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Title: Elam Storm, The Wolfer - Or, The Lost Nugget
Author: Castlemon, Harry, 1842-1915
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 "Elam Storm, The Wolfer - Or, The Lost Nugget" ***

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                      ELAM STORM, THE WOLFER


                         THE LOST NUGGET

                       BY HARRY CASTLEMON

      AUTHOR OF "GUNBOAT SERIES," "FOREST AND STREAM SERIES,"
                    "WAR SERIES," ETC., ETC.


PHILADELPHIA
HENRY T. COATES & CO.

Copyright, 1895,
BY PORTER & COATES.



[Illustration: THE RED GHOST.]



CONTENTS.


I. SOMETHING ABOUT THE NUGGET

II. TOM MASON AGAIN

III. TOM BEGINS HIS WANDERINGS

IV. THE WRONG BOAT

V. TOM'S LUCK

VI. TOM ADMIRES THE COWBOYS

VII. A TEMPERANCE LECTURE

VIII. A HOME RANCH

IX. LOST IN THE MOUNTAINS

X. THE CAMP OF ELAM, THE WOLFER

XI. UNWELCOME VISITORS

XII. TOM FINDS SOMETHING

XIII. ELAM INTERVIEWS THE MAJOR

XIV. ELAM UNDER FIRE

XV. UNCLE EZRA PUTS HIS FOOT DOWN

XVI. A NEW EXPEDITION

XVII. THE NUGGET IS FOUND

XVIII. CONCLUSION



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


THE RED GHOST.

TOM'S NEW ACQUAINTANCE.

TOM IN HIDING.

ELAM'S FIGHT WITH THE CHEYENNES.



ELAM STORM, THE WOLFER;

OR,

THE LOST NUGGET.



CHAPTER I.

SOMETHING ABOUT THE NUGGET.


"Yes, sir; it's just like I tell you. Every coyote on this here ranch,
mean and sneaking as he is, is worth forty dollars to the man who can
catch him."

"Then what is the reason Carlos and I can't make some money this
winter?"

"You mout, and then again you moutn't. It aint everybody who can coax
one of them smart prowlers to stick his foot in a trap. If that was the
case, my neighbors would have had more sheep, and Elam Storm would be
worth a bushel of dollars."

"And you are going to grub-stake him again this winter, are you, Uncle
Ezra?"

"Sure. I always do."

"What is the reason you won't let us go with him to the mountains?"

"'Cause I know that your folks aint so tired of you that they are ready
to lose you yet awhile; that's why."

"Only just a few days. We'll come back at the end of the week if you say
so, won't we, Carlos?"

"'Taint no use of talking, Ben; not a bit. Man alive! what would I say
to the major if anything should happen to you? And going off with Elam
Storm! That would be the worst yet."

"But Elam is honest and reliable. You have said so more than once, Uncle
Ezra."

"Oh, he's honest enough, as far as that goes, but shiftless--mighty
shiftless. And I never said he was reliable except in one way. He's
reliable enough to go to the mountains every fall and come back every
spring with a hoss-back load of peltries, and that's all he is reliable
for. I did make out to hold him down to the business of sheep-herding
for a couple of years, but then the roaming fever took him again and
nobody couldn't do nothing with him. He just had to go, and so he asked
for a grub-stake and lit out."

"You think that while he is in the mountains he looks for something
besides wolf-skins, don't you?"

"I know he does. He's got a fool notion that will some day be the death
of him, just as it has been the death of a dozen other men who tried to
follow out the same notion."

"You promised to tell me all about it some day, and about Elam, too; and
what better time can we have than the present? We are here by ourselves,
and there is no one to break in on your story."

"Well, then, I'll tell you if it will ease your minds any. It won't be
long, so you needn't go to settling yourself as though you had an
all-night's job before you to listen. And perhaps when I am done you
will know why I don't want you to go piking about the country with such
a fellow as Elam Storm."

It was just the night for story-telling and pipes. The blizzard, which
had been brewing for a week or more, had burst forth in all its fury,
and the elements were in frightful commotion. The wind howled mournfully
through the branches of the evergreens that covered the bluff behind the
cabin; the rain and sleet, freezing as they fell, rattled harshly upon
the bark roof over our heads; and the whole aspect of nature, as I
caught a momentary glimpse of it when I went out to gather our evening's
supply of fire-wood, was cheerless and desolate in the extreme. Our
party consisted of three (or I should say four, for the Elam Storm whose
name has so often been mentioned was to have shown up two days
before)--Uncle Ezra Norton, who was a sheep-herder in a small way during
the summer, and an untiring hunter and trapper in winter; Ben Hastings,
whose father, an officer of rank in the regular army, was stationed at
the fort fifty miles away; and myself, Carlos Burton, a ne'er-do-well,
who--but I will say no more on that point, as perhaps you will find out
what sort of a fellow I am as my story progresses. We were comfortably
sheltered in our valley home, but we heard all the noise of the tempest
and felt a good deal of its force; and accustomed as I had become to
such things during my wild life in the far West, I did not forget to
breathe a silent but heart-felt prayer for any unfortunate who might be
overtaken by the storm before he had time to reach the shelter of his
cabin.

Under our humble roof there were warmth, comfort, and supreme
contentment. The single room of which the cabin could boast was
brilliantly lighted by the fire on the hearth, which roared back a
defiance to the storm outside; its rough walls of unhewn logs were
heavily draped with the skins of the elk, blacktail, and mountain sheep
that had fallen to our rifles during the hunt, completely shutting out
all the cold and damp and darkness; and Ben and I, with our moccasoned
feet thrust toward the cheerful blaze, reclined luxuriously upon a pile
of genuine Navajo blankets, while our guide, friend, and mentor, Uncle
Ezra Norton, sat upon his couch of balsam sending up from his pipe
clouds of tobacco incense that broke in fleecy folds against the low
roof over our heads. Our minds were in the dreamy, tranquil state that
comes after a good dinner and a brief season of repose following a
period of toil and hard tramping that had been rewarded beyond our
hopes.

Uncle Ezra was a typical borderman, strong as one of his own mules, and
grizzly as any of the numerous specimens of _Ursus ferox_ that had
fallen before his big-bored Henry. Although he took no little pride in
recounting Ben's exploits to the officers of the garrison, he was very
strict with the boy when the latter was under his care, and never
permitted him to wander far out of his sight if he could help it.

Uncle Ezra was my particular friend, and had won my undying gratitude by
his kindness to me. I was in trouble and he helped me out of the deepest
hole I ever was in. When I struck his ranch one dreary day, two years
before this story begins, afoot and alone, almost ready to drop with
fatigue, and told him that every hoof and horn I had in the world had
been rounded up by a gang of cattle thieves who had driven them into the
Bad Lands to be slaughtered for their hides--when I told him this he not
only expressed the profoundest sympathy for my forlorn condition, but
grub-staked me and sent me into the foot-hills to find a gold mine.

Judging from what I know now there was about as much chance of finding
gold in the region to which he sent me as there was of being struck by
lightning, and, more than that, I couldn't have distinguished the
precious metal from iron pyrites; but I had to do something to pay for
my outfit, and so I went, glad to get away by myself and brood over my
great loss. For I had been pretty well off for a boy of fifteen, I want
you to remember, and every dollar I had made was made by the hardest
kind of knocks.

When I first came out West, I began working on a ranch, taking my pay in
stock at twelve dollars a month. My wages soon grew as my services
increased in value, and as I took to riding like an old timer, I learned
rapidly, because I liked the business; and it was not long before I was
the proud possessor of a herd of cattle worth six thousand dollars. But
it was precarious property in those days,--as uncertain as the weather.
You might be fairly well off when you rolled yourself up in your blanket
at night, and as poor as Job's turkey when you awoke in the morning; and
that's the way it was with me. I was moving my herd to another section
of the country in search of better pasturage, and was passing through a
narrow canyon within two days' journey of the new range that one of my
cowboys had selected for me, when all on a sudden there was a yell of
charging men, whom I at first thought to be Indians, a rifle shot which
killed my horse and injured my leg so badly that I could scarcely crawl
into the nearest thicket out of sight, a hurried stampede of frightened
cattle, and I was a beggar or the next thing to it. My three cowboys
disappeared when the cattle did, and that was all the evidence I wanted
to satisfy me that they were in league with the robbers. Ever since that
time I had lived in hopes that it might be my good fortune to meet them
again under different circumstances. When I learned that two of their
number had been hanged somewhere in Arizona for horse-stealing, I was
sorry to hear it, and hoped the other would mend his ways and so escape
lynching, for I wanted to settle with him myself.

At the time my story begins, however, I was on my feet again, as anyone
can be in that Western country who is suffering from reverses. I had a
home ranch and perhaps ten thousand dollars' worth of cattle ranging
near the Bad Lands, into which my small herd had been driven to be
killed for their hides; but I was poor enough and miserable enough when
Uncle Ezra sent me off to hunt up a gold mine. I didn't find it, of
course, but I took back to old Norton's ranch some specimens of quartz
that made him open his eyes. They looked like chunks of granite, with
little pieces of different-colored glass scattered through them. I had
no idea of the value of my find, but so certain was Uncle Ezra that I
had struck it rich that he took the specimens to Denver himself, and
some expert there assured him that he was a millionnaire. But he wasn't,
by a long shot, and neither was I. Uncle Ezra knew no more about
business outside of sheep-herding and trapping than an Apache knows
about astronomy, and the fifteen-year-old boy who was his only
counsellor knew less, and the usual results followed. We were euchred
out of our find, which meant the loss of bushels of dollars to us.
During my prospecting tour I camped on the banks of a little stream,
following through a secluded valley a hundred miles deep in the
mountains, and stumbled upon a rich deposit of rubies and sapphires.
Although there were no true red rubies nor true blue sapphires among
them, they were beautiful gems and worth money. The Denver expert told
Uncle Ezra that there was a sprinkling of fire opals among them, but
this I am inclined to doubt, for I never heard of those stones being
found together. Anyhow, that deposit, whose wealth was first presented
to my inexperienced eyes, covered sixteen acres of ground, and is being
worked by a syndicate with a cash capital of two million dollars. Uncle
Ezra and I saved a small stake for old age; but you bet I will know a
good thing the next time I see it.

Ben Hastings, as I have said, was the son of an army officer who was
stationed at the fort a few miles away, and this was the first time he
had ever been west of the Mississippi. He had the good sense to
acknowledge that he was a tender-foot, and perhaps that made me take to
him from the start. He could ride and shoot a little, and had camped in
small patches of timber like to Adirondacks and up about Moosehead Lake;
but he did not pretend to know it all, as the majority of Eastern men do
when they come out here, and so he had plenty of friends among men who
were willing to assist him. He fairly overflowed with delight when I
took him an invitation from Uncle Ezra to spend a month on his
sheep-ranch. His father was glad to let him accept, for old Ezra was a
particular friend of his, and often acted as guide when the major went
scouting. This hunt to Wind River Mountains had been undertaken for
Ben's especial benefit, and as we pushed him to the front as often as
the opportunity was presented, he shot more elk and blacktail than we
did.

I have spoken of Elam Storm, a particular friend of all of us. He was
somewhere in the mountains now and ought to have joined us two days ago,
but, seeing that it was Elam, we did not pay any attention to it. He was
a professional wolfer whom Uncle Ezra had befriended. Old Ezra said he
was shiftless; but he certainly was not lazy, for he would work harder
at doing nothing than any fellow I ever saw. He was game, too. He had
some sort of a notion in his head that governed all his actions, and
although I was as intimate with him as anybody in the country, I never
could find out what it was. But I did not push my enquiries, I want you
to understand, for Elam had a sharp tongue, which he did not hesitate to
use when he thought occasion demanded it, and, besides, he was handy
with his gun. I had often asked Uncle Ezra to tell me what he knew of
Elam's history, but could never get him started on the subject; so I was
glad to hear him say in response to Ben's importunities that he would
tell the story.

"How long ago was it since Elam came to you?" enquired Ben Hastings,
with a view of hurrying Uncle Ezra, who was refilling his pipe, gazing
with great deliberation the while into the fire, as if he there saw the
incidents he was about to describe.

"He never came to me at all," replied the old man. "I fetched him to my
ranch, and he's been there off and on ever since. He's a different boy
from Carlos, here,"--with a nod in my direction,--"the most
improvidentest fellow you ever saw, and always dead broke, so that I
have to grub-stake him every fall. I have offered more than once to take
him right along and give him his pay in stock, so that he could get a
start with some sheep of his own, but he won't hear to it. That's what
makes me mad at Elam. It's all along of that fool notion that will some
day be the death of him like I told you."

"But what is that fool notion?" asked Ben, as Uncle Ezra paused to light
his pipe with a brand from the fire.

"Wait till I tell you. You see, Elam's history, so far as I know
anything about it, begins with that treasure train that was lost up the
country years ago. An army paymaster started for Grayson with three
government wagons, a guard of twelve soldiers, and thirty thousand
dollars that was to be paid to the garrison at that place. Report says
and always did say that there was one private wagon with the train, and
Elam Storm he sticks to it that that there wagon was his father's. I
don't dispute that part of his history, but I do dispute all the rest,
for it won't hold water. He allows that there was a nugget into that
there wagon, and that it was worth eight thousand dollars; and that's
right where the history of Elam begins.

"Well, sir, none of them men that went out with them wagons was ever
seen or heard of after they left Martin's. When the time came for them
to show up at Grayson and they didn't do it, scouting parties were sent
out to look for them, and I was with the party that found the wreck of
one of the wagons. And there's where I found Elam; but not a live man or
critter or a cent of money did we discover."

"What do you suppose became of them?" enquired Ben.

"Carried off by the robbers that jumped down on the train," replied
Uncle Ezra. "But whether they was Injuns or white men aint known for
certain to this day. There wasn't nothing except hoof-prints and a few
dried spots of blood to show where the attack was made on the train; but
there was a dim trail leading from it, and by following that trail
through the chaparral and down a rocky canyon that was hemmed in on all
sides by mountains we found the wrecked wagon I spoke of. When one of
the axles broke and let the wagon down so that it could not be hauled
any further, the robbers took every blessed thing out of it and went on,
and we never did catch up with them--everything, I say, except Elam. He
was no doubt left in the wagon for dead, for when we came up he was just
alive and that was all. He hadn't been hurt at all. He was scared and
starved almost to the bounds of endurance, but with such care as we
rough men could give him, and being naturally tough and strong, he
managed to worry through. After he got so that he could talk he had
sense enough to remember that his name was the same as his father's,
Elam Storm, and that was everything he did know. He couldn't tell the
first thing about the soldiers who composed the escort, or whether the
men who made the attack were whites or Injuns, or what went with the
money; and the worst of it was when he grew older none of these things
didn't come into his mind, like we hoped and believed they would.

"Seeing that the little waif was friendless and alone, and none of us
didn't know whether he had kith or kin in the world, I offered to take
him and bring him up as if he were my own son, and the rest of the boys
they agreed to it. Although he has always been known around these
diggin's as 'Ezra Norton's kid,' he aint no more relation to me than you
be, and no more use neither, I might say, so far as helping on the ranch
is concerned. He always was a shiftless sort of chap, and liked best to
get away by himself and 'mope,' as I called it, though I believe now
that he was doing a power of thinking, and trying to remember who he
was, where he had once lived, and what happened to him before the train
was lost. I wasn't much surprised when he took to wolfing as a means of
getting his grub and clothes, for that solitary business just suited his
solitary disposition; but I was teetotally dumfoundered and mad, too,
when he told me that his father was alive, and that he would some day
find him and his big nugget together. Mind you, he didn't say this as
though he hoped and believed it might be true, but as positive as though
he knew it was true."

"Where do you suppose they--I mean his father and the nugget--are now?"
asked Ben.

"Pshaw! His father is dead long ago," replied Uncle Ezra, in a very
decided tone. "Leastwise the men who went with the wagons are dead, and
so old Elam must be dead, too. Don't stand to reason that only one man
out of the whole outfit should turn up alive, does it? These things
happened thirteen year ago, and Elam is nigh about twenty now, I should
say. As for his nugget--well, I don't know what to think about that.
When I first come to this country, there was a nugget of that
description in existence, which had been dug up somewhere in those very
mountains, and the finding of it created a rush that reminded old timers
of California and Deadwood. I jined in with the rest, but never dug out
more than enough to pay my expenses; and that's what set me to raising
sheep."

When Uncle Ezra said this, he tipped me a wink, and settled back on his
couch of fragrant boughs, nursing his left leg for company.



CHAPTER II.

TOM MASON AGAIN.


"Well," said Ben interrogatively, "the nugget that Elam had to do with
wasn't any relation to this one, was it?"

"Wait till I tell you. I don't reckon there is any one thing in the
world that has been the cause of so much misery and mischief of all
kinds as that there nugget," continued Uncle Ezra reflectively. "The man
who found it, whose name was Morgan, and who was working with two
pardners, share and share alike, was about as honest as a man ever gets
to be, but the sight of the small fortune which he unearthed one day by
a single stroke of his pick, while working a little apart from the
others, was too much for him. He was as poor as a man ever gets to be,
and, worse than all, he had a sweetheart off in the States who was
waiting for him to raise a stake and come home and marry her. He didn't
like the idea of dividing with his two pardners, who would drop their
roll at the faro table as soon as they got the chance, and so he took
and buried his find and worked on as if nothing had happened. That is to
say, he tried to; but with a big chunk of gold within easy reach of his
hand it don't stand to reason that he could act just as he did before.
He was uneasy all the time, and his pardners noticed it and suspected
something. He took to visiting his nugget's hiding-place every night, to
make sure that no one had dug it up, and his pardners found it out on
him; and when at last he grew desperate and tried to carry it away
secretly, there was some shooting done, and Morgan and one of his
pardners were killed."

"That left the survivor a rich man!" exclaimed Ben, who was deeply
interested.

"Now, just wait till I tell you. That left the survivor a tolerable rich
man, but his sudden accession of wealth scared him so badly that he
buried the nugget in a new place and put for 'Frisco, where he took sick
and died. When the medical sharps warned him that he had not long to
live, he told one of the nurses about the nugget, and gave him a map of
the locality in which it was hidden. A month or so afterward the nurse
organized a small expedition and went to the mountains to hunt for the
treasure; but he hired for a guide a treacherous Greaser, who went
ahead, dug up the nugget, and brought it to Brazos City, a small mining
town in which I was located at the time.

"Pierto--that was the Greaser's name--hadn't any more than got his
nugget into the Gold Dollar saloon, which was kept by a countryman of
hisn, and put it into a glass case and set it up on the table so that
everybody could see and admire it, before he was offered eight thousand
dollars for his find; but Pierto wouldn't sell. He thought he could make
more money by putting it up at a raffle, and when the raffle was over,
he would go back to the mountains and try for another nugget, taking
some of us along if we wanted to go. Three thousand shares at ten
dollars a share was what he thought would be about right, and I put my
name down for ten shares then and there.

"The Gold Dollar did a custom-house business after that. Crowds of
miners from every camp for miles around came there to look at Pierto's
find, take shares in the raffle, and drink forty-rod whiskey. Pierto and
the eight countrymen of hisn whom he employed to guard the nugget night
and day were armed with pepper-boxes and machetes, and were as sassy and
stuck up as so many bantam chickens, and the lordly way in which they
ordered us Gringos to stand back and not crowd the nugget too close was
laughable to see. They were a surly gang and looked able to whip their
weight in wild-cats; but in reality they were the most harmless lot of
cowards that Pierto could have got together.

"Like all mining towns, Brazos City could boast of some tough citizens,
and among them was Red Jimmy Murphy, a noted desperado, and as smart a
rough as ever pulled a gun. He and two of his pals were in the Gold
Dollar every day and night, and after looking the ground over they
concluded that the plant could be raised. No sooner had this been
settled to their satisfaction than they set to work to get things ready.

"The night before the raffle was to come off the Gold Dollar was packed
as full as it could hold,--so full that there was scarcely room for the
fiddlers to work their elbows,--and Pierto's guard had to use some
little muscular strength to keep the crowd from pushing over the table
on which lay the nugget in its glass case. Red Jimmy's gang was there,
ready to grab the chunk at the critical moment, and finally Jimmy
himself rode into the saloon on a kicking, plunging bronco. The closely
packed men cursed and threatened and ordered him out, but gave way all
the same, and when the bronco heard the squawking of the fiddles and
felt the jab of his rider's spurs, he slewed around and backed toward
the table. Pierto saw the danger, and made a desperate rush to save his
nugget, but was just a second too late. Jimmy raised a yell to put his
pals on the watch, and spurred up the bronco, which at once sent his
heels into the air as high as the ceiling. Down went the table, and the
glass flew into a thousand pieces. The nugget went sailing over the
heads of the crowd and into the hands of one of the gang, who, in spite
of every effort that was made to stop him, succeeded in tossing it to
Jimmy; and Jimmy he headed for the door, riding over everybody that got
in his way. Then there was fun, I tell you. I never saw lead fly so
thickly before nor since. Everybody had a gun out, and Red Jimmy ought
by rights to have been riddled like a sieve."

"Uncle Ezra, did you shoot?" asked Ben.

"I presume to say that I made as much noise as the rest," answered the
old man, with a chuckle. "You know, I held some chances in that chunk,
and didn't want to lose them. Of course Pierto had to shell out the
money we paid him for the tickets, for the raffle could not now be
brought off; we kept him right there under our guns till he gave back
the last dollar, but he never set eyes on his nugget, and neither did
we. Red Jimmy, desperately wounded as he was, got away to the mountains
with his prize, and although a strong posse headed by the sheriff
followed on his trail and finished him the next day, they did not find
the nugget. One of his gang made off with it."

"And you lost it all?"

"Cer'n'y," said the old man.

"And never got a chance to raffle for any of it?" asked Ben. "It has
probably been fixed up into ornaments of some description by this time.
An article worth eight thousand dollars isn't going to be left around
loose."

"It wasn't so two years ago."

"Two years?"

"Wait till I tell you. That nugget has travelled as much as five hundred
miles from here, but somehow it always manages to come back. Here it was
born, and right here it is going to stay until it has its rights. Mind
you, that is Elam's way of looking at it, but it aint mine, by a long
shot. We didn't none of us hear of the nugget again for nearly a year,
and then one of the boys happened to strike a pardner who had got
dissatisfied with the money he was making and went off to Pike's Peak,
and there he learned that two of the gang who had stolen it were seen
and killed for the part they had taken in the enterprise; for you will
remember that several miners in the country had knocked off work and
come in to catch a glimpse of Pierto's find, and of course they didn't
feel very friendly toward the robbers.

"Well, everybody for miles around kept open eyes for that nugget for
years, until at last I forgot all about it until I heard that a couple
of worthless Greasers had somehow got hold of it, and had been found
done to death with that nugget by their side. Then I gave up all hopes,
for if the nugget had fallen into the hands of honest men, that was the
last of it; but it seems it hadn't, and that gave me another show," said
Ezra, tipping me another wink, which was as near to a laugh as he ever
got. "The two Greasers were about as tough specimens as you see, and
they finally got into a fight to see which was the better man. When they
were found, the victor had the nugget hugged closely to his breast, as
if he did not want to part with it even in death. Not only that, but
these two had scarcely found the nugget till they got into a row over
who should carry it, and one of them got so badly whipped that he
dropped and fainted right there. The other had strength enough to travel
ten miles nearer the fort, and there he hid the nugget; but where he hid
it he don't know. He raved about it while he was sick, and somebody told
Elam of it (you see, everybody around here knows the history of that
nugget), and every fall and winter he asks for a grub-stake and lights
out, and I don't see any more of him till I drive my sheep down on the
prairie. That happened two years ago, and every fall you'll see three or
four fellows in the edge of Death Valley, saying nothing to each other,
but ostensibly hunting coyotes, and all the while looking for that
nugget, which is the thing they most want to find."

"Then the nugget is really here?" exclaimed Ben.

"It's here or hereabouts. It may be within ten miles of this place or it
may be a hundred; for nobody knows where that fellow hid it. Mind you, I
shouldn't like to be the fellow that finds it."

"Why not?"

"Because Elam will go for him. It's his nugget, and he knows it and he's
bound to have it. Mind you, Elam doesn't say nothing about it, and he
can't imagine what it is that sends the fellows prowling around Death
Valley. But, laws! they may as well give it up. There have been a good
many landslides in the canyon here the last fall, and if the nugget is
under them, we may as well bid it good-by. I don't know that this nugget
is any relation to Elam's, but it looks to me that way; don't it to you?
And it seems so strange that it should come back here when it gets off a
certain distance. The poor fellow is out there now hunting for it, and
he may not show up this trip."

"That won't be anything new for Elam, will it?"

Uncle Ezra thought it would not. He might be a longer or shorter
distance from there, and if he didn't put in an appearance, it was no
matter; and, having got through with his talk, Uncle Ezra knocked the
ashes from his pipe and settled himself in an attitude of rest, while
Ben and I listened to the noise of the storm and thought of Elam's
strange history. The nugget belonged to him, and we hoped from the
bottom of our hearts that he would get it, although we made up our minds
that he would have a strange time in getting back to the fort with it
while there were so many desperate men waiting for him to recover it.
Suddenly Ben thought of something.

"Uncle Ezra, you didn't tell us how Elam's father came into possession
of that nugget in the first place," said he.

"Ask me something hard," replied the old frontiersman.

"Don't you know?"

"Nobody knows. We don't know whether it was hisn or he was just carrying
it for somebody. We only know it was there--at least Elam says so. We
only know that the robbers had it for years. There is a hiatus in the
history of the nugget, and nobody don't seem to know what became of it
in that time. We only know that them two Greasers had it and fought over
it, and that brings it up to two years ago. It's my opinion that there
will be another hiatus lasting for all time. At any rate it is worth
eight thousand dollars, and I believe it is the same one I took ten
chances on."

Uncle Ezra rolled over as if he intended to go to sleep, and once more
silence reigned in the cabin. Presently a deep snore coming from Ben's
way told me that he was fast losing consciousness, and I was left to
keep watch of the fire and listen to the howling of the storm outside.
While I was thinking how foolish Elam was to go on searching for that
nugget, when he might just as well have turned an honest sheep-herder,
and laid out a little of his strength in taking care of his woolly
companions instead of spending it all in wolfing, I, too, passed into
the land of dreams.

The next morning's sun (for the storm ceased shortly after midnight)
found us still upon our blankets, for Uncle Ezra did not intend to go
hunting that day, and it was nine o'clock when we got breakfast off our
hands and the dishes washed and put away. We were just settling
ourselves for another long story--a good one we knew it was going to be,
for Uncle Ezra had promised to tell us about the first bear he ever
killed--when a far-away and lonely howl came to our ears. It was so
lonely that it seemed as if a single wolf was left, and that he was
mourning over those who had fallen before the hunter's traps and rifle;
but we knew it was not that. We listened, and when the sound was
repeated, I threw open the door, and stepped out and set up an answering
howl.

"That's Elam," said Ezra, in response to Ben's enquiring look. "It is
his way of announcing his whereabouts. I expect he will come along with
a hoss-back load of peltries, so that I won't have to grub-stake him
again this winter. Elam is pretty sharp, if I did raise him."

The blizzard had swept the mountain free of snow, and it was only in the
valley, where the fury of the storm had spent itself; consequently the
new-comer had little difficulty in making his appearance. In the course
of twenty minutes he came up, and then we knew he was not alone. We
could hear him carrying on a conversation in a loud tone with someone
near him, but could not catch the stranger's reply. Presently he came
out of the scrub oaks leading his horse, followed immediately by a boy
on foot; but where was the horseback load of peltries that Uncle Ezra so
confidently expected?

"Howdy, boys?" said Elam.

"How do you do?" responded Ben. "Where's the rest of your furs?"

"Gone--all gone!" replied Elam cheerfully. "One hundred dollars' worth
of wolf-skins and fifty dollars' worth of other furs all gone up in
smoke."

"Were they burned?"

"Burned? no. Some travelling trappers came to camp while I was absent,
and Tom, here, wasn't man enough to stop 'em. They took everything I had
down to the fort, and although I went there and did some of the best
talking I knew how to do, I came pretty near getting myself in trouble
by it. I want to see Uncle Ezra, though I suppose it is too late to do
anything. This fellow is Tom Mason, and I want you to know him and treat
him right. He got into a little trouble down in Mississippi, where he
used to live, and came out here to get clear of it. Know him, boys."

We shook hands heartily with Tom Mason, and although we were
considerably surprised at Elam's statement that his outfit had been
broken up by thieves, we were a good deal more surprised to learn that
the youth at his side had got into "trouble" in Mississippi. After
hitching their horse where he could graze we went into the cabin with
them, and gathered about them with the idea of hearing an exciting
story; for although I had been in the far West nearly all my life, I had
not got over my fondness for a story yet.

"Howdy, Elam?" said Uncle Ezra, removing his pipe from his mouth with
one hand and extending the other. "You got into trouble, I hear, all on
account of your furs. How did it happen? And you, too, Tommy." You will
remember that the door of the cabin was open, and that Uncle Ezra heard
every word of our conversation. "You didn't steer clear of all trouble
by coming out here, did you? Well, never mind. Troubles will come to
everybody, no matter what they do. Sit down and tell me all about it.
Haven't had any breakfast, have you?"

Elam declared that they had had enough left for breakfast, and produced
his pipe and got ready for a smoke, while Tom sat by with his gaze
fastened on the fire. I will tell both stories together, for Elam did
not touch upon Tom's tale of sorrow at all. But, in the first place, you
remember something about Tom Mason, don't you? You recall that he got
Jerry Lamar into serious trouble by stealing a grip-sack that belonged
to his uncle, General Mason, which contained five thousand dollars, that
Jerry was arrested and put into prison on account of it, and that the
only thing that turned Tom Mason in favor of the boys who were working
to help him was the fact that Luke Redman was going to take the money
across the river into Texas. Mark Coleman came near getting the money,
when his skiff was stranded at Dead Man's Elbow, but had to go away
without it; and from that time the history of the five thousand begins.
Tom Mason fell in with Joe Coleman, who was Mark's twin brother, and he
told him everything he had done; and when the last moment arrived, when
the horns of the settlers announced that they were fast closing in upon
the robbers, he told Joe to take charge of the money and dived into a
canebrake and disappeared. No one would have thought of prosecuting Tom
Mason if he had stayed there, but that was not the thing. He had been
guilty, he had never done such a thing before, and he couldn't bear to
stand up in that community and have people point at him and whisper:

"There goes Tom Mason, the boy that robbed his uncle of five thousand
dollars!"

He would go West, to Texas, and when he had lived over a good portion of
his life, he would write to his uncle and ask him if he might return.

Now, bear in mind that this is what I heard from Tom's lips, after I
became so well acquainted with him that he thought it advisable to tell
me his story. I don't say that I advised him to stay out there in that
lawless country among those lawless folks, for I didn't. I advised him
to go home and "live it down"; but Tom was plucky and wouldn't budge an
inch. Perhaps you will wonder, too, how it came about that a cowboy who
never heard of Mark Coleman, Duke Hampton, and the rest should come upon
Tom Mason in time to write the continuation of his story--a sequel that
the boys in Mississippi knew nothing about until long after it occurred.
All I can say is it just happened so.



CHAPTER III.

TOM BEGINS HIS WANDERINGS.


"Joe, I will give this valise and gun into your care, and will thank you
to see that they are restored to their owners. I know you will do this
much for me, for it is the last favor I shall ask of you."

"I took the articles in question as Tom handed them to me, and when I
raised my eyes to look at him, he was gone. He had jumped past me,
dashed out of the passage, and disappeared into the bushes before I
could say a word to him."

And that was the last that Joe Coleman ever saw of Tom Mason for long
years to come. He was friendless and alone--how very much alone he never
knew until by skilful dodging he managed to get on the outskirts of the
body of settlers that were closing up around Luke Redman and his gang,
and found himself beyond the reach of capture. His face was very pale,
but he went about his business as though he knew what he was doing. It
was very strange that a boy who had servants to wait on him at every
turn--one to saddle his horse, another to black his boots, and still
another to serve up his lunch when he got hungry--should have been
willing to set off on an expedition by himself, but it showed that he
knew nothing of the world before him.

Having satisfied himself by the sound of the horns and the baying of the
dogs that he was out of danger, Tom paused long enough to transfer his
roll of money from his trousers pocket to his boot-leg. He had about
fifty dollars that was all his own, and as he did not wish to lose it,
he put it where he thought it would be safe, then straightened up,
listened for a moment to a faint, far-off note that came to his ears,
drew his hands swiftly across his eyes, and made the best of his way
toward the Mississippi River.

"That is my hound, and I'll bet it will be a long time before I shall
hear him give tongue in that fashion again," soliloquized Tom, as he
emerged from the cane and took a survey of the prospect before him. "I
may never hear him, but I shall always remember him."

As Tom came out of the cane he found himself on the verge of that swamp
over which, one short week previous, the water had stood to the depth of
fifteen feet; but Our Fellows had already ridden over it, with Sandy
Todd for a leader,--the boy who admitted that he "might be slow
a-walkin' an' a-talkin', but was not slow a-ridin',"--in their wild
chase after the Indians and after Luke Redman, the man who had stolen
Black Bess, and had managed in some way, they could not tell how, to
secure possession of the valise which contained General Mason's five
thousand dollars. The ridges were high and dry, and by following them
one could enjoy a pleasant ride, avoiding the water altogether; but the
trouble in Tom's case was the ridges ended either in the swamp at Dead
Man's Elbow, the place where they afterward captured Luke Redman, or
veered around until they ended in the very spot Tom did not want to go,
the town of Burton, which was the only place in the county that could
boast of a jail. It was dangerous to attempt to pass from one ridge to
another, for the bottom was covered with a bed of mud in which a
horseman would sink out of sight. Tom speculated upon this as he walked
along, and although he was positive that no very desperate attempt would
be made to capture him when it was found out that he was the guilty one,
he would have felt safer if he had left all sights and sounds of his
first wrong-doing far behind. How his uncle would scorn him when first
he found it out! And the negroes! Why, it wouldn't be long till it would
be all over the State.

"This is what comes of a rash attempt to have revenge on a boy who never
did me a thought of harm. Because I couldn't be the leader among Our
Fellows I had to go to work and get myself into worse trouble by it. Why
couldn't I have rested easy when I had nothing to worry about? But I
mustn't allow my thoughts to get the start of me right at the beginning,
for if I do, I shall come out at the little end of the horn. I wish I
had an axe, for I would soon get across. I shall never find my way to
the Mississippi as long as I stay on this side the bayou."

While Tom was talking to himself in this way, he stood upon the bluffs,
which, by drawing near to one another, had gradually left the low lands
behind and brought the two banks of the stream within twenty feet--a
bad-looking place, for it went far to remind Tom of Dead Man's Elbow. It
was his only chance to cross the stream. While he stood there, looking
at the dark, muddy water that flowed between him and liberty, that is,
between him and the Mississippi, and trying hard to determine what his
chances were of passing the night in his wet clothes with no means of
starting a fire, his attention was attracted by the very sound he wanted
to hear. He listened, and when the blows began to fall in regular order,
as if the woodman was warming at his work, he left the bluffs behind him
and turned and went into the woods.

"That's an axe," thought Tom, "and as nobody but negroes can be chopping
out here, I'll go up and get a bite to eat; for, now that I think of it,
I'm hungry. I must be ten miles from my uncle's now, and of course no
one down here has heard of that grip-sack business. To-morrow morning I
will make him cut a tree across the bayou."

Guided by the sound of the woodman's axe, Tom felt his way through the
cane (for by this time it was so dark in there that feeling was the only
sense he could go by), and presently came within sight of the chopper.
He was a jolly, good-natured negro, who seemed a little startled on
discovering Tom's approach, but speedily recovered himself when the boy
addressed him by saying:

"Hallo, Snowball! What are you doing so far out of the world?"

"Sarvent, sar. Well, sar, you see all dis timber here? My moster is
needin' some rail timber mighty bad, so he sends me out here every
Monday and I stays here until Saturday. Say, boss, what you doin' out
here? Ise you los'?"

"You haven't seen a gray horse, with saddle and bridle on, going by
here, have you?" asked Tom in reply.

"No, sar, I aint. Did he threw you?"

"Nor any hounds giving tongue?"

"No, sar, I aint. Ise dey de ones you is lookin' for, boss?"

"They're gone, and the best thing I can do is to follow after them on
foot," said Tom, looking around for a handy log to sit down on; for, now
that his tramp for the day was ended and he had somebody to talk to, he
began to realize that he was tired. "I believe I'll camp with you
to-night."

"Sarvent, sar. Cert'n'y, sar. Whar might you uns come from?"

"I came from the country about General Mason's place. Have you got
anything to eat?"

"Oh, yes, sar. Plenty of it, sar," said the negro, sticking his axe into
the log he was chopping and leading the way off through the bushes. "Dis
way, sar. I's often heared of folks up your way. Somebody up that a-way
been a-stealin' five thousand dollars."

Tom was thunderstruck. "Who brought that news here?" he asked.

"De niggers, dey brung it. You can't keep anything away from de
darkies."

"How far is General Mason's place from here?"

"Fifteen miles, or sich a matter."

"And did the darkies say who stole it?"

"Oh, yes, sar. Dey say that a youngster named Tom Mason--he's just about
your size, but you aint no thief, be ye?"

"Do I look like a thief?" enquired Tom.

"I aint a-sayin' you did, sar. I only say he was just about your size.
Then this Luke Redman,--you've heared of him, aint ye?--he got hold of
the money and tried to run away to Texas."

"Well, the old gentleman has got it now," said Tom, who plainly saw that
it wouldn't do to talk too freely with the darky on this subject,
because he knew too much. "They organized a big expedition and hunted
the man down and captured him."

"I am mighty glad to hear it, and I hope dey will throw dem as 'as got
it in jail so tight that dey won't never have time to think of five
thousand dollars. Now, sit down on that block of wood and I'll soon get
you something to eat. You see, there is two bunks here? One belongs to
my pardner, who is home now, sick with the rheumatiz. Moster is mighty
keerful of his niggers, and he don't like to have Pomp come down here
dat a-way, so he told him he must stay about the house and do light
chores until next week, when he will come down here to help me split
rails. Dere's a slice of bacon and some johnny cake for you. If you can
wait till I fix up the fire I will give you a cup of coffee."

"Does your master give you coffee?" asked Tom in surprise, for he could
not remember that his uncle ever so far forgot himself.

"'Course he does, sar, when we are splittin' rails; and sometimes"--here
the darky leaned over and whispered the words to Tom, as if he feared
that somebody would overhear them--"we take a handful now and then to do
the old woman. Hy-ya!"

Tom laughed as heartily as the negro did,--his laugh was catching,--but
said he would wait until the darky had his supper.

"Very well, den. You eat your lunch and I will go back to my
rail-splittin'. When you get through, just lay down in Pomp's bunk and
go to sleep. I'll have you up at seven o'clock."

The darky went out, and Tom, being left to himself, proceeded to look
about him. The cabin, which was built of rails, was barely large enough
to seat two men at the table; but it was tight, and as the most the
darkies had to do was to eat and sleep under it, it had plenty of room
in it. Besides, there was a bench beside the door, and when the darkies
were tired of working, that was the place for them to "loaf." By the
time he had made these observations his bacon and johnny cake were gone,
and he got up and crept into Pomp's bunk.

By the time he awoke it was pitch dark, save where the faint light from
the dying fire which the negro had kindled to cook his supper shone
through the open doorway. The terrific snores which came from the bunk
at his feet told him that the darky had long ago retired to rest, but he
was hungry, and he crept out of bed to see if anything had been left for
him. He found a pot of coffee and a huge chunk of bacon and johnny cake
waiting for him on the coals, and as the fire had not had time to burn
itself out, they were as warm as when they first were cooked. But by
certain signs which he discovered while disposing of the good things the
darky had provided for him, he found that he had been asleep longer than
he had thought, and that daylight was not far off, and finally the negro
started up from an apparently sound sleep, threw aside the blankets with
a frantic sweep of his arm, and sat up and looked about him.

"Hi! dere you is," said he. "I fix up dat fire fo' times during de
night, but you was sleepin' so soundly that I couldn't b'ar to waken you
up. Has you got plenty?"

"Plenty, thank you. It's about four o'clock, isn't it?"

The negro pulled himself entirely out of bed, put on his shoes, and went
out and looked about him. After looking in vain for several stars which
he ought to have found, but could not, he announced that his guest had
struck the hour pretty closely.

"Well, then, while you are cooking your own breakfast, couldn't you put
on a little mess for me? You see, I am not bound for my uncle's house
just now. I have to go down to the landing to meet the steamer _John
Clark_ there, and get a trifling sum of money that one of the passengers
will have ready for me."

"Why, boss, how is you going to get across de bayou?" asked the darky,
in surprise.

"If my horse had not thrown me, I could have ridden him across," replied
Tom. "But he had to start off on his own hook, and I shall have to do
the best I can on foot. For that money I must have."

"Dat's all right, sar. But I don't see how you are going to get across
de bayou."

"Don't you? Well, you just go ahead and cook me some breakfast and then
I'll show you. If you had lived in these woods as long as I have, you
would know that it is an easy matter to cut a tree across some parts of
the bayou."

Tom washed his hands and face in some muddy water he dipped up from the
stream that ran a short distance from the camp, dried them on his
handkerchief, and watched the negro as he went about his work. Now and
then, when he thought Tom was not looking at him, he would roll up his
eyes, taking in at one swift glance all the clothing he wore, from his
hat down to his boots. Tom was well enough acquainted with the negro
character to know that he had excited his suspicions in some way.

"If I keep on in this way, I shall excite the mistrust of everyone I
chance to meet," thought Tom, who wondered what he could have said that
had caused this sudden change in the darky's behavior. "I have shut him
up like an oyster, and not another thing can I get out of him. I shall
be with him over half an hour longer, and then he can do what he pleases
with his suspicions."

"Dat's a mighty slick rascal, dat feller," muttered the darky, as he
fished the bacon out of the frying-pan and placed it on to a clean chip.
"Dere's your breakfast, sar. I'll eat mine out here by this stump."

"Give me a cup of coffee," said Tom. "It is all I want."

The steaming beverage was placed before him. Tom thought of the great
world into which he was so soon to enter, and wondered if everybody in
it was going to treat him as this obscure darky had done. Texas was a
pretty good-sized empire, he had heard them say, and he believed it was
made up mostly of men who had gone there to get clear of the law, and
who had enough to think of to keep themselves out of trouble;
consequently they wouldn't bother their heads about a boy who had been
suspected of stealing five thousand dollars. When Tom had reached this
point in his meditations, the darky, who had evidently swallowed his
breakfast whole and rolled up in a piece of old gunny sack the supply he
intended Tom should take with him, handed the bundle to him with one
hand, and reached out for the axe with the other.

"Ise ready now if you is, sar."

This was all that passed between them. Tom got up, pointed out the path
he wished the negro to follow in order to reach the narrowest part of
the stream, which he had examined the day before, and fell in behind
him; and it is a noticeable fact that he kept the black in front of him
all the way to the stream. It is true that the man had no weapon but his
axe, but with such an article, if he could only get the start with it,
he could easily march him before his master, and that was the very place
he didn't want to go. Such things had been done, and Tom did not see why
they could not be done again. In a few minutes they reached the bank of
the bayou, and when the negro saw it, he leaned on his axe and shook his
head.

"You knows what you want to do, don't you, sar?" he asked.

"Yes, I know just what I want to do," replied Tom. "Cut down this tree
first."

The negro glanced at the top of the tree in order to see which way it
would fall, cut a few bushes out of his way, and went to work. A few
blows with the axe brought the tree down and it lodged on the opposite
bank. Two more trees were cut down and the bridge was completed.

"Good-by, Snowball," said Tom, extending his closed hand toward the
negro. "I don't want you to do this for nothing. Here's a dollar to pay
you for your trouble."

"I--I don't want it, sar," replied the darky, drawing back. "I hope dat
money won't sink you afore you get across de river, but I'm mighty jubus
about it."

"What money?"

"General Mason's five thousand dollars, sar."

"Do you suppose I have got that amount of money stowed away about me?
Why, man, it's a valiseful. This money is all honest."

"I can't help dat, sar. I can't shake hands with you, either. I would be
afraid it would take all the strength out of my arms so't I couldn't
split more rails."

"All right, then. You stand here on the bank and see me work my way
across. I bet you that all the money I have about my clothes will not
sink me if I do fall overboard."

As Tom spoke he stepped recklessly upon the bridge. We say "recklessly,"
because had he taken more pains to examine the fastenings on the
opposite bank he would have been more careful. He had nearly crossed the
bayou when the log on which he was walking tipped a little, and although
Tom made frantic efforts to save himself by seizing all the branches
within his reach, it set the whole structure in motion. There was a
"swish" of tree-tops, and in a moment more the bridge and Tom went into
the water together. The negro looked, but did not see him come up.

"Dar, now!" said he. "The money he had about his clothes was too heavy
for him to walk the bridge with."



CHAPTER IV.

THE WRONG BOAT.


The negro, almost overwhelmed with surprise, watched the surface of the
water to see Tom reappear, but it was only for a moment, and then with a
rush one of the trees, which had broken loose from its moorings, swept
over the very place where the head was seen, and the negro fairly danced
with consternation when he saw one of the limbs catch Tom and carry him
under water with it.

"Dar, now!" he exclaimed. "If I go home and tell moster about this thief
being drowned here, he will think I did it. What's dat?"

When Tom arose to the surface, it was only just long enough to clear the
water from his face, settle his hat firmly on his head, and take a fresh
hold of the bundle containing his lunch, and then he saw the tree
sweeping down upon him. To take in one long breath and go down again
before it got to him was barely the work of a moment, so that when the
tree passed Tom came up a second time, and this time he was much nearer
to the bank he wanted to reach than he was before. A few lusty strokes
brought him to it, and by the aid of trailing roots and vines he made
his way to the top with the agility of a sailor, so that by the time the
darky had got over wondering at his narrow escape, he was high upon the
bank opposite to him, and pulling off his boot to see if his money was
safe.

"Is dat you, sar?" said he, scarcely raising his voice above a whisper.

"Of course it is I," replied Tom, who did not know whether to get angry
over the effects of his unfortunate plunge or to laugh outright at the
darky's exhibition of astonishment. "You thought you had seen the last
of me, didn't you? It takes a bigger stream than this to drown me. There
is all the money I have got," he went on, taking his roll from his boot
and holding it out to the view of the negro. "It don't amount to five
thousand dollars, by a long shot."

The darky did not know what else to say. He watched Tom as he pulled off
his coat and vest and wrung the water from them, examined his bundle to
see that his lunch was safe, said he thought the steamboat landing was
about ten miles distant and there wasn't any more creeks to cross before
he got there, and then saw him disappear in the woods. He stood for some
moments gazing at the place where he had last been seen, and then
shouldered his axe and turned away.

"Dat's a mighty slick little rascal," said he, as he wended his course
back to his camp--"a mighty slick little rascal. I don't reckon I'd best
say anything to moster about it; and as for Pomp--I won't say anything
to him, either. He'll leave me to cut rails alone if I do dat."

"My first adventure," muttered Tom, as he hastened along the narrow
ridge that led him toward the Mississippi. "That old darky believes, as
much as he believes anything, that the little money I had in my boot was
the cause of my being spilled into the drink; but it is all honest
money, every bit of it."

The sun grew hot as he went along, and by changing his coat and vest
from one arm to the other, and by turning his money over in his hands to
keep the wet bills on the outside, he gradually removed the effects of
his cold plunge, so that long before he arrived at the point where the
negroes were chopping he could tell them that he had started for the
landing on horseback, but that his nag had thrown him and he was obliged
to continue his journey on foot. He also tried to eat a little of the
lunch with which the darky had provided him, but the johnny cake and
bacon were wet, and after a few mouthfuls he dropped the remainder
behind the log on which he was sitting.

The negroes who were cutting wood for the supply of steamers that were
plying up and down the river belonged to the man who owned the yard. As
there were probably a dozen of them in all engaged in chopping wood all
the time, their employer could afford a white man to oversee their work
and the teams, but he seemed to have nothing to do but to sit on a log
and whittle a stick. He listened good-naturedly to Tom's story, and told
him where he could go to find the camp. The largest house in it was his,
and he would probably find books and papers enough to amuse him until he
came in from his work. The _Jennie June_ would probably be the next
steamer that would stop at the landing for wood, and she would be along
some time during the night.

"I think that books and papers occupy the most of your time," said Tom
to himself, as he started away in obedience to these instructions. "If I
were a negro, I don't know any better job than having you for an
overseer. Did you see how those negroes clustered around him to hear my
story? If I had been their overseer, I should have started them back to
their work in a hurry."

Tom found the camp deserted by all save an old darky who was sitting on
a bench outside one of the doors sunning himself. He was the cook, he
said. He pointed out the overseer's house and told Tom to go in there
and make himself at home, and Tom went; but he did not make himself very
much at home after he got there. He found several books scattered about,
but they were all old; and it was hard to tell where the overseer hung
his clothes, for the back of the solitary chair of which the cabin could
boast was liberally supplied with them. His trunk was open and the
contents were littered about, and on the bare table, on which the
overseer had left some signs of his breakfast which were still
untouched, were articles that ought long ago to have been in the wash. A
glance about the cabin showed Tom that there was at least one article of
which the overseer was choice--his rifle. That, together with the
powder-horn, bullet-pouch, and hunting-knife, was hung upon pegs over
the door. Whatever accident might befall his other traps, his hunting
outfit would always be safe.

Tom took a seat on the bench outside the door, looked up at the sun to
see how near twelve o'clock it was, and then looked at the negro. The
latter made no signs of getting dinner, and Tom finally made up his mind
that the men had taken their dinner to the woods with them; but his own
stomach clamored loudly for something nourishing, and Tom finally
accosted the negro.

"I say, uncle, are you not going to get some dinner?"

"Not before fo' o'clock, sar," replied the darky. "I blow de horn den
and all hands come in."

Tom was uneasy after that, and wished now when it was too late that he
had reserved a portion of the johnny cake and bacon that had been
furnished him. Wet as it was, it was much better than nothing. He found
a book and made out to interest himself in a story for five mortal
hours, when suddenly the long shrill notes of a horn rang in his ears.
He would soon have something to eat, at all events. Presently a thought
occurred to him.

"Say, uncle, how do you tell the time? You haven't got any clock, have
you?"

"Oh, no, sar," said the negro. "Ise got something better than a clock.
You see that ar peak of dat building hyar? Well, every time it's fo'
o'clock the p'int of that peak is right hyar."

"Summer and winter?" asked Tom.

"Summer and winter dat peak is right hyar. Den I knows it is fo' o'clock
and den I blows de horn."

Tom wanted to ask him whether or not the sun was always in the same
place summer and winter, but gave it up when he heard the sound of the
negroes' voices raised in a rude sort of a plantation melody coming from
the woods, for he knew that supper was close at hand. Nearer came the
strains, and in the short space of half an hour the cavalcade streamed
into view. What a lively set they were then! One would have thought that
cutting wood was the happiest part of a darky's life. Keeping up their
song, they slipped off the wagon, leaving the teamsters to take care of
the mules. The overseer came into the cabin, and after exchanging a
merry salutation with Tom, remarking that he and the darkies had
performed a task that day that would have done credit to a bigger force
than his, he cleared the table in readiness for supper. The articles
that adorned the back of the chair were cast upon the trunk, the
unwashed apparel on the table was swept off and thrown on the top of
them, and then the overseer was ready for a smoke.

"Yes, sir, me and the niggers have done a heap of work," said the man,
seating himself on the threshold by Tom's side. "They were taking it
easy when you came along, just as I mean that all black ones shall who
work under me, but perked up a bit and went to work right smart. Aint
they happy now? Every one singing at the top of his voice."

Supper being over, which consisted of corn bread, bacon, and tea, Tom
spent two hours in conversation with the overseer, until, as he was
relating a story of his personal experience, an audible snore came from
his direction, and, facing about, he found that his auditor had gone
fast asleep, stretched out on the floor, and using the back of his chair
for a pillow. It wasn't dark yet, by a long ways, and the sounds that
came from the camp of the negroes told him that there was a heap of fun
going on there; but as it seemed to be the rule to go to slumber
whenever he was ready, Tom went to the overseer's bed and climbed into
it.

It seemed to him that he had scarcely closed his eyes when someone laid
a hand upon his shoulder and shouted in his ear that the _Jennie June_
was at the landing and taking on a load of wood. That was enough for
Tom, who wanted to get into a bed where he could take his clothes off.
When he got his eyes fairly open, there was no one in sight, but he
heard the sound of a steamer's bell, followed by the hoarse commands of
the mate, and when he reached the door, he found the whole yard lighted
up by a torch which the steamer had placed in her bow. The boat was made
fast to the levee when he got there, and her crew were making ready to
carry on her load of wood, but Tom paid no attention to them. More than
half asleep, he made his way on deck and into the saloon, which he found
deserted by all save a party of men who were engaged in playing cards.
They never looked up as Tom entered, being deeply interested in the
piles of money before them, and he passed on to the desk and made
application for a room to a man with a pen behind his ear. Without
saying a word he took down a key from a board by the side of his desk
and led Tom along the cabin and unlocked a door and showed him two
bunks. The lower one had evidently been occupied during the afternoon.

"Take the upper bunk," said the clerk. "The lower one belongs to a man
who is playing cards, but I guess he won't care. Good-night."

Tom was much too sleepy to know or care who owned the lower bunk; he
pulled off his clothes and with a mingled sigh of satisfaction and
comfort climbed into the upper one, and composed himself to sleep. He
awoke once during the night, only to find that the steamer had finished
taking on her load of wood, and was now ploughing her way along the
river; and, having satisfied himself on this point, Tom rolled over and
went to sleep again.

The next time he awoke it was broad daylight, and the boat was rocking
as boats always do when they have nothing to do but to make their way to
their destination as soon as possible. The stool (there were no chairs
in the state-room) which he had left unoccupied had been drawn close to
the door, and a man's coat and vest lay over it; but it was not that
that attracted Tom's attention, and caused his eyes to open to their
widest extent. It was a revolver, a murderous-looking thing, and
carrying a ball as big as an army musket. Tom thought it would be a good
plan to get out of the way of that thing, and, holding in his breath, he
slipped out of his bunk; but cautious as he was in his movements, the
man heard him. He opened his eyes and gazed fixedly at Tom, then caught
up his revolver and thrust it under his pillow, seized his coat and vest
and threw them between the bulkhead and himself, and then rolled over
and prepared to go to sleep again.

"Morning," said he.

"Good-morning, sir," said Tom.

He thought it a wise thing to be civil, although the man's face did not
look like one belonging to one who would use a revolver on slight
provocation. The long silken whiskers which fell down upon his breast
might cover up the expression of the lower part of his countenance, but
they could not conceal the merry twinkle of the mild blue eyes which had
looked at Tom for a moment. Considerably relieved, Tom slipped into his
clothes and went out, closing the door behind him, and made the best of
his way toward the barber shop; for be it known that up to this time Tom
had not touched his hair at all. There was just one barber there, and he
was as anxious to make money as anyone he ever saw.

"Shave, sir?" said the negro, as Tom came in and pulled off his hat. "I
declare if dat aint the worst-looking head I ever set my peepers on. A
shampoo will just about set you right."

"Don't want it," said Tom shortly.

"I reckon dat you was playing cards last night," said the barber, as he
deftly tucked the towel around Tom's chin and began brushing up his
hair.

"No, I wasn't," said Tom.

"Den you missed the purtiest sight you ever see. Dere was one man
dere,--he was a cattle-raiser,--and he raked in thirty thousand dollars
from the two sharpers who were trying to gouge him out of his money! I
wouldn't like to be in his boots, I tell you. Dey mean to kill him afore
dey get done with this trip! I declare, I believe he bunks with
you--room No. 19."

"By gracious!" exclaimed Tom, starting up. And to himself he added: "I
don't wonder that he had his revolver handy. He had his pants on and
that was the reason I didn't see them."

"Did you say something, sir?" asked the darky.

"No, I didn't," replied Tom.

"Yes, sar, dat was the purtiest sight I ever saw. De man dealt himself
fo' aces, and one of the sharpers, the one that was hottest after his
money, fo' kings. De best of it was he drew fo' cards, so he knew right
where de cards were stocked. The sharper thought there had been a
mistake somewhere, and went down in his jeans and pulled out his money,
fifteen thousand dollars' wuth. De man saw him,--he had more bills where
dem came from,--and de sharper showed fo' kings; but when he went to
take de money--I declare, your head is awful dirty. I think a shampoo
will set you just about right."

"I don't want it. Go on. When he went to take the money--then what?"

"Well, he put down de fo' aces with one hand and drew his revolver with
the other. De sharper concluded he would let the money stay; and dat
broke up de game. You ought to have seen dat sharper's face. He's a
mighty slick rogue, and I bet you he'll put a ball into dat sheep-herder
before we gets up to Fort Gibson."

"Why don't you tell him of it?"

"Shucks! What do I want to go and get myself into trouble for? He goes
up and down dis road every year and he knows it already. It aint none of
my business."

The reader will remember that we are describing things that happened a
good many years ago. At that time the cotton-planters, and the
cattle-and sheep-herders who lived far back in the country, made use of
the steamboats, which were the only means of communication they had.
Gambling was much in vogue, and if the sharpers who met them at New
Orleans couldn't find any means of inducing them to play there, they
would take passage in these boats and try them again when every other
influence except reading was at a discount. It was a dangerous thing to
pick up a stranger on these trips, especially if one had money with him,
or anything that could be changed into money. For instance, there was a
contractor who started from New Orleans to do some government business
at Little Rock. He had half a dozen teams and everything he wanted to
make his enterprise successful, with the exception of the men. Those he
was going to hire of the planters, and of course he had to have some
money to do it with. On the way up he fell in with a very modest
stranger who didn't know anything about playing cards, and the
consequence was before he reached his destination he was penniless. And
the beauty of it was the modest stranger was dead broke, too! Every cent
of his little hundred dollars had been won by the two strangers whom the
contractor had invited to join in their game, as well as the last mule
which the latter had to pull his wagons. The contractor made out a bill
of sale of everything he had, and the next morning he was missing. He
had jumped overboard, and everybody thought he was drowned accidentally.
The modest stranger and his two confederates took the mules ashore and
sold them at a big figure, and went back to New Orleans well satisfied
with their trip. It seems that in the case of this stranger the sharpers
had picked up the wrong man. He had "stocked" the cards on them, and won
everything they had, and the darky knew, from certain little signs he
had seen, that his life was not safe so long as he remained on board
that steamer. Tom had a horror of everything that related to gambling,
and he wanted to talk about something else.

"This boat is making pretty good time, isn't she?" he said, during a
pause in which the darky went back to his bench after his comb and
brush.

"Yes, sar. We don't touch anywhere till we get to Memphis, and we shall
reach there about----"

"What?" exclaimed Tom.

"Eh? Did you speak, sar?"

"Why, I want to go down the river," gasped Tom, who couldn't believe
that his ears were not deceiving him. "Memphis! That's up the river."

"Course it is, sar. And you are going dere as fast as you kin."

"Memphis!" exclaimed Tom.

He couldn't wait for the barber to get through with him, but, jumping
out from his hands, with the apron floating all about him, he ran to the
nearest window and looked out. He saw the trees dancing swiftly by, but
it was not to them that he devoted the most of his attention. The
current of the river was what drew his gaze. He took one look at it, at
the trees and stumps that covered the surface of the water which the
river managed to pick up in the low lands when it was high, and then
returned disconsolately to his chair. He didn't want to go to Memphis.
It was two thousand miles out of his way, and, besides, there were any
number of business men that knew him on the levee.

"You wanted to go to New Orleans, I take it," said the barber.

But Tom was done talking. He wanted to have his hair brushed as quickly
as possible, so that he might go to the office and settle with the
clerk; so the darky speedily put the finishing touches to it, received
twenty cents for his trouble, and Tom hurried out and in a few seconds
more was standing in front of the desk. He did not see much room when he
got there, for there was a big broad-shouldered man standing in front of
the desk, with his arms spread out over it, talking with the clerk; but
he stepped back to make space for Tom, and smiled so good-naturedly at
him over his bushy whiskers that the boy was satisfied that he had one
friend on the boat, if he didn't have another.

"Morning," said he. "Did the sight of that revolver scare you?"

"No, sir. But I got up just in time to find that I am bound up the
river. I didn't say which way I wanted to go, and the overseer at the
landing called me for the wrong boat."

"Well, you've got to go now that you are started," said the clerk,
pulling a book toward him that contained a list of the passengers, "and
it will take just five dollars to pay your fare to Memphis."

Very reluctantly Tom pulled out his roll of bills and counted out the
five dollars. Then he turned and went out on the guard and seated
himself, almost ready to cry with vexation. Presently his room-mate
appeared, and without saying so much as "By your leave" he drew a chair
close to Tom's side and sat down.



CHAPTER V.

TOM'S LUCK.


"I say, my young friend, what have you been doing that is contrary to
Scribner?"

"I don't understand you, sir," said Tom, starting involuntarily.

"I mean," said the stranger, bending over and whispering the words to
Tom, "what have you been doing that is contrary to law?"

This was a question that Tom never expected to have asked him by
strangers. Did he carry the marks of the cruel wrong he had done his
uncle and Jerry Lamar upon his face so that anybody could read them? The
next time he passed a mirror he would look into it and see.

"What is your name?" asked the stranger suddenly.

"Tom Mason."

"Mine is Bolton--Jasper Bolton; and, Tom, I am glad to see you. Put it
there. What have you been doing?"

"Not a thing, sir. My uncle has got the money back all right before this
time."

"Ah! Money, was it? How much?"

"Five thousand dollars."

"_Five_ thousand dollars! W-h-e-w! You didn't try to kill anybody in
order to get away with it?"

"No, sir. I shot a couple of nigger dogs that were on my trail, but if
you knew the circumstances, you would say I did right," said Tom, who
had suddenly made up his mind to make a confidant of Mr. Bolton. "It was
just this way."

And then Tom straightened around on his seat and faced his new friend
and told him his story, being interrupted occasionally with such
expressions as "Ah! yes," and "I see," which led him to believe that he
was making out a better case against his uncle than he was against
himself.

"I don't want you to think that my uncle is in any way to blame for all
this," said Tom, in conclusion. "I wanted money, I wanted to be revenged
on Jerry Lamar, and so I took it."

"Of course. You ought to have had better sense, seeing that the money
would all be your own some day. Do you know what I think you had better
do?"

Tom replied that he did not.

"I think you had better go home, tell your uncle just what you have told
me, and abide the consequences."

"You don't know my uncle, or you would not advise any such step as
that," said Tom, with a sigh which showed that he knew him, and that he
was bound to stick to his course. "I am the only relative he has got in
the world, but that won't hinder him from saying every time he gets mad
at me: 'So you are the lad that tried to reduce me to poverty by
stealing five thousand dollars from me!' He will get all over that when
he finds that I am not coming home, and then I will go back to him."

"How long do you think it will take him?"

"About a year, maybe two."

"Do you think you can stand it among all these lawless men for that
length of time?"

"I've got to. I don't see any other way out of it."

"And you were going to Texas to get another start? Texas is a country in
which all men bring up who have made a failure, and you were bound that
way."

"Yes, sir. I think I could make another start there."

"Have you any relatives or friends living there?"

"Not a soul," replied Tom, straightening about on his chair and looking
down at the river. "By the way," he added, "I want to give you a piece
of advice. Those men of whom you won the money last night have
threatened to have it all back if they have to kill you."

"Who told you that story?" said Mr. Bolton, with a smile.

"The barber."

"Well, they will have plenty of time to try their hands at it between
here and Cincinnati. I told them a funny story about being a
cattle-grower somewhere out West. If they try anything with me, they
will have their hands full. There are three of them, and I know them
all. The clerk has got the money now under lock and key. There goes the
breakfast-bell. I will talk to you again after we go in."

Tom was disappointed in more respects than one when he found that his
new friend was to leave him at Memphis. With a view of gaining a little
time he did not follow him into the dining-hall, but went into the
barber shop and proceeded to wash his hands. When they had been dried to
his satisfaction, he went out and drew up before the desk.

"Who is that man who talked to me a little while ago?" he asked.

"He's a gambler," was the reply, "and a mighty good one, too. He got
into those fellows last night, didn't he?"

That was just what Tom was afraid of. He went out and took his seat at
the table, saw Bolton exchange courtesies with the three sharpers who
had tried to fleece him the night before, watched him all through the
meal, and told himself that if that was the style that men of his class
were made of he had a great deal to learn before he could become a
gambler. There wasn't a thing about him that could have been found fault
with in any circle of gentlemen. In spite of his calling he had given
Tom what he regarded as good advice, and he did not know what else he
had to say to him.

"There's one thing about it," thought Tom. "He has been around the world
a good deal, is sometimes flush to-day and strapped to-morrow, but I'll
bet if he was in my fix he would not go back to my uncle. If I am there
to take all his abuse, my uncle never will get over flinging his gibes
at me; but if I am away where I can't hear them, it won't take him so
long to get over it. He can advise me all he's a mind to, but I won't go
home."

Breakfast being over, Tom pushed back his chair and went out and seated
himself on the guard. The gambler did not put in an appearance for
fifteen minutes, for he was not the one to allow his good fortune to
take away his appetite. He came at length and bore in his hand a couple
of cigars, one of which he offered to Tom. But the latter did not smoke.

"You'll need an overcoat, Tom," said Mr. Bolton, after he had lighted
his cigar and placed his heels upon the railing. "The country you have
just come from is a summer's day compared to the one where you are
going. It's only the latter part of December, and you'll find blizzards
out there, I bet you."

"But I can't afford an overcoat, Mr. Bolton. I have only fifty dollars,
and it is all my own, too."

"I'll get it for you. I haven't forgotten that I have been in trouble--I
may be that way next week; and when I do get that way, I'd feel mighty
glad for the simple gift of an overcoat. I'll get you one in Memphis,
and at the same time I will tell the clerk to hand you two hundred
dollars for your own."

"I can't take it, Mr. Bolton," said Tom, astonished at the proposition.

"Oh, yes, you can. You never may be able to return it to me, but if you
ever find one who is suffering, and you have enough and to spare, I want
you to hand it to him. That's all the pay I ask. I've owed this for a
year, and this is the first chance I have had to square up with the
fellow who gave it to me."

"Where is the fellow now?"

"I don't know whether he is living or dead. He was a good fellow, and
when I told him what my circumstances were, how I had got in with a
party of roughs and been cleaned out of my pile, he put his hand into
his pocket and pulled out two hundred dollars. I told him I never could
pay him back, and he said if I ever found some other fellow in need just
to give him a lift. I've done it, and it squares me. But it's a mean
business anyway."

"Why don't you go on with me instead of going up the Ohio River to
Cincinnati?"

"To Fort Gibson?" exclaimed Bolton in astonishment.

"I suppose that's where I am going, aint it?"

"Well, you see, Bub, they've got a little document against me up there,"
said the gambler, with a laugh. "It is a document which the sheriff
doesn't hold against me, but which the people do."

"Are they going to lynch you?"

"Anyway, that is what they call it."

"Well, by gracious!" said Tom, settling back in his chair and watching
the clouds of smoke that ascended from the gambler's lips. "What sort of
men have I become associated with? This man lynched! I would as soon
think of my uncle's being lynched."

"So now, you see, I naturally keep away from there," continued Bolton.
"But I'll tell you what I'll do. If you will go on to Fort Hamilton,
which is as far as navigation is open now, I will give you something
that will introduce you to Black Dan. He's a gambler, you know."

"Oh, I can't do anything to assist him in gambling," said Tom. "I don't
know one card from another."

"Why, bless you, I don't want you to do anything to assist him in his
work. I want you to keep just as far away from cards as you know how,"
said Mr. Bolton, fumbling with his neck-handkerchief. "Do you see that?
It's a kinder pretty pin, isn't it?"

Tom took the ornament and looked it over. It was rather large for a pin,
the body of it being formed of some metal which Tom did not recognize,
but the diamonds in the middle of it, six of them in all, were what made
it so valuable.

"That pin is worth five hundred dollars," said Mr. Bolton. "Put it on; I
want to see how it looks on you."

"But what do you want me to do with it?" enquired Tom.

"I want you to take it up and give it to Black Dan when you see him. You
are bound to meet him if you go to Fort Hamilton."

"I can't take it. You have already done more for me than I had any right
to expect."

"Never mind that," said the gambler, taking the pin from Tom's hand and
fixing it in his neck-handkerchief. "You see, he got into a little
rucuss a few nights before I came away, and the fellow grabbed him in
there and tore three of the diamonds out, and he gave it to me with the
request that I would take it to New Orleans and have it repaired for
him. There, now, you look like a sport."

"I wish you would take it out," said Tom. "I don't like to have it in
there. Somebody might see it and rob me."

"You haven't got any baggage, have you?"

Tom replied that all the clothes he had with him were those he stood in
at that moment.

"It won't take long to fix that. Just tell Dan, when you see him, that
that thing has been in pawn more times than I can remember, but somehow
I always managed to work around and get the money. By the way, he owes
me ten dollars. He didn't give me money enough. What those diamonds are
set in I don't know. Dan won the mine in which the stuff was found and
had the pin made from some of the quartz; but the diamonds didn't suit
him, and so he sent them by me to New Orleans. But, bless you, in two
months from that time he was as poor as Job's turkey."

"Did he lose the mine?"

"Yes, and all the money he had besides. Perhaps that pin will hit him
again. Dan is a good fellow. He never went back on a man who was down on
his luck."

"I don't see why you don't go back to him," ventured Tom.

"Well, you see, there's that document that the people hold against me,"
said the gambler, with a laugh. "I think I had better stay here until
that has had time to wear off. Yes, you go on to Fort Hamilton, and
there you will make a strike. I don't know anybody in Fort Gibson."

"What do you suppose they will set me to doing?"

"Oh, perhaps they will grub-stake you and send you into the mountains to
hunt up a gold mine. Many a nice fellow has got a start in that way, and
is now numbered among the millionnaires. You'll get a start if you
strike Black Dan."

"I hope you will take this pin and wear it while you are on the boat,"
said Tom; for he had already made up his mind to go on to Fort Hamilton
and seek an interview with Black Dan if he were still alive. "I wish I
had some baggage in which I could hide it away."

Without saying a word Mr. Bolton took the pin, adjusted it into his
shirt-front, and once more placed his heels on the railing. The longer
Tom talked with him the more he admired him, and the more he detested
his avocation. The idea that such a man as that should deliberately prey
upon the cupidity of his neighbors! But, then, if he was a gambler, he
was the only man in the whole lot of passengers who had taken to him.
There were a number of finely dressed planters who sat at the table with
him, but not one had had a word to say to him, and would have allowed
him to go on his way to ruin if it had not been for this solitary man.
And how he had trusted him! Was there a planter on the boat who would
have given him so large an amount of money on so short an acquaintance?

"There's one thing about it," said Tom, as he thrust his hands deep into
his pockets. "If I make a success of this thing, I shall not have any
planters, who have already made their mark in the world, to thank for my
salvation."

The sight of the revolver that was placed upon the stool at the head of
his bed did not startle Tom as it had done on a former occasion.
Answering the cheerful "Morning" of the sleepy gambler he made a trip to
the barber shop to get a "shake up," for Tom had not yet had opportunity
to buy a brush and comb, and then went out and seated himself on the
guards. He felt more lonely now than he had at any time since leaving
home. Memphis was only forty miles away,--he had heard one of the
customers in the barber shop make that remark,--and he knew that when he
got there the last friend he had on earth was to take leave of him.

"How will I ever get along without him?" was the question he kept
constantly asking himself. "Two hundred dollars and a good overcoat
besides. I think I shall need the overcoat, for if the weather is as
cold as it is this morning, I should prefer to hug the fire."

While he was thinking about it, Mr. Bolton came out and beckoned to him.
Tom followed him into the office, and when the blinds had all been
closed, the clerk unlocked his safe and took out three official
envelopes; for the thirty thousand made so large a roll of money that he
could not get the bills all into one. Selecting one of the envelopes, he
tore it open, counted out two hundred dollars from it, placed it in a
second envelope, sealed it with a blow of his fist upon the counter, and
placed Tom's name upon it.

"That's yours, Tom," said he. "I need hardly tell you to be careful of
it. When you leave the boat at Fort Gibson, the clerk will give it to
you."

"Must I change boats again?" asked Tom.

"Yes, for this boat draws so much water that she can't run any farther,"
said the clerk. "I'll keep an eye on you and see that you get through
all right."

Mr. Bolton then proceeded to count out fifty dollars, which he pushed
over toward the clerk, after which he put the envelopes in the inside
pocket of his vest and buttoned his coat over them.

"What's this for?" enquired the clerk.

"That's to pay you for your trouble," said the gambler. "Now, the less I
hear about this money the better I shall like it. Let us out."

"What have you been doing to him?" enquired the clerk, after he had let
Mr. Bolton out of the side door on to the guards, locked Tom's money in
the safe, and raised the blind which gave entrance into the cabin. "Are
you any relative of his?"

"No. I never saw him until I came on board this boat. I told him my
story and that led him to give me some money. The barber says he has
travelled over this road a good many times."

"Oh, I know him. This isn't the first fifty dollars I have made out of
him. He has a different name every time. This time it is Jasper Bolton.
Why, two years ago he came aboard of us, clean shaved as any farmer and
dressed like one, and had charge of twenty-five barrels of dried apples
which he was taking to Memphis. Of course he got on to a game before he
had been here a great while, and cleaned everyone out."

"I wish he wouldn't gamble," said Tom. "He has the manners of a
gentleman."

"Oh, everyone has to make his living at something," said the clerk, with
a laugh. "And if he can't make his any easier than at gambling, why, I
say let him keep at it. But you ought to have seen him with those dried
apples! He talked them up so big among the passengers that he sold them
for double the sum that I could have bought the same apples for. Oh,
he's a good one!"

"I shouldn't think he would want to carry that money in his vest
pocket," said Tom. "How easy it would be for somebody to knock him down
and take it away from him."

"He's got a big revolver in his pocket," said the clerk.

During the rest of the trip to Memphis Tom stuck as close to Mr.
Bolton's side as if he had grown there, and listened to some good
advice, which, had he seen fit to follow it, would have made his
progress through life a comparatively smooth one; but Tom could not get
over the "gibes" which he knew his uncle would throw at him as often as
he got angry. He said that was all that kept him from going back, and
the gambler finally gave it up in despair.

On arriving at Memphis Mr. Bolton picked up his valise, bade good-by to
some of the officers whose acquaintance he had made on the way up, and
stepped ashore with Tom at his heels. The latter kept a close watch over
the sharpers, and was not a little annoyed to find that they were going
ashore, too. He called Mr. Bolton's attention to it, but all he got was
a smile in return; and now, when Tom got a good view of it, he told
himself that there was more self-confidence in that smile than he had
given him credit for. Indeed, Mr. Bolton, with his overcoat on and a
valise in his hand, and the free, swinging stride with which he stepped
off, looked more like a prosperous business man than he did like
anything else.

Mr. Bolton was evidently acquainted in Memphis, for he passed three or
four clothing-houses, and finally turned into an extra fine one, where
he said he wanted to see the longest and thickest overcoat they had. His
boy was going away into a country where blizzards were plenty, and he
desired to see him well protected before he went. The first garment that
was handed down was a fit, and Tom stood by with it on, and saw Mr.
Bolton buy another valise, an extra suit of sheep's-gray clothing, a
couple of blue flannel shirts, and a number of other little things which
Tom would not have thought of. When the articles had been paid for, Mr.
Bolton took off his pin, wrapped it in a little piece of paper, and
thrust it into one corner of the valise, then locked it and handed the
key to Tom. Then he turned and walked out.

"Mr. Bolton," said Tom, hurrying after him, "I never can repay----"

"Oh, yes, you can. Whenever you meet a fellow that is hard up, and you
can afford it, just hand him a dollar or two, and that will make it all
right. Now, be careful of yourself on the way up. You'll find some
lawless men there who won't hesitate to take the last cent you've got.
Remember me to Black Dan, and don't forget what I have told you. Put it
there. So long."

Tom wanted to say something else, but before he could form the words his
hand had been squeezed for a moment and he was alone. He watched the man
and then saw him disappear among the crowd.

"I wonder if anybody ever had such luck as this," said Tom, as he turned
his face slowly toward the levee. "I almost dread to think of it, for
fear that there is worse luck in store for me."

He was alone now, at all events.



CHAPTER VI.

TOM ADMIRES THE COWBOYS.


Tom Mason slowly made his way back to Wolf River, the place where the
_Jennie June_ was discharging her cargo, locked his baggage in his state
room, and seated himself on the guard to watch the deck-hands and think
of Mr. Bolton, if that was his name. Several passengers got off at
Memphis, and several more got on to take their places, but from the time
the boat rounded to go up the Arkansas River there was no one who had
anything to say to him, if we except the clerk and the barber.

Tom thought he had never seen so lonely and desolate a country as that
through which the Arkansas flowed. Woods were to be seen in every
direction, and here and there a small clearing with a negro or two
scattered about to show that somebody lived there. The boat stopped a
few times to let off a passenger where there was not the sign of a fence
anywhere around, but she never got out a line for them. She awoke the
echoes far and near with her hoarse whistle, shoved out a gang-plank, a
couple of deck-hands ran ashore with the passenger's baggage, and then
she went on her way up the river. The town of Little Rock was situated
in the woods, and above that it was all wilderness until Fort Gibson was
reached. The _Jennie June_ did not tie up alongside the levee, but ran
on till she came to a little boat with steam up, the only boat there was
at the landing, and made fast alongside of her, keeping her wheels
moving all the while, so as not to pull her away from her moorings.

"Have I got to change to that thing?" said Tom.

"Yes, sir," replied the clerk, who hurried past him with a book in his
hands and a pencil behind his ear. "She's the only one who can go above
here at all. Plenty of room on her. I'll be ready to go with you in ten
minutes."

With his baggage between his feet Tom sat down to await the return of
the clerk, and to make a mental estimate of the vessel that was to take
him 150 miles further on his journey. He saw that she had no Texas on
board of her, her pilot-house being seated on the roof of the cabin. Her
engines were small, being no doubt reduced in weight to make her
carrying capacity equal to passing over the shoal places she would find
before her, her spars were ready for use, and she had no roof over her
main-deck. She could get along very well in dry weather, but what would
she do when a rain-storm came up? Tom noticed that a good portion of
baggage was laid out on the boiler deck, and no doubt some of the
passengers slept there; and consequently it would be a dangerous piece
of business for any of the wakeful parties to attempt to promenade the
main-deck with a cigar, as he had often seen done on the _Jennie June_.

"I hope we shall have pleasant weather all the way to Fort Hamilton,"
thought Tom, as he rested his elbows on the railing and proceeded to
size up the passengers. "I don't see how they can get all those men into
the cabin."

Almost the first thing Tom saw, curled up before some luggage they were
watching, were a couple of Indians, taking good care to keep out of the
way of the swiftly moving deck-hands. But Indians he could see any day
by simply riding into his uncle's woods; but who were those long-legged,
lank fellows who took just as much care of their rifles and knapsacks as
the Indians did? They were hunters, and Tom could not resist the
temptation to turn his eyes away from the fore-castle back to the
main-deck to take a second survey of the motley group of men he had seen
there. They were cowboys all of them, and their clothing, especially
their hats and boots, were as nearly perfect as money could buy. They
were all young fellows, from twenty to twenty-five years of age, and
wore their six-shooters strapped around them with as much ease as though
they had been born with them on. The hunters were a lazy set, and were
willing to work for the furs they captured, while the cowboys were
willing to work for a salary, and they earned every dollar of it, too.

"That's what I am going to be," thought Tom. "I'll have a horse and
lariat, and I'll soon learn to ride with the best of them. I don't see
what Mr. Bolton could have been thinking of when he bought me this
sheep's-gray suit. None of the cowboys has them on."

While Tom was busy in watching the cowboys and telling himself that
almost any one of them looked ready for a fight, the clerk came up, and,
following a motion of his hand, Tom stepped after him into the office.
He unlocked the safe and, taking out Tom's roll of money, handed it to
him, saying:

"I have spoken to the clerk about you, and he promises that he will give
you a nice room with a lower bunk. Good luck to you."

Tom immediately tore open the end of the envelope and began running his
fingers over the bills. He wanted to see if they were all there.

"I don't want anything," said the clerk. "I wouldn't take anything if
you were to offer it to me. Come on and let's go and see the clerk. I'm
awful busy when we are making a landing."

Tom at once picked up his valise and fell in behind the clerk, who led
the way on board the _Ivanhoe_. By dodging in the rear of some of the
deck-hands he managed to get on board without being knocked overboard,
and soon found himself standing beside a man who was shouting out some
orders to which nobody paid the least attention. He changed his pencil
from his hand into his mouth long enough to shake Tom by the hand.

"Go up on the boiler deck and set down there till I come," said he.
"I'll attend to your case in just no time at all."

Seeing that no one else paid any attention to him, Tom ascended the
stairs and entered the cabin. He wanted to see what sort of a looking
place it was, but almost recoiled when he opened the door, for it was
filled so full of stale tobacco smoke that he did not see how anybody
could live in it. But he knew that he would have to become accustomed to
that smell before he was on the prairie very long, so he kept on and
finally found a chair at the further end of the cabin. There was no one
near him except a man whose arms were outstretched on the table and his
face buried in his hands; and when Tom approached, he raised his head
and exhibited a countenance that was literally burning up with fever. He
was dressed like a cowboy, but there didn't seem to be anyone to attend
to his wants.

"I say," said he, in a faint voice, "I wish you would be good enough to
bring me a glass of water."

"Certainly I will," replied Tom, rising and placing his valise in the
chair.

He did not know where to go to get it, but as he turned into a little
gangway which he thought ought to lead to the galley he encountered a
darky, and to him he made known his wants--not for a glass, but for a
whole pitcher of ice-water. With these in his hand he went back to the
sick man, who, waving away the glass of water which Tom poured out for
him, seized the pitcher and drained it nearly dry. Then he set it down,
and with a sigh of relief settled back in his chair.

"I have been waiting for an hour for someone to hand me a drink of
water, but I didn't have strength enough to go after it," said he, with
a smile. "I knew where it was--well, it stayed there."

"Fever and ague?" said Tom.

"Buck ague," responded the man. "I always get it whenever I come to this
country."

"I should think you would keep away from it, then."

"Well, I had to come with a herd of cattle my employer was getting up
for the government, and that's the way I got it. Ah! here comes one of
those lazy kids that ought to have been here and tended to me," added
the man, as one of those handsome cowboys that Tom had noticed on the
main-deck rapidly approached the table. When he saw the pitcher of
ice-water, he stopped and gazed in consternation.

"Somebody's been fixing you!" said he. "He's been taking calomel," he
explained to Tom.

"He never said a word to me about it," faltered Tom, who thought he was
in a fair prospect of getting himself into trouble.

"You know the doctor said you must be careful not to drink any water
after taking that powder," continued the cowboy, looking at Tom as if he
had a mind to throw the pitcher at his head.

"The kid is all right," said the sick man, "and I'll stay by him. Now,
if you will go away and let me alone, I'll go to sleep."

He stretched himself out on the table once more, and the cowboy went off
to consult with his chum. In a few minutes he came back with him, and
all they could do was to try to arouse the man to ask him what he
thought they had better do for him; but to such interruptions he always
replied: "No, no, boys! I'm going to sleep now."

"You ought not to have given that man so much water," said one of the
cowboys. "But after all it's our own fault, Hank. One of us ought to
have stayed here with him."

Tom Mason did not know what to say, and neither was he able to account
for so much forbearance on the part of the cowboys. He looked to see
them pull their revolvers; but instead of doing that they drew chairs up
beside their sick comrade and waited to see what was going to happen to
him, and Tom, filled with remorse, went out on the boiler-deck. Just
then the _Jennie June's_ bell rang, the lines and gang-planks were
hauled in, and she backed down the river to her moorings. Then the
_Ivanhoe's_ bell was struck, and instantly a great hubbub arose among
the passengers. Hands were shaken, farewells were said, and in ten
minutes more the little boat was ploughing her way up the river. Tom had
an opportunity to sit down after that. He pulled a chair up to the
railing and sat there for ten minutes awaiting the arrival of the clerk,
and wondering how calomel would operate on that man after he had drank
ice-water on top of it; and consequently he did not feel very safe when
he saw the two cowboys approaching him. He had left them to watch over
the sick man, and he did not like to have them follow him up.

"Look here, pard," said the foremost. "You've got the only lower bunk
there is in the cabin, and we want to see if you won't give it up to
that sick boss of ours. The man now occupying the upper bunk has offered
to give it up, but we don't want it."

"You can have it and welcome," said Tom. "I assure you that my giving
him a drink was all a mistake. I offered him a glass of water, but he
wouldn't take it."

Having given up his bed, Tom considered that he had done all that a boy
could do to make amends for what he had done. He gave the clerk his
money to lock in the safe, and when night came found a pallet made up
for him in a remote corner of the cabin. All the report he could get
regarding the sick man was that he was sleeping soundly, and had fought
his attendants so hard that it was all they could do to take his clothes
off.

"I really believe he is coming around all right," said one of the
cowboys. "When he gets mad and reaches for his revolver, it's a mighty
good sign."

"Did he draw it on either of you?" asked Tom, in alarm.

"Oh, no; for we took good pains to keep it out of his way."

When Tom got up the next morning (there was no barber shop on this boat,
and so he had to comb his hair in the wash-room), and went out on the
boiler-deck to get his breath of fresh air, he found three men out there
sitting in their chairs, and paying no heed to the cold wind that was
blowing. The men who slept there had gone into a warmer climate, down in
the neighborhood of the boilers, but their baggage was scattered around
just as they had left it. Tom took just one look around, and, seeing how
desolate things were, was about to retreat to the cabin, when one of the
men happened to spy him.

"My gracious, there's my doctor!" said he cheerfully. "Come here, old
man, and give us your flipper."

"Why, I didn't expect to find you out here to-day," said Tom, walking up
and taking the outstretched hand of his sick man. "My medicine did you
some good, didn't it? But you ought not to sit out here without
something around you. You will take cold."

The sick man laughed heartily.

"Why, doctor, I am as sound as a dollar. That water you gave me hit the
spot, for it set me to perspiring like a trip-hammer. I knew I was all
right as soon as I could sleep. Draw a chair up and sit down. You won't
take cold while you have that overcoat on."

Tom drew a chair up alongside the sick man, one of the cowboys moving
aside to make room for him, and deposited his feet on the railing. The
wind cut severely, and he would have felt a good deal more cheerful
beside the cabin fire.

"Where be you a-travelling to, doctor?" said the sick man; for Tom
didn't know what else to call him. "If you are going out our way, we may
be able to be of some use to you."

"I am going to Fort Hamilton," said Tom. "How much farther I don't know
until I have seen Black Dan."

It was curious what a sensation that name occasioned in that little
company. They simply looked at each other and smiled, and then settled
down and sought new places for their feet on the railing. It was evident
that they took Black Dan for a relative of his.

"Have you got much to do with him?" asked one of the cowboys.

"I never saw him," Tom hastened to say. "I got his name from a Mr.
Bolton, who gave me a very valuable pin to return to him. He got into a
fight once and had some diamonds torn out of it."

"Yes, Dan has been in a good many fights," said the sick man. "He aint
the fellow he used to be."

"I--I hope he didn't get the worst of any of them."

"Well--yes. He rather got the worst of the last fight he was in. He got
into a row with three fellows,--cowboys, I knew them well,--and although
he managed to get away with all of them, one shot him through the arm
above the elbow, and it had to be taken off."

"Amputated?" said Tom.

"Yes, I suppose that's what you call it. Then Dan took to drink and lost
everything he had."

"Why should the loss of his arm send him to drink?"

"He couldn't shuffle the cards any more. He doesn't do anything now but
get drunk in the morning and then crawl into some hole and sleep it off;
and he has seen the time when he was worth a million."

Tom Mason was sorry to hear all this. He did not know what he was going
to do now that Black Dan was in no condition to help him. Who was he
going to get to grub-stake him and send him into the mountains to find a
gold mine? He knew that things were pretty high in Fort Hamilton, and
his two hundred dollars would not last him a great while.

"For a fellow who has never seen Black Dan you appear to take his
downfall very much to heart," said the sick man.

"Yes, I do. I was depending on him to see me through. I have a very nice
pin which is his own private property, and which I have been
commissioned to give into his keeping."

"Have you got it with you?"

Tom replied that the pin was in his baggage, and arose and went after
it. In a few minutes he returned with it in his hand, and was not a
little surprised at the exclamations of astonishment that arose from his
three friends when they handled the ornament, and passed it from one to
the other and speculated upon its merits.

"Five hundred dollars!" said "Boss" Kelley, who by virtue of his
position took it upon himself to act as judge when matters came before
them that were somewhat hard to be decided. Tom had noticed one thing:
that his word was law to the two cowboys, and that when he spoke the
other two remained silent. "That's a heap of money to go into Dan's
hands. How long do you suppose it will last him?"

"Until he can get to Cale's bar," said Hank Monroe.

"And no longer," chimed in Frank Stanley.

"It's his and he ought to have it, if we can find him when he is sober,"
said Kelley. "Now, doctor, how came you by it in the first place?"

"I am plain Tom Mason, and I don't like to answer to any other name,"
said the latter; and with the words he settled back in his chair and
told the history of his meeting with Mr. Bolton. He kept back nothing.
He knew he could tell it just as it happened, for these men had more or
less to do with gamblers, and knew the motives which influenced them.
When he got through, he found that he had them very much interested.

"Why, you haven't done anything," said Stanley. "Go home and tell your
uncle just what you have told us, and take the racket."

"Boys, I know my uncle," said Tom, shaking his head.

"Perhaps he had better go on," said Kelley. "His uncle will throw things
at him whenever he gets mad, and it's better to go away and let him get
over that. Now, Tom, if you are willing to take help from us----"

"I am willing to take help from anybody," said Tom. "I am a stranger in
a strange place, and don't know what move to make first."

"Very good," said Kelley, extending his hand to be shaken by Tom, a
proceeding in which he was imitated by both his friends. "That is a
cowboy's grip, and whenever you get it out here, you may know that you
are among friends. Tom is one of our party now."

Tom Mason told himself that never had a runaway been blessed with such
luck. No sooner did one man on whom he was depending for assistance turn
out to be unreliable than another one came to take his place. For once
he had forgotten himself and told the truth, and the truth was mighty
and would prevail. After that he had nothing to do during the rest of
his trip but sit alongside one of his companions and talk of
cattle-herding and speculate concerning the future of Black Dan. All he
could learn regarding the latter was that he was going to the bad as
rapidly as he could.

"All gamblers come to that sooner or later," said Kelley. "All the money
I have got was made honestly. I don't know one card from another."

All this was very encouraging. If a man of Kelley's stamp--Tom knew he
was well off, for he had heard him talk of the thousand head of cattle
which he was holding fast to until the government came up to his
price--could live all these years on the prairie and never learn one
card from another, it was certain that another might do so.

At last, after innumerable discouragements, during which her spars had
been used until they were all mud, and it seemed impossible for her to
proceed a foot farther, the _Ivanhoe_ whistled for Fort Hamilton. Then
Tom saw what had given it that name. A short distance above the little
circle of houses that always spring up around a fortification, crowning
a hill, was a stockade from which floated the Stars and Stripes, and
among the crowd of loungers who assembled to see the boat come in were
several men dressed in the uniform of the army.

As soon as the landing was made Tom went to the clerk to get the money
he had locked in the safe, and made his way down the stairs to find
Kelley and Stanley waiting for him. They all had horses, with their
extra wardrobe tied up in ponchos behind their saddles, but they had
given them over to one of their number with orders to take them to the
Eldorado, the hotel which all the best men in that country patronized.

"Now, we want to find out what's left of Black Dan," said Kelley. "I
think we will get on his trail somewhere up here."



CHAPTER VII.

A TEMPERANCE LECTURE.


It was a muddy, miry place in which Tom Mason now found himself, for it
had been raining some there and Fort Hamilton was not blessed with a
system of drainage. There were no sidewalks except in front of the
various saloons and stores they passed, and half the way they walked
through mud that was more than ankle deep. It was astonishing to him to
notice how many people there were on the streets who recognized his
companions. It was "Howdy, Mr. Kelley?" and "Hello, Stanley!" or "Hello,
Arrow-foot!" until Tom might be pardoned for thinking that his two
friends were raised right in town instead of coming from a country a
hundred miles away.

"Arrow-foot?" said he. "That's one thing I do not understand."

"Well, you see that when my employer first came to this country and
wanted a name for his cattle, he picked up on his piece of land, close
by the spot where his dugout is now located, a small piece of clay
plainly marked with an arrow-foot. There was the stem of the arrow all
complete, and so he named his cattle 'Arrow-foot.' Almost everybody out
here is known by the brand his cattle wears."

"But how do they come to call you 'Mr.' Kelley?"

"I don't know, unless it is because I don't drink or gamble with them,
and have a happy faculty for settling all the rows."

Presently Mr. Kelley made his way into a spacious saloon that occupied
one end of the block. It had evidently been built by someone who had an
idea of refinement about him, for its verandas were spacious, the
windows came down to the floor, and there was a gilded sign over the
door. Inside the room was large and airy, with a bar on one side and a
number of tables extending away to the other end. It was quiet enough
now in the daytime, but when Tom heard the noise that came from it after
the lamps were lighted, he thought pandemonium had broken loose.

"Howdy, Mr. Kelley? Denominate your poison," said the man behind the
counter, extending a bottle toward him with one hand and reaching out
the other to be shaken. "Got back safe and sound, didn't you?"

"I don't take any of that stuff, and you ought to know better than to
ask me. I got back all right with the exception of the dumb ague, which
took me just as I got ready to leave Fort Gibson. Have you seen Black
Dan lately?"

"You're right, I have," said the man, frowning fiercely. "Do you see
that?" he added, taking out from under his counter a revolver which was
cocked and ready to be used when it was drawn. "I am going to keep that
just as it is and show it to him when he wakes up. Because he used to
own this house is no reason why he should pull a pistol on me!"

"Did he draw it on you?" asked Tom, forgetting where he was in the
excitement of the moment.

"I should say he did, kid, and Mose, there, was just in time to stop
him. I hope you have come to take him East, for I don't want him around
here any longer. It is all I can do to keep him from getting into a
fight with somebody, and the first thing you know he will pick up the
wrong man. You took him out, Mose. Do you know where he is?"

"Yes; he's out there," said Mose, motioning one way with his thumb and
another way with his head. "I can find him."

Mose made an effort to get on his feet, but reeled considerably, and
would have fallen back in his chair if Mr. Kelley had not caught him and
placed him steadily on his feet. When he was fairly up, he was all
right, and made his way out of the house and around the corner, closely
followed by Mr. Kelley and Tom. Presently he stopped, and curled up
behind a water-butt, the mud spattered thick on his torn clothing, his
empty holster and the stump of his crippled arm thrown out recklessly by
his side, lay all that was left of Black Dan. Tom saw in a minute where
he had got his cognomen. His complexion was swarthy and his hair and
whiskers were as black as midnight, but for all that he had been a very
handsome man. He was dead drunk, and Mr. Kelley saw that all attempts to
arouse him would be useless.

"Why didn't you put him in a bed?" asked Tom, in accents of disgust.

"He wouldn't stay there," replied Mose. "That is the only place he will
stay, and there is where we take him as soon as he shows any desire to
go to sleep."

"Let's go away," said Tom. "I'll never drink a drop of whiskey as long
as I live."

"It would be useless to try to awake him," said Mr. Kelley. "Mose, you
tell him that as soon as he wakes up we want to see him down to the
Eldorado, where we are stopping. We want to see him particularly. You
can remember that much, can't you?"

"I can, sir," replied Mose, hastily pocketing the dollar which Kelley
thrust out to him. "I'll send him down as soon as he comes to himself."

"It always comes hard for one to see a man done up in that style," said
Mr. Kelley, as he and Tom bent their steps toward the Eldorado. "It
makes me hate whiskey worse than I did before."

Tom had seen so much of the little town of Fort Hamilton that he had
some doubts about going to the Eldorado. Their little interview with
Black Dan, if such it could be called, had taken all the conversation
out of them; but when they entered the living-room of the hotel, and saw
no semblance of a bar, and the men who were playing cards were doing it
for fun, and not for money, and there was no sign of a drunken man
around, his spirits rose wonderfully, and he walked up and placed his
valise on the counter.

"Ah! here you are," exclaimed Stanley, coming up at that moment. "I
wasn't able to get a room with four beds in it, but I have engaged one
end of the dining-room, so that we can all be together to-night."

"Full up to the top notch," said the clerk. "Put it there, Mr. Kelley.
How are you, Arrow-foot? This young man I don't remember to have seen
before, but all the same I am glad to meet him."

"Yes, he's a tender-foot, and we are taking him out to have the boss
grub-stake him."

"Ah! that's your business, is it? Fine business that. You may make a
strike some day and come back and buy us all out. You're going right in
the country for one, for there's a nugget worth eight thousand dollars
for you to pitch on to."

"Yes, Elam Storm's nugget," said Stanley. "I hope to goodness you'll get
it, for then we shall quit hearing so much about it."

"Oh, it's there, for one with such a reputation as that--why, man alive,
it extends through twenty years! And the Red Ghost, too; you want to
steer clear of him."

Tom laughed and said he would do his best to follow the clerk's advice.
He had heard of Elam Storm's nugget, had even found himself thinking of
it when awake, and dreaming about it when asleep. He knew that his
chances for digging it up were rather slim, for he did not suppose that
the man who had hid it had any idea that it would be unearthed by anyone
save himself; but if he should happen to strike it with one blow of his
pick! Wouldn't he be in town? He could then write back to his uncle that
he had made more than the sum he had temporarily lost, made it by the
sweat of his brow, and he was sure that the next letter he received from
his uncle would be one telling him to come back home, and all would be
forgiven. But the Red Ghost! Tom did not know what to think about him.
He had been seen, never in broad daylight, and he was a terrible thing
to look at. He roamed about after nightfall, tearing the mules and
trampling the teamsters to death, and the worst of it was he was always
to be found somewhere near the place where the nugget was supposed to be
hid. Stanley once had a partner that had been done to death, and even
Mr. Kelley's face grew solemn whenever he spoke of him. That was the
only thing that made Tom doubtful about taking a grub-stake.

The dinner-bell rang while they were talking, and when the meal was
ended Tom went out with the two cowboys to look at a horse that Stanley
had found for him in the morning. They were gone about two hours, and
when they came back, Tom told himself that he was a cowboy at last; a
horse, saddle, and bridle were waiting for him at the stable, and the
poncho which he carried slung over his arm was roomy enough for his
extra baggage. The first thing that attracted Stanley's notice was a
strange man talking to Mr. Kelley. The stump of his arm proclaimed who
he was.

"It's Black Dan," said he. "Now, Tom, let's see how much your temperance
principles will amount to."

Tom was startled, as well he might be, to know that he had it in his
power to help a man who, in his palmy days, held an influence in Fort
Hamilton second only to the commander of the station. He gazed steadily
at him a moment, then threw his poncho on the table, asked the clerk for
his valise, and took from it the pin Mr. Bolton had given him, and with
this in his hand he approached Black Dan, while with a delicacy of
feeling that some people who occupy prouder stations might have envied
the cowboys turned toward the window. Hearing from the barkeeper that
the man who wanted to see him was a "top-notch fellow," Dan had washed
his face and brushed his hair, and made other efforts to improve
himself. His holster was filled this time, so it showed that he was in a
situation to defend himself. Mr. Kelley introduced Tom, and then moved
away.

"How do you do, sir?" said Dan, gazing hard at Tom's face and trying to
recollect where he had seen him before. "You have got the advantage of
me."

"I never saw you before, and I am sorry to find you this way," said Tom,
trying to keep up his courage. "I want you to look at this pin and tell
me if you ever saw it before."

Tom unwrapped the pin and placed it in Dan's hands. The latter took it
in surprise, and finally the wondering scowl his face had assumed gave
way to an entirely different expression, and he sat for five minutes,
turning the pin over in his hand, and doubtless harassed by gloomy
reflections. When he gave that pin to the one from whom Tom had received
it, he was worth half a million dollars.

"What was Bradshaw doing when he gave you the pin?" said he.

"He told me his name was Bolton," said Tom. "He had been doing some
gambling, and, finding out from me that I was coming up here, he gave me
the pin with a request that I should give it to you."

"You haven't come out here with any intention of going into this
business, have you?"

"What, gambling? Not much I haven't. I think I have seen enough to keep
me away from gambling forever. I'm going to get a grub-stake and go into
the mountains. I think I can do better there."

"You are an honest boy, and I wish I could give you something for it.
One short year ago I could have sent you to the mountains with some
prospects of success; but now----" Dan held up his crippled arm.

"I should think that would drive you from gambling forever," said Tom
earnestly. "You have taken to drink, and that is just as bad."

"Well, seeing that you are going to preach, I guess I'll go. Shake. So
long."

Before Tom could think of another word to say Dan had squeezed his hand
and was on his way to the door, walking along with his hat pulled over
his eyes, as if he didn't want to see anybody. When he reached the
street, he simply touched his forehead to some people he met, and kept
on his way to the saloon. Tom stepped to the window and saw him go in at
the door.

"Well, what success did you meet with?" said Stanley.

"I didn't meet with any success at all," said Tom, gazing helplessly out
at the muddy street. "He said if I was going to preach he'd go. He
seemed to think I had come out here to go into his business, but I told
him I had seen enough to keep me away from cards forever."

"Well, I declare!" said Mr. Kelley. "It is the greatest wonder in the
world he didn't knock you down. He never lets anybody say anything
against cards in his hearing. You have had a narrow escape."

As Tom sat there with his three friends and talked over the incidents of
Dan's past life he grew more frightened than ever, and thanked his lucky
stars that he didn't know more about it before he held his interview
with the gambler. Tom had told him that he had taken to drink, which was
as bad as gambling, and Dan had been known to floor a man who had said
as much to him. That night, while Tom was lying on his bed and trying to
go to sleep, he heard something more of the pin. High and loud above all
the hubbub that arose on the streets came the chorus of a song in which
one voice far outled the others. It was Dan's voice, and proved that the
pin had been pawned for something besides water. He looked over toward
Monroe, and saw that the latter was wide awake and looking at him.

"They're going it, aint they?" Tom whispered.

"You're right, they are. Poor Dan! You have done what you could for
him." And with the words he rolled over and prepared to go to sleep.

The next morning everything was quiet enough. The drunkards had been put
into the calaboose by the soldiers, and the others had gone to bed to
sleep it off. Tom wanted to know what had become of Dan, but nobody said
anything about him, and from that time his name was dropped. They ate
their breakfast in haste, paid their bills, and in ten minutes more Tom
was on his way in search of a grub-stake.

"Oh, certainly you'll get it," said Monroe, who rode beside him. "That
is the way the bosses always treat a tender-foot when they haven't
anything in particular for him to do. Some of our best known men have
got their start that way."

"I should think that some of the men you trust that way would run off
when they find something good," said Tom.

"Why, bless you, they can't take their find with them. They've got to
stay and work it. I did hear of a fellow who found a lot of iron
pyrites, and filled his pockets with them. He ran away, making the best
course he could for Denver, and when he was found, his pockets might
just as well have been filled with clay."

"Dead?" said Tom.

"Yes; and he was two hundred miles from where he belonged."

"And his find didn't amount to anything?"

"No. It is a brassy substance and looks very much like the precious
metal, but you need a mine to work it."

"What do you suppose killed him?"

"Don't know. Some people suppose that his mule got away from him, and
ran away with his outfit. At any rate, there was nothing near him, and
the fellow got desperate and died from exhaustion. Oh, it's one of the
things that will happen out here."

"That's a queer way to do," said Tom musingly. "By the way, I haven't
got any revolver."

"Oh, the old man will give you a pop. You will get everything you need
to last you two or three months. While that lasts, you are expected to
do some hunting; when it begins to give out, you want to come home."

"But how will I know the way?"

"The mule will bring you. He will stay there about two months,--that is,
if he doesn't get frightened,--and when he gets tired of staying, he
will come home, and you had better come, too."

It was by such talks as this that Tom learned a great deal about the
business upon which he was soon to embark. It never occurred to him that
he was to engage in any other business. Cowboys--or, as they were called
in those days, "vaqueros"--were not as plenty as they became a few years
later, and if a ranchman could be found who thought him able to make his
living by riding for a stake, well and good. He certainly would not run
away with his pockets filled with pyrites. He expected to make a good
many blunders, but Tom told himself he was used to that. What he thought
of more than anything else was that nugget worth eight thousand dollars.

They camped that night with a party of emigrants, and for the first time
Tom had the luxury of sleeping out of doors; but the appetite he brought
to the breakfast-table with him amply made amends for that. In all the
hunting excursions he had enjoyed for a week or more on his uncle's
plantation he always had a darky along to build a shelter for him, cook
his breakfast for him, and do any other work that happened to be
necessary, and all he had to do was to ride to and from his
hunting-grounds and shoot the turkeys after he got there. The next night
they drew up before a dugout, the first one he had ever seen. The only
thing that pointed out its place of location were a couple of hay-racks,
which had been torn to pieces by mules. There was not a human being in
sight, not even standing in the door to bid them welcome.

"Boys, I am glad my trip is done," said Mr. Kelley, as he threw himself
from his horse, relieving him of his bridle as he did so. "Tom, what do
you think of your new home?"

"Why, there is nobody around here," said Tom, gazing on all sides of
him.

"Oh, they are around here somewhere. It isn't dark yet, and we'll get in
and light a fire for them. They are out somewhere, looking for some lost
cattle. We left two hundred head here when we went to the mountains."

"To the mountains?" repeated Tom.

"Yes. I tell you we want to get away from here when the blizzards fly,
for there isn't a thing to shelter us. I don't expect we shall find more
than fifty head of those cattle, if we do that."

"What do you suppose will become of them?"

"They will be dead, of course. You see, when cattle are loose on the
prairie and a storm comes up, and they can't stand it any longer, they
start and travel in the same way the storm is going; and as the storm
lasts from three to four days, you can readily imagine that they must
get exhausted before they stop. When the hailstones come down as large
as hens' eggs, you can----"

"Haw, haw!" laughed Monroe.

"Well, as large as pigeons' eggs," said Kelley, "and I won't come down
another grain in weight. Why, an army officer went by here two years ago
hunting for his thirty-five mules that had been stampeded by a storm,
and when he found them, there were only four that were able to stand
alone. Oh, you get out, Monroe! You haven't seen any blizzard yet. Now,
let's go in and get some supper."

"But what makes the mules run so? Why don't they go under shelter?"
added Tom, as he picked up his poncho and saddle and followed the man
inside the house.

"There was just where they were going--for shelter. There aint a piece
of timber within twenty-five miles of this place to shelter a rabbit."

"Then what do you use for fuel?"

"Buffalo chips. There, Tom, put your plunder in there and set down and
look around you. You wouldn't think the man who owns this place was
worth two hundred thousand, but it is a fact."

"Why doesn't he buy a better piece of ground, then? I wouldn't be so far
from shelter if I were in his place."

"Buy it? He doesn't own this property. Every acre of ground that he
occupies is Congress land."

"But I'll bet you he wouldn't give it up," said Stanley. "I'd like to
see somebody come here and say this is his."

"Then you will never see it. Mr. Parsons says that all this property
will be thrown open to settlement some day, and then he and the rest of
the squatters will have to go farther West. But, laws! he's got money
enough, and he began life, Tom, just as you are going to--by taking a
grub-stake and starting for the mountains. But come on, boys, and let's
get supper. Stanley, just roll out the rest of that bacon and hard-tack,
and, Monroe, you go outside and throw in some buffalo chips."

Tom, weary with his long ride, made up his bunk, then threw himself upon
it and looked about him.



CHAPTER VIII.

A HOME RANCH.


Tom was surprised at the interior of the dugout. From the outside it
didn't look large enough to accommodate more than three or four men, but
there were bunks for eight, and there was ample room for the cooking
stove, a dilapidated affair which looked as though it might have come
from somebody's scrap-pile and left one of its legs behind it. But there
was plenty of "draw" to it, as Monroe came in with his arms full of
buffalo chips, filled the stove full, and touched a match to them. On
each side of the stove was a blanket, which on being raised proved to
conceal little cupboards devoted to various odds and ends. One contained
books and magazines, a whip or two, and several pairs of spurs, and in
the other were to be found the dishes from which the inmates had eaten
breakfast, all neatly washed and put away. Tom was surprised at the air
of neatness that everywhere prevailed.

"Oh, you won't find all dugouts like this one," said Monroe. "Some of
them are so dirty that you can't find a place to spread your blanket.
Mr. Parsons' cook did this work, and all the ole man does is to sit
outside and smoke."

"Here comes the ole man now," said Stanley, who had ascended to the top
of the stairs and was looking out over the prairie. "He has got a small
drove of cattle with him, so we shall have some corral duty to do
to-night."

"And I believe he has more than twenty-five head with him," said Mr.
Kelley, who dropped everything and came to Stanley's side. "He's got
fifty if he's got one. Boys, I guess you had better go out there. They
are tired most to death, and we might let them come in and get some
supper."

Although the two cowboys had ridden all of fifty miles that day, there
was no objection raised to this arrangement. Without saying a word they
buckled on their belts containing their revolvers, shouldered their
saddles and bridles, and went out behind the hay racks. When they came
within sight a few minutes later, they were going at full speed to meet
their employer and his cattle.

"Now, maybe you are able to see something off there, but I can't," said
Tom, after he had run his eyes in vain over the horizon. "I can't see a
single thing."

"Can't you see that long line that looks like a pencil-mark off there?"
said Mr. Kelley, trying in vain to make Tom see the object at which he
was looking. "Well, it's there plain enough. When you have been on the
plains as long as I have, you'll notice all little objects like that
one, and, furthermore, you will want to know what makes them. It will be
two hours before they come up, and you sit down here on the bench and
watch it. I will go down and get some supper."

Tom seated himself on the bench beside the door and tried hard to make
out the approaching line of cattle, but could not do it. Finally he was
called to supper, and went down saying that he would give his eyes a
little rest and then maybe he could see them; but he couldn't do it now.

"Supposing you were in a line of march and had a scout out there where
those men are, and he should begin riding in a circle, what would you
say?" asked Mr. Kelley.

"I wouldn't say anything," exclaimed Tom. "I wouldn't know what he
meant."

"He would mean that there was danger close at hand, and you had better
be gathering your cattle up," said Mr. Kelley. "And if they were
scattered as far apart as those cattle are, you would want a small
battalion of men to answer your orders."

"What would be the danger?"

"From Cheyennes, of course."

"Good gracious! Do they ever come out and threaten a whole ranchful of
cattle?"

"Certainly they do. But they are all right now. They haven't had any
grievance for a long time, and they are as trustworthy as Indians ever
get to be. I wouldn't put any faith in them, however. I'd have been
worth half a million dollars if it hadn't been for those pesky
redskins."

"Did they steal from you?" asked Tom.

"Yes, they stole me flat, but I got away with my life, and that is
something to be thankful for. Now, go out and see if you can find those
cattle."

Tom obediently went, and whether it was from the long rest his eyes had
had or from some other reason, he distinctly made out a long "pencil
line" on the horizon. By watching it closely he finally made out that in
certain places the line was interrupted, and finally decided that that
was the place where some of the cattle had strayed more than they ought
to; and he was confirmed in this idea when he saw a solitary figure move
up and turn them in toward the centre. As Mr. Kelley, having finished
his dishes, came out and sat down on the bench to enjoy his smoke, he
finally made out the two horsemen who rode around the outskirts of the
herd and gradually disappeared.

"It won't be long now before the old man will be along," said he. "You
will see that he won't ride through the drove, but will come around it.
If he should try riding through it, he would have a stampede on his
hands that would do your heart good to see."

"Are they as wild as that?" asked Tom, who told himself that he was
learning something about the cowboy's business the longer he talked with
Mr. Kelley.

"You just bet they are. If you should go among them on foot, you would
either stampede them or else they would charge upon you and gore you to
death. That's the reason we always use horses in tending cattle."

In about half an hour two horsemen were seen riding around the outskirts
of the herd. They took a wide circle, so as not to frighten the cattle,
and finally drew a bee-line for the dugout. Mr. Kelley remarked that
they were the ones he was expecting, dived down the stairs, and in a few
minutes the rattling of dishes was heard as he proceeded with his
preparations for a second supper. The horsemen were hungry, or else
their animals were, for they occupied much less time in coming in than
the cowboys who relieved them, and in short order they were near enough
for Tom to distinguish their faces. Tom took a long look at the man who
was going to befriend him. He knew who he was, for there was the cut of
a leader about him; and when the man rode up and swung himself from his
horse with a "How are you, Tom?" it proved to him that Stanley and
Monroe had told him something about him.

"Howdy?" shouted a voice from the dugout; and Mr. Kelley stuck his head
up through the door. "We're still on hand, like a bad dollar bill. How
many cattle have you got out there?"

"Sixty-five; and pretty good luck, too, seeing that they have been
stampeded more than forty miles. Where did you pick up this youngster?"
added Mr. Parsons, giving Tom's hand a hearty squeeze. "I certainly do
not remember seeing him before."

"No, he's a tender-foot. As he didn't know what else to do, he came out
here for somebody to grub-stake him."

"Ah!"

"Everyone who knows him has gone back on him," continued Mr. Kelley,
"and so he has come out here to see if you won't stake him for a gold
mine."

"M-m-m!"

"And as he cured me of the dumb ague by giving me a pitcher of
ice-water, I thought I would bring him along."

"Aha!" said the ranchman, who had kept a firm hold of Tom while his
right-hand man was speaking. "You claim to be a doctor, do you? Well, we
must do something for you. I was a little older than you are when I went
into the mountains to seek for a gold mine, and, unfortunately for me, I
found it. I smell bacon. Is supper ready yet?"

Mr. Kelley made some sort of incoherent reply which Mr. Parsons and his
man understood, for they dived down the doorway, leaving Tom standing
alone.

"Unfortunately he got it," Tom kept repeating to himself. "I don't see
what there was unfortunate about it, unless he was cheated out of it. If
I had as many cattle as he has got out there, and as many men to obey my
orders, I should look upon myself as remarkably fortunate."

Tom did not have any opportunity to talk further with Mr. Parsons that
night, for as soon as he had eaten supper he went to bed and was soon
sleeping soundly. Tom felt the need of slumber, and when he thought he
could do so without disturbing anybody, he slipped quietly down the
stairs. There sat Mr. Kelley fast asleep on his dry-goods box, holding
in his hand the copy of a newspaper about a fortnight old, and which he
had been trying to read by the aid of the smoky candle that gave out
just light enough to show how dark it was; and as everybody else felt
the need of slumber, and gave over to the influence of it wherever they
happened to be, Tom threw off his boots and tumbled into his bunk. Once
during the night he was aroused by somebody coming in and informing Mr.
Kelley that it was twelve o'clock; then there was a stir of changing
watches and the camp became silent again. Or no; it wasn't silent. Just
after the watches had been changed (for men had to keep track of the
cattle during the night and see that nothing happened to stampede them)
Tom was treated to a wolf serenade. It began faint and far off, and then
all on a sudden broke out so fiercely that it seemed as if the pack had
surrounded the cabin and were about to make an assault upon it.

"What was that?" asked Tom, starting up in alarm.

"It's the pesky coyotes," said Monroe, who was taking off his boots.
"We're always glad to hear them, for then we know that there is nothing
else about."

"What else do you think might be about?" said Tom, wondering how any
lone hunter could find any consolation in such a dismal serenade.

"Indians," said the cowboy shortly. "Good-night."

After that Tom did not sleep very soundly, for at times it seemed to him
that some of the fierce animals had come to the door, which stood wide
open all this while, and were about to come in. Once he was sure he
heard them on top of the cabin, but the others slept on and paid no
attention to it, and finally Tom became somewhat accustomed to it. He
did not think he had closed his eyes at all in slumber, but when he
awoke to a full sense of what was going on, he found that there were
only two men left in the cabin, Mr. Parsons and his cook. The former sat
on the edge of his bunk pulling on his boots, and the cook was busy with
his frying-pan.

"Hallo, youngster!" said Mr. Parsons cheerfully. "You'll have to get up
earlier than this if you're going to strike a gold mine. Why, it must be
close on to six o'clock."

"I was awfully tired last night, and the wolves kept me awake," said
Tom. "I don't see how anybody can sleep with such a din in his ears."

"The time may come when you will be glad to hear them. If there are any
Indians around, you won't hear them; just the minute the Indians break
loose the wolves all seem to go into their holes; but when the Indians
are whipped, they are out in full force."

Tom noticed that the men seemed to be in a hurry, and he lost no time in
packing his outfit. He ate breakfast when Mr. Parsons did, sitting down
to it without any invitation from anybody, swallowed his coffee and
pancakes scalding hot, saddled his horse, and rode away, leaving the
cook to straighten affairs in the dugout; and all the while it seemed to
him that he hadn't had any breakfast at all. He couldn't see anything of
the cattle; but Mr. Parsons put his horse into a lope and proceeded to
fill his pipe as he went.

"I suppose you know your cattle have gone this way, don't you?" said
Tom.

"Of course I do," answered Mr. Parsons, taking a long pull at his pipe
to make sure it was well lighted. "They are ten miles on the way nearer
home than we are, and we have got to make that up."

"Do you always drive your cattle into the mountains in winter?"

"Yes, sir. We have had some blizzards here that would make your eyes
bung out if you could have seen them, and I would be penniless to-day if
my cattle had been caught in them. Some of the cattle ahead of us have
been driven forty miles by a blizzard that struck us last fall, and I
have just succeeded in finding them. If my neighbor hadn't been as
honest as they make them, I wouldn't have got them at all. It would be
very easy for him to round them up and brand them over again, and then
tell me that if I could find an arrow brand in his herd I could have
them."

"How far does your nearest neighbor live from you?"

"Just a jump--fifteen or twenty miles, maybe."

Fifteen or twenty miles! None nearer than that! Tom had found out by
experience that distances didn't count for anything on the prairie.

"You said last night, in speaking of your gold find, that, unfortunately
for you, you got it," Tom reminded him. "I would like to know what you
meant by that. Were you cheated out of it?"

Mr. Parsons replied, with a laugh, that he was not cheated out of it,
but, on the whole, it didn't much matter. He took a party of experts up
there, and, after working over the mine for a week or more, they gave
him twenty thousand dollars for it, of which five thousand went to him
and the balance to his employer. That made him lazy--too lazy to go to
work. He spent three thousand dollars in grub-staking men to look up
claims for him until the end of the year, when he found out that he
wasn't making anything by it, so he took the balance of his money and
went into the cattle business.

"That gave me my start," said Mr. Parsons in conclusion. "In four years
I had made up the money I had spent, and vowed I never would go into it
again; but here I am talking of sending you to the mountains."

"Do you think you are not going to make anything by it?"

"Well, yes," said Mr. Parsons, with another laugh. "But I have got to do
something to help you. You ride pretty well, and I should think you
ought to go into the cattle business."

"Who will take me? Will you?"

"Well, no; I can't. I have had to discharge some parties, not having
work for them to attend to, and I don't know how I could use you. I will
tell you this much: when you come back in the spring, I will give you a
show."

"Thank you," replied Tom. "That's the first encouragement I have had.
But you say it took you four years to make up the money you had spent.
I'm not going to stay here four years."

"You aint? What are you going to do?"

"I am going to look for that nugget that Elam Storm has lost."

"Oh, ah!" said Mr. Parsons, the expression on his face giving way to one
of intense disgust. "Well, you'll never find it."

"Why not? The edge of Death Valley is just crowded with men who haven't
given up all hopes of finding it."

"Crowded! Young man, I wonder if you know how big Death Valley is?
Crowded! Now and then you'll find a man who still has that nugget on the
brain, but if the man who hid it himself, not more than two years ago,
can't find it, I think it is useless for others to try. There have been
landslides in all the canyons that run through there till you can't
rest. I'll tell you what I'll do: if you will find that nugget, I will
give you ten thousand dollars for it. That's a better offer than I made
you a while ago. And you may keep the nugget besides. If you are around
when anybody else digs it up, I will give you five thousand dollars."

There was something in this offer that completely shut off all
discussion of the finding of Elam Storm's nugget. Mr. Parsons did not
refer to the matter again, and neither did Tom; but the latter still
clung to the hope of finding the gold. The nugget was there, or why
should so large a number of men be on the lookout for it? And if he
_should_ happen to strike it, he would be a rich man. During all his
rides he kept that one thought in his mind, and nothing could shake it
out. There was one thing that ought to have opened Tom's eyes, and that
was that no nugget of gold had been struck in that country for miles
around. The nearest place at which any had been found was at Pike's
Peak, and that was over two hundred miles away. But Tom didn't know
that, and the only thing that kept the cowboys from telling him of it
was the fact that when he was in the mountains he would think he was
doing something, but if he knew there was no gold to reward his search,
he would give up in despair.

It took our party five days to make the journey between the dugout and
headquarters, for the cattle were slow of movement, and, besides, they
were allowed to graze on the way. About ten o'clock a fierce winter
wind, which made Tom bundle his overcoat closer about him and pull his
collar up about his ears, sprung up from over the prairie, and the
cattle ceased feeding and struck out for a canyon about a mile wide
which opened close in front of them. Along this they held their way for
five miles and better, until it finally emerged into a broad natural
prairie, large enough, Tom thought, to pasture all the cattle in the
country, and went to feeding with one of the herds. The air was soft and
balmy, and Tom's overcoat was resting across the horn of his saddle. Mr.
Parsons pulled up his horse and gazed around him with a smile of
satisfaction.

"These cattle are all mine, Tom," said he. "Every horn and hoof you see
here has been paid for, and if you want to get in the same way, I will
give you a chance when you come back to me in the spring. Monroe, you
and Stanley might as well go out and see if you can find anything of
that bronco. Tom wants to go away, and we must fit him out early in the
morning."

This was bringing the matter squarely home to Tom. He was to go away in
the morning! He looked up at the mountains, and they seemed so large and
he so small by comparison that he shuddered while he thought of getting
bewildered in some of those canyons, and lying down and dying there and
nobody would know what had become of him. But Mr. Parsons didn't
discourage him. He was made of sterner stuff. He looked up and said with
an air of determination:

"Yes, I want to get off. The sooner I get to work the sooner I shall be
doing something to earn my living."

"That's the idea," said Mr. Parsons. "Stick to that and you will come
out all right. Now, let's go home."

Tom waved his hand to the two cowboys, who galloped away in one
direction, while he and Mr. Parsons held down the valley, making a wide
circuit to get out of reach of the grazing cattle. After going in a lope
Mr. Parsons drew up his horse and began to talk seriously to Tom. He
told him plainly of the dangers and sufferings which would fall to his
lot if he endeavored to carry out his plan, but he did not try to turn
him from his purpose. On the contrary, he tried to warn him so that when
the dangers came he would be prepared to meet them half-way. He kept
this up until the home ranch appeared in view, and then he stopped, for
he didn't want the cowboys to hear what he was saying.

This home ranch was not a dugout. There was a neat cabin to take the
place of it, and Tom thought some of the cowboys had used an axe pretty
well by the way they fashioned the logs and put them together. There
were half a dozen hay-racks out behind the house, protected from
wandering cattle by rail fences, and there wasn't a thing on the porch,
no saddles, bridles, and riding whips, all such things having been put
into a cubby-hole in the rear of the house. But it so happened that the
cook, who had got there first, had peeled off his coat, and was engaged
in straightening things out.

"I never did see such a mess as these fellows leave when I go away for
five minutes," said he. "I can't find a thing where it ought to be,
though I have hunted high and low for that carving-knife."

Tom took his seat at Mr. Parsons' side while he filled up preparatory to
a smoke. There were one or two little things that he wanted to speak to
him about.



CHAPTER IX.

LOST IN THE MOUNTAINS.


When Mr. Parsons had fairly settled himself, filled his pipe, lighted
it, and fell to nursing his leg as a man might who felt at peace with
himself and all the world, Tom said:

"You didn't say anything about my horse in telling me what I should have
to get through with. Did you mean that I should leave him at home, and
go on foot?"

"I did, certainly," said Mr. Parsons. "You will find that the bronco
will go through some places that you will not care to ride, and,
besides, you will have one horse less to take care of, and one less to
watch."

"Have I got to watch him all the time?"

"Well, yes. You must keep the halter on him all the time, and tie him
fast to a tree when you go into camp. If you don't, he will run away and
leave you. He'll turn around and take the back track as soon as your
pack grows light, and you had better come, too."

"That's what one of the cowboys told me," said Tom. "Now, I have got
some money here. I don't suppose it will be of the least use to me in
the mountains, and I should like to leave it with somebody."

"All right. Leave your horse and your money with me, and I will take
care of them."

"If I don't come back, they are yours," continued Tom. "Now, I should
like to have a gun of some sort."

Without saying a word Mr. Parsons went into the house and brought out a
rifle and a revolver. Tom took them and examined them, and the way he
drew the rifle to his face rather astonished Mr. Parsons. He remarked
that he had handled guns before in his day, and Tom told him that he
could not remember the time when he did not have a horse and shotgun for
his own. His uncle furnished him with all these things.

"Then right there is where you ought to have stayed," said Mr. Parsons,
throwing more energy into his tones than he usually did. "I hope you're
not going to be sick of your bargain, but I'm afraid you are. Here comes
the bronco. Do you think you can manage that fellow?"

The bronco which came up at that moment, with Stanley's lariat fastened
about his neck, was like any other horse, only he seemed to be tired.
When they stopped him, he lowered his head and drew up one of his hind
feet, and closed his eyes as if he were fast asleep. But Tom knew better
than to fool with him. He had read enough to know that the word came
from the Spanish and meant "wild," and he had got his name from his
persistent efforts to keep wild cowboys off his back. He couldn't be
ridden, that was the matter with him; but he would carry a pack-saddle
all day, and never had been known to leave a man he had accompanied to
the mountains. Tom said he thought he could manage him, and patted him
all over; but the horse never opened his eyes to look at him.

Preparations were made for getting Tom off as soon as it was light, and
by the time darkness fell all was ready. A pack-saddle was brought out
which looked as though it had been through two or three wars, and the
cook, following the instructions of his master, began to fill it full of
provisions, giving no heed to Tom to ask him whether the supplies he
furnished suited him or not. He had provided so many men with provender
that he thought anything that would do for one would do for another.
With darkness came three more cowboys, who listened to what Mr. Parsons
had to say, and then greeted Tom very cordially, and wished him
unbounded success in his efforts to find Elam Storm's nugget. One man,
especially, was particularly interested in Tom's fortunes. He advised
him to dig wherever he saw a landslide, and if he happened to hit upon
the right place he would strike it sure. The spot where the man hid it
was obliterated, but that wouldn't hinder the proper person from
unearthing the nugget if he only chanced to dig where it was.

"I have looked for that nugget a good many times, and that is the only
thing that has kept me from finding it; I didn't dig where it was," said
the man, with something like a sigh of regret. "I know it is somewhere
in the mountains, else why should so many persons be looking for it?"

Morning came at last, and after Tom had eaten a hasty breakfast he saw
the pack strapped on his bronco; and the whole thing was done so easily,
with two experienced cowboys at work, that he regarded it as the least
difficult part of his undertaking. He had been told repeatedly to get
the pack on right, and not to unhitch his horse until he did it, or the
bronco would knock him and his burden into the middle of next week and
come home, leaving him to follow after as best he could. But Tom was
sure he had it "down fine," and with a cheerful good-by to the cowboys
who had assembled to see him off, and a hasty slap on the bronco's flank
to help him along, he started gayly for the mountains. When he saw that
camp again, he hoped to have the eight thousand dollar nugget stowed
away in his pack-saddle.

The first day's work Tom could not complain of. The bronco kept up a
lively walk, swinging his head from side to side and turning first into
one canyon and then into another, and did not think it necessary to stop
for anything to eat until he made his way to a little grove of trees,
drew a long breath as he stopped under the shade, and looked around at
Tom as if asking him why he didn't take his pack off. Tom leaned his
rifle against a log and took his pack off very easily, and the horse
immediately began taking his supper. Then Tom picked up his rifle and
looked about him.

"I declare! I believe the whole canyon is full of landslides," said he,
as he gazed at one pile of rubbish after another filled with logs,
rocks, and brush which nature had thrown into the valley, some new and
of recent origin, and others bearing the marks of age upon them. "Hold
on. Isn't that the mark of a spade over there?"

Tom walked over and looked at it. It was the mark of a spade, sure
enough, where a man had commenced digging where the landslide ended, and
had thrown out just earth enough to prove that he had been there, and
that was all. There were other openings of like character, until Tom
counted ten in number. Then he looked up at the huge mass above him, and
made an estimate that it would take an army of men, each armed with a
spade and pick, to work it all away. These were probably the marks of
the elderly man among the cowboys, who told him that the reason he
didn't find the nugget was because he didn't dig in the right place. Tom
shouldered his rifle, walked back to his log, and sat down.

"I really believe I have been duped," said he disconsolately. "If the
landslides are all like that, I am certainly not going to work to throw
them all away just to make eight thousand dollars. Besides, what use
will it be to me to work where he has been? I'll go on a little
further."

If Tom had any idea of a landslide, it was a little piece of ground
which could be thrown away in half a day's time; but the sight of a
_real_ landslide was what took his breath away. He didn't eat a very
hearty supper after that, for the thought that was uppermost in his mind
was that the men who had stood by him, and of whom he had a right to
expect something better, had completely fooled him in regard to Elam
Storm's nugget. Instead of telling him that there wasn't any show at all
of his success, they had fitted him out and sent him away to put in a
month of his time. There was one thing about it: he would not go back
until every mouthful in the pack-saddle had been eaten. That much he was
determined on.

"I had an idea that cowboys were above suspicion, but now I know they
are not," said Tom spitefully. "I can waste a month of their grub as
well as anybody, and I won't put a spade in the ground until I see some
prospects of success."

At the end of a week Tom was still of the same determination, although
he saw much to discourage him. It was landslides everywhere, and the
mark of a man's spade was on every one; so it showed that the bronco had
been over that same ground before. The way was getting lonely, they were
getting deeper and deeper into the mountains, and somehow Tom felt very
disconsolate. A deep silence brooded over everything--a silence so
utterly mysterious that he was not accustomed to it. How gladly he would
have welcomed Jerry Lamar and listened to news from home and from the
uncle he had deserted. Another week and Tom found himself hopelessly in
a pocket. Turn which way he would, there was no chance for him to get
out. The man had been there before him--indeed, he seemed to have gone
into all the places and thrown out just earth enough to prove that he
had been there, but not enough to accomplish anything. It was just
enough to let Tom see how useless it was to dig there.

Tom's two weeks of tramping in the mountains had given him a ravenous
appetite; his bronco was hitched so that he could not take to his heels
and leave his master to find his own way home; and as he sat there on
his blanket, dividing his attention between his cup of coffee,
hard-tack, and bacon, he thought seriously of going back to
headquarters. This was undoubtedly the remotest point reached by the
man, and if one of his experience should be frightened out by a few
shovelfuls of earth, or scared at finding himself in a pocket, Tom
thought himself entitled to follow his lead. It had taken him two weeks
to reach the pocket (he had managed to keep close run of the days); it
would probably take him fully as long to return, and so he would fill
Mr. Parsons' contract anyway. And so it was settled that he was to go
home; but there's many a slip between determining upon a thing and doing
it. He finished his coffee and bacon, led the horse down to the spring,
from which he had scraped the leaves, to give him a drink, and rolled
himself up in his blanket to go to sleep with his ready rifle safe
beside him.

How long he slept he did not know, but he was awakened about midnight by
a sound he had never heard before. It came from his horse, but it wasn't
a neigh: it was the sound of fear, and made the cold chills creep all
over him. He started up with his rifle in his hand, but did not have
time to get off the blanket. Another shriek, which sounded like somebody
in fearful bodily agony, came from the bushes, and the next minute the
horse was on the ground and struggling in the grasp of some animal or
thing which Tom could not remember to have seen or heard of before. It
had a long neck, long legs, and a wonderfully high body which was
increased materially by a hump on its back. The horse was as nothing in
its grasp, and the struggle took place not over ten feet from the
blanket on which Tom was sitting.

"Great Moses!" was Tom's mental ejaculation.

He sat for an instant as if spellbound, and then his rifle arose to his
face. He was sure he had a good shot at it and expected to see it drop;
but instead of that it gave another shriek, tossed the horse away from
it, breaking like thread the lariat with which he was confined, and with
a single jump disappeared in the bushes. Tom listened, but could hear no
sound coming from it to tell what sort of a beast it was. Then he got
upon his feet and turned his attention to the wounded horse. He was past
the doctor's aid, for he was dead.

"Well, that beats me," said he, going back to the fire and starting it
up, so that he could see what sort of wounds the beast had made. "I
never heard of an animal like that before."

A good many boys would have been startled pretty near to death by the
sudden appearance of an apparition like that. It must be possessed of
tremendous power to toss the broncho about as it did, and break the
lariat with which he was fastened. No ghost could do that, and neither
could a ghost have made that wide and fearful rent that Tom found when
he had punched up the fire. Tom thought it best to build up a bright
blaze, for he did not know how long it would be before the animal would
come back to finish its work. He loaded the rifle carefully and placed
the revolver where he could get his hands upon it at a moment's warning.
He thought of grizzly bears, but had never heard of them taking to the
bushes on account of a single bullet.

"It couldn't have been a panther or a bear, unless my eyes were
deceiving me, for it was at least four times as big as the horse," said
Tom, picking up a brand from the fire and once more approaching the
specimen of the apparition's handiwork. He hadn't been in sight more
than a minute, and yet the horse was as dead as a door-nail. "He must
have been a flesh-eater, for nothing else that I know of could have made
such wounds. I am beat. Now, how am I going to find my way home?"

If Tom had been frightened at first, he was doubly so now. He was so
confused he couldn't think. From that hour he sat there on his blanket,
and by the time that daylight fell so that he could distinguish objects
near him he had made up his mind what he was going to do. He would take
everything out of the pack-saddle that he could carry on his back, and
make his way out of the pocket the same way he came in. He had
remembered enough of his skill in woodcraft to turn and take a survey of
his back track, so that it would not appear odd to him when he came to
go that way again, and he had no doubt that he would be able to find it.
More than that, the bronco had left the prints of his hoofs and had
continually browsed on the way, and, taking all these things together,
Tom was certain that he could strike the trail.

"It is going to be a tight squawk," he soliloquized, "but I am not lost
yet. I only wish I knew what that animal was. It would take a big load
off my shoulders if I did."

Tom did not waste any time in forming his bundle, for there were some
things about the pocket that he did not care to see. He wanted to get
out of sight of every thing that reminded him of his terrible fright. He
put all his bacon, hard-tack, and coffee into his blanket, strapped his
pot to his belt behind, set his pick, spade, and pack-saddle up where
they could be easily found, shouldered his rifle, and, with a farewell
glance at the bronco, which had carried his pack so faithfully for him
so many miles, he plunged into the bushes and left the pocket behind.

For that one single day everything went well. He found the bronco's hoof
prints in the sand, and easily discovered the places where he had been
browsing on the way, and as long as these signs remained he couldn't get
lost. He even found, too, the place where they had stopped the night
before, but going into camp without the presence of the horse was
lonesome to him. He saw the place where he had scraped away the leaves
from the side of the stream to give him a spot to drink, and found the
sapling to which he had hitched him, and the place where he had spread
his blanket--but there was little sleep for him that night.

"I wish I knew what that animal was," thought Tom, as he sat on his
blanket with his rifle in readiness on his knees. "The more I think of
him the more frightened I become. I wish I was safe at headquarters."

Remember that the signs Tom had been following were only one day old,
and on the morning of the second day he could not find the place where
he had entered the camp. Turn which way he would he could not discover
any footprints. He finally concluded that the middle canyon looked more
familiar to him than the rest, and, with his heart in his mouth, he
struck into it. At the spot where the canyon branched into another he
found a little stream which ran in the direction he thought he ought to
go, and close beside the stream was a footprint which he took to be his
own. He was all right now, and with every mile he travelled the faster
he went, in the hope of finding something else that was encouraging, but
that solitary footprint was the only thing he saw. There was one thing
about it that kept up his spirits, and that was he was following a
stream that ran toward the prairie, and he would continue to follow it
until the stream or his provisions gave out, and then----Well, that
hadn't happened yet, and wouldn't happen till he was where he could get
more provisions. He must reach the house or he would lose his horse and
$150 in money. He went into camp at a solitary place that night, and,
for a wonder, slept soundly.

The next morning he was up bright and early, but he did not seem to have
much appetite for breakfast. And it was so every day until a week had
passed, and still no change for the better. He was so impatient that he
could scarcely go into camp. He was impatient to be journeying along
that little stream that seemed to lead him toward the prairie, but every
time he looked up and tried to wonder where he was, there were the same
gloomy mountains stretched away before him that he had at first seen in
the pocket where he had lost his horse. Tom took no note of the fact
that his wearing apparel was getting the worse for wear, or that he had
left his blanket back at his last camping-place, but he did take notice
that his mind was filled with gloomy forebodings. Why could he not climb
that mountain on his left and see what was ahead of him? The thought no
sooner came into his mind than he banished it, took a drink of fresh
water, and started out at a more moderate pace.

"I'm lost," said he, with a sinking at his heart to which he was an
entire stranger; "and if I give way to those thoughts, I shall be lost
utterly. Why did I not think of my gun?"

Tom dropped his pack by his side and fired and loaded three times as
fast as he could make his fingers move. Then he waited again and fired
three more; and scarcely had the echoes of the last report died away
among the mountains when he heard a faint reply, though it came from so
many directions that he couldn't tell from which way it sounded. But he
took it to come from down the stream, and, leaving his bundle behind, he
started in that direction, raising a shout which, to save his life, he
could not utter above a whisper. He ran until he thought he ought to be
about where the sound came from, then stopped and fired his gun again,
and this time met with an immediate response. It was down the stream,
and there was no doubt about it.

"Who-whoop! Where are you?" shouted Tom, so impatient he could scarcely
stand still. "I am lost!"

"Follow the stream and you'll strike me," said a voice, and Tom noticed
that for a backwoods fellow he talked remarkably plain.

It was three weeks since Tom had seen anybody or heard anyone speak, and
his eagerness to see where the voice came from was desperate. Throwing
his gun upon the rocks, he broke into another run, and there, just as he
turned around an abrupt bend in the canyon, he saw the person to whom it
belonged. The speaker stood with his hat and coat off; his pick lay
against a stone near by, and the shovel which he had been in the act of
using when Tom's rifle shots fell upon his ears was standing upright in
the ground; but he had taken precautions for any emergency, for he held
his rifle in the hollow of his arm. Beyond a doubt somebody had been
grub-staking him for gold, or for something else which he was equally
anxious to find. Tom had just wind enough to take note of these things,
and then he staggered to a rock near by and seated himself upon it.

"You won't find any gold here," said Tom, resting his elbows on his
knees and looking down at the ground.

[Illustration: TOM'S NEW ACQUAINTANCE.]

The stranger uncocked his gun, and, bringing the piece to an order arms,
leaned upon it. He looked hard at Tom, but had nothing to say.

"I have been all over this country, but not a cent's worth of gold could
I find in it," continued Tom, taking off his hat and drawing his hand
across his forehead. "Somebody has duped you just the same as they duped
me."

"Where's your gun?" asked the stranger.

"I left it in the bend up there," said Tom, anxious to hear the sound of
the voice again. "I was so impatient to get to you that I left it up
there. I haven't heard a stranger speak for three weeks."

"Where did you come from?"

"Wait till I get my breath and I will answer all your questions. I came
from a pocket back here in the mountains, where I lost my horse. I wish
you could have seen that animal, for I don't know what it was: long
neck, long head, and a body that looked twice as big as my horse. And
then how strong it was! It broke my lariat----"

"What color was it?" said the stranger, beginning to take a deep
interest in what his guest had to say.

"I didn't see that it was any other color when compared with my horse.
It looked just the same--a dark brown. It had a hump on its back----"

"The Red Ghost, by George!"

Tom started and looked at him in amazement.



CHAPTER X.

THE CAMP OF ELAM, THE WOLFER.


"I aint got any business to be digging around here," said the stranger,
laying down his rifle and picking up his coat. "We'll go back and get
your gun, Tender-foot. How far is that pocket from here?"

"Why, it is a two-weeks' journey," said Tom, who suddenly became aware
that he would have to go over that long tramp again. "I never could find
my way back there in the world."

"Who sent you into the mountains to dig for my nugget?"

"Your nugget?"

"Them's my very words, stranger."

"Why, who are you?"

"I am Elam Storm, the man who lost the nugget twenty years ago, and who
intends to have it back if he has to kill every man this side of the
country you came from; and where's that?"

Tom, who had arisen from his rock at the same time the stranger began to
put on his coat, stared fixedly at the speaker, and then sat down again.
So this was Elam Storm, the man who had a better right to the nugget
than anybody else in the world! He was a boy, not more than nineteen or
twenty years of age, but he had a face on him which expressed the utmost
resolution. And he had the physical power, too, to carry out his
determination, for, as he moved around his camp, putting away his tools
where he could readily find them, he showed muscles which said that it
would not be a safe piece of business for anyone to interfere with that
nugget.

"Where did you come from, I asked you?"

"I came from down in Mississippi, where my uncle owns a plantation and a
heap of niggers," answered Tom, who did not like the way the boy eyed
him when he spoke.

"And right there is where you ought to have stayed," said Elam. "Did you
hear anything about the nugget down there?"

"Of course not," replied Tom, surprised at the proposition. "I started
to go to Texas, but got on the wrong boat and was brought up here. I
couldn't do anything else, and so Mr. Parsons grub-staked me and sent me
into the mountains. He lives out that way a short distance."

"How far do you call a short distance?"

"Fifteen or twenty miles, maybe."

"Haw-ha! Man, you're just about a hundred miles from where he lives."

Tom caught his breath, but could say nothing in reply.

"You have been going further and further away from him ever since you
lost your horse," continued Elam. "Come on; let's go and get your
rifle."

"You say that nugget of yours was lost twenty years ago," said Tom, as
he fell in behind Elam, being afraid to do anything else. "You are not
that old, are you?"

"Well, not so long as that!" laughed Elam. "It is a long story and will
take you a good portion of the evening to listen to it. I will tell it
to you to-night. Now, then, which canyon did you come down?"

Tom looked up and found himself confronted by three gullies, which came
down and met at that one point. He said he didn't know, but Elam, after
looking around a little, started up one with as much confidence as
though he had seen Tom when he came out. After some questioning from Tom
he showed him a little twig, not larger than a needle, which he had
brushed off in his hurried flight after he had thrown down his gun; and
a short distance farther on he found the weapon, which Tom, in his
excitement, had tossed clear across the creek. Tom was surprised when
Elam stepped across the stream and picked up the weapon, and relieved
when it was handed over to him with the assurance that it had suffered
no injury in its collision with the rocks.

"Now, we will let the bundle go," said he. "There is nothing in it that
will pay us to go back after it, and I am too tired to go a step
farther. I hope your camp isn't a great ways from here."

Elam replied that for him it was "just a jump," but he would walk slowly
so as not to tire the pilgrim. He stopped at his camp where he had been
digging, and gave Tom a small supply of the corn bread and bacon which
he had left over from his dinner, and while Tom was eating it he sat by
on a rock with his elbows resting on his knees. Tom ate as though he
hadn't had anything for a month, and when his repast was ended, Elam
took his spade and pick under one arm, shouldered his rifle with the
other, and set off in a way that was calculated to tire any man, no
matter how well equipped he might be for travelling. But Tom did not
care for that. He wanted to get home,--any place was better than the
bare canyon,--where he could lie down and sleep with nothing to bother
him. Once in a while Elam turned around and said to him:

"To think that I have been wasting my time for the last month in digging
in such places as this! I ought to have been fifty miles from here, for
I know about where that canyon of yours is."

"Do you think that that Red Ghost, or whatever you call it----"

Tom happened to look up and saw that Elam was facing him, and was
astonished at the expression that came upon his countenance. He would
not have believed that one who was so sensible on every other point
should be willing to admit that the apparition that had visited him in
the pocket and robbed him of his horse was not due to superhuman agency.

"I know how you, Tender-foot, feel about this, but wait until you have a
chance to shoot it plumb through the head, and it gets away with it all,
and then tell me what you would think," said Elam sullenly. "You
probably don't have such things in the settlements, but that's no sign
that they aint found out here."

"I had as fair a shot at it as anybody could have," said Tom, "and it
wasn't over ten feet from me. I saw the blood spurt out from a hole in
its neck, and it flung the horse away from it, broke the lariat, and
went into the bushes. But do you think it is guarding that treasure?"

"I know it, and nobody can't make me believe differently. I have seen it
often enough, and it has got the mark of three of my bullets on it."

Elam faced about and went on his way at a faster gait than before, and
Tom let him go. As eager as he was to learn something about the Red
Ghost, he was still more eager to reach a permanent camp where he could
lie down and rest. He found that he was pretty nearly barefooted. His
sheep's-gray pants hung in tatters about his worn shoes, and Elam had a
way of jumping from one stone to another and coming down on top of a log
in a manner that he did not like. At length, when the sun began to go
down, and Tom experienced some difficulty in finding a place for his
feet, Elam stopped on the edge of a natural prairie, and pointed out
something a short distance off.

"There's my horse," said he. "And yonder, where that little grove of
trees comes down into the prairie, is where my shanty is located. Can
you stand it till we get there?"

Oh, yes, Tom could stand it that far. He fell in behind Elam, paying no
attention to the horse, which came up and followed along in their rear,
pushed his way along the evergreens, and was finally brought to a stand
by a door in a substantial log house. It was fastened by a bolt on the
inside, but as the string was out, Elam easily opened it.

"You are welcome to the cabin of Elam, the wolfer," said he, leading the
way in and pointing to a pile of skins which served him for a bed.
"Tumble in there, and don't get up till you get ready."

"Thank you," said Tom, handing his rifle to Elam and throwing himself at
length on the couch. "I never was so tired in my life."

Elam had hardly time to set the rifle up in a corner and shut the door
before Tom was fast asleep. How long he slept he did not know, but
during the whole of it he felt that he was under the care of somebody
who could protect him. If there were any ghosts to visit that camp, they
would have to strike Elam first.

The first thing he became aware of when he got his eyes fairly opened
was that he was so full of aches and pains that he could scarcely move,
and the next, that he did not recognize a thing about the establishment.
Gradually he raised himself on his elbow, and then Elam Storm came into
his mind. He could not remember much of what he had said to Elam during
their first meeting,--he must have been about half crazy, he thought,
when he talked to him,--but he had said enough to bring him a good bed
and a sound sleep besides. He found that his feet had been interfered
with--that they felt easier than they did before; and on removing the
blanket that had been thrown over them he discovered that his tattered
shoes and stockings had been removed; that they had been wiped dry and
moved closer to the fire, which had evidently been going at a great rate
before it died down to its present bed of ashes. There was plenty of
wood right there, and with much extra exertion Tom managed to crawl to
it, and by the persistent blowing of a coal into flame he succeeded in
starting a fair blaze. Then he contrived to get up. There was a big hunk
of johnny cake on the table, a slice of bacon with a knife handy to cut
it, and a bag which proved to contain coffee. A further examination
showed him that Elam had not gone about his business without leaving a
letter behind him to tell where he was. The first was a chunk of bark on
which was rudely traced a picture of a man gathering traps. He knew that
he was taking the game in, for there was a representation of game in the
trap. A second piece of bark lay under the first, and Tom could not for
a long time make sense of what it contained. It was blurred, and was
intended to represent a man going into camp. In other words, if Elam did
not get home by daylight, Tom need not worry about it. The pictures were
rudely traced in charcoal, but the drawing was perfect.

"If I had not been tolerably well posted in backwoods lore, I could not
have made head or tail out of these pictures," said Tom; and as he spoke
he thought over all the lessons he had learned from the Indians and
darkies in the swamp. "Elam is going out to gather his traps, and if he
does not come home before to-morrow, I need not bother my head about it.
What is he going to gather up his traps for? I shall have to wait till
he comes home to have that explained, and now I'll go to work and get
some breakfast."

Tom had used up nearly all the wood to replenish the fire, and he began
casting his eyes about the shanty to see if Elam had another pair of
shoes in waiting to be put on when his own boots became wet, and found
some moccasons with a pair of stockings neatly folded and hung beside
them. Elam had worn them once, but that did not matter. He put them on,
and, seeing Elam's axe resting in one corner, caught it up and went out
to renew his supply of fire-wood. Hearing the blows of the axe, the
horse came up and snorted at him, but could not be induced to come near.
This made it plain that the man who attempted to rob Elam would have to
leave his horse behind.

Tom chopped until his appetite began to get the better of him, and then
went in and busied himself about his breakfast. He left the door open
(for all the light that was admitted to the cabin came through a space
in the roof over the fireplace through which the smoke escaped), and
told himself that for one who had never seen the comforts of civilized
life Elam was able to copy pretty close to them. There was a table whose
top was made of boards hewed out of a log and smoothed with an axe, and
one or two three-legged stools without any backs, which proved that Elam
sometimes had company. The clothing he had worn was neatly hung up at
one corner of the cabin, and underneath was something which Tom had not
noticed before: two bundles of skins, nicely tied up and waiting to be
shipped. They were wolf-skins, and close by them lay half a dozen skins
of the beaver and otter, not enough to be tied up.

"I know what he meant when he said that I was welcome to the cabin of
Elam, the wolfer," said Tom. "Somebody has either grub-staked him and
sent him out here to catch wolves or else he is working for himself.
Now, where's the spring? I must have some water for my coffee."

Tom easily found the pail of which he was in search, and, going out
behind the cabin, he followed the path he had noticed while cutting
wood. It ran through a quiet grove of evergreens, and finally ended in a
little pool in which Elam found his water. Coming back to the cabin, he
could not find any coffee-pot, but he found a pan which seemed to have
been used for nothing but coffee, filled it with water, placed it on
coals he had raked off to one side, and covered it with one of Elam's
pictures. With his breakfast fairly going, with his coffee and bacon on
the coals, and his johnny cake and clean dishes on the table by his
elbow, he settled back on his stool as complacently as though he had
never known anything better.

"I don't know what sort of a conscience Elam's got, but if he's got a
tolerably fair one, it seems to me that he ought to be well contented
with this life," said Tom. "He was born to this thing, and,
consequently, don't know anything better; but as for me, there isn't
money enough in it. But, then, he thinks he is going to find that
nugget. Well, I'd like to find it myself, but I am not going to bother
with it with such a fellow as Elam in the way. I don't want to test
those muscles."

Tom had come to that country to make money; he wasn't going to test
anybody's muscle in order to make it, but he was going to make it. In
spite of all the obstacles that were thrown in his way--and he met with
no greater loss than any tender-foot is likely to meet--he carried back
to his uncle half as much money as he stole from him, and his uncle was
glad to see him, too. This was all in the future, and Tom knew nothing
of it. He ate his breakfast with great satisfaction, getting up from the
table once in a while to examine something new in Elam's outfit, and
when it was done, he washed the dishes and put everything back just as
he had found it. Then there was nothing left for him to do but to cut
wood until Elam came. The latter would be cold and wet from handling
those muddy traps, and there would be nothing wanting but a fire for him
to get up to. Every once in a while he dropped his axe and went out to
the edge of the evergreens to see if he could discover Elam returning,
but always came away disappointed. One thing he continually marvelled
at, and that was the scarcity of game. If anyone had told him that he
could leave his gun and wander away by himself, he would have thought
him foolish; and here he had been alone in the mountains nearly a month
and had not seen anything--not even a jack-rabbit--to shoot at. Had it
not been for that Red Ghost, or whatever it was, that visited him the
night he stayed in the pocket, his gun would have been as clean when he
took it back as when he came out with it. At last, when everything began
to grow indistinct, and Tom had put away his axe and piled up the wood,
he looked for Elam again, resolved if he could not see him to go into
the cabin, haul in the string, and get his supper; but there was Elam
half-way across the prairie, and, furthermore, he was struggling under a
weight about as heavy as he could well carry.

"They are wolf-skins," said he, as Tom hurried up to him and took his
rifle from his grasp. "I've got eighteen, and two otters. How are you,
Tender-foot? Got over your sleep yet?"

Tom replied that he had got all the slumber he wanted, and then went on
to tell Elam that he knew where he had gone, and if he did not return
that night, he would not have been at all worried about it, and that he
had got the knowledge from the pictures he had left on the table, and
Elam seemed very much pleased.

"You can't read or write, can you?" asked Tom. "I thought not, but you
drew those pictures as though you had taken lessons in drawing. I have
got a good warm fire for you."

Although there were many things that he was anxious to question Elam
about, Tom did not trouble him until he had had his supper and had
shaken up the skins preparatory to enjoying his after-supper smoke. Tom
followed his example and stretched himself out beside him, pulling off
his moccasons so that he could have the full benefit of the fire.

"Now, Tender-foot, what brought you out to this country?" said Elam,
pulling up a bundle of wolf-skins so that he could rest his head upon
it. "Tell me the truth and don't stick at nothing."

Tom replied that there wasn't very much to tell, and went on and
revealed to Elam as much of his story as he was willing that a stranger
should know; but he didn't tell him a word about his fuss with Our
Fellows, or of his stealing five thousand dollars, or of his association
with gamblers. In short, he gave him to understand that he was hard up,
that he wanted to go to Texas and had got on to the wrong boat and been
brought up there. He told him the truth about his meeting with Mr.
Kelley and his two cowboys, for he did not know but that Elam might see
them some day.

"I didn't know a thing about this country," said Tom, in conclusion,
"and Mr. Parsons grub-staked me and sent me out to find a gold mine."

"Haw-ha! You had about as much chance of finding gold here as you would
in New Orleans," said Elam, as soon as his merriment would allow him to
speak. "The only gold here is my nugget, and that was buried two years
ago. Didn't he tell you about that?"

"Yes, he told me about the nugget, but he also told me that by digging
after it I might strike another gold mine, as some others had done
before me. But if I ever go again, I don't want to follow such a man as
went before me."

"Who was it? Was it somebody who was working on Parsons' place?"

"Yes. He was an elderly man, who seemed to take more interest in me than
anybody else. He told me that the only reason he didn't strike the
nugget was because he didn't dig in the right place."

"Haw-ha!" laughed Elam.

"And the only reason he didn't dig in the right place was because the
nugget couldn't be thrown out with two or three spadefuls of earth,"
continued Tom. "I followed along after him for two weeks, and in every
camping-place there were two shovelfuls of dirt flung out. If a hen had
been scratching for that nugget, she would have made better headway."

"He was on the right track, anyhow," said Elam. "If he had kept on till
he came to that pocket, he would have found it. That would have given me
a job, for I would a heap sooner find it in the dirt than take it out of
a man's pack."

"If a man was to find that nugget----"

"Yes, sir, I would," said Elam savagely. "It is mine, and I'm a-going to
have it, I don't care who unearths it. Do you suppose you could find
your way back to that pocket?"

"No, sir; I couldn't," said Tom, drawing a long breath of dismay. "In
the first place, there's the Red Ghost. If you had seen it----"

"Haven't I seen it?" demanded Elam. "It has got the marks of some of my
bullets."

"It must bear the marks of a good many bullets, and I don't see why some
of them did not hit it in the proper place. What do you suppose it is,
anyway?"

"Why, it's a ghost, I tell you. If it wasn't, some of those bullets
would have struck it in the proper spot, I bet you."

"If it's a ghost, you can't kill it."

"Can't, hey? I'll bet you that I can."

"It looked to me just like a camel," said Tom, who did not like the way
Elam glared at him every time he struck on this subject.

"A camel! What's them?"

"An animal they make use of in foreign countries to carry heavy burdens
for them. But, Elam, how came it to appear to you? It don't show itself
to anybody else who hunts in these mountains, does it?"

"Certainly it does. The history of this nugget is known all over the
country, and if any man has it on his mind, he may be a hundred miles
from here, but that makes no difference; it appears to that fellow and
scares him off. Now, wait till I tell you."

This brought Elam to his story, and he entered upon it a good deal as
Uncle Ezra did, beginning with the massacre of the soldiers who were
sent out to pay the garrison at Grayson, and ending with the fight
between the two miners in the mountains. He seemed to know right where
the nugget had been ever since it was unearthed. At any rate, he told a
pretty straight story, and when it was ended filled up his pipe and
looked at Tom to see what he thought about it.



CHAPTER XI.

UNWELCOME VISITORS.


"I did think for a time that I should find my father and the nugget
together, and even gave it out among the sheep-and cattle-growers who
would listen to me," continued Elam, taking a few long pulls at his
pipe. "But I have since given that idea up. I didn't say anything to the
men hereabouts, for it kinder ran in my head after a while that they
thought I was luny on the subject; so I just kept my ideas to myself.
You see, the thing couldn't have gone through so many hands without my
hearing something of my father, but, search high or low, I never heared
a word about him. The old man is dead. He was killed when the robbers
made their assault on the train, and the nugget has been doing all this
of itself."

"All what of itself?" asked Tom.

"Why, it has been bobbing up and bobbing down," replied Elam. "One day
you know where it is, and by the time you get on the track of it it has
gone up, nobody knows where."

For a long time Tom did not say anything. The story seemed so real--as
real as that he was sitting on his couch of furs, with his feet tucked
under him, gazing hard into the fire. It did not seem possible that the
story could get abroad, and so many men believe it, and here this one
was known two hundred miles away. There must be something in it.

"Well," said Elam, "do you think I am crazy?"

"I don't know what to think," said Tom. "Such a story never got wind in
the settlements."

"Of course it didn't. There's a heap more things that happen out here
than you think for. There isn't one man in ten who would believe about
that ghost."

"No, sir," said Tom emphatically. "And I don't know what to believe
about it, either, and I have seen it. Are you going up there to that
pocket?"

"I am going to start day after to-morrow if you will show me the way.
When I strike the nugget, I will give you half."

The proposition almost took Tom's breath away. All that amount of money
for facing the Red Ghost! Now that he had got safely out of reach of it
and had heard so much about its going everywhere it pleased, here to-day
and a hundred miles away to-morrow, Tom was obliged to confess that
there was more of a ghost about it than he was at first willing to
suppose. But there was his horse with the broken lariat! No ghost could
do a thing like that.

"You see, I shall spend to-morrow in gathering in my traps," said Elam.
"I may not come back, you know, and I don't want to leave them out where
everybody can steal them, and when they are all in, I shall be ready to
start."

When Elam said this, Tom picked up a burned chunk, threw it on the fire,
and laid down again. If Elam thought he wasn't going to come back, what
was the use of his visiting the pocket? Tom had about concluded that he
would not go.

"No, I may not come back," said Elam, anxious that Tom should learn just
how desperate the undertaking was, "and while I don't want to have my
traps stolen, I want to leave them where someone can use them. Then I
will pack my spelter on my horse and go to the nighest post--it is just
a jump from here--and trade it off for provisions. We can easy get them
as far as here."

"Yes; but what will you do from here on? You won't have any bronco to
carry them for you."

"We will pack it on our backs. It's a poor hunter who can't go into the
woods and carry provisions enough for two weeks."

"And what if the Red Ghost appears? The first thing it will pitch into
will be ourselves. I don't think I will go. I have got all over
prospecting for gold, and wish that summer might come so that I can go
to work herding cattle."

"Well, I know what will happen to you then," said Elam.

"Well, what will happen to me then?" said Tom, after waiting for his
companion to finish what he had on his mind.

"You'll go plumb crazy; that's what will happen to you. You will be set
to riding the line----"

"What's that?" interrupted Tom.

"Why, riding up and down a fence, or rather where the fence ought to be,
to see that none of your cattle break away. It will take you two days to
make a trip, and you will get so tired of it that you will finally skip
out and leave the line to take care of itself. But all right. You go to
bed and sleep on it, and if it doesn't look better in the morning, I'll
say no more about it. I will go by myself."

With something like a sigh of regret Elam turned over and prepared to go
to sleep. There was no undressing, no handling of blankets, but just as
he was he was all ready to go to slumber. Tom felt sorry for him, and,
besides, he knew how Mr. Parsons and the cowboys would look upon such a
proceeding if it should once get to their ears. And he didn't see any
way to prevent it. If Elam's story was able to travel for two hundred
miles, the idea that he was afraid to face the Red Ghost would travel,
too, and then what would be his prospect of getting employment with Mr.
Parsons? And, besides, there was a chance for him to go "plumb crazy"
while riding the line and seeing that the cattle did not break through.
That was another thing that was against Tom.

"I am afraid I am unlucky, after all," thought he, once more arranging
his bunch of furs. "I am sent out into the mountains to prospect for
gold, when there isn't any gold in sight except what belongs to Elam,
here, and have the promise that when summer comes I shall be given a
chance." Then aloud: "Say, Elam, does a fellow have to ride this line at
first, and before he can call himself a full-fledged cowboy?"

"Sure," said Elam; "he must get used to everything that is done on the
ranch. He must begin at the lowest round of the ladder and work his way
up."

"Well," said Tom to himself, "I just aint a-going to do it. I'll just go
to sleep on it now, and if the thing looks better to me to-morrow than
it does to-night, I'll stick to your heels."

While Tom was thinking about it, he fell asleep. When he awoke the next
morning, it was broad daylight, but he was alone. Elam must have moved
with stealthy footsteps while he was getting breakfast; but there was
everything on the table just as he found it on the previous morning, and
the pictures which Elam had drawn, and which Tom had placed on the wall
so that they could be easily seen, had been taken down and put where he
had seen them the day before.

"I hope to goodness that I will get through with my sleep after a
while," thought Tom, as he proceeded to put on his moccasons. "He has
gone out to gather the rest of his traps, and I am left to decide
whether or not I will go with him. Well, I will go. If that fellow is
not afraid of the ghost, I'm not, either. I know it isn't a ghost, but
he thinks it is, and we'll see who will show the most pluck."

Tom went about his business with alacrity, and in an hour the breakfast
was eaten and the dishes put away. Then he had nothing to do but to cut
a supply of wood for Elam, though he didn't know how it was going to be
of any use to him, seeing that he was going to the mountains; but it was
better than sitting idle all day, and so Tom went at it, throwing the
wood as fast as he cut it in under the eaves of the cabin, where it
would be protected from the weather. At last the wood that was down was
all cut, and Tom, leaning on his axe with one hand, and scratching his
head with the other, was looking around to determine what tree ought to
come down next, when he happened to glance toward the path where it
emerged from the evergreens and ran up to the door of the house, and
discovered two men standing there with their arms at a ready. If they
had tried to come up under cover of his chopping they had succeeded
admirably. They might have approached close to him, and even laid hold
upon him, and Tom never would have known it until he found himself in
their grasp.

Of all the sorry-looking specimens that Tom had ever seen since he came
West these were the beat. Elam would have been ashamed to be seen in
their company. His clothes were whole and clean, while these men had
scarcely an article between them that was not in need of repairs. Their
hats, coats, and trousers ought long ago to have gone to the ragman; and
as for their boots--they had none, wearing moccasons instead. Tom felt
that something was going to happen. He knew he was growing pale, but
leaned with both hands upon his axe and tried not to show it.

"Howdy, pard?" said one of the men, looking all around.

"How are you?" said Tom.

He would have been glad to step into the cabin and get his rifle, but he
noticed that the men stood between him and the doorway.

"Whar's your pardner?" asked the man.

"He is around here somewhere," said Tom, shouldering his axe and
starting for the door. "What do you want?"

"I want to know if you have anything to eat? We have been out looking
for some steers that have broke away, and we've got kinder out of our
reckonin'."

"Who are you working for?"

"For ole man Parsons. Our horses got away from us, too, and didn't leave
us so much as a hunk of bacon."

"I don't believe a word of your story," said Tom, who knew from the
start that the man was lying. "But come in. I reckon Elam would give you
something if he was here, though, to tell you the truth, we haven't got
much."

"So Elam is your pardner, is he?"

"You seem to know him pretty well."

"Oh, yes. Elam and I have been hunting many a time."

"He's liable to come back at any minute," returned Tom, who wished there
was some truth in what he was saying. "He has just stepped out to look
at some traps. I don't see what keeps him so long, for of course you
will be glad to see him."

Tom had by this time got inside the cabin, closely followed by the two
men, who, he noticed, did not go very far from the door. One of them
hauled a stool up beside it and sat down where he could keep a close
watch on everything that went on outside, and the other kept so close to
Tom that the latter could not have used his axe if he had tried it. Tom
wanted to get his hands on his rifle, but one of the men had placed
himself directly in front of it so that his broad shoulders were between
him and the weapon. The men pushed back their hats and took a survey of
the interior of the cabin while Tom was getting down the side of bacon,
and finally one of them discovered the pile of wolf-skins which Elam had
tied up and left in the corner. With a smile and a muttered ejaculation
he walked over and examined it.

"Elam's at his ole tricks, aint he?" said he, after he had tested the
skins and tried to determine by the weight of them how many there were
in the package. "How many do you reckon he's got here? So many skins at
forty-five dollars apiece would be--how much would it be, Tender-foot?"

Tom was rather taken aback by this style of address. He had tried to
play himself off on the men as one to the manor born, but his language,
his dress, or something had given him away entirely. The man spoke to
him as if he was as well acquainted with his history as Elam was.

"I don't reckon we want anything to eat do we, Aleck?" continued the
man, lifting the bundle and carrying it back to the door with him. "If
you see anybody else coming along here that's hard up for grub----"

"Here--you!" exclaimed Tom, throwing down his axe and making an effort
to take the bundle from the man. "Put that down, if you know when you
are well off."

"If you know when you are well off, you will keep your hands to yourself
and sit down thar," said the man, and at the same time the one who had
been addressed as Aleck arose to his feet, cocking his rifle as he did
so. "Oh, you needn't call for Elam, 'cause we know where he is as well
as you do," he continued, as Tom thrust both men aside and started post
haste for the door. "Now, Tender-foot, just go and behave yourself. We
know that Elam has gone out to attend to his traps and won't be back
before night, and so we've got all the time we want. Sit down."

Tom saw it all now. The men had evidently watched Elam from the time he
started out, until they saw him pick up one trap and set out for
another, and had then made up their minds to rob him. They little
expected to find a tender-foot behind to watch his cabin, and had
consequently made up their story on the spur of the moment.

"Aleck, you will find your bundle over thar," said the man, "and there
are some otter-skins you can take, too. This rifle I will just take with
me and leave it agin some rocks out here whar you can easy find it. Mind
you, we haint done you no harm so far, but don't come nigh this rifle
under an hour. You hear me?"

Tom said nothing in reply. He watched Aleck as he picked up the other
bundle and otter-skins (he left the eighteen Elam had brought in the
night before, because they were not cured), flung them over his
shoulder, and joined his companion at the door, where the latter had
already taken charge of the rifle.

"You haint disremembered what I've told you?" he said, in savage tones.
"You come out in one hour and you can find the rifle; but you come out
before that time expires and ten to one but you will get a ball through
your head."

Tom still made no reply, and the robbers went out as noiselessly as they
had come in. He listened, but did not hear the snapping of a twig or the
swishing of bushes to prove that they had worked their way through the
thicket of evergreens to the natural prairie along which Elam was to
come.

"Well, now, I am beat," drawing a long breath of relief, thrusting his
feet out in front of him, and putting his hands into his pockets. "So it
seems that Elam isn't so very happy, after all, and that, no matter
where one gets, he's going to have trouble. Here he's been working like
a nailer for--I don't know how long he's been out here--until it seems
to me----What's that?" he added, as his feet came in contact with a
small buckskin bag which one of the robbers had dropped.

Tom bent over and saw that one side of the string was broken. The bag
had been tied around the man's neck, and had worked its way down until
it found an opening at the bottom of his trousers above his moccasons.
The man had never noticed it, and this was the first Tom had seen of it.
It was small, but it was well filled, and Tom began to look about for a
place to hide it.

"Let him take the skins if he wants to, and I'll take this," said he,
getting up and looking first into one place and then into another, and
making up his mind each time that that was a poor spot to hide things.
"He may miss it before he has gone a great ways, and I don't want him to
know that he has left that much behind. Just as soon as he goes away
I'll take it out and examine it."

Tom, who was not so badly frightened as some boys would have been, made
his way toward the door and finally went out, but could hear no signs of
the robbers. He removed some sticks from the pile of wood he had cut and
there placed the bag, covering it over as if nothing had been disturbed,
and then struck up a lively whistle and started down the path. The
robbers were not in sight, but there was Elam's horse just quenching his
thirst at the brook, and that proved that his companion had not been
stolen afoot, anyway.

"I'll be perfectly safe if I try to find the rifle now," said Tom, as he
began beating around through the bushes. "By George! I hope they haven't
carried the gun off with them. They couldn't, for their packs were too
heavy."

Here was a new apprehension, and it started Tom to work with increased
speed; and it was only after an hour's steady search that he found the
gun hidden where nobody would have thought of looking for it. It was
uninjured, and this made it plain that the only object the robbers had
in view was to rob Elam.

"They've got just sixteen skins or I'm mistaken," said Tom, shouldering
his recovered rifle and retracing his steps to camp. "Sixteen skins at
forty-five dollars would be worth seven hundred dollars and better.
That's quite a nice little sum to rake out before dinner. Now, my next
care is to examine that bag."

Arriving at the wood-pile, the bag was taken out and carried into the
cabin. Tom caught it by the bottom and emptied its contents on the
table, first taking care, however, to place his rifle across his knees,
where it could be seized in case of emergency. He was surprised at the
contents of the little bag. In the first place there was some money
tightly wrapped up in folds of buckskin, and when Tom unfolded it to see
how much there was, two yellow-boys rolled out.

"Hurrah! Here's something to pay for the stolen skins," said Tom, and,
hastily putting the money into his pocket, he caught up his rifle and
hastened out of doors to listen for some sounds of the returning
robbers. Everything was silent. The men were gone, and Tom had nothing
to do but to examine the bag in peace.

"I am glad they didn't do anything more," thought he, as he went in and
seated himself at the table. "If they had wanted to do mischief, they
might have pulled a chunk from the fire and set the whole thing to
going, but instead of doing that they just contented themselves with
robbing us. Forty dollars. Where did they get it? Two gold eagles and
bills enough to make up the balance. Here's tobacco enough to last both
of them a week; needles and thread, so it don't seem to me that they
ought to have been satisfied to go around with their jackets full of
holes, as I saw them, and----What's this? It's something pretty
precious, I guess, because it is wrapped up tightly."

It was a small parcel tied up in buckskin that caught Tom's eye just
then. It was so neatly wrapped up in numerous folds that by the time Tom
got them unfolded he fully expected to find some quartz or some more
gold pieces; but when he brought it to light, there was nothing but a
little piece of paper, with ordinary lines drawn upon it. Did he throw
it away? He spread it out upon the table as smoothly as he could, and
set to work to study out the problem presented to him. One thing was
plain to him: the line which ran up the middle, paying no attention to
other lines which came into it at intervals, was a gully. Right ahead it
went until it branched off in two places, and there it stopped. What did
it mean?

"It means something, as sure as I am a foot high," said Tom, settling
back in his chair and holding the paper up before him. "There is
something buried there, and how did these people come by it? I guess
that Elam had better see that."

Filled with excitement, Tom bundled the things back into the bag, and
put the bag into his pocket, wondering what sort of history those two
men had passed through. Did they know anything about the nugget? The
idea was ridiculous, simply because there were some marks on a paper
which he did not understand.

"There was only one of them who escaped with the nugget, and he buried
it within ten miles of the fort," said Tom. "And Elam says, further,
that he was so sick and tired when he was relieved that he could not
draw a map to lead anyone to it. No matter; there's something there, and
I am in hopes it will----By George! they are coming back."

There was no doubt about it, and he might have heard them before if he
had not been so busy with his reflections. He listened and could hear
them tramping through the bushes, and all on a sudden one raised his
voice and called out to the other, who was evidently behind him:

"I tell you he's got it. If I don't get it back, I am ruined!"

"That means me," thought Tom.

For an instant Tom stood irresolute, and then the idea came upon him
that he wasn't going to be imposed upon in this way any longer. He moved
across the floor with long strides, took down his revolver and put it
into his pocket and moved out of the door, pulling it to after him. The
men were close upon him. He heard them coming along the path as he
slipped around the corner of the cabin and into the bushes.



CHAPTER XII.

TOM FINDS SOMETHING.


"Oh, Aleck, he is gone!" shouted the man who was the first to come
within sight of the cabin. "The lock-string is out, and he's cut stick
and gone, with that bag safe upon him; dog-gone the luck!"

"Push open the door," said Aleck. "Mebbe he is there."

The man placed the muzzle of his rifle against the door and thrust it so
far open that his companion, who stood with cocked piece close at his
side, would have had no difficulty in getting a shot at Tom if he had
been on the inside. It was plain that they were afraid of the
consequences, for as the door swung open they both drew back out of
sight. If he knew anything of the prairie at all, it wasn't so certain
that he was going to give up that bag after what he had seen of it.

"Hey, there!" shouted Aleck. "We know you have got it; you might as well
come out and give up that thing I dropped in here a while ago. By gum,
he haint in there!"

A little more peeping and looking (you will remember that the inside of
the cabin was as dark as a pocket) resulted in the astounding discovery
that there was nobody there. In fact, Tom lay about ten feet from
them,--the bushes were so thick that he did not think it safe to retreat
any farther,--and from his hiding-place he could distinctly hear
everything that passed. He would have been glad to retreat farther, but
the bushes made such a noise that he was afraid to try it.

[Illustration: TOM IN HIDING.]

"He's gone," said Aleck, hauling a stool out from the cabin and throwing
himself upon it. "Now, what am I to do?"

"Perhaps you didn't drop it in there," said his companion. "You
travelled a good ways----"

"Yes, I did," said Aleck, whose rage was fearful to behold. "I felt of
it when I was coming through the bushes, and I am as certain as I want
to be that I felt the bag, and nothing else."

"And do you suppose he found it and went to examine it?" said the other
man, who hadn't done much of the talking. "If I thought that was the
case--you have got us in a pretty box!"

"I don't suppose nothing else. And just think, it is in Elam's hands.
Dog-gone the luck! I'd like to shoot myself."

"Aha!" thought Tom. "Now, go on and tell us what it is that's in Elam's
hands. It's the nugget, and I'll bet my life on it."

"I never did have much faith in it, anyhow," said Aleck's companion,
who, holding his rifle in the hollow of his arm, kicked a few chips out
of his way; "but you seemed so eager for it that you had to go and shoot
a man in order to get it. It's nothing more than I expected."

"I believe I can work my way up there alone," said Aleck.

"With all them gullies coming down? You're crazy. But you don't want to
sit here a great while. Elam will have it; that feller's gone to find
him----"

"If I thought Elam would have it, I'd lay around on purpose to shoot
him," said Aleck, rising from his stool and kicking it out of his way.
"He aint no more than anybody else, Elam aint."

"Well, if you are going to stay here, you can stay alone. I'll go back
and take my bundle of skins to the fort, and raise some money on them.
Then I'll light out, and you won't catch me around where Elam is again."

"By gum! I'll go, too," said Aleck. "But I'll bet you that Elam will
sleep cold to-night."

"By George! he is going to burn the house," said Tom, drawing a long
breath. "Well, I have done what I could, and as soon as they go away
I'll go in and save what I can from the wreck."

The very first words that Aleck uttered after he had set fire to the
cabin seemed to put a stop to this resolution. He made a great show of
setting the shanty a-going, entering into it and kicking the burning
brands about and piling stools and other things upon them, and when he
came out and closed the door behind him, he was well satisfied with his
work.

"There, dog-gone you!" sputtered Aleck, shouldering his rifle. "If you
don't burn, I'll give up. Now, we'll just wait and see if some of 'em
don't come back here to save things. You'll wait that long, won't you?"

"I won't, if you are going to raise a hand against Elam. I tell you it
aint safe for anybody to touch him. You have had more pulls at him than
anybody I know, and you have always said the same."

"And right here in these mountains, too," said Aleck. "I guess she will
burn well enough without us, so we had better go on."

It may have been the fire that operated on Aleck's superstition in this
way, for Tom listened and could hear them going headlong along the path.
He did not think it quite safe to venture near the burning cabin until
he had seen what had become of the robbers, so he left his rifle where
it had fallen and, with his revolver for company, pursued the men toward
the natural prairie. He did not feel the least fear of meeting the
robbers in the evergreens, for his ears had informed him of their
passage through them; so when he stopped behind one of the trees and
took a survey of the ground before him, he was delighted to discover
them far away, and going along as if all the demons in the woods were
behind them. His next business was to go back and save what he could.
The fire was already burning brightly, but, knowing where everything
was, he succeeded in saving Elam's saddle and bridle, all the
provisions, his clothing, and a few of the skins which served him for a
bed. Then he sat down, drew his hands across his heated face, and waited
as patiently as he could for the rest to burn up. As Elam had occupied
the cabin for three or four winters, it burned like so much tinder. The
principal thing that occupied his attention now was what he had heard
the men say regarding Elam.

"Elam has been shot at three or four times right here in these
mountains," soliloquized Tom. "He didn't say a word to me about that,
and I reckon it was something he did not want to speak of. Now, I will
leave the things right here and go and find Elam."

This would have been a task beyond him had he not seen the way Elam went
the day before. He went up the prairie to gather in his traps, and of
course all he had out must have been up that way, too. He didn't know
anything about the theory of setting traps for wolves, but Elam
understood it, and he was sure he was going the right way to find him.
At any rate, he wouldn't go far out of sight of the smoke of the burning
cabin, and with that resolution he cast his eye over the wreck to see if
there was anything else that he could save, and struck into the path.

"I'll leave my revolver there where it is," said Tom. "There can't be
more than one set of thieves around here at once. And I've got what has
ruined that fellow. If I haven't got the secret of Elam's nugget here in
my pocket, I'll give up. I'll go with you now, Elam. I'll face a dozen
Red Ghosts for the sake of getting my hands on this pile of gold. It
isn't a ghost, anyway. It is a camel, and I don't see how in the name of
sense any of his tribe managed to get stranded out here. I'll shoot at
it as quick as I did before."

Filled with such thoughts as these Tom reached the edge of the
evergreens, but there was no sign of the robbers in sight. Elam's horse
was there, and he seemed to think there was something wrong by sight and
smell of the smoke, for he tossed his head and snorted, and when he saw
Tom approaching took to his heels. Tom was glad of that, for Elam
thought a good deal of that horse; he would come up at night, and Elam
would go out to give him a piece of bread and speak friendly words to
him. He had hardly left the horse behind before he saw Elam approaching.
He had a few skins thrown over his shoulder, but he was going at a rapid
rate, as if he knew there was something amiss. Discovering Tom, he threw
off his skins, laid down his rifle, and seated himself on a rock to
rest.

"Burned out?" said he cheerfully, when Tom came within speaking
distance.

"Yes," said Tom. "How did you know it?"

"Oh, I saw it back there in the mountains. How did it catch?"

Tom had by this time come up. He seated himself beside Elam and drew the
little bag from his pocket. He was in hopes that Elam would recognize
the bag, but all he did was to look at it and wait for Tom to go on.

"I've had visitors since you left this morning," said Tom. "Two men with
ragged and torn clothing came there and got into the cabin before I knew
it, and when they got in, they made a haul of your two bundles of skins
you had tied up."

"Hallo!" exclaimed Elam. "Seven hundred dollars gone to the bugs. Tell
me how it happened."

To Tom's astonishment Elam did not seem at all surprised at the robbery,
but when it came to the discovery of the bag and the description of the
man who had lost it, Elam sprang to his feet with a wild war-whoop. Tom
began to see that there was a good deal in Elam, but it wanted danger to
bring it out.

"I know that fellow," said he, reseating himself after his paroxysm of
rage had subsided.

"You ought to," responded Tom. "He has had three or four shots at you
right here in the mountains."

"I know it, and that's my bag you have got there," replied Elam. "Go on
and tell me the rest."

Tom was more astonished than Elam was to find that the bag belonged to
him, and it was some little time before he could get his wits to work
again; but when he did, he gave a full description of the burning of the
cabin, and told of the direction the men had gone when they got through.
Elam said they had gone to the fort, and the only way to head them off
was to get there in advance of them. They intended to raise some money
on those skins, and after that go to the mountains; but he was certain
if he could see the commandant or the sutler he would knock their
expedition into a cocked hat. He dropped these remarks as Tom went
along, so that by the time he got through he knew pretty nearly what
Elam was going to do. He was more surprised when he got through than
Elam was.

"You seem to look upon this robbery as something that ought to have
happened," said Tom. "I tell you that if I had worked as long as you
have, and had seven hundred dollars' worth, I would be mad."

"Young man, if you had been out here as long as I have, and been in my
circumstances, you would have learned to look upon these things as a
matter of course," answered Elam. "This is the fourth time I have been
robbed, and I never go to the mountains without expecting it."

"But you never told me about that man shooting at you so many times,"
answered Tom.

"Well, he did; and once he came so close to me that he laid me on the
ground," said Elam, baring his brawny chest and showing Tom the ragged
mark of a bullet there.

"By George!" exclaimed Tom.

"That was the time he stole that bag you have there," continued Elam.
"He looked at me and thought me to be dead, and so made no bones about
taking it. But he got fooled for once in his life. He thought I had a
map there telling him where to look for the nugget."

"Did you have a map of any kind with you?"

"Nary a map," said Elam, with a laugh.

"Well, there's one here now, and I should like to have you look at it.
The loss of that map made Aleck think he was ruined."

Elam became all attention now, and watched Tom as he took out the piece
of buckskin and carefully unfolded it. Finally he took out the paper and
handed it to Elam, taking pains to smooth it out as he did so.

"He said he had to shoot a man in order to get it," said Tom.

"What man was it?"

"I don't know. He didn't describe him."

Elam had been fooled so many times in regard to that nugget that he took
the paper with a smile, but he had scarcely glanced at it before a look
of intense earnestness took the place of the smile. He laid down his
rifle, rested his hands upon his knees, and studied the paper long and
earnestly.

"Do you make anything out of it?" asked Tom.

"It's the very thing I want," declared Elam. "I have waited and looked
for a thing like this, and have never found it. The nugget is
mine--mine, and, Tom, I will give you half if you will stand by me till
I handle it."

"It's a bargain," replied Tom, and to show how very much in earnest he
was he offered to shake hands with Elam; but he resolved that he would
never do it again. All the years of waiting Elam had infused into that
grip; Tom didn't say anything, but it was all he could do to stand it.

"There is only one thing I can't see into," said he, when he had
recovered his power of speech, "and that is where that line begins. You
don't know where in the world it is."

"Do you see all these little dots here at the beginning of the line?
Well, those are springs. There's a dozen springs break out inside of
half an acre, and there's only one place in the country where you can
find them."

"How far is it from here?"

"It is forty miles in a straight line."

"Then what were those men doing here?"

"I give it up."

"And here's some money, too, with the thing," said Tom, undoing the
piece of buckskin that contained it. "There's forty dollars here."

"I am sure I don't know what brought them in here, unless they came
after somebody that had the map. I'd like mighty well to find him, but I
can't stop now to hunt him up. I must have the nugget in the first
place."

"Well, you had better keep this map," said Tom, as Elam got up and threw
the skins over his shoulder and picked up his rifle.

"No, you keep it until I come back. I've got to face a couple of rough
men, and there's no knowing what may happen to me. If I shouldn't come
back, find Uncle Ezra Norton and give it to him. He will go with you and
help you hunt it up."

"What have you got to face those rough men for?" said Tom anxiously.
"Those men who were here were afraid of their lives."

"Yes; but you take them out in the mountains and see if they are afraid
of their lives. They would shoot you as quickly as they would look at
you. One of them has more to answer for than he will care to. Uncle Ezra
Norton. Don't forget him. Now, I am going to leave you here while I go
on to the fort. I shall be gone three days. You can stand it that long,
can't you?"

"I can stand it for a week if you will keep those fellows from trading
off those wolf-skins for provisions," said Tom. "I hope you'll catch
them right there among our soldiers, and make them give up the skins.
They've got a heap of cheek to take those skins to the fort."

"The people out here have cheek enough for anything," said Elam, with a
frown. "This Aleck you speak of took some money off that dead man, and
yet I'll bet you he would go right to the fort and spend it."

Elam became all activity, and it was all Tom could do to keep pace with
him as he walked along carrying the skins to the site of the cabin. It
was a "site," sure enough, for the fire had made rapid headway, and now
there was nothing but the smouldering remains to be seen. Elam looked at
the smoking ruins and then at the numerous articles Tom had saved, and
then said:

"If I had known as much on the day I built this cabin as I do now, I
could have enjoyed myself better here than the ones who burned it. You
have saved your boots, haven't you? Well, the things that went up are
comparatively of little value. Now, if you will punch together some of
the coals and get me a big dinner, I'll be off. There's a blizzard
coming up, and as they generally come from the south-west, I would
advise you to put up a lean-to with its back that way," said Elam,
motioning with his hand.

"I would really enjoy a blizzard, but not if you are going to be out in
it," replied Tom, who, for some reason or other, could not bear that
anything should happen to Elam. "I have never seen one in my life."

For an hour or two the boys were busy, Elam in catching and saddling his
horse and doing up his blankets to be carried with him, and Tom employed
with his cooking, and all the while the former was going on with some
instructions which were destined to make things easier for Tom. He
didn't want to neglect that lean-to, he said, for in less than three
days there would be a blizzard that would make him open his eyes. If he
didn't come back in three days, all Tom would have to do would be to
take that map to Uncle Ezra Norton (anybody at the fort would show him
where he lived), and he would know what to do under the circumstances.
Having said this much, Elam wrapped what was left of his dinner in his
blankets, so as to carry it with him, shook Tom warmly by the hand (he
did not put as much vim into it as he did before), mounted his horse,
and rode down the path out of sight. When he thought a sufficient length
of time had passed, Tom wandered down to the edge of the evergreens and
looked out. There was Elam on his horse, skurrying along; not going
fast, for he had nearly a hundred miles to ride, but taking it easy, as
though he could stand it. Elam didn't know it, but he was to travel
twenty miles at as fast a gait as he had ever ridden it before.

"There goes my luck again," said Tom, as he turned about and returned
through the evergreens. "If anything should happen to him, I don't know
what I should do. I feel drawn toward the fellow. I will pay attention
to what he told me, and in order to put it out of the power of those men
to carry off this map and money I will just chuck the bag in here, where
I know it is safe."

The place where Tom hid the bag was in a hollow tree. He pushed it in,
put some leaves and brush over it, and turned away, satisfied, to begin
work on his lean-to. He could not see any signs of the approaching
blizzard, but Elam could, and he worked hard. That day he had the frame
up, and the next day it was all done and the things carried under it.

"There," said Tom, with a smile of satisfaction. "We are all ready for
what comes. Now, if Elam was only here, I'd be content. One more day, or
at least I will give him two, and then he will have to show up."

The third day passed without bringing any signs of the missing boy, but
Tom paid little attention to it. On the fourth he began making trips to
the edge of the evergreens, and then he saw that the sun was hazy and
that it began to look stormy. It grew worse on the fifth day, and Tom
really began to be alarmed. Toward evening a horseman suddenly made his
appearance on the edge of the prairie, walking slowly along, as if his
nag was tired almost to death. But it was Elam, for after he had made
many steps he discovered Tom, and pulled off his hat and waved it to
him.

"Something has gone wrong," muttered Tom, vigorously returning the
salute. "Why don't he whip up? If I was as close to home as he is, I
would go faster than that."

Tom waited in the margin of the woods for him to come up, and when he
drew nearer saw that his face was pale, and that he carried his arm in a
sling, as if he had been wounded. When Tom saw that, he began to grow
pale, too.

"Oh, it's all over," said Elam. "Look there."

"What! Is your horse wounded, too?"

"Yes, and was hardly able to move when I rode him into the fort. Say,
you told me that soldiers always wanted to see the fair thing done,
didn't you? They're a mean set. But I got the start of them. Do you know
what became of those two men who were here? Well, the Cheyennes have got
them."

"The Cheyennes!" exclaimed Tom.

Elam looked at him and nodded, and got off his horse with difficulty.
Tom looked at the long ragged streak in his neck, and did not wonder
that he was glad to be rid of his rider.



CHAPTER XIII.

ELAM INTERVIEWS THE MAJOR.


When Elam mounted his horse and set out for the fort that morning, it
was with the secret determination to confront Aleck and his companion,
or, failing in that, he would push on ahead, and by seeing the colonel
or the sutler he would render their attempts at disposing of the furs of
no account. He had already borne enough from one of these men to put him
pretty well out of patience. Although Elam said nothing about it, Aleck
had been at the bottom of three desperate attempts upon his life, as
well as of four efforts that had been made to rob him, and Elam thought
he couldn't stand it any longer. He rode along just outside of the
willows that skirted the foot-hills, so that he could not be picked off
by a stray rifle shot, and keeping a close watch of the prairie on all
sides of him, and when night came he hadn't seen anything of the
robbers. When darkness fell, he allowed his horse to browse around him
while he ate some of the lunch that was wrapped up in his blanket, and
then put out again. He was satisfied that by this time he had got beyond
the men, and now he wanted to get to the fort and put the people there
on their guard. Was Elam flustered while he was doing all this? Not a
bit of it. He went about his work as he would have tried to compass the
death of some wild animal that had escaped him. When the first gray
streaks of dawn were seen in the east, he camped in a sheep-herder's
dugout, but it was empty. Beyond a doubt the men had gone into the
mountains to escape the blizzards. There was a small stack of hay behind
the cabin, and to this Elam staked out his horse, and went in and
tumbled into an empty bunk. He was within twenty miles of the fort.

Elam slept the sleep of the weary, and when he was aroused to
consciousness, it was by a note of warning from his horse. Elam was wide
awake in an instant. He caught up his rifle and hurried to the door of
the cabin, and the summit of the hills over which he had come the night
before was crowded with horsemen. They were so far off that he could not
distinguish anything, but he knew by certain signs they exhibited that
they were not the men he wanted to see. They were too much scattered.

"I believe those are the Cheyennes," said he, lost in wonder. "I never
heard of their breaking loose before."

As if in corroboration of his words, a single long-drawn yell arose on
the air, followed by a chorus that must have been deafening to those
that were close at hand. That was enough for Elam. With muttered
ejaculations addressed to the men who were supposed to be near enough to
the Indians to keep watch of their movements, he rushed to his horse,
severed the lariat with which he was confined, mounted without saddle or
bridle, and was off like the wind.

"I tell you now I am whipped," said Elam, gazing back at his line of
foes, and trying to estimate how many warriors there were in the lot.
"It's the Cheyennes, and they belong two hundred miles from here. Some
ruffian has stolen their back pay, and they are going to have revenge
for it. Keep close, there, or I'll down some of you."

Then followed a chase such as we don't read of in these days. It was
long and untiring, and all the way Elam looked in vain for assistance.
His first care was to make out that there were no Cheyennes in advance
of him, and he concluded that their discovery of him was as much of a
surprise to them as it was to him; otherwise they would have sent some
warriors out to surround him. That was all that saved him. He was
mounted on a mustang, and such an one could not be tired out in a
twenty-mile race. He seemed to hate the Indians as bad as his master
did, and put in his best licks from the time he started, but that
wouldn't do at all. Some of the cool heads behind him were holding in
their horses, calculating that when the race was nearly finished they
would come up and settle the matter. Other warriors, carried away by
their military ardor, or perhaps having some private wrongs to avenge,
easily outstripped the others, and finally Elam had his attention drawn
to two who seemed bent on coming up with him. He couldn't hold his horse
well in hand with nothing but a noose around his neck, but by talking to
him he finally got him settled down to good solid work.

[Illustration: ELAM'S FIGHT WITH THE CHEYENNES.]

For one hour the chase continued, and then the whitewashed stockade of
the fort came into view. He could see that there was a commotion in it,
for the soldiers were running about in obedience to some orders, but
nearer than all came the two warriors, who seemed determined to run him
down and take his scalp within reach of the fort. At last they thought
they were near enough to fire. One of them drew up his rifle, and Elam
threw himself flat upon his horse's neck. The rifle cracked, and in an
instant afterward his horse bounded into the air and came to his knees.
But he didn't carry Elam with him. The moment he felt his horse going he
bounded to his feet, struck the ground on the opposite side, and when
the animal staggered to his feet, as he did a second later, he stood
perfectly still and Elam's deadly rifle was covering the savage's head.
He dropped, but he was too late. The ball from the rifle which never
missed sped on its way, and the warrior threw up his hands and measured
his length on the ground. An instant afterward Elam was mounted on his
horse again and going toward the fort as fast as ever. At this feat loud
yells came from the Indians. The death of the warrior and Elam's fair
chance for escape filled them with rage. The nearest savage fired, and
this time the bullet found a mark in Elam's body. It struck him near the
wrist and came out of his hand, but Elam never winced. He changed his
rifle into his other hand and broke out into a loud yell, for he saw a
squadron of cavalry come pouring from the fort. The chase was over after
that. Elam galloped into the fort, swinging his rifle as he went, and
got off just as his horse came to his knees again.

Of course all was excitement in there. The balance of the soldiers,
which consisted of a small regiment of infantry, were drawn up outside
the fort ready to help the cavalry in case the Indians dodged them, the
teamsters climbing upon the stockade ready to use their rifles, and Elam
was left to take his horse out of the way and examine his injuries and
his own. For himself he decided that it was no matter. He could open and
shut his hand, although it bled profusely, and that proved that the
bullet had not touched a cord; but his horse--that was a different
matter. The ball had not gone in, but had cut its way around the neck,
leaving a mark as broad as his finger. He must have a bucket of water at
once. While he was looking around for it, he ran against an officer who
had been busy stationing the men in their proper places.

"Hallo! You're wounded, aint you?" said he, taking Elam's hand. "Come
with me."

"I've got a horse here that's worse off than I am," said Elam. "I'd like
to see him fixed in the first place, and then I'll go with you."

"A horse! Well, he belongs to the veterinary surgeon. You come with me."

But Elam insisted that he could not go with the officer until his horse
had been taken care of, and asked for a bucket of water; and the
officer, seeing that he was determined, hastened out to find the surgeon
who had charge of the stock. He presently discovered him, standing on
the stockade and yelling until he was red in the face over a charge that
the cavalry had made, but he ceased his demonstrations and jumped down
when he was told that an officer wanted him.

"Give me one cavalryman against ten Indians," said he, saluting the
officer. "The savages are gone, sir."

"Did they stand?" asked the officer.

"No, sir. It was every man for himself, sir. A horse, sir? Yes, sir. I
saw this fellow come down on his knees when those Indians fired at him.
A pretty bad cut, sir."

Elam, having seen his horse provided for, resigned himself to the
officer's care, and went with him to the office of the surgeon. The
latter had got out all his tools and seemed to be waiting for any
wounded that might be brought in, but Elam was the first to claim his
attention. The surgeon jumped up briskly, examined Elam's hand, made
some remark about the bullet not having touched a bone, said that all
the patient would have to do would be to take good care of it for a few
days, and by the time he got through talking he had it done up. The
officer had left by this time, and Elam began to feel quite at his ease
in the surgeon's presence. In answer to his enquiries he went on to
explain how he had been surprised in a sheep-herder's cabin, when he
didn't know that there was a Cheyenne within a hundred miles of him, and
had depended entirely on the speed of his horse to save him, and asked,
with some show of hesitation, which he had not exhibited before:

"Do you reckon I could have a word with the major this fine morning? I
suppose he is pretty busy now."

To tell the truth, Elam stood more in fear of a stranger than he did of
a grizzly bear, and he felt awed and abashed when he found himself in
the soldier's presence. The regular, with his snow-white belts, bright
buttons, and neatly fitting clothes, presented a great contrast to the
visitor in his well-worn suit of buckskin, and, backwoodsman as he was,
Elam noticed the difference and felt it keenly. Now, when the excitement
was all over, he felt sadly out of place there, and he wished that he
had let the wolf-skins go and stayed at home with Tom. But the surgeon's
first words reassured him.

"Of course the major will see you," said he cheerfully. "He will want to
see you the minute he comes back. He has gone out after the hostiles
now. You can sit here till he comes back."

"I have got a horse out here that is badly hurt, and if you don't
object, I'll go out and look at him," said Elam.

"Eh? Objections? Certainly not," said the surgeon, in surprise. "I hope
you will get along as nicely as he will. Only be careful of that hand of
yours."

Elam had never been to the fort before, and he felt like a cat in a
strange garret while he loitered about looking at things. He first went
to see his horse, and found that, under the skilful hands of the
veterinary surgeon, he had fared as well as he did, for his neck was
bound up, and he was engaged in munching some hay that had been provided
for him. Then he went out of the stockade to see how the hostiles were
getting on, but found that they and the cavalrymen had long ago
disappeared. An occasional report of a carabine, followed by an
answering yell, came faintly to his ears, thus proving beyond a doubt
that the savages had "scattered," thus making it a matter of
impossibility to hunt them. After that Elam came back and loafed around
the stockade to see what he could find that was worth looking at. The
doors of the officers' apartments were wide open, and, although they
were very plainly furnished, Elam looked upon it as a scene of
enchantment. He had never seen anything like it before. He had heard of
carpets, sofas, and pictures, but he had never dreamed that they were
such beautiful things as he now saw before him.

"I tell you, I wish I was a soldier," whispered Elam, going from one
room to the other, and stopping every time he saw anything to attract
his attention. "This is a heap better than I've got at home. Uncle Ezra
Norton is rich, but he hasn't got anything to compare with this. Wait
until I get my nugget, and I will have something to go by. I do wish the
major would hurry up."

But Elam had a long time to wait before he could see the major, for the
latter did not return until nearly nightfall. When they came, they
looked more like whipped soldiers than victorious ones. They had two
dead men with them, three that had been wounded, and half a dozen
Indians that they had taken prisoners. Elam looked for an execution at
once, but what was his surprise to see the Indians thrust into the
guard-house.

"When are they going to shoot those fellows?" whispered Elam to a
soldier who happened to be near him.

"Shoot whom?" asked the soldier.

"Why, those Indians. They aint a-going to let them shoot white folks and
have nothing done to them?"

"Oh, yes, they will," said the soldier, with a laugh. "They can shoot
all they please, and we'll take 'em prisoners and let 'em go. Did you
think they was going to kill 'em right at once?"

Elam confessed that he did.

"Well, no doubt that would be the proper way to deal with them. Dog-gone
'em! if I had any dealings with 'em, I'd 'a' left 'em out there."

Elam did not remain long before he saw the major, for an orderly
approached in full uniform, and saluted him as he would a
lieutenant-general, and told him that the commandant was at leisure now,
and would see him. Elam's heart was in his mouth. He did not know what
to say to the major about his furs, and so he concluded he would let the
matter go until morning.

"Say," said Elam, "he must be tired now, and you just tell him I'll wait
until he has had a chance to sleep on it."

"Why, you must see him," said the orderly, who was rather surprised at
this civilian's way of putting off the major. "What good can he do by
sleeping on it? Come on."

Elam reluctantly fell in behind the orderly, and allowed himself to be
conducted into the presence of the major. The table was all set, the
officers were seated at it, and seemed ready to begin work upon it. He
was surprised at the actions of the major, a tall, soldierly looking
man, with gray hair and whiskers, who sat at the head of the table, and
who arose and advanced with outstretched palm to meet him.

"I am overjoyed to see you," said he, holding fast to the boy's hand
after shaking it cordially. "You got hurt, didn't you? But I see you
have been well taken care of. Is the news you bring me good or bad?"

Elam was too bewildered to speak. He looked closely at the major, trying
hard to remember when and under what circumstances he had seen him
before, for that this was not their first meeting was evident. If they
had been strangers, the major would not have greeted him in so cordial
and friendly a manner. This was what Elam told himself, but he had shot
wide of the mark.

In order to explain the major's conduct it will be necessary to say that
these discontented Cheyennes had not broken away from the neighborhood
of this fort, but had come from a point at least a hundred miles away.
It was the source of great uneasiness and anxiety to the veteran major,
who was afraid that his superiors might charge him with being remiss in
his duty. He had sent three detachments of cavalry in pursuit, but only
one of them had been heard from, and the news concerning it, which had
been brought in by a friendly Indian, was most discouraging. The savages
had eluded his pursuing columns in a way that was perfectly bewildering,
and the fear that they might surprise and annihilate his men troubled
the major to such a degree that he could neither eat nor sleep. He was
glad to see anybody who could give him any information regarding the
soldiers or the runaways, and he took it for granted that, as Elam had
come in since the Indians broke away, and had had a running fight with
them, he must know all about them.

"Where do you reckon you saw me before?" asked Elam.

"I never met you before in my life," answered the major, who saw that
his visitor did not understand the feelings which prompted him to extend
so hearty a greeting. "You can tell me about the Cheyennes, and that is
why I am so glad to welcome you."

"Oh!" said Elam, quite disappointed.

"Talk fast, for I am all impatience," exclaimed the major. "When did you
see the hostiles last, and where were they? I know that you brought them
up here to the fort, but where did you meet them in the first place?"

"I found them back here about twenty miles in a sheep-herder's cabin
where I stopped for the night," said Elam. "The first thing I heard of
them was a note of warning from my horse, and when I got up, there they
were."

"Well?" said the major.

"Well, I got on to my horse and lit out. That's the way I brought them
up here."

"And that's all you know about them?"

"Yes, everything. I didn't know the Cheyennes had broken out before."

The major released the boy's hand and walked back to his seat at the
table. The expression on his face showed that he was disappointed.

"That aint all I have to tell, major," said Elam quickly. "When I got
back to my shanty after taking in my traps, I found that two men had
been there stealing my spelter that I have worked hard for."

The major, who probably knew what was coming next, turned away his head
and waved his hand up and down in the air to indicate that he did not
care to hear any more of the story; but Elam, having an object to
accomplish, went on with dogged perseverance:

"Now, major, those two fellows are coming to this fort, calculating to
sell them furs,--my furs, mind you,--and I came here to ask you not to
let them do it."

"I can't interfere in any private quarrels," said the officer. "I have
something else to think of."

"But, major, it is mine and not theirs," persisted Elam.

"I don't care whose it is," was the impatient reply. "I shan't have
anything to do with it."

"Won't you keep them from selling it?"

"No, I won't. I shan't bother my head about it. I have enough on my mind
already, and I can't neglect important government matters for the sake
of attending to private affairs. Did you say those men were afoot when
they came to your shanty? Probably the Cheyennes have got them before
this time. Orderly!"

The door opened, and when the soldier who had shown Elam into the room
made his appearance, the major commanded him to show the visitor out.

"Now, just one word, major----" began Elam.

"Show him out!" repeated the commandant.

The orderly laid hold of the young hunter's arm and tried to pull him
toward the door, but couldn't budge him an inch. Elam stood as firmly as
one of the pickets that composed the stockade.

"Just one word, major, and then I'll leave off and quit a-pestering
you," he exclaimed. "If you won't make them two fellows give back the
plunder they have stolen from me, you won't raise any row if I go to
work and get it back in my own way, will you?"

"No, I don't care how you get it, or whether you get it at all or not,"
the major almost shouted.

"Oh, I'll get it, you can bet your bottom dollar on it. And if you hear
of somebody getting hurt while I am getting of it, you mustn't blame
me."

"Put him out!" roared the major.

The orderly laid hold of Elam's arm with both hands and finally
succeeded in forcing him into the hall and closing the door after him,
but the closing of the door did not shut out the sound of his voice.
Elam had set out to relieve his mind, and he did it; and as there was no
one else to talk to, he addressed his remarks to the orderly.

"The major needn't blame me if some of them fellows gets hurt," said he.
"I tried to set the law to going and couldn't do it. I'll never ask a
soldier to do anything for me again. I can take care of myself. I don't
see what you fellows come out here for anyway, except it is to wear out
good clothes and keep grub from spoiling. That's all the use you be."

"Well, go on now, and don't bother any more," said the orderly
good-naturedly. "The old man said he didn't care how you got the things
back, and what more do you want?"

"I wanted him to set the law a-going, but he won't do it," said Elam.
"I'll just set it to going myself."

The young hunter walked off and directed his course toward the sutler's
store. He knew it was the sutler's store, for when he was loitering
about the fort he had seen the sutler come in from the stockade with a
rifle in his hands, and sell a plug of tobacco to one of the teamsters.
He found the store empty and the sutler leaning against the counter with
his arms folded. The latter recognized Elam at once, for he had seen him
come in on that wounded horse.

"Halloa," he exclaimed. "You have got your wound fixed all right. Did
you have a long race with them?"

Elam in a few words described his adventures, running his eye over the
goods the sutler had to sell, and wound up by telling of the furs he had
lost.

"I have got a good many skins," said he, "and I see some things here
that I should like to have, but I aint got them now."

"How is that? I don't understand you."

"Well, you see, I have done right smart of trapping and shooting since I
have been out, but while I was gathering up my traps some fellows came
to my shanty and stole everything I had," said Elam.

"That's bad," said the sutler; and he really thought it was, for no
doubt he had lost an opportunity to make some good bargains.

"Yes, and they are coming to this post now, those two fellows are, to
sell those furs," continued Elam earnestly.

"Ah!" exclaimed the sutler, in a very different tone of voice.

If that was the case, perhaps he could make something out of the boy's
work after all.



CHAPTER XIV.

ELAM UNDER FIRE.


"Yes, that's bad business," the sutler continued. "They steal furs and
pass them off as their own. I couldn't do that."

"But this is the fourth time they have robbed me," Elam went on. "You
have handled skins that they took from me last winter. They'll try to
sell them at this store, most likely. There aint no traders here, are
they? I aint seen any of them hanging around."

"No; they have been scarce of late," answered the sutler, who would have
been glad to know that none of the fraternity would ever show their
faces in that country again. He wanted to do all the trading that was
done at that post himself.

"Then they will be sure to sell them to you, if they sell them to
anybody; but I don't want you to buy them," said Elam. "They belong to
me, and I've worked hard for them."

The sutler leaned his elbows on the counter, placed his chin on his
hands, and looked out at the door, whistling softly to himself. Elam
waited for him to say something, but as he did not, the boy continued:

"I don't want you to buy them skins. You heard what I said to you, I
reckon?"

"Oh, yes, I heard you," said the sutler, straightening up and jingling a
bunch of keys in his pocket; "but I don't see how I can help you. When
hunters come here with furs to sell, I never ask where they got them,
for it is none of my business. Besides, I don't know these men who you
say robbed you."

"I will be here to point them out to you," said Elam quickly. "I would
know them anywhere."

"But I couldn't take your unsupported word against the word of two men,"
continued the sutler. "If they told me that the property belonged to
them, I should have to believe them."

"But I will be here," said Elam indignantly.

"Well, you must get somebody to prove that the skins are yours."

Elam looked down at the counter, turning these words over in his mind,
and when he had grasped their full import, it became clear to him that
he had no one to depend on but himself. It became evident to him that
the arm of the law was not extensive enough to reach from the States
away out there to the fort, and, as the sutler would not lend him
assistance, he must either take the matter into his own hands or stand
idly by and see the proceeds of his work go into the pockets of rascals.
That he resolved he would never do. The very thought enraged him.

"Look a-here, Mr.--Mr. Bluenose," said Elam--Elam did not know the
sutler's name, and this cognomen was suggested to him by the most
prominent feature on the man's face, which was a dark purple, telling of
frequent visits to a private demijohn he kept in the back room--"you
shan't never make a cent out of that plunder of mine, because it will
not come into this fort!"

"Don't get excited," said the sutler.

"I aint. I'm only just a-telling of you."

"What are you going to do?"

"Well, the major wouldn't make them two fellows give back my furs, and
so I asked him if he would raise a furse in case I got them back in my
own way, and he said he wouldn't," said Elam. "That's all I've got to
say."

"I'll tell you what's the matter," said the sutler, a bright idea
striking him; "the Cheyennes have got them. Were they afoot?"

"Yes, they were. I don't know whether they tried to steal my horse or
not, but anyway they didn't get him."

"Then the Cheyennes have got them beyond a doubt. They could never
travel through the country you came through."

"Then what's become of my furs? Do you reckon the savages have got them,
too?"

"I certainly do. I'll tell you what I could do: If the Cheyennes came
here to sell their furs, I could easily tell your furs from their own,
and I could throw them out. But, you see, the Indians don't come here.
They take all their furs to Fort Mitchell."

"Maybe you would throw them out and maybe you wouldn't," said Elam
emphatically. "I guess I had better take the matter into my own hands.
When I get my grip on to them furs, you'll know it."

The sutler merely nodded and gazed after Elam, who marched out as if he
intended to do something.

"That boy is going to be killed," said he to himself. "He thinks more of
those furs than he does of so much gold. If I was commander of this
fort, I wouldn't let him go out."

Elam directed his course toward the barn in which he had left his horse
and rifle when he went in to visit the surgeon. He found them there yet,
and it was but the work of a moment to shoulder the one and unhitch the
other, who greeted him with a whinny of recognition, and lead him out to
the gate. As he expected, there was a sentry there, and he stepped in
front of him with his musket at "arms port."

"You can't go out," said he.

"Why, what's the matter?" asked Elam innocently.

"Too many Indians," was the reply.

"Oh, well, I just want to let my horse have some grass. He don't think
much of the hay you have here."

"You don't want your rifle if you're just going out to get grass," said
the soldier, with a smile.

"No, but I like to have it handy when the pinch comes. If I hadn't had
it and been able to use it, you wouldn't have seen me here now."

"That's so," said the sentry. "I don't suppose you care enough about
them as to go among them again. But we'll have to see the corporal about
that." Then, raising his voice, he called out:

"Corporal of the guard No. 1!"

In process of time the officer of the guard came up, and the sentry made
known Elam's request in a few words. He looked at Elam and said:

"Oh, let him go. It aint likely that he will go far away with the
Indians all around him. You don't want to get too far away," he added,
turning to the young hunter, "because the men on post have orders to
fire on people that are going out of range."

"Do you see this rifle?" said Elam. "Well, when they come, I will let
you know. You will never see me inside that fort again," said Elam to
himself, as the sentry brought his musket to his shoulder and stepped
out of the way, leaving the road clear for him. "I am going to get my
furs the first thing, and then I am going down to trade them off to
Uncle Ezra for a grub-stake for three months. That's what I'll do, and I
bet you that those two fellows will get hurt."

Elam passed through the gate, and the horse began to crop the grass as
he went out, thus doing what he could to prove that it was grass he
wanted, and not the hay that was served up to him in the stable. Being
continually urged by his master, he kept getting further and further
away from the stockade. The sentries on guard looked at him, but
supposing that, as he had got by post No. 1, he was all right, although
one sentinel did shake his head and warn him that he was going further
off than the law allowed; so Elam turned and went back.

"I don't like the looks of that fellow, for he handles his gun as though
he might shoot tolerable straight," said Elam. "We will go more in this
direction, for here's where the stock was when the Indians came up.
We'll be a little cautious at first, but we are bound to get away in the
end."

By keeping his horse on the opposite side from him, and paying no
attention to the warning gestures of the sentries, he succeeded in
reaching a point beyond which he was certain that the guards could not
hit him, and, with a word and a jump, he landed fairly on his nag's
back.

"Now, old fellow, show them what you can do," he whispered, digging his
heels into his horse's sides.

He looked back and saw that the sentry he feared most was already
levelling his gun, and a moment later the bullet ploughed up the grass a
little beyond him. Had he remained fairly in his seat, it would have
taken him out of it; but he did just as he had seen the Cheyennes do--he
threw himself on the side of his horse opposite the marksman, and so he
had nothing to shoot at save the swiftly running steed. Another musket
popped, and still another, but Elam did not hear the whistle of their
bullets. That was all the guards on that side of the stockade, and Elam
knew he was safe. Before they could load again he would be far out of
range. He raised himself to a sitting posture, took off his hat and
waved it at the guards, and then settled down and kept on his way,
taking care, however, to watch against all chances of pursuit. The fact
was that his escape had been reported to the major, who, out of all
patience, exclaimed: "Let him go!"

Elam was now a free man once more, and he resolved that it would be a
long time before he would again trust himself in the power of the
soldiers. His first care must be to go back to the sheep-herder's cabin
in which he had camped the night before he reached the fort, and get his
saddle and bridle, for he rightly concluded that the savages had been so
anxious to capture him that they had not time to go in and see if he had
left anything behind him. It required considerable nerve to do this, but
Elam had already shown that he had a good share of it. He had not gone
many miles on his way until he began to meet some sheep-herders and
cattle-men who were fleeing from their homes and going to the fort for
protection. The men were generally riding on ahead, and the women came
after them in wagons drawn by mules. He waved his hat whenever he came
within sight, for fear that the men might shoot at him, and he knew by
experience that they could handle their rifles with greater skill than
the soldiers could handle their muskets.

"Where you going?" demanded one of the men, as he galloped up to meet
Elam. "Seen any Indians around here?"

"There were plenty of them here this morning," said Elam. "Did they come
near you?"

"Well, I should say so. They've jumped down on us when we wasn't looking
for them, and I've got one brother in the wagon that's been laid out.
You must have been in a rucus with them, judging by the looks of your
hand and the horse."

"Yes, I got into a fight with them right along here somewhere, and I
didn't go to the fort without sending one of them up. There was no need
of my going there at all, but I went to shut off some trade that wasn't
exactly square. There are no Indians between here and the fort."

"Well, I wish you would ride by the wagon and tell that to my old woman,
will you? She is scared half to death. Where are you going?"

Elam replied that he was going to the sheep-herder's ranch to get a
saddle and bridle that he had left there, and after that he was going
back to the mountains. He had a partner there, and he didn't know
whether he was alive or dead. He had had enough of depending on the
soldiers for help, for they had declined to assist him, and,
furthermore, had shot at him when he attempted to leave the fort.

"Well, I say!" exclaimed the frontiersman, giving Elam a good looking
over, "you are a brave lad, and I know you will come out all right."

Elam carried the news to the wagon that there were no Indians between
them and the fort, and afterward continued on his lonely way to the
sheep-herder's ranch. He came within sight of it about eleven o'clock
that night, and, dismounting from his horse and leaving him on the open
prairie, he proceeded to stalk it as he would an antelope, being careful
that not a glimpse of him should be seen. It was a bright moonlight
night, and for that reason he was doubly careful. There was something
more than the saddle and bridle he wanted, and that was his blankets.
There was some of the lunch left in there. He had eaten but one meal
that day, and he had nearly a hundred miles to go before he could get
any more.

Elam was nearly an hour in coming up to that ranch, and he was sure that
anyone who might be on the lookout would have been deceived for once in
his life. He crawled all around the hay-racks without seeing anybody,
and finally went in at the open door without seeing or hearing anybody.
He found all the articles of which he was in search--the saddle tucked
away in one corner of a bunk to serve as a pillow, the blankets spread
over them, and the bridle and lunch placed on a box near the head of the
bed, and, quickly shouldering them, he made his way out of the cabin in
the direction in which he had left his horse.

"Now," said Elam, as he strapped the saddle on the animal's back and
slipped the bridle into his mouth, "the next thing is something else,
and it's going to be far more dangerous than this. I am going to have
those furs. I need them more than they do. I have got the map of the
hiding-place of that nugget at my shanty, and some of them are going to
get hurt if I don't get it."

Elam kept out a portion of his lunch (the rest was strapped up in the
blankets, which were stowed away behind the saddle), eating it as he
galloped along, and this time he directed his course toward the willows
that lined the base of the foot-hills. At daylight he discovered
something--the track of an unshod pony. He looked all around, but there
was no one in sight. He dismounted and saw that the horse had been going
at full jump, and as there was dew on the ground, the tracks must have
been made before it fell. A little further on he found another, and by
comparing the two he made up his mind that they must have been made the
day before. They were going the same way that he was, and appeared to be
holding the direction of a long line of willows a few miles off. Elam's
hair seemed to rise on end. He could imagine how those painted warriors
had yelled and plied their whips in the endeavor to hunt down their
victims; for that they were in plain view of someone Elam could readily
affirm. He thought he could hear the yells, "Hi yah! yip, yip, yip!"
which the exultant savages sent up as a forerunner of what was coming.

"They got them in there as sure as the world," muttered Elam. "It's all
right so far, and I can go on without running the risk of seeing any of
them. I just know I shall see something after I get up there."

Elam put his horse into a lope and followed along after the trail as
boldly as though he had a right to be there. He didn't feel any fear,
for he knew that he was on the trail of the Indians instead of having
them upon his, and he knew they would not be likely to come back without
the prospect of some gain. Presently he came to the place where some of
the savages had dismounted and gone into the willows to fight their
victims on foot, and then something told him that if he got in there he
would find the bodies of the men who had robbed him of his furs. How
that little piece of woods must have rung to the savages' war-whoops!
But all was silent now. He led his horse a short distance into the
bushes and dismounted, following the trail of an Indian who had crept up
on all fours toward the place where the doomed men were concealed, and
presently came into a valley in which the undergrowth had been trampled
in every direction. Near the middle of the valley were two men who were
stretched out on the ground, dead. There was nothing on them to indicate
who they were, but Elam had no difficulty in recognizing them.

"Well, it is better so," said he sorrowfully. "The Indians have got you,
and that's all there is of it. Now my furs have gone, and I shall have
to go to Uncle Ezra's to get a grub-stake."

There were no signs of mutilation about them, as there would have been
if the men had fallen into the hands of the Indians when alive. The
Cheyennes had evidently been in a hurry, for all they had done was to
see that the men were dead, after which they had stripped them of their
clothes, stolen their guns and ammunition and furs, and gone off to hunt
new booty. In this case it promised to be Elam, who made a desperate
fight of it. The young hunter resolved that he would go into camp, and
he did, too, hitching his horse near the stream that ran through the
valley, just out of sight of the massacred men. He saw no ghosts, but
slept as placidly as if the field on which the savages had vented their
spite was a hundred miles away.

When he awoke, it was dark, and the peaceful moon was shining down upon
him through the tree-tops. He watered his horse, ate what was left of
the lunch, and began to work his way out of the valley, when he
discovered that both his nag and himself were sore from the effects of
their long run. He had gone a long distance out of his way to see what
the Cheyennes had done, and he didn't feel like bracing up to face the
eighty miles before him. His horse didn't feel like it either, for when
he stopped and allowed him to have his own way, he hung his head down
and went to sleep. The horse seemed to be rendered uneasy by the bandage
he wore round his neck, and when it was taken off he was more at his
ease.

It took Elam two days to make the journey to the camp where he had left
Tom Mason, for he did all of his travelling during the daytime, and
stopped over at some convenient place for the night. He was getting
hungry, but his horse was growing stronger everyday. He dared not shoot
at any of the numerous specimens of the jack-rabbit which constantly
dodged across his path, for fear that he would betray himself to some
marauding band of Indians, and not until he got within sight of Tom
Mason standing in the edge of the willows did he feel comparatively
safe. Tom gazed in astonishment while he told his story, and it was a
long time before he could get dinner enough to satisfy him.

"Thank goodness they have left you all right," said Elam, settling back
on his blanket with a hunk of corn bread and bacon in his uninjured hand
and a cup of steaming coffee in front of him. "Do you know that I have
worried about you more than I have about myself?"

"Well, how did those Indians look when they were following you?" asked
Tom, who had not yet recovered himself. His hand trembled when he poured
out the coffee so that one would think that he was the one who had had a
narrow escape from the savages. "Did they yell?"

"Yell? Of course it came faintly to my ears because they were so far
away, but if I had been close to them, I tell you I wouldn't have had
any courage left," said Elam, with a laugh. "I've got my saddle and
bridle, and that's something I did not expect to get."

"Was there no one in the sheep-herder's ranch to look for you?"

"If there had been, I wouldn't 'a' been here. There was nobody there at
all. I just went in and got my saddle, and that's all there was to it.
You see, I was on their trail, and they had passed over that ground once
and thought they had got everybody."

"Well, I am beaten. I never heard a whisper of an Indian since you went
away. It is lucky for me that they didn't know I was here. How did those
men look that were killed?"

"They were dead, of course. There was no mutilation about them, only
just enough to show who killed them. If the Indians had got hold of them
before they were dead, then you might have expected something. They
would have just thrown themselves to show how much agony they could put
them to. I never want to fall into the hands of the Indians alive. Do
you know that the soldiers always carry a derringer in their pockets?
Yes, they do, and that last shot is intended for themselves."

"By George!" said Tom, drawing a long breath. "Let us get out of here."

"Where will we go?"

"Let's go back to the States. I never was made to live out here."

"Hi yah! I couldn't make a living there."

"But you talk well enough to make a living anywhere. You won't find one
man in ten out here who talks as plainly as you do."

"That's all owing to my way of bring up. Ever since I was a little kid I
have been under the care of Uncle Ezra, who talks about as plain as most
men do."

"Well, let's go and see him."

"We'll go just as soon as this blizzard is over. It is coming now, and
in a few minutes you will see my horse coming in here."

"Is that the blizzard? Why, I thought it was snow."

"You go to sleep and see if you don't find snow on the ground in the
morning. There is one thing that you can bless your lucky stars for: the
Indians are safely housed up. They'll not think of going out plundering
while this blizzard lasts."

"They know when it is coming, I suppose?"

Elam replied that they did, and wrapped himself up in his blanket, while
Tom went out to throw more wood on the fire and to make an estimate of
the weather. The sky was clouded over, not making it so very difficult
to travel by night, the wind was in the south, and the rain was quietly
descending, as though it threatened a warm spring shower. It beat the
world how Elam could tell that this storm was three days off, that
before it got through everything would be "holded up," and that the snow
would be six inches deep. The horse came in about that time and took up
a position on the leeward side of the fire, where he settled himself
preparatory to going to sleep. Then Tom thought he had better go, too,
but the thrilling story to which he had listened took all the sleep out
of him. What a dreadful fate it would be for him to be killed out there
in the mountains, as those men were who stole Elam's furs, and no one
find his body until long after the thing had been forgotten! He fell
asleep while he was thinking about it, and when he awoke it was with a
chill, and a feeling that the storm had come sure enough. The wind was
in the north, and he could not see anything on account of the snow. He
didn't have as many blankets now as he did when he first struck the
mountains, for he had left a good portion of them in the gully. All he
had was his overcoat, and, wrapping himself up in it, he went to sleep
and forgot all about the blizzard.



CHAPTER XV.

UNCLE EZRA PUTS HIS FOOT DOWN.


Tom slept warm and comfortable that night, and perhaps the simple
presence of Elam had something to do with it. A boy who could go through
a twenty-mile race with Cheyennes, and have no more to say about it than
he did, would be a good fellow to have at his back in case trouble
arose. A person would not think he had been through such an encounter,
and had seen the bodies of two murdered men besides, for, when he awoke,
Elam was sitting up on his blanket and looking at his horse. He lay in
such a position that the threatening streak on the animal's neck, which
had come so near ending the race then and there and resulting in Elam's
capture, could be plainly seen.

"Halloa!" exclaimed Elam. "The Indians didn't get you last night, after
all. I tell you, if our soldiers could strike them now, they would have
an easy job of it. Now, there's that horse of mine. He has got a worse
hurt than I have, but he makes no fuss over it. I am anxious to find
Uncle Ezra, for he has some medicine that will cure it."

"But you can't go where he is--where is he, anyway?" said Tom.

"He is just about two days' journey over the mountains. I know where he
is, and I ought to have been there before. But, laws! he's quit looking
for me. If I don't show up at all, he won't worry."

"This storm is just fearful, isn't it?" said Tom, pulling his coat up
around his ears. "What do you suppose the soldiers are doing that were
sent out by the commander of that fort? Why, they will freeze to death."

"Do you think we are getting the full benefit of it here?" said Elam,
with a look of astonishment. "You just go out to the edge of the
evergreens and look around a bit. You see, we haven't got much snow
here, for your lean-to keeps it off; but go out where it has a fair
chance at you. By the way, where is my map?"

Tom replied that it was in the hollow tree, and speedily fished it out
for him; and while Elam fastened his eyes upon it, Tom went out to the
edge of the woods to see what the storm looked like on the plains. He
had been there scarcely a moment when he was glad to turn around and go
back. Their little grove of evergreens was just the spot for homeless
wanderers like themselves. The wind was cutting, and blew so hard that
Tom could not face it for an instant, and he dared not let go his hold
upon the branches at his side for fear that he would get lost. When he
got back to the fire, he was glad to heap more wood upon it, and get as
close to it as possible.

"I don't see how anybody can live out there," said Tom, with a shudder.
"I should think it would be their death."

"They don't live," said Elam. "They just camp somewhere and stay until
it blows over. I have been out in a storm that was worse than this, and
came through all right. You can just imagine what it must be out there
on the prairie."

All that day the boys remained idle in their lean-to, not daring to go
out after traps, and before they went to bed that night Elam decided
that, early the next morning, they would make an effort to reach Uncle
Ezra's. Their food was getting scarce, and they had no way to replenish
their stock. A part of the day was spent in hiding the things which they
could not take with them, for fear that somebody would come along and
steal them, and the rest of the time was devoted to Elam's stories. It
was a wonder to Tom how the boy had managed to get through so many
things and live. He didn't relate his adventures as though there was
anything great in them, but told them as a mere matter of fact. Anybody
could pass through such scenes if he only had the courage, but there was
the point. For the first time in his life Tom wished himself back in
Mississippi. Anyone might get into scrapes there, as Our Fellows got
into with Pete, the half-breed, or with Luke Redman of the Swamp
Dragoons, but there was always a prospect of their coming out alive.

On the morning of the next day a start was made as early as it was light
enough to see, Elam leading the horse and Tom following close behind
him. The most of their way led through the gully, and to Tom's delight
there was hardly any snow on the way; nor was there any game, although
they kept a bright lookout for it. They camped for two nights in the
foot-hills, Elam working his way in and out of the gullies, never once
stopping and never once getting into a pocket. On the last morning they
ate every bit of the corn bread and bacon.

"They aint far off now," said Elam. "About noon we'll be among friends.
You will find two boys there just about your size who will give you more
insight into this life than I ever could. You see they know what you
want to talk about."

After proceeding about a mile of their journey Elam stopped, placed his
hand to his mouth, and gave a perfect imitation of a coyote's yell. If
Tom had not seen him do it he would have thought there was a wolf close
upon them. A little further on he gave another, and this time there was
an answer, faint and far off, but still there was something about it
that did not sound just like a coyote.

"They're there," said Elam. "I would know that yell among a thousand.
It's Carlos Burton."

"Who is he? You never mentioned him before."

"Well, he is a sharp one. He came out here long after I did, and had
sense enough to go to herding cattle, while here I am and haven't got
anything except the clothes I stand in. It's all on account of that
nugget, too. If the robbers had stolen it and got well away with it I
might have been in the same fix. Well, it's all in a lifetime."

"I should think you would give it up," said Tom. "You go working after
it day after day--why, you must have been after it fourteen years."

"Shall I give it up when I've got the map of it right here?" said Elam,
tapping his ditty-bag, which was hung across his chest under his shirt.
"I am nearer to it now than I have been before, and you had better talk
to those who have made fun of me all these years. 'Oh, Elam's a crank;
let him alone, and when he gets tired looking for the nugget he'll come
to his senses and go to herding cattle.' That's what the folks around
here have had to say about me ever since I can remember; but I'll get
the start of all of them, you see if I don't."

Elam began to look wild when he began to talk about the nugget, and Tom
was glad to change the subject of the conversation.

"Who is the other fellow?" said he. "You said there were two of them."

"The other fellow is a tender-foot; he don't claim to be anything else.
I'll bet you, now that I have got over my excitement, that I have been
talking about his father. His father commands a post within forty miles
of the place where he is now visiting, but I don't know one soldier from
another. They all look alike to me, and I didn't think of the
relationship they bore to each other. No matter; he treated me mighty
shabby, and I shall always think hard of soldiers after that."

At the end of half an hour they came out of the scrub oaks and found
themselves in front of a neat little cabin which reminded Tom of the
negro quarters he had seen in Mississippi. There were two boys standing
in front of the cabin, and Tom had no trouble in picking out Carlos
Burton. There was an independent air about him that somehow did not
belong to the tender-foot, and when Elam introduced him in his off-hand
way, this boy was the first to welcome him.

"This fellow is Tom Mason, and I want you to know him and treat him
right. He got into a little trouble down in Mississippi where he used to
live, and came out here to get clear of it. Know him, boys."

The boys, surprised as they were, were glad to shake hands with Tom,
because he was Elam's friend; but they were still more anxious to know
how Elam had come among them for the fourth time robbed of his furs, and
what he had to say about it. There were some things about him that
didn't look exactly right. There was his hand, which was still done up
the way the doctor left it, and the mark on his horse's neck, both of
which proclaimed that Elam had been in something of a fight; but they
didn't push him, for they knew they would hear the whole of his story
when he got inside of the cabin.

What I have written here is the true history of what happened to Tom
Mason after he gave Joe Coleman the valise, containing the five thousand
dollars, and the double-barrel shotgun; and I have told the truth, too,
in regard to Elam and his last attempt at grub-staking. It took him
pretty near all day to finish the story, and now I can drop the third
person and go on with my narrative just as it happened. Of course we
were all amazed at what Elam had to tell, and especially were we hurt to
hear him speak so of Ben's father; for he it was who was in command of
the post. It would have done no good to talk to Elam, for very likely he
had worse things than that to say about the major. We let him go on and
tell his story in any way he thought proper, calculating to make it all
right with Ben afterward.

"Now, Tom [he always addressed everybody by his Christian name], tell us
something more of your story," said Uncle Ezra, who had the map of the
hiding-place of the nugget spread out on his knee. "You haven't done
anything to make you a fugitive from home, and I see that Elam has been
letting you down kinder easy. What have you done?"

It did not take Tom more than fifteen minutes to narrate as much of his
history as he was willing that strangers should know, and Elam never let
on that he knew more; he was the closest-mouthed fellow I ever saw. Tom
told all about the story of the five thousand dollars, and declared that
he had sent it back to the uncle of whom he had stolen it, but said he
could not bear the "jibes" that would be thrown at him every time his
uncle got mad at him. There were men out there who had done worse than
that.

"That's very true," said Uncle Ezra, looking down at the map he held on
his knee. "But you haven't done anything so very bad, and I would advise
you to go home and live it down."

"No, sir, I shan't do it," said Tom emphatically. "I'll stay here until
he gets over his pet and then I'll go back. Besides, I can't go. I am
under promise to stand by Elam until he finds his nugget."

"And do you imagine that this paper will tell you where it is?"

"That's what we are depending on."

"You will go, Carlos?" said Elam, addressing me.

"Yes, sir," I answered. "When you dig up that nugget I shall be right
within reach of you."

"Now, uncle," began Ben, who was in a high state of commotion, "I just
know you will let me----"

"Now, now!" interrupted Uncle Ezra, waving his hands up and down in the
air as the major had done when he refused to interfere with the stolen
furs. "Now, just wait till I tell you. You shan't go!"

"I just know, if my father was here----" began Ben.

"Now, wait till I tell you. Your father would say, No! Here's Indians
all around you, and you want to go right into the midst of them. And
going off with Elam Storm! That's the worst yet. Why, your father has
sent out a squad of cavalry to drive these fellows back where they came
from, and what would I say to him if I should let you go philandering
off there? No, sir, you can't go. I shall send word to him in the
morning and let him know you are all right. I suppose you will need a
horse, Tom, seeing that the Red Ghost has spoilt your bronco for you."

"I should like to have one," replied Tom. "What do you think that Red
Ghost is, anyway?"

"Now, wait till I tell you. I don't know."

As it was almost supper time and we had not had anything to eat since
Elam and Tom came to the cabin, and Uncle Ezra wanted to change the
subject of the conversation into another channel, he gave me a nod which
I understood, and I went about preparing the eatables. It was surprising
how quickly everybody became acquainted with Tom. He and Elam had passed
through several scenes which were familiar enough to me, but which
sounded like romance when recounted for Ben's benefit, and it was no
wonder that the latter looked upon Tom as a person well worth listening
to. He carried on a lengthy conversation with him while I was getting
supper, while Elam smoked and talked with Uncle Ezra. He was trying to
make Uncle Ezra see that after waiting for so many years chance had
thrown into his power the very thing for which he was looking, and
sometimes he got so interesting that I was tempted to let the supper go
and sit down and listen to him.

"There is something hidden there, and that's all there is about it,"
said Elam emphatically. "You can't make me believe that a man would
carry around a map of that kind when there was nothing to it, and he
would say he was ruined if he didn't get it."

"But where did he get it in the first place?" asked Uncle Ezra.

"If I could see the man he shot I could answer that question."

"But how did he know that the man had it at all?"

"Ask me something hard," said Elam. "The man may have told him that he
had it and refused to give it up; or he may have gone into partnership,
just the same as Tom has gone into partnership with me. That is
something I don't know anything about, but I just know there is
something hidden there, and I'll dig the whole place over but I shall
find it. If three months' supply of grub won't do me, I'll come back and
get another. You will stake me, of course?"

"Sure. I'll stake you if it takes the last thing I've got. But I'll tell
you one thing, Elam, and that aint two, that you won't make anything by
it. You had better stay at home and go to herding cattle."

Just as long as they talked the hard-headed old frontiersman always came
to this advice, and Elam always dismissed it with a laugh. Finally he
said, with more seriousness than I had ever seen him assume before:

"I will tell you what I'll do, Uncle Ezra: I will follow this thing up,
and if nothing comes of it, I will take your advice. But I will go to
Texas. I can't stay around where that nugget is without making an effort
to find it. If you had had it dinged at you for years, you would feel
the same way."

And I could swear that that was the truth, for Uncle Ezra had often said
to me that if he had had the nugget preached at him from the time he was
old enough to remember anything, he would have been as hot after it as
Elam was. Nothing would have turned him away from it. Uncle Ezra knew
that Elam was in earnest when he said this, and reached over and shook
hands with him; and after that the subject was dropped. In the meantime
Ben and Tom were getting acquainted, and especially was Ben deeply
interested whenever the other spoke of the Red Ghost. Tom had seen it,
had a fair shot at it, and could not imagine what had taken it off in
such a hurry, if it had been a flesh-eating animal; but it was not, and
so it uttered a scream and went into the bushes. It must have been a
camel, because that was the only thing that Tom knew of that had a hump
on its back.

"But camels don't run wild in this country," said Ben.

"Now, wait till I tell you," put in Uncle Ezra, who had got through
talking with Elam. "A good many years ago the government brought over
some camels thinking that they could make them useful in carrying
supplies across the desert; but, somehow or other, it turned out a
failure, and, seeing that they couldn't sell them, they turned them
loose to shift for themselves. And that's the way they come to be wild
here."

"Well, that bangs me!" exclaimed Ben, who was profoundly astonished.
"But supposing they did turn them out to become wild, they wouldn't
pitch into horses, would they?"

"I don't know anything about that," returned Uncle Ezra. "I do know that
there is a camel around here, that he is red in color, that he has
frightened the lives out of half a dozen people, and that he has been
shot at numberless times. He does pitch into every horse and mule that
he gets a chance at, and I don't know what makes him."

"Well, I never heard of a camel doing that before," said Ben, settling
back on his blanket. "If you get another show at it, Tom, make a sure
shot, so that you can tell us what it is."

You may be sure that I was glad to hear the old frontiersman talk in
this way. He had not seen the camel, but he had seen some scientific men
who had seen him, and he was glad to accept what they had to say in
regard to the Red Ghost. I, for one, resolved that I would never let it
get away, if I once got a shot at it.

The evening was passed in much the same way, with talks on various
subjects, and it was a late hour when we sought our blankets. We all
slept soundly, all except Tom, who awoke about midnight, and, to save
his life, could not go to sleep again. He rolled and tossed on his
blankets, and then, for fear that he might awaken some of us, concluded
that he would go out and look at the weather. He pulled on his
moccasons, opened the door, and went out, but on the threshold he
stopped, for every drop of blood in him seemed to rush back upon his
heart, leaving his face as pale as death itself. He was not frightened,
but there, within less than twenty-five yards of him, stood the Red
Ghost. He stood with his head forward, as if he were listening to some
sounds that came to him from the horses' quarters, which, you will
remember, were in the scrub-oaks behind the cabin. It was no wonder that
Tom was excited, for there it was as plain as daylight. It looked as big
as three or four horses.

"By George! I wish it would stay there just a minute longer. If I make
out to get my rifle----"

With a step that would not have awakened a cricket, Tom stepped back
into the cabin and laid hold of the first rifle he came to. It was not
his own; it was Uncle Ezra's Henry--a rifle that would shoot sixteen
times without being reloaded. With this in his hands he walked quietly
back, and there stood the object just as he had left it. It did not seem
to hear Tom at all. Fearful of being seen, Tom raised his gun with a
very slow and steady aim, and covered the spot just where he thought the
heart ought to be. One second he stood thus, but it was long enough for
Tom, who pressed the trigger.

"There!" said Tom, drawing a long breath. "If I didn't make a good shot
that time I never did. Hold on! It is coming right for me!"

The animal was fatally hurt, and the long bounds it made, and the shrill
screams it uttered, would have taxed Tom's nerves, if he had had any. To
throw out the empty shell and insert another one was slowly and
deliberately done, and the second ball struck it in the breast, when Tom
thought that another bound would land it squarely on the top of him.
That settled it. It stayed right there, and all he could see of the Red
Ghost was the twigs and leaves which it threw up during its struggles.
In the meantime there was a terrific commotion in the cabin, and his
three friends came rushing out to see what was the matter.

"Who's got my rifle!" exclaimed Uncle Ezra. "Now, wait till I tell you,"
he shouted, while lost in astonishment. "He's got the Red Ghost; by gum,
if he aint!"

They drew as near the struggling animal as they could, while Uncle Ezra
went in to bring out a brand from the fire to examine it, and Tom stood
by, not a little elated. It was the first desperate adventure he had
had, and he had stood up to the mark like a man. When the animal had
ceased its contortions, and the firebrands were brought out so that we
could examine it closely, it was curious to see what different views the
hunters took of their prize. Elam could hardly be made to believe that
it was not a ghost. He stood at a distance while the others were
inspecting it, and when he saw they were handling it, he remarked that
the bullet he had sent into its neck ought to have finished it when he
got it. Ben examined its legs and Tom felt of its hump. He said that
when an Arab had a long journey to make he always examined the hump to
see if his camel was in good condition, while an American always looked
to his horse's hoofs. He did not think this animal was in a fit
condition to travel, although it had come seventy-five miles since Tom
had last seen it, picking up its living on the way.

"Tom, you will do to tie to," said Elam, when he became satisfied that
the animal was dead. "Shake!"

"Thank you," said Tom, seeing that his hands were safely out of reach.
"If it's all the same to you I'll not shake hands with you. I did it
once back there in the mountains, and I haven't got over it."

"Well, Tom, you certainly have done something to be proud of," said
Ezra. "Let's go in and take a smoke. We'll finish our examination by
daylight."



CHAPTER XVI.

A NEW EXPEDITION.


There wasn't much sleeping done in the cabin that night, there was so
much to talk about. To say that the hunters were very much pleased over
the success of Tom's lucky shots would be putting it very mildly. Elam
was much elated to know it was a camel, an animal he had never seen
before, and not a genuine ghost, who had stood between him and the
finding of the nugget. He was not satisfied until he had burned up three
or four brands in going out to see the object to make sure it was there
yet. To tell the truth, this Red Ghost had often stood between Elam and
the accomplishment of his hopes; and as much as he desired to possess
the nugget he did not dare face it alone.

"It is there yet," said Elam, coming in once more and throwing a
half-burned chunk upon the fire. "Tom, you have made me your everlasting
debtor. Now I hope the finding of the nugget will go the same way."

"I hope I can have the same effect upon your other work," said Tom
modestly. "If I do, you will call me a lucky omen."

"What is an 'omen'?" asked Elam, who had never heard the word before.

"Why, it is an occurrence supposed to show the character of some future
event. That is about as near as I can come to it. If I am with you, you
will find the nugget without the least trouble: if I am not, you won't."

"Well, I'll see that you don't get very far from me till I find out what
this map means. There is something hidden there, and I know it."

It was while we were talking in this way that daylight came, and I began
getting breakfast while Elam and Uncle Ezra smoked, and Ben and Tom were
packing up the skins which had fallen to Ben's rifle during the hunt. I
could see that Ben was sadly disappointed in not being permitted to
accompany Elam on his search for the nugget, but like the soldier he
was, he gave right up. He knew that his father did not believe in such
things anyway, and very likely his refusal would have been more pointed
than Uncle Ezra's. When the breakfast was over all hands turned to and
washed the dishes and put them away. We calculated to visit the camp
again during the winter, and, if we did, we wanted to know what we had
to go on. Then we went out to saddle our horses and take a last look at
the Red Ghost.

"Are we going to leave this thing here?" asked Ben.

"Sure!" replied Uncle Ezra. "We can't carry it with us."

"I'll bet I don't leave it all here," said Elam, going into the cabin
and returning with an axe in his hand. "The folks down there won't
believe that we killed anything, and I am going to have one of the
feet."

The thing was hideous when we came to look at it by daylight, and
especially the great hoofs with which it had tramped so far. They were
lacerated in every direction, and one cut had hardly had time to heal
before it got another. Elam plied the axe vigorously, and in a few
moments each boy had a foot which he was to take along to show to the
people "down there." Finally Uncle Ezra said he would take the head. It
was scarred and seamed all over, but he thought that anyone who had seen
a camel would be sure to recognize it. Then we brought up the horses,
but I tell you it took two men to saddle them. They couldn't bear the
scent of the camel; I had to take my nag out of sight of it, and it was
a long time before he quit snorting. With a good deal of merriment we
got them all saddled at last, and with Tom and Ben riding my horse and
Elam's, we bid good-by to our camp in the mountains. We had twenty miles
to go and then we were among friends again.

"Say," said Elam, when he had allowed the others to get so far ahead
that there was no danger of their overhearing our conversation, "I don't
think I am crazy; do you?"

"I never thought so," said I, although I knew there had been some talk
of it in the settlement. "I was sure if that nugget was there you would
find it. I shouldn't have offered to go with you if I had thought you
were crazy."

"You have seen the map and know just what there is onto it?" continued
Elam.

"I certainly have."

"And you know the place where it starts is over there by those springs?"

"I do certainly."

"And do you think that those men would carry around a map of that kind
unless there was something on it?" said Elam, going over the argument he
had used the night before with Uncle Ezra.

"No, I don't think they would. And it's your ditty-bag that they took
from you when you were shot."

"I know it; and many's the time I have thought of it, too, and never
expected to see it again. Thank goodness, I have two men with me who
don't think I am crazy! I have told Uncle Ezra that I never would give
it up again until I have that nugget in my hands. I know that gully up
there, and it is a pretty big place. Now, that is all I have to say. If
you want to know anything more, now is the time to ask me."

"Don't you think that there are other parties up there, hunting for it?"
I asked, knowing that his story had been noised abroad. "Just think; you
have been looking for it fourteen years."

"Longer than that; and I ought to get it, for they say that perseverance
conquers all things. As for other parties looking for it, why, they can
get it if they want it. But where's the map?"

"That's so. I think you have got the only one there is in existence."

"I only hope there are other fellows looking for the nugget," said Elam,
shifting his rifle from one shoulder to the other, "because we won't
have to work where they have been. It will make matters so much easier
for us."

After that Elam kept still about the nugget, and during the whole of the
twenty miles I never heard him speak of it again. We accomplished the
journey just about dark, Elam and I walking all the way, and Tom I know
was glad to get back among civilized people once more. My headquarters
were right there with Uncle Ezra, for I had only four men to take care
of my small herd, and didn't think it best to get too far away from him.
We rode up to the shanty and began to dismount, when the door flew open
and the foreman of the ranch appeared on the threshold.

"Well, I declare, if there aint Uncle Ezra!" he exclaimed in a
stentorian voice. "What you got? Enough furs to load one horse with?"

While the foreman was speaking he untied the bundle of skins and laid it
upon the porch, when he happened to discover Tom Mason. He did not say
anything, but nodded to Tom, and then turned his attention to his
employer's horse, whom he had unsaddled while one was thinking about it.

"Are you here all alone?" asked Uncle Ezra.

"All alone!" replied the foreman. "You see, there has been a blizzard
lately, and we thought we had better look up the sheep. I have just got
in. What have you got in that bag?"

"Something that will make your eyes bulge out," replied Uncle Ezra.
"Wait till we get in, and we will show it to you."

The horses, being unsaddled, were turned loose to go where they chose;
the foreman carried Ben's bundle of skins into the cabin, and Uncle Ezra
brought up the rear with the bag containing what was left of the prize.
There was a fire burning brightly at one end of the room, and Tom and
Ben drew camp-stools up in front of it to get some heat, while Elam and
I took our overcoats off and waited for Uncle Ezra to turn out the
contents of the bag. We waited until the old frontiersman had hung up
his coat and hat where they belonged and seated himself on a camp-stool
before the fire, and then the head and four feet of the camel were
tumbled out on the floor.

"What in the name of common sense are those?" cried the foreman in
astonishment.

"They are part of the Red Ghost," said Uncle Ezra; and then he went on
to tell the story much as I have told it, although he put in some
additions of his own. The foreman was profoundly amazed. Not daring to
use his hands, he used a poker to move the things about, so that he
could see on all sides of them. The antics he went through were enough
to make the hunters laugh.

"What do you think now about my being crazy?" demanded Elam. "I've shot
at that thing, and I don't see why I didn't get him; but I can see now
why it was. He was so big that a bullet had to be put in the right place
to get him."

"That's about the case with everything I have shot, Elam," said the
foreman. "I had to put the ball in the right place, or I didn't get him.
But you have removed a heap from my mind. Who shot him?"

"Here's the man, right here."

Seeing that the foreman began to take a deeper interest in Tom after
that, Uncle Ezra introduced him, and he failed to say that Tom had got
into a "little trouble" down in Mississippi where he used to live, and
had come out West to get clear of it. Uncle Ezra didn't think that was
any of his business. He said that Tom wanted to see new sights, and he
reckoned he had already had his fill of them, having been lost in the
mountains and shot the Red Ghost besides. Now, he was going into
partnership with Elam after the nugget, and Uncle Ezra thought he had a
boy who could be depended upon. The foreman shook hands with Tom, and
said he was glad to see him. Then he wanted to know whether they had
eaten supper yet.

"Well, no," replied Uncle Ezra. "You see, we started from our camp up
there sooner than we expected. Elam has got a map telling him where to
look to find his nugget."

"Ah, get out!" said the foreman. He had heard so many things about a
"map" that he did not believe a word of it.

"Well, he has, sure enough. It came from the man who tried to rob him.
And you haven't heard anything about the Indians, have you?"

"Indians!" exclaimed the foreman. "Have they broken out?"

"Just give your knife to Elam and sit down," said Uncle Ezra. "It
appears to me that we have heard of a heap of things that you don't know
anything about."

The man gave Elam his knife, which he had in his hand to begin work with
upon the ham he had laid upon the table, and sat down.

"I wondered all the time what was the matter with Elam's hand," said he.
"I hope the Indians didn't shoot him."

"Didn't they, though?" said Elam. "You just wait and hear Uncle Ezra
tell the story."

It was a long narrative that the old frontiersman had to tell, and I saw
that Elam was so much interested in it that he forgot all about the
supper, and I got up and assisted him; and that was all he wanted. He
left me to do the work, and sat down. The foreman heard Uncle Ezra
through without interruption, and then turned and gave Elam a good
looking over. After that he got up and assisted me with the supper.

"So Elam has really got a map of the place where that nugget is hid?"
were the first words he uttered. He didn't seem to care a straw about
the Indians, but he did care about the gold. "I wish I knew the man he
shot to get it."

After that the evening was just what you would expect of one spent in a
hunter's camp, or one passed in a sheep-herder's ranch, which was the
same thing. We ate supper; then those who were inclined to the weed
enjoyed their good-night smoke, and talked of ghosts, Indians, and
sheep-herder's life until we were all tired out and went to bed. We had
regular bunks to sleep in, and could thrash around all we had a mind to
without fear of disturbing anyone else. The foreman got up once to
replenish the fire and take a look at the weather, and I heard him say,
when he crawled back into his bunk, that it was a clear, cold
night--just the one that sheep enjoy.

When I awoke I found the foreman busy in the storeroom in putting up our
three months' supplies and Uncle Ezra engaged in cooking breakfast. Ben
was seated at one end of the table, engaged in writing a letter to his
father, and Elam had gone out after a certain stockman to carry it to
the fort for him. It was dark, and you couldn't see a thing.

"I think it best to let the boy's father know when he is well off," said
Uncle Ezra, returning my greeting. "It aint everybody who would go to
that trouble, I confess--sending a lone man off in a country that has
been infested with Indians. But I know how it is myself. If I had a
boy----"

"You have got one," I said. "There's Elam."

"Elam!" said the frontiersman in a tone of contempt. "Elam went to work
and got himself into a fuss without saying a word to me about it. Elam!
now he's got a map that he thinks will show him where the gold is
hidden."

"But don't you think there is something hidden there?" asked Ben.

"Now, wait till I tell you. I don't know; but every scrap he gets hold
of he thinks it is a map. That's what makes me mad at Elam. And you,
dog-gone you! You have got better sense than that."

I had heard all I wanted to out of Uncle Ezra. It was plain that he
didn't think there was anything in that map. Well, as Elam said, it was
all in a lifetime. My time wasn't worth anything to me, for I had men to
do the work, and if I made a botch of it, if there wasn't anything to be
made by digging up that gully, there was one thing out of the way. Elam
was bound to become a cattle-herder in case this thing failed. He was
determined to go to Texas, for he couldn't live there and have that
nugget thrown at him by every man he met, and I would go with him. Uncle
Ezra had often made offers for my cattle, intending to leave
sheep-herding on account of the wolves, and invest all his extra money
in steers, and if this thing turned out a failure he could have them and
welcome. I would be as deep in the mud as Elam was, and I didn't care to
have the thing thrown up at me all the time. Texas was the land of
promise with us fellows, any way. The fellows there had got into the way
of driving cattle to northern markets and selling them, and in that way
we could at least see our friends once every year. So I didn't care what
Uncle Ezra said about it.

In about an hour Elam came back with the stockman of whom he had been in
search. His name was Sandy; I never heard him called by any other name,
and if his pluck only equalled his red hair and whiskers he certainly
had lots of it. Of course we had to go through with the Red Ghost and
Tom's being lost, the discovery of the map and Elam's escape from the
Indians, but Sandy never said a word about it. He just sat on his
camp-stool with his elbows resting on his knees, and looked up at Uncle
Ezra. When the latter got through with his story he simply said:

"Where's the letter?"

Of course it was arranged that Sandy should go with us as far as the
canyon that led to the springs, and beyond that he was to take care of
himself. With his letter tucked away in his pocket, he shook Ben by the
hand, and told him that his father would receive what he had written by
noon the next day; and then we all mounted and rode off. Tom had been
supplied with a pair of boots to take the place of his moccasons, and
rode a horse that belonged to Uncle Ezra. We had two mules with us, Elam
leading the one and I the other, which carried our supplies and also our
digging tools; for we intended to dig as no people had ever dug before
for that nugget.

"I hope you will get it, boys," said Sandy, as he lifted his hat to us
when we reached the canyon that branched off from his trail. "But I have
my doubts."

"Oh, of course we're cranks!" said Elam.

"I never said that of you," said Sandy reproachfully. "I always said
that if the nugget was there you'd get it."

"And how am I going to find out where the nugget is unless I have a
map?" demanded Elam. "I've got one now, and if I make a failure of this
thing, I am going to Texas. When you see me again I'll have the nugget.
Good-by."

We saw no Indians, although we kept a bright lookout for them, and about
three o'clock in the afternoon arrived at the springs, for I do not know
what else to call them. We had had no dinner, intending to leave it
until we got to our camping place, and while Tom and I unsaddled and
staked out the horses, Elam strolled away with his rifle on his shoulder
to look up the springs. He was gone fully an hour, and when he came back
he set his rifle down and never said a word. I knew that something was
the matter, but I thought I would wait until he got ready to tell it. He
ate his dinner; he ate a good hearty one, too, so that the news he had
brought did not interfere with his appetite, and filled his pipe; and
then I knew that something was coming.

"Carlos," said he, as he stretched his legs out in front of him, "those
springs have all been tampered with."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"They have been tampered with the same as this one has," continued Elam,
pointing to the spring at which our horses had drank. "All the stuff and
leaves have been pulled out of them."

"Well, what of it?"

"What of it? It means that somebody has been going in on our trail."

"All right; let it be so. You found all the springs, didn't you? We're
on their trail, and if we overtake them at the end of a week we will see
what we can do with them. You said yourself that it would make things
easier for us."

"Yes, I know I said it, but I don't like to see that people are so hot
after that nugget."

It did seem to me that everyone had got wind of that nugget, and were
going after it at the same time. How it came about I did not know. Here
they had gone on for two years and let Elam dig where he had a mind to,
and now when he knew where the gold was, other people knew it too and
were determined to have it. I suggested that it might be those men who
had robbed him, but Elam laughed at it.

"Those men never came near here," said Elam. "Otherwise, how did they
strike my camp fifty miles away? It has been done by somebody nearer
than that, and has been done by somebody within three weeks, too."

From this time out (we were all of two weeks on the trail) Elam was
moody. He would ride all day and wouldn't say a word to either of us,
and when we made camp at night he would go off and stay until dark. And
the worst of it was, we camped every single night right where the men
had slept. I began to shake in my boots, and did not wonder at Elam's
contrary mood. In fact we were all that way. It was very seldom that we
exchanged an opinion with one another. Elam kept his map constantly at
hand and referred to it at every turn in the road. Sometimes he would be
gone all day, and we would hear nothing of him until night, when he
would come in, ask for supper, and roll himself up in his blanket and go
to sleep. Things went on in this way for two weeks, as I said, and then
one day, as we were watering our horses at the brook that ran through
the canyon, we were suddenly surprised by the appearance of two men who
stood on the opposite bank. They were a hard-looking set, but then that
was to be expected in a country where all men lived out of doors. To
show that they were friendly they threw their rifles into the hollow of
their arms.

"Howdy, pard?" said one.

"Howdy?" replied Elam. As he was the chief man we allowed him to do all
the talking.

"You're just the men we wanted to see," said the man in a delighted
tone. "We haven't had anything to eat since yisterday. Will ye give us a
bite?"

"Sure!" replied Elam. "What are you doing so far away in the mountains?"

"We got lost, and are now trying to find our way out. This stream leads
to some water on the prairie, I reckon? How far is the fort from here?"

Elam made some reply, I didn't know what it was, while I began to look
the men over to see if I could discover any signs of their being lost.
Their moccasons were whole, or as much so as could be expected, and the
wear and tear of their buckskin shirts was no more than our own. They
were strangers to me, and I confess that I was not at all pleased to see
them. The talk about their being lost was one thing that did the
business for me. The men were hunters or trappers on the face of them;
they never would be taken for anything else, and the idea of their
getting bewildered in the mountains that they had probably passed over a
dozen times was a little too far fetched. I caught a glimpse of Elam's
face as he was leading his horse up the opposite bank, and there was a
look on it that boded mischief.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE NUGGET IS FOUND.


"Where are your horses?" I demanded.

"Horses? We aint got none," replied the man.

"Somebody must have grub-staked you," I continued. "They never sent you
into the mountains to get lost."

"We grub-staked ourselves," answered the man impatiently. "But I'll tell
you what's the matter with you. Somebody has grub-staked you, and sent
you in here to search for gold, and I want to know which one of you is
Elam Storm. Speak quick!"

The next thing that happened was a little short of bewildering. In less
time than it takes to tell it, Elam and I were covered with the muzzles
of two cocked rifles, thus making it plain to me that the men had seen
us, and hastily made up their plans what to do with us. They couldn't
have moved so quickly if they hadn't. They paid no attention to Tom, but
covered Elam and me. All they said was:

"Don't you move, Tender-foot. You may save the life of one, but you will
be a goner in the end. Now, drop your guns right where you stand."

In an instant Elam and I laid down our rifles, and Tom did the same. It
was too close a call to do otherwise, for a suspicious move on the part
of one of us would have sent us to kingdom come in short order. There
was "shoot" in the men's eyes, and we saw it plain enough.

"Now," said the leader, "go over there and set down, away from your
guns. Which one of you is Elam Storm?"

"My name is Toby Johnson," replied Elam, speaking before anybody else
had a chance to open his mouth. "I don't deny that I am sent up here to
prospect for gold; but I don't see much chance of finding any."

"And what's your name?" demanded the leader, turning to me.

It was a little time before I could speak. Elam's plan for throwing them
off the scent was a good one, but it came so sudden that it fairly took
my breath away.

"I am Carlos Burton," I replied.

"Burton! I know you," said the man, who hardly knew whether to be
delighted or otherwise at the discovery he had made; and then all of a
sudden it flashed upon me that here was the man who had stolen my
cattle. How I wished I had my rifle in my hands! There would have been
one cattle-thief less in the world, I bet you; but, then, what good
would it have done? I would have been gone up, too, for the other man
still held his cocked rifle in his hands.

"Ah, yes! Burton," continued the leader, "Do you remember one of the
fellows who took some cattle away from you once?"

"I didn't see the men, but I have heard what sort of looking fellows
they were. I should like to see you under different circumstances."

"Well, I don't know but you will, but I doubt it. What sort of appearing
fellow is that Elam Storm? Seen him, either of you?"

"I don't know him," said Elam. "I never heard of him. I am a stranger in
these parts."

"Seeing that neither of you is Elam Storm, perhaps you may have
something about you that tells you where to go to find his nugget. Stand
up and put your hands above your head. You have got a ditty-bag about
you?"

"Yes, sir, and there it is," said Elam, rising to his feet and throwing
his bag outside his shirt, so that the man could examine it.

Well, there! the turning point had been reached at last, and Elam was
the one who helped it along. Tom was utterly confounded, and I was so
amazed and provoked that I hid my face from the men by resting my elbows
on my knees and looking down at the ground. Of course Elam's map was
found, there was no doubt about that. I saw him have it in his hand not
half an hour before, and was positive that he put it in the bag out of
sight. With that gone we were as powerless as the two men were. I
listened, but could not hear him say anything about the map. He took the
bag off Elam's neck and up-ended it on the ground. There were a pipe,
some tobacco, and some matches, and that was all there was in it. He put
them all back, after helping himself to a generous chew of the weed, and
turned to Tom and myself; but as we didn't have any bags he let us go.

"You have been duped, fellows," said the leader. "Who sent you here,
anyway?"

"Uncle Ezra," said Elam.

"Ah, yes! He's a great chap for such things. And you'll meet Elam
somewhere up there, and you want to look out that he doesn't put a
bullet into you. He thinks he's got a dead sure thing on that gold."

"Were you sent out here to hunt for it?" asked Elam, and I held my
breath in suspense, waiting for his answer. I wanted to find out who was
at the bottom of this matter.

"Well, that's neither here nor there," said the man. "We're here, and
that's enough for anybody to know. Here's Burton, now. I did steal some
cattle from him because I was hard up, but I don't want him to go on and
get fooled in this way. And you'll get fooled as sure as you live. Now,
we don't want anything to eat. We have got everything we want out here
in the rocks to last us to the fort; and if you'll say you won't shoot
at us, we'll give you your guns."

"I won't shoot at you," said Elam. "You have given me a point to go on,
and I don't know but I had better turn around and go back. Here's a
tender-foot come out here to see the country----"

"All right. Go on, and let him dig away some of the landslides until he
gets sick of them. He won't get nothing, I bet you. Now, suppose you
take your creeters and go on your way. We can have a fair view of you
for a quarter of a mile, and that's all we want."

Elam at once picked up his gun, mounted his horse and rode away, leading
one of the mules, leaving Tom and I to follow at our leisure. I noticed
that the two men eyed me rather sharply. They didn't know how I felt at
being reduced to poverty, and they were ready to nip in the bud any move
that I took to be even with them. I didn't feel very good over it, you
may imagine, and when I got on my horse I couldn't resist an inclination
to say a word to them.

"I hear that two of the men who engaged with you in that cattle-thieving
business were hanged for horse-stealing," I said.

"Has that story got around down here?" said one of the men.

"Yes; and I am very sorry that they were dealt with in that way. I
wanted to get even with them myself. It seems as though those six
thousand dollars didn't go very far with you."

"Well, go on now, for we don't want to take this matter into our own
hands. We will wait until you get up to the turn in the canyon, and then
you had better look out."

I rode on up the gully after Tom and Elam, and when I got up to the turn
I looked back. The men were not in sight. Elam rode a little way further
and then dismounted, preparatory to going into camp.

"There were two things that happened to-day that I did not think
possible," said I, throwing myself out of my saddle in a disgusted
humor. "One was that Elam would give up when he saw himself cornered."

"I saw at the start that they did not want to hurt anything," said Elam.
"Suppose we had resisted them; where would we be now?"

"And another thing, I did not think it possible for me to stand near the
man who stole my cattle without putting a chunk of lead into him. He
didn't say who he was until after he had charge of my rifle, did he?"

"No, but I tell you you wouldn't have made anything by trying to shoot
him. If we had made the least attempt to cock a gun, it would have been
good-by. Those fellows were not fools."

"And what made Elam deny his identity?" said Tom. "You said you were
Toby Johnson."

"And what became of his map?" I chimed in. "I saw him have it a short
time before they came up. What did you do with it, Elam?"

"It's there, close to where I was sitting on the rock. When we think we
have given them time to get away, I'll go back there and get it. I
didn't want them to find it on me."

"And do you say that you took it out of your bag and threw it on the
rocks?" said Tom in utter amazement. "I sat close to you all the while,
and I never saw you do anything like it."

"No; I took it out of my pocket," said Elam. "The name I gave, Toby
Johnson, saved them from handling me mighty rough."

"Well, now I am beaten!" I exclaimed.

"You see, if I had told them what my name was, they would have said at
the start that I had some sort of a map with me, and would have hazed
till I give it up. But they would never have got it," said Elam quietly,
and there was deep determination in his words. "But I know one thing,
and that aint two. Those fellows have left their picks and spades up
here. They got tired of them and didn't mean to take them back."

"Who were they, anyway?" asked Tom. "They were not the men who stole the
skins."

"Now, wait until I tell you; I don't know."

"One of them might have been the man who got shot," I suggested.

"There are a good many things connected with this nugget that we will
never find out," said Elam. "And that's one of them. We'll stay here
until we get dinner, and then I will go back after my map. It is all in
a lifetime. So long as I get my nugget I don't care."

"I never heard of men turning out so friendly after doing their best to
rob us," said Tom, pulling the saddle off his horse. "And you met them
half-way."

"Who? Me? I will always be friendly with a man who never tries to do me
dirt," said Elam. "If they had had the nugget you would have seen more."

I was very glad indeed that they did not have the nugget. So long as
they let us off without being hurt I was abundantly satisfied; but if
they had had gold stowed away in their blankets, we probably should
never have seen them. They would have slunk away among the rocks and
tried to hide their booty for fear that we should try to take it away
from them. Would Elam try to hide his nugget after he got it? Well, he
had not got it yet by a long ways. We ate dinner where we were, and Elam
shouldered his rifle, lighted his pipe, and started back after his map.
He told us that we had better stay where we were, and this gave me an
idea that Elam was afraid he might be shot. He was gone half an hour,
and when he came back his face wore his old-time expression again.

"Have you got it?" asked Tom, who always wanted to make sure that he was
in the right.

"Course I have," said Elam. "Catch up, and we'll go on. There is one
thing about this map business that I don't exactly like. You see this
nugget is hid in a pocket."

Of course, I was thunderstruck, but then Elam had been all over that
country, and of course knew where every pocket went to. He knew which
canyons ran back into the mountains and which did not.

"You see this man had a fight before he got the nugget, and he was too
badly hurt to get off his course to find a pocket to bury his find,"
Elam hastened to explain. "Now, this canyon that we are in goes back
into the mountains I don't know how far, and it was in this gully that
the fight took place; consequently the find is buried right here
alongside of this little stream."

"Who do you suppose that man was, anyway?" Tom remarked. "You have never
heard of him since, have you?"

"Now, wait until I tell you. I don't know. But let us go ahead, and I
will tell you what I mean in a day or two."

"What do you look for anyway, when you go off by yourself?" asked Tom.
"If you would give us a pointer on that subject we might be able to help
you."

"I don't mind telling you that I am looking for a trail," said Elam.
"And it is so old that no one but myself would notice it. When I find
that trail I'm a-going to follow it up. It isn't over ten feet long, for
a man as badly hurt as that one was, aint a-going to go a great ways to
hide a nugget."

"Do you mean to tell me that we are on his trail now?" exclaimed Tom in
amazement.

"Certainly I do. I have found two or three places where he slept."

"Why didn't you speak about it?"

"Do you suppose I have come in here this far without following some
trail? Of course not. Some of the marks he made are so badly obliterated
by the wind and the rain, that you can't make head nor tail of them,
unless you know what had been there in the first place. Why, I have
found blood on the rocks where he slept."

"You're beaten, aint you, Tom?" I asked, when he gazed at me, lost in
wonder.

"I should say I was. I wish you had showed me that spot."

"Well, I will the next time I come across one. Good gracious! if I
didn't know any more about trailing than you do, I would never find that
nugget."

"How do you suppose your father came by it in the first place? He must
have got it in some honest way or he wouldn't have had it in his wagon."

"That is one thing that I don't know," answered Elam solemnly. "He got
it, and how it ever came noised abroad that it belonged to me beats my
time. I wish the man that started that story had it crammed down his
throat."

Elam was getting excited again, and we thought it best to leave him
alone until he got over thinking about the nugget. We didn't raise any
objections when he spurred up his horse and got out of sight of us in
the bushes. When we were certain that he had passed out of hearing, Tom
said:

"Why, it is two years since that man, whoever he was, made that trail
through here, and to think he can find some traces of it now! It bangs
me completely."

"There are two things which must be taken into consideration," said I.
"In the first place that man didn't know what he left of a trail; he
hoped nobody would ever find it. A twig may have been broken down and he
left it so, certain it would lead him back to the place where he had
buried his find. In the next place there is some little sign for which
Elam is looking that will lead him directly to the place he wants to
find; some branch of a tree that has been broken down and looks as
though somebody had been browsing there, and it will tell Elam that he
is hot on the trail. Do you see?"

"Yes, I see; but I don't see how a man can follow a trail two years old.
I wish you would show me his next camping ground. If I am a lucky omen,
I may be able to find the nugget."

I laughed and promised Tom that I would show him the next place I found;
but it was a long time before I found any. You could not have told that
a man had passed through there in one year or ten, the weather had so
completely done away with all his work. But it did not make any
difference to Elam. Sometimes he would be gone before we were up, but he
always came back to supper, which we took pains to have good and hot for
him. We never made any enquiries, for he knew just how impatient we
were, and he would not keep us waiting a moment longer than was
necessary. We had been in the canyon six weeks, and, to tell you the
truth, Tom and I were getting pretty tired of the search. It was the
same thing over and over every day, and I was glad that nobody had
connected my name with a lost nugget. Elam would go along on foot,
leaving his horse to follow or not as he pleased; and if he found a
little pile of stones on the bank that didn't look as though it had been
thrown up by nature, he would go into the bushes and perhaps be gone for
an hour. We had long ago passed the pocket, and were continuing on our
way slowly and laboriously up the canyon, and one day Elam startled Tom
by calling out:

"I reckon you will think I am all right now. Here is the place where
that fellow camped."

In less than two seconds Tom and I were by Elam's side. Cautioning us
not to go too far so as to disturb things, he plainly pointed out to us
the marks of a person's figure on the leaves. Some of the bushes had
been broken down, and the leaves had blown over where he lay, but by
carefully brushing these aside the impress of a person's form could be
seen. There was no doubt about it, and I told Elam so in a way that made
him all right again.

"Where do you suppose that fellow is now?" said Tom.

"I don't know," said Elam. "My impression is that he died."

"But he wouldn't have given this map to a man when he knew it to be
wrong, would he?"

"I tell you that there's a heap of things connected with this nugget
that we shall never find out. We are on the right trail yet. I tell you
I feel encouraged."

We all did for that matter, and every day we searched both sides of the
stream to find that man's camping place, and when we found it we would
call the others up; but one day Tom came into camp, and his face was
full of news.

"I don't want to raise any false hopes," said he, "but if I have not
found something I will give it up. It's on the left-hand side of the
creek. In the first place there were four stones laid up the bank, and
the bush at whose foot they lay had been broken down and leaned away
from the bank. And further than that, it was held in position by two of
the branches, which were firmly tied about it."

"Tom, I believe you have found it," said I.

"It is too far away to find it before dark, but I will go there the
first thing in the morning," continued Tom, who was so excited that he
could scarcely speak plainly. "We want to take along our picks and
shovels, too."

We both glanced at Elam, but he didn't say anything. He was lying back
on his blanket, with his pipe between his teeth and his hands under his
head. He smiled all over, but said nothing.

"Go on," said he to Tom. "What else did you find?"

"And right there is where the fun comes in," said Tom. "The passage was
about twenty feet long--he was too badly hurt to go further--and with
every step of the way he had broken down a piece of the bushes, first on
one side and then on the other, to enable him to keep a straight course.
Right under the head of a rock that the passage brings up against, you
will find something buried. It may not be the nugget, but there is
something there."

"Why didn't you dig down and see what it was?" said I.

"It was pretty near night when I found it, and besides I wanted Elam to
see it. I will go with you now, if you say so."

"No," said Elam, filling up his pipe for a fresh smoke. "I'll be happy
for once in my life for twelve hours, and if at the end of that time I
find that there is nothing there----"

"But I tell you there is something there," ejaculated Tom.

"I will go back and go to herding cattle," added Elam, paying no
attention to Tom's interruption. "I will give it up as a bad job."

There wasn't much sleeping done in that camp that night, and although we
stayed awake till toward morning, we had little to say to each other. We
all wanted to see what was hidden up there. I had seen Elam become
wonderfully excited whenever anyone spoke of the nugget and hinted that
it wasn't there, but I had never seen him come so near finding it
before. When daylight came Tom declared he couldn't wait any longer, so
we got up and saddled our horses and followed along after him. We did
not stop to cook breakfast, for in case we did not find the nugget
nobody would want any. After going about a quarter of a mile, Tom
stopped and dismounted from his horse.

"There are the stones," said Elam.

"You go along a little further and you will find everything just as I
described it to you," said Tom. "Elam is about half wild," he added in a
low tone to me, "so you and I had better take a pick along. Mind, I
don't say it is the nugget, but there is something hidden in there."

Talk about Elam's being half wild! Tom and I were in that fix also. We
saw Elam examine the broken bush, the one that was held in place by two
limbs that were tied about it, and his face grew as white as a sheet. He
worked his way into the bushes, making his way all too slowly to suit us
who were following close at his heels, and finally stopped under the
hanging rock, where there was a clear space about two feet in diameter.
The bushes grew as thick here as they did anywhere else, but they had
been cut with a knife to give the digger a chance to work. Not one of us
said a word, because we were too highly excited. Elam reached his hand
behind him, and I, knowing what he wanted, placed a spade within it; but
you might as well have set a child to scraping it out with a teaspoon.
His hand trembled so that it was scarcely any use to him.

"Here, Elam, give me that spade," I cried. "You will never get it up in
the world. Now, stand back beside Tom, out of the way."

I did not think Elam would agree to this, but he did, and in two minutes
I had the leaves and brush all out of the way, faster than it was put
in, I'll bet. But what was this I struck against before I had gone down
three inches? It was not as hard as a rock, because, when I placed my
shovel against it and tried to pry it up, the instrument slipped from it
and showed me the color of the pure gold.

"Elam, Elam, there's something here!" I shouted, so nearly beside myself
that I did not know what I was saying. "Stand out of the way and let me
handle it myself. When I get it out where the horses are, you can
examine it till your head is as white as Uncle Ezra's."

I have since learned that the nugget weighed 130 pounds, but it did not
seem half that weight as I pulled it out of the hole and started through
the bushes with it. I paid no attention to the others, who followed
along after me, lost in wonder. I carried it out to where the bushes
ended, and then laid it down, hunted up a rock, and sat down and
examined it.

"Elam, there's your nugget!" I said.

"By gum, I believe it is!" said Elam.

One would have thought by the way Elam went about it that he did not
know whether it was or not. For fifteen minutes we sat there and watched
him as he passed his hands carefully over it, brushing away a little
particle of dirt here and pecking with his knife there to see if it was
really gold, until he was satisfied; then he put up his knife and thrust
out his hand to Tom.

"Tender-foot, I never would have found this if it hadn't been for you,"
said he, with something like a tremor in his voice. "Shake!"

"Thank you," said Tom, taking particular pains to keep his hands out of
the way. "I'll take your word for it."

"I won't squeeze you, honor bright!" said Elam.

That was as good as though Elam had sworn to it, and Tom gave him his
hand. He didn't squeeze it, but he shook it very warmly.



CHAPTER XVIII.

CONCLUSION.


I had often heard Tom Mason speak of his "luck" when telling his
stories, but I believe he was utterly confounded by the turn his "luck"
had taken in this particular instance. He was too amazed, so much so
that he couldn't speak, while Elam, it was plain to be seen, looked upon
him as a lucky omen. In these days he would have been called a "mascot."
I was completely thunderstruck, and if Tom had told me that there was a
nugget hidden under the biggest mountain in the valley, and I could have
it for the mere fun of digging after it, I believe I should have put
faith in his story.

"I wish that nugget could speak," said Elam, bringing his examination to
a stop and sitting down with his arm thrown over his find. "I would like
to hear it tell of all the places it has been in. After so many years of
waiting I have at last secured the object of my ambition, thanks to you,
Tom Mason. Nobody supposed you were going to make yourself rich out
here, did they?"

"No, and I don't suppose they know it now," replied Tom. "Do you really
imagine this is the nugget your father had?"

"What is the reason they don't know it now?" demanded Elam.

"Because the find isn't mine."

"Didn't I say that I would give you half of it the moment we dug it up?
You will find that I am a man of my word, Tom."

"How much do you suppose the thing will pan out?" I said, seizing the
nugget with both hands and trying to lift it from the ground. "It is
heavier than it was a while ago."

"That nugget will pan out between five and eight thousand dollars," said
Elam. "That's the price that Spaniard put upon it."

"Do you think this is the same find your father had?" continued Tom. "A
good many people have been searching for gold since then, and a great
many nuggets of the size of this one have been dug up."

"That's the reason I wish it could speak," said Elam. "Until I know
differently I shall believe it is the same nugget. Anyway it is mine.
Now, boys, I am going to Texas as soon as I can get there. You will go
with me, of course."

"What are you going down there for?" asked Tom.

"To buy some cattle. You can get them down there for half what they are
worth up here, and bringing them home across the plains will leave them
in good order for next winter."

"I don't know whether I will go or not. There may be some lawless men
down there, and you will have money on your person."

"Well, what of it? A man that will stand up the way you did against the
Red Ghost is not going to be afraid of lawless men! You must go, Tom.
You are a lucky omen."

As for myself, I did some thinking, too. There was my herd, for
instance; a small one to be sure, but large enough to keep me in that
country. If Uncle Ezra would sell his sheep and buy the herd, I would be
a free man and willing to go to Texas, or any other place to see some
fun. And that there was fun there I could readily believe. All men who
had got into a "little trouble" in the more settled portions of the
community came there to get out of reach of the law, and in a new
country they did pretty near as they had a mind to. It would not be a
safe thing for Elam to go down there with one or two thousand dollars in
his pocket, but I for one was not unwilling to back him up.

"Well, boys, go to sleep on it, and tell me how it looks in the
morning," said Elam, jumping to his feet and making a place for his
nugget in one of the pack-saddles. "I wish one of you boys would go back
and get that pick and shovel that we used to dig this thing up, for we
want to have them all with us. They will say we were so excited over
finding the gold that we couldn't think of anything else."

In due time a place had been made in the pack-saddle for the nugget, and
we were on the back track. We travelled a good deal faster in going than
we did in coming, for we didn't have to stop to examine signs on the
way, and one day, to Tom's intense surprise, we found the springs close
before us. Of course we had talked about Elam's new idea of going to
Texas to buy his cattle, and we were pretty well decided that if he went
we should go too. We could see that Elam was greatly pleased over our
decision, but he did not have much to say about it.

"We must stay here long enough to help Uncle Ezra down with his sheep,"
said Elam, "and then we'll put out. I wish he would lend me a thousand
or two on this, and take it up to Denver and get it panned out himself.
I will take just what he says it's worth; wouldn't you, Tom?"

"Why of course I would."

"Well, you have got a say so in it, and I shan't do a thing with it
unless you say the word," said Elam. "You might as well give up and take
your half."

"Perhaps Tom would rather take his share and send it home," said I.

"No, I wouldn't," said Tom. "My uncle has not yet had time to get over
his pet. It will take him a year to do that, and then I will write to
him."

On the third night after we camped at the springs we drew up before the
door of Uncle Ezra's sheep ranch. Boy-like, we had already made up our
minds that we would not acknowledge to anything; if Uncle Ezra wanted to
look into our pack-saddles and see what sort of luck we had had, he
could examine them himself. Uncle Ezra was alone. When he was in the
woods a more devoted follower of the gun could not be found; but he
always liked the heat of the fire and preferred a comfortable bunk to
sleep in, when he was within reach of the home ranch. Ben Hastings had
gone back to the fort. His father always liked to have him around when
there was danger in the air, and he had sent a sergeant and two men
after him.

"Halloa, boys!" said Uncle Ezra, "what sort of luck have you met with? I
think the last time I saw you, you told me that the next time I saw your
smiling faces you would have the nugget with you. I don't see any
nugget."

"We haven't had any luck at all," said Elam. "We ate up the grub, and
now I am going to cattle-herding."

"Elam," said Uncle Ezra severely, "you are not telling me the truth!
There is something back of this."

"All right. Come out and see for yourself."

Tom and I removed the saddles from our horses, and at the same time
Uncle Ezra came out and began his examination. With the very first move
he made he hit the nugget. I never saw a man more completely taken aback
than he was.

"Hoop-pe!" was the yell he sent up which awoke the echoes far and near.
"By gum, if you haven't got it. I don't want a cent!"

In less time than it takes to tell it Uncle Ezra had lifted out the
nugget and carried it into the cabin beside the fire, so that he could
have a light to see by. When we got in there he had the nugget on the
floor, and was pawing it over to see if it was that or something else
which we had tried to palm off on him. When he saw Elam he got up and
gave his hand a good hearty shake. I looked at Tom and I saw him put his
hands into his pocket. I will bet you he would not have had that shake
for his share of the nugget.

"Well, sir, you got it," said Uncle Ezra. "I declare if it don't beat
the world!"

"Now, while you are shaking me up you don't want to forget Tom," said
Elam. "If it hadn't been for him I shouldn't have found it at all."

"Do you mean to say that Tom found it?"

"Certainly, for he found the trail that led to it," replied Elam; and
then he went on to give Uncle Ezra a brief sketch of the manner in which
Tom had got at the bottom of things. He added that if he hadn't shown
Tom the place where the man camped, the nugget would have been up there
now. Uncle Ezra listened in amazement, and when Elam stopped speaking he
thrust out his hand to Tom.

"Where in the world did you learn to trail?" said he. "Shake."

"Thank you," said Tom, retreating a step or two. "I'll take your word
for it. I wouldn't have such a shaking up as you gave Elam a minute ago
for anything."

Uncle Ezra laughed, and pulled a camp-stool near to the fire and sat
down upon it. He couldn't get the nugget out of his head. He kept saying
"By gum!" every time he looked at it, and now and then he glanced at
Elam and pinched himself to see if he was wide awake or dreaming.

"Now, I will give you something to chew on while Carlos is getting
supper for us," said Elam; and as that was a gentle hint that he was
hungry, I got up and went to work. "We three boys are going to Texas."

"Going to Texas?" asked Uncle Ezra. "Now, wait till I tell you----"

"And another thing," said Elam, paying no attention to the interruption;
"we don't want to stay here until this thing is panned out; so can't you
lend us a thousand dollars on that nugget?"

"I know what you want," replied Uncle Ezra. "You want me to lend you a
thousand dollars apiece."

"Well, yes. That's about the way the thing stands."

"Now, wait till I tell you. You will go away with all that money in your
good clothes, and the first thing you know I will never see you again.
Somebody will say 'Where's them three fellows that used to hang around
your place?' and I will say 'Why, they went down to Texas to buy cattle,
and those Texans found out that they had a lot of money about them and
shot them.' That's what I'll say. Now, wait till I tell you. You can't
go!"

That was just about what I expected to hear from Uncle Ezra at the
start, but I knew it would turn out otherwise. I knew if he had the
money we would get it, and so I kept still. Tom was very much
disappointed, but I gave him a wink and nod which told him that our
circumstances were not as bad as they appeared to be, and that
everything would come out all right in the end. I didn't blame Uncle
Ezra for not wanting to let us go away with so much money in our
pockets, but I did not see any other way out of it. If we wanted to get
our cattle for about half what they would cost us right there, Texas was
the place for us to go. The Indians were bad, and we would have to go
right across the country inhabited by the Comanches, and they were about
the worst cattle-thieves I ever heard of. Those lawless men--those who
did not think that they were bound by any legal or moral restraint
unless it was right there to punish them--were found everywhere, and it
was going to be a matter of some difficulty to evade them. I had been
there once, and I had seen just enough of it to want to go again. I
wished now that I had not had quite so much to say in regard to those
Regulators and Moderators who seemed to turn up when you least expected
them.

I got supper ready after a while and we all sat down to it--all except
Uncle Ezra, who sat on his camp-stool with his eyes fastened on the
nugget. He turned it first on one side and then on the other so that he
could view it from all sides, said, "By gum!" every time he looked at
it, and told us many stories connected with it that we had never heard
before. To Elam's request that he would take charge of it he readily
assented. He would keep it out until all the sheep-herders had seen it,
and then he would hide it somewhere so that nobody would ever think of
looking for it. It was in the hands of the rightful owner at last, and
no one need think he was going to handle it again.

"But you have a long way to take it to Denver," said I. "What will you
do if somebody demands it of you!"

"Now, wait until I tell you," said Uncle Ezra, while a look of
determination came into his face. "Uncle Ezra has been there."

"Now while you are talking about that nugget you are forgetting about
me," said Tom. "I've got to go back to Mr. Parsons' cabin, and make some
amends for that bronco. I didn't agree to let him be torn up. I have
left money enough in his hands to settle for him."

"That horse won't cost you a cent," said I.

"What makes you say that?"

"Because he was kept for the purpose of sending tender-feet into the
mountains when Parsons didn't have anything else for them to do. The
next one that comes along he will have to set him to herding cattle.
Still I will go with you."

"Thank you. What's the reason Elam can't go with you?"

"Why, he's got to stay here and watch the nugget!"

"By George! Have you got to watch it now that you have found it?"

"Yes, sir. There are ten men employed on this ranch and four on mine,
and you may be sure that all of them are not first-class."

"Well, let them come," said Elam, getting up and stretching himself. He
stood more than six feet in his stockings, and when he brought his arms
back to show his biceps he fairly made the cabin tremble.

"Yes, you, dog-gone you," said Uncle Ezra, getting up and shaking a fist
in Elam's face. "You want to go off and lose a thousand dollars of it
and your life besides. Now, wait until I tell you. I'll sleep on it.
I'll see how it looks in the morning."

But in the morning there was not a word said about it. We ate breakfast
by the firelight, and then Tom's horse and mine were brought to the door
and saddled, preparatory to our ride to Mr. Parsons' ranch. In a pair of
saddle-bags which I carried I had cooked provisions enough to last four
days. As we were ready to start, Uncle Ezra came to the door and took a
look at the weather.

"How long do you think you will be gone, Carlos?" said he. "Two weeks?
Then you needn't mind coming back here. We shall probably get the sheep
out some time before that, and you had better come to our dugout on the
plains. I'll see to your cattle. Good-by."

In process of time we rode up to Mr. Parsons' cabin, and if I am any
judge of the exclamations that arose from all sides they found it
difficult to recognize Tom. It seemed that his two months in the
mountains had changed him wonderfully. When he spoke of the bronco and
repeated some words of advice that Mr. Parsons had given him, the latter
remembered him at once.

"Why, Tom, I am glad to see you," said he. "Alight and hitch. The bronco
didn't get away from you, I suppose. And you found the nugget, too?"

"Yes, sir; I did," replied Tom quietly.

"Gold sticking out all over it, I suppose. Well, how much do I owe you?"

"I've come here to see how much I owe you," said Tom. "That bronco has
gone up. The Red Ghost finished him."

Mr. Parsons began to get interested now. He looked at me and I nodded
assent.

"Do you mean to say that the Red Ghost finished him? And did you find
the nugget?" he exclaimed, hardly believing he had heard aright.

"It's all true, every bit of it," I said. "He found Elam in a canyon
where he got lost, and afterward found a map. He used that map, which
started in at the springs, and afterward found the nugget."

"There now!" exclaimed the elderly man, the one who had been in the
mountains just ahead of Tom, and whose camp the latter slept in every
night. "I told you that I did not think there was gold hidden there, and
you thought me crazy."

"Well--I--I--come in, come in," cried Mr. Parsons. "I must hear that
story from beginning to end. And are you sure he found the nugget?
Wasn't it something else that he found?"

There were five men standing around who had been ordered to go away on
some work or another, but they all quit and came into the cabin to hear
the story. I took the part of spokesman upon myself, for I did not think
that Tom would care to dwell too minutely on his meeting with the Red
Ghost or his getting lost in the mountains, and I do not think I left
out anything. I never saw a lot of men so confounded as they were. To
suppose that a lot of gold had been hidden there in the mountains, which
had come from some place a hundred miles away from there, and that Mr.
Parsons had sent a dozen tender-feet into the hills to find it, was more
than they could understand. When I got through they looked upon Tom with
a trifle more of respect than they did before. They couldn't find words
with which to express their astonishment.

"Now, perhaps, you are willing to talk to me about that bronco," said
Tom. "How much do I owe you for him?"

"Not a red cent," said Mr. Parsons. "Not a single, solitary copper. I
kept him for the sake of such fellows as you are, and now that he has
got through with his business, I say let him rest. I shall never have
any more chances to send him into the mountains with tender-feet. But,
Tom, I owe you more than I can pay you."

"You let up on one debt and I will let up on the other," said Tom, with
a laugh. "If Elam wasn't such a hot-headed fellow, I should be glad of
it. He wants me to take half that nugget, and I don't want to do it."

"Take it and say nothing to nobody," said Mr. Parsons. "You will find
means to make it up. How much will it pan out?"

"Between $5000 and $8000," I answered. "But it is my opinion it will be
nearer $5000. Elam has got that story in his head about the sum of money
that Spaniard put upon it, and he kinder leans to that sum."

"That's a larger amount of money than most of us can make. Now, I hope
that nobody will knock him in the head for it."

That was just what I was afraid of, and I made all haste to get back to
Elam. I went up to Denver with him and Uncle Ezra, and there we sold the
nugget for $6500. The money was all placed in the bank, with the
exception of $2000, $1000 of which he took back to give to Tom. I sold
my stock for $5000, and also took $1000 with me to purchase cattle. We
were gone a month, and when we got back there was nothing to hinder us
from starting for Texas. We had a long and fearful journey before us,
more trouble than it is in these times, and we were a long while in
saying good-by to the friends we left behind. We had something, too,
that we didn't count on, and what it was and how we got around it shall
be told in "THE MISSING POCKET-BOOK; OR, TOM MASON'S LUCK."

THE END.



FAMOUS STANDARD JUVENILE LIBRARIES.


HORATIO ALGER, JR.

The enormous sales of the books of Horatio Alger, Jr., show the
greatness of his popularity among the boys, and prove that he is one of
their most favored writers. I am told that more than half a million
copies altogether have been sold, and that all the large circulating
libraries in the country have several complete sets, of which only two
or three volumes are ever on the shelves at one time. If this is true,
what thousands and thousands of boys have read and are reading Mr.
Alger's books! His peculiar style of stories, often imitated but never
equaled, have taken a hold upon the young people, and, despite their
similarity, are eagerly read as soon as they appear.

Mr. Alger became famous with the publication of that undying book,
"Ragged Dick, or Street Life in New York." It was his first book for
young people, and its success was so great that he immediately devoted
himself to that kind of writing. It was a new and fertile field for a
writer then, and Mr. Alger's treatment of it at once caught the fancy of
the boys. "Ragged Dick" first appeared in 1868, and ever since then it
has been selling steadily, until now it is estimated that about 200,000
copies of the series have been sold.

_--Pleasant Hours for Boys and Girls._

A writer for boys should have an abundant sympathy with them. He should
be able to enter into their plans, hopes, and aspirations. He should
learn to look upon life as they do. Boys object to be written down to. A
boy's heart opens to the man or writer who understands him.

--From _Writing Stories for Boys_, by Horatio Alger, Jr.

RAGGED DICK SERIES.

    Ragged Dick.
    Fame and Fortune.
    Mark the Match Boy.
    Rough and Ready.
    Ben the Luggage Boy.
    Rufus and Rose.


TATTERED TOM SERIES--First Series.

    Tattered Tom.
    Paul the Peddler.
    Phil the Fiddler.
    Slow and Sure.


TATTERED TOM SERIES--Second Series.

    Julius.
    The Young Outlaw.
    Sam's Chance.
    The Telegraph Boy.


CAMPAIGN SERIES.

    Frank's Campaign.
    Paul Prescott's Charge.
    Charlie Codman's Cruise.


LUCK AND PLUCK SERIES--First Series.

    Luck and Pluck.
    Sink or Swim.
    Strong and Steady.
    Strive and Succeed.


LUCK AND PLUCK SERIES--Second Series.

    Try and Trust.
    Bound to Rise.
    Risen from the Ranks.
    Herbert Carter's, Legacy.


BRAVE AND BOLD SERIES.

    Brave and Bold.
    Jack's Ward.
    Shifting for Himself.
    Wait and Hope.


NEW WORLD SERIES.

    Digging for Gold.
    Facing the World.
    In a New World.


VICTORY SERIES.

    Only an Irish Boy.
    Victor Vane, or the Young Secretary.
    Adrift in the City.


FRANK AND FEARLESS SERIES.

    Frank Hunter's Peril.
    The Young Salesman.
    Frank and Fearless.


GOOD FORTUNE LIBRARY.

    Walter Sherwood's Probation.
    The Young Bank Messenger.
    A Boy's Fortune.


RUPERT'S AMBITION.

JED, THE POOR-HOUSE BOY.

       *       *       *       *       *

HARRY CASTLEMON.

HOW I CAME TO WRITE MY FIRST BOOK.

When I was sixteen years old I belonged to a composition class. It was
our custom to go on the recitation seat every day with clean slates, and
we were allowed ten minutes to write seventy words on any subject the
teacher thought suited to our capacity. One day he gave out "What a Man
Would See if He Went to Greenland." My heart was in the matter, and
before the ten minutes were up I had one side of my slate filled. The
teacher listened to the reading of our compositions, and when they were
all over he simply said: "Some of you will make your living by writing
one of these days." That gave me something to ponder upon. I did not say
so out loud, but I knew that my composition was as good as the best of
them. By the way, there was another thing that came in my way just then.
I was reading at that time one of Mayne Reid's works which I had drawn
from the library, and I pondered upon it as much as I did upon what the
teacher said to me. In introducing Swartboy to his readers he made use
of this expression: "No visible change was observable in Swartboy's
countenance." Now, it occurred to me that if a man of his education
could make such a blunder as that and still write a book, I ought to be
able to do it, too. I went home that very day and began a story, "The
Old Guide's Narrative," which was sent to the _New York Weekly_, and
came back, respectfully declined. It was written on both sides of the
sheets but I didn't know that this was against the rules. Nothing
abashed, I began another, and receiving some instruction, from a friend
of mine who was a clerk in a book store, I wrote it on only one side of
the paper. But mind you, he didn't know what I was doing. Nobody knew
it; but one day, after a hard Saturday's work--the other boys had been
out skating on the brick-pond--I shyly broached the subject to my
mother. I felt the need of some sympathy. She listened in amazement, and
then said: "Why, do you think you could write a book like that?" That
settled the matter, and from that day no one knew what I was up to until
I sent the first four volumes of Gunboat Series to my father. Was it
work? Well, yes; it was hard work, but each week I had the satisfaction
of seeing the manuscript grow until the "Young Naturalist" was all
complete.

--_Harry Castlemon in the Writer._

GUNBOAT SERIES.

    Frank the Young Naturalist.
    Frank on a Gunboat.
    Frank in the Woods.
    Frank before Vicksburg.
    Frank on the Lower Mississippi.
    Frank on the Prairie.


ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES.

    Frank Among the Rancheros.
    Frank at Don Carlos' Rancho.
    Frank in the Mountains.


SPORTSMAN'S CLUB SERIES.

    The Sportsman's Club in the Saddle.
    The Sportsman's Club Afloat.
    The Sportsman's Club Among the Trappers.


FRANK NELSON SERIES.

    Snowed up.
    Frank in the Forecastle.
    The Boy Traders.


BOY TRAPPER SERIES.

    The Buried Treasure.
    The Boy Trapper.
    The Mail Carrier.


ROUGHING IT SERIES.

    George in Camp.
    George at the Wheel.
    George at the Fort.


ROD AND GUN SERIES.

    Don Gordon's Shooting Box.
    Rod and Gun Club.
    The Young Wild Fowlers.


GO-AHEAD SERIES.

    Tom Newcombe.
    Go-Ahead.
    No Moss.


WAR SERIES.

    True to His Colors.
    Rodney the Partisan.
    Rodney the Overseer.
    Marcy the Blockade-Runner.
    Marcy the Refugee.
    Sailor Jack the Trader.


HOUSEBOAT SERIES.

    The Houseboat Boys.
    The Young Game Warden.
    The Mystery of Lost River Cañon.


AFLOAT AND ASHORE SERIES.

    Rebellion in Dixie.
    The Ten-Ton Cutter.
    A Sailor in Spite of Himself.


THE PONY EXPRESS SERIES.

    The Pony Express Rider.
    Carl, The Trailer.
    The White Beaver.


       *       *       *       *       *

EDWARD S. ELLIS.


Edward S. Ellis, the popular writer of boys' books, is a native of Ohio,
where he was born somewhat more than a half-century ago. His father was
a famous hunter and rifle shot, and it was doubtless his exploits and
those of his associates, with their tales of adventure which gave the
son his taste for the breezy backwoods and for depicting the stirring
life of the early settlers on the frontier.

Mr. Ellis began writing at an early age and his work was acceptable from
the first. His parents removed to New Jersey while he was a boy and he
was graduated from the State Normal School and became a member of the
faculty while still in his teens. He was afterward principal of the
Trenton High School, a trustee and then superintendent of schools. By
that time his services as a writer had become so pronounced that he gave
his entire attention to literature. He was an exceptionally successful
teacher and wrote a number of text-books for schools, all of which met
with high favor. For these and his historical productions, Princeton
College conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts.

The high moral character, the clean, manly tendencies and the admirable
literary style of Mr. Ellis' stories have made him as popular on the
other side of the Atlantic as in this country. A leading paper remarked
some time since, that no mother need hesitate to place in the hands of
her boy any book written by Mr. Ellis. They are found in the leading
Sunday-school libraries, where, as may well be believed, they are in
wide demand and do much good by their sound, wholesome lessons which
render them as acceptable to parents as to their children. All of his
books published by Henry T. Coates & Co. are re-issued in London, and
many have been translated into other languages. Mr. Ellis is a writer of
varied accomplishments, and, in addition to his stories, is the author
of historical works, of a number of pieces of popular music and has made
several valuable inventions. Mr. Ellis is in the prime of his mental and
physical powers, and great as have been the merits of his past
achievements, there is reason to look for more brilliant productions
from his pen in the near future.


DEERFOOT SERIES.

    Hunters of the Ozark.
    The Last War Trail.
    Camp in the Mountains


LOG CABIN SERIES.

    Lost Trail.
    Footprints in the Forest.
    Camp-Fire and Wigwam.


BOY PIONEER SERIES.

    Ned in the Block-House.
    Ned on the River.
    Ned in the Woods.


THE NORTHWEST SERIES.

    Two Boys in Wyoming.
    Cowmen and Rustlers.
    A Strange Craft and its Wonderful Voyage.


BOONE AND KENTON SERIES.

    Shod with Silence.
    In the Days of the Pioneers.
    Phantom of the River.


IRON HEART, WAR CHIEF OF THE IROQUOIS.

THE SECRET OF COFFIN ISLAND.

THE BLAZING ARROW.

       *       *       *       *       *

J. T. TROWBRIDGE.


Neither as a writer does he stand apart from the great currents of life
and select some exceptional phase or odd combination of circumstances.
He stands on the common level and appeals to the universal heart, and
all that he suggests or achieves is on the plane and in the line of
march of the great body of humanity.

The Jack Hazard series of stories, published in the late _Our Young
Folks_, and continued in the first volume of _St. Nicholas_, under the
title of "Fast Friends," is no doubt destined to hold a high place in
this class of literature. The delight of the boys in them (and of their
seniors, too) is well founded. They go to the right spot every time.
Trowbridge knows the heart of a boy like a book, and the heart of a man,
too, and he has laid them both open in these books in a most successful
manner. Apart from the qualities that render the series so attractive to
all young readers, they have great value on account of their
portraitures of American country life and character. The drawing is
wonderfully accurate, and as spirited as it is true. The constable,
Sellick, is an original character, and as minor figures where will we
find anything better than Miss Wansey, and Mr. P. Pipkin, Esq. The
picture of Mr. Dink's school, too, is capital, and where else in fiction
is there a better nick-name than that the boys gave to poor little
Stephen Treadwell, "Step Hen," as he himself pronounced his name in an
unfortunate moment when he saw it in print for the first time in his
lesson in school.

On the whole, these books are very satisfactory, and afford the critical
reader the rare pleasure of the works that are just adequate, that
easily fulfill themselves and accomplish all they set out to
do.--_Scribner's Monthly_.


JACK HAZARD SERIES.

    Jack Hazard and His Fortunes.
    Doing His Best.
    The Young Surveyor.
    A Chance for Himself.
    Fast Friends.
    Lawrence's Adventures.





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