, at the
cabin, of my uncle's son,--my cousin, Guy Cameron."

"Yes, I remember."

"He is found," Houston's voice trembled, and he could say no more, but
Morton understood. He gazed with new and tearful interest upon the
beautiful face in its death-like calm; then beckoning to Houston, he
said, as they passed from the room:

"Ah, you have at last found the key to the wondrous bond between you,
and to his self-sacrificing love toward you and yours."

For a few moments they recalled certain incidents in their acquaintance
with the silent, yet gentle and courteous occupant of the little
cabin, and much that had seemed mysterious was now clear and plain in
the light of this recent revelation.

At last Morton said; "I must hasten back to the Y," at the same time
handing his friend the telegram received from Van Dorn:

  "Leave in half an hour on special, with surgeons and nurse.
  Whitney and Lindlay remain here to attend to business. Warrants
  for arrests have been issued."

"That is good," said Houston, with a sigh of relief, "They are already
on their way. And now, my dear Morton, I have one other commission for
you, if you are willing to perform it."

"You know I am at your service," Morton replied.

"My aunt, whose faith and love have watched and waited for her son's
return during all these years, must be brought here as quickly as
possible. I am not in very good condition for travel, and do not feel
that I can leave Guy. I know I can trust her in your care, you will be
to her as a son, and such she will regard you when she knows all, and
I commission you in my name to meet her and bring her out here."

"That I will very gladly do, my dear Everard, and at once; there must
be no delay. By going out this evening, I will be able to take the
early train east from Silver City: the special arrives at 6:10, the
six o'clock train being held at the Y, until after its arrival. I will
return to the Y, meet Mr. Cameron and have a word with him, and go
directly on to Silver City on the regular train."

Thirty minutes later, having hastily packed a small grip, and taken a
tender farewell of Lyle, who knew his errand, and with tearful eyes
bade him "God-speed," Morton Rutherford left the house, accompanied by
Ned, who was to return with Mr. Cameron and Van Dorn.

The sun was slowly sinking behind the crests of the mountains,
flooding the surrounding peaks with glory, when a wagon drawn by four
panting, foaming horses, drew up before the house.

From the front seat beside the driver, Ned Rutherford and Van
Dorn sprang hastily to the ground, turning quickly to assist a
fine-looking, elderly gentleman, with iron-gray hair and beard,
whose dark, piercing eyes bore a strong resemblance to those of
both Houston and Jack. He needed little assistance, however, and
having alighted, turned with firm step and erect bearing, but
with an expression of deep anxiety, toward the house, followed by
the two young men, and by three strangers.

At that instant Houston appeared within the little porch, his left arm
in a sling, his face pale and haggard, though with a grave smile of
affectionate welcome.

Even in that brief instant, Mr. Cameron could not but observe the
change which those few short months had wrought in the face of Everard
Houston, the high-born son of wealth and culture, the pet of society;
it had matured wonderfully; alert and keen, yet grave and thoughtful,
he looked as though he had found a deeper and broader meaning to life
than he had ever dreamed of in his luxurious eastern home.

"My boy!" exclaimed Mr. Cameron, hastening toward him, "are you sure
you have escaped without serious injury?"

"Quite sure," Houston replied, limping slightly, as he advanced to
meet his uncle, "my arm was hurt, and I am somewhat scratched and
bruised and a little weak, but otherwise, sound as ever."

"Thank God for that! I don't mind the loss of the property if you are
safe; all the way out here, my boy, I have been reproaching myself for
ever allowing you to come out to this country."

"My dear uncle," Houston replied, with peculiar emphasis, "I think you
will soon find you have reason to be very glad and grateful that I
came."

Mr. Cameron introduced the two surgeons and the nurse; "I feared," he
said, "from your sending for these gentlemen that you might be hurt
far more seriously than I knew."

"No," said Houston, "but the one who has nearly sacrificed his own
life in helping to save mine, needs their best skill, and I sent for
them on his account."

"That was right," replied Mr. Cameron, "all that money can do shall be
done for him," while one of the surgeons said, "We will see our
patient at once, Mr. Houston, if you please."

"You will see him very soon," Houston replied with grave courtesy,
"but there are reasons why my uncle must first see him, and alone."

Mr. Cameron looked surprised, but silently followed Houston into the
room which had been occupied by the two brothers, but which was now
prepared for him. Then observing something peculiar in Houston's
manner as he closed the door, he asked:

"What is it, my boy?"

"Pardon me, if I seem abrupt, uncle," Houston answered, "but every
moment is precious in saving a life unspeakably dear to each of us."

Mr. Cameron looked startled; Houston continued:

"You have been like a father to me all these years, and I have felt
toward you as a son, but to-day I have the joy of bringing you to the
one, who holds in your heart, and always will hold, precedence even
over myself."

"Everard, my boy!" exclaimed Mr. Cameron, in tones vibrating with
suppressed emotion, "what is it? Speak quickly, do not keep me in
suspense,"

"My dear uncle," said Houston very tenderly, "the lost is found."

Mr. Cameron sank, nearly overcome, into the nearest chair, while his
face grew deathly white.

"Guy?" he gasped, looking upward at Houston.

"Yes," said the latter brokenly.

The strong man covered his face with his hands, while his powerful
frame shook with emotion.

Houston, when he was able to speak, told him, very briefly, of his
meeting with Jack, of their association, and the strange bond of
sympathy and affection between them, of Jack's devotion, and how at
last, he had been enabled to recognize him.

Controlling himself with a mighty effort, Mr. Cameron rose, saying:

"Take me to him."

Opening the door connecting the two rooms, Houston signaled to those
within to leave the room, then led the father into the presence of the
son whom he had so long mourned as dead.

Mr. Cameron walked to the bedside, and looked long and earnestly upon
the white face, drawn with pain, but still beautiful, and bearing to a
great extent, the imprint of his own features; then as he tenderly
clasped the hand lying upon the sheet, he murmured brokenly, between
great, tearless sobs:

"It is he, my boy, my son! Thank God, it is not too late!"



CHAPTER XLVII.


There was a long consultation between the physicians and surgeons
following a careful and thorough examination of their patient, before
the rendering of their decision.

He had received various injuries of a serious character, but the
injury to the head was far the most dangerous of all. There was a
possibility that with the most careful nursing and the most skillful
medical aid, he might live, but his recovery was exceedingly
doubtful,--one chance out of a hundred.

"Do your best," was Mr. Cameron's reply to this decision, "do your
best, regardless of cost; if you wish counsel, have it; send out
another nurse, the best you can secure, to relieve this one, and I
wish one or the other of you gentlemen to remain here constantly, we
must not be left without a physician. I may as well inform you now,"
Mr. Cameron added, with great dignity, in conclusion, "that your
patient is my son."

Astonishment was depicted upon the faces of the physicians, but Mr.
Cameron continued:

"For some months my nephew has been out here incognito, engaged in
unearthing the dishonest schemes and plots of the mining company who
constituted our western agents, and I have just discovered that he was
aided in this work by my son, who, unknown to me, was out here in
disguise, working with the same end in view. You will, of course,
understand, gentlemen, that money is no object; do everything within
your power, and you shall be abundantly compensated."

Thus it was arranged that one or two physicians were constantly at the
house, and when these returned to Silver City for a few hours, others
took their places.

A competent cook and housekeeper were also sent out from Silver City,
as the excitement resulting from the terrible events of that day,
together with her husband's connection therewith, which had in some
way become generally known, proved too much for the feeble strength of
Mrs. Maverick, and she was prostrated by the shock.

Minty, terror-stricken by the results which she believed had followed
her report to Haight, and by his fearful fate, in a fit of hysteria,
confessed the share she had taken in the plot, and was summarily
dismissed.

After the coming of Mr. Cameron with the surgeons and nurse, Lyle and
Leslie had withdrawn from the sick-room, and busied themselves in
caring for Mrs. Maverick, and in superintendence of the necessary
work; Van Dorn, whose astonishment at the revelations of the last two
days was beyond expression, keeping them informed of the condition of
the sufferer. Lyle was pale with excitement, but calmly and bravely
took her place as head of the strangely assorted household, her heart
throbbing wildly as she anticipated the meeting with Mr. Cameron.

Within the sick-room the soft, gray twilight had deepened into
darkness. At one side of the bed sat the nurse, his fingers upon the
pulse of the patient, while he listened attentively to his breathing,
now becoming irregular, and broken by low moans and occasional
mutterings. On the other side sat Mr. Cameron, his head bowed upon his
hands, his mind going back to the years of Guy's childhood and youth.
How vividly he recalled many little incidents, seemingly trivial when
they occurred, but carefully treasured among the most precious
memories in the long, sad years that followed! With the memory of his
son, his heart's pride and joy, came also that of the beautiful
daughter, with her golden hair and starry eyes, the light of their
home in those happy days.

Mr. Cameron seemed lost in thought, but in reality, while thus
reviewing the past, his mind was keenly conscious of the present. In
one corner sat the faithful Mike, while at his feet lay the equally
faithful Rex, who could be neither coaxed nor driven from the room,
but remained quietly watching his master's face, an almost human love
and sorrow looking out of his eyes, as he answered the occasional
moans with a low, piteous whine.

In another corner Everard talked in low tones with the two physicians
who were to remain that night, Mr. Cameron taking cognizance, in the
midst of his own sorrowful thoughts, of every word.

At length some one called for a light, and a moment later, Mr. Cameron
was conscious of a light step crossing the room, and of a lamp being
placed on the table near the physicians, though none of its rays fell
in the direction of the sufferer. Lifting his head, he saw the lamp
with a screen so attached as to throw a shade over almost the entire
room, leaving only a small portion lighted; but within that brightly
illumined portion he had a glimpse, for an instant, of a face, which
with its radiant eyes and its shining aureole of golden hair, was so
nearly a counterpart of the one but just recalled so vividly to his
mind, that it seemed a living reproduction of the same. Only a
glimpse, for as he started, wondering if it could be a figment of his
own imagination, the face suddenly vanished into the shadow, and the
figure glided from the room. Still it haunted him; could there have
been a real resemblance? or was it only a hallucination of his own?

About an hour later, Houston, who had observed his uncle's involuntary
start of surprise on seeing Lyle, and who was anxious that he should
learn the truth as early as possible, slipping his arm within that of
his uncle's, led him out upon the porch, where they lighted their
cigars, smoking for a few moments in silence, then talking together in
low tones of the one so dear to each of them, while Houston related
the details of his first meeting and early acquaintance with the
miner, Jack.

"Even if Guy cannot recover," said Mr. Cameron, in tremulous tones,
when Houston had finished, "Yet if he lives long enough to see and
recognize his mother and myself, and realize our feeling for him--even
then, I shall be more than repaid for your coming out here,--though
all else were lost."

"Indeed you would," responded Houston, "but I cannot help feeling that
Guy's life will be spared, that he will live to bless your future
years. But my dear uncle," he continued, very slowly, "although you
are yet unaware of it, you have nearly as much, if not an equal cause
for joy in another direction."

"I do not understand you, Everard; you surely do not allude to the
property?"

"No, very far from that; did you notice the young girl who came into
Guy's room to-night?"

"To bring the light?"

"The same."

"Yes, and I intended to inquire of you concerning her. Her face
impressed me strangely; I cannot tell whether it was a fact or my own
imagination, but I had been thinking of the children,--Guy and his
sister,--as they were years ago, and it seemed to me that her face, as
I saw it for an instant, was almost an exact counterpart of my own
Edna's, as she used to look, even to the hair and eyes which were very
peculiar."

"It was no imagination on your part, the resemblance is very marked,
not only in face, but in voice and manner as well."

"How do you account for it?" asked Mr. Cameron quickly, "Who is she?"

"She is the one who, of all the world, would have the best right to
resemble your daughter," replied Houston; then, in answer to Mr.
Cameron's look of perplexed inquiry, he continued:

"Pardon me, uncle, for any painful allusion, but at the time of my
cousin's death, I believe you had no direct proof as to the fate of
her child?"

"No absolute proof, of course," replied Mr. Cameron, "only the
testimony of those who identified the mother, that there was no child
with her, and no child among any of those saved answering to the
description given, from which we naturally supposed the little one to
have been killed outright. Why, Everard," he exclaimed, as a new
thought occurred to him, "you certainly do not think this Edna's
child, do you?"

"Why might it not be possible?" inquired Houston, wishing to lead his
uncle gradually up to the truth.

"Is this her home?" asked Mr. Cameron in turn.

"Yes," said Houston, "this has been her home, I believe, for the last
ten years."

"If the supposition mentioned a moment ago were correct, how would she
be here, amid such surroundings?"

"Do you know the man who runs this house?" Houston asked.

"A man by the name of Maverick had charge of it when I was out here
years ago; I do not know whether he is still here."

"He is; do you know him? Did you ever have any business with him
personally?"

"Yes, I had him in my employ years ago, in the east, and was obliged
to discharge him for dishonesty."

"Thereby incurring his life-long hatred and enmity, so that years
afterward, he sought to wreak his revenge upon you by stealing from
the wrecked train, where your daughter lost her life, the little
child who would otherwise have been your solace in that time of
bereavement."

"Everard!" exclaimed Mr. Cameron, "are you sure you are correct? What
proof have you of this?"

"The proofs were not discovered until recently," Houston replied,
"although we knew that they existed, but now this girl has found a
letter from Maverick's wife confessing the whole crime, and stating
that it was committed through a spirit of revenge; and she also has in
her possession the articles of clothing she wore at the time she was
stolen, together with a locket containing her mother's picture and her
own name,--Marjorie Lyle Washburn."

"That is enough," said Mr. Cameron briefly, "let me see her,
Everard."

Houston stepped within the house, reappearing a few moments later,
with Lyle. Very beautiful she looked as she came forward in the soft
radiance of the moonlight, a child-like confidence shining in the
lovely eyes.

Mr. Cameron rose to meet her, and taking both her hands within his
own, he stood for an instant, gazing into the beautiful face.

"My dear child, my own Edna!" he said in broken tones, folding her
closely within his arms, "Thank God for another child restored to us
from the dead!"

Houston returned to the sick-room, leaving Mr. Cameron and Lyle in
their new-found joy. Lyle told him briefly the story of her life, his
eyes growing stern with indignation as he listened to the wrongs she
had endured, then luminous with tenderness, as she told of Jack's
affectionate care for her.

"Call me 'papa' my child, as you used to in the days of your
babyhood," he said, kissing her, as they rose to return to Guy's room,
"you never even then, would call Mrs. Cameron or myself anything but
'mamma' and 'papa,' and now you shall be as our own child!"

Together they watched beside the sick-bed until the morning sun
touched the mountain peaks with glory, but there came no relief to the
sufferer, now moaning and tossing in delirium.

Eastward, across the mountain ranges, Morton Rutherford was speeding
swiftly, scarcely heeding in his sorrow and anxiety, the grandeur and
beauty through which he was passing; while from Chicago, the
sweet-faced mother was hastening westward, all unconscious that she
was being swiftly and surely borne to the answer of her prayers,--that
in that distant western country to which she was journeying, her son
lay calling her in his fever and delirium.

She had started in response to a dispatch from Morton Rutherford, at
Silver City:

  "Mr. Cameron and Everard Houston safe and well, but wish you to
  come out immediately. Wire where I will meet you in St. Paul. Will
  explain when I see you.

                                                "Morton Rutherford."

The mining camp that morning, presented a strange scene of idleness
and desolation. Many of the mines were in ruins, while the remainder
were shut down.

They would remain shut down for an indefinite period, Houston told the
men who had gathered about the house for information. The officers of
the company, he further stated, had been arrested and their property
would soon be seized, hence it would be impossible to state when the
mines would be reopened. It was probable that with the next spring, an
entirely new corporation would be organized, and the mining and
milling plant rebuilt, and operated on a much more extensive scale
than before; and should this be the case, he would then and there
vouch that those of his men who had proven themselves trustworthy and
honorable, would be certain of work, should they desire it, in the
newly opened mines.

The men knew of Jack's condition, and while not a sound was made that
would disturb the sufferer, the better class swung their hats high in
the air, in token of applause, and then walked silently away.

It was found in the succeeding days that several miners had lost their
lives in the explosions of the Yankee Boy mine; a few were so far
underground that their doom was inevitable, while others, whom Houston
had warned, instead of following his instructions, had endeavored to
escape through the shafts, and had discovered too late that they had
only rushed on to certain death.

Maverick, the tool by which all this destruction had been wrought,
after his deadly work was done, overcome by his wretched cowardice,
remained concealed until a late hour; then creeping from his hiding
place to gloat over the havoc and ruin he had wrought, he suddenly found
his triumph was short. Under the shelter of a few boards, temporarily
erected, he found the ghastly remains of his companion and director in
crime. Shivering and trembling with fear, he crept up the road till
within sight of the house, arriving just in time to see Houston,--whom
he supposed crushed and buried within the mine,--presenting Lyle to Mr.
Cameron. He lingered long enough to see her clasped in his arms, then
skulked back into the shadow, retreating down the road, gnashing his
teeth with rage and disappointment. The following day search was made
for him, under instructions from Mr. Cameron and Houston, who
offered a large reward for him, living or dead. His body was found in
an old, abandoned shaft on the mountain side, riddled with bullets.
The vengeance of the miners, desperate from the loss of homes and
employment, had overtaken him first. He was buried hastily and with
little ceremony, his two sons having already taken themselves to parts
unknown, fearful lest the penalty of their father's crimes might be
inflicted upon them, and his fate become theirs also. A day or two
later, Mrs. Maverick, who had been prostrated by the shock of the
explosions and the succeeding events, died from a sudden paralysis,
her feeble mind having first been cheered and soothed by the
assurance from Mr. Cameron of his forgiveness for the small share
which she had taken in the withholding Lyle from her true friends and
home. She was given a decent burial in the miners' little cemetery
at the Y, and the house which for so many years had been called by
their name, knew the Mavericks no more.

Kind hands laid little Bull-dog under the murmuring pines on the
mountain side, near Morgan's last resting place, but in the hearts, of
Houston and his friends, his memory could never grow dim.

The small community of miners suddenly vanished, the deserted
quarters, with their blackened ruins, seeming little like the busy
camp of but a few days before, resounding with their songs and jests.

Only in the house nestling at the foot of the mountain there were no
signs of desertion. It was crowded to overflowing, and within its
walls, during those next succeeding days, what combats were waged,
between hope and fear, joy and despair, life and death!



CHAPTER XLVIII.


Five days had passed, days of raging fever and delirium so violent
that already the powerful frame seemed nearly exhausted; the sufferer
calling almost incessantly for the loved ones of his old home, but
oftenest for his mother. Some faint glimmer of recognition must
occasionally have reached those darkened chambers of the brain, since
when attended by Mr. Cameron, Houston or Lyle, he rested more quietly,
though never calling Lyle by her own name, but always by that of his
sister, Edna.

The fever had subsided, and he was now rapidly passing into a
death-like stupor, hovering between life and death, unconscious of
skilled physicians and trained nurses that came and went, unconscious
of loving friends bending above him, their prayers and efforts
combined with the skill of the former, in the terrible combat against
the mighty foe.

The physicians watching by the bedside, shook their heads, as they
felt the pulse, fluttering more and more faintly.

"He is sinking, failing rapidly," they said, "to-night will be the
crisis, the turning point; unless there is a change then for the
better, he will never see the dawning of another day."

To Mrs. Cameron, journeying westward with Morton Rutherford, the
moments had seemed like hours, the hours like days, since learning for
whose sake had come the summons to that distant country. Only the
speed of the lightning could have satisfied the heart of the mother
hastening to her long-lost son.

They had been kept informed along the route of Guy's condition, and
now, upon their arrival at Silver City, on the noon train, they found
a special car awaiting them, to convey them at once to the Y, which
had been ordered by telegraphic dispatch from Mr. Cameron.

The watchers by the bedside heard the sound of swiftly approaching
wheels; Mr. Cameron and Houston stepped quickly out to greet the
sweet-faced woman hastening toward the house on the arm of Morton
Rutherford.

"Am I in time? Is our boy still living?" were her first words, as her
husband met her with outstretched arms, his face working with deep
emotion.

"Just in time, thank God!" was the broken reply.

"Oh, Walter, is there no hope?" she queried, understanding his words
only too well.

"I must not deceive you, Marjorie, there is the barest possibility
that he may live, no more."

"He must live, and he will," replied the mother, in tones that
reminded both Houston and Morton Rutherford wonderfully of Lyle.

Turning toward Houston, Mrs. Cameron greeted him affectionately, and
gently touching the wounded arm, exclaimed:

"My poor, dear boy, what a terrible risk you have run!"

To which he replied, "I would go through it all again, Aunt Marjorie,
for the joy I believe it will bring you and yours."

A few moments later, Mr. Cameron led his wife into the sick-room. Lyle
had already left the room, and there remained only Leslie Gladden,
sitting quietly near the foot of the bed, and the nurse, who
respectfully withdrew from his place beside the patient, as Mrs.
Cameron approached.

Calmly, though through fast-falling tears, the mother gazed for a
moment upon her son; then dropping upon her knees beside the bed, she
slipped one arm underneath the pillows, and gently drew the wounded
head upon her own breast, tenderly kissing the brow and cheeks; then
taking his hand within her own, she stroked and caressed it,
meanwhile crooning over him in low, murmuring tones, as though he had
been an infant.

There were no dry eyes in that little room, not excepting even the
nurse, while from the door-way of the adjoining room, Morton
Rutherford, Lyle and Everard Houston watched the scene with hearts too
full for utterance. Something in that gentle touch must have carried
the troubled mind of the sufferer back to the days of his childhood;
gradually the faint moaning ceased, the drawn, tense features relaxed,
and a sweet, child-like smile stole over his face now assuming a
death-like pallor.

For hours the mother knelt there, her husband by her side, Everard and
Leslie standing near, while in the background, in the dim light, was
Lyle with Morton Rutherford.

At last, Mr. Cameron, bending over his wife, entreated her to take a
few moments' rest and a little food. She hesitated, but Everard
spoke:

"You must take some refreshment, Aunt Marjorie, you have had no food
for hours; Leslie and I will watch here, and if there should be the
slightest change, I will call you."

At the name of Leslie, Mrs. Cameron looked up, with a sweet, motherly
smile, into the beautiful but tear-stained face beside her, and gently
withdrawing from the bedside, she turned and clasped Miss Gladden in
her arms, saying:

"My dear Leslie, I did not think we would meet for the first time
under such circumstances as these, but I am more than glad to find you
here. Everard has always been, and still is as our own son, and I
welcome you, my dear, as a daughter."

On entering the dining-room, Mr. and Mrs. Cameron found a most
tempting luncheon prepared for them, but no one in the room, Lyle
having judged they would prefer to be by themselves for awhile.

As Mrs. Cameron, having partaken of some slight refreshment, was
preparing to return to the sick-room, her husband said:

"Wait a moment, my dear; there is another joy in store for you,
Marjorie, in that, through Everard's coming out into this country, we
have received back from the dead, as it were, not only our son, but
also a daughter. I want you to meet her now, my dear, so prepare
yourself for a great surprise, and perhaps, something of a shock."

"I do not understand you, dear," replied Mrs. Cameron, looking
bewildered, "you certainly do not refer to Leslie, I have met her."

"No, my love, Leslie is a beautiful girl, and will be to us a lovely
daughter, but I refer to a daughter of our own flesh and blood."

Stepping to an adjoining room, Mr. Cameron called in a low tone,
"Lyle, my dear," returning immediately to his wife's side to support
her in case the shock should prove too much in her present agitated
condition.

Lyle glided into the room, slowly approaching Mrs. Cameron, who sat
speechless, pale as death, but controlling herself by a visible
effort.

"Edna, my child! my own Edna!" she cried, rising with outstretched
arms, and clasping Lyle to her breast; then turning toward her
husband, she asked:

"What does this mean, Walter? Can this be Edna's child?"

"Yes, my love," he replied, "this is the little Marjorie we have
mourned as dead for so many years."

For a while they sat clasped in each other's arms, their tears
commingling, while Mr. Cameron briefly explained to his wife the main
facts in Lyle's strange history.

"She shall be our own daughter, shall she not, Walter? She shall be to
us just what Edna was?"

"Certainly," was the response, "she is our own daughter, Marjorie Lyle
Cameron."

They returned to Guy's room, Mrs. Cameron resuming her old place, with
Guy's head upon her breast, his hand in hers, only that now Lyle knelt
beside her. At their side, and very near his son, was Mr. Cameron,
while just back of them were Everard, Leslie and Morton Rutherford.
Ned Rutherford and Van Dorn lingered in the door-way watching, while
at the foot of the bed stood Mike, the tears coursing down his rugged
face. On the other side of the bed stood the physicians and nurse,
their keen eyes watching the subtle changes passing over the face, now
white as marble, and almost as motionless.

Fainter and shorter grew the gasping breaths, more and more feeble the
pulse, until at last it was evident to every one within that little
room, that life had very nearly ebbed away.

But there was one who did not, for one instant, lose faith or hope.
The sublime faith which had upheld her through all those years of a
sorrow greater than death, did not desert her now. Lyle seemed to
share her faith, and they alone remained calm and tearless, the
saint-like face of the mother shining with love and trust.

Suddenly, upon that death-like stillness, her voice rang out, with
startling clearness:

"Guy! oh, Guy, my darling!"

And to that soul, slipping through the fast-darkening shadows, almost
within the grasp of the great enemy, there seemed to have come some
echo of those tones, with their piercing sweetness, recalling him to
life; for, with a long, quivering breath, Guy slowly opened his eyes,
gazing, for an instant, with a dreamy smile, upon the faces
surrounding him. His eyes closed with a gentle sigh, but while those
about him anxiously awaited the next breath, they again opened, full
of the light of recognition, while a rapturous smile grew and deepened
upon his face, irradiating his features with joy, his lips moving in a
whisper so faint that only the mother's ear could catch the words:

"I thought--it was--all--a dream,--but--it--is true," then, exhausted,
he sank into a deep sleep like a child's, his breathing growing more
and more regular and natural, moment by moment.

The physicians withdrew from the bedside, their vigil was over; "He
will live," they said briefly, while in response, there rose from all
parts of the room, deep sobs of joy.



CHAPTER XLIX.


For the first week or two, Guy Cameron's recovery was slow, but at the
expiration of that time his vigorous constitution reasserted itself,
and he gained rapidly.

Meanwhile, at Silver City, affairs were progressing under the
efficient management of Mr. Whitney, the clear-headed attorney from
New York.

When orders for arrest were first issued, it was soon discovered that
the office of the North Western Mining, Land & Investment Company was
practically deserted. None of their books or papers were to be found,
their clerks had been dismissed, and no trace existed of the officers
of the company. No information regarding their whereabouts could be
obtained from any of the officers of the several high-titled companies
occupying the same room, as they were supremely and serenely
unconscious that anything out of the usual order had occurred, and
full of regrets that they were unable to furnish the desired
information.

Blaisdell was discovered the following day, in company with his eldest
son, in an old abandoned mine about two miles from town, which he
claimed they were working, his limited means not allowing him to
wander far from the scene of his crimes. He was brought back to town
and held pending the discovery of Wilson and Rivers, for whom
detectives were searching in every direction. The former was never
found, but at the end of about two weeks, the latter was run to earth
in an eastern city, where he was masquerading in snow-white wig and
beard and colored eye-glasses, as a retired and invalid clergyman,
living in great seclusion.

Blaisdell and Rivers were tried on the charge of murder, the most
important witnesses for the prosecution being Everard Houston and
Morton Rutherford; the latter testifying as to the nature of the final
and fatal dispatch sent on that eventful day, in which he was
corroborated by the telegraph operator of the Silver City office, who
had been found and secured as a witness, and who verified Rutherford's
statements regarding the message, but at the same time cleared Mr.
Blaisdell from all connection therewith; the message having been sent
by Rivers in Blaisdell's absence, whether with his knowledge and
consent, they were unable to ascertain. The charge against Blaisdell
was therefore dismissed through lack of evidence, while in Rivers'
case, a verdict was returned for manslaughter, and he was given the
extreme limit of the law, imprisonment for ten years.

Blaisdell was then speedily arraigned for a new trial on the charge of
embezzlement, the date on which his case was set for hearing being the
same as that upon which his partner in crime was to be transferred to
the state penitentiary.

On that morning, however, the guard on going to the cell occupied by
Rivers, found him just expiring, having succeeded in smuggling into
his cell a quantity of morphine, how or when, no one could ascertain.
He left a letter in which he stated that no state penitentiary had
ever held him, or ever would, but that "as the game was up" he would
give them a few particulars regarding his past life. He gave his true
name, the name of a man who, twenty-five years before, had been wanted
in the state of New York for a heavy bank robbery and murder. For
years, under an alias, he had belonged to a gang of counterfeiters in
Missouri, but upon the discovery and arrest of the leaders of the
band, he had assumed his present alias and had come west.

As Blaisdell took his place that morning in the prisoner's box, he was
a pitiable object. Haunted almost to madness by the awful fate of his
associate, confronted by an overwhelming array of evidence, furnished
by Houston, Van Dorn and Lindlay, including also a deposition of Guy
Cameron's, taken in his sick-room, his own abject and hopeless
appearance bore the most damaging testimony against him. His case was
quickly decided, his sentence being for seven years.

After the trial, Morton Rutherford and Van Dorn returned at once to
the camp, and a day or two later, when business affairs had at last
been satisfactorily adjusted, Mr. Cameron and Houston returned,
bringing with them Mr. Whitney and Lindlay, for a visit of a week
among the mountains, before the entire party should return east.

It was now early in the fall. Already the nights were frosty, but the
days were royal as only early autumnal days among the mountains can
be. Every breath was exhilarating, each inhalation seeming laden with
some subtle elixir of life.

Guy Cameron was now convalescent, able to sit with his friends in the
low, rustic porch, or even to join them in short strolls among the
rocks by the lake.

One afternoon they all sat in and about the porch, in the soft, hazy
sunlight, the vines and shrubbery about them brilliant in their
autumnal tints of crimson and orange and gold. The group was complete,
with the exception of Mr. Cameron and Mr. Whitney, who still lingered
within doors, engaged in drawing up some papers of which no one seemed
to understand the import, excepting Houston, who had just left the
gentlemen to join the group outside.

It was a strikingly beautiful picture; Mrs. Cameron seated in
the center, with her sweet face and snow-white hair, and on either
side a lovely daughter. Near Lyle were seated Guy Cameron and
Morton Rutherford,--between whom there already existed a deep
affinity,---with their faces of remarkable strength and beauty.
On the grass, just outside the porch, in various easy attitudes,
were Ned Rutherford, Van Dorn and Lindlay, and it was noticeable
that under the influence of late events, even Ned's boyish face
was gradually assuming a far more mature and thoughtful expression.

As Houston seated himself beside Leslie, both she and Lyle observed
that his face was lighted with a smile of deep satisfaction, but he
remained silent, and the conversation continued as before, the members
of the little group engaged in anticipations of their return to their
respective homes, and in comments upon this particular portion of the
west with which they had become familiar.

"Which will you love best, Jack, my dear," Lyle asked of Guy in low
tones, using the old form of address still very dear to her, "the
eastern home, or the mountains?"

"My old home was never so dear to me as now," he replied, "but I am
deeply attached to the mountains; for years they were my only friends,
and I shall wish to look upon them occasionally in the future."

"Well," Ned Rutherford was saying, "I wouldn't have thought it, but
I've got so attached to this place out here, I'd like an excuse of
some sort,--some kind of business, you know,--that would bring me here
part of the time; what do you think, Mort?"

"I think our associations here have had a great deal to do with the
attractions of the place, but as a quiet retreat in which to spend a
few weeks of each summer, I can not imagine a more delightful place."

"Everard, of what are you thinking so deeply?" demanded Lyle, watching
his thoughtful face, "you have not spoken a word since you came out."

"I am thinking of the evening when first we had Mr. Lindlay and Mr.
Van Dorn as guests in this house; thinking of the contrast between
then and now; that was ushering in the close of the old regime, and
this is the eve of the new."

"When will the mines be reopened?" inquired Van Dorn.

"Just as soon as possible after the rebuilding of the plant, next
spring."

"All these mines will be owned and controlled by the New York company,
will they not?"

"Yes, and they will probably purchase other good properties."

"'Pon my soul, but that will make a fine plant, out 'ere!" exclaimed
Lindlay.

"I should say so," responded Van Dorn.

Just at that instant, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Whitney appeared, the latter
carrying a large roll of legal cap, covered with his well-known
hieroglyphics.

"My dear," said Mr. Cameron, seating himself beside his wife and a
little in the rear of the remainder of the group, "Mr. Whitney and
myself have been engaged in drawing up the articles of incorporation
of the new mining company to be organized out here very shortly, and
I thought perhaps you and the young people would be interested in
them. I want to say that they are drawn up subject to the approval of
all parties interested, and after you have heard them read, we want
you to express your opinions, jointly and severally. Mr. Whitney, as I
believe you are the only one who would be able to read those
cabalistic signs, we will now listen to you."

Amid a general laugh at Mr. Whitney's expense, he began the reading of
the articles of incorporation. The first article, setting forth the
object of the corporation, was read, and by the time Mr. Whitney had
reached the second, the members of the party were all attention.

"Article II. This corporation shall be known as The Rocky Mountain
Mining Company."

A murmur of approval ran through the little group, and the sonorous
tones continued:

"Article III. The officers of the company hereby incorporated shall be
as follows: Walter E. Cameron, president; Walter E. Houston,
vice-president; Guy M. Cameron, treasurer and general manager; Edward
B. Rutherford, Jr., secretary."

Mr. Cameron, from his post of observation, watching to see the effect
produced by the reading of this document, did not have to wait long.
The faces of the ladies expressed their delight, while Ned Rutherford
was speechless with astonishment; but it was the figure half reclining
in the invalid chair that he watched most closely; it was his son's
approval that he most desired.

At the mention of his name, Guy Cameron had given a slight start, but
he now lay with closed eyes, the only sign of emotion visible being
that his pale face had grown still paler. Only the preceding day, Guy
and his parents had held their first and only conversation together
regarding the time so long past, Mr. and Mrs. Cameron intending it to
be the first and last allusion which should be made to that sad time.
Guy well knew that all was forgiven; he knew that the unhappy secret
had been guarded with such loving care that his reputation was
untarnished, there was nothing to be recalled against him on his
return; yet he would consent only to a brief visit to the old home; he
would not yet return permanently.

"Let me first go into business somewhere, and retrieve myself in my
own eyes at least," he had said, "not be taken back as a prodigal."

Mr. Cameron had conferred with Houston, and both hoped that a
responsible position in the newly organized company, amid the old
familiar scenes and work, and associated with those to whom he had
become personally attached, would more than meet his wishes. Mr.
Cameron had wished to make him general manager on account of his
familiarity with the business, while Houston wished him to hold the
office of treasurer, as token of their perfect trust; hence the two
were combined.

After all the articles of incorporation had been read in full, the
little group broke up, and crowded around the newly-chosen young
officers with many congratulations.

"Great Scott!" ejaculated Ned, "I never was so thunder struck in my
life! Accept it? well, I should say so, Mr. Cameron, and with many
thanks; you couldn't have picked out anything that would suit me
better. I guess," he added in a confidential aside to Houston, "I
guess that will fix the old fellow down there in Boston all right."

Guy grasped his father's hand and Houston's in a manner that removed
every anxiety from their minds.

"It is more than satisfactory," he said, "more than I could wish."

The following day, Mr. Whitney, Lindlay and Van Dorn returned east,
leaving the "family party" as they laughingly styled themselves, to
follow later.

Among the pleasant surprises of those last few days of their stay, it
was discovered that Leslie Gladden, whom Mrs. Cameron and Lyle had
urged to make her home with them upon their return, was the owner of a
palatial residence not many blocks from their own city home, besides
having a snug little fortune in bonds and stocks.

Houston's surprise was unbounded, but remembering how he had won
Leslie's love, there was little he could say.

"I thought you once said you never had a home of your own," he
remarked in considerable perplexity.

"Well," she replied archly, "a residence is not necessarily a home; it
has never been a home to me since my earliest recollection, but it
will be one soon, in the truest sense of the word."

One morning a few days later, they awoke to find the mountains about
them white with snow, and a light snowfall in the canyon; and though
the latter vanished presently under the balmy breath of a "chinook,"
it had given them warning that the winter king was approaching, and
would soon seize the scepter from autumn's hand, to begin his long
reign among the mountains.

That day, the old house which had witnessed such varied scenes within
the past few months, was closed, and a very joyous party started for
Silver City, the initial point of the long eastward journey, their
hearts throbbing with delight that they were homeward bound.

In the first carriage rode Mr. and Mrs. Cameron and their newly-found
son and daughter, while following so closely that their merry jokes
and song and laughter were intermingled, were Everard Houston, Leslie
Gladden and the two brothers; and as they passed down the winding
canyon road, casting loving, farewell glances at the friendly peaks,
clad that day in dazzling brightness, and recalled their first coming
to the heart of the Rockies, they were, one and all, agreed that the
end was better than the beginning.

                  *       *       *       *       *

According to Houston's prediction, the mines were reopened the
following year, and operated on a far more extensive scale. On the
site of the old mills, an immense building was erected, thoroughly
equipped with the latest improvements in mining machinery and
electrical and mechanical appliances. The old mines were repaired and
extended and new properties were purchased, giving employment to
hundreds of men. Early in the second year, a railroad was constructed
by the company, extending up the canyon from the Y, to the camp, for
the transportation of ore, mining supplies, freight and passengers.

As the mines were enlarged and new properties developed, quite a
community sprang up in that vicinity, which, after the construction of
the railroad, speedily developed into a typical mining town; and now,
after a lapse of three years, few would recognize the old camp.

Half way up the steep grade from the Y, is the smelting plant of the
company, while at the terminus of the road, are the long, stone
storehouses, at one end of which is the general office and a pleasant
reception room. Next comes the great milling and reduction plant,
while just beyond are the offices of the company, a fine, three-story
brick building. From this building can be seen, in one direction the
extensive mining works, with their labyrinth of shafts and tunnels,
diggings and dumps; while in another direction are stretched the homes
of the miners, the boarding houses, and, at a little distance, the
post-office, hotel, stores and shops of the little town, as well as a
tasteful church and school house. As one gazes upon the peaceful
picture of the mountain town, there is nothing to recall the frightful
scene of destruction and ruin of only three years past.

There is little to remind one of former times, until, having followed
the broad, winding road for some distance, one suddenly comes upon a
familiar sight. Nestling at the foot of the pine-covered mountain, on
the site of the old boarding house, is a beautiful, wide-spreading
stone cottage, so built that its numerous bow-windows take in a view
of the azure lake and shining cascades, as well as of the surrounding
peaks and the sunset sky; and on the broad, vine-covered veranda, is a
well-known group, who come from their distant, city homes, to spend a
few weeks of each summer amid the grandeur and beauty of the
mountains, to listen to the whispering of the pines and the music of
the cascades.

Morton Rutherford and his bride are here; Lyle, physically and
mentally developed into royal, radiant womanhood, more beautiful than
ever, but to whom there comes occasionally an irresistible longing to
revisit her old mountain home, for the years of happiness and love
have obliterated all bitter memories of the loveless, joyless
childhood, and only the remembrance of its beauty remains.

By her side, is Guy Cameron, his proud, erect bearing showing the
change which these few years have wrought in his life; lonely and
solitary no longer, for near him is a queenly woman, who, knowing the
sad secret of his past, will share and brighten his future.

Everard Houston and his lovely wife need no introduction, but, beside
them is a little stranger, possessing Leslie's wondrous dark eyes, but
Houston's features,--another little Marjorie,--while beside the wee
maiden is a small chevalier, only two months her senior, rejoicing in
the name of Morton Rutherford. In the dignified, business-like face of
the proud father, it is difficult to recognize the former Ned
Rutherford, but while possessing still the same light-hearted nature,
yet the responsibilities intrusted to him, and the years of constant
association with a man like Everard Houston, have developed a business
ability surprising even to himself. As secretary of the Rocky Mountain
Mining Company, he has proved to be the right man in the right place,
thereby reflecting much credit upon Houston's insight and good
judgment in selecting him for the position. By his side is a fair
woman, the "Grace" of whom he used to dream when first he visited the
mountains.

Strolling up and down the graveled walks, in consultation regarding
the mines, are two figures, one of whom is easily recognized as Arthur
Van Dorn, mining expert for the company, and superintendent of the
milling and reduction plant. The energetic, business man by his side
is M. T. Donovan, superintendent of the entire mining plant, but a
second glance is necessary to recognize in him, Mike, the old-time
miner, and the faithful friend of Guy Cameron in his years of
loneliness. Donovan and Van Dorn present a striking contrast, but they
are good friends, and the latter's personation of the former, on a
certain occasion, is a standing joke between them.

There is one more familiar figure, not to be omitted, and that is Rex,
stretched on the soft grass in an attitude of perfect content, his
nose resting on his paws, his eyes fixed on his master's face with the
old-time devotion.

Beautiful as this picture may be, it is not quite complete without a
glimpse of a far-away, eastern home, where, in the gloaming, beside an
open grate, sit a couple with peaceful faces, crowned with snow-white
hair. They have passed the grand summit of middle age, with its broad
horizons, where hope and ambition are at their zenith, and together
are journeying down the long, gentle declivity; but the clouds of loss
and bereavement and pain that gathered about their path in the years
gone by, have passed, and the valley before them is flooded with
golden light. Their home circle, once broken, is now nearly complete;
the once vacant places by the fireside are again filled, and the old
home, silent for so many years, again resounds with song and laughter,
and echoes once more to the music of childish voices and the patter of
little feet.

For hours, they sit talking together of the joys which the late years
have brought them; until the moonlight steals in through the open
windows, reverently touching their heads with a silvery radiance, at
the same time looking down in silent, shining benediction upon the
peaceful scene in the heart of the Rockies.

FINIS





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