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Title: Captain Bayley's Heir: - A Tale of the Gold Fields of California
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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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.

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CAPTAIN BAYLEY'S HEIR

A TALE OF THE GOLD FIELDS OF CALIFORNIA.

BY G. A. HENTY



CAPTAIN BAYLEY'S HEIR.


[Illustration: CAPTAIN BAYLEY HEARS STARTLING NEWS.]



CAPTAIN BAYLEY'S HEIR:

A TALE OF THE GOLD FIELDS OF CALIFORNIA.

BY

G. A. HENTY,

Author of "With Clive in India;" "Facing Death;" "For Name and Fame;"
"True to the Old Flag;" "A Final Beckoning;" &c.

          _WITH TWELVE FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS
                  BY H. M. PAGET._

[Illustration]

          NEW YORK
          SCRIBNER AND WELFORD
          743 & 745 BROADWAY.



CONTENTS.


    Chap.                              Page

        I. WESTMINSTER! WESTMINSTER!      9

       II. A COLD SWIM,                  25

      III. A CRIPPLE BOY,                42

       IV. AN ADOPTED CHILD,             58

        V. A TERRIBLE ACCUSATION,        75

       VI. AT NEW ORLEANS,               92

      VII. ON THE MISSISSIPPI,          107

     VIII. STARTING FOR THE WEST,       127

       IX. ON THE PLAINS,               154

        X. A BUFFALO STORY,             173

       XI. HOW DICK LOST HIS SCALP,     186

      XII. THE ATTACK ON THE CARAVAN,   206

     XIII. AT THE GOLD-FIELDS,          223

      XIV. CAPTAIN BAYLEY,              238

       XV. THE MISSING HEIR,            253

      XVI. JOHN HOLL, DUST CONTRACTOR,  268

     XVII. THE LONELY DIGGERS,          285

    XVIII. A DREAM VERIFIED,            306

      XIX. STRIKING IT RICH,            324

       XX. A MESSAGE FROM ABROAD,       341

      XXI. HAPPY MEETINGS,              360

     XXII. CLEARED AT LAST,             374



ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                 Page

  CAPTAIN BAYLEY HEARS STARTLING NEWS, _Frontis._   262

  THE RESCUE FROM THE SERPENTINE,                    32

  THE BREAK-UP OF THE CHARTIST MEETING,              72

  FRANK'S VISIT TO MR. HIRAM LITTLE'S OFFICE,       101

  A FLOOD ON THE MISSISSIPPI,                       125

  A DEER-HUNT ON THE PRAIRIE,                       162

  THE ESCAPE OF THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER,             195

  DICK AND FRANK ELUDE THE INDIANS,                 227

  THE SICK FRIEND IN THE MINING CAMP,               296

  GOLD-WASHING--A GOOD DAY'S WORK,                  329

  THE ATTACK ON THE GOLD ESCORT,                    338

  MEETING OF CAPTAIN BAYLEY AND MR. ADAMS,          352



[Illustration]

CAPTAIN BAYLEY'S HEIR.



CHAPTER I.

WESTMINSTER! WESTMINSTER!


A CRIPPLE boy was sitting in a box on four low wheels, in a little room
in a small street in Westminster; his age was some fifteen or sixteen
years; his face was clear-cut and intelligent, and was altogether free
from the expression either of discontent or of shrinking sadness so
often seen in the face of those afflicted. Had he been sitting on a
chair at a table, indeed, he would have been remarked as a handsome and
well-grown young fellow; his shoulders were broad, his arms powerful,
and his head erect. He had not been born a cripple, but had been
disabled for life, when a tiny child, by a cart passing over his legs
above the knees. He was talking to a lad a year or so younger than
himself, while a strong, hearty-looking woman, somewhat past middle age,
stood at a wash-tub.

"What is all that noise about?" the cripple exclaimed, as an uproar was
heard in the street at some little distance from the house.

"Drink, as usual, I suppose," the woman said.

The younger lad ran to the door.

"No, mother; it's them scholars a-coming back from cricket. Ain't there
a fight jist!"

The cripple wheeled his box to the door, and then taking a pair of
crutches which rested in hooks at its side when not wanted, swung
himself from the box, and propped himself in the doorway so as to
command a view down the street.

It was indeed a serious fight. A party of Westminster boys, on their way
back from their cricket-ground in St. Vincent's Square, had been
attacked by the "skies." The quarrel was an old standing one, but had
broken out afresh from a thrashing which one of the older lads had
administered on the previous day to a young chimney-sweep about his own
age, who had taken possession of the cricket-ball when it had been
knocked into the roadway, and had, with much strong language, refused to
throw it back when requested.

The friends of the sweep determined to retaliate upon the following day,
and gathered so threateningly round the gate that, instead of the boys
coming home in twos and threes, as was their wont, when playtime
expired, they returned in a body. They were some forty in number, and
varied in age from the little fags of the Under School, ten or twelve
years old, to brawny muscular young fellows of seventeen or eighteen,
senior Queen's Scholars, or Sixth Form town boys. The Queen's Scholars
were in their caps and gowns, the town boys were in ordinary attire, a
few only having flannel cricketing trousers.

On first leaving the field they were assailed only by volleys of abuse;
but as they made their way down the street their assailants grew bolder,
and from words proceeded to blows, and soon a desperate fight was
raging. In point of numbers the "skies" were vastly superior, and many
of them were grown men; but the knowledge of boxing which almost every
Westminster boy in those days possessed, and the activity and quickness
of hitting of the boys, went far to equalise the odds.

Pride in their school, too, would have rendered it impossible for any to
show the white feather on such an occasion as this, and with the younger
boys as far as possible in their centre, the seniors faced their
opponents manfully. Even the lads of but thirteen and fourteen years old
were not idle. Taking from the fags the bats which several of the latter
were carrying, they joined in the conflict, not striking at their
opponents' heads, but occasionally aiding their seniors, when attacked
by three or four at once, by swinging blows on their assailant's shins.

Man after man among the crowd had gone down before the blows straight
from the shoulder of the boys, and many had retired from the contest
with faces which would for many days bear marks of the fight; but their
places were speedily filled up, and the numbers of the assailants grew
stronger every minute.

"How well they fight!" the cripple exclaimed. "Splendid! isn't it,
mother? But there are too many against them. Run, Evan, quick, down to
Dean's Yard; you are sure to find some of them playing at racquets in
the Little Yard, tell them that the boys coming home from cricket have
been attacked, and that unless help comes they will be terribly knocked
about."

Evan dashed off at full speed. Dean's Yard was but a few minutes' run
distant. He dashed through the little archway into the yard, down the
side, and then in at another archway into Little Dean's Yard, where some
elder boys were playing at racquets. A fag was picking up the balls, and
two or three others were standing at the top of the steps of the two
boarding-houses.

"If you please, sir," Evan said, running up to one of the
racquet-players, "there is just a row going on; they are all pitching
into the scholars on their way back from Vincent Square, and if you
don't send help they will get it nicely, though they are all fighting
like bricks."

"Here, all of you," the lad he addressed shouted to the others; "our
fellows are attacked by the 'skies' on their way back from fields. Run
up College, James; the fellows from the water have come back." Then he
turned to the boys on the steps, "Bring all the fellows out quick; the
'skies' are attacking us on the way back from the fields. Don't let them
wait a moment."

It was lucky that the boys who had been on the water in the two eights,
the six, and the fours, had returned, or at that hour there would have
been few in the boarding-houses or up College. Ere a minute had elapsed
these, with a few others who had been kept off field and water from
indisposition, or other causes, came pouring out at the summons--a body
some thirty strong, of whom fully half were big boys. They dashed out of
the gate in a body, and made their way to the scene of the conflict.
They were but just in time; the compact group of the boys had been
broken up, and every one now was fighting for himself.

They had made but little progress towards the school since Evan had
started, and the fight was now raging opposite his house. The cripple
was almost crying with excitement and at his own inability to join in
the fight going on. His sympathies were wholly with "the boys," towards
whose side he was attached by the disparity of their numbers compared to
those of their opponents, and by the coolness and resolution with which
they fought.

"Just look at those two, mother--those two fighting back to back. Isn't
it grand! There! there is another one down; that is the fifth I have
counted. Don't they fight cool and steady? and they almost look smiling,
though the odds against them are ten to one. O mother, if I could but go
to help them!"

Mrs. Holl herself was not without sharing his excitement. Several times
she made sorties from her doorstep, and seized more than one hulking
fellow in the act of pummelling a youngster half his size, and shook him
with a vigour which showed that constant exercise at the wash-tub had
strengthened her arms.

"Yer ought to be ashamed of yerselves, yer ought; a whole crowd of yer
pitching into a handful o' boys."

But her remonstrances were unheeded in the din,--which, however, was
raised entirely by the assailants, the boys fighting silently, save when
an occasional shout of "Hurrah, Westminster!" was raised. Presently Evan
dashed through the crowd up to the door.

"Are they coming, Evan?" the cripple asked eagerly.

"Yes, 'Arry; they will be 'ere in a jiffy."

A half-minute later, and with shouts of "Westminster! Westminster!" the
reinforcement came tearing up the street.

Their arrival in an instant changed the face of things. The "skies" for
a moment or two resisted; but the muscles of the eight--hardened by the
training which had lately given them victory over Eton in their annual
race--stood them in good stead, and the hard hitting of the "water" soon
beat back the lately triumphant assailants of "cricket." The united band
took the offensive, and in two or three minutes the "skies" were in full
flight.

"We were just in time, Norris," one of the new-comers said to the tall
lad in cricketing flannels whose straight hitting had particularly
attracted the admiration of Harry Holl.

"Only just," the other said, smiling; "it was a hot thing, and a pretty
sight we shall look up School to-morrow. I shall have two thundering
black eyes, and my mouth won't look pretty for a fortnight; and, by the
look of them, most of the others have fared worse. It's the biggest
fight we have had for years. But I don't think the 'skies' will
interfere with us again for some time, for every mark we've got they've
got ten. Won't there be a row in School to-morrow when Litter sees that
half the Sixth can't see out of their eyes."

Not for many years had the lessons at Westminster been so badly prepared
as they were upon the following morning--indeed, with the exception of
the half and home-boarders, few of whom had shared in the fight, not a
single boy, from the Under School to the Sixth, had done an exercise or
prepared a lesson. Study indeed had been out of the question, for all
were too excited and too busy talking over the details of the battle to
be able to give the slightest attention to their work.

Many were the tales of feats of individual prowess; but all who had
taken part agreed that none had so distinguished themselves as Frank
Norris, a Sixth Form town boy, and captain of the eight--who, for a
wonder had for once been up at fields--and Fred Barkley, a senior in
the Sixth. But, grievous and general as was the breakdown in lessons
next day, no impositions were set; the boarding-house masters, Richards
and Sargent, had of course heard all about it at tea-time, as had Johns,
who did not himself keep a boarding-house, but resided at Carr's, the
boarding-house down by the great gate.

These, therefore, were prepared for the state of things, and contented
themselves by ordering the forms under their charge to set to work with
their dictionaries and write out the lessons they should have prepared.
The Sixth did not get off so easily. Dr. Litter, in his lofty solitude
as head-master, had heard nothing of what had passed; nor was it until
the Sixth took their places in the library and began to construe that
his attention was called to the fact that something unusual had
happened. But the sudden hesitation and blundering of the first "put
on," and the inability of those next to him to correct him, were too
marked to be passed over, and he raised his gold-rimmed eye-glasses to
his eyes and looked round.

Dr. Litter was a man standing some six feet two in height, stately in
manner, somewhat sarcastic in speech,--a very prodigy in classical
learning, and joint author of the great treatise _On the Uses of the
Greek Particle_. Searchingly he looked from face to face round the
library.

"I cannot," he said, with a curl of his upper lip, and the cold and
somewhat nasal tone which set every nerve in a boy's body twitching when
he heard it raised in reproof, "I really cannot congratulate you on your
appearance. I thought that the Sixth Form of Westminster was composed of
gentlemen, but it seems to me now as if it consisted of a number of
singularly disreputable-looking prize-fighters. What does all this
mean, Williams?" he asked, addressing the captain; "your face appears to
have met with better usage than some of the others."

"It means, sir," Williams said, "that as the party from fields were
coming back yesterday evening, they were attacked by the 'skies,'--I
mean by the roughs--and got terribly knocked about. When the news came
to us I was up College, and the fellows had just come back from the
water, so of course we all sallied out to rescue them."

"Did it not occur to you, Williams, that there is a body called the
police, whose duty it is to interfere in disgraceful uproars of this
sort?"

"If we had waited for the police, sir," Williams said, "half the School
would not have been fit to take their places in form again before the
end of the term."

"It does not appear to me," Dr. Litter said, "that a great many of them
are fit to take their places at present. I can scarcely see Norris's
eyes; and I suppose that boy is Barkley, as he sits in the place that he
usually occupies, otherwise, I should not have recognised him; and
Smart, Robertson, and Barker and Barret are nearly as bad. I suppose you
feel satisfied with yourselves, boys, and consider that this sort of
thing is creditable to you; to my mind it is simply disgraceful. There!
I don't want to hear any more at present; I suppose the whole School is
in the same state. Those of you who can see had better go back to School
and prepare your Demosthenes; those who cannot had best go back to their
boarding-houses, or up College, and let the doctor be sent for to see if
anything can be done for you."

The doctor had indeed already been sent for, for some seven or eight of
the younger boys had been so seriously knocked about and kicked that
they were unable to leave their beds. For the rest a doctor could do
nothing. Fights were not uncommon at Westminster in those days, but the
number of orders for beef-steaks which the nearest butcher had received
on the previous evening had fairly astonished him. Indeed, had it not
been for the prompt application of these to their faces, very few of the
party from the fields would have been able to find their way up School
unless they had been led by their comrades.

At Westminster there was an hour's school before breakfast, and when
nine o'clock struck, and the boys poured out, Dr. Litter and his
under-masters held council together.

"This is a disgraceful business!" Dr. Litter said, looking, as was his
wont, at some distant object far over the heads of the others.

There was a general murmur of assent.

"The boys do not seem to have been much to blame," Mr. Richards
suggested in the cheerful tone habitual to him. "From what I can hear it
seems to have been a planned thing; the people gathered round the gates
before they left the fields and attacked them without any provocation."

"There must have been some provocation somewhere, Mr. Richards, if not
yesterday, then the day before, or the day before that," Dr. Litter
said, twirling his eye-glass by the ribbon. "A whole host of people do
not gather to assault forty or fifty boys without provocation. This sort
of thing must not occur again. I do not see that I can punish one boy
without punishing the whole School; but, at any rate, for the next week
fields must be stopped. I shall write to the Commissioner of Police,
asking that when they again go to Vincent Square some policemen may be
put on duty, not of course to accompany them, but to interfere at once
if they see any signs of a repetition of this business. I shall request
that, should there be any fighting, those not belonging to the School
who commit an assault may be taken before a magistrate; my own boys I
can punish myself. Are any of the boys seriously injured, do you think?"

"I hope not, sir," Mr. Richards said; "there are three or four in my
house, and there are ten at Mr. Sargent's, and two at Carr's, who have
gone on the sick list. I sent for the doctor, and he may have seen them
by this time; they all seemed to have been knocked down and kicked."

"There are four of the juniors at College in the infirmary," Mr. Wire,
who was in special charge of the Queen's Scholars, put in. "I had not
heard about it last night, and was in ignorance of what had taken place
until the list of those who had gone into the infirmary was put into my
hands, and then I heard from Williams what had taken place."

"It is very unpleasant," Dr. Litter said, in a weary tone of voice--as
if boys were a problem far more difficult to be mastered than any that
the Greek authors afforded him--"that one cannot trust boys to keep out
of mischief for an hour. Of course with small boys this sort of thing is
to be expected; but that young fellows like Williams and the other
seniors, and the Sixth town boys, who are on the eve of going up to the
Universities, should so far forget themselves is very surprising."

"But even at the University, Doctor Litter," Mr. Richards said, with a
passing thought of his own experience, "town and gown rows take place."

"All the worse," Dr. Litter replied, "all the worse. Of course there are
wild young men at the Universities." Dr. Litter himself, it is scarcely
necessary to say, had never been wild, the study of the Greek particles
had absorbed all his thoughts. "Why," he continued, "young men should
condescend to take part in disgraceful affrays of this kind passes my
understanding. Mr. Wire, you will inform Williams that for the rest of
the week no boy is to go to fields."

So saying, he strode off in the direction of his own door, next to the
archway, for the conversation had taken place at the foot of the steps
leading into School from Little Dean's Yard. There was some grumbling
when the head-master's decision was known; but it was, nevertheless,
felt that it was a wise one, and that it was better to allow the
feelings to calm down before again going through Westminster between
Dean's Yard and the field, for not even the most daring would have cared
for a repetition of the struggle.

Several inquiries were made as to the lad who had brought the news of
the fight, and so enabled the reinforcements to arrive in time; and had
he been discovered a handsome subscription would have been got up to
reward his timely service, but no one knew anything about him.

The following week, when cricket was resumed, no molestation was
offered. The better part of the working-classes who inhabited the
neighbourhood were indeed strongly in favour of the "boys," and liked to
see their bright young faces as they passed home from their cricket;
the pluck too with which they had fought was highly appreciated, and so
strong a feeling was expressed against the attack made upon them, that
the rough element deemed it better to abstain from further interruption,
especially as there were three or four extra police put upon the beat at
the hours when the "boys" went to and from Vincent Square.

It was, however, some time before the "great fight" ceased to be a
subject of conversation among the boys. At five minutes to ten on the
morning when Dr. Litter had put a stop to fields, two of the younger
boys--who were as usual, just before school-time, standing in the
archway leading into Little Dean's Yard to warn the School of the
issuing out of the head-master--were talking of the fight of the evening
before; both had been present, having been fagging out at cricket for
their masters.

"I wonder which would lick, Norris or Barkley. What a splendid fight it
would be!"

"You will never see that, Fairlie, for they are cousins and great
friends. It would be a big fight, and I expect it would be a draw. I
know who I should shout for."

"Oh, of course, we should all be for Norris, he is such a jolly fellow;
there is no one in the School I would so readily fag for. Instead of
saying, 'Here, you fellow, come and pick up balls,' or, 'Take my bat up
to fields,' he says, 'I say, young Fairlie, I wish you would come and
pick up balls for a bit, and in a quarter of an hour you can call some
other Under School boy to take your place,' just as if it were a favour,
instead of his having the right to put one on if he pleased. I should
like to be his fag: and he never allows any bullying up at Richards'. I
wish we had him at Sargent's."

"Yes, and Barkley is quite a different sort of fellow. I don't know that
he is a bully, but somehow he seems to have a disagreeable way with him,
a cold, nasty, hard sort of way; he walks along as if he never noticed
the existence of an Under School boy, while Norris always has a pleasant
nod for a fellow."

"Here's Litter."

At this moment a door in the wall under the archway opened, and the
head-master appeared. As he came out the five or six small boys standing
round raised a tremendous shout of "Litter's coming." A shout so loud
that it was heard not only in College and the boarding-houses in Little
Dean's Yard, but at Carr's across by the archway, and even at
Sutcliffe's shop outside the Yard, where some of the boys were
purchasing sweets for consumption in school. A fag at the door of each
of the boarding-houses took up the cry, and the boys at once came
pouring out.

The Doctor, as if unconscious of the din raised round him, walked slowly
along half-way to the door of the School; here he was joined by the
other masters, and they stood chatting in a group for about two minutes,
giving ample time for the boys to go up School, though those from
Carr's, having much further to go, had to run for it, and not
unfrequently had to rush past the masters as the latter mounted the wide
stone steps leading up to the School.

The School was a great hall, which gave one the idea that it was almost
coeval with the abbey to which it was attached, although it was not
built until some hundreds of years later. The walls were massive, and of
great height, and were covered from top to bottom with the painted names
of old boys, some of which had been there, as was shown by the dates
under them, close upon a hundred years. The roof was supported on great
beams, and both in its proportions and style the School was a copy in
small of the great hall of Westminster.

At the furthermost end from the door was a semicircular alcove, known as
the "Shell," which gave its name to the form sitting there. On both
sides ran rows of benches and narrow desks, three deep, raised one above
the other. On the left hand on entering was the Under School, and,
standing on the floor in front of it, was the arm-chair of Mr. Wire.
Next came the monitor's desk, at which the captain and two monitors sat.
In an open drawer in front of the table were laid the rods, which were
not unfrequently called into requisition. Extending up to the end were
the seats of the Sixth. The "Upper Shell" occupied the alcove; the
"Under Shell" were next to them, on the further benches on the
right-hand side. Mr. Richards presided over the "Shell." Mr. Sargent
took the Upper and Under Fifth, who came next to them, and "Johnny," as
Mr. Johns was called, looked after the two Fourths, who occupied benches
on the right hand of the door.

By the time the masters entered the School all the boys were in their
places. The doors were at once shut, then the masters knelt on one knee
in a line, one behind the other, in order of seniority, and the Junior
Queen's Scholar whose turn it was knelt in front of them, and in a loud
tone read the Lord's Prayer in Latin. Then the masters proceeded to
their places, and school began, the names of all who came in late being
taken down to be punished with impositions.

So large and lofty was the hall, that the voices were lost in its
space, and the forms were able to work without disturbing each other any
more than if they had been in separate rooms. The Sixth only were heard
apart, retiring into the library with the Doctor. His seat, when in
school, was at a table in the centre of the hall, near the upper end.

Thus Westminster differed widely from the great modern schools, with
their separate class-rooms and lecture-rooms. Discipline was not very
strict. When a master was hearing one of the forms under him the other
was supposed to be preparing its next lessons, but a buzz of quiet talk
went on steadily. Occasionally, once or twice a week perhaps, a boy
would be seen to go up from one of the lower forms with a note in his
hand to the head-master; then there was an instant pause in the talking.

Dr. Litter would rise from his seat, and a monitor at once brought him a
rod. These instruments of punishment were about three feet six inches
long; they were formed of birch twigs, very tightly bound together, and
about the thickness of the handle of a bat; beyond this handle some ten
or twelve twigs extended for about eighteen inches. The Doctor seldom
made any remark beyond giving the order, "Hold out your hand."

The unfortunate to be punished held out his arm at a level with his
shoulder, back uppermost. Raising his arm so that the rod fell almost
straight behind his back, Dr. Litter would bring it down, stroke after
stroke, with a passionless and mechanical air, but with a sweeping force
which did its work thoroughly. Four cuts was the normal number, but if
it was the third time a boy had been sent up during the term he would
get six. But four sufficed to swell the back of the hand, and cover it
with narrow weals and bruises. It was of course a point of honour that
no sound should be uttered during punishment. When it was over the
Doctor would throw the broken rod scornfully upon the ground and return
to his seat. The Junior then carried it away and placed a fresh one upon
the desk.

The rods were treated with a sort of reverence, for no Junior Queen's
Scholar ever went up or down school for any purpose without first going
over to the monitor's table and lightly touching the rod as he passed.

Such was school at Westminster forty years since, and it has but little
changed to the present day.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER II.

A COLD SWIM.


IT is winter. Christmas is close at hand, and promises to be a bitterly
cold one. The ice has formed smooth and black across the Serpentine, and
a number of people are walking along by its banks, looking forward to
some grand skating if the frost does but hold two days longer. The sky
is blue, and the sun shining brightly; the wind is fresh and keen; it is
just the day when people well-clad, well-fed, and in strong health, feel
their blood dancing more freely than usual through their veins, and
experience an unusual exhilaration of spirits. Merry laughter often
rises from the groups on the bank, and the air rings with the sharp
sound made by pieces of ice sent skimming by mischievous boys over the
glassy surface, to the disgust of skaters, who foresee future falls as
the result of these fragments should a slight thaw freeze them to the
surface.

Among those walking by the edge of the ice were Frank Norris and Fred
Barkley; with them was a bright-faced girl of some fourteen years old.
Alice Hardy was cousin to both the young fellows, and was a ward of
their uncle, Captain Bayley, an old and very wealthy retired officer of
the East India Company's Service. His fortune had not been acquired in
India, but had descended to him from his father, of whom he had been the
youngest son. His elder brothers had died off one by one, all unmarried
or childless, and soon after he obtained his commission he was recalled
home to take his place as the next heir to his father's estates; then he
had married.

Soon after he succeeded to the property his wife died, leaving him a
little girl, who was called Ella after her. Captain Bayley was hot and
passionate. His daughter grew up fiery and proud. Her father was
passionately fond of her; but just when she reached the age of twenty,
and had taken her place as one of the leading belles of Worcestershire,
she disappeared suddenly from the circle of her acquaintances. What had
happened no one ever knew. That there had been some terrible quarrel was
certain. It was understood that Captain Bayley wished no questions to be
asked. Her disappearance was a nine days' wonder in Worcestershire. Some
said she had turned Roman Catholic and gone into a convent; others that
she must have eloped, although with whom no one could guess. But at last
the subject died out, until two years later Captain Bayley and his
household appeared in mourning, and it was briefly announced that his
daughter was dead.

Captain Bayley went about as before, peppery, kind-hearted, perhaps a
little harder and more cynical than before, but a very popular personage
in Worcestershire. Those who knew him best thought him the most altered,
and said that although he appeared to bear the blow lightly he felt
deeply at heart the death of his daughter. His nearest heirs now were
his two nephews, Frank Norris and Barkley, sons of his married sisters.
Alice Hardy bore no relation to him. For some years speculation had
been rife as to which of his two nephews he would select as his heir.

Two years before this story begins Alice Hardy's father and mother had
both died of typhoid fever, leaving Captain Bayley as guardian to their
daughter. Somewhat to the surprise of his friends, the old officer not
only accepted the trust, but had Alice installed at his house, there to
be educated by a governess instead of being sent to school. But although
in a short time she came to be regarded as the daughter of the house, no
one thought that Captain Bayley would make her his heiress, as she had
inherited a considerable fortune from her father; and the two lads at
Westminster were still regarded as rivals for the heirship.

Captain Bayley had never been on good terms with either of his
brothers-in-law; both had been merchants in the city, and the old
officer considered that his sisters had made mesalliances in marrying
them. Frank's father and mother had died within a few months of each
other, when he was about twelve years old; Captain Bayley's house had
since been his home. Fred was often invited to stay with his uncle down
in Worcestershire, and his London house in Eaton Square was always open
to him. Frank had never counted on the probability of his uncle leaving
him any money. Certainly he never for a moment built castles in the air
founded upon the chance of the inheritance. His father had been an
easy-going and somewhat careless man, and would sometimes laugh with the
boy in speaking of his future and predicting what he would do if he were
come into old Bayley's estates. None of the Captain's intimates
could--had they been asked--have declared a preference for the chances
of either lad. Fred was certainly the cleverest. He had gone into
college head of his year, and would have been Captain, had not one of
those of the year before him, who had got into College under age,
elected to stay a year longer at school, and therefore by right became
Captain, while Fred had to be content with the honours of head monitor.
Frank, on the other hand, had failed to get into College at all, and had
remained a town boy.

Although it could not be said of Fred that in any open way he laid
himself out to gain his uncle's favour, he was yet decidedly more
attentive than was Frank, and would give up any other engagement he
might have if Captain Bayley invited him to stay the Saturday and Sunday
in Eaton Square, while Frank went carelessly his own way. And while
there was nothing in the smallest degree servile in Fred's manner--for
this indeed Captain Bayley would have instantly noticed and
resented--there was just that slight deference which a young fellow
should exhibit in conversation with an elder, while Frank, on the other
hand, carelessly expressed his own opinion and ideas, which often
differed very widely from those of the old officer.

Captain Bayley's own manner evinced no shade of partiality for one
nephew over the other; and although Alice had a sort of faint suspicion
that Frank, who was certainly her own favourite, was also that of her
uncle, she could have given no reason for her belief.

In person the cousins were remarkably dissimilar. Frank was two inches
the tallest, and had a still greater advantage in width. It was clear
that he would grow into a big man, but his figure was at present loose
and unformed; he had dark brown hair, with a slight wave, and would
hardly have been called good-looking, were it not for his open, fearless
expression and merry smile.

Fred's figure, although less strongly built, was far more formed, and it
was probable that years would effect but little change in it. There was
a sinew and wire in his frame which would have told an athlete of great
latent strength in the slight figure. His hair was light, his features
clear and sharply cut, and the face a decidedly intellectual one. His
manner was somewhat cold and restrained, but pleasant and courteous to
men older than himself; both young fellows carried themselves well, with
a certain ease of bearing, and that nameless air of command which
distinguish most young men who have passed through the upper forms of a
great public school.

Both lads had their circle of friends and admirers at school, but
Frank's was by far the largest. He was indeed universally popular, which
was far from being the case with his cousin. Upon the other hand, while
Frank seemed to be a sort of common property of the School, it was
somehow esteemed by those in Barkley's set a special distinction to be
admitted to his friendship.

But the party of three young people have been left long enough walking
by the edge of the Serpentine. Presently they saw a knot of people
gathered ahead; the number increased as others ran up.

"What's up, I wonder?" Frank said. "Look out there on the ice, Alice.
You see that hole; there is something moving--there's a dog's head, I
declare. Poor brute! it has run out after a stick, I suppose, and the
ice has given under it."

"Poor little thing!" Alice exclaimed pitifully, "can't it get out? Do
you think it will be drowned, Frank? Can nothing be done for it?"

"The best thing you can do, Alice," Fred replied, as Frank stood looking
at the dog, who tried several times, but in vain, to scramble out, the
ice each time breaking with its weight, "will be to turn and walk away;
there is no use standing here harrowing your feelings by watching that
poor little brute drown."

"Can nothing be done, Frank?" Alice again asked, paying no heed to
Fred's suggestion.

"That is just what I am thinking," Frank replied. "You stop here, Alice,
with Fred. I will go on and see what they are doing."

"Can't I go with you, Frank?"

"You had better stop here," Frank replied; "the crowd is getting thick
there, and they are a roughish lot. Besides, you will not be able to see
over their heads, and can do no good; so just do as I bid you."

The girl remained obediently with her cousin Fred, while Frank went off
at a run towards the group.

"Frank orders you about just as if you were his fag," Fred said, with a
smile which had in it something of a sneer.

"I don't mind," the girl said staunchly, "it's Frank's way, and I like
it;--at any rate one always knows what Frank means, and he always means
well."

"That is as much as to say, Alice, that you don't always understand what
I mean, and that I don't always mean well," Fred Barkley said in a quiet
tone, but with a little flush of anger in his usually somewhat pale
cheeks.

"No, I don't know that I mean that," Alice said carelessly; "but I do
not always understand what you mean, though I always understand what you
say."

"I should have thought that was the same thing," Fred replied.

"Should you?" Alice rejoined. "Well I shouldn't, that's all."

As Frank Norris approached the group he began to unbutton his collar and
waistcoat.

"It will be a beastly cold swim," he grumbled to himself, "but I can't
see the poor little brute drowned, and drowned he certainly will be if
no one goes in for him. It's no distance to swim, and I should think one
could wade to within twenty yards of him; but it certainly will be
horribly cold." And he gave a shiver of anticipation as he looked at the
smooth frozen surface.

With some little difficulty Frank pushed his way through to the centre
of the group by the water's side. A little girl, poorly dressed, was
standing crying bitterly; a cripple boy in a box upon wheels was trying
to pacify her, while another who had taken off his coat and waistcoat,
and laid them in the lap of the cripple, was unlacing his boots.

"Are you going in, young un?" Frank said, as he joined them.

"Yes, sir; I am going in for Flossy. She belongs to this little girl,
who is one of our neighbours."

"Can you swim well?" Frank asked, "for the water will be bitterly cold."

"Yes," the boy answered confidently, "I goes regularly for a swim above
Vauxhall Bridge in the summer, and keeps on until the water gets too
cold. I can do that fast enough. I suppose the ice will break right
enough," and he looked up inquiringly at Frank.

"Yes, it will break with your weight easily enough; you will have to
raise yourself a little so as to break it before you. You will have to
put some weight on, for it is nearly half an inch thick; I expect there
is a thin place where the dog has fallen in--a spring underneath, most
likely, so a mere skin has formed.

"Look here, young un, I was going in if you hadn't. I shall get my boots
ready to kick off now, so don't you be frightened if you get numbed with
the cold, or a touch of cramp; just sing out and I will be with you in a
minute."

The cripple looked with pleasure up into Frank's face.

"It is very good of you, sir, for you don't know the dog as Evan does.
Ah! I know your face, sir," he broke off, "I saw you in the fight down
by our place at Westminster, when Evan ran up and fetched some more of
your chaps--and just in time they were too."

"Oh! was it your brother who brought that news?" Frank said quickly;
"then I owe him one, and if I go in to fetch him out we shall be only
quits."

Evan had by this time entered the water, breaking the ice before him as
he went.

"My eye, ain't it cold!" he said, half-turning round, "seems to nip
one's legs up regular. All right, Flossy," he shouted to the dog, as he
continued his way out, in answer to a pitiful whine of the struggling
animal.

[Illustration: THE RESCUE FROM THE SERPENTINE.]

For the first few paces Evan's progress was easy enough; but when he got
so deep that he could no longer break the ice with his foot his
difficulties began, and it was only by flinging himself down upon it
that he was able to break it. A few yards further on the water was up
to his chin. He was now breaking the ice by trying to climb upon it.
Frank was watching him closely, and noticed that he no longer proceeded
about his work deliberately, but with a hurried and jerky action, as if
he felt his strength failing him. Frank pulled off his coat and
waistcoat, and handed them to the cripple, kicked off his boots, and
stood in readiness to plunge in.

The crowd had at first cheered the lad as he made his way from the
shore; some still uttered shouts of encouragement, others saw that he
was getting exhausted, and called to him to return. Suddenly the boy
seemed to lose his power altogether, held on to the edge of the ice, and
cast a despairing look towards the shore. Then gradually his head
disappeared under the water; but Frank was already half-way towards him.
A few strides had taken him through the shallow water, and he swam with
vigorous strokes through the floating fragments to the end of the line
of broken water; then he too disappeared for a moment. A dead silence
reigned through the crowd; but when two heads appeared above the water
together, a ringing cheer broke out. Carrying his senseless companion,
Frank swam back to shore.

"Take off his wet clothes," he said, as he handed his burden to some of
the men. "Wrap him up in my coat and his own, and then run with him up
to the Humane Society's House, they will bring him round in no time; it
is cold, not drowning."

Then he looked again across the water. The little dog was swimming
feebly now, its nose scarcely above the surface. It had given a
plaintive cry of despair as it saw those who had approached so near turn
back, for there were but some five yards between the spot where the
boy's strength had failed and the circle which it had broken in its
efforts to climb out.

"I can't be colder than I am," Frank said to himself, "so here goes."

Accordingly he again dashed into the water and swam to the end of the
narrow passage; a few vigorous strokes broke the intervening barrier of
ice. He seized the little dog, put it on the ice, and with a push sent
it sliding towards the shore, and then turned and swam back again.

It was only just where the dog had fallen in that the ice was too weak
to bear its weight, and, after lying for two or three minutes utterly
exhausted, it scrambled to its feet and made its way to the bank, where
it was soon wrapped in the apron of its delighted mistress.

Frank, on reaching the shore, was scarcely able to stand, so benumbed
were his legs by the cold. His cousins had made their way through the
crowd to the spot.

"O Frank," Alice exclaimed, "what a mad thing for you to do. Oh! I am so
pleased you did it--but oh, you do look cold! What will you do?"

"I am all right, Alice," Frank said, as cheerfully as his chattering
teeth would allow him to speak. "You go home with Fred; I shall get a
hot bath and have my clothes dried at the receiving-house, and shall be
as right as a trivet in half an hour. There, good-bye!"

Frank walked stiffly at first, but was presently able to break into a
run, which he kept up until he reached the establishment of the Royal
Humane Society. His first question, as he entered, was for the boy.

"He will do, sir," the attendant answered, "we popped him at once into
a hot bath we had ready, and he has opened his eyes, and is able to
speak; we have just got him into bed between warm blankets, and now it's
your turn."

In another minute Frank was in the bath from which the boy had just been
taken, for there was no time to prepare another. For the first minute or
two he felt an intense pain as the blood flowed back into his chilled
limbs, then a delightful sensation of warmth and comfort stole over him;
a glass of hot brandy and water completed his cure, and a few minutes
later he felt that he was fast going off to sleep in the warm blankets
between which he was laid.

Before the crowd whom the incident on the Serpentine had gathered broke
up, one or two of those present went among the rest and collected a
subscription for the lad who had gone in after the dog. Nearly two
pounds were collected in silver and coppers, and handed over to the
cripple to give to his brother. Fred Barkley dropped in five shillings,
and Alice Hardy the same sum. Then after walking to the receiving-house,
and hearing that Frank and the lad had both recovered from the effects
of the cold, and would probably be all right after a few hours' sleep,
they returned home, Alice in a high state of excitement over the
adventure which she had witnessed, Fred silent and gloomy.

He accompanied Alice to Eaton Square, and was present when she related
to her uncle the story of the lad going in to rescue the dog, and of
Frank going in to rescue the boy, and of his afterwards returning to set
free the dog. Upon the way home he had appeared to Alice to take the
matter exceedingly quietly, but he now, somewhat to her surprise,
appeared almost as enthusiastic as herself, and spoke in terms of high
admiration of Frank's conduct. Captain Bayley, as was usually the case
with him, took a view of the matter entirely opposed to that of the
speakers.

"Stuff and nonsense!" he said. "You call that a gallant action? I call
it a foolish boy's trick. What right has Frank to risk getting rheumatic
fever, and being laid up as a cripple for life, merely to save a dog?"

"But he went in to save a boy, uncle," Alice said indignantly.

"Pooh, pooh!" the old officer exclaimed, "the boy would never have gone
in if he hadn't encouraged him. That makes the case all the worse. Frank
not only risking catching rheumatism himself, but he risked the life of
that boy by encouraging him to do such a foolish action. It was a
hair-brained business altogether, sir; and I am glad you had the wisdom,
Fred, to keep out of it. The idea of two lives being risked to save that
of a wretched cur is too absurd; if you had offered the girl who owned
it five shillings to buy another it would have been more sensible."

"I don't believe you mean what you say a bit, Uncle Harry," Alice
exclaimed indignantly. "I believe if you had been there, and had heard
that poor little dog's cries as we did, you would have gone in yourself.
I am sure I would if I had been a man."

"I always observe, my dear," Captain Bayley said sarcastically, "that
women would do wonderful things if they had only been born men. Nature
appears to be always making mistakes by putting the dauntless and heroic
spirits into female bodies, and _vice versa_."

"I don't like you when you talk like that, Uncle Harry--that is, I
shouldn't like you if I thought you meant it; but you only talk so out
of contradiction. If I had said I thought Frank was very foolish for
having gone into the water, you would have taken the opposite side
directly."

"You are an impudent puss, Miss Alice," her uncle retorted, "and I shall
have to tell Miss Lancaster that unless she can keep you in better order
I shall have to send you to school. You appear to have been born without
the bump of veneration."

"I would venerate you ever so much, Uncle Harry," the girl replied,
laughing, "if you would always be good and reasonable; but I cannot
venerate you when you are contrary and disagreeable, and say things you
don't mean."

As Fred Barkley walked home, he wondered again and again to himself
whether Captain Bayley had meant what he said, and whether this act of
Frank's would raise him in his opinion or the contrary; but he flattered
himself that, at any rate, no harm had been done, for his own advocacy
of his cousin could not but have placed him in the most favourable
light.

Fred Barkley was shrewd, but his power of reading character was, as yet,
by no means perfect, and his uncle's changing moods baffled the power of
analysis. He would not have been pleased had he known that at that very
moment the old officer was walking up and down his library, muttering to
himself, "I would give a good deal if there were a glass window at that
boy Fred's heart, that I could see what it is really made of. His head
is strong enough; nature has given him a fair share of brains, but,
unless I am greatly mistaken, there is a very grievous deficiency in his
allowance of heart.

"I don't believe the boy ever spoke spontaneously from the time he
learned to talk, but that every word he says is weighed before it passes
through his lips, and its effect calculated; whereas Frank never thinks
at all, but just blurts out the words which come to hand. It is curious
how much more Alice takes to him than to Fred, for he bullies her and
orders her about as if she were one of his fags, while Fred is as
courteous and polite to her as if she were a young Countess. I suppose
it is instinct, for children's opinions about people are seldom far
wrong. I thought when I brought Alice here that she would help me to
settle the problem."

Frank and Evan Holl woke at about the same time, after sleeping for some
hours; their clothes had been dried for them, and they at once began to
dress.

"How do you feel now, young un?" was Frank's first inquiry as they sat
up in their beds.

"I dunno how I feels," Evan replied. "I hardly knows where I am, or how
I got here, though I do seem to remember something about this 'ere place
too. Oh yes!" he exclaimed suddenly, "I was trying to fetch out poor
little Flossy, and the ice would not break, and I got colder and colder,
and then I don't seem to remember any more except somehow that I was
here with people standing round me, and I swallowed something hot and
went off to sleep. Ah yes! you were the gentleman as said you would come
in after me if I sang out."

"And I did come in," Frank said smilingly, "and only just in time I was,
for you did not sing out, but went right down without a word. It was
lucky you did not get under the ice."

"And Flossy," the boy said suddenly, "did she go down too?"

"No," Frank answered, "I went in again and got her out, after I had
brought you back to shore."

"Well, you are a brick!" the boy said, "a regular downright un, and no
mistake. I wonder how Harry got back; it would be a job for him to wheel
hisself all the way back to Westminster."

"Oh, I expect he got some one to help him," Frank said; "and the little
girl would be able to help shove him along."

"Yes, she would," Evan replied, "she can shove him by herself along a
pavement, and I expect that he and she atween them would be able to get
along. Lor! how them things of yours have shrunk, to be sure."

"They have, a bit," Frank said, looking down at his trousers, which were
half-way up to his knees; "but it don't matter much, it's getting dark
now, and I can take a cab when I get out of the Park. Your clothes don't
seem to have suffered so much, they seem plenty large enough for you
now."

"Yes," Evan said, with a satisfied air, "and a good job too; mother
always will have my clothes so big, cos of my growing. She always seems
to think one will grow sudden into a man afore one's things wear out."

Frank and the lad walked together as far as Albert Gate; here they
separated, Frank taking a cab home, while Evan, whistling a popular air
in a high key, took his way to Westminster. On arriving home he was
greeted with enthusiasm by Harry, but Mrs. Holl was not inclined to view
his adventure favourably.

"It's all very well to care for dogs, Evan, and I ain't a-saying as
Carrie Hill's dog ain't a nice little critter; but when it comes to
getting into the freezing water arter it, I don't hold to it no way.
Then you might have gone and got drowned--and you would have got drowned
too, Harry tells me, if that young gent hadn't been and gone after you;
and then this blessed minute I should have been breaking my heart about
you, and you down underneath the ice in the bottom of the Serpentine.
There ain't no reason in it, my boy. Harry here thinks different about
it, and will have it that I ought to be proud of yer; but he ain't a
mother, and so can't understand a mother's feelings--and your clothes
pretty nigh spoilt too, I'll be bound."

"Well, mother, if they are," Harry said cheerfully, "Evan can buy some
more. Here, Evan; here are thirty-eight shillings and ninepence
halfpenny, and it's all your own."

"Crikey!" Evan gasped, looking in astonishment at the pile of money in
Harry's lap. "Why, where did all that 'ere money come from?"

"That was collected in the crowd, Evan, after you were carried away, and
they gave it to me to give to you. I did not quite like your taking
money for doing such a thing, but of course as it was given for you I
had nothing to say to it."

Evan burst into a wild dance expressive of delight. He had none of his
brother's scruples in respect to the money.

"My eye!" he exclaimed at last, "thirty-eight bob and some coppers to do
just as I likes with. I am a rich man, I am; I shall have to get some
'igh collars and come the swell. I suppose it won't run to a carriage
and pair, mother, or to a welvet gownd for you,--that would be
splendatious. Just fancy, mother, a gownd all over welvet, and just the
same colour as the sodgers' coats. My eye! won't that be grand?"

"And a nice sight I should look in it," Mrs. Holl said, laughing at the
thought of herself in scarlet robes. "When dad comes home we will talk
over with him what's the best way of laying out this money. It's yours
to do as you likes with, but I ain't a-going to have it fooled away, so
don't you make any mistake about that."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER III.

A CRIPPLE BOY.


JOHN HOLL returned from work a few minutes after Evan came in. John Holl
was a dustman. A short, broadly-built man, with his shoulders bowed
somewhat from carrying heavy baskets up area steps. His looks were
homely, and his attire far from clean; but John was a good husband and
father, and the great proportion of the many twopences he daily received
as douceurs for discharging his duties were brought home to his wife, as
was all the weekly money, instead of being exchanged for liquor at the
public-house.

Sarah Holl added to the family income by going out charring. She was a
big woman, with a rough voice, and slipshod in walk; her hands were red
and hard from much scrubbing and polishing, and she was considered
generally by the servants in the establishments at which she worked to
be a low person. But Sarah's heart was in the right place; her children
loved her, and her husband regarded her as a treasure.

It was not until John Holl had changed his dirt-stained clothes, and had
freshened himself up with a copious wash, had put on a pair of list
slippers of Sarah's manufacture in place of his heavy boots, and had
seated himself by the fire with his long pipe alight, while Sarah
bustled about getting the tea, that he was informed of the important
events which had taken place; for John, like many more distinguished
men, had his idiosyncrasies, and one of these was that he hated to be,
as he called it, "hustled," before he had tidied up. John was not quick
of comprehension, and could not give due weight to what was said to him
while engaged in the important work of changing; therefore all pieces of
family news were reserved until he had taken his seat and his pipe was
fully alight. Then Mrs. Holl began--

"What do you think, John, Evan 'as been a-doing to-day?"

John gave a grunt, to signify that he would prefer hearing the facts to
wasting his brain-power in random guesses.

"Why, he has been in the Serpentine, and was nigh drowned, and had to be
taken to the 'Mane Society and put into a hot bath, and all his clothes
shrunk that much as you never seed."

"I thought the ice weren't strong enough to bear," John said, taking his
pipe from his mouth; "one of my mates tells me as he heard a chap going
along with skates say as it weren't strong enough on the Serpentine to
hold a cat."

"No more it ain't, John; but Carrie Hill's little dog run on and fell
through, and nothing would do but that Evan must go out and risk his
life to fetch it out. And a nice business he made of it; when he got
close out to the dog down he went hisself, and would have been drowned
as sure as fate if a young gent as was a-standing there hadn't swam out
and brought him in. And I think you ought to speak to him, John, for
such venturesome ways; he don't mind my speaking no more than the wind
a-blowing."

John Holl smoked his pipe in silence for some time, looking solemnly
into the fire; the number of facts and ideas presented suddenly to him
were too great to be instantly taken in and grappled with.

"And how do you feel now, Evan?" he said at last; "cold right through
the bones?"

"No, father; I am as warm as need be; and what do you think? I have got
thirty-eight bob and some coppers which they 'scribed for me."

"Did they, now?" John Holl said. Then after taking in this new fact, and
turning it over in different lights, he said to his wife, "Well, Sarah,
it seems to me that if the people who saw our Evan go into the water
subscribed well-nigh upon two pounds for the boy, they must have thought
that what he did warn't a thing for him to be jawed for, but a brave,
good-hearted sort of action; and I ain't no manner of doubt, Sarah, that
that's just what you think it yerself, only you are a bit scared over
the thought that he might have been drowned, which is natural and
woman-like. It seems to me as Evan has done a wery honourable kind o'
action. I know as I should have liked to have done it myself, though I
holds that a man can't have too much of hot water and plenty of soap in
it, cold water allus giving me the shivers, and being no good for
getting out dirt--not where its ground in pretty thick. I suppose its
cos of this that I didn't larn to swim. Evan, my boy, your father feels
proud of yer, and so does your mother--as proud as a peacock--though she
don't think it's right to say so."

Whereupon Mrs. Holl, finding to her great inward satisfaction that the
paternal sanction and approval had been given to Evan's adventure, felt
no longer constrained to keep up a semblance of disapproval, but
embraced him with great heartiness, and then wiped her eyes with the
corner of her apron. Then came the great point of the disposal of Evan's
fortune. His first proposal was to hand it over to his father as a
contribution towards the general expenses, but this John Holl
peremptorily refused.

"It's your money, boy, to do as you like with; it's earned in a
honourable way, and a way to be proud of. You are to do with it just
what you likes; it were best not to spend it foolish, but if you are
disposed to spend it foolish, you do so."

"There are such lots of things I should like to buy," Evan said. "I
should like to buy mother a new Sunday bonnet, and I should like to get
you a pound of bacca; and Winnie wants a new pair of boots and
stockings, and there's lots of things I should like to get for Harry,
and some warm gloves for Sue, and--and no end of things."

"Two pounds," John Holl said, "is a nice little lump of money, Evan; but
when you gets as old as I am you will know as two pounds don't go wery
far. My advice to you is this, whatever you get yer sure a while
afterwards to want something else, and to wish as you had bought that
instead; that's human nature, and it's the same with men, women, and
boys--at least that's my 'sperience, and mother will tell you the same.
My advice is, give that money to mother to keep for you, say for a
month. Well then, every day you can settle fresh what you mean to buy,
and that will be most as good as buying it; perhaps towards the end of
the month you will have settled yer mind on to something which really
seems to you better than all the others: that's my advice."

"And capital good advice too, father," Harry said.

And thus the approval of the two authorities of the family having been
obtained, the matter was considered as settled.

"And who was the young gent as went in and fetched you out, Evan?" John
Holl asked, when the important business of tea was concluded, and he
again settled himself to his pipe. "He must have been a good sort; I
should like to shake hands with that chap."

"He told me as his name were Frank Norris," Evan replied; "he is one of
the scholars we see going along to Vincent Square; I knew him again
directly. He was one of those chaps as fought so well the day they got
attacked going back to the School. A fine-looking chap he is too, with a
pleasant face, and a nice sort of way about him. No nonsense, you know;
he talked just pleasant and nice, as Harry might talk to me, just as if
he was a sort of pal, and not a swell no-how."

"I should like to shake hands with him," John Holl repeated; "he saved
your life, that's sure enough"--for by this time Harry had related the
full details of the affair. "I think, Sarah, as it would be only right
and proper, come Sunday, for you and I to go round to that young
fellow's house and tell him how we feels about it. If it had been a chap
of our own station in life I suppose there ain't nothing we wouldn't do
for him, if we saw our way to it; and though I don't see as it's likely
as we can do nothing for this young fellow, the least as we can do is to
go and tell him what we thinks about it. Did he tell you where he lived,
Evan?"

"No, father. He didn't say where he lived; but he writ down in a
pocket-book my name and where we lived, and said as how he would look in
one of these days and see that I was none the worse for my ducking."

"Well, I hopes as how he will," John said, "but if he don't come soon,
we must find him out. I expect his name or his father's name would be
down in a 'Rectory, and the name ain't so common a one as there would be
likely to be a great many on them living about here; but if there was
fifty I would call on them all till I found the right one. I shan't be
easy in my mind, not till I have shaken that young chap's hand and told
him what I thinks on it. And I am sure your mother feels the same as I
do. And now, Harry, take out that fiddle of yours and let's have a tune;
my pipe allus seems to draw better and sweeter while you are playing."

One of the children--there were eight in all in the room--fetched
Harry's fiddle from the wall. It was a cheap, common instrument, but
even far better judges of music than the Holls would have been able to
discern, in spite of its cracked and harsh tone, that the lad who was
playing it had a genius for music. It is true that the airs which he was
playing, those which the street boys of the day whistled as they walked
by, were not of a nature to display his powers. Harry could play other
and very different kinds of music; for whenever Evan earned a sixpence
by holding a horse, or doing any other odd job, a penny or twopence were
sure to go in the purchase of a sheet of music for Harry at the cheap
bookstalls. Harry had learned the notes from a secondhand book of
instructions which John Holl had bought for him one Saturday night, when
the weather had been particularly hot, and people in their desire to
get their dust-bins emptied were more liberal than usual. But of an
evening, when John was at home, Harry always played popular airs, as his
father and family were unable to appreciate the deeper and better music.
This he reserved for the time when the children were at school, and
mother was either charring or was at the wash-tub.

Sarah used to wonder silently at the sounds which seemed to her to have
no particular air, such as she could beat time to with her foot as she
worked; but in her heart she appreciated them; they made her feel as if
she was in church, and sometimes she would draw her apron across her
eyes, wondering all the time what there was in the tones of the fiddle
which should make her cry.

Three or four days later, when Harry, as usual, was playing on his
violin, and Mrs. Holl was washing, there was a knock at the door.

"Drat it!" Mrs. Holl muttered, "who's a-coming bothering now, just when
I am busy?"

"If no one is to come except when you are not busy," Harry laughed, as
Mrs. Holl moved towards the door, wiping the lather from her arms and
hands, "we shan't have many visitors, for as far as I can see you are
always busy."

"Ah!" he exclaimed, as Mrs. Holl opened the door, and he saw who was
standing without, "it's the gentleman who got Evan out of the water."

"Mrs. Holl?" Frank asked interrogatively, and then, catching sight of
Harry, he at once walked across to him and shook him by the hand.

"I hope I am not intruding, Mrs. Holl, but I promised your son to look
in and see how he was; and as I had to come down to the School to-day
for a book I wanted for my holiday task, I thought it would be a good
opportunity to fulfil my promise."

"It is no intrusion, sir, and I am sure I am heartily glad to see yer,
and thank ye for coming," Mrs. Holl said, as she dusted an already
spotless chair and placed it for her visitor. "My John does nothing
every evening but talk of how he wishes he could see you, to tell you
how beholden he and me feels to you for having brought our Evan to land
just as he was being drowned."

"No thanks are required indeed, Mrs. Holl," Frank said cheerfully, "it
was a sort of partnership affair. You see I was going in after the dog,
only Evan, who was a sort of friend of the family, had first claim; so
we agreed that he should try first and do all the hard work of breaking
the ice, and then, if the cold was too much for him, I was to go out and
fetch him in and finish the job myself. So you see it was a mutual
arrangement, and no particular thanks due to any one. But your son is a
plucky young fellow, Mrs. Holl, and he behaved most gallantly. I find
too, from what your son here tells me, that I owe him one for having
fetched help up from the School when we were getting the worst of it
just opposite your house here. Well, in the first place, how is he? None
the worse, I hope, for the cold."

"Not at all, sir. He is out to-day with a friend of ours as 'as got a
barrow, and lives in the next street, but who is that hoarse with the
cold that he can't speak out of a whisper; so he offered Evan sixpence
to go along with him to do the shouting, and a nice shouting he will
make; his voice goes through and through my head when he is only
a-talking with his brothers and sisters here, and if anything can bring
them to the windows it will be his voice. He offered to come round here
with the barrow afore they started off this morning, but says I, 'No,
Evan; I have a good name in the street, I hope, and don't wish to be
dighted as a nuisance to the neighbourhood, nor to have my neighbours
accusing me of a-being the cause of fits in their children.'"

"I don't suppose that it would be as bad as that, Mrs. Holl," Frank
said, laughing. "However, if his voice is as loud and clear as that, it
is evident that he is not much the worse for his cold bath. I came round
partly to see him, partly to know if I could do anything for him; he
seems a sharp lad, and I am sure he is as honest as he is plucky. As a
beginning, my uncle says he could come into the house as a sort of
errand-boy, and to help the footman, until he can hear of some better
position for him among his friends."

"I am sure you are very good, sir," Mrs. Holl said gratefully; "I will
mention it to his father, and he---- But I doubt whether Evan's steady
enough for a place yet, he is allus getting into mischief; there never
was such a boy for scrapes; if all my eight were like him I should go
clean mad afore the week was out. When he is in the house, as long as he
is talking or singing I can go on with my work, but the moment that he
is quiet I have to drop what I am a-doing on and look arter him, for he
is sure to be up to some mischief or other."

"No, no, mother," Harry put in, laughing; "you are giving Evan a worse
character than he deserves. He is up to fun, as is only natural with one
who has got the free use of his limbs, but he never does any real harm."

"No, I don't say that he does real harm, 'Arry," Mrs. Holl replied,
"but I do say as at present he is too full of boyish tricks to be of any
good in a place, and we should be a-having him back here a week arter he
went, and that would be a nice show of gratitude to this gentleman for
his kindness."

"I don't suppose he is as bad as you make out, Mrs. Holl; and no doubt
he would tame down after a time, just as other boys do. Perhaps a place
in a warehouse would be more suitable for him at first.

"And it was you who were playing as I came in," he went on, noticing the
violin; "I was wondering who was playing so well. How jolly it must be
to play! I wish I could, but I should never have patience to learn. Who
taught you?"

"I picked it up myself, sir," Harry replied, "from a book father bought
me. You see I have plenty of time on my hands; I don't get out much,
except just along the street, for I can't very well get across crossings
by myself. The wheels go well enough on a level, but I cannot push them
up a curb-stone. But what with reading and fiddling the days pass
quickly enough, especially when mother is at home; she is out two or
three days a week, and then the time seems rather long."

"I should think so," Frank said; "I should go mad if I were laid up
entirely. I am awfully sorry for you. If you are fond of books I shall
be glad to let you have some; I have got no end of them, and there they
stand on my shelf unopened from year's end to year's end. What sort of
books do you like best? Sea stories, or Indians, or what?"

"I should like any story-books, sir," Harry replied, his eyes
brightening up with pleasure; "I have read a few which father has
picked up for me at the bookstalls, and I have gone through and through
them until I could almost say them by heart. And then tales of travel
and history,--oh, I love history! to read what people did hundreds of
years ago, and how nations grew up step by step, just like children, it
is splendid!"

"I am afraid," Frank said, with a laugh, "that I don't care so much for
history as you do. Names are hard enough to remember, but dates are
awful; I would rather do the toughest bit of construing than have a page
of Greek history to get up. Well, I will certainly look you up some
books on history and some travels, and will send you some of Marryat's
stories. I suppose you do not care for schoolbooks; I have got a
barrow-load that I shall never want again."

"Oh yes, sir," Harry said eagerly, "I think I should like those best of
all. Have you a Virgil, sir? I do like Virgil, and all that story about
the siege of Troy. I only had it for a fortnight. Father bought it for
me, and then one of the little ones managed somehow to take it out and
lose it; she ran out with it for a bit of fun, and we suppose sat down
on a doorstep and forgot it."

"But, bless me," Frank exclaimed, "you don't mean to say that you read
Virgil in Latin! You are a rum fellow. How on earth did you learn it?"

"I have taught myself, sir," Harry said. "Father is awfully good, and
often picks up books for me at old bookstalls. Of course sometimes he
gets things I can't make out. But he got twelve once for a shilling, and
there was a Latin Grammar and Dictionary among them; and when I had
learned the Grammar, it was very easy with the Dictionary to make out
the sense of some of the Latin books. But of course I often come across
things that I don't understand. I think sometimes if some one would
explain them to me once or twice, so that I could really understand how
the rules in the Grammar are applied, I could get on faster."

"Well, you are a rum fellow!" Frank exclaimed again. "I wish I liked
learning as you do, for though I am in the Sixth at Westminster, I own
that I look upon the classics as a nuisance. Well, now, look here; I
have got an hour at present with nothing special to do, so if you like
we will have a go at it together. What have you got here?" and he walked
across to a shelf on which were a number of books. "Oh! here is a Cæsar;
suppose we take that; it's easy enough generally, but there are some
stiffish bits now and then. Let's start off from the beginning, and
perhaps I may be able to make things clear for you a bit."

In spite of Mrs. Holl's protestations that Harry ought not to trouble
the gentleman, the two lads were soon deep in their Cæsar. Frank found,
to his surprise, that the cripple boy had a wonderful knack of grasping
the sense of passages, but that never having been regularly taught to
construe, he was unable to apply the rules of grammar which he had
learned. Frank taught him how to do this, how to take a sentence to
pieces, how to parse it word by word, and to see how each word depended
upon the others, so that even if absolutely in ignorance of the meaning
of any one word in a sentence, he could nevertheless parse them
unerringly in the order in which they would be rendered in
English--could determine the value of each, and their bearing upon one
another.

This was quite a revelation to Harry; his face flushed with eagerness
and excitement, and so interested were both lads in their work, that the
hour was far exceeded before the lesson came to an end by Mrs. Holl
interfering bodily in the matter by carrying off the Dictionary, and
declaring that it was a shame that Harry should give so much trouble.

"It is no trouble at all, Mrs. Holl," Frank said, laughing. "You see one
is accustomed a little to teaching, as one often gives one's fag, or any
other little chap who asks, a construe, or explains his lesson to him.
But I can tell you that there are precious few of them who take it all
in as quickly as your son does. Now that I have made myself at home, I
will come in sometimes when school begins again, if you will let me, for
half an hour and read with Harry. But I don't think he will want any
help long. Still, it may help to show him the regular way of getting at
things. And now I must hurry off. You will ask Evan to think over what I
have said. Here is my address. I wrote it down in case I should find no
one in. If he makes up his mind about it before I come again, he had
better call on me there; the best time would be between nine and eleven
in the morning; I have always finished breakfast by nine, and I have put
off my holiday task so long, that I must stick at it regularly two hours
a day till school begins again, so he will be pretty sure to find me
between nine and eleven. Will you tell your husband not to worry himself
about seeing me? I don't want to be thanked, for it was, as I told you,
a sort of partnership business between your boy and me."

"Now I call that a downright nice sort of young chap," Mrs. Holl said,
as their visitor departed, "good-hearted and good-natured, without no
sort of nonsense. He just sits himself down and makes himself at home
as if he was one of the family, and I was able to go on with my washing
just as if he hadn't been here."

For a time Harry did not answer.

"So, that's a gentleman," he said at last, in a low voice, as if
thinking aloud; "I have never spoken to a gentleman before."

"Well, lad," Sarah Holl said, "there ain't much difference between the
gentry and other sorts. I don't see very much of them myself in the
houses I goes to, but I hears plenty about them from the servants' talk;
and, judging from that, a great many of them 'as just as nasty and
unpleasant ways as other people."

"I suppose," Harry said thoughtfully, "there can't be much difference in
real nature between them and us; there must, of course, be good and bad
among them; but there is more difference in their way of talking than I
expected."

"Well, of course, Harry; they have had education, that accounts for it;
just the same as you, who have educated yourself wonderful, talks
different to John and me and the rest of us."

"Yes," Harry said; "but I am not talking about mistakes in grammar; it's
the tone of voice, and the way of speaking that's so different. Now why
should that be, mother?"

"I suppose a good deal of it," Mrs. Holl answered, "is because they are
brought up in nusseries, and they can't run about the house, or holloa
or shout to each other in the streets. D' ye see they are taught to
speak quiet, and they hear their fathers and mothers, and people round
them, speaking quiet. You dun't know, Harry, how still it is in some of
them big houses, you seem half afraid to speak above a whisper."

"Yes, but I don't think he spoke lower than I do, mother, or than the
rest of us. O mother!" he went on, after a while, "isn't he good? Just
to think of his spending an hour and a half sitting here, showing me how
to construe. Why, I see the whole thing in a different way now; he has
made clear all sorts of things that I could not understand; and he said
he would come again too, and I am quite sure that when he says a thing
he means to do it. I don't believe he could tell a lie if he tried. And
is he not good-looking too?"

"He is a pleasant-looking young chap," Mrs. Holl replied, "but I should
not call him anything out of the way. Now I should call you a
better-looking chap than he is, Harry."

"O mother, what an idea!" Harry exclaimed, quite shocked at what seemed
to him a most disrespectful comparison to his hero.

"It ain't no idea at all," Mrs. Holl rejoined stoutly; "any one with
eyes in his head could see that if you was dressed the same as he is you
would be a sight the best-looking chap of the two."

"Ah mother!" Harry said, laughing, "you remind me of an old saying I saw
in a book the other day, 'A mother's geese are all swans.'"

"I am sure," Mrs. Holl said, in an aggrieved voice, "you ain't no goose,
Harry, and if any one else said so I should give them a bit of my mind
sharp enough."

Harry did not attempt to argue with her, but with a little laugh turned
to his books again, and was soon deep in the mysteries of Cæsar.

The next day a carrier's cart stopped before Mrs. Holl's house, to the
great amazement of the neighbourhood--for such an occurrence had not
been known in the memory of the oldest inhabitant in the street, and
quite a crowd of children collected to witness the delivery of a square
heavy box of considerable weight at the door.

Harry was almost beside himself with delight as he took out the
treasures it contained; and as fully half were story-books, his delight
was shared by the rest of the young Holls. It was evening when the cart
arrived, and John was just enjoying his first pipe, and he once more
uttered the sentiment he had expressed so often during the last four
days, "I should like to shake that young chap by the hand."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER IV.

AN ADOPTED CHILD.


A FEW days after school had commenced Frank Norris called in again at
the Holls'. It was a bright day, and Harry had gone out in his box, and
Mrs. Holl was alone.

"Harry will be sorry he is out, sir," was her first greeting to Frank;
"he has been looking forward to your coming again. You don't know, sir,
how much good you have done him. The boy has generally wonderful good
spirits, considering his condition; still, though he don't say nought, I
can see sometimes that he isn't never quite happy except when he is
working away with his books or playing on that fiddle of his.

"Evan has been and spent all the money as was given him that day at the
Serpentine in buying a new fiddle for him. I don't see much in the thing
myself, and it seems to me they must have cheated Evan altogether, for
it ain't a new un, but an old, brown, dirty-looking thing, as looks as
if it had been made nigh fifty years; and they goes and charges him
thirty-eight shillings for it, and pretended to make a favour of it,
while John only paid seven and sixpence for the one he had before, which
was a beautiful new shiny one.

"However, Harry seems delighted with it, and says it's beautiful soft,
and mellow. But what he means I don't know, though I do allow it ain't
so squeaky as the other; and sometimes when Harry is playing soft on it,
it does sound beautiful. Still, thirty-eight shillings is a big price
for an old thing like that."

"Old fiddles are always worth more than new ones, Mrs. Holl. Do you know
there are some fiddles two or three hundred years old which could not be
bought for less than three or four hundred pounds?"

"My gracious!" Mrs. Holl exclaimed, "three or four hundred pounds for
such a thing as a fiddle. I calls it downright wicked."

"He is a wonderful boy that son of yours, Mrs. Holl," Frank said,
changing the subject; "a regular genius I should call him. What a pity
it is that he is a cripple!"

"Ay, that it is," Mrs. Holl agreed, "and he is a wonderful chap, is
Harry. But he ain't no son of mine, Mr. Norris, though he don't know it
himself, and I shouldn't like him to be told."

"Then what relation is he, Mrs. Holl, if it is not an impertinent
question?"

"He ain't no sort of relation at all, sir," the woman answered.

"Then how came you to bring him up, Mrs. Holl?" Frank asked in surprise.

"Well, sir, it was a very simple matter. But if so be as you care to
hear it, I will tell you just how it happened." And, leaning against the
mantelpiece, with the red light of the fire thrown up into her face,
Mrs. Holl went on very slowly, and speaking as though she almost saw
what she was relating.

"Well, sir, it were an evening in April--a cold bitter day. I was
sitting here between light and dark, drinking my tea with John, who was
just come home from work--John is my husband, you see, sir--when we
heard a noise outside in the street. We went out to see what was the
matter, and we found a poor young creature, with a baby in her arms, had
fallen down in a faint like.

"She was a pretty young thing, sir; and though her dress was poor and
torn, she looked as if she had not been always so. Some one says, 'Take
them to the workhouse.' 'No!' says I--for my heart yearned towards the
poor young thing--'bring her in here; mayn't we, John?' says I. Well,
sir, John did not say nothing, but he took the baby out of her arms and
gave it to me, and then he upped and took the poor young creature--she
were no great weight, sir--and carried her into the house, and laid her
on the bed, as it might be by the window there.

"Well, sir, that bed she never left; she came round a little, and lived
some days, but her mind were never rightly itself again. She would lay
there, with her baby beside her, and sing songs to herself; I don't know
what about, for it were some foreign language. She were very gentle and
quiet like, but I don't think she ever knew where she was, or anything
about it. She were very fond of baby, and would take it in her arms, and
hush it, and talk to it. She faded and faded away, and the doctor said
nothing could be done for her; it made my heart ache, sir, and if you
will believe me, I would go upstairs and cry by the hour.

"The thought of the little baby troubled me too. I had lost my first
little one, sir, and I could not a-bear the thought of the little thing
going to the workhouse. So one day I says to John, 'John, when that
poor mother dies, for God's sake don't 'ee send the little baby to the
workhouse; He has taken away our own little one, and may be He has sent
this one for us to love in his place. Let us take him as our own.' John,
he did not say nothing, but he up and gived me a great kiss, and said,
'Sairey, you're a good woman!' which of course, sir," Mrs. Holl put in
apologetically, "is neither here nor there, for any mother would have
done the same; but it's John's way when he's pleased. That very same
night the baby's mother died."

Standing with her rough honest face lit up by the bright fire-glow she
related it, simply, and as a matter of course, all unconscious of the
good part she had taken in it, assuming no credit to herself, or seeing
that she deserved any.

When she had finished there was a little silence. Frank passed his hand
furtively across his eyes, and then shook Mrs. Holl warmly by the hand,
saying, "Your husband was right, Mrs. Holl, you are a good woman."

Mrs. Holl looked completely amazed, and stammered out, "Lor' bless you,
sir! there wasn't anything out of the way in what I did, and there's
scores and scores would do the like. Having just lost my own little one,
my heart went out to the poor little thing, and it seemed sent natural
like, to fill up the place of the little angel who was gone from us.
Bless your heart, sir, there weren't nothing out of the way in that,
nothing at all, and we have never had cause to regret it. The boy's a
good boy, and a clever boy, and he is a comfort and a help to us; a
better boy never lived. But we have always grieved sorely over the
accident."

"Then he was not originally lame, Mrs. Holl?" Frank asked.

"Dear me! no, sir, not till he were six years old. It happened this way.
I was laid up at the time--I was just confined of Mary, she is my eldest
girl--and somehow Harry he went out in the street playing. I don't
rightly know how it happened; but never shall I forget when they brought
him in, and said that a cart had run over him. John, he was in--which
was lucky, for I think I lost my head like, and went clean out of my
mind for a bit, for I loved him just like my own. They did not think he
would have lived at first, for the cart had gone over the lower part of
his body and broke one of his thigh-bones, and the other leg up high. It
was a light cart I have heard tell, or it must have killed him.

"He were in bed for months, and, if you will believe me, if ever there
was a patient little angel on earth, it was surely Harry. He never
complained, and his chief trouble was for my sake. At last he got well;
but the doctors said he would never walk again, for they thought there
was some damage done to his spine; and sure enough he never has walked.
He is always cheerful, and keeps up wonderful, considering.

"He has always been given to reading. John made a shift to teach him his
letters, and then the children of the neighbours, they lent him their
schoolbooks, and taught him what they knew, and in a short time, bless
you, sir, he knew more than them all! He would sit and read for hours
together. He is wonderful clever, Harry is."

"Well, Mrs. Holl," Frank said, rising, "I am very much obliged to you
for your story; but I must be going now, or else I shall be late for
school. Tell Harry I am sorry I missed him, and will look in again soon.
Have you thought anything further of what I said about Evan?"

"Yes, sir, and thank you most kindly; but father thinks he had better
wait another year or so, till he gets a bit older and steadier. As for
them books as you was kind enough to send Harry, the boy must thank you
hisself; except when he is playing on his fiddle he is always reading at
them, and it is as much as I can do to get him outside the doors. He was
never very fond of it, for he thinks people look at him; but since those
books has come I have regular to take them away from him, put his cap on
his head, and push him outside the door. He will be in a taking that he
has missed you to-day."

"Well, good-bye, Mrs. Holl, I haven't a moment to lose," and Frank,
putting on his hat, made off at a sharp run to school, only arriving
just in time to say prayers.

Frank Norris, although a Sixth town boy, was not head of Richards', as
Johnstone had been longer in that form, and was consequently senior to
him. Johnstone was, however, small and slightly built, and cared little
for rowing, cricket, or football. He had gained his place in the Sixth
by sheer hard work rather than by talent. He was fussy and irritable,
with a strong sense of the importance of his position as a Sixth town
boy and head of Richards'. Between him and Frank there was no
cordiality, for it irritated him that the latter was upon all occasions
appealed to, and his advice asked in everything relating to games, and
all matters of dispute referred to him. Frank, on the other hand,
although he at all times gave way to Johnstone in house matters, was
constantly annoyed by his continual self-assertion and his irritation at
trifles. They were the only two Sixth town boys at Richards', but there
were three Upper 'Shells,' Harris, Travers, and James, and these ranked
almost with the Sixth, for the great demarcation of the School was
between the Upper and Under 'Shells,' the former having the right to
fag.

Frank and Johnston had each a small room of their own; the three Upper
"Shells" had a room together, but they used Frank's study almost as much
as their own; one or other would generally come in to work with him in
the evening, and it was here that councils were held as to house matters
or knotty points connected with field or water.

"I wish Trafalgar Square wasn't out of bounds," Harris said one evening.

They had finished the work for the next day, and had gathered for a chat
in Frank's room before turning into bed. Frank was sitting in a rickety
arm-chair by the fire, Harris on the table, and the other two on the
bed.

"Why do you wish so, Harris?" Frank said.

"Why, I should like to go up to see those rows they have pretty nearly
every day. Thompson, the home boarder, told me he saw a regular fight
there yesterday evening between the police and the Chartists."

"Well, it's no use wishing, because bounds begin at the gate in Dean's
Yard. I never could understand myself why we should be allowed to go the
other way, down the slums, as far as we please, where there is every
chance of getting into a row, while we are not allowed to walk quietly
up Parliament Street; then we may go along the other way, by the new
Houses of Parliament, to Westminster Bridge, and across the bridge to
baths; but we may not go out from Dean's Yard and walk across in front
of the Abbey to the Bridge. I expect when the rules were made there were
no houses built beyond us, and there were fields extending back from the
river, while the other way led up to the Court. But I should certainly
like to go up and see one of those Chartist riots. However, I don't
think it can be done; it would be setting a bad example to the young
uns, and the chances are ten to one we should run against one of the
masters."

"Hardly likely, I should think," Travers said; "it would be shocking bad
luck to run against one of them in a crowd like that."

"Well, you see, Travers, we are so preciously conspicuous in these
tail-coats; of course it's the custom, and I stick up for old customs;
still, I do think it's a ridiculous thing that we should be obliged to
wear tail-coats. Of course the jackets for the fellows under the Upper
'Shell' are all right, but one cannot go on wearing jackets higher than
that; still, I do think they might let us wear cutaways; tail-coats were
all right when every one else wore tail-coats, but in our days it is
absurd to wear a coat which nobody else wears except for an evening
dress. You can tell a fellow a mile off as a Westminster boy by his
coat."

"It has its advantages," James said. "Look how Johnstone would lose his
importance without his tails, he would look like a plucked jay."

There was a general laugh.

"He is not a bad fellow," Frank replied, "though he does think a good
deal of himself. Still, as no one else thinks anything of him, it is
just as well he should fancy himself. But never mind that now. No, I
don't think there is any chance of our getting to see the fun in
Trafalgar Square. I should like to go to one of the halls where those
fellows spout, and to get up and say something the other way. Of course
one would have to go in a strong body, else there would not be much of
us left when we got into the street again. I must have a chat with
Perkins about it, he is sure to be up to all that kind of thing."

"Yes, but there would be the trouble of getting in after lock-up."

"Oh, I dare say we might get over that," Harris replied; "the fags would
never peach."

"We won't tell them if we can help it," Frank said; "if we go in for any
lark of that sort only one of our fags must know it. I can trust young
Phillpot to hold his tongue. Well, I will chat it over with Perkins, and
see what can be done."

Perkins was a retired prize-fighter who kept a public-house on Bank
Side. In a large room attached to the house he gave sparring exhibitions
twice a week, with the aid of other fellow-pugilists, and also gave
private lessons in the art of self-defence. Bank Side was not out of
bounds, but it was strictly against the rules for any boy to enter a
public-house; nevertheless, a good many of the Westminster boys had
learned boxing from this worthy. There was a private entrance behind the
house into what Perkins called his "saloon," and the boys strove to
consider that by using this they avoided an infringement of the rule.
The fact of their taking lessons was unknown to the master, for indeed
at Westminster the boys were at perfect liberty to do as they pleased
out of school-time, providing that they did not go out of bounds.

The rules enforcing attendance at fields or water, of abstaining from
entering public-houses, and generally of conducting themselves as
gentlemen, were left to what may be called their own police, the senior
Queen's Scholars and the Sixth Form town boys, and these kept a far
more rigorous hand over the younger boys than the masters could possibly
have done. A vigorous thrashing was the punishment for shirking fields,
or for any action regarded as caddish; and it was therefore only the
Upper 'Shells' and Sixth, who, being free from the operation of the law
as to fields and water, were able to frequent Perkins's establishment.

Of those who went there, most of them did so for the genuine purpose of
learning boxing; but a few used the place for the purpose of smoking and
drinking. But these did so at hours when there was no chance of finding
Perkins at work with his pupils, for public feeling would not have
tolerated, even in an upper form boy, anything that would have been
looked upon as such bad form.

The next morning, after breakfast, Frank walked down to "The Black Dog."
He was one of Perkins's best pupils, and the latter had more than once
been heard to express his regret that Frank had not been born in a lower
class of life.

"He's got the making of a champion in him," the ex-pugilist would say
regretfully; "in another five years, when he has got his full height and
filled out, I warrant he will fight twelve stone; look how quick he is
on his pins; and I tell you I have all my work to do now to guard my
head, he hits like lightning, and once or twice has fairly knocked me
off my pins. I'd back him now for fifty pounds against any novice in
England; and as for pluck, I have never seen him wince, hit him as hard
as you will he always comes up smiling. Barkley, he is a good boxer too,
but he ain't got temper, sir; he gets nasty if he has a sharp counter;
and though he keeps cool enough, there is an ugly look about his face
which tells its tale. He would never keep his temper, and I doubt if
he's real game at bottom. I knows my customers, and have never hit him
as I hit Norris; I don't want to lose a pupil as pays fair and square,
and I know I should mighty soon lose him if I were to let out at him
sharp. No, there is bad blood in that chap somewhere."

"Well, Master Norris, and what do you want at this time of the morning?"
he said, as Frank, after entering the saloon, rang a bell which sounded
in the bar and summoned him to the saloon. "Not a lesson at this time of
the day, surely?"

"Not exactly, Perkins, considering I am due at ten o'clock, and
therefore have only five minutes to stay. I just dropped in to ask you
about something on which you can perhaps advise us."

"Fire away, Master Norris; anything I can do for you you knows as I
will."

"I was thinking, Perkins, that it would be a great lark to go up to one
of those halls where those Chartist fellows meet, and to hear their
speeches."

"I don't see that there would be any lark in it," Perkins replied,
"unless you meant getting up a row."

"I don't know that I exactly meant to get up a row; but if there was a
row, so much the more lark."

"Well, sir, if I might give my advice, I don't think, if I was you, I
would do it in school-time. Your hands can guard your face pretty tidy,
I grant you, but the chances is as you would not get out of such a row
as that would be without being marked. I knows of a place over the other
side of the water, not far from the New Cut, where they meet. Bill Lowe,
him as comes here to spar twice a week, yer know, he goes there; he
takes up with them Chartist notions, which I don't hold with no ways. I
don't see nothing in them seven pints as would do anything for the ring;
and that being so, let it alone, says I. However, Master Norris, since
you have a fancy that way I will talk the matter over with him, and then
if you really makes up your mind you would like to go, I will get four
or five of my lads as can use their mawleys, and we will go in a body.

"Then if there should be a row, I reckon we can fight our way out. There
ain't much in them chaps, tailors and shoemakers, and the like; they are
always great hands for jaw, them tailors and shoemakers, but I never
seed one as I would put five pound on in a twelve-foot ring. Poor
undersized creatures, for the most part, but beggars for jaw; but there
are some rough uns with 'em, and yer might get badly marked before yer
got out."

But Frank's mind was now bent upon it.

"It will be a lark, Perkins, anyhow; things have been rather slow at
School lately, and three or four of us have set our minds on it. So if
you let me know what evening will suit you, we will be here."

Four evenings later Frank Norris, with the other three boys, slipped out
after prayers were over, and started on their expedition. Frank's fag
closed the door noiselessly behind them and rebolted it; he had strict
orders to take his place at an upper window at eleven o'clock and watch
for their return. If when they made their appearance the house was quiet
and the lights out, he was to slip down and let them in; if not, they
were to go away again and return an hour later. All four boys were in
thick pea-jackets, and wore rough caps which they had bought for the
purpose.

When they reached Perkins's public-house, the prize-fighter surveyed
them closely.

"Ye will pass in a crowd," he said; "but keep your caps well down over
yer faces. Now mind, young gents, if there's a row comes over this 'ere
business, I ain't to blame in the matter."

"All right, Perkins, but there will be no row."

Being joined by Bill Lowe and three other boxers, they set out together
for the New Cut; past the New Houses of Parliament--still in the hands
of the builders--over Westminster Bridge, past the flaring lights in
front of Astley's, and into the New Cut.

Here, as usual, business was brisk; the public-houses were doing a
roaring trade. Rows of costermongers' carts lined the road on either
side, and the hoarse shouts of the vendors of fruit, vegetables, and
shell-fish, mingled with the Babel of voices from the throng of people
who loitered about the street, which was regarded as the promenade of
the neighbourhood. Sounds of musical instruments and a loud chorus came
from the upper windows of many of the public-houses and from the low
music-halls known by the name of "penny gaffs."

It was in front of one of these that the party stopped. Unlike the
others, no row of flaring lights burned over the entrance, no posters
with huge letters and sensational headings invited the public to enter;
one solitary lamp hung over the door, which was kept closed; men were
passing in, however, after exchanging a word with one of those stationed
at the door.

"It's a private sort of affair," Perkins said; "none ain't supposed to
go but those as is in the swim. They pretend to be mighty afraid of the
peelers; but, Lor' bless you! the police don't trouble about them. When
these chaps gets to making rows in the street, and to kicking up a
rumpus, then they will have something to say about it sharp enough; but
as long as they merely spout and argue among themselves, the peelers
lets them go on. Well, young gents, here we goes."

Bill Lowe advanced first; he was known to the doorkeeper, and the words
"All right, mate, friends of mine," were sufficient. He stood aside, and
the party entered. Passing through a passage, they were in a hall some
fifty feet long by half as wide; the walls had originally been painted
blue, with wreaths of flowers along the top, but these and the roof were
so discoloured by smoke and dirt, that the whole were reduced to a dingy
brown. At the end at which they entered was a gallery extending some
fifteen feet into the room, at the other end was a raised platform, with
a drop curtain. The latter was now raised, and displayed a table with
half a dozen chairs. The chairman for the evening was seated in the
centre of the table. He was a young man with a pale face, eyes bloodshot
from many nights spent in the reeking atmosphere of the room, and
tumbled hair, which looked as if weeks had passed since it had made the
acquaintance of a brush. He had just risen as the party entered; the
room, which was fairly filled with men, rang with the applause which had
greeted the speaker who had sat down.

"Fellow-workmen," said the chairman--("I wonder what you work at," Frank
muttered below his breath; "nothing that requires washing,
anyhow.")--"Fellow-workmen, your cheers are evidence how deeply you have
been moved by the noble words of my friend Mr. Duggins, and how your
blood boils at the hideous slavery to which we are condemned by a
tyrannical aristocracy. You will now be addressed by my eloquent friend
Mr. Simpkins, boot-closer."

[Illustration: THE BREAK-UP OF THE CHARTIST MEETING.]

Mr. Simpkins rose. He was a short, round-shouldered man, made still
shorter by the bend which he had acquired by the operation of
boot-closing; his eyes were small, and sunken in his head; his nose wide
and flat, as if in his early youth he had fallen on the edge of a pewter
pot, and he too had the appearance of regarding water with as deep an
aversion as he viewed the aristocracy.

"Fellow-workmen," he began, "or rather I should say
fellow-slaves,"--this sentiment was received with a roar of
applause,--"the time is approaching when our chains will be broken, when
the bloodstained power known as the British Constitution will be rent
and trampled under foot, when the myrmidons of power will flee before an
uprisen people. They know it, these oppressors of ours; they tremble in
their palaces and mansions, where they feast upon the wealth drained
from the blood of the people. They know that the day is at hand, and
that the millions whose labour has created the wealth of this country
are about to reclaim their own."

A roar of applause went up as the speaker paused and mopped his forehead
with a red handkerchief. But the applause was suddenly stilled by the
sound of the emphatic "Bosh!" which Frank shouted at the top of his
voice. Every one turned round, and shouts arose of "Who is that?" "Down
with him!" "Turn him out!" "Knock him down!" The orator seized the
occasion.

"A spy of the tottering government has intruded upon the deliberations
of this assembly, but I tell him I fear him not."

"Never mind, out he goes," one of the men shouted, and all began to
press upon the little group standing at the back of the room, and from
one of whom the objectionable word had evidently come.

"We are in for a row, Mr. Norris, and no mistake," Perkins said; "the
sooner we gets out of this the better."

But this was not so easily done; the crowd had already interposed
between them and the door.

"Now stand back," Perkins said, "and let us out. We ain't no spies, and
we don't want to hurt any one. Some of you may know me: I am Perkins of
the Black Dog, over at Westminster, so you had best leave us alone."

The greater part of those present, however, had imbibed sufficient to
render them valorous, and a rush was made upon the party.

Their reception was a warm one; the five prize-fighters struck out right
and left, while Frank and his schoolfellows ably seconded them. A tall
red-haired fellow who had singled out Frank, was met by a blow which
knocked him off his feet, and he fell backward as if shot. Their
vigorous blows drove the leading assailants back, and in spite of their
numbers the crowd of angry men recoiled before their handful of
opponents.

"Come on," Perkins said, "make for the door; they are breaking up the
chairs, and we shall have it hot in a few minutes."

Keeping together, they fought their way, in spite of all opposition, to
the door, Perkins leading, while Bill Lowe brought up the rear. They
were soon in the open air.

"Now," Perkins exclaimed, "you hook it, gents, as fast as you can; me
and Bill will keep the door for a minute." The boys dashed off, and
after making at full speed into the Westminster Bridge Road, slackened
their pace, and walked quietly back to Dean's Yard. They were in high
glee over their adventure, which all agreed had been a splendid lark,
and was the more satisfactory as all had escaped without any mark which
would testify against them. It was still early, and they had for two
hours to walk the streets until the whistle of the fag at the window
told them that all were in bed and quiet, and they might safely make
their entry. This was effected without noise; the bolts were slipped
into their places again, and with their shoes in their hands, the party
went noiselessly up to their rooms.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER V.

A TERRIBLE ACCUSATION.


TWO days later, as Frank was about to start for the cricket-field, a
small boy, whom he recognised as a son of Perkins, stopped him.

"Father wants to speak to you perticular, Mr. Norris."

"All right, young un, I will go round there at once."

Wondering what Perkins could have to say to him, Frank took his way to
the public-house.

"What is it, Perkins?" he asked the prize-fighter as the latter let him
into his private parlour.

"Well sir, there's a rumpus over this business as we had the other
night."

"How a rumpus, Perkins?"

"Well, sir, there was a tall red-haired chap--leastways I hear as he's
tall and red-headed, and is a tailor by trade; his name is Suggs. It
seems as how he got knocked down in the scrummage, and was so bad that
the police, who came up after you left, took him to hospital; they
brought him round all right, but it seems as how the bridge of his nose
was broke, and it will be flat to his face for the rest of his life. Now
I fancy that's a piece of your handiwork, Mr. Norris; I saw jist such a
chap as that go down when you hit him, and I thought to myself at the
time what a onener it was."

"Yes, I did knock down just such a fellow," Frank said, "and I am sorry
I hit him so hard; I was afraid at the time that I hurt him."

"You should not let out from the shoulder in that sort of way, Mr.
Norris," the pugilist said, shaking his head; "you hit like the kick of
a horse, and you never know what mayn't come of them sort of blows. No,
sir; half-armed hitting is the thing for a general row; it hurts just as
much, and is just as good for closing up an eye, but it don't do no
general damage, so to speak. Now, sir, there's a row over the business.
In course I holds my tongue; but they says as four of the party was
young uns, and they guessed as they was gents. Now they puts things
together, and have found out as I gives lessons to some of you
Westminster gents, and they guesses as some of you was with me. Now, as
I tells them, what can they do? They was the first to begin it, and we
was only standing on self-defence, that's the way I puts it. No
magistrate would look at the charge for a minute. It stands to reason
that nine men did not attack four or five hundred. They must have been
attacking us, that's clear to any one; and if it was me I should not
care the snap of a finger about it--that's what I tells the red-haired
tailor when he came here with two of his pals this morning. 'We has as
much right to our opinions as you have; you attacks us,' says I, 'and we
gives you pepper, that's all about it.' 'His beauty's spoilt for life,'
says one of his mates. 'He never had no beauty to spoil,' says I, 'by
the look of 'im,' so we got to words. 'They was Westminster boys,' says
he. 'That's all you knows about it,' says I. 'I will go to their
masters,' says he, 'and report the case, and show him my nose,' says he.
'You have got no case to report,' says I, 'and no nose to show.' 'We
will see about that,' says he; 'I ain't going to be made an object for
the rest of my life for nothing.'

"So we goes on arguing; but at last he lets out that if I bring him a
'tenner' in the course of the week he will shut up. I ain't allowed of
course, Mr. Norris, that any of you young gents had a hand in the fray,
quite the contrary; but he has got it into his head that it is so, and
he has made up his mind that he will go to the master. I don't think it
likely that they could spot you, for they could hardly have got a fair
look at your faces."

"No," Frank said, "I don't suppose they would recognise any of us; but
the first thing Litter would do would be to ask us if any of us were
concerned in the affair. It's a beastly nuisance, for just now I happen
to be completely cleaned out, and I am sure I do not know where I could
get ten pounds from."

"If it had been any other time I could have helped you, Mr. Norris, but
I paid my brewers only last night, and I ain't got two quid in the
house; but I might manage to get it for you by the end of the week, if
there ain't no other way. But my advice to you would be, let the
red-haired man go to the master; if you keep your own counsel, no one
can swear it out against you."

"No, I won't do that, Perkins," Frank said, "it's known in the house;
besides, if I am asked I must say it's me. Thank you for your offer. I
will see you again in a day or two."

Frank walked back to his boarding-house, moody and dejected. Harris was
in his room working. Frank told him what had happened.

"This is a bad business indeed," Harris said. "By Jove! if it comes out,
Litter would expel the four of us. What is to be done? I am sure I don't
know."

"I don't see where I am to get ten pounds; I have only got fifteen
shillings now."

"I have only seven and sixpence," Harris said. "I have paid Shotten's
bill for last term this week, and I know that Travers and James have not
much more than I have. We might get something on our watches; but they
are all silver, and I don't suppose we could get more than a pound
apiece for them. But still that's something, and with our united silver
would make up six pounds."

"I could get a pound or two from my cousin," Frank said; "Fred always
seems to be well supplied with money."

"Because he never spends any," Harris said. "I am mistaken if Barkley
will lend you anything."

"Oh, he will lend it if he's got it." But Harris turned out to be right.
After the next school Frank laid the case before his cousin, who
listened in silence to the story.

"I am very sorry, Frank," he said when he had finished, "but I am
entirely out of money at present."

"I thought you always had money," Frank said shortly.

"Not always," Fred replied quietly. "As you know, I am fond of books,
and last week I paid my bill for that edition of Shakespeare that you
were admiring."

Fred Barkley had indeed a library of books of which he was very proud,
and which was worth more than all those belonging to the rest of the
boys up College together. Frank was too proud to suggest that his
cousin could, if he chose, easily raise the amount required on a few of
his favourites, and left the room without saying a word.

Fred Barkley did not continue the work upon which he was engaged after
his cousin had left the room, but sat looking fixedly at the papers
before him.

"This is a grand opportunity," he muttered to himself, "and I should be
a fool if I let it slip. The question is, how is it best to be managed.
I should be an idiot indeed if I cannot put a spoke into Master Frank's
wheel somehow."

The next day the Sixth Form, as usual, went into the library to do their
construing. Dr. Litter, according to his usual custom, walked up and
down hearing them and asking questions, the form sitting at their desks,
which ran round the room. The Doctor was a fidgety man, and was always
either twirling his watch-chain or eye-glass, or rattling the keys,
knife, and other articles in his trousers pockets. Being perfectly
conscious of the habit, he often emptied the contents of his pocket on
to the table before starting to walk about the room, and this he did on
the present occasion.

As often happened, he was called from the room in the course of the
lesson, and, ordering the boys to get up twenty additional lines of
their Greek play in his absence, he left the room and did not return for
half an hour. While he was away the boys moved freely about, some to
consult each other's lexicons, others to chat. When Dr. Litter returned
the lesson was finished, and the boys went back to the great schoolroom.

On the following morning Frank Norris received a letter. On his opening
it he found, to his astonishment, that it contained only a bank-note
for ten pounds, with the words "From a friend." Frank was simply
astounded.

Who on earth could have sent him the exact sum of which he stood in
need? He at once told his three friends what had occurred, and they were
as much astonished as himself. All agreed that it was a perfect Godsend,
though how any one could have got to know of his necessity for ten
pounds at this special time none could imagine, as this was, as far as
they were aware, known only to themselves and Fred Barkley. Frank at
once concluded that his cousin must have sent him the money, and
immediately sent up College and asked him to come to his room. Fred soon
came up, and Frank at once proceeded to thank him for his gift. Fred,
however, appeared as surprised as himself, and disclaimed any knowledge
whatever of the note.

"I told you, Frank," he said reproachfully, "that I had no money. Do you
think that if I had it I would not have given it to you at once, instead
of sending it in that roundabout manner? Do you know the handwriting?
that may afford you some clue."

"No," Frank said; "the name and address, as well as the words within,
are done in printing characters, so that it is impossible to say who
wrote them. Well, it is an extraordinary business, and I can only say
that I am extremely thankful to the good fairy who has got me out of the
scrape."

Frank felt indeed relieved. He felt sure that the head-master would
consider such an escapade by boys of the Sixth Form an unforgivable
crime, and that expulsion would follow discovery; and knowing the hot
temper of his uncle, he feared that the latter would view the matter in
the most serious light. It was therefore with a light heart that he went
across to the Black Dog and placed the note in the hands of Perkins,
merely saying that he was glad to say that he had been able to get the
money to satisfy the red-haired tailor for his loss of beauty.

"It goes agin my heart to give it to him, Mr. Norris; but in course if
you decide not to face it out there's nothing for it. I am glad you have
got the money together."

A week later one of the monitors informed Frank that the head-master
wished to see him in the library. Wondering at this unusual order, Frank
at once repaired there. Dr. Litter was sitting at his table, and he
raised his eyes gravely as Frank entered.

"Norris," he said, "I have been shocked at what has happened more than
at anything which has occurred to me during my head-mastership of
Westminster. I may tell you that everything is discovered. Now I leave
it to you to make a full and frank confession."

Frank was thunderstruck. So in some way his breaking out of bounds had
become known to the headmaster. The tailor must have turned traitor and
peached after having received his money.

For a minute he stood silent and confounded, while Dr. Litter looked at
him gravely.

"I acknowledge, sir," Frank began, "that I broke out of bounds to go to
a Chartist meeting, and that I got into a row there. I am very sorry
now, but I really meant no harm by it; it was a foolish lark."

"And is that all you have to confess?" Dr. Litter said quietly.

"Yes, sir," Frank said in surprise, "I don't know that there's anything
else for me to say."

"You have not come to the most serious part of it yet," the Doctor said.

"I don't know what you mean, sir," Frank said, more and more astonished.

"You hurt him, and very seriously."

"Yes, sir, I broke a man's nose in the fight, but I did it in
self-defence."

"And you paid him ten pounds to prevent his coming to me," the Doctor
said.

"I acknowledge that I did so, but I don't see there was any harm in
that."

"And where did you get the ten pounds from?" the Doctor asked slowly.

"It was sent to me in an envelope," Frank replied.

"And who sent it to you?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Norris," the Doctor said sternly, "you stole that note from my table."

Frank stepped back as if struck, the blood left his face, and he stood
deadly pale.

"Stole it!" he repeated, in a low, wondering tone.

"Yes," the Doctor repeated, "stole it from my table when I left the
room."

"It is a lie!" Frank exclaimed, in a burst of passion; "it is a lie,
sir, whoever said it."

Without replying to the outburst, the Doctor touched a bell which stood
on the table, and a junior waiting outside entered.

"Tell Mr. Wire and Mr. Richards I wish to speak to them."

Not a word was spoken in the library until the under-masters entered. A
thousand thoughts passed rapidly through Frank's brain. He was
bewildered, and almost stupefied by this sudden charge, and yet he felt
how difficult it would be to clear himself from it. The under-master and
Frank's house-master entered.

"I have sent for you, gentlemen, on a most painful business," Dr. Litter
said. "I mentioned to you, Mr. Wire, a week since, that I had lost a
ten-pound note. I placed it on the table here, during the morning
lesson, with my keys and pencil. I was called out of the room for half
an hour. When school was over I put the things back in my pocket, but it
was not until the afternoon that I missed the note. Thinking it over, I
could not recall taking it up with the other things from the table; but
of this I could not be positively certain. As I told you, I could not
for a moment believe that any of the boys of my form could have taken
it, and I could only suppose that I had dropped it between the School
and my house.

"As it happened, I had only got the note the day before from my bankers,
and had therefore no difficulty in obtaining the number. I gave notice
at the Bank of England at once that the note had been lost, and
requested them to obtain the name and address of the presenter, should
it be brought in. It was presented yesterday by a man who, after being
questioned, said he was a tailor, living in Bermondsey. As I was
determined to follow the matter up, I saw the Superintendent of Police,
and a policeman was sent across to him. The man said that he had been
seriously injured by one of my boys at a low meeting held at some place
in the New Cut, and that the ten pounds had been given him as
compensation, he having threatened to come and complain to me.

"He was ignorant of the name of the boy, but he had received the note
from a prize-fighter named Perkins, who keeps a low public-house down at
Millbank. I sent a note to the man, requesting him to be good enough to
call upon me this morning early. He did so. I told him that I had heard
that he had paid to that man ten pounds as compensation for an injury
which he had received from one of my boys, and I asked him from whom he
had received it.

"He told me that nothing whatever would have induced him to tell; but as
he knew the young gent would himself confess the instant the question
was put, for he had told him he should do so did it come to my ears,
there was no motive in his keeping silence, and it was Mr. Norris who
had given it to him. On inquiry I find that the meeting in question was
held between half-past nine and eleven; therefore, to have been present,
Norris must have broken out of bounds and got into the boarding-house at
night.

"This, in itself, would be a very grave offence, but it is as nothing by
the side of the other. I am most reluctantly obliged to admit that I can
come to but one conclusion: Norris, having broken bounds, and got into a
disgraceful fray, was afraid that the matter would come to my ears. It
was absolutely necessary for him to procure ten pounds to buy the
silence of this man; my own very culpable carelessness, which I most
deeply regret, left the note on the table, and the temptation was too
much for him.

"I have questioned him how he got it. If he had said that he had picked
it up in the yard, and, not knowing to whom it belonged, had very
improperly, without making inquiry, devoted it to the purpose of
silencing this man, I should have gladly believed him--for hitherto he
has stood high in my estimation, and I should certainly have considered
him incapable of an act of theft. But he tells me that it was sent to
him in an envelope, by whom he does not know; and this absurd story is,
to my mind, a clear proof that he must have stolen it from the table."

The two masters had at first looked at Frank with incredulous surprise,
but as the narrative continued and the proofs appeared to accumulate,
the expression changed, and they regarded him with horror, not unmixed
with pity. For a minute there was silence, then Mr. Richards said:--

"Strong as the proofs seem to be, sir, I can hardly believe in the
possibility of Norris having behaved in this way. He has always been a
particularly straightforward, honest, and honourable lad; there is not a
boy in the house of whom I would so absolutely have disbelieved this
tale. That he did send this note to the man there can, by his own
confession, be no doubt, but I still cannot believe that he stole it.
Come now, Norris, you have got into a terrible scrape, but don't make
matters worse; tell us frankly the truth about it."

"I have told the truth," Frank said, in a low and unnatural voice. "I
received the note in an envelope; here it is, sir, with, as you see,
only the words 'From a friend.' I showed it when I had got it to Harris,
Travers, James, and Barkley, and had not the remotest idea who it came
from."

"To whom had you mentioned the need you had of ten pounds?" Mr. Wire
asked.

"No one knew it except those four and Perkins, not a soul."

The three masters looked even more grave. The four boys were sent for
one by one, and were asked if they had mentioned to any one the need
which Frank had of ten pounds; but all declared they had spoken to no
one on the subject.

"He showed you the envelope containing the note he received; what did
you think about it?"

"It seemed a curious thing, sir," Harris said, "but none of us could
account for it."

"I am accused," Frank said, in a harsh voice, "of having stolen that
note from Dr. Litter's table."

For the moment the four boys stood in silent astonishment.

"Nonsense, Frank," Harris burst out impetuously, "we know you better
than that, old fellow; if an angel from heaven came down and told me you
were a thief I would not believe him," and Harris seized his friend's
hand and wrung it warmly, an example followed by his three companions.

Hitherto Frank's face had been hard and set, but he broke down now, and
the tears streamed down his cheeks.

"You can go now," Dr. Litter said, and when the door closed upon them he
continued: "I would give much, very much, Norris, to be able to believe
in your innocence; but I cannot see a possibility of it; the evidence to
my mind is overwhelming. I acquit you of any idea of deliberate theft.
You were pressed and afraid of exposure, and the temptation offered by
the note was too strong for you; you thought you saw a way of escape,
and to account to your comrades for the possession of the money, you
put it in an envelope and posted it, directed to yourself. Even now, if
you will confess the truth, I will send you home privately, and avoid
public expulsion and disgrace in consideration of the good character you
have always hitherto borne; if not, I must at once lay the whole facts
before your uncle and guardian, and to-morrow you will be publicly
expelled."

"I have nothing to say, sir," Frank said quietly; "overwhelming as the
proof appears against me, I have spoken the simple truth, and I swear
that I never saw that note until I took it from the envelope."

"Go to your room, sir!" Dr. Litter said, with indignation, "this
continued denial is almost worse than the offence."

Without a word Frank rose and left the library.

"This is indeed a shocking business," Mr. Wire said, as he followed Dr.
Litter to the schoolroom.

"I cannot credit it," Mr. Richards put in; "I know him so well, that,
absolutely conclusive as I allow the evidence to be, I still hesitate to
believe him to be guilty."

After school was over Fred Barkley ran up to his cousin's room.

"My dear Frank," he exclaimed, "we are ordered not to communicate with
you, but I could not help running in to tell you that every one believes
you to be innocent."

"I hardly know whether I believe it myself," Frank said bitterly. "But
you can do something for me, Fred; I have written a line to my uncle,
will you post it for me at once?"

"Certainly," Fred replied; "but there is some one coming upstairs, so I
must be off." He took the letter and was gone. It contained only a few
words:--

"My dear Uncle,--If you believe me innocent of this hideous charge,
which I swear to you I am not guilty of, send me one line by hand when
you get this. As long as I know that you have faith in me I can face it
out."

The afternoon passed slowly to the prisoner. His uncle would get the
letter between three and four, and he might have an answer half an hour
afterwards. Hour after hour passed, and, except the servant who brought
up his tea, no one came near him. He reasoned to himself that his uncle
might be out. At eight o'clock he heard a noise on the stairs; a number
of feet approached his room, and then the door opened, and the whole of
the boys in the boarding-house poured in.

"Norris, old fellow," Harris said, "we could stop away no longer, and in
spite of orders we have come to see you. I beg to tell you in the name
of the whole house, and I may say the whole School, that not a boy here
believes you to be guilty. How the note came into your hands we don't
know and we don't care, but we are certain you did not take it."

"No! no!" was shouted in a chorus.

"So keep up your spirits, old fellow," Harris said, "it will come right
sooner or later."

For some time Frank was unable to speak.

"Thank you all," he said at last, in a choking voice, "it is a
consolation to me indeed to know that my old friends still believe in
me; but, till my innocence is proved, I shall never be able to look the
world in the face again."

"Come, boys, this will not do," a voice at the door said; "Harris, you
elder boys ought to set a better example to the younger ones. I told you
that the Doctor's orders were positive that no one was to communicate
with Norris."

"I can't help it, sir," Harris said; "we all felt we couldn't go to bed
to-night without telling Norris that we knew he was innocent."

"Well, well, you must go downstairs now,"--not unkindly; "you must not
stay a minute longer." There was a chorus of "Good night, Norris!" "Good
night, old fellow!" "Keep up your pluck!" and various other encouraging
expressions, and the party filed out of the door; Mr. Richards waited to
see the last out, and then left Frank to his thoughts.

Not till ten o'clock did Frank give up all hope of hearing from his
uncle, then he felt he had been condemned.

"All my school-fellows acquit me, and my uncle, who should know me
better than any of them, condemns me. I wonder what Alice said. I don't
believe she would believe me guilty if all the world told her."

At this moment the door opened quietly again, and Fred Barkley entered.
Frank leapt to his feet to see if he was the bearer of a letter.

Fred shook his head in answer to the unasked question. "I have slipped
out of College to see you, Frank, and Richards has given me leave to
come up. I have no news, I only came to see what you were going to do."

"You posted the letter to my uncle, Fred?" he asked.

"Yes, at once," he replied.

Frank was silent.

"What do you mean to do?" Fred went on.

"Do?" Frank asked, "what do you mean?"

"Why, I suppose you don't mean to stop here until to-morrow."

"I don't know," Frank replied, "I had not thought about it."

"I shouldn't, if I were in your place. It would be a fearful business;
there hasn't been a boy expelled from Westminster for the last thirty
years. I shouldn't stop for it if I were you."

"But what am I to do? where am I to go?" said Frank listlessly.

"Do?" said Fred, "why, go abroad to be sure. I should go out to
California, or Australia, or somewhere, and in time this will be all
forgotten. Perhaps it will turn out who sent that money. It is not as if
facing it out would do any good, for you can prove nothing. Every one
who knows you believes you innocent."

"Uncle Harry doesn't," Frank said bitterly, "or he would have sent an
answer to my letter."

"Ah! well, you know what he is," Fred said, "how passionate and hasty he
is; but after a time he will think as we all do, never fear. Look here,
I thought that you would want some money, so have been round to Ginger's
and have sold all my books. The old beggar would not give me more than
twenty pounds for them, though I have paid him more than double that,
besides what I have bought from others. However, here are the twenty
pounds at your service, if you like to take them."

Frank remained irresolute for a moment; then the thought of the terrible
scene in the schoolroom, and of the tones in which the Doctor would
pronounce his expulsion, overcame him.

"I may as well go before as after, for I could not go home after that.
Thank you, Fred, with all my heart; I will take your money and advice,
and if I get a rich man I will pay you again. Are the fellows in bed?"

"Yes," Fred replied, "and Richards is in his study, so you can go down
with me and slip out easy enough."

"Tell the others," Frank said, "that I went because I could not face the
scene to-morrow, and that I hope some day to return and prove my
innocence."

Without another word he opened his drawers, packed some clothes in a
small portmanteau, put on his pea-jacket and the low cap he had worn in
his unfortunate expedition to the New Cut; then he stole softly
downstairs with Fred, and sallied out into the night air.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VI.

AT NEW ORLEANS.


FRANK NORRIS took his way eastward after leaving Westminster. He slept
at a small hotel in the city, and at daybreak walked on to the docks. He
was careless where he went, so that it was out of England; but he was
determined, if possible, to work his passage, so as to leave the sum of
money in his pocket untouched until he got to his destination. He went
on board a number of ships and asked the captains if they wanted hands,
but on his acknowledgment that he had never been at sea, none of them
would ship him for the outward voyage only. At last he paused before a
fine ship, the _Mississippi_; a printed placard on the wharf beside her
mentioned that the well-known and favourite clipper would sail for New
Orleans on that day. He walked on board and went up to the captain, who
was talking to the first mate, while the latter was superintending the
getting of cargo on board.

"Do you want a hand, sir?"

"Well, that depends," the captain said; "I am still two or three hands
short, but they have promised to send me them this morning. Are you a
sailor?"

"No, sir; but I can row and sail an open boat, and am ready to make
myself useful. I want to work my passage out."

"You look an active young fellow," the captain said, "but I don't care
about taking a landsman only for the voyage out; I should have to ship
another hand in your place at New Orleans, and probably have to pay more
wages there than I could get one for here. Still, likely enough, they
may send me down at the last moment two or three hands who know no more
about it than you do, and may not be half so willing to learn as I
should judge you to be. What do you say, Ephraim; shall we take him?"

"He looks a likely sort," the mate said.

"Very well then, it's agreed; you can take off your coat and fall to
work at once; I will send down word to the office that I have shipped
you." Frank stripped off his coat and waistcoat, and stowed them, with
his portmanteau, out of the way, and then set to work with a will, the
whiteness of his shirt, and his general appearance, exciting some
jeering comments among the other men at work; but the activity and
strength which he showed soon astonished and silenced them.

By one o'clock the last bale of cargo was stowed, and the hatches put
on. The landsmen who had been employed went on shore, and Frank went
forward to the forecastle, with the men, to dinner.

"Not the sort of grub you have been accustomed to, lad," one of the men
said.

"I have eaten worse," Frank said carelessly, "and don't care if I never
eat better. How long do you suppose we shall be before we get to New
Orleans?"

"It all depends upon the wind," the sailor answered, "may be a month,
may be three. Are you going to leave us there?"

"Yes," Frank said, "I am only working my passage out."

"It's a roughish place is New Orleans," the sailor said; "the sort of
place where you want to have a knife or pistol ready at hand. Lor', I
have seen some rum doings there; it's a word and a blow, I can tell ye."

"Ah! well," Frank laughed, "I suppose I shall do as well as the rest."

The voice of the mate was now heard calling to all hands to prepare to
cast off. The men had hurried through their dinner, for they knew that
the time allowed them would be short, and began casting off hawsers,
coiling down ropes, and preparing for a start. The bell was ringing, and
the friends of the passengers were saying good-bye. The capstan was
manned, and the vessel moved slowly away from the quay.

Five minutes later she was at the dock gates; these swung open, and the
vessel slowly made her way through them, and was soon in the river.

As the men ran aloft to loosen the sails, Frank placed himself next to
the sailor who had spoken to him at dinner, and followed him up the
shrouds, and, imitating his actions, he was soon out on the yard hauling
away with the others. When the sails were all set he returned below.

"Wall done, youngster," the mate said; "I reckon you are about as spry
for a green hand as any I have come across; I had my eye on you, and
you'll do. You go on like that, and you will make a first-rate hand
afore long."

There was plenty of work to do as they went down the river. The sails
had to be braced round as the wind took them on different sides in the
winding reaches; the decks were sluiced down, to get rid of the first
coat of dirt which they had acquired in the docks; ropes had to be
coiled and tidied up, and the many articles lying loosely about the deck
to be put in their places and lashed in readiness for sea work. The tide
met them just as it was getting dark, and as the wind dropped, and was
not sufficiently strong to carry the ship against it, the anchor was
dropped a few miles below Gravesend.

The men were divided into two watches, but all were told that, with the
exception of two stationed as an anchor watch, they could turn in till
tide turned. Frank threw himself at once into the bunk which had been
allotted to him. He had not closed an eye the night before, and was worn
out by emotion and fatigue, and scarcely had he lain down than he was
sound asleep. He had been placed in the starboard watch, and slept till
he was roughly shaken at four o'clock in the morning.

"Get up, mate, your watch is called."

Frank leapt out and made his way on deck. The vessel had been now three
hours under weigh. She had passed the Nore, whose light shone brightly
over the stern.

"The wind is freshening a bit," one of the men said, "we shall be out
round the Foreland by dinner-time."

The voyage was an uneventful one; Frank escaped the first fight in which
new-comers generally have to take part before they settle down in their
new sphere. He was thoroughly good-tempered, and fully a match for any
of his messmates in chaff, and he soon became a favourite in the
fo'castle. He was always ready to take his share of the work, and was
soon as much at home on the yards as the rest. The change and the
newness of the life were very good for him; he was never alone, and had
no time to think or brood over his troubles, and he was almost sorry
when the end of the voyage approached.

"Not a lively-looking shore," the mate said to him as he leaned against
the bulwark, looking at the low banks of the river a few miles below New
Orleans. "No, even an American may confess that there ain't much beauty
about this river. It's a great river, and a mighty useful one, but it
ain't beautiful. Now, what are you thinking of doing when you get
ashore?"

"I was thinking to begin by getting employment on board a boat of some
sort. What I shall do afterwards of course I do not know; but if I can
earn my living on the water for a few months, till I have time to look
round and see what is best to be done, I shall be well satisfied. I have
got a few pounds, but I don't want to touch them; they will come in
useful if I want to move, or to buy a horse, or anything of that sort."

"You will do," the mate said. "You have shown yourself a right-down
sharp fellow on board this ship, and I expect you will make your way
whatever you try a hand at. I have taken a fancy to you, and should be
glad to do you a good turn if I can. I have been in and out of this port
for some years, and know Orleans pretty tidy, and I can tell you that
there ain't a port on this side of the water or the other where a fellow
can be put out of the way more promptly than here; there are parts of
New Orleans which, I tell you, are a sort of hell on earth.

"There are places you couldn't go into without some one picking a
quarrel with you afore you have been in there two minutes, and a quarrel
here means knives out afore you have time to think. On the other hand,
Orleans is a place where a steady industrious fellow, with his head
screwed on right, has a good chance of getting on. The trade up the
river is immense, and will be far greater than it is now; and there's
pretty well a continent to the west, with openings of all sorts, land
and cattle, houses and mining, and trade with Mexico. But I don't see as
you can do better than to follow out your own idea.

"I know a score of men here who own boats trading up the river, and the
first time I go ashore I will take you with me and put you in good
hands. The rate of pay ain't high, for it's looked on as easy work;
still, a few months at it will open your eyes and put you into the ways
of the country, and, once at home, I tell you there's money to be made
on the river, heaps of it, and when it's seen that you are steady, and
willing, and 'cute, you will find plenty who will give you a helping
hand. There's no greater place for loafers than New Orleans, and a chap
who will really work will soon make his mark."

Frank warmly thanked the mate for his offer. The moment the ship cast
anchor off the town a crowd of negroes came on board and unloaded her,
and the crew had comparatively little to do; the three or four
passengers who had come out in her went on shore at once, but it was not
until the third afternoon after her arrival that the mate was able to
leave the ship.

"Now, lad," he said to Frank, "jump into the boat along with me, and I
will see if I can't put you into the groove."

Keeping along the wharves for some distance, the mate presently entered
a small wooden office, telling Frank to wait outside.

On entering he accosted the only occupant of the place, a man of some
forty years of age, who was dressed entirely in white, and was sitting
smoking a huge cigar, with his chair tilted back and his feet on the
table.

"How are you, Ephraim?" he said, as the mate entered. "I saw your ship
had arrived. Had a good voyage?"

"First-class," the mate replied; "not very fast, but quiet and
comfortable," and he took a cigar from an open box on the table and
lighted it. "I haven't come round for a talk with you now, I have only
just come ashore for the first time; but I wanted to speak to you about
a young chap as came out with us. He has worked his passage out, and is
about the smartest young fellow I ever shipped, and has the makings of a
first-class seaman in him, but he doesn't care about stopping at sea.
He's of good family in the old country, as one can easily see. I expect
he has got into some scrape, and has had to make a bolt of it; however,
that's no business of mine. He's as strong as a horse, and as active as
a squirrel; he can handle an oar and sail a boat. I didn't like the
thought of his landing here and getting into bad hands, so I thought I
would come straight to you. He said what he wanted to do was to work on
the river, for a few months at any rate, until he got to know the place.
Now I know you have a dozen tugs and a score of barges, and I thought
you might set him on at once. He would make a good second hand on one of
your large boats. If it's but to oblige me, I wish you would put him on
board one with a sober, steady chap of a decent kind; as soon as he gets
to know the work and the river, I will guarantee that he will be fit to
take charge himself."

"That's easy enough done, Ephraim," the trader replied, "all except
finding the sober and steady decent man to put him under. However, I
will do my best. Have you got him here?"

"Yes, he is outside," Ephraim said; and rising, he went to the door and
called Frank in. "This is the hand I was speaking to you about, Mr.
Willcox."

"Well, young man," the trader said, "I hear you want a berth on board a
tug or flat. Which would you rather have?"

"I would prefer to be on a flat,--at any rate for a time, sir," Frank
said; "I am a pretty good hand at sailing or rowing, but I don't know
anything about steamboats."

"There's not much to learn in that," the trader said; "the work is
simply to keep the decks clean, to help to load and unload at each
landing-place, and to pole off in shallows. However, I will put you on
board a flat. The wages to begin with will be twenty dollars a month and
your keep, if that will suit you."

"That will do, sir, very well," Frank said. "When shall I come to work?"

"If you come here this time to-morrow you can go aboard at once. One of
the flats will go up the first thing in the morning."

"Thank you, sir, I will be here. I am greatly obliged to you, Mr.
Alderson, for your kind recommendation of me."

"I am glad to have put you into a berth," the mate said. "Now I should
recommend you to get on board again soon."

Frank strolled about the wharves for an hour or two, and then went on
board. Before going on shore the following day, the captain gave him a
certificate, saying that he had sailed in the _Mississippi_, and was a
good, willing, and reliable hand.

[Illustration: FRANK'S VISIT TO MR. HIRAM LITTLE'S OFFICE.]

"You may not intend to go to sea again, but if you should, this will get
you a better berth than if you had applied as a landsman. I am very
pleased with your conduct on board the ship, and I am only sorry you are
leaving us. I think it's a pity you don't stick to it, for it is clear
that you are well educated, and would be able to pass as a mate as soon
as you had been the requisite time at sea. However, you can fall back on
that if you don't get on as well as you expect on shore."

The mate said good-bye to him warmly.

"Your employer is one of the very best in the place," said he. "You must
not suppose he is in a small way because you see him in that little
office: he is one of the largest tug and flat owners in New Orleans. He
keeps his eye on his men, and will push you forward if he sees you
deserve it. He has the name of having the best of captains on the river,
and of being one of the best and most liberal of employers. But you must
not expect much in flat life, you will find the men rough as well as the
work."

"I shan't mind that," Frank said cheerfully; "our own bargemen on the
Thames are not the most polished of men."

"And, lad," the mate added, "I should advise you to hand over any money
you may have with you to Mr. Willcox; the less money you have in your
pockets the better. You have no occasion for it on the river, and there
are loafers hanging about at every landing who would think nothing of
knocking a man on the head if they thought he had got fifty dollars in
his pocket."

Frank promised to take his advice, and, with a hearty farewell to the
mate, and a cordial one to his late shipmates, he put his portmanteau
in the boat and was rowed ashore.

"Oh, here you are," Mr. Willcox said, as he entered; "just give a call
to that man you see outside."

Before doing so, Frank handed over his twenty sovereigns to the trader,
asking him to keep them for him, and then went to the door. On a log
close by a tall, gaunt man was sitting smoking a short pipe. Frank asked
him to step in.

"Hiram," the trader said, "this is the young Britisher who is going as
your second hand. I have good accounts of him as a sailor, so you won't
have to teach him that part of the business. Of course he is new to the
river and its ways."

"I will put him through," the man said, "and will teach him as much as I
knows myself if he cares to learn."

"There is no one knows the river better, Hiram; and, as you know, I
would have given you the command of a steamer long ago if you would have
taken it."

"No, sir," the man said emphatically, "not for Hiram Little. I have been
on board a flat all my days, and am not going to be hurried along in one
of them puffing things. They have their uses, I am ready enough to
allow, when the current is swift and the wind light; I am glad enough of
a cast now and then, but to be always in a bustle and flurry is more
than I could stand. Come along, youngster, with your sack; the boat is a
quarter of a mile down."

Taking up his portmanteau, Frank followed his conductor, who with long
strides led the way along the wharf. Not a word was spoken till they
reached the side of the boat. This was not a flat such as now are in
general use, but a large boat some forty feet in length by fourteen
wide, almost flat-bottomed, and capable of carrying a cargo of eight or
ten tons of goods. In the stern was a little cabin some eight feet long
for the captain and his mate. In front was a similar structure for the
four negroes who formed the crew.

She carried one mast, with a large lug-sail. She had four sweeps, but
these were seldom used. When the wind was fair she ran before it, when
it was foul the mast was lowered; if it fell calm when they were coming
down the stream they drifted with it, if when going up, they either
anchored or poled her along in the back waters close inshore, or made
their way up the numerous channels where the stream flowed sluggishly,
or tied on behind a tug if one happened to come along.

Their principal work was to carry up supplies to the various plantations
along the banks, to trade with the villages, and to bring down produce
to New Orleans; for the stopping-places of the steamers were at wide
distances apart, and the number of steamers themselves very small in
comparison with those now afloat on the great river. At times they made
longer journeys, going up as far as St. Louis; but in that case they
were generally, as Frank afterwards learned, towed up the whole
distance.

"Hi! Pete, shove that plank ashore," Hiram shouted, and a negro at once
showed his head above a scuttle in the bow of the boat, and then
emerging, pushed a plank across the fifteen feet of water which
intervened between the flat and the wharf.

"That's your first lesson, young man," Hiram said. "Never on no account
lay your craft close alongside; thar's river thieves at these landings
as would empty half the cargo if you left the boat for ten minutes, if
they could step aboard, and these niggers are always asleep the minute
after you take your eyes off them. So, whether you have got anything
aboard or not, stick to the rule and moor her a bit off the wharf. It's
only the trouble of dropping the grapnel over on the outside in addition
to the hawser ashore, and then there's never no trouble when you get
back and have to report as how you have lost some of the bales. It ain't
as how we carry up many things as would pay for taking; soft goods for
the stores up the river mostly goes by steamer, but them as ain't
hurried, and likes to keep their dollars in their pockets, has their
goods up by flats. I have got ten hogsheads of sugar, twenty-four crates
of hardware, some barrels of molasses, and forty casks of spirits on
board, eighty kegs of nails and a ton or two of rice and flour. We
reckon to go up light, and I don't care to have the flat more nor
half-full, for when the river's low and the wind light the less we have
on board the better. Now Pete, let's have tea as soon as may be."

By this time they had entered the cabin at the stern of the boat. It was
only about five feet high, but was large and roomy, and Frank saw with
pleasure that it was neat and clean, and was an abode infinitely
preferable to the forecastle of the _Mississippi_.

"Now, lad, that's your side, and this is mine; that's your bunk. I am
given to tidy ways, having all my life lived in small places, and I hope
as you will fall into my ways; I keeps the cabin tidy myself, and Pete
never comes aft here except to bring the food and take it away again; I
can't a-bear niggers messing about a place. Victuals of all sorts is
provided. You can do as you like about liquor. I keeps a keg of rum on
board, and I likes my glass at night; if you likes to join me at that
you can pay for half the keg, it has not been broached yet. If you want
to drink more nor two glasses a night, ye had best get in yer own stock;
if ye don't want to touch it at all, just leave it."

Frank said he liked a glass of grog at night, and should be glad to join
in the cask, and that he would do his best to keep his side of the cabin
as tidy as the other. In a few minutes the negro brought in the meal,
which consisted of a steak fried with onions, followed by a large bowl
of oatmeal, with a jug of molasses, and the whole was washed down with
tea.

"The stream does not seem to run very rapidly," Frank said, as he and
his companion, having lit their pipes, sat down on the deck above.

"It varies," Hiram replied; "sometimes it's sluggish, as you see it
here, sometimes it runs like a mill-stream. The art of sailing here is
to know the river; for what with its back currents and its eddies, its
channels behind islands and its sandbanks, one who knows it can manage
to make his way up, while one who didn't know would be drifting backward
instead of getting forward. That's what you have got to learn.
Fortunately the wind generally blows up the stream; when it don't it's a
case of down anchor. There are places where one can hardly get along
unless the wind happens to be unusually strong, and there I generally
get a tow. The boss has got about twenty steamers on the river, so we
don't generally have to wait many hours before one comes along. The tugs
is gradually doing away with sailing boats, and in time there won't be
many of our kind of craft left; but they are useful, you see, for small
places where the steamers don't stop, and for the rivers which run into
the Mississippi."

The next morning at daybreak the sail was hoisted, the hawsers thrown
off from the shore, and the flat made her way up the river. Frank was
surprised to see how fast she sailed, although the wind was but light.
The work was easy, for the wind was steady and they seldom sailed at
night, the wind generally dropping at sundown. They touched at numerous
little settlements, and gradually got rid of the cargo with which they
had started.

Sometimes they left the main river and sailed for many miles by narrow
channels, where the current, for the most part, was almost
imperceptible. They were more than a month from the time they started
before they reached the spot at which they were to take in the cargo for
their return voyage. The flat was then loaded up with grain, which was
put in in bulk and covered with tarpaulin; the boat was now laden down
nearly to the water's edge.

The downward voyage differed widely from that up the river; the sail was
now seldom used, and instead of skirting the shores they kept in
mid-channel, from time to time directing the boat's course by the use of
the sweeps. The moon was nearly full when they started, and they
continued their voyage by night as well as day. Hiram and Frank took it
by turns to be on watch; but the former was seldom down below, except on
the rare occasions when the river was free from shoals.

Frank had by this time learned by the ripples on the water to detect the
shallows, and could direct the course without assistance; but as soon as
the splash of oars was heard on the water, Hiram was sure to appear on
deck, however short the time since he had retired to rest.

"You are seeing the river at its best," he was saying one day. "It is
about half-full now; when the water's low, the channel where we can pass
loaded is often only fifty yards wide, with the water running through it
like a sluice. When the water is in flood there is no fear of shoals,
but you have got to look about, for it is full of floating trees and
logs; when these get stuck we call them snags, and if you were to run on
one of them the chances are it would knock a hole as big as a cask in
her bottom, and down you would go in two or three minutes."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VII.

ON THE MISSISSIPPI.


"WE are going to have a change of weather, I reckon," Hiram said one
afternoon as they were drifting down the stream during their second
voyage. "You have been lucky since we started, but we are going to have
a change at last; and I can tell you when it blows here it's a caution.
They have been having a lot of rain up the country, for the river has
been rising regular for the last ten days. We had best make fast for the
night, and the sooner we does it the better, for the wind is getting up
fast and the rain is just a-going to begin."

In a quarter of an hour the boat was moored to a great tree at the lower
end of an island.

"We shall be snug here," he said, "and out of the way of the drift that
will be coming down presently. You can turn in and take a long spell of
sleep to-night, for sometimes those storms last for days when they come
on this time of year, and you will see there will be a sea on that the
boat could hardly live in. I wish we had stopped two hours ago; there
was a creek where we could have run her in and been snug all through it,
but I didn't think it was coming up so quick, and it's too far on to
the next place to risk it; however, I expect we shall do very well
here."

In another half-hour the gale burst upon them furiously, and Frank
congratulated himself that the boat was snugly moored. The thick muddy
water of the river was speedily lashed into angry waves; the rain came
down in torrents, and although the left-hand bank was but a quarter of a
mile distant it was soon lost to view. Frank was glad to leave the deck
and crawl into the little cabin, and sit down to a hot meal which the
negro cook had prepared.

"Better here than outside, my lad," Hiram said. "I can go as wet as any
man if need be, but I like to keep a dry jacket when I can. The wind is
just howling outside. I reckon this is going to be a bigger storm nor
ordinary, and I have seen some biggish storms on the Mississippi too. I
have had some narrer escapes of it, I can tell you, special in the days
before there was nary a tug on the river, and we had to row or pole all
the way up; besides there ain't so many trees brought down as there used
to be in a flood, seeing as the country is getting more and more cleared
every day.

"I reckon the time will come when you will be able to go up either the
Mississippi or Missouri to the upper waters without seeing a tree
drifting down, and when there won't be a snag in their beds. I mind the
time when the snags were ten times worse than they is now. I mind once
we ran on one of the darned things in pretty nigh as wild a night as
this is going to be. I had six hands along with me, and we wanted to get
down, 'cause we knew the old man would have a cargo ready for us, and we
wanted a run of a day or two on shore at Orleans before we started up
again, so we held on. The wind was higher than we reckoned on, and we
was just saying we should have done better to tie up, when there was a
crash. I thought at first that she would have gone over with the shock,
but she didn't--not that it would have made much odds, for there was a
snag through her bottom, and the water pouring in like a sluice. It was
darkish, but we could make out there was some trees a boat's-length or
two ahead which had been caught as they rolled down by another snag, and
hung there. The boat didn't float more than a minute after she struck,
and then we were all in the river, those who couldn't swim gripping hold
of the oars and poles; half a minute and we were all clinging to the
boughs, and hoisting ourselves as well as might be clear of the water.

"I tell you, lad, that was a night. It wasn't that we was drenched to
the skin with the rain pouring down, and the wind cutting through
us--that kind of thing comes natural to a boatman--but it was the
oncertainty of the thing. The trees moved and swayed with the waves and
current; the flood we knew was rising still, and any moment they might
break away from the snag and go whirling along, over and over, down the
river. Even if they didn't break away of theirselves, another tree might
drive down on us, and if it did, the chances was strong as the hull
affair would break loose.

"All that night and all next day we hung on, and then the wind went down
a bit, and a nigger who had made us out from the shore came off in a
dug-out and took us ashore in two trips. That war a close shave. The
wind was northerly and bitter cold, and I don't believe as we could have
hung on another night more nor that. Next morning, when we turned out
from the nigger's hut to have a look round, there wasn't no sign of them
thar trees, they had just gone down the river in the night. Yes, I have
had a good many narrow shaves of it, but I do think as that war the
narrowest."

"Well, I am heartily glad," Frank said, "that we are tied safely up, out
of the way of floating trees, snags, or anything of the kind. I always
like hearing the wind when I am snug, and I shall sleep sound knowing
that I am not going to hear your shout of 'Watch on deck' in my ear."

In spite of the howling of the gale Frank slept soundly. But he could
scarcely believe that it was broad daylight when he awoke; the light was
dim and leaden, and when he went out from the cabin he was startled at
the aspect of the river. The waves had risen until it resembled an angry
sea, the yellow masses of water being tipped with foam; the clouds hung
so low that they almost touched the top of the trees; the rain was still
falling, and the drops almost hurt from the violence with which they
were driven by the wind. The river had risen considerably during the
night, and the lower end of the island was already submerged; boughs of
trees and driftwood were hurrying along with the stream, and more than
one great tree passed, now lifting an arm high in the air, now almost
hidden in the waves, as it turned over and over in its rapid course.
Frank felt glad indeed that the boat lay in comparatively sheltered
waters, though even here the swell caused her at times to roll
violently.

"What do you think of it, lad?" Hiram, who had risen some time before
Frank, asked.

"It is a wonderfully wild scene," Frank said enthusiastically, "a grand
scene! I should not have had an idea that such a sea could have got up
on any river. Look at that great tree rolling down, it looks as if it
was wrestling for life."

"The wrestle is over, lad, there ain't no more life for that tree; it
will just drift along till it either catches on a sandbank and settles
down as a snag, or it will drift down to the mouth of the Mississippi,
and may be help to choke up some of the shallow channels, or it may
chance to strike the deep channel, and go away right out into the Gulf
of Florida, and then the barnacles will get hold of it, and it will
drift and drift till at last it will get heavier than the water, and
then down it will go to the bottom and lie there till there ain't no
more left of it. No, lad, there ain't no more life for that tree."

"May be it will wash ashore near the city, or some plantation," Frank
said, "and be hauled up and cut into timber, or perhaps into firewood.
After all, the useful life of a tree begins with its fall."

"Right you are, lad; yes, that might happen, and I am glad you put it in
my mind, for somehow I have always had a sorter pity for a tree when I
see it sweeping down in a flood like this. Somehow it's like looking at
a drowned man; but, as you say, there's a chance of its getting through
it and coming to be of use after all, and what can a tree wish better
than that? But we had best be hauling the boat up to the tree and
shifting the rope up the trunk a bit; it's just level with the water
now, and was nigh eight feet above when we tied it yesterday. I tell you
if this goes on there will be some big floods, for it will try the
levees, and if they go there ain't no saying what damage may be done in
the plantations."

All day the wind blew with unabated fury, and when evening came on
Frank thought that it was increasing rather than diminishing in force.

"Let's have a glass of grog and tumble in, my lad," Hiram said, "it
gives one the dismals to listen to the wind." They had scarcely wrapped
themselves in their blankets when the boat swayed as if struck by an
even stronger blast than usual; then there was a sudden crash, which
rose even above the howling of the gale.

"What's that?" Frank exclaimed, sitting up.

"It's the tree," Hiram began; but while the words were in his mouth
there was a shock and a crash, the roof of the little cabin was stove
in, and the boat heeled over until they thought it was going to capsize.
Frank was thrown on to the floor with the violence of the shock, but
speedily gained his feet.

"What has happened?" he exclaimed.

"The tree has gone," Hiram said; "I have been looking at it all the
afternoon, but I didn't want to scare you by telling you as I thought it
might go. It's lucky it didn't fall directly on us, or it would have
knocked the boat into pieces. The door is jammed. Get hold of that
hatchet, lad, and make a shift to get your head out to look round and
see what we are doing. Do you hear them niggers holloaing like so many
tom-cats? What good do they suppose that will do?"

"I can't see anything," Frank said when he looked out; "it's pitch dark.
I will make this hole a bit bigger, and then I will take the lantern and
crawl forward and see what has become of the blacks. I am afraid the
tree has stove the boat in: look at the water coming up through the
float-boards."

"Ay, I expect she is smashed somewhere; it could hardly be otherwise; I
reckon this is going to be about as bad a job as the one I was telling
you about. Here, lad, put this bottle of rum into your jacket and this
loaf of bread; I will take this here chunk of cold beef; like enough we
may want 'em afore we are done."

When Frank had enlarged the hole sufficiently to allow his body to pass
through, he put the lantern through and then crawled out. He was in a
tangle of branches and leaves. The head-rope was a long one; the tree
had fallen directly towards them, and the boat was, as far as Frank
could see, wedged in between the branches, which forked some forty feet
above the roots; a cross branch had stove in the cabin top, and another
rested across the scuttle of the cabin used by the negroes.

"Hand me the axe, sharp, Hiram," he said; "the niggers can't get out,
and our bow isn't a foot out of water."

Hiram handed up the axe, seized another, and with a great effort
squeezed himself through the hole and joined Frank in the fore-part of
the boat, which was waist-deep in water.

"Never mind the branch, lad, that will take too long to cut through, and
another two or three minutes will do their business; here, rip off two
or three of those planks, that will be the quickest way."

Although impeded in their work by the network of boughs, they speedily
got off two or three planks and hauled up the frightened negroes. It was
but just in time, for there were but a few inches between the water and
the top of the low cabin.

"Shut your mouths and drop that howling," Hiram said, "and grip hold of
the tree; the boat will sink under our feet in another minute. Stick to
your lantern, lad, a light is a comfort anyhow; I'll fetch another from
the cabin, and some candles; I know just where they are, and can feel
them in the water."

In a minute he rejoined Frank, who was sitting astride of one of the
branches.

"That's a bit of luck," he said; "the candles are dry. There ain't more
than two feet of water in her aft."

Three or four minutes passed, and the boat still lay beneath their feet,
sinking, apparently, no lower. "I will look round again," Hiram said;
"it seems to me as she has got jammed, and won't go any lower."

Examining the boat, he found that it was so; she was so completely
wedged among the branches that she could sink no lower.

"It's all right," he said joyously. "Jump down, all of you, and lend a
hand and unreeve the halliards from the mast and bind her as tight as
you can to the branches; pass the ropes under the thwarts. Make haste
before she shakes herself free." For the tree, now well clear of the
shelter of the land, was swaying heavily.

The work was soon done, and the boat securely fastened to the tree.

"How is it the tree lies steady without rolling over and over, Hiram?"
Frank asked, after they paused on the completion of the work.

"I reckon it's the boat as keeps it steady, lad. As long as she lies
here she is no weight, but she would be a big weight to lift out of
water, and I reckon she keeps the whole affair steady. It couldn't be
better if we had planned it. All these boughs break the force of the
waves, and keep off a good bit of the wind too; we ain't going to do
badly after all."

"Pete, get me that half-bottle of rum from my locker and a tin mug. That
is right. Now here is a good strong tot each for you to make your faces
black again; you were white with fear when we got you out of that cabin,
and I don't blame you; I should have been in just as bad a fright myself
if I had been there, though I shouldn't have made such a noise over it.
Still, one can't expect men of one colour to have the same ways as those
of another, and I am bound to say that if the boat had gone down your
boss would have lost four good pieces of property. Feel more
comfortable--eh?"

The negroes grinned assent. Easily cast down, their spirits were as
easily raised, and seeing that the white men appeared to consider that
there was no urgent danger, they soon plucked up their courage.

"I think," Frank said, "the best thing will be to manage to get the
cabin door open. We can put a tarpaulin over the hole in the roof, and
we shall then have a shelter we can go into; the water is not over the
lockers, but I shouldn't like to go in until we get the door open. If
this tree did take it into its head to turn round, it would be awkward
if there were two or three of us in there, with only that hole to
scramble through."

"You are about right, lad; it will be a sight more comfortable than
sitting here, for what with the rain and the splashing up of this broken
water one might as well be under a pump."

The axes were called into requisition again, for the door was jammed too
firmly to be moved.

"Chop it up, and shove the pieces under the tarpaulin, Sam; they will
get a bit drier there, and we may want them for a fire presently; there
is no saying how long we may be in this here floating forest. That's
right. Now, hang one of them lanterns up in the cabin. That's not so
bad. Now, lad, our clothes-bags are all right on these hooks. I am just
going to rig myself up in a dry shirt and jacket, and advise you to do
the same; we may as well have the upper half dry if we must be wet
below."

Frank was glad to follow Hiram's example, and a dry flannel shirt made
him feel thoroughly warm and comfortable. He handed a shirt to each of
the negroes, and the whole party, clustered in the little cabin, were
soon comparatively warm and cheerful, in spite of the water, which came
up to their knees, and when the boat rose on a wave, swashed up over the
locker on which they were sitting. A supply of dry tobacco and some
pipes were produced by Hiram, and the little cabin was soon thick with
smoke.

"Taking it altogether," Hiram said, "I regard this as about the queerest
sarcumstance that ever happened to me; it was just a thousand to one
that tree would have smashed us up and sunk us then and thar. It was
another thousand to one that when we were staved in we shouldn't have
got fixed so that the boat couldn't sink; if any one had told it me as a
yarn I should not have believed it."

"It has indeed been a wonderful escape," Frank said, "and I think now
that we should be ungrateful indeed if every one of us did not fervently
thank God for having preserved us."

"Right you are, lad; praying ain't much in my way--not regular praying;
but we men as lives a life like this, and knows that at any moment a
snag may go through the boat's bottom, thinks of these things at times,
and knows that our lives are in God's hands. It ain't in nature to go
up and down this broad river, special at night, when the stars are
shining overhead, and the dark woods are as quiet as death, and there
ain't no sound to be heard but the lap of the water against the bow for
a man not to have serious thoughts. It ain't our way to talk about it. I
think we try to do our duty by our employers, and if a mate is laid up,
he need never fear getting on a shoal for want of a helping hand; and
when our time comes, I fancy as there ain't many of us as is afeared of
death, or feels very bad about the account they say we have got to
render arterwards. It's different with the niggers; it's their way to be
singing hymns and having prayer-meetings, and such like. There is some
as is agin this, and says it gives 'em notions, and sets them agin their
masters; but I don't see it: it pleases 'em, and it hurts no one; it's
just the difference of ways. I expect it comes to the same in the end;
leastways, I have seen many a wreck in this here river, when whites and
blacks have been a-looking death in the face together, and sartin the
white man, even if he has been a hard man, ain't no more afraid to die
than the black, generally just the contrary. That's my notion of
things."

Frank nodded, and for a time there was silence in the cabin.

"How long are we likely to be in this fix?" Frank asked presently.

"Thar ain't no saying; supposing we don't bring up agin a snag--which
the Lord forbid, for like, enough, the tree would shift its position,
and we should find ourselves bottom upwards if we did--we may drift on
for days and days. Still, we shall be safe to make ourselves seen as
soon as the weather clears, and there are boats out again; we have only
got to light a fire of wet wood to call their attention. I don't expect
this here gale will last much longer; after another day it ought to
begin to blow itself out. As long as nothing happens to this tree, and
the boat keeps fast where it is, there ain't nothing to make ourselves
uncomfortable about. We'd best have a look at them lashings; I tell you,
there is a tidy strain on them."

Examining the ropes carefully, they found some of them were already
chafed, and, dragging out a piece of wet canvas from the lockers, they
cut it into strips and lashed it round the ropes at the points where
they were chafing. The strain was indeed very heavy, for the tree and
the waterlogged boat rose but little with the waves, and the bow was
submerged deeply every time a wave passed them, the gunwale being at no
time more than a few inches out of water. Additional lashings were put
on, and then Hiram and Frank returned to the cabin, and the latter dozed
away the hours till morning, as did the negroes, Hiram remaining wide
awake and watchful, and going out from time to time to look at the
lashings. As soon as day broke Frank roused himself and went out; Hiram
was just descending from one of the boughs.

"I have had a look round," he said; "I don't think it's blowing quite so
hard, but thar ain't much change yet. It ain't not to say a cheerful kind
of lookout."

Frank climbed up to take a view for himself, but he was glad to return
very quickly to the shelter of the cabin. Overhead was a canopy of low
grey cloud; around, a curtain of driving rain; below, a chaos of
white-headed waves. The day passed slowly, and with little change. Sam
found in the fore-part of the boat the iron plate on which he built his
fire. They fixed this on the roof of the cabin, fastened a tarpaulin
across the boughs so as to shelter it from the rain and drift, and
then, with some difficulty, managed to make a fire. Some hot coffee was
first prepared, and a frying-pan was then put on and filled with slices
of pork. The flour was wet, but Sam made some flat cakes of the wet
dough, and placed them in the fat to fry when the pork was done.

"Not a bad meal that," Hiram said, when he had finished, "for a floating
forest."

The negroes had now completely recovered from the effects of their
fright and wetting, and their spirits, as usual, found vent in merry
choruses.

"Just like children, ain't they?" Hiram said, as he and Frank re-entered
the cabin, while the negroes continued to feast overhead, "crying one
moment and laughing the next. But I have known some good uns among them
too, as good mates to work with as a man could want, and as good grit as
a white man." Another meal, later in the afternoon, alone broke the
monotony of the day. The aspect of the weather was unchanged at
nightfall, but Hiram asserted that the wind had certainly gone down, and
that in the morning there would probably be a break in the weather. They
smoked for some time, and then the negroes dozed off, with their chins
on their chests; and Frank was about to make an effort to do the same,
when Hiram, who had been going in and out several times, said suddenly,
"I reckon we are out of the main stream; don't you feel the difference?"

Now that his attention was called to it, Frank wondered that he had not
noticed it before. The waves were no longer washing over the fore-part
of the boat, and the sluggish efforts of the tree and boat to rise and
fall with the water had ceased. He was still more struck, when he went
outside, by the comparative silence. The wind still whistled overhead
and swayed the branches, but the hiss and rustle of the water had
ceased.

"We are out of the main stream, that's sartin," Hiram said, "though
where we are is more nor I can tell till we get daylight."

Frank took the lantern and climbed up the bough which served as a
lookout. It was pitch dark outside, and the surface of the water was no
longer broken by white heads.

"Yes, we are certainly out of the main river, Hiram, and in behind some
big islands. Where do you think it could be?"

"I reckon, lad, we are somewhere down near the mouth of the Arkansas.
The stream has been running mighty strong for the last two days, and the
wind, catching all these branches, must have helped us along a good bit.
I reekon we can't be far away from the Arkansas. It's a bad stroke of
luck drifting in here; we may expect to get hung up somewhere, and we
shall be in a nice fix then, out of sight of boats going up and down,
and with miles and miles of swamp stretching back from the shore.
However, it will be time to think of that to-morrow. There ain't nothing
for us to do; just lend us a hand, and we will get this iron plate off
the roof. The tarpaulin keeps off the rain, and I will fetch a couple of
blankets, and we can stretch ourselves out here; I despise going to
sleep sitting up."

Frank was sound asleep in a few minutes. He had a confused notion of
feeling a slight jerking motion, and of hearing Hiram say, "There, she
is anchored"; but he did not suffer this to rouse him, and, dropping
off, slept soundly till morning. At the first stir Hiram made he was
awake.

"We have had a goodish spell of sleep, I reckon, lad, and I feel all the
better for having had my legs stretched out straight."

"So do I, ever so much; the wind seems to have gone quite down, and it
has stopped raining."

"We shall have the sun up soon."

Frank was soon up in the lookout.

"I can see trees on both sides of us, but I can make out nothing more
than that; there's a mist hanging over them, though it's clear enough on
the water. We are not moving."

"I could have told you that," Hiram said, "didn't we get fast on
something before we went to sleep last night?"

"Oh, I forgot about that; I was just off when you spoke, and didn't
quite take it in. We are quite out of the current; the water is moving
very sluggishly past us."

"So much the worse, lad; that's just what I fancied. We have got blown
out of the stream, and got in behind some of the islands, and are
perhaps at the mouth of one of the loops where there ain't no stream to
speak of; useful enough they are when you are making your way up-stream,
but no-account places to get stuck in. Now you darkeys below there, wake
up, and let's have some food; you will soon have the sun up to warm you
and dry your clothes a bit. By the time we have had our breakfast," he
went on to Frank, "the mist will have lifted, and we shall have some
chance of seeing where we have been cast away, and can talk over what's
the best thing to be done in this here business."

The iron plate was replaced on the cabin, the fire was lit, and coffee
and fried bacon were soon ready. The first sparkle of the sun through
the leaves brought a shout of delight from the negroes, and directly the
meal was over they cut away some of the small branches and let the sun
stream in on to the roof of the cabin.

"That's enough, boys," Hiram said; "by midday we shall be glad of the
shade. Now, let you and I light our pipes, lad, and take a survey, and
then talk this job over."

On looking round, they found that the passage, or creek, in which they
were was some eighty yards wide; ahead it seemed to narrow; behind them,
a bend shut out the view a quarter of a mile away.

"That's just what I expected. You see we have drove in here, and there's
been just current enough to drift us on till the lower branches touched
the bottom or caught in a snag; the water ain't flowing half a mile an
hour now, and I reckon when the water begins to drop, which will be in a
few days, if it holds fine, there won't be no current to speak of."

"But we are not going to stay here a few days, are we, Hiram?"

"Well, lad, I ain't no particular wish to stay here no time at all, if
you will just pint out the way for us to be moving on."

"Well, we could all swim ashore," Frank said; "the distance is nothing,
and all the blacks swim."

"And how fur do you reckon the shore to be, lad?"

"About forty yards," Frank said.

"I reckon it to be miles, lad--twenty, perhaps, or forty for aught I
know."

Frank looked at his companion in surprise.

"Yes, that is about it, lad. Don't you see them trees are all growing
out by the water, and what looks to you like low bush is just the top of
the underwood. The river, I reckon, must have riz twenty feet, and all
this low land is under water. As I told you, we are near the mouth of
the Arkansas, and for miles and miles the country ain't much better than
a swamp at the best of times. You can swim to them trees, and roost up
in the branches, if the fancy takes yer, and may be we may decide that's
the best thing to do, when we have talked it over; but as to getting to
land, you may put that notion out of your head altogether. I told you,
lad, last night, I didn't like the lookout, and I don't like it a bit
better this morning, except that I look to be dry and comfortable in
another hour. What's to come after that I don't quite see."

Frank was silent. The prospect, now that he understood it, was
unpleasant indeed. There they were with a disabled and waterlogged boat,
in the middle of a district submerged for many miles, and surrounded
beyond that by fever-stricken swamps, while the prospect of any craft
happening to come along was remote indeed. For some minutes he smoked
his pipe in silence.

"You consider it impossible for us to make our escape through the wood."

"Just unpossible, lad. We might make our way from tree to tree, like a
party of monkeys, but we should get to creeks where we couldn't cross;
we should be half our time swimming. We could take no food to speak of
with us; we should get lost in the swamps, if ever we got through the
forest. No, lad; my present idea is it is unpossible, though, if we
detarmines at last there ain't nothing else for us to do but to try for
it, Hiram Little ain't the man to die without making a hard fight for
his life; but I tell you, lad, I looks on it as unpossible. You have
been on these banks with me, and you know how thick the trees and bushes
grow, so that a snake could hardly make his way through them. When the
river is at her level the ground ain't about a foot or two out of water,
and when the river falls--and it mayn't fall to its level for weeks--it
will just be a swamp of mud."

[Illustration: A FLOOD ON THE MISSISSIPPI.]

"Well, in that case," Frank said, "it seems to me that our only chance
is to repair the boat."

"That's just my idee, young fellow. There is a biggish hole on each
side, the ribs are smashed in, and a lot of damage is done, but we could
make a shift to mend it if we could get her ashore; but there ain't no
shore to get her to, that's the mischief of it; besides, here we are
stuck, and if we were to cut away the tree to loose her she would go
straight to the bottom."

"Yes, we mustn't cut her loose before we are alongside something. My
idea is that if we first of all cut off all the boughs that are above
us, close to the trunk, that will make a good deal of difference in the
weight, and we should float higher. Then, with hatchet and saw, we must
get rid of those below, taking a rope first to the trees and hauling her
closer and closer alongside them as we get rid of the weight, till at
last there is only the trunk and these two great arms that have nipped
her. I think that way we might get alongside the trees."

"I reckon we might, lad. Yes, I don't see much difficulty about that.
And what shall we do when we get there?"

"I should get under a big tree, like that one over there, with that
great arm stretching over the stream. We've got plenty of ropes, and
I should fasten them from her bow and stern, and from her thwarts, tight
to that arm overhead. When I got her fixed, I would chop away one of
these arms that grip her, and let her float free. We have no tackle that
would be of any use in hoisting her, but if we take the plug out of her
bottom, she will empty as the river sinks, and hang there. Once she is
in the air there will be no difficulty in patching her up."

"That's a capital idee, young fellow," Hiram exclaimed, giving Frank a
mighty pat on the shoulder. "I do believe it is to be done that way. I
tell you, I did not see my way out of this fix nohow, but you have hit
upon it, by gosh! Here, you darkies, get them axes and saws out of the
cabin, and clear away this forest."

An hour's work cleared away all the wood above water. The sun was by
this time well above the trees; the negroes woke up to life and
cheerfulness in its warmth, and worked vigorously.

"Before we do anything more," Frank said, "I will swim with a light line
to that tree, and then haul the tow-rope after me, and make it fast to
it; it is possible that when we cut away some of the other boughs the
whole affair may turn over and sink, but if the tow-rope is fast we may
be able to drag it alongside."

When the rope was attached to the tree, they proceeded with their work.
The two great arms were chopped through just beyond the point at which
the boat was wedged, thus getting rid of the whole of the upper part of
the tree.

"She's free now," Hiram said. "Stand in the middle of the boat, you
boys; I can feel that a very little would sway her over now."

The bow sank some inches, and fully half the boat was submerged.

"Now, you and I will get out at this end of the trunk, lad, and tow her
in, stern foremost."

They got within ten yards of the tree before she again stuck, and it
took them some hours' work to cut away the branch which projected under
water; but at last this was done, and the boat was placed in position
under the arm of the great tree they had pitched upon, and a number of
ropes fastened firmly to the arm.

"Now we will have some dinner," Hiram said; "and while Pete is cooking
it we will get ashore with the saw and cut the heads off some of these
small trees, and fasten them to this trunk, so as to make a sort of raft
that we can put all these tubs on. The ropes would never hold her with
her cargo on board. I reckon some of the sugar is spoilt; but the boss
always has good casks, and may be there ain't much damage done. The rum
is right enough, and I reckon there won't be much spoilt except them
bales of calico."

They worked hard, but it was late in the evening before the raft was
formed and the cargo all shifted into it.

"Now, we will just chop off this arm and free her," Hiram said, "and
then we can stretch ourselves out for the night. We have done a tidy
day's work, I reckon, and have arned our sleep."

The arm was chopped through, and the boat was freed from the tree which
had, in the first place, so nearly destroyed it, but which, in the end,
had proved their means of safety. The raft was fastened alongside by a
rope, and the negroes betook themselves to it for the night, while the
two white men, as before, lay down to sleep on the cabin-top.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VIII.

STARTING FOR THE WEST.


THE next morning they found, to their satisfaction, that the river had
sunk nearly a foot. The boat had risen considerably when the cargo had
been removed the evening before, and the ropes overhead had been
proportionately tightened, so that she now hung so high that the rents
were well out of water, and they were able at once to set about the work
of repair. There were tools on board, for during their prolonged trips
it was often necessary to execute repairs of one kind or other. The
flooring-boards were utilised for the repairs, and by evening the holes
were closed effectually.

The next day the work was strengthened by additional ribs and stringers,
a coat of pitch was put on outside and in, and Hiram pronounced the work
complete. From time to time the ropes had been loosened as the river
continued to fall, although less rapidly, and it was thought well not to
put too great a strain upon them. The next morning the plug was again
driven into the bottom of the boat, and they set to work to pump and
bale her out, and then shifted the cargo back again from the raft. This
was not a long job, and at night, after a great washing-up of the
cabins, to get rid of the mud that had been left there, they had the
satisfaction of taking possession of their old quarters.

"Well, lad," Hiram said, when they lighted their pipes after supper, "I
never thought we were coming so well out of that job. With plenty of
rice and sugar, not to speak of rum, on board, I didn't expect we war
going to starve, but I thought we might have been weeks and weeks--ay,
months, may be--before any one came along, and the thought as came into
my mind was as we should have to make a raft and pole along till we got
out into the river again. However, here we are, with the boat not much
the worse, and everything on board ready for a start in the morning; and
it's thanks to you as we have done it, for I am free to say as I don't
think as I should have hit on this plan as we have carried out. You are
a good mate to work with, lad, and no mistake. I don't wish never to get
a better. It's a pity ye don't mean to stick to it for good, for I can
swar that you would make one of the best hands on the Mississippi, in
time."

The journey down the river was continued next morning. At the first
place they stopped at they heard reports of widespread damage, of great
tracts submerged, and of danger to life; the river was still at full
flood, although it had fallen two feet from its highest level, and the
next ten days were spent in rescuing the unfortunate people from the
tops of the houses, trees, and patches of rising ground on which they
had taken refuge. Then, having done all they were able, and the river
having now fallen nearly to its average level, they continued their
voyage down to New Orleans.

Hiram, in his report of the voyage to his employer, spoke in high terms
of Frank's conduct, and ascribed to his quickness of invention their
escape from what seemed likely to be an almost endless detention.

"But I am afraid he has made his last v'yage with me," he said; "he is
talking of striking out across the plains to Californy. There was a good
talk of gold thar before we started; and last night, after we came in,
and went in for a drink and to hear the news, there didn't seem nothing
else to talk about. The young chap was asking all sorts of questions,
and I expect he's off; and I don't know as I blames him. He's the sort
of fellow to get on. He has plenty of grit; he's strong and active now,
and in a couple of years he will widen out and make a very big man. He's
had a first-rate edication--he don't talk about it, but one would be
blind not to see that--he will make his way wherever he goes, and I
don't blame him for striking out from the river. He likes the river,
too; but it ain't the place for making a fortin, unless you've got money
at your back, as you have, boss. But I don't know if he had money, and
could go into steamers and such-like, that he would stick to it.

"I don't know nowt of his history, but I think things must have gone
hard with him somehow, and he came out here for excitement more than for
making money. But there's nothing reckless about him; he don't drink,
and he don't gamble, and it says a lot for a young fellow in New Orleans
that he don't do one or the other. And he can fight, he can; there ain't
no doubt about that. Why, I saw him give the biggest kind of a thrashing
to the bully of a lumber camp, where we moored up alongside one night,
as ever you seed. The chap was big enough to eat him, but he didn't have
no kind of show. The young un just hit him where he liked, and in five
minutes that chap's face was a thing to see, and the lad never got so
much as a scratch. I wouldn't have thought as a man could have used his
hands like that if I hadn't been thar. I shall be right-down sorry to
lose him."

"I knew well-nigh when I took him on that he was not likely to stay,
Hiram; he said as much. He wanted to get to know something about the
ways of the country before he decided upon anything. If all young
fellows would do as he did, go to work for a few months, instead of
loafing about spending their money, and getting into bad ways, and among
bad fellows, it would be better for them; he has only drawn a few
dollars for his expenses--when he was down the last time--since he came
to work, so he has got a good sum due to him. I will have a talk with
him myself. There are a good many parties starting from here and taking
the Santa Fé route; but, taking them all in all, I don't think I should
recommend him to hang on to one of them."

"No, I should guess they would be a pretty hard lot who would go out
from here--gamblers, and horse-thieves, and runaway sailors, and Mexican
fighters--neither good to travel with or good to work with; he had
better go up and strike from St. Louis."

"He had better go higher still, Hiram; there's a northern route, and I
hear a lot of the Western men are making across that. However, I will
talk to him."

That afternoon Frank went into Mr. Willcox's little office.

"Hiram has been speaking in very high terms of you, and I find that I am
indebted to you for the saving of the boat, with what cargo she had on
board, which Hiram said he had altogether given up as lost. You seem to
have been in a position of very great danger, and to have had an
extraordinarily narrow escape of your lives. However, I can understand
that you are not content to settle down for life on the Mississippi, but
I can tell you that with enterprise, judgment, and steadiness there is
fortune to be made here still. I am not surprised that the gold-seeking
mania has got hold of you."

"It is not so much, sir, the gold-seeking mania as the excitement
attending it. I don't think I particularly care about making money, but
I do want the excitement of such a life. I have come out for that, and
not, as it is generally called, to make my fortune. The course of my
life at home has been upset by circumstances into which I need not
enter, and, at any rate for a time, I want action, and excitement. After
that, perhaps, I may think of settling down, and what is called making
my way."

"I can understand your feeling, lad, and will not try to persuade you to
stop at this business. And now, what route are you thinking of taking
across the continent?"

"I was thinking of joining a party going direct from here across to
Santa Fé."

"I don't think that will be a good plan, lad. The caravans from here are
composed, for the most part, of very hard characters, the sort of men
who would shoot you for your horse if they took a fancy to it; I would
by no means advise you to ally yourself with such men. I can, I think,
put you in the way of a better plan than that. I find that a great
number of caravans from the West are going by a northern route which
crosses the Missouri at a point called Omaha. I have been thinking that
this will become an important place, and have made up my mind to
freight four or five flats with flour, bacon, and other goods of all
sorts, and a frame store, and to go up there and open a business. I
shall want a handy man with me at first; I shall take up a storekeeper
to leave there in charge, but at first he will want help. If you like to
go up in charge of one of the scows, and to stay to help put up the
store and set things running, I will give you a hundred dollars, and you
can have your passage up for your horse, which I should advise you to
buy here. You will get one that will carry you, though of course not
much to look at, for about fifty dollars; I know several horse-dealers
here, and will get one for you if you like. You had also better get a
stout pony to carry your traps and provisions; that will cost about
forty dollars. Then you must have a rifle and a Colt. These are
absolutely necessary for such a journey, for I hear that the Indians are
very troublesome on the plains. These, however, I myself shall have much
pleasure in presenting you with, in testimony of the obligation I feel I
owe you for saving my boat and goods. The hundred dollars that are due
to you, and the hundred that you will further earn at Omaha, will be
sufficient for your horses and outfit, which will leave this money which
you placed in my hands untouched. You will find that very useful, for
you will want to buy a tent and provisions and tools out there, and
money to keep you till you hit upon gold. Well, what do you think of my
offer?"

"I am extremely obliged to you, sir; nothing could suit me better. And I
am indeed greatly obliged for your kind offer of a rifle and revolver;
they will certainly be most necessary, by what one hears of the
journey."

"You have some other clothes, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir; I have another suit in my portmanteau."

"Very well, put them on, and come back here in an hour's time. It will
be a week before my steamer starts, and you had better come and stop
with me till then; it will keep you out of mischief, and I should be
glad of your company."

At the appointed time Frank returned to the office, dressed in the suit
of clothes he had brought with him. A light carriage with a pair of
horses was standing at the door.

"Ah!" Mr. Willcox laughed, as he came out, "I fancy you look more like
yourself now."

Frank took his place in the carriage, Mr. Willcox took the reins, the
negro servant sprang up behind, and they were soon rattling through the
streets of the town.

Mr. Willcox's house was situated two miles out of the city. It was a
large building, with a verandah running round it, and standing in
well-kept and handsome grounds; three or four negroes ran out as the
carriage drove up.

"Sam, take this gentleman's portmanteau upstairs, and get a bath ready
for him at once, and lay out a suit of white clothes for him.

"We always have a bath before dinner in this country," he said to Frank;
"one wants to get rid of the dust of the day. Dinner will be ready in
half an hour."

After enjoying a luxurious bath, and attiring himself in a suit of
snowy-white gear, Frank descended to the dining-room.

Mr. Willcox was a widower, without children, and they therefore dined
alone. As they were sitting over their wine after dinner in the
verandah, Frank's host said, "I do not wish to be inquisitive, but if
you don't mind telling me, I should like to know why a young fellow
like yourself should embark upon a life of adventure."

Frank had met with such kindness from his employer, that he frankly told
him the whole history of the events which had driven him from England.

"It is a singular story," the trader said, "and I own that appearances
were against you. Of course I don't know him, and may be misjudge him
altogether, but the only person who appears to me to have had any
interest whatever in getting you into disgrace, and causing you to leave
the country, is your cousin."

"Fred Barkley," Frank exclaimed, in surprise; "I can assure you such an
idea never entered my mind; he is not at all a bad fellow, though
certainly he is not popular at School."

"I should prefer taking the general verdict of the School to yours," the
trader said; "boys are seldom far out in their estimate of persons; they
have more instinct than men, and a boy is seldom far wrong in his
estimate of character.

"The fact that he is generally unpopular is, in my mind, a proof that
there is something wrong about this cousin of yours. Then what you tell
me, that he refused to lend you the money which would have got you out
of your scrape, while he afterwards came forward with twenty pounds to
enable you to get away, is another strong point. The advice which he
gave you was distinctly bad; for you had much better have remained, and
to the last have protested your innocence. Then there is another point.
Did I gather from your words that you and he are the nearest relations
to the wealthy uncle with whom you lived?"

"Yes, that is so," Frank replied.

"Then, in case of your disgrace, it is by no means improbable that your
uncle will leave him the whole of the money. Is that so?

"I have no doubt of it," Frank assented.

"Then you see he has a very strong interest in bringing you into
discredit. Besides there were only, you say, five people who had any
knowledge of this affair, and of your need for the money. None of the
other four had the slightest possible interest in bringing you into
disgrace; he had a very strong interest, and, take my word for it, your
cousin is at the bottom of the whole affair."

"I cannot believe it," Frank said, rising from his chair and pacing up
and down the verandah; "if I thought so I would return to England by the
next ship and have it out with him."

"But you have no shadow of proof," Mr. Willcox said, "it is a matter of
suspicion only. Even had the idea occurred to you at first, you would
only have injured yourself by stating it, for it would have been
regarded as a hideous aggravation of your crime to bring such a charge
against your cousin unsupported by a shadow of proof. No; now you have
taken your line you must go through with it, and trust to time to right
you. It is a suspicion only, but you mark my words, if the mystery is
ever solved it will be found that your cousin was at the bottom of it."

Frank spent a very pleasant week at the charming residence of Mr.
Willcox. The latter entertained a good deal, and Frank met at his house
several of the leading merchants of New Orleans, and acquired a good
deal of knowledge of the state of the country. Most of them were
incredulous as to the stories of the abundance of gold in California.
That gold had been discovered they did not deny; but they were of
opinion that the find would be an isolated one, and that ruin would fall
upon the crowds who were hastening either across the continent, or by
ship _via_ Panama, to the new Eldorado. Several of them tried to
dissuade Frank from his intention of going thither, and more than one
offered to place him in their counting-houses, or to procure him
employment of other kind.

Frank, however, was firm, for he was going, not for the sake of making
money, but of finding adventure and excitement. He went down every day
to the wharf and superintended the loading of the scows, and at the end
of ten days he resumed his boatman's clothes and took his place on one
of the scows. Hiram accompanied him, with eight negroes, two for each
flat. A tug took them in tow, and they started up the river. Mr. Willcox
was to follow by a steamer next day, and would arrive at Omaha some time
before them, and have time to choose and buy a lot of land for his
store, and to have all in readiness for their arrival. Frank had
purchased a strong, serviceable horse for his own riding, and a pony for
his baggage, together with blankets and other necessaries for the
journey. His mining outfit he decided to get at Sacramento, as, although
the cost would be considerable, he did not wish to encumber himself with
it on his journey across the plains. The rifle and revolver had been
presented him by Mr. Willcox, and he determined to practise steadily
with both on his voyage up the river, as his life might depend on his
proficiency with his weapons.

The voyage up the Mississippi and Missouri was performed without any
notable adventure, although in the little-known waters of the upper
river the tug ran several times aground. Those on board the flats had
but little to do, their duties being confined to pumping out the water
when there was any leakage; and the negroes had been taken up more for
the purpose of unloading the cargo, carrying it to its destination, and
putting up the store, than for any service they could render on the
voyage. Frank, who had laid in a large store of ammunition for the
purpose, amused himself by practising with his pistol at a bottle towed
behind the scow, or with his rifle at floating objects in the stream, in
feeding and taking care of his horses, and in listening to many yarns
from Hiram.

"I can tell you, lad," the latter said one day, when, after passing St.
Louis, they had entered the waters of the Missouri, "thar have been
changes on this river since I was a youngster. I was raised at St.
Louis, which was not much more than a frontier town in those days, and
most of the work lay below; here and there there was a farm on the
Missouri, but they got thinner as they got higher up, and long before we
got to where we are going it was all Indian country. I used to go up
sometimes with traders, but I never liked the job: first, I didn't like
selling 'fire-water,' as they called it, to the Indians, for it made
them mad, and brought on quarrels and wars; in the next place, it was a
dangerous business. The Indians used to meet the traders at some place
they had appointed beforehand, and there would be big feastings;
sometimes the traders would come back with the boat loaded up with
buffalo robes and skins, and Indian blankets, and such like; once or
twice they didn't come back at all, and it was just a mercy that I
didn't stay behind with them on one of the trips.

"I went up with a trading party to a place somewhere near this Omaha; we
had three boats, with six voyageurs in each. I was about five-and-twenty
then, and was steersman of one of them. There were four traders; they
were in my boat, and they played cards and drank all the way up. One of
the boats was a flat--not a flat like this, but just a big flat-bottomed
boat,--for they were going, as I understood, to get some good horses
from the Indians and take them down to St. Louis. We had pretty hard
work getting her along, and a weak crew would never have got her against
the stream, though of course we chose a time when the river was low and
there wasn't much stream on. Sometimes we rowed, sometimes we poled,
keeping along the shallows and back waters; and, though the pay was
good, I wasn't sorry when we got to the place appointed; not only
because the work was hard, but because I didn't like the ways of them
traders, with their gambling, and drinking, and quarrelling. However,
they gave up drink the last day, and were sober enough when they landed.

"I don't know why, but I didn't think things were going to turn out
well. I had heard the traders say as they didn't mean to come up that
part of the country agin, and I knew their goods warn't of no account,
and that they were going to trade off bad stuff on the Indians. The
first two days things went on all right; every evening large lots of
goods were brought down to the boats, but except when I went up with the
others to the traders' tent to bring the things down I didn't go about
much. It was a large camp, with two or three hundred braves, as they
calls 'em. I told the men in my boat what I thought of it; but they
didn't think much of what I said, and traded a little on their own
account, for it was part of the agreement that each man should be
allowed to take up fifty dollars-worth of goods, and have room for what
he could get for them. I traded mine away the first day for some buffalo
robes, and so hadn't anything to take me away from the boat.

"The third day the trading was done; there was to be a grand feast that
night, and the boats were to start the next morning. Most of the men
went up to see the fun, but I persuaded two of my mates in my boat to
stop quiet with me. Presently I heard a yell from the camp, which was
about three hundred yards away. 'That's mischief,' says I. I had scarce
spoken when there was a yelling fit to make your har stand on end, and I
heard pistol-shots. 'Quick,' lads, says I, 'catch up a hatchet and stave
a hole in the other boats, and push ours a little way out from the
bank.' We warn't long in doing that, and then we stopped and listened.

"There was a sharp fight going on, that we could hear, and guessed how
it must be going when they war twenty to one. Presently the shouting and
firing ceased, and then against the sky-line--for they had lots of fires
blazing in camp--we saw a crowd of Injuns come rushing down to the
river. We shoved the boat off, and took to our oars; they shouted to us,
and then fired at us, and shot their arrows, and swarmed down into the
other two boats to come after us, and there was a fresh burst of yells
when they found that they wouldn't swim. We didn't stop to talk, you may
be sure, but rowed as hard as we could.

"The night was pretty dark, and though several bullets hit the boat, and
a dozen of their arrows fell into it, only one of us had a scratch, and
that wasn't serious. As soon as we war fairly away, we set to work to
roll up the buffalo robes and skins into big bales, and lay them along
on each side of the boat, so as to form a protection for us from their
bullets and arrows; for we guessed they would follow us down, and in
many places the river was so shallow they could ride pretty well out to
us. They did follow us, on horseback, for the next two days, and shot at
us pretty hot at times. Once they rode so far out in the shallows that
we dared not pass them; so we dropped anchor above, and took to our
rifles, and gave them a pretty sharp lesson, for they lost seven men.
After that they didn't try that game any more, but just followed down in
hopes we might stick on a sandbank. I tell you I never looked out so
sharp for shallows as I did on that there voyage.

"Fortunately, at the end of the first day a breeze sprang up from the
north, and we got up a sail, for we war pretty nigh done, having rowed
by turns from the time we pushed off. We war afraid, you see, as they
might patch up the other boats and set out after us, though we hoped
they mightn't think of it, for these horse Indians don't know nothing of
river work. They gave it up at last, and we got safely down to St.
Louis. What the trouble was about I never heard, for not one of those
who had landed ever got away to tell us. I expect it was some trouble
about the quality of the goods, and that the Indians got a notion they
were being cheated,--which, sure enough, they war."

"Was anything done to punish the Indians, Hiram?"

"Lor' bless you, who was to punish them? Why, there was scarce a settler
then west of the Mississippi. No; if traders went among 'em they went
among 'em at thar own risk; and, I am bound to say, that if the Indians
were treated fair, and the men understood thar ways, thar was no great
danger. The Indians knew if they killed traders that others wouldn't
come among them, and they wanted goods--guns and powder most of all, but
other things too, such as blankets, and cloth as they calls cotton, and
hatchets, beads, and other things, and they wanted to trade off thar
hosses and buffalo robes, and skins of all kinds. That was the
protection the traders had; and it warn't very often the Indians fell
foul of them, except it might be a muss got up over the fire-water.

"When the news came down to St. Louis there was a good deal of talk
about it; but it got about that these fellows had been taking up trash,
and the general verdict was that it sarved 'em right. All the traders on
the frontier set their faces agin men who cheated the Indians, not
because they cared for the Indians, mark you, but because anything that
made bad blood did harm to the trade all over. However, it gave me a bad
scare, and it was a good many years before I came up the Upper Missouri
again. There's some men as seems to me to be downright fond of fighting;
but I don't feel like that, anyway. If I get into a hard corner, and
have got to fight, then I fights, but I had rather go round the other
way if I could. Thar are dangers enough on this river for me; what with
snags, and shoals, and storms, they are enough for any reasonable man.
Then there are the river pirates; they are worse than all, though it's
some years since we had much trouble with 'em."

"River pirates, Hiram? I have not heard you say anything about them
before. I did not know there were any pirates on these rivers."

"Thar used to be, lad, years back, lots of them, and a pretty lively
time we used to have on the river."

"But what sort of pirates, Hiram?"

"Well, thar war two sorts, you see, at that time. Five-and-twenty years
ago the settlements on the river war a long way apart. You might go
fifty miles without seeing a village when you once got past the
plantations on the lower river; you may say as this region then was like
what Kansas is now. Chaps who had made it too hot for them in the east
came out here, and just had to wrestle round for a living. New Orleans
is pretty bad now, but it was a sight worse then; and St. Louis was a
pretty hard place. Then, too, thar war runaway slaves. So you see, one
way or the other, a fellow who wanted to get together a band up to any
mischief had not to look far for men.

"Well, as I said, thar war two sorts. Thar war the men who lived away
from the river, say in the low country between the Arkansas and the main
stream, which was then pretty nigh all swamp and forest; perhaps they
had hosses, perhaps not, but mostly they had. Well, one fine morning a
dozen of them would ride into one of the villages on the river. Thar
wasn't much to take thar, you know, onless it war fever, and they had
enough of that in thar own swamps. They would wait, may be, for a day or
two, till a boat came in, and as soon as it had made fast they would
cover the men with thar rifles, and just empty it of all it had
got--powder, blankets, groceries, and dry goods, and what not--and make
off again. I got my cargo lifted, I should say, a dozen times that way.
It war onpleasant, but thar was nothing for it; and it warn't no use
making a fuss when you saw half a dozen rifles pinted at you. Why, in
the early days of steamers, more than once they got held up, and the
fellows went through the passengers and cargo and took what they
fancied.

"Well, that was one sort of pirate. The other was what you may call the
regular water pirate. They lived on the islands, in among the
back-waters, or where-ever thar might be a patch of raised ground among
the swamps, and had boats; and they would attack you at night as you war
dropping down the stream or poling up the backs. They war wuss nor the
others. A sight more nor half of 'em war blacks; and good reason why,
for the fevers carried off the whites as joined them before they had
been thar long. They was a powerful bad lot, and those who fell into
thar hands hadn't much chance of thar lives. The runaway slaves war down
on a white man, and he had no marcy to expect at thar hands; besides,
they didn't want no tales told which might scare boats from going near
the places where they war hiding. So in general they fust emptied the
boats, and then scuttled and sunk them, and cut the throats of all on
board. Hundreds of boats war missed in those days, and none ever knew
for sartin what had become of them.

"I tell you one had to keep one's eyes open in those days. We had strong
crews, and every man was armed, and a pretty sharp lookout was kept; but
for all that thar was places, back-waters, and cuts, and such like, whar
I wouldn't have been stuck in after dark, not for all the money in
Orleans. Even in the open river no one was safe from 'em, for they got
so bold they would go out, four or five boat-loads, and attack in broad
daylight; things got so bad that no one dared go up or down, unless it
was ten or twelve boats together for protection. It war the steamers as
broke 'em up; thar ain't no stopping a steamer, and every one took to
being towed up or down. Then the population increased, and regular
expeditions war got up to hunt 'em down. Altogether it got made too hot
for 'em, and the game didn't pay; but for some years, I can tell you,
they war a terror to the river."

"And were you never attacked, Hiram?"

"I was chased several times," Hiram said; "but I had a fast boat and a
good crew, and we generally had four white men on board then, and plenty
of arms. Yes, we had some skirmishes, but it was only once I had a
regular set-to with 'em, and that war a pretty bad job."

"How was it, Hiram?"

"Well, you see, the river was pretty full, and the wind had been light
for some time, and there warn't no way of making against the main
stream; I had waited for three weeks, and me and my mates got sick of
it. We had a cargo which was due up the river, and we made up our minds
at last that we would push on and take our chance. We had eight negroes,
all strong active fellows, armed with cutlasses and old ship muskets,
and we four whites had rifles and pistols. We allowed we could make a
good fight of it, so we agreed as we would go up the back-waters, so
managing as to be able to get out into the stream every night and anchor
thar. We shifted the cargo a bit, so as to pile it up round the sides,
stowing the rice-bags so as to make a sort of breastwork; then off we
started.

"For some days we got along well; the blacks poled thar best, and every
evening we just hit a pint where we could go out into the stream agin.
Two or three times we fancied we war watched, for we heard the snapping
of twigs, and sounds in the thick swamp jungle ahead; but I reckon they
thowt better of it when they saw two rifle-barrels peeping out from the
sacks on each side, and saw we war ready for a tussle. But one day--it
wasn't very far from the pint where we mended up that boat the other
day--we war later than usual; the stream war stronger than we reckoned
on, we had run aground two or three times on the mud, and it war getting
dark, and we had two miles yet before we got to a place where we could
get out into the river. The blacks war working thar hardest; it didn't
need no words from us to keep 'em at it, for they knew as well as we did
what was the danger, and the boat just flew along that narrow channel."

"We war on the watch, with our eyes fixed on the bank, and our ears
pretty wide open to catch any sound ahead. All of a sudden a gun was
fired close alongside. The blacks gave a yell, and would have jumped
down into shelter, only I shouted, 'Stick to your poles, men; if you
lose them we are done for; there's no danger, it's only one man.' So on
we went again, for, luckily, no one was hit. 'That's a signal,' Bill,
says I to one of my mates; 'I reckon we shall have trouble afore we are
out of this.' On we went, flying between the bushes, which warn't
fifteen yards apart. Not a sound was heard but the panting of the
blacks, the splash of their poles in the water, and a sort of sighing
noise behind, as the ripples the boat made as she glided along rustled
among the boughs which dipped down into the stream.

"We had got a mile further when we heard a noise. It was much as a pole
might make knocked against the side of the boat. I knew thar was
mischief now. 'Get in your poles, lads,' I said; 'four of you get out
oars through the holes we have left for them atween the bags, and put
your muskets close at hand; the other four get your muskets, and station
yourselves two on each side.' We went on slowly now; we knew they war
ahead of us, and that hurrying wouldn't do no good, and that we had got
to fight anyhow. It might have been five minutes when thar was a flash
from the bushes on either side--which we could scarce see in the
darkness,--and fully a dozen muskets poured a volley into us, buckshot
and ball, as we found on looking over the boat the next morning. It was
a good job as we put them rice-bags in place, for I reckon thar wouldn't
have been many of us up to fighting if they hadn't been thar. We had
agreed not to fire back if we war fired at from the wood, for they
couldn't do us much harm thar, and it was best to keep our fire for the
boats which they war sure to have as well.

"The moment the volley was fired two boats shot out, one from each side.
'Now, give it 'em,' says I. Up we jumped, four on each side, and poured
our fire into the boats, which warn't twelve feet away. The darkies who
war rowing had been told what to do, and, to do 'em justice, they did it
well. Thar was a yell from the boats as we fired, for I reckon every
shot told; but the way they had got brought 'em on, and their bows
struck us just at the same moment. Then at it we went with our pistols
as they crowded forward and tried to get on board. It was over in half a
minute, for the four blacks had seized their poles, and, shoving them
into the boats, two on each side, pushed 'em off.

"I have heard pretty tall language on the Mississippi, but I never heard
such volleys of cussing as came up from them boats; some of the men
blazed away with thar guns, some shouted to others to row alongside,
some who war hit yelled and cussed like fiends; and all this time we war
lying behind the bags, ramming down fresh charges for the bare life. We
gave 'em eight more shots before they could cast off the poles and come
at us again. This time they came along more on the broadside, and five
or six of 'em sprang on board; but we war ready with the butts of our
rifles, and the blacks with thar cutlasses, and we cleared them off
again. The four darkies had stuck to thar poles; one boat was shoved
off, and one of the blacks run his pole right through the bottom of the
other, and in a minute she went down.

"The other boat didn't know what had happened, and came up agin; but
leaving two of the blacks to chop down any of the fellows in the water
who might try to climb aboard, the other ten of us stood up and fought
'em fair. Our blood was up now, and our darkies fought like demons. The
pirates soon found they had the worst of it, and would have got apart
from us if they could; but we jumped into thar boat and fought them
thar, and they soon jumped over and made for the bank. Directly it was
over they began to fire agin from the shore, and we jumped back into
shelter agin in our own boat and manned the four oars agin. We fastened
the painter of the boat on to our stern, and towed her behind us, and in
another half an hour were out in the stream. It was a toughish fight, I
can tell you, while it lasted; two of the blacks and one of my mates had
been hit by thar musket-balls, and the rest of us war either gashed by
thar knives or had got ugly cracks. However, six of them war lying in
the boat when we hauled it alongside; two war stone-dead, the other
four had been stunned with the butt ends of the muskets, or cut down by
the darkies' sabres. We took 'em down to the next place and handed 'em
over to the sheriff; and as thar happened to be a lot of boats waiting
thar for the wind, you may guess it warn't many hours afore they tried
and hung 'em.

"When the chaps heard the particulars, and that we had sunk one boat,
besides bringing off another, they guessed as likely enough the pirates
war trapped thar; and so they got up a regular expedition, six boats,
each with a dozen men. I went back to show 'em the place. They brought
dogs with them, and hunted through the woods and swamps till they came
to the patch of higher ground whar the pirates had got thar huts. Thar
were about twenty of 'em, mostly negroes, and they fought hard, for thar
was no escape, the boat having drifted away after it had sunk. Behind
thar war some widish channels, and some of the boats had gone round thar
to cut 'em off if they took to swimming. They war killed, every man
jack, and that put an end to one of the very worst lots of pirates we
ever had on the river."

"You were lucky to have got out of it so well, Hiram. I suppose that
sort of thing is quite over now."

"Yes. In course thar are water thieves still, chaps who steal things
from the boats if thar is no one with 'em, or if you are all asleep
below; but thar haven't been no real pirates for years now--leastways
not above New Orleans. Down in the great swamps, by the mouth of the
river, thar's always gangs of runaway slaves, and desperate characters
of all sorts, who have got to live somehow. Thar are still boats
sometimes missing up the river, which may have been snagged and gone
down with all hands, and which may be have comed to thar end some other
way. Anyhow, no one thinks much about pirates now, and the river's quite
as safe as the streets of New Orleans. That mayn't be saying much,
perhaps, but it's good enough. Of course a party might any day take to
the swamps and stop up-passing boats, just as they might take to the
roads and stop waggons going west; but one doesn't trouble about things
onless they get so as to be what you might call a general danger.

"You can't go into a bar-room without a risk of getting into a fight
with a drunken rowdy; you can't stop at one of these landing-places but
what thar's a chance of getting into a mess with fellows who come in
from the backs for a spree, and one doesn't look to have these rivers
which, one and the other, are tens of thousands of miles long, just kept
as free from hard characters as a street in Boston. It's as good as we
can look for at present. Settlement is going on wonderful fast, and,
like enough, in another forty years there won't be any more pirates on
the great rivers here than thar are on the seas. Steam and settlements
is bound to wipe 'em out at last."

During the last two or three hundred miles of the journey up the
Missouri a few settlements only were passed, little villages nestling
closely together on the edge of the river, surrounded often by a
stockade; for although the Indians were gradually falling back before
the advance of the whites, Indian wars were of frequent occurrence, and
then the bands of wild horsemen swept down to the Missouri, carrying
fire and destruction in their course. In front of every settlement lay a
scow or two, used partly for the transportation of the crops, but
valuable also as an ark of refuge in case of attack. The shores were
low, and shallows and banks abounded in the stream, and sometimes the
tug ran aground four or five times in the course of the day. In spite of
his practice with his firearms, and Hiram's talk and stories, Frank
began to find the days pass very slowly, and was not a little glad when
Hiram pointed out a cluster of huts on the left bank, and said, "There
is Omaha."

Half an hour later the tug was alongside, and Mr. Willcox was on board.

"I am glad to see you up," he said, as the flats were moored to the
bank, and Frank stepped ashore and joined him. "The time has gone slowly
here; for though I stayed four days at St. Louis, I have been here
nearly a week. There is lots to do, and I am greatly pleased that I went
in for it. I wish you could have made up your mind to settle here; you
would have made a precious deal better thing of it than you ever will do
by digging for gold. However, I know it's no use talking about that. I
have got a capital location on the main street; I bought it off a fool
who came up in the steamboat with me, and had made up his mind to sell
out and cross the plains. I had an offer for it yesterday at five times
the price I gave for it; but, bless you, I wouldn't have taken twenty
times. This is going to be a big place. I am glad you have come for
another reason. I am putting up at one of the shanties they call an
hotel, but one might as well try to live in the Tower of Babel. There is
an uproar day and night; every inch of the floor is taken up for
sleeping on, and I have been nearly driven out of my mind. Now I can
live on board the tug till she goes down with the empty flats. I am glad
I brought up those eight negroes, for there would be the greatest
difficulty in hiring hands here; every one seems to have gone stark mad,
and to consider every hour's delay in pushing west as so much loss of a
chance of making a fortune."

For the next fortnight the labour was incessant. Hiram, Frank, and the
eight negroes toiled in landing the stores and the framework of the
house, and in transporting them to the lot which Mr. Willcox had
purchased. Even the engineers of the tug were induced by the high
payment Mr. Willcox offered to aid in the work. Several stretchers, or
hand-barrows, had been brought up with them, and on these such bales and
boxes as were too heavy for one man to carry were transported. The
framework of the house was first carried to the site, and four of the
negroes who were good carpenters at once began to put it together, so
that by the time the last of the goods were brought up the store was
ready to receive them. It was a building some sixty feet long by twenty
wide, and was divided into two by a partition: the one end, twenty feet
in length, was the saleroom; in the other, forty feet long, the bulk of
the heavy goods, flour, rice, bacon, hogsheads of sugar, and chests of
tea, were stored. There was, in addition, a lean-to, nine feet square,
at one end, which was to serve as the habitation of the storekeeper. The
assortment of goods was very large. In addition to the stock of
provisions, which filled the storeroom nearly up to the roof, were a
great quantity of clothing fitted for the rough work of the plains, a
large assortment of rifles and pistols, kegs of ammunition, casks of
axle-grease, ironwork for waggons, and all the miscellaneous stores,
down to needles and thread, which would be likely to be required by the
emigrants. As soon as the stores were all safely on shore and housed,
the tug started down the river again with the flats; Hiram and six of
the negroes accompanied them, two of the latter being retained as
assistants to the storekeeper. Between Hiram and Frank there was a very
cordial adieu.

"I likes yer, young fellow," the boatman said; "you will make your way,
never fear, some day, if you get a chance. Send a line to me, to the
charge of the boss, and let me know how things go with you. I shall be
gladder than I can tell you to hear as you're making your way, and I
shall be anxious like till I hear as you have got safely over this
journey, for they do say as the Indians are playing all sorts of devilry
with the caravans. Well, there's one thing, you are a good shot now; but
be careful, lad, and don't get into no fights if you can keep out of
'em."

Frank remained for another fortnight assisting in the store; by the end
of that time things had settled down. They were already doing a very
large business, and Mr. Willcox had sent down orders, both to St. Louis
and New Orleans, for fresh consignments of stores very greatly exceeding
those which he had brought up with him.

Three months previously Omaha had been a tiny settlement of a dozen
houses, but was rapidly growing into a considerable place.

Many stores were rising, but the distance from the inhabited
settlements, and the difficulties of carriage, were enormous. The
population was, for the most part, a floating one, scores of waggons and
vehicles of all sorts arriving every day, while as many departed. This
was the last point of civilisation, and here the emigrants generally
halted for a few days to rest their weary cattle, and to fill up their
stores of provisions for the journey across the wilderness.

All believed that a vast fortune awaited them on the other side of the
continent, and the most fabulous tales of the abundance of gold were
circulated and believed. In some cases the parties consisted only of men
who had clubbed together and purchased a waggon, and started, leaving
their wives and families behind them. In others they were composed of
whole families, who had sold off farms or businesses in the east in the
assurance of acquiring a fortune at the gold-diggings. Around the little
settlement the plain was dotted with the white tilts of the waggons,
mingled with the tents which had been extemporised of sail-cloth,
tarpaulins, and blankets.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER IX.

ON THE PLAINS.


"I THINK now that you can spare me, Mr. Willcox," Frank said, just a
month after the day of landing. "The store has got into swing now; the
two negroes know their work well, and everything is going on smoothly;
therefore, if you have no objection, I shall see about making a start."

"I shall be sorry to lose you," Mr. Willcox said; "but, as you say, the
place will run itself now. I shall go down by the next steamer, and send
up two more storekeepers and a clerk from my office there. This is going
to be a big thing. Well, lad, here's the money you gave me to take care
of, and the two hundred dollars due to you. I will give orders to
Simpson that you are to take everything you can require for your journey
from the store, and mind don't stint yourself; you have done right-down
good service here, and I feel very much indebted to you for the way you
have stuck to me at this pinch. I wish you every luck, lad, and I hope
some day that rascally affair at home will be cleared up, and that you
can go back again cleared of that ugly charge. Anyhow, it is well for
you to make your way out here. It will be a satisfaction for you, if you
do go back, to have shown that you were dependent on no one, but that
you could fight your own way, and make your living by the aid of your
own hands and your own brain. And now look here, if at any time you get
sick of gold-digging, as you very well may, and want to turn your hand
to anything else--and in a country like that, mind you, with a
population pouring in from all parts, there will be big
opportunities,--if you want capital to start you, just you send a letter
to David Willcox, New Orleans, and tell me you have drawn on me for five
thousand dollars. I am a rich man, lad, and have no children of my own;
I have some nephews and nieces who will get my money some day, but I can
do what I like with it, and you will be heartily welcome to the sum I
mention. I have taken a fancy to you, and it will be a real pleasure to
me to help you. If you do well you can some day send the money back, if
you like; if you don't do well, there's an end of it. Don't let it
trouble you for a moment, for it certainly won't trouble me, and be sure
you don't hesitate to draw it when you want it. Remember, I shan't
regard it as an obligation, but it will be a real genuine pleasure to me
to cash that order."

Frank thanked Mr. Willcox very heartily for his kind offer, of which he
promised to avail himself should an opportunity arise, and in any case
to write to him occasionally to tell him how he was getting on. Then he
strolled out to examine the great gathering round the settlement, which
hitherto he had had no time to do, having been at work from daybreak
until late at night. As he wandered among the motley throng of
emigrants, he was struck with the hopefulness which everywhere
prevailed, and could not but feel that many of them were doomed to
disappointment. Many of them were storekeepers, men who had never done a
day's work in their life; some were aged men, encumbered with wives and
large families, and Frank wondered how these would ever survive the
terrible journey across the plains, even if they escaped all molestation
from the marauding Indians. He paused for a moment near four men who
were seated round a fire cooking their meals.

All were sturdy, sunburnt men, who looked inured to hardship and work.
The fact that all were animated by a common impulse rendered every one
friendly and communicative, and Frank was at once invited to sit down.

"Of course you are going through, young fellow?"

"Yes," Frank said, "I am going to try."

"Got a horse, I suppose?"

"Yes," Frank said, "a riding horse, and a pony for my baggage."

"We calls it swag out on the plains," one said; "we don't talk of
baggage here. Are you with any one?"

"No," Frank replied, "I am alone; but I am open to join some party. I
suppose there will be no difficulty about that."

"None on airth," the other answered; "the stronger the better. In course
you have a rifle, besides that Colt in your belt."

"Yes," Frank replied; "but I suppose all this Indian talk is
exaggeration, and there is not much danger from them."

"Don't you go to think it, young man; the Injins is thar, you bet, and
no mistake, and a big grist of scalps they will take. The news of this
here percession across the plains will bring them down as thick as bees
on the track, and I tell you there will be some tough fights afore we
get across."

"Have you had much experience of the plains?" Frank asked.

"We are hunters," the other said briefly, "and have been out there, more
or less, since we were boys. We knows what Injins is, and have fought
them agin and agin; but none of us have ever made this journey,--indeed
there warn't five men who had ever crossed the Rockies by the northern
track afore the gold scare began. But I know enough of the country to
know as it will be a fearful journey, and full half of these people as
you see fooling about here as if they were out for a summer excursion
will leave their bones by the way."

"You don't really think things are as bad as that," Frank said.

"I does," the other replied emphatically. "What with Injins, and want of
food and water, and fatigue, and the journey across the plains, it will
want all a man to make the journey. We four means to get through, and
are bound to do it; but as for this crowd you see here, God help them!"

"Do you mean to go with one of the caravans, or start alone?"

"There is a lot going on to-morrow, and we shall join them. We may be of
some use, for the best part of them are no better than a flock of sheep,
and four good hands may keep them out of some mischief; but I expect we
shall have to push on by ourselves before the journey is over."

"I am intending to go on to-morrow also," Frank said, "and I hope you
won't mind giving me some instructions in the ways of the wilderness,
which are, I own, altogether new to me."

"All right, young fellow; we shall see you on the road, and if you likes
to chum up with us you may, for I likes yer looks, and you seems to be
one of the right sort."

Frank said that he would gladly chum with them if they would allow him,
and the next morning, at daybreak, having said adieu to Mr. Willcox, he
saddled his horse and loaded up his pony, and moved across to the spot
where his new acquaintances were encamped. They were preparing for a
start. All had good riding horses, while two baggage animals carried the
provisions for the party. The caravan which they intended to accompany
was already far out on the plain.

"They are off in good time," Frank said; "I did not think they would
manage to move till midday."

"No more they would," one of the hunters said; "but the chap as is
bossing the team moved them off yesterday evening, and got them a mile
out of camp, so they were able to start right off the first thing this
morning."

In a few minutes they were on horseback, and, riding at easy pace for
the sake of the baggage-horses, they overtook the caravan in two hours.
It consisted of fourteen waggons, and four or five light carts with
tilts over them. The waggons were all drawn by oxen, having six, eight,
or ten according to their size or weight. The men walked by the side of
their cattle; the greater part of the women and children trudged along
behind the waggons, while a few with babies were seated within them.
From time to time one of the men or boys would set up a song, and all
would join in the chorus. One of these was ringing out in the air when
the hunters joined them.

"Poor critturs!" the eldest of the hunters, who was called Abe by the
others, said, "they are as light-hearted as if they war a-going to a
camp meeting; they don't know what's afore them."

The party rode on to the head of the waggons, where the oxen were led by
the man who was regarded as the head of the party. He had at one time
been a hunter, but had married and settled down on a farm. Two sons,
nearly grown-up, walked by his side. He had been chosen as leader by the
rest as being the only one of the party who had any previous knowledge
of the plains and their dangers and difficulties.

"Well, mate," Abe said, "I told you two days ago that I thought that we
should go on with your lot, and here we are. I don't say as how we shall
go all the way with you; that will depend upon circumstances; at any
rate we will stay with ye for a bit. Now my proposal is this: you shall
hitch our three baggage-horses on behind your waggons, and tell off one
of the boys to look after them; we shall hunt as we go along, and what
meat there is will be for the service of the camp, but if we supply you
with meat it will only be fair that you supply us with flour and tea."

"That's a bargain," the man said. "You bring us in meat, and we will
supply you with everything else; and I needn't tell you how glad I am to
have you with me. Five extra rifles may make all the difference if we
are attacked. We have got about twenty rifles in camp; but that ain't
much, as, with women and children, we count up to nigh sixty souls, and
none of us here except myself have had any experience of Indian ways."

"That's fixed, then," Abe said. "At any rate you need not be afraid of a
surprise so long as we are with you."

The addition to their party gave great satisfaction to the whole
caravan. Of flour and bacon they had ample stores to last them upon
their long journey, and the prospect of a supply of fresh meat was
exceedingly welcome; still more was the thought that the hunters would
be able to warn them against any surprise by the Indians, and would, in
case of the worst, aid them in their defence.

The hunters were equally satisfied. Their supplies were quite
insufficient for the journey, and they were now free from the necessity
of accommodating their pace to that of the baggage-horses. Their
progress would, indeed, be slower than it would have been had they
journeyed alone, but time was a matter of no importance to them. Even in
the matter of Indian surprises they were better off than they would have
been had they been alone. In case of meeting these marauders, they must
have abandoned their baggage-animals; and their prospects, either of
flight or defence, would have been poor had they met with a large body
when alone, whereas the force with the caravan could defend the waggons
against even a resolute attack of the redskins. There was no occasion
for the hunters to set out in the pursuit of game for the first day or
two, as a supply of fresh meat had been brought from Omaha. They
therefore rode with the caravan, making the acquaintance of its various
members.

One of the women had volunteered to cook for them; and thus, when they
encamped on the banks of a small stream, they had only to attend to the
watering of their animals. While the meal was preparing they walked
about in the camp, and gave many hints to the women as to the best way
of preparing fires. These were gratefully received, for the emigrants
were wholly unaccustomed to cooking without the usual appliances, and
their efforts, in many cases, had been very clumsy and unsuccessful.
They were surprised to find that by digging a trench in the direction
from which the wind was blowing, and covering it over with sods, they
could get a draught to their fire equal to that which they could obtain
in a grate; while by building a low wall of sod close to leeward of the
fire, they prevented the flames from being driven away, and concentrated
them upon their pots and kettles.

"It does not matter for to-night," Abe said to the leader, "nor for a
good many nights to come; but if I was you I should begin to-morrow to
make 'em arrange the waggons in proper form, the same as if we was in
the Injin country. It ain't no more trouble, and there's nothing like
beginning the right way."

"You are right," the man said, "to-morrow night we will pitch them in
good form; but for a time there will be no occasion for the cattle to be
driven in every night, the longer they have to graze the better."

"That's so," Abe said; "they will want all their condition for the bad
country further on."

The following day the hunters left the camp early. There was little
chance of finding game anywhere near the line which they were following,
for the wild animals would have been scared away by the constantly
passing caravans. After riding for ten miles they began to keep a
watchful eye over the country, which, although flat to the eye, was
really slightly undulating. Proceeding at an easy pace, they rode on for
upwards of an hour. Then Dick, one of the hunters, suddenly drew rein.

"What is it, Dick?" Abe asked.

[Illustration: A DEER-HUNT ON THE PRAIRIE.]

"I saw a horn over there to the left, or I am mistaken," the hunter
said.

"We will see, anyhow," Abe said; "fortunately we are down wind now. You
had better stop behind this time, young fellow, and watch us."

In a moment the four men dismounted and threw their reins on the horses'
necks--a signal which all horses on the plains know to be an order that
they are not to move away--and the animals at once began cropping the
grass. For a short distance the men walked forward, and then, as they
neared the brow over which Dick declared he had seen the horn, they went
down on all fours, and finally, when close to the brow, on their
stomachs.

Very slowly they drew themselves along. Frank looked on with the
greatest attention and interest, and presently saw them halt, while Abe
proceeded alone. He lifted up his head slightly, and immediately laid it
down again, while the other three crawled up close to him. There was a
moment's pause, then the guns were thrust forward, and each slightly
raised himself.

A moment later the four rifles flashed, and the men sprang to their feet
and disappeared over the brow. Frank rode forward at full speed to the
spot, and arrived there just in time to see a number of deer dashing at
full speed far across the plain, while the four hunters were gathered
round three dead stags in the hollow. The hunters' shots had all told;
but two had fired at the same animal, the bullet-holes being close to
each other behind the shoulder.

"Dick was right, you see," Abe said. "It was lucky he caught sight of
that horn, for we might not have come upon another herd to-day. Now we
will make our way on to the camping-ground; we can go easy, for we
shall be there long before the teams."

Their horses were brought up, and the deer placed upon them. The hunters
then mounted, and took their way in the direction of the spot where the
caravans would encamp for the night.

"I understand how you find your way now, because the sun is up," Frank
said, "but I cannot understand how you would do it on a cloudy day,
across a flat country like this, without landmarks."

"It's easier to do than it is to explain it," Abe said. "In the first
place there's the wind; it most always blows here, and one only has to
keep that in a certain quarter. If there ain't no wind, there's the
grass and the bushes; if you look at these bushes you will see that they
most all turn a little from the direction in which the wind generally
blows, and this grass, which is in seed, droops over the same way. Then,
in course, there is the general direction of the valleys, and of any
little streams. All of these are things one goes by at first, but it
gets to come natural, what they call by instinct; one knows, somehow,
which is the way to go without looking for signs. You will get to it in
time, if you are long enough on the plains; but at present you watch the
forms of all the bushes and the lay of the grass, 'cause you see in
hunting we might get separated, and you might miss your way. If you
should do so, and ain't sure of your direction, fire your gun three
times, as quick as you can load it, and if we are in hearing we will
fire a gun in reply and come to you; but you will soon get to know the
signs of the country if you will pay attention and keep your eyes
skinned."

They arrived at the stream fixed upon for the camping-ground early in
the afternoon. The point at which the caravans would cross it was plain
enough, for the waggons all travelled by the same line, and the trail
was strongly marked by the ruts of wheels where the ground was soft, by
broken bushes, and trampled herbage. The saddles were taken off the
horses, and these were allowed to graze at will; those of the hunters
were too well-trained to wander far, and Frank's horse was certain to
keep with the others.

Late in the afternoon the waggons arrived; it had been a long march of
more than twenty miles, and men and beasts were alike tired. The women
and children had, during the latter part of the journey, ridden in the
waggons. There was a general feeling of satisfaction at the sight of the
hunters and their spoil, and at the blazing fire, over which a portion
of the meat was already roasting. The oxen were unharnessed and watered,
the waggons were ranged six on each side, and two across one end, the
other end being left open for convenience; across this the light carts
were to be drawn at night. The deer were skinned, cut up, and divided
among the various families in proportion to their numbers.

For two months the caravan moved forward without adventure. The hunters
kept it well provided with game, which was now very plentiful. Very
disquieting rumours were afloat along the road. These were brought down
by the express riders who carried the mails across the plains, and for
whose accommodation small stations were provided, twenty or thirty miles
apart; and as these were placed where water was procurable, they were
generally selected as camping-grounds by the emigrants.

The tales of Indian forays, which had at first been little more than
rumours, were now confirmed. The express riders reported that the
Indians were out in large numbers, and that many attacks had been made
upon parties of emigrants, sometimes successfully, and involving the
massacre of every soul in them. The caravan was still some distance from
the scene of these attacks; but as the Indians ranged over the whole
plains, it could not be said that they were beyond the risk of assault.
Acting under the hunters' advice, the caravan now moved in much closer
order, the waggons advancing two abreast, so that they could be formed
in position for defence at the shortest notice; and the rifles were
always kept loaded, and strapped on the outsides of the waggons in
readiness for instant use.

Frank had by this time become an adept in hunting, and though still very
far behind his companions in skill with the rifle, was able to make a
fair contribution towards the provisioning of the camp. The hunters now
divided into two parties, three going out in search of game on one side
of the line of march, two on the other; they thus acted as scouts on
either side, and would be able to bring in word should any suspicious
signs be observed. Several small herds of buffalo had been met with, and
a sufficient number killed to provide the party with meat for some time
to come.

Frank had never passed a more enjoyable time than those two months of
travel. The air was clear, bright, and exhilarating; the long days spent
in the saddle, and the excitement of the chase, seemed to quicken his
pulse and to fill him with a new feeling of strength and life. His
appetite was prodigious, and he enjoyed the roughly cooked meals round
the blazing fire of an evening, as he had never enjoyed food before.
The country was, it is true, for the most part monotonous, with its long
low undulations, and the bare sweeps, unbroken by tree or bush; but
there was always something new and interesting to be seen,--for Frank
was fond of Natural History, and the habits and ways of the wild
creatures of the prairie were full of interest for him. His companions,
although taciturn when on horseback and engaged in scouting the country,
or in hunting, were full of anecdote as they sat round the fire of an
evening, and Frank heard many a story of wild adventure with the Indians
or in the chase.

When they returned early to the camp, there was plenty of amusement in
wandering about among the waggons, watching the various groups engaged
at their work as unconcernedly as if they had been still in their little
farms among the settlements, instead of on the plains with months of
toilsome and dangerous journey before them. Some of the women cooked,
while others mended their clothes and those of their husbands and
children, while the men attended to the oxen, or made such repairs as
were needed to the waggons and harness.

As for the children, the life suited them admirably; to them it was a
continual picnic, without school or lessons. And yet they too had their
share of the work, for as soon as the waggons halted, all save the very
little ones started at once over the plain to search for the dried
buffalo dung, or, as it was called, chips, which formed the staple of
the fires; for wood was very scarce, and that in the neighbourhood of
the camping-grounds, which were always at a stream or water-hole, had
long since been cleared off by the travellers who had preceded them. The
chips afforded excellent fuel, burning with a fierce, steady glow, and
making a fire something like that afforded by well-dried peat. Another
source of fuel were the bones which lay in many places, scattered pretty
thickly. Sometimes these marked the spot where long before a party of
Indians had come upon a herd of buffalo, sometimes they were remains of
the cattle of caravans which had preceded them; these were often quite
fresh, the herds of coyotes stripping off the flesh of any animals that
fell by the way, and leaving nothing in the course of a day or two after
their death but the bare bones. Whenever the caravan came upon such a
skeleton upon the line of march, the men broke it up, and flung the
bones into one of the waggons for the night's fire.

Sometimes, as they got well on in their journey, they came to patches of
soap-weed, a vegetable of soft, pulpy nature, which grows to a
considerable height, and dies from the bottom, retaining its greenness
of appearance long after the stem has become brown and withered; it
burns freely, with a brilliant flame. The women of the party rejoiced
when a clump of soap-weed was discovered, and it was always the occasion
of a general wash, as by immersing some of it in water it had all the
properties of soap, except that it did not make the lather which
distinguishes the real article. But in places where the soap-weed was
not to be found, and chips were scarce, the hunters did their best to
supply fuel, and would generally bring home large bundles of wood upon
such of the horses as were not carrying game.

The children's greatest delight was when the camp happened to be pitched
near a prairie-dog town, and they were never weary of watching the
antics of these funny little creatures. Some of these towns were of
considerable extent, the ground within their circle being quite bare of
herbage from their scratching, and the constant scampering of their
little feet, and covered thickly with the mounds which marked the
entrances to the innumerable holes. The prairie-dogs themselves were
about the size of rabbits, but seemed to Frank, from their quick,
jerking motions, and their habit of sitting up on their hind-legs, to
resemble squirrels more than any other animal. They were as much
interested in the travellers as the latter were with them, almost every
mound having its occupant sitting up watching them inquisitively. There
were four or five dogs with the caravan, and until the novelty had
passed off, and they became convinced of the utter futility of the
chase, the dogs exhausted themselves in their endeavours to capture the
prairie-dogs. These seemed to feel an absolute enjoyment in exasperating
the dogs, sitting immovable until the latter were within a few yards of
them, and then suddenly disappearing like a flash of lightning down
their holes, popping their heads out again and resuming their position
on the tops as soon as the dogs had dashed off in another direction.

But the prairie-dogs were not the only occupants of the towns; with
them, apparently on terms of great friendship, lived a colony of little
owls, sharing their abodes, and sitting with them on their hillocks.
There were also a third species of inhabitant, and the presence of these
caused strict orders to be given to the children not to wander over the
ground; these were rattlesnakes, of which, on a sunny afternoon, many
could be seen basking on the sand-heaps.

"Yes, you always find the three together," Abe said, in answer to
Frank's question, "and how such contrary things get to be friends is
more nor I can tell. Sartin they must eat each other, there ain't
anything else for 'em to eat. The prairie-dogs air a puzzle; you never
see 'em any distance beyond thar towns, and yet they must live on grass
and roots. The owls, no doubt, live on little prairie-dogs, and the
rattlesnakes may sometimes eat an old one. Still, there it is; they
never seem afraid of each other, and no one, as far as I knows, has ever
seen a prairie dog fifty yards away from his town. The rummest thing
about them is as every town has got its well. The prairie-dogs have all
got their holes, and though you may see 'em going about popping in and
out of each other's houses, I fancy as they always keep to their own.
But there's one hole which they all use, and that goes down to the
water. No matter how deep it is, they takes it down; I fancy the whole
lot digs at it by turns till they get there. You will see thar towns are
always on lowish ground, so that they can get down to water all the
sooner; that's why they build up those mounds round each hole."

"I thought it was just the earth they had thrown out, Abe."

"So it is, partly; but it serves to keep the water out in the wet season
too. If you watch 'em you can see 'em building the earth up and patting
it down hard if it gets broken down. Sometimes, in very wet weather,
thar will be a flood, and then the whole lot, dogs and owls and snakes,
get drowned all together. Mighty nasty places they are, I tell yer, when
they are desarted. At other times you can see 'em plain enough, and can
ride through 'em at a gallop, for the horses are accustomed to pick
thar way; but after a year or two, when the grass grows again, and is
breast high in summer, and you come across one of them, the first you
know about it is the horse puts his foot in a hole, and you are flying
through the air. Many a fall have I had from them darned little things."

"Are they good eating, Abe?"

"Yes, they ain't bad eating; and if you lie down quiet, and shoot
straight, you ain't long in making a bag. But you have got to kill 'em
to get 'em; if you don't put your bullet through thar head, they just
chucks themselves straight down the hole, and it would take an hour's
digging, and it may be more, to get at 'em."

"There seems to be a tremendous lot of rattlesnakes in some places,
Abe."

"Thar are that, lad; I have seen places where you might kill a hundred
in an hour with your Colt. Thar are two sorts, them as you finds on the
plains and them as you finds among rocks; one are twice as big as the
other, but thar ain't much difference in thar bite."

"Is it always fatal, Abe?"

"Not often, lad, either to man or horse, though I have known horses die
when they have been bit in the head when they have been grazing. The
best thing is to tie a bandage tightly above the place, and to clap on a
poultice of fresh dung--that draws out the poison; and then, if you have
got it, drink half a bottle of spirits. It ain't often we get bit,
because of these high boots; but the Injins get bit sometimes, and I
never heard of thar dying. The only thing as we are regular feered of
out in these plains is a little beast they call the hydrophobia cat."

"I never heard of that. What is it like, Abe?"

"It is a pretty little beast, marked black and white, and about the size
of a big weasel. It has got a way of coming and biting you when you are
asleep, and when it does it is sartin death; thar ain't no cure for it;
the best plan is to put your Colt to your head and finish it at once."

"What horrible little beasts!" Frank said; "I hope they are not common."

"No, they ain't common, and there's more danger from them down south; if
you sleeps in an old Mexican hut that's been deserted, or places of that
sort, it's best to look sharp round afore you goes to sleep."

The game most commonly met with were the black-tailed and white-tailed
deer. These were generally met with in parties of from six to twelve,
and were usually stalked, although sometimes, by dividing and taking a
wide circle, they could manage to ride them down and get within shot.
This could seldom be done with the antelope, which ran in much larger
herds, but were so suspicious and watchful that there was no getting
within shot, while, once in motion, they could leave the horses behind
with ease. The only way in which they could get them would be by acting
upon their curiosity. One or two of the hunters would dismount, and
crawl through the grass until within three or four hundred yards of the
herd; then they would lie on their backs and wave their legs in the air,
or wave a coloured blanket, as they lay concealed in the grass. The herd
would stop grazing and look on curiously, and gradually approach nearer
and nearer to investigate this strange phenomenon, until they came well
within shot, when the hunters would leap to their feet and send their
unerring bullets among them.

"You would hardly believe, now," Peter said, one day when he and Frank
had brought down two fine antelopes by this manoeuvre, "that the
coyotes are just as much up to that trick as we are. They haven't got a
chance with the deer when they are once moving, although sometimes they
may pick up a fawn a few days old, or a stag that has got injured; but
when they want deer-meat they just act the same game as we have been
doing. Over and over again have I seen them at their tricks; two of them
will play them together. They will creep up through the grass till they
can get to a spot where the antelope can see them, and then they will
just act as if they were mad, rolling over on their backs, waving their
legs about, twisting and rolling like balls, and playing the fool, till
the antelope comes up to see what is the matter. They let them come on
till they are only a few yards away, and then they are on one like a
flash, before he has time to turn and get up his speed. One will catch
him by a leg, and the other will get at his throat, and between them
they soon pull him down. They will sham dead too. Wonderful 'cute
beasts is them coyotes; they are just about the sharpest beasts as
live."

"Do they live entirely upon deer?"

"Bless you, no; they will eat anything. They hang about behind the great
buffalo herds, and eat them as drops; where there are such tens of
thousands there is always some as is old or injured and can't keep up;
besides, sometimes they get scared, and then they will run over a bluff
and get piled up there dead by hundreds. The coyotes pick the bones of
every beast as dies in the plains. The badgers helps them a bit; there
are lots of those about in some places."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER X.

A BUFFALO STORY.


SOMETIMES, instead of taking his rifle and accompanying the other
hunters, Frank would borrow a shot-gun, and go out on foot and return
with a good bag of prairie-fowl, birds resembling grouse. Occasionally,
in the canyons, or wooded valleys, far away from the track, the hunters
came across the trail of wild turkeys; then two of them would camp out
for the night, and search under the trees until they saw the birds
perched on the boughs above them, and would bring into camp in the
morning half a dozen dangling from each of their saddles. Frequently, in
their rides, they came across skunks, pretty black and white little
animals. Frank was about to shoot the first he saw, but Peter, who was
with him, shouted to him not to fire.

"It's a skunk," he said; "it ain't no use wasting your powder on that
varmin. Why, if you were to kill him, and went to take it up, you
wouldn't be fit to go into camp for a week; you would stink that bad no
one couldn't come near you. They are wuss than pizen, skunks. Why, I
have seen dogs sit up and howl with disgust after interfering with one
of them. I don't say as they can't be eaten, cos the Indians eat them;
and, for the matter of that, I have ate them myself. But they have to be
killed plump dead, and then the stink-bag has to be cut out from them
directly; but if you ain't hard pressed for food, I advise you to let
skunks alone."

The first time that they came across a large herd of buffalo was a day
Frank long remembered. He was out with the four hunters; they had just
scampered to the top of one of the swells, when they simultaneously
reined in their horses, for the valley--half a mile wide--in front of
them was filled with a dark mass of moving animals, extending back for
two or three miles.

"There, Frank," Abe said, "there is meat for you--enough for an army for
months."

Frank was too surprised to speak for a time; the number seemed
countless.

"What a wonderful sight!" he exclaimed at last.

"Ay, that it is, lad, to one who has never seen it afore; and to think
that thar are scores of herds like that out on these plains. It's one of
the mightiest sights of natur. But it's nothing to see 'em now, going
along quiet, to what it is to see 'em when they are on the stampede,
when the ground shakes with thar tread, and the air seems in a quiver
with thar bellowing; thar don't seem nothing as could stop 'em, and thar
ain't. If it's a river, they pours into it; if it's a bluff, they goes
over it, and tens of thousands of them gets killed. The Injins is mighty
wasteful of thar flesh, but I doubt whether all the Injins in the
continent kills as many as kills themselves in them wild stampedes. We
will just wait where we are until they are past, and then we will drop
down on 'em and cut three or four of 'em off. We will take one apiece;
that will give us as much flesh as the waggons can load up, and I don't
hold to taking life unless the meat's wanted. Now, lad, all that you
have got to do is, when you ride down just single out your beast, ride
alongside of him, and empty your Colt behind his shoulder. Keep rather
behind him, and have your horse well in hand to wheel if he twists round
and charges you."

A few minutes later the signal was given, and the five horsemen dashed
down the slope. A deep bellow proclaimed that the herd had become aware
of the presence of their enemies. The leisurely pace at which they were
proceeding changed instantly into a gallop on the part of those
conscious of danger. The impulse was communicated to those in front, and
in a few seconds the whole herd was tearing along like a mighty torrent.

But they were too late to escape the hunters, who came down upon their
rear, and each proceeded to single out an animal. Following Abe's
instructions, Frank ranged up alongside a fine bull, and opened fire
with his revolver at a point just behind the shoulder. At the third shot
the great beast swerved sharply round, and had not Frank been on the
alert he would have lost his seat, so sharply did the horse wheel to
avoid the animal's horns. The buffalo at once resumed its course behind
the herd; but Frank was soon alongside again, and as he fired the last
shot of his revolver had the satisfaction of seeing the great beast
stagger and then fall prostrate. He at once reined in his horse and
looked round. His companions were all some distance in the rear, having
brought down their game with less expenditure of lead, knowing exactly
the right spot where a wound would be fatal.

"That's a fair lot of meat," Abe said, as they gathered into a group.
"That will last 'em a long time. Now, if we had been Injins, we should
have gone on shooting and shooting till we had killed a score or more,
and then taken just the best bits, and left the rest for the coyotes;
but I call it downright wicked to waste meat. Kill what you want--that's
natural and right; but I am agin drawing a bead on an animal, whether he
be buffalo or deer, or what-not, onless you want his meat, or onless his
hide be of value to you. If men acted on that thar rule there would be
game on these plains for any time; it's wilful destruction as is
clearing 'em out, not fair hunting.

"Now we will ride off and stop the teams as they come along and bring
'em round here. It won't be so very far out of thar way. We can stop a
couple of days to cut up and dry the meat. The rest will do the cattle
good, and there's nothing like having a supply of dried meat; I don't
say it's as toothsome as fresh, but it ain't ter be despised, and the
time may come, in fact it's pretty sure to come, when we shan't be able
to do much hunting round the waggons. We are getting nigh the country
where we may expect to meet with Injin troubles. It's just as well we
met with this herd afore we got thar, for we should have been pretty
sure to find a party of them hanging on the rear of the buffalo."

Three hours later the waggons arrived at the spot, the emigrants in high
spirits at the news that such an abundant supply of meat had been
procured. The hunters skinned and cut up the five buffaloes; the waggons
were placed some fifteen yards apart, and several cords stretched
tightly between them; upon these was hung the flesh, which was cut in
strips some four inches wide and half an inch thick. By the end of the
third day the whole of the meat was dried by the united action of the
sun and wind. The skins had been pegged out in the sun, and some of the
boys, under Abe's instructions, roughly cured them, first scraping them
inside, and then rubbing them with fat mixed with salt.

"It's a rough way," Abe said, "and the Injin women would laugh to see
it; they just rub and rub at them till they get them as soft and pliable
as the leather they make gloves of East. Still, they will keep as they
are, and will do to chuck in the bottom of the waggons for the women and
children to sit upon; besides, we shall find it cold at night as we get
on, and a buffalo-robe ain't to be despised,--even if it ain't dressed
to perfection. When they dry and get stiff the boys can take another rub
at 'em when we halts; it will give them something to do, and keep them
out of mischief."

"Talking of buffalo," Abe began, as the hunters were sitting round the
fire on the evening of the hunt, "that reminds me that it wasn't so very
far from this har spot that me and Rube was nearly wiped out by the Utes
some ten years ago. Rube, he was a young chap then, and had not been
long out on the plains. We war hunting with a party of Cheyennes, and
had been with them well-nigh all the summer. One day we war in pursuit
of buffalo--they were plentiful then; you think they are plentiful now,
but you would see ten herds then for every one you see now. But they are
going, and I expect in another twenty years that a man might ride across
the plains and never catch sight of a hump. If the gold turns out to be
as rich as they say, there will be hundreds of thousands of people cross
these plains, and, like enough, settlements be formed right across the
continent. However, there war plenty of herds ten years ago.

"We had come upon a big herd, and was chasing them. I had singled out an
old bull, and had pushed right into the herd after him; Rube, he was
pretty close to me. Well, I came up to the bull, and put a rifle-ball
between his ribs. The herd had rather separated as we got amongst them,
making way for us right and left as we rode after the bull. As he fell we
reined in our horses, and looked round. Not a Cheyenne was to be seen:
five minutes afore they had been hanging on the herd, sending their
arrows in up to the feather among the buffalo; now not a soul was to be
seen. You may guess this staggered me and I says to Rube, 'Look out,
Rube, there's something up, as sure as fate.'

"Well, I had scarcely spoken afore I saw a big party of Injins come
charging down across our rear. 'Utes,' says I, 'by thunder! They are
after the Cheyennes! Fling yourself flat on your horse, Rube, and get
into the herd.'

"The buffalo war only fifty yards away yet, and yer may be sure we
spurred up pretty sharp till we got up to them. I seed at once it was
our only chance. Our horses war blowed, for we had had a sharp chase
afore we caught the herd, and there was no chance of our getting away
from the Utes in the open plains. We soon caught up the herd, and
charged in among them. The brutes were packed so close together that
they could hardly make room for us; but we managed to wedge ourselves
in. Those next to us snuffed and roared, but they war too pressed by
those behind to do much; but by shouting and waving our hats we managed
to keep a clear space three or four yards on either side of us. All
this time we war lying down on our horses' necks, and there war no fear
that any one would see us in the midst of that sea of tossing cattle;
but I war afraid they would have caught sight of us afore we got among
'em. I cussed myself for having fired that last shot; they must have
heard it, and would have known that some of us hadn't seen them coming,
and must be somewhere among the herd.

"I raised my head a little at last, and took a look round. Sure enough,
there was a dozen Utes coming up behind the herd. I puts spurs again
into my horse, and, catching up an old bull in front of me, progged him
with my bowie-knife, and Rube did the same to the beast next to him.
They gave a roar and plunged on ahead through the mass, and we followed
close to their heels. It was tight work, I can tell you, for the
buffaloes on both sides war touching one another. We kept going about
half a length behind the beasts next to us, so that the horses'
shoulders war just behind the shoulders of the buffaloes; as you know,
the buffaloes have got no necks to speak of, and so, although they gave
savage thrusts with their horns, they couldn't get at the horses. Our
beasts were frightened near out of their lives, but they war well
broken, and we managed to keep 'em in hand.

"The thing I was most afraid of was that they would be knocked off their
legs, and in that case we should be trampled to death in a minute. As I
leaned forward I kept one hand fixed on the neck of the buffalo next me,
and I shouted to Rube to do the same, so as we could make a shift to
jump on to the buffalo's back if our horses fell; but, I tell you, I was
beginning to fear that we shouldn't see any way out of it. What with us
in the middle, and the Utes yelling behind them, the herd war fairly
mad with fright; and there war no saying where they would go to, for,
you know, a herd of buffaloes, when fairly stampeded, will go clean over
a precipice a hundred yards high, and pile themselves up dead at the
foot till there is not one left. It war a bad fix, you bet, for I war
sure that the Utes war after us, and not after the buffaloes, for they
kept on, though they could soon have killed as many of the herd as they
wanted. It was may be four in the afternoon when the chase commenced,
and so it went on till it was dark. The buffaloes war going nigh as fast
as when we started, but the horses could scarce keep their legs; I was
sure they couldn't run much longer, so I says to Rube, 'We must get out
of this, or else we shall be done for.'

"So we sets to work a-probing the buffalo with our knives again. They
started on ahead as hard as they could, bursting a way through the
crowd. We followed close behind them, keeping up the scare until we
finds ourselves in front of the herd; then we spurred our horses on, and
dashed out in front. Done as the horses were, they knew they had got to
go, for, with the herd coming like thunder upon their heels, it was
death to stop. We swerved away to the right, but it took us half an hour
afore we war clear of the front of the herd. We went a few hundred yards
further, and then drew rein.

"Rube's horse fell dead as he stopped, and mine wasn't worth much more.
For half an hour we could hear the herd rushing along, and then it had
passed. We had got out of our biggest fix, but it warn't a pleasant
position.

"There we war out on the plains, with only one horse between us, and he
so done up that he couldn't put one foot afore the other.

"Where the Cheyennes war there was no saying; the band might have been
wiped out by the Utes, or they might have got away. At any rate there
was no counting on them. The Utes who had followed the herd would be
sure to be on our trail in the morning; they would follow all night, or
as long as the herd ran. When the buffalo war fairly tired out they
would lay down, and the Utes would see then as we warn't there. Then
they would set out upon the back-trail, skirting along each side of the
line trampled by the herd until they came upon our trail; the dead horse
was a sign as they could see a mile away, so it was clear that we must
foot it as soon as we could. We gave the horse an hour's rest; and it
did us as much good as him, for I can tell you we war pretty well used
up. We drove him afore us until, after six hours' walking, we came to a
stream. We went up this for an hour, then we both filled our
hunting-shirts with stones and fastened them on the horse, and then
drove him off."

"What did you put the stones on his back for?" Frank asked.

"To make the Utes think as he was carrying double. Each of the loads was
about the weight of a man, and the horse was so tired that he staggered
as he walked; so as they would see his tracks, and wouldn't see ours,
they would naturally come to the conclusion as we war both on his back.
It warn't likely as the critter would go far before he laid down,
perhaps not more than half a mile; but that would do for us. We went
back a few hundred yards in the stream, and then struck off across the
prairie, the same side as we had come from, taking care to make as
little sign as possible.

"The Utes would be riding along by the side of the stream and looking
for a horse's print, and the chances war that they wouldn't see ours.
When they came up to the horse and found out the trick, they would
gallop back again; at least half of them would go up the stream and half
would take the back-track; but, you see, as they went up they would have
trampled across our track, and they would find it mighty hard work to
pick it up again.

"We footed it all day, and the prospect warn't a pleasant one. The
nearest settlement was nigh a thousand miles away, we had no horses, and
we daren't fire a gun for fear of bringing Utes down upon us. We had
made up our minds to strike for the Cheyennes' country, that being the
nearest where we could expect to find friends. For two days we tramped
on. The third day we war sitting by the side of a stream, eating a
prairie-dog as we had trapped, when Rube stopped eating suddenly, and
said, 'Listen!'

"I threw myself down and put my ear to the ground, and, sure enough,
could hear the gallop of horses. 'Injins,' says I, and chucks a lot of
wet sand and gravel over the fire, which was fortunately a small one. I
knew, in course, if they came close that way, as they would see it; but
if they passed at some distance they would not notice us. Then Rube and
I bounded into the water, and laid down close under a high bank, where
the grass grew long, and drooped over to the water so as to cover our
heads.

"We heard the redskins coming nearer and nearer, and they stopped at the
stream a quarter of a mile or so above us. We listened, I can tell you,
for the sound of their going on again; but no such luck, and after a
quarter of an hour we knew as they were going to camp there. I felt
pretty thankful as it was late in the afternoon, for I guessed, in the
first place, as they would light their fire and cook their food, so none
of them war likely to be coming down our way until it was after dark.

"We waited and waited, till it got quite dark; then we followed the
stream down for another four or five miles, and then took to the plains
again. It was another three days afore we fell in with a party of
Cheyennes. It seemed as how most of those we had been with had been
killed by the Utes; the others had taken the news home, and the whole
tribe had been turned out. We war pretty well done up, but the chief
dismounted two of his men and put us on their horses, and we set off at
once. We knew pretty well the line that the party as was following us
had taken, and the next night we saw the fires of their camp, and you
bet not one of them went home to tell the tale."

"That was a narrow escape indeed, Abe," Frank said.

"It war all that. It war lucky that it war late afore the hunt began; if
it had been early in the day nothing could have saved us--onless, of
course, our horses had been fresh, and faster than those of the Utes,
and then we should have made straight away instead of getting into the
herd."

"They don't seem to go as fast as a horse, Abe. I seemed to keep up
quite easily with that bull I shot."

"Yes, for a burst a horse is faster than a buffalo, but when they once
gets going on a downright stampede they will tire out any horse, and go
well-nigh as fast too. I tell you you have to be pretty spry, even if
you are well-mounted, when a downright big herd, well on the stampede,
comes on you. It's a terrible sight, and it makes one tingle, I can tell
you, especially as the horse is pretty nigh mad with fear."

"It must be as bad as a prairie fire."

"Worse, my lad; ever so much worse. You can see a prairie fire fifty
miles away--more nor that at night, ever so much--and you have plenty of
time to set the grass afire ahead of you, and clear the ground afore it
comes up, though it does travel, when the wind is blowing, much faster
than a horse can gallop. I have seen it go thirty miles an hour, the
flames just leaping out ahead of it and setting grass alight a hundred
yards before the main body of the fire came up. I tell you it is a
terrible sight when the grass has just dried, and is breast-high; but,
as I say, there ain't no cause to be afraid if you do but keep your
head. You just pulls up a band of grass a couple of feet wide, and
lights it ahead of you; the wind naturally takes it away from you, and
you look sharp with blanket or leggings to beat it down, and prevent it
working back agin the wind across the bit of ground you have stripped.
As it goes it widens out right and left, and you have soon got a wide
strip cleared in front of you. In course you don't go on to it as long
as you can help it, not till you are drove by the other fire coming up;
that gives it time to cool a bit. If you must go on soon, owing to being
pressed, or from the fire you have lit working round agin the wind--as
it will do if the grass is very dry--the best plan is to cut up your
leggings, or any bit of hide you have got with you, the rawer the
better, and wrap them round your horse's feet and legs; but it ain't
often necessary to do that, as it don't take long for the ashes to cool
enough so as to stand on."

Fortunately a bottom with good grass had been found close at hand to the
place where they encamped, and when the caravan proceeded the draft oxen
were all the better for their two days' rest.

"We shall have to begin to look out pretty sharp for Injin signs," Abe
said, as they started early next morning. "Fresh meat is good, but we
can do without it; there's enough pork and jerked meat in the waggons to
last pretty nigh across the plains; but we are getting where we may
expect Injins in earnest. We might, in course, have met 'em anywhere,
but as they know the caravans have all got to come across their ground,
it don't stand to reason as they would take the trouble to travel very
far east to meet 'em. I don't say as we won't knock down a stag, now and
agin, if we comes across 'em, but the less firing the better. We have
been hunting up till now, but we must calculate that for the rest of the
journey we are going to be hunted; and if we don't want our scalps
taken, not to talk of all these women and children, we have got to look
out pretty spry. I reckon we can beat them off in anything like a fair
fight--that is, provided we have got time to get ready before they are
on us, and it depends on us whether we do have time or not."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XI.

HOW DICK LOST HIS SCALP.


TWO or three days after they had moved from their last halting-place,
when they were sitting at the fire one evening, and Abe had been telling
a yarn of adventure, he said, when he had finished:--

"About the closest thing as I know was that adventure that Dick thar
had. Dick, take off that thar wig of yourn."

The hunter put his hand to his head and lifted at once his cap, made of
skin, and the hair beneath it, showing, to Frank's astonishment, a head
without a vestige of hair, and presenting the appearance of a strange
scar, mottled with a deep purple, as if it was the result of a terrible
burn.

"You see I have been scalped," the hunter said. "I don't suppose you
noticed it--few people do. You see, I never takes off my fur cap night
or day, so that no one can see as I wears a wig."

"There's nought to be ashamed of in it," Abe said, "for it is as
honourable a scalp as ever a man got. Do you tell the story, Dick."

"You know it as well as I do," the hunter replied, "and I ain't good at
talking."

"Well, I will tell you it then," Abe said, "seeing that I knows almost
as much about it as Dick does. The affair occurred the very year after
what I have been telling you about. Dick was attached as hunter and
scout to Fort Charles, which was, at that time, one of the furthest west
of all our stations. There was fifty infantry and thirty cavalry there,
and little enough too, for it war just on the edge of the Dacota
country. The Dacotas are a powerful tribe, and are one of the most
restless, troublesome lots I knows. Several strong parties of our troops
have been surprised and cut to pieces by them; and as to settlements, no
one but a born fool would dream of settling within reach of them.

"I never could quite make out why we wanted to put a fort down so close
to them, seeing as there warn't a settlement to protect within a hundred
and fifty miles; but I suppose the wiseacres at Washington had some sort
of an idea that the redskins would be afraid to make excursions to the
settlements with this fort in their rear, just as if they couldn't make
a sweep of five hundred miles if they took it into their heads, and come
back into their country on the other side.

"Just at that time there was no trouble with them; the hatchet was
buried, and they used to come into the fort and sell skins and furs to
the traders there for tobacco and beads. After that affair I was telling
ye of, Rube and me, we went back for a spell to the settlement, and then
took a fancy to hunt on another line, and, after knocking about for a
time, found ourselves at Fort Charles. That was where we met Dick for
the first time.

"The Commander of the fort was a chap named White, a captain; he had
with him his wife and daughter. A worse kind of man for the commander
of a frontier station you could hardly find. He was not a bad soldier,
and was well liked by his men, and I have no doubt if he had been
fighting agin other white men he would have done well enough; but he
never seemed to have an idee what Injin nature was like, and weren't
never likely to learn.

"First place, he despised them. Now, you know, the redskins ain't to be
despised. You may hate them, you may say they are a cussed lot of
rascals and thieves, but there ain't no despising them, and any one as
does that is sure to have cause to repent it, sooner or later. There was
the less reason with the Dacotas, for they had cut up stronger bodies of
troops than there was at Fort Charles without letting a soul escape.
Then, partly because the captain despised them, I suppose, he was always
hurting their feelings.

"Now, a chief is a chief, and a man who can bring three hundred horsemen
into the field, whether he is redskin or white, is a man to whom a
certain respect should be paid. But Captain White never seemed to see
that, but just treated one redskin like another, just as if they war
dirt beneath his feet. Well, as I told you, he had with him his wife and
daughter. His wife was too fine a lady for a frontier fort, still, she
was not badly liked: but as to the daughter, there warn't a man in the
fort but would have died for her. She war about fifteen year old, and as
pretty as a flower. She war always bright and merry, with a kind word to
the soldiers as she rode past them on her pretty white mustang.

"Dick, here, he worshipped her like the rest of us. If he got a
particular good skin, or anything else, if he thought she would like it
he would put it by for her, and she used, in her merry way, to call him
her scout. Well, one day Black Dog, one of the most powerful chiefs of
the Dacotas, rode into the fort with twenty of his braves. Just as he
came in, Queen May, as we all called her, came galloping up on her
mustang, and leapt like a bird from her saddle at the door of the
commander's house, where her father was standing. I war standing next to
him, and so I saw Black Dog's eye fall on her, and as long as she stood
talking there to her father he never took it off; then he said something
to the brave as was sitting on his horse next to him.

"'Cuss him!' Dick said to me, and I could see his hold on his rifle
tighten, 'what does he look at Queen May like that for? You mark my
words, Abe, trouble will come of this.'

"It was not long before trouble did come, for half an hour later the
Dacota rode out of the fort with his men in great wrath, complaining
that Captain White had not received him as a chief, and that his dignity
was insulted. It war like enough that Captain White was not as
ceremonious as he should have been to a great chief--for, as I told you,
he war short in his ways with the redskins--but I question if harm would
have come of it if it hadn't been that Black Dog's eye fell on that gal.

"I believe that there and then he made up his mind to carry her off. We
didn't see any redskins in camp for some time; and then rumours were
brought in by the scouts that there war going to be trouble with them,
that a council had been held, and that it war decided the hatchet should
be dug up again. Captain White he made light of the affair; but he was
a good soldier, and warn't to be caught napping, so extra sentries were
put on.

"As Rube and me didn't belong to the fort, of course we war independent,
and went away hunting, and would sometimes be away for weeks together.
One day, when we war some forty miles from the fort, we came upon the
trail of a large number of redskins going east. We guessed as there must
be nigh two hundred of them. They might, in course, have been going
hunting, but we didn't think as it were so; sartainly they had no women
with them, and they had been travelling fast. We guessed the trail was
three days old, and we thought we had best push on straight to the fort
to let them know about it.

"When we got thar we found we were too late. On the morning of the day
after we had started a scout had arrived with the news that a strong
war-party of Dacotas were on their way to the settlements. Captain White
at once mounted half his infantry on horses, and with them and the
cavalry set out in pursuit, leaving the fort in charge of a young
officer with twenty-four men. Just after nightfall there was a sound of
horsemen approaching, and the officer, thinking it was the Captain
returning, ordered the gate of the stockade to be left open. In a moment
the place was full of redskins. The soldiers tried to fight, but it were
no use; all war cut down, only one man making his escape in the
darkness.

"At daybreak, the Captain, with his troops, rode into the fort. Dick,
who had been with him, had, when the party was returning, gone out
scouting on his own account, and had come across the back-track of the
redskins. The moment he had brought in the news the horses were
re-saddled again, and the party started back; but they had gone nearly
sixty miles the day before, and it was not until morning that, utterly
exhausted and weary, they got within sight of the fort. Then they saw as
it war too late.

"Not a roof was to be seen above the stockade, and a light smoke rising
everywhere showed as fire had done it. They rode into camp like madmen.
There lay all their comrades, killed and scalped; there were the bodies
of Mrs. White and her servants, and the nigger labourers, and the trader
and his clerks, and of all who had been left behind in the camp, except
the Captain's little daughter; of her there weren't no signs. Rube and
me arrived half an hour later, just as the soldier who had escaped had
come in and was telling how it all came about.

"It war a terrible scene, I can tell you; the Captain he were nigh mad
with grief, and the men were boiling over with rage. If they could have
got at the Dacotas then they would have fought if there had been twenty
to one against them. Dick war nowhere to be seen; the man said that he
had caught a fresh horse, which had broken its rope and stampeded
through the gate while the massacre was going on, and that he had ridden
away on it on the Indian trail.

"If the horses had been fresh the Captain would have started in pursuit
at once, and every man was burning to go. But it was lucky as they
couldn't, for if they had I have no doubt the whole lot would have been
wiped out by the Dacotas. However, there was no possibility of moving
for at least a couple of days, for the horses war altogether used up
after the march. So they had time to get cool on it.

"That afternoon the Captain, who was in council with the two officers
who remained, sent for Rube and me, and asked us our opinion as to what
was best to be done. We says at once that there weren't nothing. 'You
have lost nigh a third of your force,' says I, 'and have got little over
forty left. If we were to go up into the Dacota country we should get
ambushed to a certainty, and should have a thousand of them, perhaps two
thousand, down on us, and the odds would be too great, Captain; it
couldn't be done. Besides, even if you licked them--and I tell you as
your chance of doing so would be mighty small--they would disperse in
all directions, and then meet and fight you agin, and ye wouldn't be no
nearer getting your daughter than you war before.

"'If you ask my advice, it would be that you should send back to the
nearest fort for more men, and that you should at once get up the
stockade where it has been burnt down, for there is no saying when you
will be attacked again. I tell you, Captain, that to lead this party
here into the Dacota country would mean sartin death for them.'

"Mad as the Captain was to go in search of his daughter, he saw that I
was right, and indeed I concluded he had made up his mind he could do
nothing before he sent for us, only he hoped, I suppose, as we might
give some sort of hope. 'I am afraid what you say is true,' says he. 'At
any rate we must wait till Dick, the scout, returns; he will tell us
which way they have gone, and what is their strength.'

"By nightfall the soldiers had buried all the dead just outside the
stockade, and had built a temporary wall--for there wasn't a stick of
timber within miles--across the gaps in the fence.

"At nightfall Rube and me, whose horses war fresh, started for the
nearest fort, and four days afterwards got back with forty more
horse-soldiers. We found that Dick had not come back, and we made up our
minds as he had gone under. When we were away we had heard that the
redskins had attacked the settlements in a dozen different places, and
that there was no doubt a general Injin war had broken out. The officer
at the fort where I went to was a major; it was a bigger place than Fort
Charles, which was a sort of outlying post. I had, in course, told him
about the Captain's daughter being carried off.

"He sent up a letter with the soldiers to the Captain, saying how sorry
he was to hear of his loss, and he sent up forty men; but he ordered
that unless Captain White had received some intelligence which would, in
his opinion, justify his undertaking an expedition into the Indian
country with so small a force as he could command, he was at once to
evacuate the place and fall back with his force on the settlement, as
the position was quite untenable, and every man was needed for the
defence of the settlers.

"When the Captain got the order he walked up and down by hisself for
four or five minutes. Yer see it war a hard choice for him; as a father
he was longing to go in search of his child, as a soldier he saw that he
should be risking the whole force under his command if he did so, and
that at a time when every man was needed at the settlements. At last the
order was given that the troops should take the back-track to the
settlements on the following evening.

[Illustration: THE ESCAPE OF THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER.]

"The Captain told the officers that he should wait till then to give the
horses of the men who had arrived with us time to rest; but I know in
his heart he wanted to wait in the hope of Dick arriving with news.

"The next day, at four in the afternoon, the men war beginning to saddle
their horses, when the sentry suddenly gave the cry of 'Injins, Injins!'

"In a moment every man seized his carbine and sword, and shoved his
bridle on his horse's head, buckled up, and jumped into the saddle.
There was no occasion for any orders. I climbed up on to the stockade,
for the country was pretty nigh a dead flat, and the lookout had been
burnt with the huts.

"Sure enough, there in the distance war some horsemen coming across the
plain; but they war straggling, and not many of them. I could not make
head nor tail of it. They war Injins, sure enough, for even at that
distance I could tell that by their figures. Then I saw as there was
more of them coming behind them; the idea suddenly struck me: 'Ride,
Captain!' I shouted; 'ride with your men for your life, they are chasing
some one.'

"There warn't any necessity for Captain White to give any orders; there
was a rush to the gate, and as fast as they could get through they
started out at full gallop. Me and Rube dropped over the stockade, for
our critters war picketed outside. We didn't wait to saddle them, you
may guess, but pulled up the ropes, jumped on to their backs, and
galloped on; and we war soon by the side of Captain White, who was
riding as if he was mad. We could see them a little plainer now, and
says I, suddenly, 'Captain, there is a white horse in front, by gum!'

"A sort of hoarse cry came from the Captain, and he spurred his horse
agin, although the critter was going at its best speed. They war two
miles from us yet, but I could soon make out as the white horse and
another was a bit ahead, then came eight or ten Injins in a clump, and a
hundred or more straggling out behind. It seemed to me as they war all
going slow, as if the horses war dead-beat; but what scared me most was
to see as the clump of Injins war gaining on the two ahead of them, one
of whom I felt sure now was the Captain's daughter, and the other I
guessed was Dick.

"The Captain saw it too, for he gave a strange sort of cry. 'My God!' he
said, 'they will overtake her.' We war still a mile from them, when we
saw suddenly the man in front--this chap Dick here--part sudden from the
white horse, wheel straight round, and go right back at the Injins. They
separated as he came to them. We saw two fall from their horses, and the
wind presently brought the sound of the cracks of pistols. There war no
'Colts' in those days, but I knew that Dick carried a brace of
double-barrelled pistols in his holsters. Then the others closed round
him.

"There was a sort of confusion; we could see tomahawks waving, and blows
given, and when it was over there war but four Injins out of the eight
to be seen on their horses. But the white horse had gained a hundred
yards while the fight was going on, and the Injins saw that we war
a-coming on like a hurricane, so they turned their horses and galloped
back again.

"Three minutes later the Captain's daughter rode up. She war as white as
death, and the Captain had just time to leap off and catch her as she
fainted dead away. The rest of us didn't stop, you bet; we just gave a
cheer and on we went, and the Dacotas got a lesson that day as they will
remember as long as they are a tribe. Their horses were so dead-beat
they had scarcely a gallop in them, while ours were fresh, and I don't
think ten of the varmints got away.

"We didn't draw rein till it was dark, and next morning we counted two
hundred and fifteen dead redskins on the plains. The first thing in the
morning, Rube and me rode back to where the fight began, to give Dick a
burial. We looked about, but couldn't find him. There was Black Dog,
with one of his bullets through his forehead, two others shot through
the body, and one with his skull stove in with a blow from Dick's rifle,
which was lying there with the stock broken. So we supposed the Captain
had had him carried to the fort, and we rode on there.

"When we got there we found as he was alive. It seems at the moment the
Captain's daughter recovered from her faint she insisted on going back
with the Captain to see if Dick was alive. They found him well-nigh
dead. He had got an arrow through the body, and two desperate clips with
tomahawks, and had been scalped, but he was still breathing. There war
no one else nigh, for every man had ridden on in pursuit; but they
managed, somehow, between them, to get him upon the Captain's horse. The
Captain he rode in the saddle, and held him in his arms, while his
daughter led her horse back to the fort. There they dressed his wounds,
and put wet cloths to his head, and watched him all night.

"In the morning he was quite delirious. Fortunately the Captain
considered that after the way they had licked the redskins the day
before there was no absolute necessity for evacuating the Fort; so the
troops cut turf and made huts, and parties were sent off to the nearest
timber to bring in boughs for roofs, and there we stopped, and in six
weeks Dick was about again with his wig on his head.

"You will wonder whar he got his wig from, seeing as that sort of thing
ain't a product of the plains; but he is wearing his own hair. Among the
fust of the Injins we overtook and killed was a chap with Dick's scalp
hanging at his girdle, and when it was known as he was alive they
searched and found it; and one of the soldiers who was fond of
collecting bird-skins, and such like, just preserved it in the same way,
and when Dick was able to go out again he presented him with his own
scalp. So if any one says to Dick as he ain't wearing his own hair, Dick
can tell him he is a liar.

"Lor', how grateful that gal was to Dick; he never was a particular
good-looking young fellow, and he wasn't improved by the scrimmage, but
I believe if he had axed her she would have given up everything and
settled down as a hunter's wife."

Dick growled an angry denial.

"Well, mate, it may be not quite that, but it war very nigh it. It was
downright pretty to see the way she hung about him, and looked after
him, just for all the world as if she had been his mother, and he a sick
child. The Captain, too, didn't know how to make enough of Dick; and as
for the men, they would have done anything for him for having saved the
life of Queen May. I heard, three or four years afterwards, as she
married the young officer who was in command of the horse-soldiers at
the next fort."

"But tell me," Frank said, "how did Dick manage to get her away from the
Indians?"

"That," Abe said, "he'd better tell you himself, seeing as concerning
that part of the business he knows more nor I do. Now, Dick, speak out."

"There ain't much to tell," Dick said gruffly, taking the pipe from his
mouth. "Directly as we got back to camp, and I found she had gone, it
seemed to me as I had got to follow her; and my eye lighting on the
loose horse, I soon managed to catch the critter, and, shifting my
saddle to it, I started. As you may guess, there war no difficulty in
following the trail. They had ridden all night, though they knew there
was no chance of their being pursued. But about fifty miles from the
fort I came upon their first halting-place; they had lit fires and
cooked food there, and had waited some hours.

"The ashes were still warm, and I guess they had left about four hours
afore I arrived; so I went on more carefully, knowing that if I threw
away my life there was no chance of recovering the gal. I guessed, by
the direction which they were taking, they were going to Black Dog's
village; and, after going a bit further on the trail to make sure, I
turned off, and went round some miles, in case they should have left any
one to see if they war followed. I knew where the village was, for I had
been hunting near it.

"I camped out on the plains for the night, and next day rode to within
five miles of the village, which was among the hills. I left my horse in
a wood where there was water, and, taking my rifle and pistols, went
forward on foot to the village and arrived there after dark. As I
expected, I found the hull place astir. A big fire was blazing in the
centre; on a pole near it hung the scalps they had taken, and they were
a-dancing round it and howling and yelling. I didn't see any signs of
the gal; but as there were two redskins with their rifles hanging about
the door of a wigwam next to that of the chief, I had no doubt she was
there.

"This wigwam was in the centre of the village, and there were lots of
old squaws and gals about, so that I could not, for the life of me, see
any way of stealing her out. Next night I went back to the camp and
watched, but the more I thought on it, the more difficult it seemed. The
second night I catched an Injin boy who was wandering outside the camp.
I choked him, so that he couldn't hollo, and carried him off; and when I
got far enough away I questioned him, and found that in two days there
was to be a grand feast, and Black Dog was then going to take the white
gal as his squaw. So I saw as there was no time to be lost. I strapped
up the Indian boy and tied him to a tree, and then went back to the
village.

"This time the gal was sitting at the door of the tent. I crept up
behind, cut a slit in the skins, and got inside. As I expected, there
was no one in there, the squaws as was watching her was outside; so I
crept up close to the entrance, and I says to her, 'Hush! don't move,
your scout Dick is here.' She gave a little tremble when I began, and
then sat as still as a mouse.

"Says I, 'I don't see no plan for getting you away secret, you are
watched altogether too close, the only plan is to make a race for it.
There ain't many horses on the plain as can beat that mustang of yours,
and I know you can ride him barebacked. Do you take a head of maize now
and walk across to where he is picketed, and feed and pat him; then
to-morrow morning early do the same. They won't be watching very
closely, for they will think you are only going to do the same as
to-night. I have put an open knife down behind you. You cut his rope,
jump on his back, and ride straight; I will join you at the bottom of
the valley. They may overtake us, but they won't hurt you; if they do
catch you, they will just bring you back here again, and you will be no
worse off than you are now. Will you try?' The gal nodded, and I crept
away out of sight.

"A few minutes afterwards I saw her going along with some ears of maize
to where the horses were tied up. Two Indians followed her at a little
distance, but she walked across so natural that I don't think they had
any suspicion; she fed the horse, and talked to it, and petted it, and
then went back to the village. Next morning, before daylight, I mounted
my horse and rode to the mouth of the valley, a quarter of a mile from
the village.

"Half an hour after daylight I heard a yell, and almost directly
afterwards the sounds of a horse's hoofs in full gallop. I rode out, and
along she came as hard as the horse could go. Three or four mounted
Indians war just coming into the other end of the valley four hundred
yards away.

"'All right, Queen May, we have got a fine start,' says I, and then we
galloped along together. 'Not too fast,' I told her, 'it ain't speed as
will win the race. There is a long hundred miles between us and the
fort. We must keep ahead of them varmint for a mile or two, and then
they will settle down.'

"For the first five or six miles we had to ride fast, for the redskins
tried the speed of their horses to the utmost; but none of them gained
anything on us, indeed we widened the gap by a good bit. You see at
first they only thought it was a wild scheme on the part of the gal, and
the first as started jumped on the first horses that came to hand; it
wasn't till they saw me that they found it was a got-up thing. One of
the first lot galloped back with the news. But by the time the alarm was
spread, and the chase really taken up in earnest, we was a good mile
away, and a mile is a long start.

"Black Dog and some of his best-mounted braves rode too hard at first.
Ef we had only had a short start they would have catched us, perhaps;
but a mile's start was too much to be made up by a rush, and so Black
Dog should have known; but I reckon he was too mad at first to
calculate. By hard riding he and his best-mounted braves got within half
a mile of us when we war about ten miles from the village. But by that
time, as you may guess, the steam was out of their horses, while we had
been riding at a steady gallop.

"The first party that had started had now tailed away, and was as far
back as the chief. It was safe to be a long chase now, and I felt pretty
sure as the gal would escape, for her mustang was a beautiful critter,
and the Captain had given a long price for it; besides, it was carrying
no weight to speak of. I didn't feel so sure about myself, for though my
horse was a first-class one, and had over and over again, when out
hunting, showed herself as fast as any out, there might be as good ones
or better among the redskins, for anything I knew. When we were fairly
out on the plains, I could see that pretty nigh the whole tribe of
redskins had joined in the chase.

"At first I couldn't make out why; for although they are all wonderful
for bottom, some of the redskins' horses ain't much for speed, and many
of them could never have hoped to have come up with us. But when I
thought it over, I reckoned that seeing I had joined the gal, they might
have thought that I had brought her news that the Captain, with all the
soldiers from the fort, was coming up behind, and I expect that's why
the chief and his braves rode so fast at first.

"I don't know as I ever passed a longer day than that. We went at a
steady gallop, always keeping just about half a mile ahead of the
redskins. Sometimes I jumped off my horse and ran alongside of him with
my hand on the saddle for half a mile, to ease him a bit. The gal rode
splendidly; the mustang had a beautiful easy pace, and she set him as if
she was in a chair. For the first fifty miles I don't think the redskins
gained a yard on us; they warn't pressing their horses more than we
were, for it was a question only of last now. Then little by little I
could see that a small party was leaving the rest and gaining slowly
upon us; I darn't press my horse further, but I began to give the gal
instructions as to the course she should keep.

"'What does it matter, Dick,' she asked, 'when you are here to guide
me?' 'But I mayn't be with you all the time,' says I; 'it air quite
possible that them redskins will overtake me twenty miles afore I get to
the fort, but your critter can keep ahead of them easy, he is going nigh
as light now as when he started; when they get a bit closer to us you
must go on alone.' 'I shan't leave you,' she says. 'Dick, you got into
this scrape to save me, and I am not going to run away and leave you to
be killed; if you are taken, I will be taken too.'

"'That would be a foolish thing,' says I, 'and a cruel one, ef you like
to put it so. I have risked my life to save you, just as I have risked
it a score of times before on the plains; ef my time has come, it will
be a comfort to me to know as I have saved you, but ef you were taken
too I should feel that I had just chucked my life away. Besides, you
have got to think of the Captain; now that your mother has gone you have
got to be a comfort to him. So you see, Miss, ef you was to get taken
wilful you would be doing a bad turn to yerself, and to me, and to yer
father.'

"It was a long time before she spoke again, and then she didn't say
anything about what we had been talking of, but began to ask whether I
thought we were sure to find the soldiers still at the fort. In course I
couldn't say for sartin, but, to cheer her up, I talked hopeful about
it, though I thought it was likely enough they had fallen back on the
settlements. I did some long spells of running now, and got more
hopeful, for the Injins didn't gain anything to speak of.

"We war all going very slow now, for the horses were pretty nigh beat.
We had crossed two or three streams by the way, and at each they had had
a few mouthfuls of water. It wasn't till we were within ten miles of the
fort that the Injins really began to gain. They must have felt that
there was a good chance of our slipping through their fingers, and they
determined to catch us if they killed every horse in the tribe.

"I tried to urge my critter forward, but he hadn't got it in him; and
what frightened me more was that the mustang didn't seem much faster; he
had trod in a dog-hole when we war about half-way across the plains,
and must have twisted his foot. I could see now he was going a little
lame with it. The redskins gained on us bit by bit, and were pressing us
hard when first we caught sight of the fort about four miles away.

"I had begun to despair, for they warn't more than two hundred yards
behind now. The gal had held on bravely, but she was nigh done. Good
rider as she was, it was a terrible ride for a young gal, and it was
only the excitement which kept her going; but she was nigh reeling on
the horse now. Sudden I says to her, 'Thank God! Miss, there are the
soldiers; keep up your heart, your father's coming to save you.'

"The Injins saw him too, for I heard the war-whoop behind, and the sound
of the horses came nearer and nearer. I spurred my horse, and it was the
first time I had touched him since we started, but it wasn't no good.
'Ride, Queen May, ride for your life!' I cried out; but I don't think
she heard me. She was looking straight forward now at the sojers; her
face was like death, and with a hard set look on it, and I expected
every moment to see her drop from her horse.

"I saw as it was all up; the redskins war but fifty yards behind, and
were gainin' fast upon us. So I says, 'Thar's your father, Miss, ride on
for his sake,' then I turns my horse, and, with a pistol in each hand, I
rides back at the redskins. The gal told me afterwards that she did not
hear me speak, that she didn't know I had turned, and that all that time
after she had first caught sight of the sojers seemed a dream to her.

"I don't remember much of the scrimmage. Black Dog was the first redskin
I met, and I hit him fair between the eyes; arter that it was all
confusion, I threw away my pistols, and went at them with my rifle. I
felt as if a hot iron went through my body, then there was a crash on my
head, and I remember nothing more until I found myself lying, as weak as
a baby, in the hut in the fort, with Queen May a-sitting working beside
the bed. So, as you see, it ain't much of a story."

"I call it a great deal of a story," Frank said; "I would give a great
deal to have done such a thing."

"Well, shut up, and don't say no more about it," Dick growled, "ef you
want us to keep friends. Abe's always a-lugging that old story out, and
he knows as I hates it like pizen. We have had more than one quarrel
about it, and this is the last time, by gosh, as ever I opens my lips
about it. Pass over the liquor, I am dry."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XII.

THE ATTACK ON THE CARAVAN.


ALTHOUGH great uneasiness had been caused by the reports as to the
Indians, the members of the caravan were in good spirits. So far the
journey had been a success. The difficulties met with in crossing
streams and bad bits of ground had been considerable, but were no
greater than they had looked for. The animals had preserved their health
and condition. The supply of fresh meat had been regular, and all were
in excellent health. The rise of ground had been so gradual that it had
scarcely been felt; but they were now at a considerable height above the
sea, and the brisk clear air braced their nerves, and enabled even the
feeblest to stand the fatigue without inconvenience.

One day when Frank was out alone with Dick on the north of the line of
march, they came within sight of some buffalo grazing, and Frank was
about to set spurs to his horse when his companion suddenly checked him.

"What is it?" Frank said in surprise. "They don't see us, and if we
follow that hollow we shall be able to get close to them before they can
catch sight of us."

"That's so," Dick said, "but just at present it air a question of
something more serious than bufflars, it air a question of Injins."

"Indians!" Frank exclaimed, gazing round in every direction. "Where,
Dick? I see no signs of them."

"No, and if you were to look round all day you wouldn't see 'em; they
are at your feet."

Frank looked down in surprise.

"I can see nothing," he said, after a minute examination of the ground.

"It's thar, though," Dick said, throwing himself off his horse. "Look at
this soft piece of ground; that is a hoof-print, and there is another
and another."

Frank also dismounted and examined the ground.

"Yes," he said, "I can see a number of hoof-prints now you point them
out. But how do you know that they are Indian prints?"

"Because they are unshod; besides, you see, instead of coming along in a
crowd, as a drove of turned loose horses would do, the marks are all
together, one after the other, as they came along in single file. There
is no doubt they are a party of Indians."

"They are ahead of us," Frank said.

"They were," Dick said, "but thar ain't no saying where they are now;
may be watching us."

The thought was not a comfortable one, and Frank grasped his rifle
tightly as he looked round.

"Just stay where you are," Dick said; "we are in a hollow, and I will
have a look round."

Dick made his way upon his hands and knees to the top of the brow,
choosing a spot where the shrubs grew thickest, and making his way with
such caution that Frank could scarcely keep him in sight. When he
reached the brow he raised his head and looked round in all directions
and then went on. It was nearly half an hour before he rejoined his
companion.

"They have gone straight ahead," he said. "I went over the brow, and
down the next hollow, and found their trail strong there, for the ground
is swampy; they had certainly passed within an hour of the time I got
there."

"How did you know that?" Frank asked.

"Because the water was still muddy where they had passed; it would have
settled again in an hour after being disturbed, so they could not have
been more than that time ahead. They were keeping just parallel with the
line of march of the caravan."

"How many of them do you think there were?"

"Between fifty and sixty," Dick said confidently.

"Perhaps they were merely journeying quietly along," Frank suggested.

"Not likely," Dick replied; "they must have seen these bufflars, and
would have been after them, almost to a sartinty, had they not had other
business on hand. No, I expect they were watching the caravan, and had
made up their minds to wait till nightfall, or perhaps till it came to
some place where they can get up close without being seen, and fall upon
it by surprise. We will ride back at once with the news, and put them on
their guard."

An hour's riding brought them to the caravan, where their news created a
great sensation. Hitherto the danger from Indians had appeared a remote
trouble, which might not, after all, befall them. The news that fifty or
sixty of these dreaded foes were marching along, almost within sight,
and might at any moment attack them, brought the danger close indeed.
The waggons were driven in even closer order; the women and children
were told to keep between the lines; the men distributed themselves
among the teams, ready to unyoke the oxen at the shortest notice, and to
form the waggons in order of defence. Abe and his companions had not yet
returned; but a quarter of an hour later they were seen galloping
towards the camp.

"You must keep close together and look spry," Abe shouted as he
approached; "we have come upon signs of a large body of Indians, a
hundred and fifty or two hundred strong, I reckon, out there on the
plains. They have passed along this morning, and ain't up to no good, I
expect."

"We have found signs of a smaller party, Abe, some fifty or sixty, on
our left; these were marching straight along, pretty well in the line we
are going."

"Then," Abe said, "ye had best look to yer guns, for they mean mischief;
they must have been watching us this morning when we started, but
concluded that the ground was too level, and that we should have time to
get into position before they could get up to us, besides we had all the
advantage in the stockades at the station. There ain't no station this
evening."

"Do you think they will attack us on the road?" Frank asked.

"That will depend on whether they think they can take us unawares. Get
on yer horses again. Dick, do you ride half a mile ahead of the caravan,
don't keep in the hollows, but follow the line of the brow on the right.
Young Frank and I will scout half a mile out on the right of the
caravan; Rube and Jim, you go the same distance on the left; that way
we can see them coming, and the teamsters will have plenty of time to
form up the waggons. But I don't reckon as they will attack; when they
sees as we are on the lookout they will guess we have come across their
tracks, and will see that their chances of a surprise are gone for the
day."

"Do you think they will attack us to-night?" Frank asked his companions.

"They may, and they may not. As a general thing these Plain Injins are
not fond of night attacks; it's part superstition, no doubt, and part
because they are much more at home on horseback than on foot. Still
there's never no saying with an Injin; but I should say, lad, that they
ain't likely to do that yet. They will try other ways fust. They knows
as how they have got plenty of time, and can choose their opportunity,
if it's a month hence. They are wonderful patient, are the redskins, and
time air of no account to them; but at present I think the most
dangerous times will be after we have camped and before night comes on,
and at daybreak before we makes our start."

Two more days passed quietly, and a feeling of hope pervaded the caravan
that the Indians had ridden on and sought for other prey. But Abe
assured them that they must not relax their precautions, and that the
failure of the Indians to attack was no proof whatever that they had
abandoned their intention to do so.

"An Injin is always most dangerous just when you ain't thinking of him.
You may be sure we have been watched, although we haven't seen no one,
and that seeing as we are on guard they are waiting for us to become
careless again; or it may be they have fixed upon their place of
attack, and if so, you may bet yer life it is a good one. Above all
things you men impress upon the women and children that in case of a
sudden attack they shall each take refuge at once in the waggons, in the
places allotted to them, and that they shall do it with out any
squealing or yelling; there's nothing bothers men and flurries them,
just as they have got need to be cool and steady, as the yelping of a
pack of women. Just impress on them as it does no good, and adds to the
chances of their getting their throats cut and their har raised."

The hunter's orders were very strongly impressed upon the women and
children, and even the latter were made to feel thoroughly the
importance of silence in case of an attack.

Upon the following day they came upon a spot where the trail crossed a
deep hollow; the sides were extremely steep, the bottom flat and swampy.
Rough attempts had been made by preceding travellers to reduce the
steepness of the bank, but it was in no way improved thereby; the upper
edge was indeed more gradual, but the soil cut away there, and shovelled
down, had been softened by subsequent rains, while the torn surface of
the bottom, and the deep tracks left by the wheels, showed how the teams
had struggled through it. They explored for some little distance up and
down to see if an easier point for crossing could be discovered, but
came to the conclusion that the spot at which the tracks crossed it was
the easiest, as in most places the bank had been eaten away by winter
rains and was almost perpendicular. They had reached this spot late in
the evening, and prepared to cross soon after daybreak "You will have
to fix up three teams to each waggon," Abe had said, "and take one over
at a time. We will be out early scouting--for, mind you, this is a
likely place to be attacked by the redskins; they will know there is a
bad spot here, and will guess as you will be in confusion and divided,
some on one side of the gulch, some on the other. Give particular charge
to the men to have their rifles handy, and to prepare to defend the
waggons to the last, and pass round word among the women and children
not to be scared in case of an attack, as we shall drive the Injins off
handsomely if they come."

At daybreak, Abe, Dick, and Frank crossed the gulch, the other two
hunters remaining behind.

"We must not go far from the crossing," Abe said. "We don't know which
way the tarnal critters may come, and in case of attack, all our guns
will be wanted. They will guess as we shall begin to cross the first
thing in the morning, and that it will take three or four hours to get
over. So, if they are coming, it will be in a couple of hours, so as to
catch us divided."

They took their station on a rise a few hundred yards from the crossing,
one of them riding back from time to time to see how the operation of
crossing was going on. It was one of immense difficulty. The oxen were
mired almost up to their chests, and the waggons sunk axle-deep. The
waggons stuck fast in spite of the efforts of all the men in the party.
Frank looked on for some time, and then a thought struck him.

"Look here, you will never get the waggons on in that way, the oxen
cannot pull an ounce. The best way will be to unyoke them, take them
across, and get them up on the level ground on the top; then fasten your
ropes together and hitch them to the waggon. The bullocks, on firm
ground, can easily pull it across."

The suggestion was at once acted upon. The bottom was some fifty yards
wide, and there were plenty of ropes in the waggons which had been
brought for lowering them down difficult places, and for replacing any
of the long rope traces which might be broken and worn out. Two of these
were attached to the waggon, and the oxen were taken over and up the
further side. A team was attached to each rope, and as the whip cracked
the ponderous waggon was at once set in motion, and was soon dragged
through the mud and up the incline.

"That's a capital plan of yourn, young fellow," John Little said. "I
don't know how we ever should have got across the other way, and I had
just made up my mind to give it up and move down this hollow till we
came to firmer ground."

Five more waggons were got across in the same manner. Suddenly Abe
discharged his rifle.

"What's the matter?" Frank exclaimed.

"Injins," Abe said briefly. "Them's the heads of the tarnal cusses just
coming over the line of that rise."

The spot to where he pointed was about half a mile distant, and soon
Frank perceived a number of dark objects rising above it. Almost at the
same instant the sound of a gun was heard on the other side of the
gulch.

"They are going to attack both sides at once," Abe said, as they
galloped back towards the crossing; "that shows they are strong. If they
had any doubts about licking us they would have thrown thar whole
strength on one party or the other."

On reaching the waggons they found the men there working with all their
might to get the six waggons in position, side by side across the top of
the ascent. The oxen had already been taken down into the hollow.

"That's right," Abe shouted, as they leapt from their horses and aided
in the movement. "It couldn't be better. Well and steady. You have
three or four minutes yet."

The waggons were drawn up in two lines with their wheels touching, the
inner line being on the very edge of the descent. The women and children
were placed in the inner waggons, while the eight men who had come
across with them, and the three hunters, took their places in the
outside waggons.

Almost all the men had been across with the teams when the guns were
fired, but the remainder had run back to aid in the defence of the
waggons on the other side. These were already in a position of defence,
having been so arranged before the crossing began. So well had Abe's
orders been carried out, that no confusion whatever had occurred. At the
sound of the guns the women had climbed, and helped the children, into
the waggons allotted to them, and the men, on arriving, quietly took up
their positions.

The Indians were not visible until they reached a spot about three
hundred yards from the waggons. As they dashed up the rise they checked
their horses. Instead of seeing, as they had expected, everything in
confusion and dismay, not a soul was visible, and the clumps of waggons
stood, one on either side, ranged as for defence. However, after waiting
for three days for their prey, they were not to be balked. Their wild
war-cry rose in the air, and the two bodies of horsemen charged down on
the travellers.

In an instant a deadly fire broke out, the men kneeling in the bottom of
the waggons and resting their rifles on the rail, the tilt being raised
a few inches to enable them to see under it. Every shot told among the
mass of horsemen. The emigrants were all new to Indian warfare, but most
of them were farmers accustomed from boyhood to the use of the rifle,
and the coolness of the hunters, and their preparation for attack,
steadied them, and gave them confidence. Several of the Indians fell at
the first discharge, but the advance was not checked, and at full speed
they came on.

"Steady, lads; don't throw away a shot," Abe shouted, as the men loaded
and discharged their rifles as quickly as possible; "see that every
bullet tells."

Already the Indians were checking the speed of their horses, for the
position was a most difficult one to attack. It could not be surrounded,
and, indeed, could only be attacked on the face of the outside waggons,
from which a stream of fire was pouring. As the leaders came on Frank
and the two hunters, who both, like himself, carried revolvers, laid
aside their rifles and brought these deadly weapons into action, resting
them on the rail to secure an accurate fire. The quick, sharp cracks of
these, followed in almost every case by the fall of one of the horsemen
in front, completed the dismay of the Indians. Quick as thought, those
who had fallen were lifted across the horses of their comrades, and the
whole band, turning, galloped away at full speed, pursued, as long as
they were in sight, by the rifle-balls of the defenders of the waggons.

"So much for them," Abe said, as he leapt to the ground. "Now let us
give a hand to our comrades."

The fight was still raging on the other side. The number of waggons was
larger, and the facilities for defence less. The waggons were surrounded
by a throng of Indians, who were cutting at them with their tomahawks,
discharging their rifles into the tilts, and some, having thrown
themselves from their horses, were endeavouring to climb up. The
defenders were still fighting desperately. They had no longer time to
load, but with hatchets and clubbed rifles beat down the Indians who
tried to climb the waggons. A few minutes, however, would have ended the
resistance had not help been at hand.

From the opposite side of the gulch eleven men poured the contents of
their rifles among the Indians. One of the leading chiefs and four of
his followers fell dead, and almost before the Indians had recovered
from their surprise a dropping fire was opened, almost every shot taking
effect. A cheer broke from the defenders of the waggons, and they fought
with renewed hope, while the Indians, startled by this unlooked-for
attack, and by the repulse of their comrades, began to lose heart.

Only for a few minutes longer did they continue the attack. The deadly
flank fire proved too much for their courage, and soon they too were in
full flight, carrying off with them their killed and wounded. A shout of
triumph rose from the two parties of whites, and a scene of wild delight
took place; the women, now that the excitement was over, cried and
laughed alternately in hysterical joy; the children shouted, while the
men grasped each other's hands in fervent congratulation.

"We all owe our lives to you and your comrades," John Little said to
Abe. "If it had not been for you we should all have gone under; and, I
tell you, if ever we get across these plains we will find some way to
show our gratitude. As long as John Little has a crust in the world he
will share it with you."

When the excitement had somewhat abated, the work of crossing was
recommenced, and in two hours all were over and the journey was
continued.

"Do you think the Indians will attack us again?" John Little asked Abe,
when the caravan was set in motion.

"They will, if they see a chance," Abe replied. "They have lost a lot of
men, and will get vengeance if they can. It depends partly whether thar
big chief was killed or not; if he war they may give it up now; they
sees as we are strong and well-armed. If not, thar chief will do all he
can to wipe us out, for he will be held responsible for the affair, and
such a defeat would lower his influence in the tribe."

Five days later they saw some waggons in the distance. Since the attack
the hunters had not left the caravan, as the emigrants all declared that
they would far rather go without fresh meat than have the hunters absent
from the camp. A few deer only, which had been seen from the line of
march, had been stalked and shot.

"There is a caravan halting ahead," Frank said. "We heard at the last
station that one passed ten days back. I wonder what they are halting
for. The next water, according to the distances the station-keeper gave
us, must be ten miles away."

"I don't like the look of it," Abe replied. "Travelling at about the
same rate as we do, they should still be about ten days ahead. I am very
much afraid that something has happened; those varmint we thrashed, or
some other, may have attacked them."

For another mile not a word was spoken; then they reached a spot from
which the waggons and the ground around them was clearly visible.

"I see no sign of movement," Abe said to John Little, "and thar seems to
be a lot of dark objects lying about I will ride forward with my mates.
If, as I calculate, there has been a massacre, you had better take the
waggons a detour a mile round, so that the women and children may be
spared the sight of it. It would be enough to make them skeery for the
rest of the journey."

Abe and his comrades galloped forward.

"Have your rifles ready," the former said; "there may be some of the
varmint hiding about still, though I don't think it likely. I expect the
attack took place some days back."

On nearing the waggons their apprehensions were verified. Around lay the
carcasses of the oxen with bales and boxes broken open and rifled of
their contents. In and near the waggons were the bodies of their
defenders, mingled with those of the women and children. All had been
scalped, and the bodies were mutilated with gashes of the tomahawks. No
attempt had been made to put the waggons into any position of defence;
they still stood in a long line, as they had been travelling when the
Indians fell upon them. There were twelve waggons, and they counted
eighty bodies lying around them.

"It has been a regular surprise," Abe said, "and I expect there war very
little fighting. The Injins burst out on them, there war a wild panic, a
few shots war fired, and it war all over; that's how I read it. Hillo!
what's that?"

A deep growl was heard, and turning they saw under a bush a mastiff,
standing over the body of a child. The animal could with difficulty keep
its legs; it had been pierced by a lance, and had received a blow with a
tomahawk on the head which had nearly cut off one of its ears. It had
doubtless been left for dead, but had recovered itself, and crawled to
the side of one of the children of the family to which it belonged. Its
head was covered with matted blood, and its tongue hung out, black and
parched with thirst; but it growled savagely, its hair bristled on its
back, and it prepared to defend to the last the body of its young
master.

"Poor fellow!" Frank said, dismounting. "Poor old boy, we are friends."

At the kind tones of the voice the dog relaxed the fierceness of its
aspect, it gave a faint whine, and lay down by the child's body. Frank
took off his thick felt hat, filled it with water from the skin hanging
from his saddle, and carried it to the dog. The animal raised itself
again with an effort, and drank eagerly; when it had finished, it thrust
its great nose into Frank's hand and wagged its tail, then it returned
to the body and gave a piteous howl. The tears stood in Frank's eyes.

"Lend a hand with your knives," he said to his comrades, who were
looking on; "let us dig a grave for the child, then the dog will perhaps
follow us; it is a grand dog, and I should like to have it."

The others dismounted, and with their knives and hands they soon scraped
a hole in the earth capable of containing the body. The mastiff stood by
watching their operations. Frank doubted whether it would allow him to
touch the body of the child; but the animal seemed to comprehend his
intentions, and suffered him to raise the child and lay it in the
ground. No sooner was the grave filled up than the mastiff laid himself
down beside it. Frank now offered the animal some meat from his wallet,
and after this was eaten, bathed its head with water and brought the
edges of the wound together, and bandaged it with a strip torn from his
hunting-shirt.

"Come along, old fellow; come along with us, you can do no good here."

He mounted his horse, and the mastiff rose to its feet and stood
irresolute, and gave another piteous howl.

"Will you ride back to the caravan, Abe, and tell them there is no
danger? I will move slowly with the dog, and join them when they get
abreast of us."

The four men started at a gallop. Frank dismounted again and patted the
mastiff; then tying his handkerchief to its collar, he walked slowly
away, leading his horse. The mastiff followed at once, walking with
difficulty, for its hind-legs were almost paralysed from the
spear-wound, which had passed through its body just under the spine,
behind the ribs. It seemed, however, to feel that Frank was its master
now, and laid its great head in his hand as he walked beside it.

As Frank saw the line on which the caravan was now moving, he walked
slowly across to it and halted until the waggons came up. The mastiff
was lifted into one of them, and laid on some empty flour-sacks. Some
more water was given it, and the caravan proceeded on its way.

The terrible fate which had befallen their predecessors cast a deep
gloom over the party, who shuddered to think how narrowly they had
escaped such a fate; there was no need now to impress upon any the
necessity of avoiding straggling, and redoubled vigilance was observed
during the march.

Frank attended assiduously to the mastiff, to whom he gave the name of
Turk. The spear-wound was kept poulticed, and that in the head was
plastered. Had the dog received such wounds at any other time they would
have probably proved fatal; but on the plains wounds heal rapidly, and
the brisk air and the life of activity and exercise render man and beast
alike able to sustain serious injuries without succumbing.

In a week Turk was able to walk with the caravan; a fortnight later it
could gallop by Frank's side. They were now entering the Alkali Plains,
a wide and desolate region, where water is extremely scarce, and, when
found, brackish and bitter to the taste, and where the very shrubs are
impregnated with salt, and uneatable by most animals. In anticipation of
the hardships to be endured in crossing this region, the bullocks had
been allowed for some time a daily ration of grain in addition to the
grass they could pick up during the halt, and were therefore in good
condition.

A halt was made for three days before entering this district, and the
teams were fresh and full of work when they started. The marches across
the salt plain were long and painful to man and beast; the dust, which
rose in clouds, was so impregnated with salt that it caused an intense
irritation to the lips and nostrils.

Everything was done as far as possible to alleviate the sufferings of
the animals. Casks were filled with water at each halting-place, and
each time the oxen halted for rest their mouths and nostrils were
sponged, and a small allowance given them to drink. As they progressed
they had reason to congratulate themselves on the precautions they had
taken, for scarce a mile was passed without their coming across signs of
the misfortunes which had befallen those who had gone before, in the
shape of abandoned waggons, stores cast out to lighten the loads, and
skeletons of oxen and horses. But, on the other hand, there was now
comparatively slight danger of an Indian attack, for even the horses of
the redskins, hardy as they are, could not support the hardships of a
prolonged stay on the Alkali Plains.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XIII.

AT THE GOLD-FIELDS.


IT was with intense delight that all in the caravan noticed the gradual
change of herbage which showed that they were approaching the confines
of this terrible region; and when, at their first halt after leaving it,
they came upon flowing streams, a general bath was indulged in by man
and beast, the oxen lying down in the water, and being with great
difficulty induced to emerge from it. The hunters now recommenced their
excursions in search of game, for all were suffering from the want of
fresh meat, the children especially feeling the privation.

Turk accompanied the party. The dog was now completely restored, and
nothing could induce it to leave Frank's side. It was quite young, and
Frank soon taught it to remain by his horse while he dismounted to stalk
game; while in pursuit on horseback, Turk often pursued and pulled down
deer who would otherwise have escaped.

One day Dick and Frank had gone out alone, and had been led a long
distance from the line of march in pursuit of a herd of deer. These had
finally gone up a narrow cañon in the mountains. The hunters pursued
them for some distance, and then, despairing of overtaking them, turned
their horses, and began to retrace their steps. Suddenly Turk, who was
in advance, stopped, uttered a deep growl, and its hair bristled from
its head to its tail.

"What is it, Turk?" Frank asked.

The animal replied with another low, deep growl.

"It must be some savage beast," Frank said.

"That ain't likely," Dick said; "any beast in this cañon would have
moved away when we passed before. I think the dog must scent Injins. A
party may have seen us entering the gap, and may be in pursuit."

He threw himself off his horse, and listened, with his ear to the
ground.

"It's Injins, sure enough!" he exclaimed; "I can hear the clattering of
horses' hoofs on the hard rock. There's nothing for it but for us to
make our way up the cañon."

They turned their horses, and galloped forward, Turk, after one more
growl in the direction of the Indians, following. Presently the defile
divided.

"Shall we take the main branch, or the one to the right?" Frank asked.

"Better keep straight on," Dick said; "the other may lead into some
valley from which there could be no getting out, and we should be caught
in a trap. See!" he said, as he halted, "the deer have gone that way. Do
you see some of the pebbles have been thrown out of that little stream?

"Jump off your horse, and cut some bits off your blankets and tie them
round your horse's feet. If the Indians see no marks going forward, they
will naturally suppose we have turned off here in pursuit of the deer."

Frank did what his comrade suggested; but quickly as the work was
performed, they heard the sound of the horsemen in pursuit, loud and
distinct, before they again set forward. Then, springing on their
horses, they rode up the cañon. After a while they halted; the sounds of
pursuit had ceased, and they had no doubt the Indians had turned off
into the other ravine.

"It all depends how far that runs," Dick said, "how soon they will be in
pursuit again. If it comes soon to an end it will not be long before we
have them after us; if it goes on for some miles we are safe."

Winding between perpendicular cliffs of great height, they rode forward,
mounting steadily. It was impossible to make rapid progress, for
although in some places the bottom of the ravine was bare, smooth rock,
at others it was piled with boulders.

It was three hours before they emerged from it, and upon doing so found
they were upon an elevated plateau. Before they moved forward, Frank
said, "Turk, do you hear them?" The dog stood with ears erect and
quivering nostrils, looking down the ravine which they had just left.
Presently he gave a low, deep growl.

"They are coming," Frank said; "but they must be a good way off, for
Turk did not hear them at first. Which way shall we go, Dick?"

"We had better turn to the left," Dick said, "for our natural line leads
to the right. However, it does not make much difference, for they will
be able to track us; still, it may puzzle them. It will be dark in a
couple of hours, and if we can keep ahead till then we are safe."

They started at a gallop, and for an hour rode at full speed in the
direction which would take them down to the plain at or near the spot
where they had halted the night before.

[Illustration: DICK AND FRANK ELUDE THE INDIANS.]

"Look out, Frank! rein up!" Dick suddenly shouted. Frank pulled his
horse back on its haunches, and but just in time, for at the brow of the
swell up which they had been galloping, the ground fell suddenly away in
a precipice two hundred feet deep, and the horse was barely a length
from it when he brought it to a standstill.

"We are in a mess," Dick said. "The Injins behind us will know of this,
and instead of following will scatter to the right and left, as they
will know that we must turn one way or the other."

"In that case," Frank said, "our best plan will be to go straight back."

"You are right," Dick exclaimed, "that is the best thing we can do. We
won't follow the exact track, as a few of them may have kept our line,
but will bear a little distance off it, and hope they may pass us
unseen; the sun is setting already, half an hour and it will be dark."

Taking every precaution to conceal their trail, they rode back, keeping
a hundred yards or so to the right of the line by which they had come. A
quarter of an hour passed, and then Turk gave his growl of warning.

"Could not have been better," Dick exclaimed, "this brushwood is just
the place for us."

They threw themselves from their horses, and made the animals lie down
at full length in the low bushes, and laid themselves down beside them.

"Hush! Turk," Frank said to the dog, as he laid his hand upon it's head.
"You must lie quiet, sir, and not make the least noise."

The dog, who was quivering with excitement, lay down quietly, as if it
comprehended the need for silence.

"One, two, three, four, five, six," Dick counted, peering through the
bushes. "Six of them; we could fight that lot easy, but the sound of our
rifles would bring the whole gang down upon us."

The Indians were not riding at full speed, for their horses were tired,
having already made a long march before they saw the hunters following
the deer to the cañon, and they did not expect to overtake those of whom
they were in pursuit, believing that when they reached the precipice
they would make along it to the right or left, and so fall into the
hands of one or other of the parties who had gone to intercept them.

No sooner were they fairly out of sight than the hunters rose, and,
remounting their horses, continued their way.

"It's well-nigh dark," Dick said, "and I doubt if they will be able to
make out our back-track when they get to the edge; at any rate they
cannot follow it."

They rode on until they found that their horses could no longer carry
them, then, dismounting, led them by the bridle. They had been steering
by the stars, and presently found themselves at the upper end of the
ravine.

"We won't enter this now," Dick said, "for some of them may take it into
their heads to gallop back, although that ain't very likely. Anyhow the
horses can't go any further, and if they could, we couldn't make our way
over these stones; it'll be as dark as pitch down there. So we will move
away two hundred yards, and let the horses feed while we get a few
hours' sleep. That dog of yourn will give us notice if any of the
varmint are coming this way."

The night passed without alarm, and at the first dawn of light they were
upon their feet again. The horses were given a mouthful of water from
the skins, and then the hunters mounted and rode down the cañon. There
would be pursuit, they knew well; but the Indians would not be able to
take up the trail until daylight, and would be an hour and a half
following it to the top of the cañon, so that they had fully two hours'
start. This being the case, they did not hurry their horses, but kept up
a steady pace until they emerged at the lower end of the ravine; then
they urged them forward, and two hours later arrived at the
halting-place of the caravan. No move had been made, but the instant
they were seen approaching, Abe and his two comrades rode up to meet
them.

"What has happened?" he asked, as he reached them. "We have been
terrible uneasy about you, and I was just going to start to try and pick
up your track and follow you."

Dick related the adventure.

"It war well it war no worse," Abe said. "That critter's sense has saved
your lives, for ef he hadn't given you warning you would have ridden
slap into the hands of the Injins; you may consider you are quits with
him now, Frank. But it war a nasty fix, and I congratulate you both on
having brought your har safely back to camp; that coming straight back
on your trail when you was stopped by the fall of the ground was a
judgmatical business."

"It was Frank's idee," Dick said.

"Wall, he just hit the right thing; if it hadn't been for that you would
have been rubbed out sure."

At the next halting-place they found that three or four of the caravans
which had preceded them had halted, being afraid to move forward in
small parties, as the Indians had made several attacks. With the
accession of force given by the arrival of John Little's party, they
considered themselves able to encounter any body of redskins they might
meet, as there were now upwards of fifty waggons collected, with a
fighting force of seventy or eighty men.

They therefore moved forward confidently. Several times parties of
Indian horsemen were seen in the distance, but they never showed in
force, the strength of the caravan being too great for any hope of a
successful attack being made upon it.

It was nearly five months from the time of their leaving Omaha before
the caravan approached the point where the great plateau of Nevada falls
abruptly down to the low lands of California many thousand feet below.
Here the hunters bade farewell to the emigrants, whom they had so long
escorted. All danger of Indians had been long since passed, and they
were now within a short distance of the gold regions.

Very deep and sincere were the thanks which were poured upon them by the
emigrants, who felt that they owed their lives entirely to the vigilance
and bravery of Abe and his companions. They expected to meet again ere
long at the gold-fields, and many were the assurances that should by any
chance better luck attend their search than was met with by the hunters,
the latter should share in their good fortune.

The change in the character of the scenery was sudden and surprising.
Hitherto the country had been bare and treeless, but the great slopes of
the Nevada mountains were covered from top to bottom with a luxuriant
growth of timber. Nowhere in the world are finer views to be obtained
than on the slopes of the Nevada Mountains. The slopes are extremely
precipitous, and sometimes, standing on a crag, one can look down into a
valley five or six thousand feet below, clothed from top to bottom with
luxuriant foliage, while far away in front, at the mouth of the valley,
can be seen the low, rich flats of California.

On the lower slopes of these mountains lay the gold deposits. These were
found in great beds of gravel and clay, which in countless generations
had become so hardened that they almost approached the state of
conglomerate. The gold from these beds had been carried, either by
streams which ran through them, or by the action of rain and time, into
the ravines and valleys, where it was found by the early explorers.
These great beds of gravel have been since worked by hydraulic
machinery, water being brought by small canals, or flumes, many miles
along the face of the hills, to reservoirs situated one or two hundred
feet above the gravel to be operated upon.

From the reservoirs extremely strong iron pipes lead down to the gravel,
and to the end of these pipes are fitted movable nozzles, like those of
fire-engines, but far larger. The water pours out through these nozzles
with tremendous force, breaking up the gravel, and washing it away down
a long series of wooden troughs, in which the gold settles, and is
caught by a variety of contrivances.

But in the early days of gold discovery the very existence of these beds
of gravel was unknown, and gold was obtained only in the ravines and
valleys by washing the soil in the bottom. It had already been
discovered that the soil was richer the further the searchers went
down, by far the greater finds being made when the diggers reached the
solid rock at the bottom, in the irregularities of which, worn by water
thousands of years before, large quantities of rough gold were often
discovered.

There was no difficulty in following the track through the forest, and
after two days' travelling the party arrived at the first mining
village. They chose a piece of ground for their camp, fastened their
horses to stumps, erected a tent of blankets, and placed in it the
stores brought on their baggage-horses, which had remained untouched
since they started. Then, leaving one of their number in charge, they
started off to visit the diggings.

The whole of the bottom of the narrow valley was a scene of life and
bustle. The existence of gold in the valley had been discovered but
three weeks before, but a rush had taken place from other diggings. The
ground had been allotted out, and a number of tents pitched, and rough
huts erected. Men were working as if for bare life. The lots were small,
and the ground was already perfectly honeycombed with holes. Generally
the diggers worked in batches of four or five, each member of which took
up a claim, so that the space for operations was enlarged.

Two men laboured with pick and shovel, and the baskets, as they were
filled with earth and sand, were first screened in a sieve to remove the
larger portion of stones and rock, and were then poured into what was
known as a cradle, which was a long trough on rockers; one man brought
water in buckets from the stream, and poured it into this, while another
kept the cradle in constant motion. The mud and lighter portions of
stone flowed away over the edge, or were swept off by the hand of the
men employed in working it, the particles of gold sinking to the bottom
of the machine, where they were found at the clean-up at the end of the
day's work.

The new-comers looked on with great interest at the work, asking
questions as to the luck which attended the operators. The majority gave
but a poor account of their luck, the value of the finds at the end of
the day being barely sufficient to pay the enormous rate charged for
provisions, which had to be carried up from the coast some hundreds of
miles away. The stores were brought in waggons as far as Sacramento, and
from that town were carried to the diggings on the backs of mules and
horses. Consequently it was impossible for a man to live on the poorest
necessities of life for less than three or four dollars a day, and in
the out-of-the-way valleys the cost was often considerably more.

Some of the diggers owned that they were doing well, but there was a
general disinclination to state even the approximate amount of their
daily winnings. The hunters found, however, that the general belief was
that some of those who had claims in the centre of the valley, where of
course the gold would settle the thickest, were making from ten to
twenty ounces per day.

"That's something like!" Dick said. "Just fancy making from forty to
eighty pounds per day. I vote we set to work at once. As well here as
anywhere else."

"Yes, I suppose we may as well begin here," Frank agreed; "at any rate
until we hear what is being done in the other places. But you see we
must be ready to move off as soon as a report comes of some fresh
discovery, so as to get good places. Here, of course, we must be content
to settle down outside the rest. We will mark out five claims at once,
turn up the ground, and put our tools there; they say that's sufficient
to take possession. Then we will go up into the forests and cut down a
pine or two, and slit it up into planks for making one of those cradles.
That will take us all day to-morrow, I reckon."

As they sat round the fire that evening, talking over their prospects,
Abe said--

"I tell you what it is, mates, I have been thinking this here matter
over, and when I sees what tremendous prices are being charged for grub
here, I concluded there must be a big thing to be made in the way of
carrying. Now we have got our five riding-horses, and the three
baggage-horses, that makes eight. Now what I proposes is this: three of
us shall work the claims, and the other two shall work the horses; we
can sell the riding-saddles down at Sacramento, and get pack-saddles
instead. We can begin by carrying for one of the traders here.

"I hear that a horse can earn from five to ten dollars a day, so our
eight horses will earn forty to eighty dollars a day. Now that's a good
sartin living for us all, especially as we shall bring up the provisions
for ourselves, instead of paying big rates here. Arterards we will see
how things go, and if we like we can open a store here, and one of us
mind it. Anyhow the horses will keep us well. If the claim turns out
well, so much the better; if it don't, we can do very well without it. I
proposes as we take it by turns to drive the horses and dig."

The counsel was good and prudent, but it was only adopted after some
discussion, for the sums which the more fortunate diggers were earning
were so large that all looked forward to making a rapid fortune, and
were inclined to despise the small but steady gains offered by the plan
Abe suggested. However, Frank sided with Abe, and offered to go with him
on the first trip to Sacramento, and the others thereupon fell in with
the plan.

The next day the cradle was made by Abe and Frank, the others setting to
to dig and wash out in a bucket. At the end of a day of hard work they
had got about a quarter of an ounce of glittering yellow dust. This was
not paying work, but they were not disappointed; they had not expected
to strike upon good ground at the first attempt, and were quite
satisfied by the fact that they really had met with the gold which they
had come so far to seek.

That evening Abe made a bargain to bring up goods from Sacramento for
one of the store-keepers, having previously found the rate which was
current. At daybreak next morning he and Frank started off on horseback,
each with three horses tied, head and tail, behind the one he was
riding, Turk marching gravely by their side.

The distance to Sacramento was upwards of seventy miles. On their road
they met numerous parties making their way up the mountains. All carried
a pick and shovel, a bucket and blanket, and a small sack with flour and
bacon. Many of them were sailors, who had deserted from their ships at
San Francisco, where scores of vessels were lying unable to leave for
want of hands.

All, as they passed, asked the last news from the diggings, where the
last rush was, and what was the average take at the camp, and then
hurried on, eager to reach the spot where, as every man believed,
fortune awaited him.

Two days of travel down the mountains took them to Sacramento. Here
their saddles were disposed of, and pack-saddles bought. The horses
were laden with sacks of sugar and flour, sides of bacon, and mining
tools, and after a day's stay in town, they started back for the camp.

Sacramento, but a few months before a sleepy, quiet city, mostly
inhabited by Spaniards, or rather people of Spanish descent, was now a
scene of animation and bustle. Long teams of waggons, laden with stores,
rolled in almost hourly across the plains from San Francisco, while the
wharves at the river-side were surrounded by laden barges. Bands of
newly-arrived emigrants wandered through the streets, asking eager
questions of any one who had time enough to talk as to the best way of
getting to the diggings, and as to the camp which they had better select
for their first attempt. Dark-looking men, half Spaniard and half
Indian, went along on their little ponies, or rode at the head of a
string of laden animals, with an air of perfect indifference to the
bustle around them.

Sounds of shouting and singing came through the doors of some saloons,
in which many of the fortunate diggers were busily engaged in
dissipating their hard-earned gains. Men sunburnt almost to blackness,
in red shirts and canvas trousers, walked along the streets as if the
town and all in it belonged to them in virtue of the store of gold-dust
tied up in their waist-belts. In these, revolvers and bowie-knives were
stuck conspicuously, and the newly-arrived emigrants looked with awe and
envy at these men who had already reaped a harvest at the mines.

Shooting affrays were of frequent occurrence in the drinking saloons,
where at night gambling was invariably carried on, the diggers being as
reckless of their lives as of their money.

"About ten days of that place would be enough to ruin any man," Abe
said, as they walked at the head of their cavalcade from the town. "I
reckon as Sacramento is a sort of hell on arth, and guess there's more
wickedness goes on in that ere little town than in any other place its
own size on the face of creation. They tells me as San Francisco is
worse, but at any rate Sacramento is bad enough for me."

On the evening of the third day after leaving Sacramento they arrived at
the mining camp, and having delivered the stores they had brought up to
the trader, and received the amount agreed upon, they took their way to
the spot where they had pitched their camp.

"Well, lads, what luck?" Abe asked, as at the sound of their feet their
comrades came out to greet them.

"We have got about four ounces of dust," Dick said, "and our backs are
pretty nigh broken, and our hands that blistered we can hardly hold the
shovel. However, we have been better the last two days. I expect there
have been two or three hundred people arrived here since you left, and
they are all at work now."

"Well, that's pretty well for a beginning," Abe said, "though you
wouldn't have much of your four ounces left if you had had to pay for
grub. However, we've brought up another half-sack of flour, twenty
pounds of sugar, and five pounds of tea, and a half-side of bacon, so we
have got quite enough to go on for a long time yet. I have brought up,
too, a good stout tent, which will hold us comfortable, and, after
paying for all that, here's thirty pounds in money. I got five pounds a
horse-load, so with your earnings and ours we haven't made a bad week's
work; that's pretty nigh ten pounds a man. I don't say that's anything
wonderful, as times goes here; but when we hit on a good spot for our
digging, we shall pick it up quick. Now let's pitch the new tent, and
then we will have supper, for I can tell you walking twenty-five miles
in this mountain air gives one something like an appetite."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XIV.

CAPTAIN BAYLEY.


DURING the time which had elapsed between the departure of Frank Norris
from England, and his arrival at the gold-diggings in California, much
had happened at home which he would have been interested to learn had he
maintained any communication with his relatives there. On the morning
when Frank had been accused by Dr. Litter of abstracting the note from
his table, the latter had, as he had informed Frank he intended to do,
sent a note to Captain Bayley informing him that a most painful
circumstance had taken place with reference to his nephew, and begging
him to call upon him between twelve and one.

Captain Bayley had done so, and had, as Fred Barkley stated, been
furious at the news which the Doctor conveyed to him; his fury, however,
being in no degree directed towards his nephew, but entirely against the
head-master for venturing to bring so abominable an accusation against
Frank.

The evidence which Dr. Litter adduced had no effect whatever in staying
his wrath, and so vehement and angry was the old officer, that Dr.
Litter was obliged to ring the bell and order the servant to show him
out. From Dean's Yard he took a cab, and drove direct to his solicitor,
and requested him instantly to take proceedings against the head-master
for defamation of character.

"But, Captain Bayley," the lawyer urged, "we must first see whether this
gentleman had any reasonable cause for his belief. If the evidence is
what may be considered as strong, we must accept his action as taken
_bonâ fide_."

"Don't tell me, sir," Captain Bayley exclaimed angrily. "What do I care
for evidence? Of course he told me a long rigmarole story, but he could
not have believed it himself. No one but a fool could believe my nephew
Frank guilty of theft; the idea is preposterous, it was as much as I
could do to restrain myself from caning him when he was speaking."

The lawyer smiled inwardly, for Dr. Litter was a tall, stately man, six
feet two in height, while Captain Bayley was a small, slight figure, by
no means powerful when in his prime, and now fully twenty years the
senior of the head-master.

"Well, Captain Bayley," he said, "in the first place it is necessary
that I should know the precise accusation which this gentleman has
brought against your nephew. Will you be good enough to repeat to me, as
nearly as you can, the statement which he made, as, of course, if we
proceed to legal measures, we must be exact in the matter?"

"Well, this is about the story he told me," Captain Bayley said, more
calmly. "In the first place, it seems that the lad broke bounds one
night, and went with a man named Perkins--who is a prize-fighter, and
who I know gave him lessons in boxing, for I gave Frank five pounds
last half to pay for them--to a meeting of these Chartist blackguards
somewhere in the New Cut.

"Well, there was a row there, as there naturally would be at such a
place, and it seems Frank knocked down some Radical fellow--a tailor, I
believe--and broke his nose. Well, you know, I am not saying this was
right; still, you know, lads will be lads, and I used to be fond of
getting into a row myself when I was young, for I could spar in those
days pretty well, I can tell you, Griffith. I would have given a
five-pound note to have seen Frank set to with that Radical tailor.
Still, I dare say, if the lad had told me about it I should have got
into a passion and blown him up."

"I shouldn't be surprised at all," the lawyer said drily.

"No. Well that would do him no harm; he knows me, and he knows that I am
peppery. Well, it seems this fellow found out who he was, and threatened
to report the thing to the head-master, in which case this Dr. Litter
said he should have expelled him for being out of bounds, a thing which
in itself I call monstrous. Now, here is where Frank was wrong. He ought
to have come straight to me and told me the whole affair, and got his
blowing-up and his money. Instead of that, he asked three or four of the
other boys--among them my nephew Fred--to lend him the money, but they
were all out of funds. Well, somebody, it seems, sent Frank a ten-pound
note in an envelope, with the words, 'From a friend,' and no more. Frank
showed the envelope to the others, and they all agreed that it was a
sort of godsend, and Frank sent the note to the tailor. Now it seems
that the day before Frank got the note, the head-master, when he was
hearing his form, had put a ten-pound note, with some other things, on
the table, and being called out, he, like a careless old fool, left them
lying there.

"Some time afterwards he missed the note, and does not remember taking
it up from the table; still, he says, he did not suspect any of the boys
of his form of taking it, and thinking that he had dropt it on the way
to his house, he stopped the note at the bank, happening to have its
number. A few days afterwards the note was presented; it was traced to
the tailor, who admitted having received it from Frank; and would you
believe it, sir, this man now pretends to believe that my nephew stole
it from the table, and sent it to himself in an envelope. It's the most
preposterous thing I ever heard."

Mr. Griffith looked grave.

"Of course, Captain Bayley, having met your nephew at your house several
times, I cannot for a moment believe him guilty of taking the note;
still, I must admit that the evidence is strongly circumstantial, and
were it a stranger who was accused, I should say at once the thing
looked nasty."

"Pooh! nonsense, Griffith," the old officer said angrily; "there's
nothing in it, sir--nothing whatever. Somebody found the note kicking
about, I dare say, and didn't know who it belonged to; he knew Frank was
in a corner, and sent it to him. The thing is perfectly natural."

"Yes," the lawyer assented doubtfully; "but the question is, Who did
know it? Was the fact of your nephew requiring the money generally known
in the school?"

"No," Captain Bayley admitted. "The doctor examined the four boys before
Frank. They all declared that they knew nothing of the note, and that
they had not mentioned the circumstance to a soul; but my opinion is
that one of them is a liar."

"It is certainly necessary to believe," Mr. Griffith said slowly, "that
one of them is either a liar or a thief. Of course there may be some
other solution of the matter, but the only one that I can see, just at
the present moment, is this: Your nephew is the sort of lad to be
extremely popular among his schoolmates; either one of these four boys
took the note from the master's table, with the good-natured but most
mistaken idea of getting him out of a scrape, or they must have
mentioned his need of money to some of their school-fellows, one of whom
finding the note, perhaps in the yard, where the head-master may have
dropped it, sent it to Frank to relieve him of the difficulty.

"These are possible solutions of the mystery, at any rate. But if you
will take my advice, Captain Bayley, you will not, in the present state
of affairs, take the steps which you propose to me against Dr. Litter.
It will be time enough to do that when your nephew's innocence is
finally and incontestably proved. Of course," he said, seeing that his
listener was about to break out again, "you and I, knowing him, know
that he is innocent; but others who do not know him might entertain some
doubt upon the subject, and a jury might consider that the Doctor was
justified, with the evidence before him, in acting as he did, in which
case an immense deal of damage might be done by making the matter a
subject of general talk."

With some difficulty Captain Bayley was persuaded to allow his intention
to rest for a while.

"It is late now," he said, "but I shall go and see Frank to-morrow. I
wish I had seen him this afternoon before I came to you. However, I have
no doubt when I get home I shall find a letter from him--not defending
himself, of course, as he would know that to be unnecessary, but telling
me the story in his own way."

But no letter came that evening, to Captain Bayley's great irritation.
He told Alice Hardy the whole circumstances, and she was as indignant as
himself, and warmly agreed that the head-master should be punished for
his unjust suspicions.

"And do you say he is really going to be expelled to-morrow?" she asked,
in a tone of horror.

"So the fellow said, my dear; but he shall smart for it, and the laws of
the land shall do Frank justice."

At half-past nine the next morning Fred Barkley arrived at Captain
Bayley's.

"Well," his uncle exclaimed, as he entered, "I suppose you have been
sent to tell me they have got to the bottom of this rigmarole affair."

"No, uncle," Fred said, "I have, I am sorry to say, been sent to tell
you that Frank last night left his boarding-house and is not to be
found."

Captain Bayley leapt from his seat in great wrath.

"The fool! the idiot! to run away like a coward instead of facing it
out; and not a line or a message has he sent to me. Did you know, sir,
that your cousin was going to run away?"

Fred hesitated.

"Yes, uncle, I knew that he was going, and did my best to dissuade him,
but it was useless."

Captain Bayley walked up and down the room with quick steps, uttering
exclamations testifying his anger and annoyance.

"Has he got any money?" he said suddenly, halting before Fred. "Did he
get any money from you?"

Fred hesitated again, and then said.

"Well, uncle, since you insist upon knowing, I did let him have twenty
pounds which I got for the sale of my books."

"I believe, sir," the old officer said furiously, "that you encouraged
him in this step, a step which I consider fatal to him."

Fred hesitated again, and then said.

"Well, uncle, I am sorry that you should be so angry about it, but I own
that I did not throw any obstacle in the way."

"You did not, sir," Captain Bayley roared, "and why did you not? Are you
a fool too? Don't you see that this running away instead of facing
matters out cannot but be considered, by people who do not know Frank,
as a proof of his guilt, a confession that he did not dare to stay to
face his accusers?"

Fred was silent.

"Answer me, sir," Captain Bayley said; "don't stand there without a word
to explain your conduct. Do you or do you not see that this cowardly
flight will look like a confession of guilt?"

"I did see that, uncle," Fred said, "but I thought that better than a
public expulsion."

"Oh! you did, did you?" his uncle said sarcastically, "when you knew
that if he had stopped quietly at home we should have proved his
innocence in less than no time."

Fred made no reply.

"Do you think we shouldn't have proved his innocence?" roared his uncle.

"I am sorry to say anything which is displeasing to you, uncle, but I
fear that you would never have proved Frank's innocence."

The words seemed to have a sobering effect on Captain Bayley. The blood
seemed to die out of his face; he put one hand on a chair, as if to
steady himself, while he looked fixedly in his nephew's face.

"Do you mean, Fred," he said, in a low voice, "do you mean that you have
a doubt of Frank's innocence?"

"I should rather not say anything about it," Fred replied. "I hope with
all my heart that Frank is not guilty, but----"

"What do you think?" Captain Bayley repeated; "have you any grounds
whatever for believing him guilty?"

"No, sir, and I do not wish you to be in the slightest degree influenced
by what I said." He paused, but Captain Bayley's eyes were still fixed
upon him, as if commanding a complete answer.

"Well, sir," he went on hesitatingly, "I must own that, sad as it is to
say so, I fear Frank did it."

"Did he confess it to you?" Captain Bayley asked, in a strained, strange
voice.

"No, uncle, not in so many words, but he said things which seemed to me
to mean that. When I tried to dissuade him from running away, and urged
him to remain till his innocence could be proved, he said angrily,
'What's the use of talking like that, when you know as well as I do that
it can't be proved.' Afterwards he said, 'It is a bad job, and I have
been an awful fool. But who could have thought that note would ever be
traced back to Litter?' and other remarks of the same kind. He may be
innocent, uncle--you know how deeply I wish we could prove him so--but I
fear, I greatly fear, that we shall be doing Frank more service by
letting the matter drop. You know the fellows in the school all believe
him innocent, and though his going away has staggered some of them, the
general feeling is still all in his favour; therefore they are sure to
speak of him as a sort of victim, and when he returns, which of course
he will do in a few years' time, the matter will have died away and have
been altogether forgotten."

The old officer sat down at the table and hid his face in his hands.

All this time Alice, pale and silent, had sat and listened with her eyes
fixed upon the speaker, but she now leapt up to her feet.

"Uncle," she said, "don't believe him, he is not speaking the truth, I
am sure he is not. He hates Frank, and I have known it all along,
because Frank is bigger and better than he; because Frank was generous
and kind-hearted; because every one liked Frank and no one liked him. He
is telling a lie now, and I believe every word he has said since he came
into the room is false."

"Hush! child," the old officer said; "you must not speak so, my dear. If
it was only the word of one lad against another, it would be different;
but it is not so. The proof is very strong against Frank. I would give
all I am worth if I could still believe him innocent, and had he come to
me and put his hand in mine, and said, 'Uncle, I am innocent,' I would
have believed him against all the evidence in the world. It is not I who
condemn him, he has condemned himself. He sends me no word; he cannot
look me in the face and declare himself innocent. He runs away at night,
knowing well that there could be but one construction as to this, and
that all would judge him guilty. No, Alice, it breaks my heart to say
so, but I can struggle no longer against these facts. The lad whom I
have loved as a son has turned out a thief."

"No, uncle, no," the girl cried passionately, "I will never believe it,
not to the end of my life. I cannot prove him innocent, but I know he is
so, and some day it will be proved; but till then I shall still think of
him as my dear brother, as my true-hearted brother, who has been
wrongfully accused, and who is the victim of some wicked plot of which,
perhaps, Fred Barkley knows more than any one else," and, bursting into
a passion of tears, she ran from the room. Fred looked after her with an
expression of pity and sorrow.

"Poor child!" he said, "it is a terrible blow for her, and she scarce
knows what she is saying."

"It is a terrible blow," Captain Bayley said, in a dreary voice, "a most
terrible blow to me and to her. No wonder she feels it; and I have been
planning and hoping that some day, a few years hence, those two would
get to like each other in a different way. I had, by my will, divided my
fortune equally between you and him, but I have liked him best. Of
course, I brought him up, and he has been always with me; it was natural
that I should do so. Still I wanted to be fair, and I divided it
equally. But I was pleased at the thought that her fortune, which is, as
you know, a very large one, would be his, and enable him to make a great
figure in the world if he had chosen; and now it is all over.

"Go away now, my boy, the blow has been too much for me. I am getting an
old man, and this is the second great blow I have had. Do not take to
heart the wild words of poor little Alice. You see she scarcely knows
what she is saying."

Without another word Fred took his departure. When once out of sight of
the house his steps quickened, and he walked briskly along.

"Splendid!" he said to himself; "a grand stroke indeed, and perfectly
safe. Frank is not likely to return for twenty years, if ever, and I
don't think the old man is good for another five. I expect I shall have
some trouble with that little cat, Alice; but she is only a child, and
will come round in time, and her fortune will be quite as useful to me
as it would have been to him. I always knew he was little better than a
fool, but I could hardly have hoped that he would have walked into the
trap as he has done. I suppose that other blow old Bayley spoke of was
that affair of his daughter. That was a lucky business for me too."

Fred Barkley was not mistaken, it was of his daughter Captain Bayley had
been thinking when he spoke. He had married young when he first went out
to India, and had lost his wife two years later, leaving him with a
daughter six months old. He had sent her home to England, and after a
twenty years' absence he had returned and found her grown up.

She had inherited something of her father's passionate disposition, and
possessed, in addition, an amount of sullen obstinacy which was wholly
alien to his nature. But her father saw none of these defects in her
character. She was very beautiful, with an air of pride and hauteur
which he liked. She had a right to be proud, he thought, for she was a
very wealthy heiress, for, his two elder brothers having died childless
while he was in India, the fine property of their father had all
descended to him.

Though the girl had many suitors, she would listen to none of them,
having formed a strong attachment to a man in station altogether beneath
her. He had given lessons in drawing at the school which had been her
home as well as her place of education during her father's absence, for
Captain Bayley had quarrelled with his sisters, both of whom, he
considered, had married beneath them.

The fact that Ella Bayley was an only child, and that her father was a
wealthy man, was known in the school, and had, in some way, come to the
ears of the drawing-master, who was young, and by no means ill-looking.
He had played his cards well. Ella was romantic and impetuous, and,
before long, returned the devotion which her teacher expressed for her.

When her father returned home, and Ella left school to take her place at
the head of his establishment, she had hoped that she should be able to
win from him a consent to her engagement; but she found his prejudices
on the subject of birth were strong, and she waited two years before she
broached the subject.

The wrath of Captain Bayley was prodigious; he heaped abusive epithets
upon the man of her choice, till Ella's temper rose also. There was a
passionate quarrel between father and daughter. The next morning Ella
was missing; a week afterwards Captain Bayley received a copy of the
certificate of her marriage, with a short note from Ella, saying that
when he could make his mind up to forgive her and her husband, and to
acknowledge that the latter did not deserve the abusive language that he
had applied to him, she should be glad to return and resume her place as
his affectionate and loving daughter. She gave an address at which he
could communicate to her.

Three years passed before Captain Bayley's anger had sufficiently calmed
down for him to write to his daughter saying that he forgave her. The
letter was returned by the people at the house, with a note saying that
many months had elapsed since any inquiries had been made for letters
for Mrs. Smedley, and that they had altogether lost sight of her. Now
that the Captain had once made up his mind to forgive his daughter, he
was burning with impatience to see her again, and he at once employed a
detective to find out what had become of her.

From the person to whose house the letter had been directed the
detective learned the address where she and her husband had resided
while in London.

For a time it seemed they had lived expensively, the sale of Ella's
jewels keeping them in luxury for some months. Then hard times had come
upon them; the man had altogether lost his connection as a teacher, and
could, or would, do nothing to support his wife and himself; they had
moved from the place they had first lived at, and taken much smaller
lodgings.

Here the people of the house reported their life had been very unhappy;
the husband had taken to drink, and there had been fierce and frequent
quarrels between them, arising--the landlady had gleaned, from the loud
and angry utterance of the husband--from the wife's refusal to appeal
to her father for assistance. They had left this place suddenly, and in
debt; thence they had moved from lodging to lodging at short intervals,
their position getting worse, until they were last lodged in a wretched
garret. From this point they were traced with great trouble down to
Nottingham, where the husband obtained a precarious living by producing
designs for embroidery and curtains.

Had he been steady he might have soon done fairly, but a great part of
his time was spent in public-houses, and he was seldom sober. When
returning home one night in a state of drunkenness, he was run over by a
heavy van and killed. As his wife possessed but a few shillings in the
world, he was buried at the expense of the parish and his widow at once
left the town.

The people where she lodged believed that she had gone to London, taking
with her her six months old child, and had started to tramp the way on
foot. The woman said that she doubted whether she could ever have got
there. She was an utterly broken woman, with a constant racking cough,
which was like to tear her to pieces, and before she set out her
landlady had urged upon her that the idea of her starting to carry a
heavy child to London was nothing short of madness.

After this all trace of Ella had been lost. Advertisements offering
large rewards appeared in the papers; the books of every workhouse
between Nottingham and London, and indeed of almost every workhouse in
England, were carefully searched to see if there was any record of the
death of a woman with a child about the time of her disappearance. A
similar search was made at all the London hospitals, and at every
institution where she might have crawled to die; but no trace had ever
been found of her.

That she was dead was not doubted; for it was found that at Nottingham
she had once gone to the parish doctor for some medicine for her child.
The physician had taken particular notice of her, had asked her some
questions, and had made a note in his case-book that the mother of the
child he had prescribed for was in an advanced stage of consumption, and
had probably but a few weeks, certainly not more than a few months, to
live.

It was long before the search was given up as hopeless, and many
hundreds of pounds were spent by Captain Bayley before he abandoned all
hope of discovering, if not his daughter, at least her child. During the
year which elapsed before he was forced to acknowledge that it was
hopeless, Captain Bayley had suffered terribly. His self-reproaches were
unceasing, and he aged many years in appearance.

It was three years after this, on the death of his sister, Mrs. Norris,
whose husband had died some years before, that he took Frank into his
house and adopted him as his son, stating, however, to all whom it might
concern, that he did not regard him as standing nearer to him as his
heir than his other nephew, Fred Barkley, but that his property would be
divided between them as they might show themselves worthy of it. It was
three years later still, that, at the death of her father, an old
fellow-officer, his household was increased by the addition of Alice,
who had been left to his guardianship, but who had soon learned, like
Frank, to address him as uncle.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XV.

THE MISSING HEIR.


IT was a long time before the house in Eaton Square in any way recovered
its former appearance. Captain Bayley had lost much of his life and
vivacity, and, as the servants remarked to each other, nothing seemed to
put him out. He went for his morning ride in the Park, or his afternoon
visit to the Club, as usual, but his thoughts seemed far away; he passed
old friends without seeing them, and if stopped he greeted them no
longer with a cheery ring in his voice, or a quick smile of welcome.
Every one who knew him remarked that Bayley was going down hill terribly
fast, and was becoming a perfect wreck.

Frank's name was never now mentioned in the house. Its utterance had not
been forbidden, but it had been dropped as a matter concerning which a
hopeless disagreement existed. Alice had changed almost as much as her
uncle. Her spirits were gone; her voice was no longer heard singing
about the house; she no longer ran up and down the stairs with quick
springing footsteps, and indeed seemed all at once to have changed from
a young girl into a young woman. Sometimes, as she sat, the tears filled
her eyes and rolled fast down her cheeks; at other times she would walk
about with her eyebrows knitted, and hands clenched, and lips pursed
together, a little volcano of suppressed anger.

Although no discussion on the subject had taken place between her and
her guardian, it was an understood thing that she maintained her
opinion, and that she regarded Fred Barkley as an enemy. If she happened
to be in the room when he was announced, she would rise and leave it
without a word; if he remained to a meal, she would not make her
appearance in the dining or drawing rooms.

"Alice still regards me as the incarnation of evil," Fred said, with a
forced laugh, upon one of those occasions.

"The child is a trump," Captain Bayley said warmly, "a warm lover and a
good hater. What a thing it is," he said, with a sigh, "to be at an age
when trust and confidence are unshakable, and when nothing will persuade
you that what you wish to believe is not right; what would I not give
for that child's power of trust?"

The household in Eaton Square were almost unanimous in Frank's favour.
His genial, hearty manners rendered him a universal favourite with the
servants; and although none knew the causes of Frank's sudden
disappearance, the general opinion was that, whatever had happened, he
could not have been to blame in the matter.

His warmest adherent was Evan Holl, who had months before been
introduced to the house as assistant knife and boot cleaner by Frank. He
did not sleep there, going home at nine o'clock in the evening when his
work was done.

"Do you know, Harry," he said, one day, "what a rum crest, as they calls
it,--I asked the butler what it meant, and he says as how it was the
crest of the family--Captain Bayley has; he's got it on his silver, and
I noticed it when I was in the pantry to-day helping the butler to clean
some silver dishes which had been lying by unused for some time. 'All
families of distinction,' the butler said,--he is mighty fond of using
hard long words--'all families of distinction,' says he, ''as got their
own crest, which belongs to them and no one else. Now this 'ere crest of
the guv'nor's is a hand holding a dagger, and the hand has only got
three fingers.' I said as how there was two missing, and that the chap
as did it couldn't have known much of his business to go and leave out
two fingers. But the butler says, 'That's your hignorance,' says he;
'the hand 'as got only three fingers because a hancestor of the
Captain's in the time of the Crusaders'---- 'And what's the Crusaders?'
says I. 'The Crusaders was a war between the English and the Americans
hundreds of years ago,' says he."

Harry burst into a shout of laughter. "Mr. Butler does not know anything
about it, for the Crusades were wars between people who went out to the
Holy Land to recover the Holy Sepulchre from the Turks who held it."

"Ah, well," Evan said, "it don't make no odds whether they was Turks or
Americans. However, the butler says as how the Captain Bayley what lived
in those days, he saw a red Injun a-crawling to stab the king, who was
a-lying asleep in his tent, and just as his hand was up to stick in the
knife, Captain Bayley he gives a cut with his sword which whips off two
of the fingers, and before the Injun could turn round and go at him he
gives another cut, and takes off his hand at the wrist, and the next cut
he takes off his head; so the hand with three fingers holding a dagger
was given him to carry as a crest. I suppose after a time the hand got
wore out, or got bad, so as he couldn't have carried it about no longer,
and instead of that, as a kind of remembrance of the affair, he 'as them
put on his forks and spoons."

Mrs. Holl had been listening with grave interest to the narrative.

"Does I understand you to say, Evan, that no other family but that of
the master's put this three-fingered hand with a knife on to their
things?"

"That's so, mother; leastways it's what the butler says about it."

"Then if that's the case," Mrs. Holl said thoughtfully, "any one who has
got this crest, as you calls it, on his things must be a relation of the
Captain."

"I suppose so, mother; he might be a long distance off, you know,
because this ere affair took place hundreds of years ago, and there may
be a lot of the same family about in different parts."

"So there might," Mrs. Holl said, in a disappointed voice.

"Why, mother," Harry said, "one would think it made some difference to
you, you speak so mournfully about it."

"It don't make no difference to me, Harry," Mrs. Holl said, "but it
makes a lot of difference to you. You know I told you two or three
months ago how you come to be here. I don't know as I told you that
round the neck of your mother, when she died in that room, was a bit of
silk ribbon, and on it was a little seal of gold, with a red stone in
it, which I put by very careful for you, though what good such a thing
would do to you, or anybody else, I didn't see. Well, on that red stone
there was something cut; and father he took it to a chap as understands
about those things, who got some red wax, and hotted it, and dropped
some of it on a paper, and then squeezed this 'ere stone down on it, and
looks at the mark through a eye-glass, and he tells father that it was a
hand with three lingers holding a dagger."

"That was curious, mother," Harry said, "very curious. Can you fetch me
the seal and let me have a look at it? I don't remember ever having seen
it."

The seal was fetched by Mrs. Holl from a pill-box, in which it was
carefully stored away in the corner of a drawer. Harry examined it
closely.

"It looks like a hand holding a dagger," he said, "but it's too small
for me to see whether it has three fingers or four. Evan, will you run
round with it to the little watchmaker's in the next street, and ask him
to look at it with one of the glasses he sticks in his eye when he is at
work, and to tell you whether it has three fingers or four."

Evan returned in a few minutes with the news that the watchmaker at once
said that the hand had but three fingers.

"Well, from that, Harry," Mrs. Holl said, "if what this man have been
and told Evan is right, you must be some relation to Captain Bayley."

"A cousin, fifty times removed, perhaps," Harry laughed, "but at any
rate, it is pleasant to be able to think that I come of a good family."

"You knew that before, Harry," Mrs. Holl said severely, "for I told you
over and over again that your mother was a lady, though she was in bad
circumstances, and I think, after charring in respectable houses for the
last twenty years, I ought to know a lady when I sees one. Well,
there's nothing as you think I could do about it?"

"I should think not," Harry laughed. "How the old gent would stare if
Evan was to walk up to him and say, 'Captain Bayley, I have got a
foster-brother at home who, I think, is a relation of yours.' That would
be a nice piece of cheek, wouldn't it?"

Evan laughed.

"However, mother, I votes as in future we calls Harry Harry Bayley
instead of Harry Holl."

"You won't do anything of the sort, Evan," the cripple lad answered
hotly. "Holl's my name, and you don't suppose I am going to drop the
name of the father and mother who brought me up, and have tended me all
these years, for Bayley or any other name; besides, even if it should
turn out that I am remotely connected with the family, there is no
reason why my name should be Bayley, for, of course, if my mother had
been a Bayley, she would have changed her name when she married."

Harry thought but little more of the matter, but Mrs. Holl turned it
over frequently in her mind, and discussed it with John. John said, "He
didn't think much would come of it; still, he didn't see as how there
could be any harm in asking, seeing that she had set her mind on it."

So Mrs. Holl resolved to move in the matter. Evan, on being appealed to,
said that he did not see how she was to get to speak with Captain
Bayley; the footman wouldn't be likely to show her in to his master
unless she stated her business. But after much pressing, and declaring
over and over again he wished he had never said a word about the hand
with three fingers, Evan consented, if he found an opportunity, to ask
Captain Bayley to see his mother. This opportunity, however, did not
arrive, Evan's duties never bringing him in contact with his employer.
At last Mrs. Holl became desperate, and one morning, after breakfast,
she went to Captain Bayley's house. The ring at the area-bell brought
out the cook.

"What is it?" she said sharply.

"I am the mother, ma'am, of Evan, as works here."

"Well, come down, if you want to see him."

"I don't want to see him, I want to see Captain Bayley."

"I will tell the footman," the cook said, "but I don't think it likely
as you can see the Captain."

The footman soon made his appearance. Fortunately he was very young, and
had not yet acquired that haughtiness of manner which characterises his
class. Evan had before told him that his mother wanted to see Captain
Bayley, and had begged him to do his best, should she come, to
facilitate her doing so.

"Good morning," he said. "Your boy told me you would be likely enough
coming. So you want to see the Captain; he has just finished his
breakfast and gone into the study. Now, what shall I say you wants to
see him for? I can't show you in, you know, without asking him first."

The young footman was, indeed, curious to know what Mrs. Holl's object
could be in wishing to see his master. Evan had resisted all his
attempts to find out, simply saying that it was a private affair of his
mother's.

"Will you say to him," Mrs. Holl said, "that the mother of the boy as
works here under you is most anxious for to see him just for two or
three minutes; that it ain't nothing to do with the boy, but she wishes
particular to ask Captain Bayley a question--if he will be so good as
to see her--that no one else but hisself could answer."

"It's a rum sort of message," the young footman said, "but, anyhow, I
will give it; the Captain ain't as hot-tempered as he used to be, and he
can but say he won't see you."

Captain Bayley looked mystified when the footman delivered Mrs. Holl's
message to him; then he remembered that it was Frank who had introduced
her son to help in the house, and he wondered whether her errand could
have any connection with him.

"Well, show her up, James," he said; "but just tell her that my time is
precious, and that I don't want to listen to long rambling stories, so
whatever she has got to say, let her say it straight out."

"It's all right," James said, as, descending to the kitchen, he beckoned
Mrs. Holl to follow him; "but the Captain says you are to cut it short;
so if you wants an answer you had best put your question, whatever it
is, short and to the point, or he will snap you up in a minute, I can
tell you."

Mrs. Holl followed into the library. She was at no time a very
clear-headed thinker, and the difficulty of putting her question into a
few words pressed heavily upon her.

"Now, my good woman, what is it?" Captain Bayley said, as she entered.
"I am going out in a few minutes, so come straight to the point, if you
please."

"I will come as straight as I can, sir," Mrs. Holl said breathlessly,
"but indeed, sir, I am a bad hand at explaining things, and if you snaps
me up I shall never get on with it."

Captain Bayley smiled a little. "Well, I will try and not snap you up
if you will come to the point. Now, what is the point?"

"The point, sir," Mrs. Holl said despairingly, "is a hand with three
fingers a-holding of a dagger."

Captain Bayley looked astonished. "You mean my crest," he said; "why,
what on earth are you driving at?"

"Evan saw it on the forks," Mrs. Holl explained.

"Yes, no doubt he did," Captain Bayley said; "but what of that? That's
my crest."

"Yes, sir, so Evan said, and when he told me it just knocked me silly
like, and says I to him, says I----"

"Never mind what you said to him," Captain Bayley broke in, "what is it
you want to say to me? What is there curious in my crest being on my
spoons? Now just wait one minute, and tell me as plainly as you can."

Mrs. Holl waited a minute.

"Well, sir, it struck me all in a heap, because I've got in the house a
thing with just such another hand, a-holding of a knife in it."

"Oh!" Captain Bayley said, "you have got some article with my crest on
it in your house. How did you come by it? It must have been stolen."

"No, sir, I will take my davey as the young person as was my son Harry's
mother never stole nothing in her life."

"The young person who was your son Harry's mother," Captain Bayley
repeated, in a somewhat puzzled tone. "Are you talking of yourself?"

"Lor' no, sir, the young person."

"But what young person do you mean? How can any young person have been
your son Harry's mother except yourself?"

"He ain't really my son, you see, sir; he is the son of a young person
who we took in, John and I, and who died at our house; Harry is her
son."

A great change passed over Captain Bayley's face, the expression of
impatience died out, and was succeeded by one almost of awe. He dropped
the paper which he had hitherto held in his hand, and leaning forward he
asked in low tones--

"Do you mean that a woman who had in her possession some article with my
crest on it, and who had a child with her, died in your house?"

"Yes, sir, that's what I mean; the article is a little gold seal, with a
red stone to it."

"How long ago was this?" came slowly from Captain Bayley's lips.

"About seventeen years ago," Mrs. Holl said. "The mother died a few days
afterwards; the child is our Harry; and I came to ask you--but, good
lawks!"

An ashen greyness had been stealing across the old officer's face, and
Mrs. Holl was terrified at seeing him suddenly fall forward across the
table.

She rushed to the door to ask for help. James was in the hall, having
waited there, expecting momentarily to hear his master tell him to show
his visitor out. He began to utter exclamations of dismay at seeing his
master's senseless figure.

"I will lift him up," she said. "Run and fetch the butler and the cook,
and then go for the doctor as quick as you can run; he has got a
stroke."

The butler was first upon the scene. Mrs. Holl had already lifted
Captain Bayley into a sitting position. "I have taken off his necktie
and opened his collar," she said. The butler, who was unaware of Mrs.
Holl's presence there, was astonished at the scene.

"Who are you?" he gasped, "and what have you been doing to the Captain?
If you have killed him it will be a hanging matter, you know."

"Don't you be a fool," retorted Mrs. Holl sharply, "but run for some
water; he has got a stroke, though what it came from is more nor I can
tell."

To be called a fool by this unknown woman of coarse appearance roused
the butler's faculties. He was sincerely attached to his master, and
without reply he at once hurried away for water.

In five minutes the doctor, who lived close by, entered. Mrs. Holl was
still holding up the insensible man; Alice stood crying beside her, the
servants were looking on.

"Open the windows," he said.

Then he felt the Captain's pulse. For some time he stood silent; then he
said--

"Lay him down at full length on the couch." Mrs. Holl, without the least
effort, lifted the slight figure and laid it on the sofa.

"Now," the doctor said, "will you all leave the room except Miss Hardy
and you?" he nodded to Mrs. Holl. As the servants retired reluctantly,
the butler said--

"Please, sir, I don't know whether you know it, but that woman was with
him alone when he got insensible. I don't know what she did to him, but
I should recommend that we should have a policeman in readiness."

"Nonsense," the surgeon said. "However, it will be better that she
should retire; but let her wait outside, close at hand, in case he
wishes to speak to her."

Sarah Holl followed the servants into the hall. The doctor poured a few
drops of cordial between Captain Bayley's lips, and placed some strong
salts beneath his nostrils.

"You think he will come round?" Alice asked.

"He will come round," the doctor said confidently; "his pulse is gaining
power rapidly. It is not paralysis, but a sort of fainting-fit, brought
on, I should imagine, by some sudden shock; his heart is weak, and there
was a sudden failure of its powers. I have warned him over and over
again not to excite himself. However, I think there is no great harm
done this time; but he must be careful in future; another such attack
and it might go hard with him. See, he is coming round." In a few
minutes Captain Bayley opened his eyes and looked round vaguely.

"Lie quiet for a little while, my dear sir," the doctor said cheerfully;
"you have been ill, a sort of fainting-fit, but you will be all right in
a short time. Drink this glass of cordial." He lifted his patient's
head, and held the glass to his lips. As Captain Bayley drank it Alice
placed a pillow under his head.

"How was it?" Captain Bayley asked, in a low tone.

"We don't know," the Doctor said; "but don't think about it at present.
What you have to do now is to get quite strong again; it will be time
afterwards for you to think what upset you. You have given Miss Hardy
here quite a fright."

Captain Bayley nodded to Alice. "I never did such a thing before," he
said. "I was reading here in the library----" Then he stopped, a sudden
flush came to his face.

"Don't agitate yourself, my dear sir," the Doctor said soothingly,
"agitation now would be a very serious thing. Drink a little more of
this."

Captain Bayley did as he was told, and then asked--

"Where is the woman who was speaking to me?"

"She is outside," the Doctor said. "I told her to wait. But you really
must not see her for a time."

"I am all right now," Captain Bayley said, rising to his elbow, "and it
will agitate me less to see her than to wait. She brought me very
strange news, news which I never thought to hear. It is not bad news, my
dear," he said, to Alice, "it is the best news I ever heard. You need
not go away, Doctor," he said, seeing the physician was preparing to
leave; "you are an old friend, and know all about it; besides, it is no
secret. You know how I searched for very many years for my daughter and
her child, and came at last to the conclusion that both must be dead,
for she was in a dying state when last heard of. Well, I have found that
the boy is alive. He has been brought up by the woman who is the mother
of a boy who works here."

"Oh! I know," Alice exclaimed, "Frank told me the story. She had told
him about a woman who had fallen down at her door years ago, and how she
had brought up the child. But O uncle!" she said pitifully, "I have a
sad thing to tell you. Frank said that he was such a nice boy, so clever
and good. Frank used to go and help him with his books, and he can read
Latin and all sorts of things; but, uncle, he met with an accident when
he was little, and he is a cripple."

For a minute Captain Bayley was silent.

"It is part of my punishment, dear," he said at last, "God's will be
done. However, cripple or not, I am thankful to find that, from what
you say, he is a boy whom I can own without shame, for the thought has
troubled me always, that, should Ella's son be alive, he might have
grown up a companion of thieves, a wandering vagabond. Thank God,
indeed, it is not so! I am glad you told me, Alice. Now, let me see this
good woman who has been a mother to him."

Mrs. Holl was again called in, and was asked to sit down.

"The question you wished to ask me," Captain Bayley said, "was, I
suppose, whether I could give you any clue as to who was the woman you
took in, and whose child you adopted? She was my daughter."

"Lor', sir!" Mrs. Holl exclaimed, "who would have thought such a thing?"

"Who, indeed," Captain Bayley repeated; "but so it was. For years I
sought for her in vain, and had long since given up all hope of ever
hearing of her. Have you got the seal with you?"

After some search Mrs. Holl produced from the corner of her capacious
pocket the seal, carefully wrapped up in paper.

"That is it," Captain Bayley said, with a sigh. "Alice, go to my desk,
open the inner compartment, and there you will see the fellow to it."
Alice did as he requested.

"There, you see, Doctor, they are exactly alike. They were both made at
the same time, soon after I returned from India, and now, Mrs. Holl,
please tell us the whole story as I understand you told it to my
nephew."

Mrs. Holl repeated the story in nearly the same words that she had used
to Frank.

"God bless you!" Captain Bayley said, when she finished. "No words can
tell how grateful I am to you, or how deeply I am moved at the thought
of the kindness which you and your husband, strangers as you were to
her, showed to my poor girl. I hope you will not mind sparing him to me
now; your claims are far greater than mine, but you have other children,
while I, with the exception of my ward here, am alone in the world."

"Lor', sir," Mrs. Holl said, wiping her eyes with her apron, "of course
we will spare him. We shall miss him sorely, for he has indeed been a
comfort and a blessing to us; but it is for his good, and you won't mind
his coming to see us sometimes."

"Mind!" Captain Bayley exclaimed, "he would be an ungrateful rascal if
he did not want to come and see you constantly. Well, if you will go
home and prepare him a little, I will come round this afternoon and see
him. It's no use shaking your head, Doctor, I feel myself again now; but
I will lie down till lunch-time, and will promise not to excite
myself."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XVI.

JOHN HOLL, DUST CONTRACTOR.


IT was a pathetic meeting between Captain Bayley and his newly-found
grandson. The latter had been astounded at the wonderful news that Mrs.
Holl had brought home. His first thought was that of indignation, that
his mother should have been a penniless wanderer in the streets of
London, while her father was rolling in wealth; but Mrs. Holl's
description of the old officer's agitation and pleasure, and the long
efforts which he had made to find his daughter, convinced him that there
must at least have been some fault on both sides.

"My poor boy," Captain Bayley said, as he entered the room, "if you knew
how long and earnestly I have sought for you, and how many years I have
grieved and repented my harshness to your mother, you would not find it
in your heart to think hardly of me. We were both to blame, my boy, and
we were both punished, heavily punished; but you shall have all the
story some day. I know that it must be a bitter thought for you that she
died homeless, save for the shelter which this good woman afforded her;
but I hope that you will be able to find it in your heart to forgive an
old man who has been terribly punished, and that you will let me do my
best to atone by making your life as happy as I can."

Harry took the hand which the old officer held out to him.

"For myself, I have nothing to forgive, sir. My life has been a happy
one, thanks to the kindness and love of my father and mother here; as to
my real mother, of course, I do not remember her, nor is it for me to
judge between her and you. At any rate I can well believe that you must
have suffered greatly. I have been thinking it over, and it seems to me
that the mere fact that your wishes have at last been carried out, and
that you have so strangely found your daughter's son, would seem as if
any wrongs you did her are considered by God as atoned for. I am sorry
that I am a cripple; I have been sorry before sometimes, but never so
sorry as now, for it must be a great disappointment to you."

"I am so pleased at finding you as you are, my boy," Captain Bayley
said, "for I had feared that if you were alive it must be as a vagrant,
or perhaps even a criminal, that your bodily misfortune is as nothing in
my eyes. This is my ward, Miss Hardy; she is something like a
granddaughter to me, and is prepared to be a sister to you."

"I have heard of her from Evan, sir," Harry said, with a bright look at
the girl. "He has told me how every one in the house loves her, and how
fond my kind friend----" But here he stopped abruptly. The tale of
Frank's sudden departure was a subject of frequent discussion at the
Holls', as well as in the servants' hall in Eaton Square; and although
Harry's indignation on behalf of his friend had been extreme, he paused
now before uttering the name, for at this first meeting with his
relation he felt that no unpleasant topic should be introduced.

There was a moment's silence as he paused, but Alice advanced fearlessly
and gave the boy her hand.

"Thank you, Harry, for what you say, and we shall be all the better
friends because you love, as I do, my dear good cousin, Frank."

"Well, Harry," Captain Bayley said hastily, "when will you come home to
me? I don't want to press you to leave your kind friends here too
suddenly, but I am longing to have you home. I have the carriage at the
end of the street if you will come now."

"No, grandfather, not to-day; I will come to-morrow. Father took his
dinner away with him, and he will not be back till this evening, and I
am not going to let him come and find me gone."

"Quite right, my boy, quite right," Captain Bayley said. "Then
to-morrow, at eleven o'clock, I will come round in the carriage and
fetch you. Mrs. Holl, remember that Harry Bayley owes you a deep debt of
gratitude, which he will do his best some day to repay as far as it is
in his power. Good-bye, Harry, for the present. I am glad your mother
gave you my name; it seems to show she thought kindly of me at the last.
Perhaps she found, poor girl, that I had not been altogether wrong in my
opposition to her unhappy fancy."

The following day Harry was installed in Eaton Square. Captain Bayley
was delighted to find how easily and naturally he fell into the new
position, how well he expressed himself, and how wide was his range of
knowledge.

"He is a gentleman, every inch," he exclaimed delightedly to Alice. "If
you knew how I have thought of him you would understand how happy it
makes me to see him what he is."

Captain Bayley lost no time in obtaining the best possible surgical
advice for his grandson; their opinion was not as favourable as he had
hoped. Had he been properly treated at the time of his accident he
might, they said, have made a complete recovery; but now it was too
late. However, they thought that by means of surgical appliances, and a
course of medicinal baths, he might recover the use of his legs to some
extent, and be able to walk with crutches. This was something, and the
Captain determined at once to carry their advice into effect.

Between Alice Hardy and the lad a strong friendship speedily sprang up.
The girl's bright talk, which was so different from anything he had
hitherto experienced was very delightful to the lad; but the strong bond
between them was their mutual feeling about Frank. From her Harry
learned the charge under which Frank laboured, and his indignant
repudiation of the possibility of such a thing delighted Alice's heart;
hitherto she had been alone in her belief, and it was delightful to her
to talk with one who was of her own way of thinking. She infected Harry
with her own dislike and suspicions of Fred Barkley, and amused the lad
greatly by telling him how, when she had heard of the discovery of his
existence, she had, when Mrs. Holl left, gone straight up to her room
and indulged in a wild dance of delight at the destruction of Fred's
hope of being Captain Bayley's sole heir.

"It was glorious," she said. "I knew Fred hated Frank, though Frank,
silly old boy, was always taking his part with me, and scolding me
because I didn't like his cousin; and I am quite, quite sure that he has
had something to do with getting Frank into this dreadful scrape, and it
was glorious to think that just when he thought that he had got the
field clear, and uncle Harry all to himself, you should suddenly appear
and put his nose out of joint. That's a very unladylike expression,
Harry, and I know I oughtn't to use it, but there's nothing else does so
well. It's Fred's holidays now, and he is away; I expect uncle will
write and tell him all about it. I wish he wouldn't, for I would give
anything to see his face when he walks in and sees you sitting here and
hears who you are."

"Oh! but I hope," Harry said, "that grandfather won't make any
difference to any one because of me. What would be the use of much money
to me. Of course I should like to have a little house, with a man to
wheel me about; but what could I want beyond that?"

"Oh! nonsense, Harry. In the first place you are going to get better;
and even if you were not, you could enjoy life in lots of ways. Of
course you would have nice carriages and horses; you might keep a
yacht--Frank was always saying that he would like to have a yacht,--and
I don't see why you shouldn't go into Parliament. I am sure you are
clever enough, and I have heard uncle say that three-fourths of the
members are fools. He says something naughty before fools, but you know
he swears dreadfully; he does not mean it, not in the least; I suppose
he learned it in India. I tell him it is very wrong sometimes, but he
says he is too old to get rid of bad habits. I wish he wouldn't do it;
and the worst of it is, Harry," she said plaintively, "that instead of
being very much shocked, as I ought to be, very often I can hardly help
laughing, he does put in that dreadful word so funnily."

"No, I should not care about being in Parliament," the boy said. "If I
were ever so rich I think I might like a yacht; still, a yacht, if it
were only a small one, would cost a great deal of money, and I do hope
that grandfather won't disappoint any one for my sake."

Captain Bayley had, however, a few days after the discovery of his
grandson, and after having satisfied himself how lovable the lad was,
and how worthy in all respects to be his heir, written to Fred Barkley,
telling him that his grandson had been found, and that he was all that
he could wish to find him.

"Naturally, Fred," he wrote, "this will make a considerable difference
in your prospects. At the same time, as you have been led to believe
that you would come into a considerable property at my death, and as you
have done nothing to forfeit my confidence and affection, having proved
yourself in all ways a steady and industrious and honourable young
fellow, I do not consider it right that you should be altogether
disinherited by a discovery which has occasioned me such vast pleasure.
I have therefore instructed my solicitor to prepare a new will. By this
he will settle my property in Warwickshire, and my town house, upon my
grandson; but my other house property, and a portion of my money in
stocks and shares, which has been accumulating for many years, will be
left to you, the value of the legacy being, I calculate, about one-half
of that of the property left to my grandson. Thus you will be in nearly
the same position you would have occupied had not your cousin Frank
forfeited, by his disgraceful conduct, his place in my affections."

Whatever may have been the feelings of Fred Barkley when he received
this communication, he wrote a graceful letter of congratulation to his
uncle, expressing his pleasure at the discovery of his long-lost
grandson, and with many thanks for his kind intention on his own behalf.
His anger and disappointment were so great that he did not return to
town until the day before he was going up to Cambridge--having left
Westminster at the end of the preceding term--for he did not feel
himself equal, before that time, to continue to play his part, and to
express personally the sentiments which he had written. What rendered
his disappointment even more bitter was the thought that, indirectly, it
was Frank who had dealt him the blow, for Captain Bayley had mentioned
in his letter that it was through the boy whom his cousin had
recommended as an assistant to the footman that the discovery had been
made.

The visit that he paid at Eaton Square was a short one. To his relief
Alice was not present, for he was certain that she would have watched
him with malicious pleasure. But there had been a passage of arms
between her and her guardian of a more serious nature than any which had
occurred since she had been under his care, owing to her having
expressed herself with her usual frankness respecting Fred's visit.

Her guardian had resented this warmly, and had rated her so severely as
to what he called her wicked prejudice against Fred, that she had
retired to her room in tears. This defeat of his favourite had not
predisposed Harry to any more favourable opinion of his unknown cousin;
but Fred, relieved from the presence of Alice, acted his part so well,
and infused so genuine a ring into the tone of his congratulations, that
he did much to dissipate the prejudice with which Harry was prepared to
regard him. Alice was quick to observe the impression which Fred had
made, and quarrelled hotly with Harry concerning it.

"I am disappointed in you altogether, Harry. I have looked upon you as
being a real friend of Frank, and now you desert him directly his enemy
says a few soft words to you. I despise such friendship, and I don't
want to have anything more to say to you."

In vain Harry protested. The girl flung herself out of the room in deep
anger, and thenceforth, for a long time, Harry was made to feel that
although she wished to be civil to him as her guardian's grandson, yet
that the bond of union between them was entirely broken. Harry himself
had lost no time in speaking to his grandfather on behalf of Frank.

"My dear Harry," the old man said, "my faith in his innocence was as
strong as yours, and, crushing as the proofs seemed to be, I would never
have doubted him had he defended himself. But he did not; he never sent
me a line to ask me to suspend my judgment or to declare his innocence;
he ran away like a thief at night, and, although Fred generously tried
to soften the fact to me, there is no doubt he admitted his guilt to
him. Still, after the lesson I had in your mother's case, I would
forgive him did I know where he was.

"I do not say, Harry, that I would restore him to his place in my
affection and confidence, that of course would be impossible; but I
would willingly send him a cheque for a handsome amount, say for five
thousand pounds, to establish him in business, or set him up in a farm
in one of the colonies."

"That is no use, grandfather," Harry said, "if he is innocent--as I most
firmly believe him to be, in spite of everything against him, and shall
believe him to be to my dying day, unless he himself tells me that he
was guilty--he will not accept either your forgiveness or your money.
What I wish is that he could be found. I wish that I could see him, or
that you could see him, face to face, and that we could hear from his
own lips what he has to say. He might, at least, account for his foolish
running away instead of facing it out.

"We do not know how desperate he might have been at being unable to
clear himself from the charge brought against him. Remember, he could
not have known how hotly you were working on his behalf, and may have
believed himself altogether deserted. He may account for not having
written to you. And we must remember, grandfather--mind I do not share
all Alice's prejudice, and have no inclination in any way to doubt the
honesty of my cousin Fred--but at the same time, in bare justice to
Frank, we must not forget that Fred was really a rival of his in your
affections, and that he would possibly benefit greatly by Frank's
disgrace, and, we must also remember that the only evidence against
Frank, with the exception of the circumstantial proof, comes from him.

"It was he who furnished Frank with funds to enable him to run away, and
we cannot tell whether or not he did not even urge him to fly. You must
remember, grandfather, that Alice asserts Fred always hated Frank. I
know she is prejudiced, and that you never noticed the feeling, nor did
Frank; but children's perceptions are very quick. And even allowing
that she liked Frank much the best, Fred was always, as she admits, very
kind and attentive to her--more so, in some ways, than Frank, and there
was no reason, therefore, for her taking up such a prejudice had she not
been convinced that it was true.

"Now, grandfather, I will tell you what has occurred to me. I know it
will appear a hideously unjust suspicion to you, but I will tell you
once for all, and we will not recur to the subject again; God knows I
may be wronging him cruelly, but the wrong would be no greater than that
which has been done to Frank if he is really innocent.

"Ever since you told me the whole story, I have lain awake at night
thinking it over. It may be that what Alice has said may have turned my
thoughts that way, but I can see only two explanations of the affair.

"Frank is really guilty, or he is altogether innocent. If he is
innocent, who was guilty? Some one took the note, some one sent it to
Frank, and this some one must be a person who knew that Frank was in
need of it; whoever did so can only have done it with one of two
motives, either to get Frank out of trouble, or to bring disgrace upon
him. Only four boys knew of the affair, and they all declare that they
told no one else. If they spoke truly it was one of these four sent him
the note--always supposing that he did not take it himself. Of the other
three I know nothing; but I will take the case of Fred and view it as if
he was a stranger to both of us.

"He was a rival of Frank's. Alice declares he hated him. At any rate he
would benefit greatly by Frank's disgrace. What did he do when Frank
asked him to help him? He refused to do so, on the ground that he had no
money; but two days later he was able to raise double the sum Frank
then wanted in order to assist him to fly. Dreadful as the supposition
is, it seems to me that the only positive alternative to supposing Frank
to be guilty is to believe that his cousin took this note and sent it to
him in order to bring him into disgrace, and that he afterwards urged
and assisted him to fly in order to stamp his guilt more firmly upon
him."

While Harry had been speaking Captain Bayley had paced up and down the
room.

"Impossible, Harry," he exclaimed, "impossible. For, bad as was the case
of Frank taking the note on the pressure of the moment to get himself
out of the silly scrape into which he had got, this charge which you
bring against Fred would be a hundred times, ay, a thousand times worse.
It would be a piece of hideous treachery, a piece of villainy of which I
can scarce believe a human being capable."

"I do not bring the charge, grandfather," Harry said quietly, "I only
state the alternative. That one of your nephews took this note seems to
me to be clear; the crime would be infinitely greater, infinitely more
unpardonable in the one case than the other, but the incentive, too, was
enormously greater. In the one case the only object for the theft would
be to avoid the consequence of a foolish, but, after all, not a serious
freak; in the other to obtain a large fortune, and to ruin the chances
of a dangerous rival.

"Remember, at that time Fred did not know how you had determined to
dispose of your property. Frank was living with you, and was apparently
your favourite, therefore he may have deemed that it was all or nothing.
There, grandfather, I have done. I need not say that I know little of
the real disposition of your two nephews. Frank behaved to me with the
greatest kindness when I was a poor cripple without the slightest claim
upon him. Fred has behaved kindly and courteously, although I have come
between him and you. I can only say that I believe that one of these two
must be guilty; which it is, God alone knows."

"I wish you had said nothing about it," Captain Bayley groaned, "it is
dreadful; I don't know what to do or what to think."

"There is nothing to be done," Harry said, "except, grandfather, to find
Frank. Let us find him and see him face to face; let us hear his story
from beginning to end, and I think then we shall arrive at a just
conclusion. I have no doubt he has gone abroad, and I should advise that
you should advertise in all the Colonial and American papers begging him
to return to have an interview with you, and offering a handsome reward
to any one who will give you information of his whereabouts. If we find
where he is, and he will not come to us, we will go to him."

"That's what I will do, Harry. I will not lose a moment's time, but will
set about it at once; if I spend ten thousand pounds in advertising I
will find him. As to Fred, I cannot meet him again until I get to the
bottom of the affair, so we will stay away from England till I get some
news of Frank."

Before starting abroad, Captain Bayley carried out his plan for
rewarding John and Sarah Holl for the kindness they had shown to Harry.
After consultation with his grandson, he had concluded that the best
plan of doing so would be to help them in their own mode of life. He
accordingly called upon the dust-contractor for whom John Holl worked, a
man who owned twenty carts. An agreement was soon come to with him, by
which Captain Bayley agreed to purchase his business at his own price,
with the whole of the plant, carts, and horses. A fortnight after this
John's master said to him one day--

"John, I have sold my business, you are going to have a new master."

"I am sorry for that," John said, "for we have got on very well together
for the last fifteen years. Besides," he added thoughtfully, "it may be
a bad job for me; I am not as young as I used to be, and he may bring
new hands with him."

"I will speak to him about you, John," his master said; "he is a good
sort, and I dare say I can manage it. The thing is going to be done
well. Three or four new carts are going to be put on instead of some of
the old ones, and there are ten first-rate horses coming in place of
some of those that are getting past work. The stables are all being done
up, and the thing is going to be done tip-top. Curiously enough his name
is the same as yours, John Holl."

"Is it now?" John said. "Well, that will be a rum go, to see my own name
on the carts, 'John Holl, Dust Contractor.' It don't sound bad, neither.
So you will speak to him, gaffer?"

"Ay, I will speak to him," his employer answered.

Three days later John received a message from his master to the effect
that the new gaffer would take possession next day, and that he was to
call at the office at eleven o'clock. He added that his new employer
said that he wished Mrs. Holl to go round with her husband.

John and Sarah were greatly mystified with the latter part of this
message, until the solution occurred to them that probably their late
employer had mentioned that Mrs. Holl went out charring and cleaning,
and that he might intend to engage her to keep the office tidy.

Accordingly, at eleven o'clock on the following day, John and Sarah
presented themselves at the office at Chelsea. As they entered the yard
they were greatly amused at seeing all the carts ranged along, in the
glory of new paint, with "John Holl, Dust Contractor," in large letters
on their sides. A boy was in the office, who told them that they were to
go to the house. The yard was situated near the river, and the house
which adjoined it was a large old-fashioned building, standing in a
pretty, walled garden. They went to the back door, and knocked. It was
opened by a bright-looking servant-girl.

"Is Mr. Holl in?" Sarah asked.

"You are to be shown in," the girl said, and ushered them into a large,
old-fashioned parlour, comfortably furnished.

John and Sarah gave a cry of surprise, for, sitting by the fire, in his
wheeled box, just as in the olden time, was Harry.

Scarce a day had passed since he had left them without his coming in for
a half-hour for a chat with them, but his appearance here struck them
with astonishment.

"What on arth be you a-doing here, Harry?" Mrs. Holl asked. "Do you know
our new gaffer?"

"Yes, mother, I know him. Captain Bayley has had some business with him,
and asked me to come down here to see him. You are to sit down until he
comes."

"But that will never do, Harry. Why, what would he think of us if he
comes in and finds us sitting down in his parlour just as if the place
belonged to us?"

"It's all right, mother, I will make it right with him; he's a good
fellow, is the new gaffer--a first-rate fellow."

"Is he, now?" John asked, interested, as he and Sarah, seeing nothing
else to do, sat down. "And his name is John Holl, just the same as
mine?"

"Just the same, John, and he's not unlike you either. Now, when I tell
you what a kind action he did once, you will see the sort of fellow he
is. Once, a good many years ago, when he wasn't as well off as he is
now, when he was just a hard-working man, earning his weekly pay, a poor
woman with a child fell down dying at his door. Well, you know, other
people would have sent for a policeman and had her taken off to the
workhouse, but he and his wife took her into their house and tended her
till she died."

"That was a right-down good thing," John said, quite oblivious of the
fact that he too had done such an action.

Sarah did not speak, but gave a little gasping cry, and threw her apron,
which she wore indoors and out, over her head, a sure sign with her that
she was going to indulge in what she called "a good cry." John looked at
her in astonishment.

"And more than that, John," Harry went on, "they took in the child, and
brought it up as one of their own; and though afterwards they had a
large family, they never made him feel that he was a burden to them,
though he grew up a cripple, and was able to do nothing to repay them
for all their goodness. Well, at last the boy's friends were found. They
had lots of money, and the time came at last when they bought a business
for John Holl; and when he came, there the cripple boy was, sitting at
the fire, to welcome them, and say, 'Welcome, father! and welcome,
mother!'" and Harry held out his hands to them both.

Even now John Holl did not understand. He was naturally dull of
comprehension, and the loud sobbing of his wife so bewildered and
confounded him, that it divided his attention with Harry's narrative.

"Yes, Harry," he said, "it's all very nice. But what's come to you,
Sarah? What are you making all this fuss about? We shall be having the
new master coming in and finding you sobbing and rocking yourself like a
mad woman. Cheer up, old woman. What is it?"

"Don't you see, John," Sarah sobbed out, "don't you see Harry has been
telling you your own story? Don't you see that it is you he has been
talking about, and that you are 'John Holl, Dust Contractor'?"

"Me?" John said, in utter bewilderment.

"Yes, father," Harry said, taking his hand, "you are the John Holl. This
house, and the business, and the carts and horses, are yours; Captain
Bayley has bought them all for you. He would not come here himself, as I
wished him, but he asked me to tell you and mother how glad he was to be
able to repay, in a small way, he said your great kindness to me, and
how he hoped that you would prosper here, and be as happy as you deserve
to be. You will be better off than your last gaffer, for he had to pay
rent for this house and yard, but, as grandfather has bought the
freehold of them all for you, you will have no rent to pay; and
therefore I hope, even in bad times, you will be able to get along
comfortably. There, father, there, mother, dry your eyes, and look
sharp, for I can hear voices in the garden. Evan went to your house
after you had gone to bring all the children round here in a cab.

"You will find everything in the house, mother, and you must get a grand
tea as soon as possible. I have got a servant for you--for, you know,
you must have a servant now."

The next minute the children came bounding in, wild with delight, and a
happier party never assembled than those who sat round the table of
"John Holl, Dust Contractor," on the evening of his first taking
possession of his new property.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XVII.

THE LONELY DIGGERS.


THE camp increased rapidly, for although no extraordinarily rich finds
were made, the valley bottom widened out at this point, and the gold was
generally disseminated in quantities sufficient to enable the miners; to
live, and every one hoped that, as they got deeper, their claims would
increase in value. Every day added to the number of tents and huts.
Three bars competed with each other for the favour of the diggers, and
two large stores drove a profitable trade in food and mining tools and
materials; brawls at the gambling-tables were of nightly occurrence, and
no small proportion of the gold obtained by the more fortunate diggers
found its way into the pockets of the gamblers.

"I tell you what, Abe," Frank said, a short time after their arrival,
when they heard that a young man had been shot down by one of the most
notorious ruffians in the camp, "I think it would be a good plan if we
were all to agree that we will not enter one of these saloons. I know
it's a temptation, after work is over, to saunter in there; but I think
such a party as we are are enough for each other. We have done well
enough for months out on the plains, and I don't see why we should not
do so now. We are friends, and should be awfully sorry to see any one of
our number losing his share of our joint earnings at the
gambling-tables, or brought home with a bullet-hole in his head.

"If we want a little change, we can always ask one or two of the quiet
men to join us round our fire. If we want drink, it is cheaper and
better to buy it by the bottle, and have a glass in company here. There
is no doubt that any one who takes to drink here may as well hang
himself at once, for he will never do any good. I don't know that any of
us are inclined that way, but I think it would be a good plan to enter
into a sort of agreement with each other that, as long as we are in
partnership, none of us shall enter a saloon or stake a dollar in play."

"I agrees with you, Frank. Time has been when I have gone in for as
heavy sprees as any one. I don't think as I am likely to do it again,
but I am sure that an agreement like that would be a good thing for me
as well as the others. What do yer say, boys?"

"The only thing is," Peter suggested, "that we might, one or other, very
well get into a bad quarrel by refusing to drink when we are asked. You
see it's pretty nigh a deadly offence to refuse to drink with a man; and
if it got noticed that none of us ever went into a bar, there are men
here who would make a point of asking us to drink just for the sake of
making a quarrel if we refused."

"I allow there's something in that," Abe said; "there's no surer way of
getting into a mess among a set of men like this than in refusing to
drink."

"Well, if that's the case," Frank said, "we must modify the arrangement,
and agree that none of us will go into a bar unless actually asked to go
and take a drink--that wouldn't be very often, the invitation is
generally given inside. We come back from work about the same time that
every one else knocks off, and they are not thinking of going to the
bars till they have had a meal, and when we are once quietly seated
round the fire here no one is very likely to ask any of us to get up and
go off to one of the saloons."

The suggestion was adopted, and all bound themselves not to enter a
saloon to drink or gamble unless invited to take a drink under
circumstances in which a refusal would be taken in bad part.

"I am mighty glad you proposed that," Abe said, afterwards. "Rube is all
right, but Peter and Dick are both of 'em fond of going on a spree now
and then, and this may keep them from it. I told 'em when we started
that I was ready to go partners as long as they kept from drink, but I
wasn't going to tie myself up with any one as was going in for that.
When we dissolves partnership each one will have a right to do with his
share what he likes; he can gamble it away, or drink it away, or fool it
away as he chooses, but no man as drinks overnight will do his fair
share of work next day. Besides, luck may at any time go agin us, and we
may have to fall back on what we have laid by when times were good; and
if any one had been and spent his share he couldn't be looking to the
others to support him. Besides, as I pinted out, we might want all the
money we has got atween us to buy up a claim in a good place. They
agreed to it, and so far they have kept to it; not, of course, as they
had much chance to do otherwise on the way. Still, I think this fresh
agreement's likely to do good. We are working here on shares, and each
man is bound to do his best for the others."

After sitting by the fire for some time of an evening, Frank generally
got up and strolled round the camp, accompanied by Turk. There were many
phases of life presented to him. While the successful diggers were
drinking and gambling in the saloons, there were many who could barely
keep life together. It was true this was in most cases their own fault,
for men willing to work could earn their five dollars a day by labouring
in the claims of wealthier or more successful diggers; but many would
hold on to their own claims, hoping against hope, and believing always
that the ground would get richer as they went down.

Frank chatted freely with every one, and he and his great dog were soon
known to every one in camp. He was able to do many little acts of
kindness to those whose luck was bad; for on arriving at the end of the
journey each of the party had, at Abe's suggestion, put twenty dollars
into the common fund, and beyond this amount the sum he had brought with
him from Omaha was still untouched; and many a man who would otherwise
have gone to bed supperless after a hard day's work, was indebted to him
for the means of procuring a few pounds of flour and a pound or two of
pork.

His attention had been particularly attracted to two men who lived in a
small tent a hundred yards away from any of the others, and who worked a
claim by themselves. They did not seem to have any communication with
the rest of the diggers, and kept themselves entirely apart. While at
work Frank had heard several jeering remarks as to the absurdity of
working a claim in a part of the ground which had over and over again
been tried and abandoned, and Frank felt sure that the men were doing
badly.

One day he observed that only one of the men was at work, the younger of
the two; and as he continued to wield his shovel after the others had
thrown down their tools for the evening, Frank walked over to him.

"Is your partner ill?" he asked. "I see he is not working with you
to-day."

The man nodded, but continued his work without speaking. He was
evidently indisposed for conversation.

"Why I asked," Frank said, "was not for mere curiosity, but because we
have brought up with us from Sacramento a few bottles of fever medicine,
and other things likely to be wanted here, and if any of them would be
of use you will be heartily welcome to them. We ought all to help each
other, for no one knows whether he himself may not want a helping hand
next."

"Thank you," the man said, somewhat gruffly; "we shall get on all right,
and my mate isn't fond of strangers."

"I need not trouble him myself," Frank said; "I can bring you round any
medicines here, and you can give them to him without saying how you got
them."

"Thank you; medicine wouldn't do him any good," the man said, and
resumed his work as if anxious to avoid further conversation.

Frank, however, was not to be discouraged. The man looked thin and
haggard, and Frank suspected that it might be food rather than medicine
of which the man's mate was in need. He therefore stood his ground.

"I am afraid you haven't hit on a very good spot," he said. "I don't
know much about it myself, for I have only been here about a month; but
I hear every one say that there have been several trials made here, and
that none of them have found anything to speak of."

"We must work where we can," the man said. "The places were pretty well
all taken up when we came, and it didn't suit us to go further."

"Well," said Frank, "I don't want to be inquisitive, mate, or to
interfere in other people's affairs, but I noticed your mate looked an
elderly man, and that you seemed pretty much alone. I am only just out
here myself, and I and the party I am working with are doing fairly; so
I thought it would be only neighbourly to come over and see if I could
be of use in any way."

"No, thank you," the man repeated; "there's nothing we want."

Frank saw that at present he could do nothing; but he had little doubt
that the two men were really suffering severely. Still he understood and
respected their pride, and with a friendly "Good evening," strolled off
to his own hut.

The next evening he again went round to the solitary workman.

"How is your mate?" he asked.

The man shook his head. "He's pretty bad."

The tone was softer and less repellent than that which he had used the
evening before. He was a young man of not more than three or four and
twenty, and Frank saw that his lip quivered as he turned away from him
and dug his shovel into the ground.

"If your mate is worse," Frank said, "you have no right to refuse my
offer. I cannot help feeling that you are doing badly; in that case, why
should you not let me lend you a hand? There's no disgrace in being
unlucky. Here men are unlucky one week, and make a rich strike on the
week following, and then they can lend a hand to others, just as a hand
may have been lent to them when they wanted it. I think by your accent
that you are an Englishman, and an educated one, just as I am myself.
Why on earth don't you let me be a friend to you?"

The man did not reply; but Frank could guess by the random way in which
he was doing his work, that a struggle was going on.

"He would not hear of it," he said at last.

"Then don't let him hear of it," Frank said promptly. "If he has any
mistaken ideas about taking help from a stranger, the sort of ideas one
would naturally have at home, and is ill and wants something, we must
help him in spite of himself. If, as I suspect, he needs other matters
as well as medicine, you should provide him, even if it be necessary to
carry out a little harmless deception."

"I would not tell him a lie," the man said, almost fiercely.

"No, there's no occasion for that," Frank went on. "You can tell him
that you have come across that nugget in the claim," and Frank tossed
into the hole a nugget for which he had half an hour before given a
digger ten dollars from his own store.

For a moment the man stood irresolute, and then burst into a passion of
tears. Frank saw that he had gained the day, and saying, "I will come
round for a chat to-morrow afternoon. That's my camp up there--that tent
just on the ridge. I have really medicines, if you think they will be
of any use," strolled away to his supper. He glanced round when he had
gone a little distance, and saw the digger running at full speed towards
the solitary tent.

The next evening the young man dropped his shovel as he approached him,
and came to meet him.

"I did not thank you last night," he began.

"Nonsense," Frank said, interrupting; "there is no occasion whatever for
thanks. Why, it's the custom here, whenever any one is taken ill, or is
unfortunate, and has to move on, a few friends, or, as it often happens,
a few strangers, will each chip in a pinch of gold dust to help him on.
It's the rule here that we stand by each other, and being both
Englishmen, it is natural we should lend each other a hand. How is your
mate?"

"He is a good deal better, thanks to the food I was able to get for him;
for, as you guessed, we have been nearly starving the last fortnight."

"But why did you keep on working at such a place as this?" Frank asked.
"Why didn't you go on wages? There are plenty of men here who would be
glad to take on an extra hand if they could get him."

The young man hesitated.

"I know it must seem utter folly," he said at last, "but the fact is my
partner has a fixed idea that claim will turn out well; he dreamt it."

"Pooh!" Frank said; "diggers are constantly dreaming about lucky
places--and no wonder, when they are always thinking about them. I
consider it madness to keep on toiling here, even if your mate is ill.
It is folly to give in to him in this way, and for you both to be
half-starved when you can earn, at any rate, enough to keep you both by
working for others."

"That is just what I knew you would say," the young man replied, "and I
feel it myself, thoroughly."

"Then why on earth do you keep on doing it?"

"I have a reason, a very particular reason, though I am not at liberty
to explain it."

"Well, then, there's no more to be said," Frank replied, vexed at what
he regarded as obstinate folly. He talked for a few minutes, and then
strolled away, and for the next two days did not go near the digger who
seemed so bent on slaving uselessly.

The third day Frank noticed that the man was not at work on his claim.
As soon as he knocked off in the evening he walked across to the spot.
The tools still lay in the hole, showing that the claim had not been
abandoned, although work had temporarily ceased.

Next day the claim was still unworked; the tent stood in its place,
showing that the diggers had not moved away. Although, from their
previous conversation, Frank thought that he might not improbably meet
with a repulse, after work was done he strolled over to the tent.

"Are you in, mate?" he asked, outside. "Seeing you were not at work for
the last two days, I thought I would walk over and ask you if anything
was the matter."

The young man came out from the tent; he looked utterly worn-out.

"My father has been too ill for me to leave him," he said, in a low
tone. "I spoke of him as my mate before, but he is my father."

"Can I do anything?" Frank asked.

"No, thank you; I don't think any one can do anything. If there were a
doctor in camp, of course I should call him in; but I don't think it
would be of any use. He's broken down, altogether broken down. We don't
want for anything, thanks to your kindness."

"You look worn-out yourself," Frank said.

"I suppose I do. I have not lain down for the past five days."

"Then," Frank said, "I insist on taking your place to-night. Is he
sensible?"

The young man shook his head.

"Sometimes, for a little while, I think he knows where he is, but most
of the time he lies perfectly still, or just talks to himself.

"Very well, then," Frank said, "he will not know the difference.
Besides, you can lie down in the tent, and I can wake you at once if
there is any occasion."

The man hesitated; but he was too worn-out to resist, and he made no
opposition as Frank entered the tent. An elderly man lay stretched upon
some blankets, one of which was thrown loosely over him. Frank stooped
and put his fingers on his wrist. He could scarcely feel the pulse.

"What have you been giving him?"

"I got a piece of fresh meat and boiled it down into broth."

"Have you given him any stimulants? I think he wants keeping up."

"He never touches them," the young man said.

"All the better," Frank replied; "they will have all the more effect
upon him as medicine. If you will wait here a few minutes, I will go up
to my tent and fetch down a blanket and a few things. I will be with you
in ten minutes."

Frank briefly announced to his comrades that he was going to sit up for
the night with a sick man. He put a bottle containing a glass or two of
brandy in his pocket, and went into a store and purchased some lemons
and a piece of fresh beef; this he took back to the camp fire, and asked
Abe to put it on and let it simmer all night in the ashes, in just
enough water to cover it, and then to strain it in the morning, and
bring the broth across to what was known in the camp as the "lonely
tent." He took a small phial of laudanum and quinine from the store of
medicines, to use if they might appear likely to be needed, and then
went back to the tent.

"Now," he said to the young man, "you lie down at once. If you are
wanted I will be sure and wake you. I shall make myself comfortable,
never fear; one of my mates will bring me down a pannikin of tea the
last thing."

He squeezed one of the lemons into a tin drinking-cup, and added water
and a few spoonfuls of brandy, and, with a spoon he had brought down
with him, poured some of it between the old man's lips.

"I don't know whether it's right," he thought to himself, "but it's the
best thing I can do for him. It is evident he must be kept up. When Abe
comes down I will ask his advice; after knocking about as many years as
he has been, he ought to know what is the best thing to be done."

In half an hour he gave the patient a few spoonfuls of the broth which
had been prepared, and continued every half-hour to give him the
lemonade and broth alternately.

When Abe came down with the tea Frank went outside to meet him, and
explained some of the circumstances of the case, and then took him in to
see his patient.

[Illustration: THE SICK FRIEND IN THE MINING CAMP.]

"I think you are doing the right thing, lad," Abe said, when they went
out into the air again. "He is evidently pretty nigh gone under. I
expect he has been working beyond his strength, and starving, like
enough, at that. He's regular broke up, and has got the fever besides. I
should just keep on at that till morning, and then we shall see; if he
gets on raving you might give him a few drops of laudanum with his
brandy, but I wouldn't do it otherwise. I will bring down that broth
first thing in the morning, it will be a sight stronger than that stuff
you are giving him now."

Fortified by this opinion, Frank lit his pipe, and sat down to his long
watch. He was the more satisfied that he was doing right by the fact
that the pulse was distinctly stronger than it had been when he first
felt it. Occasionally the patient muttered a few words, but he generally
lay perfectly still, with his eyes staring wide open. It was this fixed
stare that tempted Frank at last to give him a few drops of laudanum,
and in an hour later he had the satisfaction of seeing him close his
eyes.

Abe was round soon after daylight, with two pannikins of tea, some
rashers of bacon, and a jug of the essence of beef.

"How is your patient, Frank?"

"I can't tell, except by his pulse; but that certainly seems to me to be
stronger. I gave him a few drops of laudanum a couple of hours ago, and
it seems to me he has been dozing since; at any rate his eyes have been
half-closed. I think that it is extreme weakness more than anything
else; he has overtaxed his strength, and is worn-out with fatigue and
starvation. I shouldn't be surprised if he gets round all right with
quiet and food." The opening of the tent, and the sound of voices
outside, roused the younger digger, who had slept without stirring from
the moment he had lain down. He joined the others outside.

"How I have slept!" he said. "I can't tell you how much I am obliged to
you; I was regularly done up, and now I shall be able to take a fresh
start again."

"My partner, Abe, here, has just brought us down some tea and breakfast,
and some really strong soup for your mate." For Frank did not know
whether the young man would wish the fact of the relationship between
him and his companion generally known.

"Thank you, heartily," the young man said, as he seated himself by the
side of Frank, on the stump of a felled tree, and took the tea and food
from Abe's hands.

"I feel ready to go on again now; but last night I quite broke down. I
have no one to speak to, you see, and it was awful to see him lying
there, and to be able to do nothing. Your friend here," and he nodded to
Frank, "had been so kind to us a week ago, that I felt sure he would not
mind sitting up with him, though I know he thought me a fool to go on
digging at that wretched hole. I think he looks "--and he motioned to
the tent--"a little better this morning. Of course there's not much
change; but his face does not look quite as it did yesterday. I don't
know what the difference is, but I am sure there is a difference."

"His pulse is certainly a little stronger," Frank said, "and I hope we
shall pull him round, though I did not think so when I saw him
yesterday. I have been giving him broth every hour, and a few spoonfuls
of lemonade with brandy in it between times, and I think the brandy has
done him more good than the soup; if I were in your place, I would go on
doing just the same to-day. This soup Abe has brought down is very
strong, and two or three spoonfuls at a time will be all he will want;
there is another lemon in there, and I would go on giving him brandy
too; I think it's just strength he wants."

"Strength and hope," the young man said. "He has all along made up his
mind that claim would pay, and I think its failure did more to break him
down than even the fatigue and want of food; that was why I kept on
working as long as he was sensible. He still believed in it, and would
not hear of my stopping to nurse him. He was very bad that night I went
home with the nugget, almost as bad as he was last night; but when I
showed it him he seemed to revive, and it was only when three days
passed without my being able to show another spec of gold that he fell
back again."

"Oh! you did find a nugget, then?" Abe said. "No one thought you would
strike on anything thar."

"I found it because your friend put it there," the young man said, "and
he saved both our lives, for we were starving."

Abe grunted.

"You shouldn't have kept it so dark, lad. We ain't bad fellows, we
diggers, though we are a rough lot, and no one need starve in a mining
camp. But no doubt you had your reasons," he added, seeing the miner's
face blush up. "But what on arth made your mate stick to that thar hole?
Any one could have seen with half an eye that it wasn't a likely
place."

"He has a sort of belief in dreams, and he dreamt three times, as he
told me, of a stunted tree with gold underneath it. We have been to half
the mining camps in the country, and never had any luck; but directly he
came here he saw a tree standing just where our claim is, and he
declared it was the one he dreamt of. I told him then it didn't seem a
likely place to work, but he would have it that it was the tree, and
that there was gold under it. He was already weak and ill, and to please
him I set to work there. I may tell you, as I have told your friend,
that he is my father; there is no reason that there should be any
mystery about it, and my only reason for wishing that it should not be
generally known is that he had a sort of fancy against it."

"I guessed as much, young man," Abe said, "when I saw you working
together three weeks ago. A young man don't tie himself to an old
partner who ain't no more good than a child at work unless there's some
reason for it, and there's many a father and son, aye, and a father and
four or five sons, working together in every mining camp here. Still, if
the old man has a fancy agin it we will say nought on the subject. So he
dreamt three times of the tree, did he? Well, then, I don't blame him
for sticking to the claim; I don't suppose there are a dozen miners in
this camp who wouldn't have done the same. I believes there's something
in dreams myself; most of us do. And he recognised the tree directly,
you say? Wall, it's time for my mate and I to be off to work, but this
evening I will walk round and have a look at your claim; thar may be
somewhat in it, arter all."

"You don't really believe in dreams, Abe?" Frank said, as they walked
off together.

"I think thar's something in 'em," Abe said. "I have heard many a queer
story about dreams, and I reckon thar ain't many men as has lived out
all thar lives in the plains as doubts thar's something in 'em. The
Injins believe in 'em, and, though they ain't got no books to larn 'em,
the Injins ain't fools in their own way. I have known a score of cases
where dreams came true."

"Yes, I dare say you have," Frank said; "but then there are tens of
thousands of cases in which dreams don't come true. A man dreams, for
instance, that his wife, or his mother, or some one he cares for, is
dead; when he gets home he finds her all right, and never thinks any
more about the dream, or says anything about it. If in one case out of
ten thousand he finds she is dead, he tells every one about his dream,
and it is quoted all about as an instance that dreams come true."

"Yes, perhaps there's something in that," Abe agreed. "But I think
there's more than that too. I know a case of a chap who was out in the
plains hunting for a caravan on its way down to Santa Fé. There weren't,
as far as he knew, any Injins about, and what thar was had always shown
themselves friendly and peaceable. He laid down by the fire and went to
sleep, and he dreamed that a party of Injins scalped him. He woke in a
regular sweat from fright, and he was so badly scared that he scattered
the ashes of his fire and took to his horse, and led him into a cedar
bush close by. He hadn't been thar twenty minutes when he heard tramping
of horses, and along came a party of Injins. They halted not twenty
yards away from where his fire had been, and camped till the morning,
and then rode on again. He could see by thar dress and paint they were
up to mischief, and the very next day they fell upon a small caravan
and killed every soul. Now that man's dream saved his life; thar warn't
no doubt about that. If he hadn't had warning, and had time to scatter
his fire, and move quiet into the bush, and get a blanket over his
horse's head to prevent it snorting, it would have been all up with him;
and I could tell you a dozen tales like that."

"I think that could be accounted for," Frank said. "The man perhaps was
sleeping with his ear on the ground, and in his sleep may have heard the
tramping of the Indians' horses as they went over a bit of stony ground,
long before he could hear them when he arose to his feet, and the noise
set his brain at work, and he dreamt the dream you have told me. But I
know from what I have heard that gold-miners are, almost to a man, full
of fancies and superstitions, and that they will often take up claims
from some idea of luck rather than from their experience and knowledge
of ground."

After the work was over Abe and Frank went down to the claim.

"Well, I am free to own," Abe said, "that I don't see no chance of gold
here; it's clear out of the course of the stream."

Frank was silent for two or three minutes, and then said:--

"Well, Abe, you know I put no faith whatever in a dream, but if you look
at that sharp curve in the opposite bank higher up, you will see that it
is quite possible that in the days when this was a river instead of
being a mere stream, it struck that curve and came over by where we are
standing now. As the water decreased it would naturally find its way
down the middle of the valley, as it does now; but I think it likely
enough that in the old times it flowed under where we are standing."

"By gosh, lad, I think you are about right. What do you say to our
taking up the claims next to this? We are not doing much more than
paying our way where we are, and it's the horses who are really earning
the money."

"I don't know, Abe. We are a good deal above the present bed of the
stream, and should probably have to sink a considerable distance before
we got down to paying ground; that young fellow said they have hardly
found a speck of gold. It would be a risky thing to do; still, we can
think it over, there's no hurry about it."

That night Abe insisted on taking his turn to sit up with the old man.
The son, who had now told them that his name was James Adams, urged that
the previous night's long sleep had quite set him up again, but Abe
would not listen to him.

"It's done you good, lad, no doubt, but ye will be all the better for
another. It wants more than one night's sleep when you have had four or
five out of bed, and a night's watch is nothing one way or other to me.
You just do as you are told."

So James Adams had another long night's sleep, while Abe sat by his
father.

There was no doubt now that the old man was recovering from the
exhaustion which had brought him to death's door; the set, pinched look
of his features was passing away, and the evening following Abe's watch,
when Frank went round to the tent to inquire how he was getting on, the
son came out and said--

"He is better. He went off this morning in what looked like a natural
sleep, and when he woke, an hour ago, I could see that he knew me. I
don't suppose he knew he had been lying insensible for a week, but
thought I had just come back from work. He whispered, 'How does it look
to-day, Jim?' and after what you told me about what you thought about
the old course of the river, I was able to say honestly, 'I think the
chances look more favourable.' He whispered, 'We shall make a fortune
yet, Jim,' and then drank some soup and went off to sleep again.
Tomorrow morning I will set to work again. I don't believe a bit in the
dream myself, but it will make him more comfortable to know that I am at
work upon it; and after all it may turn out some good."

"My partners have more faith in it than I have," Frank said. "Abe told
them about the dream, and about what I had noticed of the probable
course of the river in the olden times, and I have a proposal to make to
you. We will take up five claims by the side of your two, two on one
side and three on the other; then three of us will help you sink your
shaft. All that's found in your claims will be yours; and if it turns
out rich you shall pay us just as if we had been working for you by the
day. When we have cleared out your claims we are to have the right of
using your shaft for working right and left along the bottom over our
claims. I think that's a fair offer."

"I think it's more than fair; it is most kind," the young man said. "You
are risking getting nothing for your labour if it turns out poor."

"Yes, we are risking that," Frank agreed, "but we are not doing
ourselves much good now. The two who are working the horses earn enough
to keep the five of us, and if by any chance your claims should turn out
well, we shall be paid for our work for you, and will be able to work
out our own claims very cheaply; if we sunk a shaft on our own account
we should similarly lose our labour if it turned out poor, and should
not get so much if it turned out rich. So I think the bargain is really
a fair one; and if you do not agree, my mates have quite resolved to
sink a shaft on their own account on the strength of your father's
dream."

"In that case I agree most heartily," James Adams said, "and it will
gladden my father's heart to be told that the work is now to go on
really in earnest."

"If he is better to-morrow," Frank said, "it will be as well to get your
father's consent to the agreement, and then we will begin on the
following day."

The next morning the old man woke up a good deal better. His first
question, after he had taken some soup, was--

"How is it you aren't at work, Jim? It's broad daylight."

"I have knocked off for to-day, father, I wanted to have a chat with
you. A party of five miners, who have been very kind to me while you
have been ill--for you have been ill now for more than a week, though
you don't know it--have made me a very good offer, although I could not
accept it until I consulted you. You see I cannot get on much with the
claim by myself; the ground falls in and wants timbering, and I can do
nothing alone. Well these miners have offered to help sink our shaft, on
the conditions that they get no pay if it turns out poor, but if it
turns out well they are to be paid for their daily labour, and when we
have worked out our claims they are to have the right of using our shaft
for working out the claims they have staked out next to ours."

"No shares, Jim," the old man said; "you are sure they are not to have
any share in our claims, because I won't agree to that."

"No, father; the agreement is just as I told you. If it turns out well
they get their wages and the right to use our shaft to get at their
claims."

"Very well, I will agree to that; we shall get down all the sooner to
our gold. But mind, have it put down on paper, else they will be setting
up a claim to a share in our treasure."

"I will get it done regularly, father," Jim said. "They mean very
fairly. As I told you, they have shown me the greatest kindness--indeed
you owe your life to them, for if it had not been for them, I had, as
you know, no means whatever of holding on. Whilst you have been ill two
of them have been sitting up with you at night. They have showed
themselves true friends."

"Well, I am glad you have found some friends, Jim," the old man said
feebly. "But you must be careful, you know, very careful, and be sure
the agreement is signed and witnessed properly."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XVIII.

A DREAM VERIFIED.


ON the following morning, to the astonishment of the miners of Cedar
Camp, Frank and his companions took their tools out of their claims and
shifted to the claims of the two men of the "solitary tent." Every one
asked himself what could be the meaning of this move, and the general
supposition was that they must have discovered that the two men had
struck upon rich ground. Scores of miners sauntered across during the
day, looked on, and asked a question or two; but the answers they
obtained threw no light upon the mystery. The ground looked most
unpromising; it was a flat some ten feet above the level of the
river-bed, and the spot where they were digging was twenty yards from
the edge.

Fifteen yards further back the ground rose abruptly to a height of
thirty or forty feet; the ground around was covered with bushes, through
which a few good-sized trees rose. The two men had dug through two feet
of alluvial soil, and about five feet of sand. Altogether, it was a
place which seemed to afford no promise whatever; and although, at the
first impulse, some miners who were doing badly had marked out claims
next to those staked out by Frank and his party, no steps were taken to
occupy them.

The first day was spent in getting out planks and lining the proposed
shaft, which was made much smaller than the hole already dug, which
extended over the whole of the two claims. The next day a windlass was
put in position, and the work began in earnest. At the depth of twenty
feet they came upon gravel, a result which greatly raised their spirits,
as its character was precisely similar to that in the bed of the stream,
and showed that Frank's conjecture was a correct one, and that the river
had at one time flowed along the foot of the high ground beyond.

When it was known in camp that the party were getting up gravel, there
was a great deal of talk. Some of the older hands came and examined the
place, and, noticing the sharp curve in the opposite bank above,
concluded, as Frank had done, that instead of being, as was generally
supposed, beyond the edge of the old river-bed, it was by no means
improbable that the party were working over what was at one time a point
which was swept by the main body of water coming down.

More claims were staked out, and although no one had any intention of
beginning in earnest until they discovered what luck attended the party
who were sinking the shaft, just enough was done each day to retain
possession of the claims. Before they had gone far into the gravel they
discovered specks of gold, and, washing a basinful from time to time,
found that it was fairly rich, certainly as good as any that had been
found a few feet below the surface of the ground at any other spot in
the camp. They determined, however, not to wash at present, but to pile
the stuff near the mouth of the shaft, to be washed subsequently, and to
continue to sink steadily.

A fortnight after the work had begun, the old man had gained sufficient
strength to make his way across to the shaft, and after that he spent
his whole time watching the progress of the work. His tent was brought
over and pitched close at hand. By this time, as their prospects really
looked good, Jim had told him the true history of the nugget he had
brought home, and how much they owed to Frank; and he so far overcame
his shrinking from intercourse with his neighbours, as to become really
cordial with Frank, who, when supper was over, often strolled across and
smoked a pipe with Jim in the tent.

Frank often wondered what could have brought a man of some sixty years
of age, and evidently well educated, and a gentleman, but, as was
equally clear, wholly unfitted by age, habits, and constitution for
rough labour in such a country as that. The son had not denied that he
was English, but as he had not admitted it in so many words, Frank
thought that his father might object to any questions on the subject,
and in their many conversations the past was seldom alluded to.

Turk, who was Frank's constant companion, took remarkably to the old
man, and in the daytime, when the latter was sitting watching the
baskets coming up from below, generally took up his position by him,
sometimes lying blinking lazily in the sun, at other times sitting up
and watching the operations gravely, as if he were thoroughly aware of
their importance.

While the ground was still unpromising, Frank and his party had bought
up, for a few dollars, the claims of several of the men who had staked
out ground next to their own, and now held six on either side of the
claim they were sinking on. Beyond these, as soon as the gravel was
known to contain gold, other miners began to work--for the most part in
parties, as the depth at which paying ground lay beneath the surface was
so great that it could only be reached by joint labour--and the flat so
long neglected now became one of the busiest points in the camp.

"The gravel is getting richer and richer every day," Frank said to the
elder Adams, five weeks after they began work. "I think now it would be
as well to hire half a dozen men to carry it down to the stream and wash
it there; you could superintend them, and one of us will work at the
cradle. The stuff will pay splendidly now, I am sure, and there's a big
heap on the bank."

"If you think so, by all means let us do so," the old man said. "I
should like to begin to get some gold; we are in your debt more than a
hundred dollars already, since you have been advancing money for our
living as the work has gone on."

"There is no hurry on that account," Frank said. "Ever since we washed
the first pail of gravel it has been evident that there was at least
sufficient gold to pay for washing out, and that my advances were
perfectly safe; so there is no hurry on that account. But at present it
has so improved that it would be rich enough to pay really well;
besides, we shall be getting it stolen. I fancy last night two or three
buckets-full were taken away at that edge of the bank; and as there has
been a perfect rush for staking out claims to-day, I have no doubt that
it was found to pan out very rich."

The result of the first day's washing more than realised their
anticipations, for when the cradle was cleared up over fifty ounces of
gold were found at the bottom; and at the end of three days the old man
paid Frank and his party their wages at four dollars a day each from the
time they had commenced working at the shaft.

Another fortnight and they reached the bed rock. Each day the find had
become heavier, but the climax was reached when they touched the rock.
It was found that just where they reached the bottom, the rock which
formed the bank bordering the flat came down almost perpendicularly to
the level rock which had formed the old bed of the stream. This was worn
perfectly smooth by the action of the water, and in the bed rock was a
great caldron scooped out by an eddy of the stream. This was filled up
with gravel, among which nuggets of gold were lying thickly; and when
its contents were taken to the surface and separated, the gold was found
to weigh over three thousand ounces. The lower part of the ground was
then dug out to the full size of the claim, and when all this was washed
it was found that the total amount of gold obtained from the claim was
over six thousand ounces.

As the work went on from day to day, Frank observed a gradual change
coming over the elder of the two men. At first he had been excited, and
at times irritable; but as each day showed increased returns, and it
became a moral certainty that the claim was going to turn out extremely
rich, the excitement seemed to pass away. He talked less, and spent less
of his time in watching the work going on, sometimes not even coming
down to watch the clear-up at the end of the day's work. Even the
discovery of the rich pocket in the rock scarcely seemed to stir him.
His son, upon the contrary, made no secret of his satisfaction at the
fortune which was falling to them. He shook off the reserve which had at
first distinguished him; a weight of care seemed to fall from his
shoulders, and his spirits became at times almost exuberant.

At first he had looked to Frank almost a middle-aged man, although his
face and figure showed that he could not be many years his own senior;
now he looked almost like a schoolboy, so full was he of life and
spirits. The old man had taken much to Frank, and although during the
latter part of the time he had talked but little, he liked him to come
into the tent every evening to smoke a pipe and chat with his son. He
had several times endeavoured to draw from Frank his reason for leaving
England and coming out to California at an age when many lads are still
at school; but he had obtained no reply to his hints, for Frank did not
care to enter upon the story of that incident at Westminster.

The evening when the claims had been worked out, and the last cradle
washed out, the old man asked Frank to bring Abe and his companions to
the tent after they had had their supper. The tent showed little signs
of the altered circumstances of its owners; a few more articles of cheap
crockery and a couple of folding chairs were the only additions that had
been made. Some boxes had been brought in now to serve as seats, and on
one in the centre were placed half a dozen bottles of champagne, which
the young man proceeded to open.

"My friends," the elder said, "I am going away to-morrow, and I trust
that your claims will turn out every bit as rich as ours has done."

"Even if they don't turn out as rich," Frank said, "there is no fear of
their not turning out well. We consider we have made a capital bargain
with you; we have been paid by you for our work in sinking the shaft,
and now it will be easy for us to work our claims. It was a lucky day
for us when we made that contract to sink your shaft."

"I am glad you think so, and very glad that you are likely to share my
luck; still, I feel greatly indebted to you. It was a bargain, of
course, but it was a bargain in which you were taking all the risk.
There is, as you say, every probability of your claims turning out well;
but there's no certainty in gold-mining, and at any rate we cannot go
away with a fortune without feeling that, to some small extent at least,
you will participate in it. Therefore I here hand you over each a bag
with a hundred ounces of gold, so that, come what may, your time and
labour here will not have been thrown away. You will not, I hope, pain
me by refusing," he said, seeing that the men looked doubtfully at each
other. "We owe it all to you, for when you threw in your lot with us we
were desperate and starving."

"Wall, if you put it in that way, I don't see that we can say no, mate,"
Abe said, "though we are well content with our look-out, I can tell you,
and could get a biggish sum for our claims to-night if we were disposed
to sell them. Still, what you says is true, though it isn't every one
who makes a good thing out of a bargain as is ready to go beyond it. It
was a fortunate day for you may be that you fell in with my mate here,
and it was a fortunate day for us when he fell in with you. When I goes
back east and settles down on a farm I has got my eyes on, I shall
always say as I owed my luck to my mate strolling over to talk to the
two men as was working what seemed a hopeless claim in Cedar Camp.

"Wall, I suppose you are going back with your pile to the old country. I
can only say as we wish you good luck thar, and plenty of enjoyment out
of your money. Here's luck."

The miners all emptied their glasses, and then, shaking hands with
father and son, filed out of the tent. Frank was about to follow them
when he was stopped by a gesture from the old man. He had not liked
accepting the present, but he did not wish to act differently from his
comrades, and he saw that his refusal would really hurt the donor.

"Sit down a bit, lad," he said; "James is going to the camp to get a few
things for our journey to-morrow, and I shall be alone, and now that
it's all over I feel the reaction. It has been an exciting time the last
month."

"It has indeed," Frank agreed, "and I have often thought to myself what
a comfort it was that they had established a regular way of sending down
gold twice a week with an escort; it would have been terrible if you had
had to keep all that gold by you."

"Yes, I often thought so myself, and your offer to keep the gold in your
tent on the days when the escort wasn't going was a great relief to me."

"It was safe enough with us," Frank said. "No one would venture to try a
tent with a pretty strong party; but with only your son and yourself
there might have been a temptation to some broken-down gambler to carry
it off. Besides, we have Turk as a guard, and I don't fancy any one
would venture to try any tricks with our tent while he is inside it."

"Well, I hope it will be your turn now," the old man said, "and that
before another two months are over you too will be setting out on your
way home with what your friend called your pile."

"I shall not be doing that," Frank said; "whatever we find, I have no
thought of going back to England."

"No? Well, lad, I don't want your confidence if you would rather not
give it; but I will tell you my story, and perhaps when you have heard
it you may be the more inclined to tell me yours. It is a painful story
to tell, but that is part of my punishment; and you, lad, have a right
to hear it, for I know that it is to you I owe my life, and that it is
through you that I am to-morrow going home to do all that I can to
retrieve my fault, and to wipe out the stain on my name. I was a
solicitor, with a good practice, in a town of the west of England,--it
does not matter what it's name was. I lost my wife, and then, like a
fool, I took to drink. No one knew it except my son, for I never went
out in the evening, but would sit at home drinking by myself till I
could scarce stagger up to bed.

"He did all that he could to persuade me to give it up, but it had got
too strong a hold upon me. At last we quarrelled over it, and he left
the house, and henceforth we only met at the office. He was engaged to
be married to the daughter of our Vicar. When the crash came--for in
these cases a crash is sure to come sooner or later--the business had
fallen off, and a bill was presented for payment which I had altogether
forgotten I had signed. Then there was an investigation into my affairs.
I could help but little, for there were but few hours in the day now
when my brain was clear enough to attend to any business whatever. Then
it was found that ten thousand pounds which had been given me to invest
by one of my clients had never been invested, and that it was gone with
the rest.

"I had not intended to do anything dishonest, that even now I can
affirm. I had intended to invest it, but in my muddled state put off
doing so, and had gone on paying the interest as if it had been invested
as ordered. When I knew that I had not enough in the bank to replace it,
I went into foolish speculations to regain what I had lost; but until
the crash came I had never fairly realised that I had not only ruined
myself but was a swindler. I shall never forget the morning when James,
who had been up all night going through my papers with my head-clerk,
came down and told me what he had discovered. I was still stupid from
what I had drunk overnight, but that sobered me. I need not tell you
what passed between my son and me. I swore never to touch liquor again.
He sold out of consols five thousand pounds which he had inherited from
his mother, and handed it over to the man I had defrauded, giving him
his personal bond that he would repay the rest of the money, should he
live; and on those terms my client agreed to abstain from prosecuting
me, and to maintain an absolute silence as to the affair.

"Then Jim broke off his engagement, and took passages for us in a
sailing ship for Panama, and so on to San Francisco. I need not tell you
the struggle it was to keep to my promise; but when Jim had given up
everything for me, the least I could do was to fight hard for his sake.
My thoughts were always fixed on California, my only hopes that I might
live to see the rest of the debt repaid, and the boy's money replaced,
so that he could buy a business and marry the woman he loved. I dreamt
of it over and over again, and, as I told you, three times I dreamt of
the exact spot where we are now sitting.

"Somehow, in my dreams, I knew that if I dug straight down under the old
tree that formed the centre of the dream I should find gold. This became
a fixed idea with me, and when we reached the gold-fields I never
stopped long in camp, so bent was I upon finding the tree of my dreams.
Jim bore with me wonderfully. I knew he did not believe in my dream, but
he was always ready to go where I wanted. I think now he thought that I
was going out of my mind, or feared that if he thwarted me I might take
to drink again. However, at last we found the tree--at least I was
positive it was the tree of my dreams. James tried to dissuade me from
digging in a place which looked so unpromising; but nothing would deter
me save death, and you see the result. We shall go back; the debt will
be cleared off, Jim will marry his sweetheart, and I shall live with him
to the end of my days. He is a grand fellow is Jim, though I dare say it
didn't strike you so when you first knew him."

"He is a grand fellow," Frank agreed heartily, "and I am truly glad, Mr.
Adams, that all has turned out so well."

"And now, can you tell me something of yourself, Frank? It is to you we
owe it that things have turned out well; and if, as I rather guess, you
have got into some scrape at home, I can only say that my son and myself
will be very glad to share our fortune with you, and to take one-third
of it each."

"I thank you greatly, sir, for your generous offer, but it would be of
no use to me. I have, as you suspect, got into a scrape at home, but it
is from no fault of my own. I have been wrongfully suspected of
committing a crime; and until that charge is in some way or other
cleared up, and the slur on my name wiped off, I would not return to
England if I had a hundred thousand pounds."

"And can nothing be done? Would it be any use whatever to set to work on
any line you can suggest? I would make it my own business, and follow up
any clue you could give me."

"Thank you very much, Mr. Adams; thank you with all my heart: but
nothing can be done, there is nothing to follow. It was not a question
of a crime so committed that many outside persons would be interested in
it, or that it could be explained in a variety of ways. So far as the
case went it was absolutely conclusive, so conclusive that I myself,
knowing that I was innocent, could see no flaw in the evidence against
myself, nor for months afterwards could I perceive any possible
explanation save in my own guilt. Since then I have seen that there is
an alternative. It is one so painful to contemplate that I do not allow
myself to think of it, nor does it seem to me that even were I myself
upon the spot, with all the detective force of England to aid me, I
could succeed in proving that alternative to be the true one except by
the confession of the person in question.

"If he were capable of planning and carrying out the scheme which
brought about my disgrace, he certainly is not one who would under any
conceivable circumstances confess what he has done. Therefore, there is
nothing whatever to be done in the matter. Years and years hence, if I
make a fortune out here, I may go home and say to those whose esteem and
affection I have lost, 'I have no more evidence now than I had when I
left England to support my simple declaration that I was innocent, but
at least I have nothing to gain by lying now. I have made a fortune, and
would not touch one penny of the inheritance which would once have been
mine. I simply come before you again solemnly to declare that I was
innocent, wholly and conclusively as appearances were against me.' It
may be that the word of a prosperous man will be believed though that of
a disgraced schoolboy was more than doubted."

"And is there no one to whom I could carry the assurance of your
innocence?" Mr. Adams asked. "Some one may still be believing in you in
spite of appearances. It might gladden some one's heart were I to bear
them from your lips this fresh assurance; were I to tell them how you
have saved me when all hope seemed lost; were I to tell them how all
here speak well of you, and how absolutely I am convinced that some
hideous mistake must have been made."

Frank sat for some time silent.

"Yes," he said, at last. "I have a little cousin, a girl, she was like
my sister; I hope--I think that, in spite of everything, she may still
have believed me innocent. Will you see her and tell her you have seen
me? Say no more until you see by her manner whether she believes me to
be a rascal or not. If she does, give her no clue to the part of the
world where you have come across me; simply say that I wished her to
know that I was alive and well. If you see that she still, in spite of
everything, believes that I am innocent, then tell her that I affirm on
my honour and word that I am innocent, though I see no way whatever of
ever proving it; that I do not wish her to tell my uncle she heard from
me; that I do not wish her to say one word to him, for that, much as I
value his affection, I would not for the world seem to be trying to
regain the place he thinks I have forfeited, until I can appear before
him as a rich man whom nothing could induce to touch one penny of his
money, and who values only his good-will and esteem. That is her name
and address."

And Frank wrote on the leaf of his pocket-book, "Alice Hardy, 354 Eaton
Square."

"I do not think you will have to deliver the message; it is hardly
possible that she should not, as my uncle has done, believe me to be
guilty. Still, I do cling to the possibility of it. That is why I
hesitate in giving you the commission, for if it fails I shall lose my
last pleasant thought of home. If you find she has believed in me, write
to me at Sacramento, to the care of Woolfe & Company, of whom I always
get my stores. There is no saying where I may be in four or five months'
time, for it will take that before I can hear from you. It may be, in
that case, she too will write. If she does not believe in me, do not
write at all; I shall understand your silence; and, above all, unless
you find she believes in me, say no more than that I am alive and well,
and give no clue whatever to the part of the world where we have met."

"I will discharge your commission," Mr. Adams said. "But do not be
impatient for an answer; I may not find a steamer going down to Panama
for some time, and may have to go thence to New York, and thence take
a steamer to Europe. I may find on my arrival that the young lady is
absent from home, perhaps travelling with her father, and there may be
delays."

"My uncle is not her father," Frank said; "she is a ward of his. But I
will not be impatient; not for six months will I give up such hope as I
have."

"There is one more thing before I say good night," Mr. Adams said. "I
have been in great need, and know how hard it is to struggle when luck
is against one, and I should like to give a small sum as a sort of
thank-offering for the success which has attended me. In a mining camp
there must be many whom a little might enable to tide on until luck
turns. Will you be my almoner? Here is a bag with a hundred ounces of
gold, the last we got to-day from our claim. Will you take it, and from
time to time give help in the way of half a sack of flour and other
provisions to men who may be down in the world from a run of ill-luck,
and not from any fault of their own."

"I will gladly do so," Frank replied; "such a fund as this would enable
me to gladden the hearts of scores of men. You can rely upon it, sir,
that I will take care to see that it is laid out in accordance with your
instructions."

After leaving the tent, Frank found James Adams sitting down on a log a
short distance away.

"I would not disturb you," the latter said, "as I thought perhaps you
were having a chat with my father--indeed he told me he should like to
have a talk with you alone; but I want myself to tell you how conscious
I am that I owe my happiness to you. Has my father told you how I am
situated, and that I am going home to claim the dearest girl in the
world, if, as I hope and believe, I shall find she has waited for me?"

"Your father has told me more," Frank said; "he has told me how nobly
you devoted your life to his, and why, and I am truly glad that so much
good has come of our meeting. More than that first little help I must
disclaim, for it was Abe and not I who believed in your father's dreams,
which I confess I had no shadow of belief in, though they have, so
unaccountably to me, been verified."

"Nothing you can say, Frank, will minimise what you have done for us.
You saved my father's life. If it had not been for you his dream would
never have been carried into effect, and he would now be lying in the
graveyard on the top of the hill, and I should be working hopelessly as
a day labourer. I only want to say, that if at any time you want a
friend, you can rely upon James Adams up to the last penny he has in the
world."

The next morning Mr. Adams and his son started for San Francisco, and
Frank and his party began to work their claims from the bottom of the
shaft. Although they paid well, they proved far less rich than they had
expected; they got good returns from the gravel, but found no pockets in
the bed rock, which was perfectly smooth and even. They found that on
either side of the Adams' claims the wall of rock behind swept round;
this, no doubt, had caused an eddy at this spot, which had worked out
the hole in the bed rock, and caused the deposit of so large a quantity
of gold here; and, singularly enough, Mr. Adams' dream had led him to
take up the exact spot under which alone the gold had been so largely
deposited. The party had taken on several hands, and six weeks sufficed
to clear out the paying stuff in their claims, and it was found that,
after paying all their expenses, there remained eight hundred ounces of
gold; a handsome result, but still very far below what they had reason
to expect from the richness of the stuff in the claims lying in the
centre of their ground.

This, however, added to the five hundred ounces they had received from
Mr. Adams, gave them a total of about a thousand pounds each. They held
a consultation on the night of the final clean-up. Two of the party were
disposed to return east with their money, but they finally came round to
Abe's view.

"A thousand pounds is a nice sum--I don't say it ain't--for less than
six months' work; still, to my mind, now we are here, with the chance of
doing just as well if we go on, I think it would be a fool's trick to
give it up. Five thousand dollars will buy a good farm east, but one
could work it with a good deal more comfort and sartainty if one had
another five thousand lying in the bank ready to draw upon in case of
bad times. We ain't fools; we don't mean to gamble or drink away what we
have made; it will just lie in the bank at Sacramento until we want to
draw it. If we work another year we may double it, but we can't make it
less; we have got our horses still, and I vote we go back to our work as
it was before, three of us digging and two carrying. We know that way we
can pay our expenses, however bad our luck may be, so thar ain't nothing
to loose in sticking to it for a bit longer, and thar may be a lot to
gain."

This view prevailed, and in a short time the party moved off to another
place; for Cedar Camp was getting deserted, the other claims taken up on
the flat had paid their way, but little more, and the men were off to
new discoveries, of which they had heard glowing accounts.

For the next two months no marked success attended the labours of Frank
and his comrades, they paid their expenses, and that was all. Frank
enjoyed the life; he was in no hurry to get rich, and it gave him great
pleasure to be able occasionally to give a helping hand to miners whose
luck was bad, from the fund with which Mr. Adams had intrusted him. The
work was hard, but he scarcely felt it, for his muscles were now like
steel, and his frame had widened out until he was as broad and strong as
any of his companions, and few would have recognised in him the lad who
had shipped on board the _Mississippi_ fifteen months before.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XIX.

STRIKING IT RICH.


TWICE the party of gold-diggers shifted their location, each time
following a rush to some freshly-discovered locality; but no stroke of
good fortune attended them. At the end of each week a few ounces of gold
remained to be added to the pile after the payment of expenses, but so
far the earnings of the carriers far exceeded those of the diggers. One
day, as Abe and Frank were just starting on their way down to
Sacramento, they met three men coming along, each leading two laden
horses. As the two teams met there was a shout of recognition.

"Hello, Abe! I have been asking for you of every one since we got here
six months ago, but no one seemed to know your party."

"We have been asking for you too," Abe said. "It seems curious that we
should be here so long and never run agin each other; but there are such
a lot of mining camps, and every one works too hard to spend much time
thinking about his neighbours. I expected we should run across each
other one of these days. And how goes it with you? How's every one?"

"We are broke up a bit," John Little said. "It wasn't to be expected as
we should hang together long after we once got out here; one thought one
place best, and another another; but I and my two mates here, and long
Simpson, and Alick, and Jones, we have stuck together."

"And where are you now?" Abe inquired.

"Well, I will tell you, Abe, and I wouldn't tell any one else; but I
said to you, 'If we ever makes a strike you are in it.' We have been
prospecting up in the gulches of the North Yuba. We found as we couldn't
get places worth working in the other camps, so we concluded it war best
to find out a spot for ourselves; so we six have been a-grubbing and
digging up among the mountains, and I tell you we have hit it hot. We
three, washing with pans for four hours one morning, got out
eight-and-twenty ounces of gold."

"That was something like," Abe said, in admiration.

"I reckon it war. Well, we covered the place up, and left our three
mates to look arter it, telling them not to dig or make any sign until
we came back. We sold the waggons and teams when we first got over, for
they were no good to us in the mountains, and bought horses so as to
keep ourselves supplied with provisions. We agreed before we began work
we would come down to the town and get enough to last us, then we would
move up quietly at night to our find, stake out our claims, and begin to
work. Now if you and your four mates likes to join us, you are welcome."

"Well, that's a downright friendly offer, mate, and you bet we accept
it. We had one capital stroke of luck, but since that worked out we
haven't done much at digging, though Frank here and me has done very
fair, trucking goods up from Sacramento. Where are your women?"

"Well," the other said, "we had some trouble about them. You see thar
ain't many women up at the camps, they are rough places, and not fit for
them. So we agreed that for the present it were best they should keep
out of it. So we bought a little place with ten or twelve acres of
ground, down at the foot of the hills, and there our wives and the kids
are stopping. There's a big orchard, and they are raising vegetables,
and when we goes down for supplies we brings up a load or two of fruit
and vegetables, and rare prices they fetch, I can tell you, more nor
enough to keep them all down there. But we have agreed to bring two of
them up now to cook and wash, and leave the others to look arter the
place and the kids. Simpson and Jones ain't married, you know. Women
have a right to claims as well as men, and of course we shall take up
for those we bring up, as well as for two big lads; so that will give us
ten claims, besides the extra claims for discovery. So with your five
claims we can get hold of a tidy bit of ground. We are going to take
these stores up now, and leave them in charge of our friends in the
gulch, who will keep them hid in the woods, and then we can go back and
bring up the women and a cargo of vegetables."

"Well, in four days we will meet you here. I will take all the horses
and load them up. We were going to bring up flour for the storekeeper,
but now we will get stores for ourselves. We will bring as much as we
can get along with. We can sell what we don't want, for there is sure to
be a rush in a short time. Frank shall go back and tell the storekeeper
we ain't a-coming with the flour."

This was arranged, and four days later Abe and his party arrived at the
spot agreed on, and an hour or two later the cavalcade, with the three
men, two women, and two boys of fifteen or sixteen years old, came up,
and the united party started together. It was some fifty miles to the
spot where the gold had been discovered. Sometimes they wound along in
deep valleys, passing several camps in full operation. At the last camp,
which was a small one, a few questions were asked them as to their
destination.

"We are just going a-prospecting for the mountain of gold," Abe replied,
"and as we have got six months' stores aboard we mean to find it. We
will send you down a few nuggets when we get up there."

"We shall have some of them after us in a day or two," John Little said;
"every one suspects every one else; and they will make a pretty story of
it, I guess, thinking as we shouldn't have brought the women up all this
distance without having some place in our minds."

At last they arrived at their destination, the mouth of a little gorge
running off the deep valley of the north Yuba. The gorge widened out
into a narrow valley, and the party made its way among the pebbles and
boulders at its bottom for a quarter of a mile, and then three men came
out from among the trees and greeted them heartily.

"No one has been up here?" John Little asked.

"Two chaps came up and prospected about a bit, but they did not seem to
hit on the right place; at any rate they went away again."

"All the better," John said. "Now let us stake out our claims at once,
then we are all right, whoever comes."

The spot selected was at the head of the little valley; it ended here
abruptly, and the stream came down forty feet precipitously into a
hollow.

[Illustration: GOLD-WASHING--A GOOD DAY'S WORK.]

"This looks a likely spot, indeed," Abe said; "there must have been a
thundering great waterfall here in the old days. I expect it wore a hole
for itself in the rock, and if it is as rich as you say on the surface,
there is no saying how rich it may be when we get down to the bed rock."

They had already settled that the two parties should work in
partnership, and as, including the women and boys, they numbered
fifteen, and could take up the five claims which, by mining law, the
discoverer of a new place was entitled to, they had in all twenty
claims, which gave them the whole of the little amphitheatre at the foot
of the fall for a distance of fifty yards down.

The men all set to work with their axes, and by nightfall much had been
done. Frank's party had their tent, and the two small tents of the other
party were allotted to the married couples. A rough hut was got up for
the rest of the men; this was to act as the kitchen and general room. A
storehouse was erected of stout logs, with earth piled thickly over it
to keep out the wet, and here their stores were securely housed. The
tents and huts were on the slope, where the rocks widened out twenty
yards below the bottom of their claim.

It was late in the second evening before the work was done. All were
anxious to test the ground, but it was agreed not to touch it until they
had housed themselves. At daybreak they were at work, and soon all were
washing out pans of gravel at the stream; the results fully justified
their expectations,--there being a residuum of glittering grains at the
bottom of each pan varying in weight from a pennyweight to a quarter of
an ounce.

"Now," Abe said, "I should suggest that we makes a big cradle, fifteen
feet long by three feet wide, and hang it on cross poles so as to be
able to rock it easily; then we will dam up the stream at the top of the
fall, and lead it down straight through a shoot into the cradle; of
course the shoot will have a sluice so as to let in just as much water
as we want, and that way two men will do the work of eight or ten
washing."

Abe's plan was agreed to, and all the men set to work to construct the
dam, cradle, and shoot.

It took two days' hard labour before all was in readiness, and then the
work began in earnest. Two men swayed the cradle, four others shovelled
the gravel and dirt into it, three continually stirred the contents and
swept off the large stones and pebbles from the top, while the other two
carried them away beyond the boundaries of their claims.

At the lower end of the cradle was a sheet of iron perforated with
holes, large at the top, but getting smaller lower down, and altogether
closed four inches from the bottom; through these holes the sand and
gravel flowed away. All day they worked vigorously and without
intermission, and great was the excitement when, at the end of the day's
work, they proceeded to clear-up by emptying the cradle and examining
the bottom. A shout of satisfaction arose as the particles of gold were
seen lying thickly in the gravel at the bottom of the cradle. Very
carefully this was washed out, and it was found that there were over
fifty ounces of gold dust.

"I believe," Abe said, "that we have hit upon the richest spot in
Californy. Ef it's like this on the surface, what is it going to be like
when we get down to the bed rock?"

The next morning two diggers arrived on the scene; they saw at once by
the methodical manner in which the place was being worked that the party
must have found gold in paying quantities.

"Is it rich, mates?" they asked eagerly.

"Ay," Abe replied, "rich enough for anything. There are the boundaries
of our claims, lads, and ye are welcome to set to work below them."

The miners threw off their coats, and at once set to work, and a shout
of exultation greeted the result of the first bucket of stuff they
washed out.

"Another week," Abe said, "and every foot of ground in the gulch from
here down to the Yuba will be taken up. The news will spread like
wildfire."

His anticipations were justified, and no one who came along a fortnight
later would have recognised, in the scene of life and activity, the
quiet wooded valley which Abe and his party had entered. The trees on
the lower slopes were all felled; huts and tents stood along on the
slopes from the head to the mouth of the valley, and several hundred men
were hard at work.

For once every man was satisfied, and it was agreed that it was the
richest place which had been discovered in California. But though all
were doing well, their finds did not approach those of the party at the
head of the valley. The spot on which these were at work was indeed a
natural trap for gold. At the lower end of the claim the bed rock was
found at the depth of three feet only; but it sloped rapidly down to the
foot of the fall, and here an iron rod had been driven down and showed
it to be forty feet below the surface.

The bed rock had indeed, in the course of ages, been pounded away by
the fall of water, and by the boulders and rocks brought down in time of
flood, and in the deep hole the gold had lodged, a comparatively small
proportion being carried away over the lower lip of the basin. When the
bed rock was found at the lower end of the claim, they set to work to
clear away and wash the whole surface to that depth, as far as the foot
of the rocks on either side of the little amphitheatre.

Frank and two of the men went down to Sacramento with horses to bring up
pumps, for below the level of the lip of the hole it was, of course,
full of water. The stream was carried in a shoot beyond this point, and
when the pumps arrived they were soon set to work.

Every foot that they descended they found, as they expected, the gravel
to be richer and richer; and many nuggets, some of them weighing upwards
of a pound, were found.

At the end of each week four of the miners, armed to the teeth, carried
down the gold and deposited it at the Bank of Sacramento. An escort was
needed, for many attacks were made on gold convoys by parties of
desperadoes; four men would indeed have been an insufficient guard, but
at the same time other diggers in the valley sent down their find, and
the escort was always made up to eight men from the general body.

Frank, from the first, generally formed one of the escort; he himself
was perfectly ready to take his share in the more laborious work of
digging, but where Frank went Turk went, and Turk formed so valuable a
member of the escort that the rest of the party begged his master always
to go with the treasure. Every week had added to the weight and power of
the animal, and he was now a most formidable-looking beast. He was
extremely quiet and good-tempered at ordinary times, except that he
would not allow any stranger to touch him; but when at all excited, his
hair bristled from his neck to his tail, and his low, formidable growl,
gave a warning which few men would have been inclined to
despise,--indeed, of the many rough characters in the camp, there was
not one who would not rather have faced a man with a revolver in his
hand than have ventured upon a conflict with Turk.

The dog appeared to know that the escort duty was one which demanded
especial vigilance. On the road a low growl always gave notice of the
approach of strangers; and at night, when they stopped, and the heavy
valises were carried from the pack animals into the wayside
resting-places, Turk always lay down with his head upon them. He seemed
so thoroughly to understand that this was in his special charge, that
although at no other time would he leave Frank's side for a moment, he
was, when thus on guard, content to lie quiet even should Frank take a
stroll after reaching the hotel.

This guardianship greatly relieved the cares of the escort, as once
placed under Turk's charge they felt no further anxiety about the
treasure, for it would have been as much as any stranger's life was
worth to have entered the room where Turk lay on guard. Once, indeed,
the attempt was made. While the escort were taking their meals, a man
went round to the window of the room, and, opening it, threw a large
piece of poisoned meat to Turk. The dog placed one paw upon it, but
remained, with his great head on the treasure, watching the man outside
holding another piece in his hand, and speaking in soothing tones. The
man, seeing that he did not move, began to climb in through the window.
Suddenly, as if shot from a spring, Turk hurled himself from his
recumbent position upon him.

The movement was so rapid and unexpected, that before the man could
spring back from the window Turk had seized him by the shoulder. A
shriek, followed by a heavy fall, brought the party rushing into the
room. It was empty, but there was the sound of a scuffle outside; they
ran to the window, but their interference was too late. Turk had shifted
his hold, and, grasping the man by the throat, was shaking him as a
terrier would a rat; and when, in obedience to Frank's voice, he
loosened his hold, life was extinct. Not only was there a terrible wound
in the throat of the robber, but his neck was broken by the shaking.

This was the only attempt which was ever made upon the treasure; for
Turk gained such a reputation by the deed, that it was questionable
whether, had he accompanied the pack-mules as their sole escort to
Sacramento, the bravest stage-robbers in the district would have
ventured to interfere with them.

After a time the lower valley became worked out, and numbers drifted
away to other diggings; but it was four months before the party at the
waterfall completely worked out their claims. The value of the ground in
the last few feet, at the lower end of the hole, was immense; for in
this, for ages, the gold from above had settled, and for the last
fortnight the clear-up each day was worth a thousand pounds. When the
last spadeful had been cleared up, and the last consignment sent down to
the bank, they made up their total, and found that in four months they
had taken from the hole upwards of sixty thousand pounds.

It had been agreed before beginning that the two women and the boys were
each to have a half-share, and that the two women who had looked after
the families below were to have the same. There were then in all six
half-shares, and eleven shares, and each share was therefore worth over
four thousand pounds. There were many instances in California in which
parties of two or three men had made larger sums than this in the same
time, but there were few in which a company had taken out so large a
quantity from one hole.

At the meeting that night the partnership was dissolved, it being agreed
that they should all go down to Sacramento together, and there each
receive his share. One or two of the party said that they would go down
to San Francisco for a spree, and then return and try their luck again.
Four of the western farmers said that they should buy farms in the State
and settle down there. Abe, and two other hunters, said they should
return east.

"And what are you going to do, Frank?"

"I don't know," Frank said. "I don't want to return to Europe, and have
no particular object in view. I think that I shall let my money remain
in the bank for a bit, at any rate, and go in for freighting on a large
scale. I shall buy a couple of dozen mules, and hire some Mexicans to
drive them. I like the life among these mountains, and there is a good
thing to be made out of carrying. But I have had enough of digging; it's
tremendously hard work, and I couldn't expect to meet with such a slice
of luck as this again if I worked for fifty years."

"Well, Frank, I shall not try to dissuade you," Abe said. "If I was
going on hunting, I should say 'Come along with me to the plains'; but
me and my mate is going east, as each of us has got some one waiting for
us thar, and I expect we shall marry and settle down. I will write to
you at Sacramento when I get fixed, and I needn't tell you how glad the
sight of your face will make me if you are ever travelling my way."

A few days afterwards the party separated at Sacramento, Frank only
remaining two days in that town. The wild scenes of dissipation and
recklessness disgusted him; he looked with loathing upon the saloons
where gambling went on from morning till night, broken only by an
occasional fierce quarrel, followed in most cases by the sharp crack of
a revolver, or by desperate encounters with bowie knives. Bad as things
were, however, they were improving somewhat, for a Vigilance Committee
had just been started, comprising all the prominent citizens of the
town. Parties of armed men had seized upon some of the most notorious
desperadoes of the place, and had hung them on the lamp-posts, while
others had been warned that a like fate awaited them if they were found
three hours later within the limits of the town.

Similar scenes took place in San Francisco, for the force of the law was
wholly insufficient to restrain the reckless and desperate men who
congregated in the towns, and who thought no more of taking life than
eating a meal. To put a stop to the frightful state of things
prevailing, the more peaceful of the San Francisco citizens had also
been obliged to organise a Vigilance Committee to carry out what was
called Lynch law, a rough and ready method of justice subject to grave
abuses under other circumstances, but admirably suited to such a
condition of things as at that time prevailed in California.

For some time Frank worked between Sacramento and the diggings. He
enjoyed the life, riding in the pure mountain air, under the shade of
the forests, at the head of the team. Sometimes he wondered vaguely how
long this was to last; if he was always to remain a rover, or whether he
would ever return to England. Sometimes he resolved that he would go
home and make an effort to clear himself of this stain which rested upon
his name; but he could see no method whatever of doing so, as he had
nothing but his own unsupported assertion of his innocence to adduce
against the circumstantial evidence against him, and there was no reason
why his word should be taken now more than it was before.

In many of the camps life had now become more civilised. In cases where
the bed of gold-bearing gravel was large, and where, consequently, work
would be continued for a long time, wooden towns had sprung up, with
hotels, stores, drinking and gambling saloons. Work was here carried on
methodically; water was, in some cases, brought many miles in little
canals from mountain lakes down to the diggings, and operations were
carried on on a large scale. Companies were being formed for buying up
and working numbers of claims together.

The valleys were honeycombed with shafts driven down, sometimes through
a hundred feet of gravel, to the bed rock, as it was found much more
profitable working this way than in surface-washing. Stage-coaches and
teams of waggons were running regularly now along well-made roads.
Frank's earnings were therefore smaller than they had been at first,
but they still paid his expenses, and added a few pounds each trip to
his account at the bank.

He took shares in many of the companies formed for bringing down water
from the lakes, and these were soon found to be an exceedingly valuable
property, paying in many cases a return each month equal to the capital.

The life of a teamster was not without danger: bears in considerable
numbers were found among the mountains, and these, when pressed by
hunger, did not hesitate to attack passing teams. In times of rain the
rivers rose rapidly, and the valleys were full of fierce torrents,
sometimes preventing horses from crossing for many hours, and being
still more dangerous if the rise commenced when the track to be followed
wound along in the foot of the valley. Several times Frank narrowly
escaped with his life when thus surprised; but in each case he managed
to reach some spot where his horses could climb the sides before the
water took them off their feet.

The greatest danger, however, of the roads, arose from the lawless men
that frequented them. Coaches were frequently stopped and plundered, and
even the gold escorts were attacked with success. Strong parties of the
miners sometimes went out in pursuit of the highwaymen, but it was very
seldom that success attended them, for the great forests extended so
vast a distance over the hills, that anything like a thorough search was
impossible.

Frank, however, treated this danger lightly; he never carried money with
him save what he received on arrival at camp for the carriage of his
goods, while the flour, bacon, and other stores which he carried up
offered no temptation to the robbers.

[Illustration: THE ATTACK ON THE GOLD ESCORT.]

One evening, however, having been detained some hours before he could
cross a river swollen by a thunderstorm, he was travelling along the
road much later than usual; the moon was shining brightly, and as the
long team of mules descended a hill he meditated camping for the night
at its foot.

Suddenly he heard a pistol-shot ahead, followed by five or six others.
Ordering his men to follow slowly, he put spurs to his horse, and,
drawing his revolver, galloped on. The firing had ceased just as he
caught sight of a coach standing at the bottom of a hill; three bodies
were lying in the road, and the passengers were in the act of alighting
under the pistols of four mounted men who stood beside them. Frank rode
up at full speed, Turk bounding beside him.

The highwaymen turned, and two pistol-shots were fired at the new-comer.
The balls whistled close to him, but Frank did not answer the fire until
he arrived within three paces of the nearest highwayman, whom he shot
dead; the other three fired, and Frank felt a sensation as of a hot iron
crossing his cheek, while his left arm dropped useless by his side.
Another of the highwaymen fell under his next shot; at the same instant
Turk, with a tremendous bound, leapt at the throat of one of the others
who was in the act of levelling his pistol. The impetus was so
tremendous that man and horse rolled in the road, the pistol exploding
harmlessly in the air. The struggle on the ground lasted but a few
seconds, and then Turk, having disposed of his adversary, turned to look
after a fresh foe; but the field was clear, for the remaining robber
had, on seeing Turk, turned his horse with a cry of alarm, and ridden
away at full speed. The passengers crowded round Frank, thanking him for
their rescue.

"I am glad to have been of use," Frank said, "and to have arrived just
in time; and now will one of you help me off my horse, for my left arm
is broken, I think."

The driver of the coach had been shot through the heart by the first
shot fired by the robbers. There were two armed guards, one of whom had
been killed, and the other wounded, while two of the passengers who had
left the coach to take part in the defence had also been killed; the
wounded guard was helped down from the coach.

"You have done a good night's work," he said to Frank; "there are nigh
ten thousand ounces of gold in the coach. No doubt those fellows got
wind of the intention of the bank people at Yuba to send it down to
Sacramento; it was kept very dark too, and I don't believe that one of
the passengers knew of it. They would have sent more than two of us to
guard it if they had thought that it had been let out; there must have
been some one in the secret who gave notice beforehand to these chaps.

"Now, gentlemen, if one of you will take the ribbons we will be moving
on. I will get up beside him, and I will trouble any of you who have got
Colts to take your places up behind; there ain't no chance of another
attack to-night, still, we may as well look out. Now, sir, if you will
take your place inside we will take you on until we get to some place
where your arm can be looked to. You will hear from the directors of the
bank as to this night's work."

Frank's team had now arrived on the spot, and he directed the men to
complete their journey and deliver their stores, and then to go down to
the stables where they put up at Sacramento and there to wait his
arrival.

Frank was left behind at the next town, his fellow-passengers
overwhelming him with thanks, many having considerable amounts of gold
concealed about them, the result, in some cases, of months' work at the
diggings.

One of them proposed that each man should contribute one-fourth of the
gold he carried to reward their rescuer, a proposition which was at once
accepted. Frank, however, assured them that although leading a team of
mules he was well off, and in no need whatever of their kind offer.

Seeing that he was in earnest, his fellow-passengers again thanked him
cordially, and took their places in the coach. They were not to be
balked in their gratitude, and three days later a very handsome horse,
with saddle and holsters with a brace of Colt's revolvers, arrived up
from Sacramento for Frank, with the best wishes of the passengers in the
coach. On the same day a letter arrived saying that at a meeting of the
directors of the bank it had been resolved that, as he had saved them
from a loss of fifty thousand pounds by his gallantry, a sum of two
thousand pounds should be placed to his credit at the bank in token of
their appreciation of the great service he had rendered them.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XX.

A MESSAGE FROM ABROAD.


"I LIKE this, grandfather. I think I like it better than anything I have
seen. In the sunlight the cathedral is too dazzling and white, and the
eye does not seem to find any rest; but in the moonlight it is perfectly
lovely. And then the music of that Austrian band is just right from
here; it is not too loud, and yet we can hear every note. Somehow, I
always like better not to see the players, but just to have the benefit
of the music as we do now, and to sit taking it in, and looking at that
glorious cathedral, all silver and black, in the moonlight. It is
glorious!" Harry murmured, "I could not have believed there was anything
so lovely."

"Yes, yes," Captain Bayley said absently, "the ices are good."

"I am not talking of the ices, grandfather, though no doubt they are
good. I am talking about the cathedral."

"Are you, my boy?" Captain Bayley said, rousing himself. "Yes, there are
cathedrals which beat Milan when seen in broad daylight, but in the
moonlight there is no building in the world to compare with it, unless
it be the Taj Mahal at Agra. Of course they differ wholly and entirely
in style, and no comparison can be made between them; the only
resemblance is that both are built of white marble; but of the two, I
own that I prefer the Taj."

"I am afraid I shall never see that," Alice Hardy said, "but I am quite
content with Milan; I could stop here for a month."

"A month, my dear!" Captain Bayley exclaimed, in consternation, "three
days will be ample. You know we agreed to stop here till Friday, and
then to go on to Como."

"Well, perhaps we will let you go on Friday, but we shall have to dawdle
about the lakes for some time. We can't rush through them as we have
been rushing through all these grand old Italian towns. We must have a
long rest there, you know."

"Yes, I suppose so," the old officer said reluctantly; "but I like to be
on the move."

Captain Bayley had, indeed, somewhat tried his two young companions by
his eagerness to be ever on the move. They had now been nearly two years
absent from England; they had visited all the principal towns of Germany
and Austria, had gone down the Danube and stopped at Constantinople, had
spent a fortnight in the Holy Land, and had then gone to Egypt and
ascended the Nile as far as the First Cataract, then they had taken a
steamer to Naples, and thence made their way up through Italy to Milan,
and now were about to cross over into Switzerland, and were, after
spending a month there, to go on to Paris, and thence home.

The highest surgical advice, and the most skilful appliances, aided by
the benefit he had derived from the German baths, had done much for
Harry, and he had for months passed many hours a day in the hands of a
skilful shampooer, who travelled with him as valet. He had, to a great
extent, recovered the use of his legs, and now walked with the
assistance of two sticks, and there was every hope that in time he would
be able to dispense with these aids, although he would always walk
somewhat stiffly. Captain Bayley was delighted at this improvement in
his grandson, and would have been perfectly happy had it not been for
the continual worry caused him by the failure of his advertisements to
elicit any news whatever of Frank.

It was this uncertainty that caused his restlessness, and he was for
ever pressing forward to the next town to which he had directed letters
to be sent, constantly suffering disappointments when he found the usual
announcement from his solicitor that no news had been obtained of his
missing nephew.

Alice and Harry shared his anxiety; but their pleasure in the new scenes
they were visiting prevented their being so entirely engrossed in the
subject as he was; and although scarcely a day passed without some talk
as to Frank's whereabouts, and the probability of his discovery, they
were able to put the subject aside and to enter with full zest into the
scenes they were visiting. But in Captain Bayley's mind the question was
always uppermost; sincerely attached as he had always been to Frank, the
thought that his favourite might have suffered a cruel and dastardly
wrong, and might now be slaving for his living in some unknown part of
the world, worried and troubled him incessantly, and he felt that, happy
as he was at the discovery of his grandson, he could never be contented
and tranquil until this matter was cleared up. Besides, in his will Fred
Barkley was still standing as heir to one-third of his fortune, and the
thought that he might die before the mystery was cleared up, and that
possibly this property might go to the man he suspected of so foul a
crime, was absolutely intolerable to the old officer. He had, indeed,
been engaged in a correspondence with his lawyer, Mr. Griffith, in
reference to his will, which he wanted worded so that Fred Barkley
should not take the fortune left him until the question of the theft of
the ten pounds should be cleared up. Mr. Griffith pointed out that it
was scarcely possible to frame a will in such a way.

"Had your nephew been publicly accused of the crime, doubtless a clause
might be framed by which the money would remain in the hands of trustees
until he had cleared himself to their satisfaction; but in this case
there is no shadow of suspicion against him. Another person has, in the
eyes of those who know the circumstances of the affair, been adjudged
guilty. No one has breathed a word against the honour of your nephew;
and therefore to say that he shall not touch the legacy until his honour
is cleared would be to take a most extraordinary, and, I think,
unprecedented course. In fact I don't see how it could be done."

Captain Bayley had replied hotly that it must be done, and, owing to his
frequent changes of address, and the time occupied in the letters
passing to and fro, the correspondence had already lasted for some
months. What enraged Captain Bayley most of all was that Mr. Griffith
would not admit that any doubt whatever existed as to Frank Norris's
guilt, nor that there was a shadow of reasonable suspicion against his
cousin; and each time the evidence was marshalled up, Captain Bayley had
to acknowledge to himself that the lawyer's arguments were unanswerable,
and that the only grounds that he himself had for his doubts were his
affection for Frank, and the fixed, passionate belief of Alice Hardy in
his innocence. That day Captain Bayley was exceptionally out of temper
and irascible, for he had that morning received a letter from Mr.
Griffith positively declining to draw up a clause for insertion in the
will of the nature he desired, and saying that if Captain Bayley
insisted upon its insertion, much as he should regret it after so long a
connection had existed between them, he should prefer that his client
should place himself in other hands.

"I trust," he said, "that this will cause no interruption in the
personal friendship which has for years existed between us, but I would
risk even that rather than draft a clause which I consider would be in
the highest degree unjust, and which, I tell you fairly, would, I
believe, be upset in any court of law. Nothing would, in my opinion, be
more unfair, I may say more monstrous, than that a hand should be
stretched from the grave to strike a blow at the honour of a young man
of stainless reputation."

Captain Bayley at all times disliked opposition; he disliked it
especially when, as in the present instance, he felt that he was in the
wrong.

When they returned to their hotel the waiter informed Alice that a
gentleman had called twice, while they were out, to see her. He had not
left a card, saying that Miss Hardy would not know his name, but that he
had a message to give her, and that he would not occupy her time more
than a few minutes if she would be good enough to see him.

"It sounds quite mysterious," Alice said, smiling to her uncle.

"Was it a young gentleman or an old?" she asked the waiter in French.

"An elderly gentleman, Signora."

"Some elderly millionaire, Alice," Captain Bayley growled sarcastically,
as they ascended the stairs, "who has seen you in the streets, and
wishes to lay himself and his fortune at your feet."

"That must be it," Alice laughed. "But perhaps he has brought me a
message from some of the many ladies we have met in our travels. I
suppose I had better see him if he comes again."

"I suppose so," Captain Bayley said. "He is not likely to eat you, and
as my room opens off the sitting-room, you have only to scream and I can
come in to your rescue."

"Very well, I will scream, uncle, if necessary. But do you think he
wants to see me alone?"

"As he has only asked for you, and no one else, I suppose he does. At
any rate I have no lively curiosity as to his visit, and I don't suppose
Harry has either. Most likely it's some man who wants to sell you
jewellery or cameos, or to ask you for a subscription for the chaplain,
or to beg of you on some pretext or other; they are always at it. He saw
your name on the hotel list standing without any male protector of the
same name. No doubt he thinks you are an elderly spinster with money."

"I expect it's something of that sort, Alice," Harry laughed.

But Alice insisted that she was convinced that the mysterious stranger
had something important to communicate to her. As she was taking her
things off there was a knock at the door, and the waiter said--

"The gentleman who before called is below."

"Show him up into our sitting-room," she said, and at once went in to
receive him. "He's just coming up, uncle," she said, tapping at Captain
Bayley's door. He opened it a few inches.

"I have got my pistol handy, Alice, in case you scream."

Alice laughed, and as she turned round there was a knock at the door.
The waiter announced Monsieur Adams, and an elderly gentleman entered.

"You must be surprised at the intrusion of a stranger at this hour of
the evening, Miss Hardy; but my excuse must be that I have for nearly
two months been following your footsteps, and I was afraid that if I put
off calling upon you until the morning I might find that you had gone."

"Following me for two months!" Alice repeated, in great surprise. "I do
not understand, sir."

"Naturally, Miss Hardy, the statement appears a strange one to you; but
the fact is I made a promise to deliver a message to you. I found upon
reaching England that you had left; I obtained your address at Cairo,
and went there only to find you had left a fortnight before my arrival;
then I followed you to Naples, and was a week too late. At Rome I missed
you by a day, and as I could not learn there, at your hotel, where you
were going next, beyond the fact that you had gone North, I have been
hunting for you ever since."

"But, sir," Alice said, more and more surprised, "what message could
possibly be of sufficient importance for you to undertake so long a
journey to deliver it?"

"I did not know how long you might be before you returned to England,
Miss Hardy, and as I knew how anxiously the answer to my message would
be expected, I preferred to follow you, in order that there might be no
more delay than necessary."

Suddenly a thought flashed across Alice Hardy's brain. She advanced a
step nearer to her visitor, and exclaimed--

"Do you come from my cousin Frank?"

"You have guessed rightly. I met him abroad; I am not at liberty at
present to say where. He rendered me one of the greatest services one
man can render to another--he saved my life, and did much more; but upon
that it is not now necessary to enter."

"But the message, sir," Alice interrupted, "you cannot know how we have
been longing for a word from him all this time."

"I do not know yet, Miss Hardy, whether I have any message to deliver;
it depends upon what you say in answer to what I tell you. I think I can
give you his very words as we sat together the night before I left for
England: 'I have a little cousin, a girl, she was like my sister; I
think, I hope, that in spite of everything she may still have believed
me innocent. Will you see her, and tell her you have seen me? Say no
more until you see by her manner whether she believes me to be a rascal
or not.'"

"No, no," Alice broke in, with a cry, "not for one moment; surely Frank
never doubted me. Never for a single instant did I believe one word
against him."

"Is anything the matter, my dear?" Captain Bayley asked, opening his
door, for the sound of her raised voice had reached him.

"No, uncle," she cried, hurrying to him, "it is a message from Frank. Go
away a minute, or----No," and she turned again to Mr. Adams, "surely my
uncle can hear too, he is as interested as I am."

"My message was to you alone, Miss Hardy," Mr. Adams said gravely; "I
must deliver it as it was delivered to me. It will be for you to decide
whether, after hearing it, you think it right to observe the injunction
it contains for your absolute silence."

"At least tell me, sir," Captain Bayley exclaimed, as much agitated as
Alice, "whether he is alive and well."

"He is alive and well, sir--at least he was when I saw him last, now
nearly four months ago."

"Thank God for that, at least," Captain Bayley said fervently. "Do not
be long, Alice; you know what I shall be feeling." He went back into his
room again, and closed the door, and Mr. Adams continued--

"'If she thinks me a rascal, give her no clue to the part of the world
where you have come across me, simply say that I wished her to know that
I am alive and well.' There, Miss Hardy, my message would have ended had
you not declared your faith in his innocence; I can now go on: 'If you
see that she still, in spite of everything, believes that I am innocent,
then tell her that I affirm on my honour and word that I am so'--Alice
gave a cry of joy--'though I see no way of proving it. Tell her that I
do not wish her to tell my uncle that she has heard of me; that I do not
wish her to say one word to him, for, much as I value his affection, I
would not for the world seem to be trying to gain the place he thinks I
have forfeited, until I can appear before him as a rich man whom nothing
could induce to touch one penny of his money, and who values only his
good-will and esteem.'

"That is all the message, Miss Hardy. But now that I see you have never
believed him guilty, I am at liberty to tell you that we met in
California, and to give you an address to which you can write at
Sacramento, and I can tell you the story of our acquaintance; but as the
story is a long one, and it is now late, I will, with your permission,
call in the morning again."

Tears were streaming down the girl's face as she lifted her head.

"Thank you, sir! oh, thank you so much! You cannot tell how happy your
message has made me--how happy it will make us all, for I am sure that
Frank will not blame me for breaking his injunction. He cannot tell the
circumstances; he does not know that my uncle has fretted as much as
myself. He evidently thinks that he believes him guilty, though why he
should do so I don't know, for at first he was just as much convinced as
I was of Frank's innocence, and it was only Frank's silence and his
going away without saying one word in defence of himself that made him
doubt him. Would you mind sitting here for a minute or two while I go in
to him? We want to hear so much, if you are not in a hurry."

"I am in no hurry," Mr. Adams said, smiling. "After travelling for two
months to deliver a message, one would not mind sitting up for a few
hours to deliver it thoroughly; and let me tell you that if my message
has made you happy, your reception of it has given me almost equal
satisfaction. I should have been grieved beyond expression to have had
to write to him that you doubted him, for my dear friend said, 'If your
commission fails, I shall lose my last pleasant thought of home.'"

"Poor Frank!" Alice murmured, as she turned to go to her uncle's room,
"how could he have ever doubted us?"

"Uncle," she said, as she entered, "I feel quite justified in telling
you Frank's message to me. Why it was sent to me instead of to you I do
not know, except that it seems as if he thought that I might believe him
innocent, while somehow he had an idea that you thought he was guilty."

"Does he say he is innocent, Alice?" Captain Bayley broke in.

"He does, uncle; he declares on his honour and word that he is
innocent."

"Thank God!" the old officer said, dropping into a chair and covering
his face with his hands. For a minute he sat silent, but Alice could see
how deeply he was affected.

"Don't say any more, my dear," he said, in a low, shaken voice. "I have
heard quite enough; it was only Frank's assurance that I have been
wanting all this time. I am content now. Thank God that this burden is
lifted off one's mind. Go in and tell Harry; I should like to be alone
for a few minutes."

"Yes, uncle; and Frank's friend is in the next room, and will tell us
all about him when you are ready to hear it."

Harry was greatly delighted at the news, and after a few minutes Alice
returned with him to the sitting-room. She knocked at her uncle's door,
and called out, "We are here, uncle, when you are ready to come in." In
another minute Captain Bayley entered. He went up to Mr. Adams.

[Illustration: MEETING OF CAPTAIN BAYLEY AND MR. ADAMS.]

"You have brought me the best news I have ever heard, sir; you cannot
tell what a weight you have lifted from my shoulders, and how I feel
indebted to you."

"Yes, uncle, and do you know that Mr. Adams has been travelling nearly
two months to deliver the message, knowing how anxious Frank will be to
hear how it was received. He went to Egypt after us, and finding we had
left has been following us ever since."

"God bless you, sir!" Captain Bayley said, seizing Mr. Adams's hand and
shaking it violently, "you are a friend indeed. Now in the first place,
please tell me the message you have given my niece, for so far I have
only heard that Frank declared that he is innocent; that was quite
enough for me at first. I want to know why I was to be kept in the
dark."

"The message will explain that," Mr. Adams replied, and he again
repeated the message he had given Alice.

"Yes, that explains it," Captain Bayley said, when he had finished;
"that's just like the boy of old. I like him for that. But why on earth
did he not say he was innocent at first?"

"That I cannot tell you; I know no more of the past than the message I
have given you, except he said that he had been wrongfully suspected of
committing a crime, and that, although he was innocent, the case
appeared absolutely conclusive against him, and that he saw no chance
whatever of his being cleared, save by the confession of the person who
had committed the offence."

"But why on earth didn't he say he was innocent?" Captain Bayley
repeated, with something of his old irritation. "What possessed him
to run away as if he were guilty without making one protest to us that
he was innocent?"

"I cannot tell you, sir. As I said, I know nothing whatever of the
circumstance; I do not even know the nature of the accusation against
him. I only know, from my knowledge of his character, that he is a noble
and generous young man, and that he never could have been guilty of any
dishonourable action."

"Nobody would ever have thought he would," Captain Bayley said sharply,
"unless he had as much as said so himself by running away when this
ridiculous accusation was brought forward. I should as soon have doubted
my own existence as supposed he had stolen a ten-pound note had he not
run away instead of facing it like a man. Until he bolted without
sending me a word of denial or explanation. I would have knocked any man
down who had said he believed him guilty. The evidence had no more
weight in my mind than the whistling of the wind; my doubts are of his
own creation. Thank God they are at an end now that he has declared he
is innocent. He has behaved like a fool, but there are so many fools
about that there is nothing out of the way in that. Still it was one of
the follies I should not have expected of Frank. That he should get into
a foolish scrape from thoughtlessness, or high spirits, or devilry, or
that sort of thing, I could imagine; but I am astonished that he should
have committed an act of folly due to cowardice."

"I won't hear you, uncle, any more," Alice exclaimed; "I know that you
don't mean anything you say, and that you are one of the happiest men in
the world this evening; but of course Mr. Adams does not know you as we
do, and does not understand that all this means that you are so relieved
from the anxiety that you have felt for the last two years that you are
obliged to give vent to your feelings somehow. Please, Mr. Adams, don't
regard what my uncle says in the slightest, but tell us all about Frank.
As to his going away, we know nothing about his motives, or why he went,
or anything else, and I am quite sure he will be able to explain it when
we see him; as to running away from cowardice, uncle knows as well as we
do that the idea is simply ridiculous. So please go on, and if uncle
interrupts we will go down to another sitting-room and he shall hear
nothing about it."

Mr. Adams then told the story of his acquaintance with Frank; how, when
all seemed dark, when he was lying prostrate with fever brought on by
overexertion and insufficient food, Frank had come to his son and had
insisted on helping him; how he had helped to nurse him, and how,
finally, Frank and his companions had worked the claim and realised a
fortune for him. He told how popular Frank was among his companions, how
ready he was to do a kindly action to any one needing it, and finally
repeated the conversation they had had together the last evening, and
Frank's determination not to return to England until he had gained such
a fortune that he could not be suspected of desiring to gain anything
but his uncle's esteem when he presented himself before him and declared
he was innocent.

"The young scamp," Captain Bayley growled, "thinking all the time of his
own feelings and not of mine. It's nothing to him that I may be fretting
myself into my grave in the belief of his guilt; nothing that I may be
dead years and years before he comes home with this precious fortune he
relies on making. Oh no! we are all to wait another twenty years in
order that this jackanapes may not be suspected of being mercenary;
three dozen at the triangles would do him a world of good, and if he
were here I would----"

"You wouldn't do anything but shake his hand, and shout 'Frank, my boy,
I am glad to see you back again,' so it's no use pretending that you
would," Alice interrupted. "And now, Mr. Adams, it's past twelve, and I
feel ashamed that we should have kept you so long; but I know you don't
mind, and you have made us all very happy. You will come again in the
morning, will you not? There is so much to ask about, and we have not
yet even begun to tell you how deeply we are all obliged to you for your
goodness in hurrying away from England directly you got home, and in
spending weeks and weeks wandering about after us."

"I shall be glad to call again in the morning, Miss Hardy, but I shall
start for England in the evening; I am anxious to be back now that my
mission is fulfilled. My son is to be married in ten days' time, and he
would like me to be present, although he said in his last letter that he
quite agreed that the first thing of all was to find you and deliver the
message, whether I got home or not. As I have several matters to arrange
before his marriage, presents to get, or one thing or other, I shall go
straight through."

"That is right," Captain Bayley said, "we will travel together, my dear
sir; for of course we shall go straight back to England now. We have
been dawdling about in this wretched country long enough. Besides,
everything has to be arranged, and we have got to get to the bottom of
this matter; so if you have no objection, we will travel home together.
If the young people here want to dawdle about any longer they can do so;
I dare say they can look after themselves, or if not, I can make an
arrangement with some old lady or other to act as Alice's chaperon."

"You silly old man," Alice said, kissing him, "as if we were not just as
anxious to get home and to get to the bottom of the thing as you are."

So the next afternoon the party started in the diligence which was to
take them over the St. Gothard to Lucerne.

Alice had by this time heard, somewhat to the confusion of her ideas,
that Frank was no longer the lad she had always depicted him, but a
tall, powerful young man, rough and tanned by exposure, and a fair match
in strength for the wildest character in the mining camp.

By the time they reached London Mr. Adams and Captain Bayley had become
fast friends, and the first thing the next morning, Captain Bayley drove
with Alice to Bond Street and purchased the handsomest gold watch and
chain he could find as a wedding-present for young Adams, and a bracelet
as handsome for Alice to send to the bride; then he sent Alice home in
the carriage and proceeded to his lawyer's. He returned home in the
worst of tempers. Mr. Griffith had refused to admit that the receipt of
Frank's message had in any way changed the position.

"I understood all along, Captain Bayley, that your nephew, when accused
by his master, had denied the theft; the mere fact that he now, three
years later, repeats the denial to you, does not, so far as I can see,
alter the situation in the slightest. He says that he's not in a
position to disprove any of the circumstances alleged against him. Of
course you are at liberty to believe him now, just as you believed him
at first, and as, on mature consideration, you disbelieved him
afterwards; but that is a matter quite of individual opinion. You have
announced to Mr. Barkley that you intend to leave him a third of your
fortune, and it would be in the highest degree unjust to make any
alteration now, without a shadow of reason for doing so. Personally, no
doubt, it is a satisfaction to you to have recovered your belief in
Frank's innocence, but that ought not to interfere in any way with the
arrangements that you have made. My own belief is, as I have told you,
that, pressed for money, and afraid of expulsion were his escapade of
going out at night discovered, Frank yielded to a momentary
temptation--a grievous fault, but not an irreparable one--one, at any
rate, for which he has been severely punished, and for which he may well
be forgiven. So far I am thoroughly with you, but I cannot and will not
follow you in what I consider your absolutely unfounded idea that he is
innocent, and that his cousin--against whom there is not a vestige of
evidence, while the proof the other way is overwhelming--is the real
offender."

Whereupon Captain Bayley had returned home in a state of fury.

"But, after all, uncle," Alice said, after listening for some time to
his outburst against lawyers in general, and Mr. Griffith in particular,
"it really is reasonable what Mr. Griffith says. You and I and Harry,
who know Frank so well, are quite sure that he is innocent; but other
people who don't know him in the same way might naturally take the other
view, for, as Mr. Griffith says, the proofs were strong against him, and
there was nothing whatever to connect Fred Barkley with the crime. I
have been talking it over with Harry since I came back, and he agrees
with me that we must, as you say, get to the bottom of the whole affair
before we go any further.

"Well, isn't that what we have been trying to do all along?" Captain
Bayley exclaimed angrily. "How are we to get to the bottom of it? If you
will tell me that I will grant that you have more sense in your head
than I have ever given you credit for."

"My idea, grandfather, is this," Harry said. "We have not yet heard
Frank's side of the story. I am convinced that if we heard that we
should get some new light upon it; and my proposal is that you and I
shall at once start for California and see Frank, and hear all about it.
It seems to me that he has been silent because he has some mistaken idea
that you believe in his guilt, and when you assure him that you have an
absolute faith in his innocence, he will go into the whole matter, and
in that case we shall probably find some clue which we can follow up and
get at the truth."

"The very thing, Harry," the Captain exclaimed impetuously, "we will
start by the first ship, you and I, and find this troublesome young
rascal, and have it out with him."

"And I shall go too, of course, uncle," Alice Hardy exclaimed; "I am not
going to be left behind by myself."

"Impossible, Alice! you don't know what the country is. You could not go
wandering about up in the mountains, looking for him through all sorts
of mining camps, with no decent place for a woman to sleep."

"No, uncle; but I could stay at San Francisco till you came back with
him; there must be some sort of people there you could leave me with. I
am sure you would not be so unkind as to leave me in England in a state
of anxiety all these months. You know I enjoy the sea, and you will want
somebody to look after you during the voyage, and to see that you don't
get into scrapes with that dreadful temper of yours. Besides, you must
have some one to scold; you could not get on without it, and you don't
scold Harry half so vigorously as you do me."

And so at last it was settled, and a week later Captain Bayley, his
grandson, and Alice Hardy, sailed for Panama.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXI.

HAPPY MEETINGS.


FRANK was in splendid health, and his bones set rapidly. A fortnight
after the encounter with the brigands he rode down to the camp on the
Yuba with his arm in a sling. His attack single-handed upon the four
stage-robbers had rendered him quite a noted character, and he was
warmly greeted upon his arrival. As soon as he had got to the wooden
shanty dignified by the name of the "hotel," a deputation waited upon
him.

"We have come," the leader of the party said, "to congratulate you in
the name of the hull of this mining camp on having pretty well cleared
out that gang of stage-robbers. The safety of the roads air a matter of
great importance to this camp, as well as to all the other camps in the
State, seeing that we air obliged to pay a heavy rate of insurance on
our gold being carried down, and have the risk of losing it all if we
takes it down ourselves; therefore it air the opinion of this community
that you have done them a considerable sarvice, and we are obliged to
you."

The four members of the deputation then shook Frank solemnly by the
hand.

"I can only say I am much obliged to you," Frank said, "and I only
regret that one of the four got off safe. However, they had a lesson,
and I hope the roads will be safer in future."

"Now," the spokesman of the deputation said, "let's liquor."

Five glasses were poured out by the bar-tender, and drunk off solemnly;
this was considered to bring the ceremony to a close.

In the evening Frank was sitting around a fire with some of his
acquaintances, when two persons were seen approaching.

"Can you tell me," one of them said, when he got up to the group,
"whether Frank Norris is in the camp, and if so, where I can find him?"

Frank sprang to his feet with a cry of astonishment.

"Uncle," he exclaimed, "is it you, or am I dreaming?"

"My dear boy," Captain Bayley exclaimed, as he grasped Frank's hand,
"thank God we have found you! We have been advertising and looking for
you ever since you left, nearly three years ago."

For a minute or two they stood grasping each other's hand, their
feelings being too full for further speech.

"Sit you down right here, Norris," one of the miners said, rising, "no
doubt you will like a talk together, and we will leave you to
yourselves."

The other miners rose, and with the real courtesy and kindness which
lurked under the rough nature of the diggers, all left the spot. Captain
Bayley was the first to speak.

"But here is some one else wants to shake your hand, Frank, an old
friend too."

The fire was not burning very brightly, and although Frank seemed to
know the young fellow who stood leaning lightly on two sticks, he could
not recall where he had seen him before.

"Don't you remember me, Frank," he said, "the lad whom you took so much
trouble with over his Homer."

"Harry Holl," Frank said in astonishment.

"It was as Harry Holl that you knew him, but we have since found out
that he is my grandson, the son of my daughter Ella," Captain Bayley
explained.

"Then you are my cousin," Frank said, advancing and shaking Harry's
hand; "but how on earth have you and uncle come out here?"

"Let us sit down by the fire, Frank, for the evening is chilly, and then
I will tell you all about it. But first, how about that enormous brute
of a dog, who doesn't seem to have made up his mind whether the proper
thing is not to devour us at once."

"Come, Turk, good dog, these are friends of mine."

Finding that the intentions of the new-comers were amicable, of which at
first he had entertained some doubts, Turk threw himself down by the
side of his master.

"First of all, uncle," Frank said, as he sat down, "has that affair been
cleared up?"

"Well, not exactly cleared up, Frank, but we have our suspicions. Harry
and I never for a moment thought it was you--that is not till you ran
away instead of facing it out. I don't want to scold you now, but that
was a foolish business."

"Then if you thought me innocent, uncle, why did you not answer my
letter? I should never have dreamt of running away if I had not been
heart-broken at the thought that you believed me guilty."

"Letter!" Captain Bayley repeated in astonishment, "what letter? That
was just the thing, if you had written me only one line to say you were
innocent I should never have doubted you for a moment, and even your
running away would have made no difference to me."

"But I did write, uncle; I wrote to you the very first thing, telling
you that I was innocent, although appearances were all against me, and
saying that I could bear anything if I knew that you believed in me, and
I begged you to send me just one line by hand. I waited all day for the
answer, and all the evening, and when night came and no letter I felt
that you believed me guilty; I became desperate, and when Fred advised
me to bolt, and offered me the money to take me away, I thought I might
as well go at once as go after the disgrace of being publicly expelled
before the whole school."

"But I never got the letter," Captain Bayley said, "never got a line
from you, and it was that which shook my faith."

"I gave the letter to Fred Barkley to post, half an hour after I came
down from school, that is before eleven o'clock, and he told me he
posted it at once."

"I am afraid," Captain Bayley said sternly, "that Fred Barkley is a vile
young scoundrel; we have had our suspicions of him, Harry and I, and
this seems to confirm them. I believe that villain is at the bottom of
the whole affair. Have you ever suspected him, Frank?"

"Such an idea has flitted across my mind, uncle, but I have never
allowed it to rest there; it was too shocking to believe."

"I am afraid it must be believed," Captain Bayley said. "It was Harry
who first pointed it out to me that, looking at the whole case, the
matter really lay between him and you, and that it was just as probable
that he took the note and sent it to you as that you should have taken
it and sent it to yourself. Harry urged indeed that Fred had far greater
motives for doing so than you; for whereas you had only to get out of a
stupid scrape, he would be playing for the money which I was to leave,
which was a heavy stake. On the other hand, he admitted that the crime
of stealing the note for the purpose of ruining you would be infinitely
greater than the taking of money in your case.

"I have nearly worried myself into a lunatic asylum over the matter. I
have been away from England for upwards of a year--partly for the sake
of Harry here, who has got rid of his box long ago, and now gets along
very fairly on sticks, partly to avoid seeing Fred, for as long as this
thing was unsettled, it was impossible that I could give him my hand.

"My heart has all along been with you, my boy, for you know I loved you
as a son; but your silence and your running away were ugly weights in
the scale against you. Now that I find that that villain suppressed your
letter--for he must have done so, else I should have got it--and that it
was he who urged you to fly to get you out of the way, I have no longer
a shadow of doubt in my mind. I must tell you that Harry here never
doubted you from the first; and as for Alice, she became a veritable
little fury when the possibility of your guilt was suggested. We have
had some rare battles and rows over that and her absolute refusal to
speak to Fred, whom from the first she insisted was at the bottom of
it, though how she arrived at that conclusion, except by instinct, is
more than I can tell. Her joy when Harry here was found, and of course
took the position I had intended for you, and her delight in Fred's
discomfiture, were, as I told her several times, absolutely indecent.
Not that she minded a farthing; she is the most insubordinate young
person I ever came across. You will hardly know her again, Frank, she is
growing fast into a young woman, and a very pretty one too."

"But how did you find me, uncle? Was it from Mr. Adams that you heard
where I was?"

"Well, Frank, we advertised for you, for over two years, in the American
and Colonial papers, and at last began almost to despair.

"About two months ago, when we were in Milan--for we have been wandering
about Europe for the last eight or nine months--your friend Adams found
us out; the good fellow had been hunting for us for two months."

"Ah! that explains why I have not heard from him," Frank interrupted. "I
have been looking for a letter for the last two months, and had begun to
conclude that as he had nothing pleasant to tell me he had not written,
and that I should never hear now."

"Then you thought like a young fool," Captain Bayley said angrily.
"Well, as soon as Adams had given your message to Alice--and why you
should have supposed that Alice should have believed in your innocence
any more than me, except that women never will believe what they don't
want to believe, I don't know--well, of course, she told us about it at
once, and we came back to England and talked it over, and settled that
the best thing was for us all to come out and see you."

"All!" Frank repeated in surprise.

"Yes, all; the headstrong young woman would not be left behind, and she
is at Sacramento now, that is if she hasn't been shot by some of these
red-shirted miners, or come to her end some other way. We stayed two
days at San Francisco. I have wandered about a good deal, but I thought
before I saw Sacramento and these places, that city was the residence of
the roughest and most dangerous set of rascals I ever met.

"We travelled by coach across the plains, and on going to the bank at
Sacramento found that you had been just shooting some highwaymen, and
had got your arm broken by a bullet. So we put Alice in charge of the
landlady of the hotel, and dared her to stir out of the room till we got
back; we came on to the place where they said you were stopping, but
found that you had come on here this morning. So we took our places in
the coach again, and here we are; and the sooner we get away from here
the better, so I hope you will be ready to start early in the morning."

"But, my dear uncle," Frank began.

"Don't give me any of your buts, sir," Captain Bayley said peremptorily.
"You have been hiding too long, now you must go back and take your place
again."

"But I can't clear myself of this affair."

"Don't tell me, sir," the old officer said angrily "you have cleared
yourself to me, and I will take good care that the truth is known. As
for that rascal Fred, I deserve all the trouble that I have gone through
for being such an old fool as to let him take me in. I want to get back
as quickly as possible to make my will again. Ever since Harry put the
idea into my mind I have been fretting about the one I had made leaving
Fred a third of my property. I thought if anything happened to me before
the matter was cleared up, and I found out in the next world--where I
suppose people know everything--that I had been wrong, I should have
been obliged to have asked for a furlough to come back again to set it
straight. Alice will be fidgeting her life out, and we must set out at
once; so let us have no more nonsense about delay."

Frank offered no further resistance, and agreed to start on the
following morning.

"You look more like yourself now, Frank," his uncle said, "for, except
by the tones of your voice, I should hardly have known you. You must
have grown ten inches bigger round the shoulders than you were, and have
grown into a very big man. You don't look so big here, where there are
so many burly miners about, but when you get back to London people will
quite stare at you. Your face at present is tanned almost black, and
that beard, which I suppose is the result of exposure, makes you look
half a dozen years older than you really are. I hope you will shave it
off at once, and look like a civilised English gentleman."

"I suppose I must do so," Frank said, rather ruefully, "for one never
sees a beard in London, except on a foreigner. I suppose some day men
will be sensible and wear them."

They sat talking until late in the night, Frank hearing all particulars
of the discovery of Harry's relationship to Captain Bayley, and the news
of all that had taken place since he had left England. He arranged for
sleeping accommodation for them for the night in the hut of the
storekeeper for whom he brought up provisions, judging that this was
more comfortable and quiet for them than in the crowded and noisy plank
edifice called the hotel. The next morning they started by the coach for
Sacramento, Frank ordering the muleteers to follow with the animals at
once. It was a twenty-four hours' drive; but it did not seem a long one
to any of them, for Frank had so much to tell about his doings and
adventures from the day when he last saw them, that there was scarce a
pause in their talk, until at night Captain Bayley and Harry dozed in
their corner of the coach, while Frank got outside and sat and smoked by
the driver, being altogether too excited by the sudden arrival of his
uncle, and the change in all his plans, to feel inclined for sleep. It
was ten o'clock in the morning when they drove into Sacramento.

"I think, uncle, I will just go round to my house, for I keep one
regularly here, and put on the garb of civilisation. Alice would not
recognise me in this red shirt and high boots."

"Stuff and nonsense!" Captain Bayley said. "You had a wash-up when we
breakfasted, and what do you want more? There, go up and see the girl at
once, Harry and I will join you in a minute or two; according to my
experience, these sort of meetings are always better without the
presence of a third party," and the old officer winked at his grandson
as Frank sprang up the stairs after the waiter whom Captain Bayley
directed to show him to Miss Hardy's sitting-room.

Although Captain Bayley had told him that Alice had become a young
woman, Frank had not realised the change that three years had produced
in her. He had left her a laughing girl--a dear little girl, Frank had
always thought--but scarcely pretty, and he stood for a moment in
astonishment at the tall and very beautiful young woman of eighteen who
stood before him. Alice was no less astonished, and for a moment could
scarcely credit that this broad muscular man was her old playfellow,
Frank. The pause was but momentary on both parties, and with a cry of
joy and welcome the girl ran into his arms as frankly and naturally as
she had done as a child.

"There, that's enough, Frank," she said presently. "You mustn't do that
any more, you know, because I am grown up, and you know we are not
really even cousins."

"Cousins or not, Alice," Frank said, laughing, "I have kissed you from
the time you were a child, and if you suppose I am going to give it up
now, when there is a real pleasure in kissing you, you are mistaken, I
can tell you."

"We shall see about that, sir," the girl said; "we are in California
now, among wild people, but when we get back to England we must behave
like civilised beings. But, O Frank, what a monster of a dog! Is he
savage? He looks as if he were going to fly at me."

For Turk, to whom greetings of this sort were entirely new, was standing
at the door, his bristles half-raised, doubtful whether Alice was to be
treated as a friend or foe.

"Come here, Turk. He is the best of dogs, Alice, though it is well not
to put him out, for he has killed two men, one in defence of our money,
the other of myself; but he is the dearest of dogs, and I will tell you
some day how I found him. Come here, Turk, and give your hand to this
lady, she is a very great friend of your master."

Turk gravely approached and offered his paw, which Alice took
cautiously, Frank's report of his doings being by no means encouraging.
Turk, satisfied now that there was no occasion for his interference,
threw himself down at full length upon the hearthrug, and Alice turned
to Frank.

"I am so glad you are coming home again."

"And I am glad to be coming home again," Frank said, "or rather I shall
be when this matter is quite cleared up."

"I should not bother any more about it," Alice said decidedly. "Uncle
Harry and I are all quite, quite sure that you had nothing to do with
that horrible business, and that ought to be quite enough for you."

"It isn't quite enough, Alice," he said, "although it is a very great
deal; but we need not talk about that now. Oh, here is uncle."

In the course of the day Alice heard of the new light which had been
thrown on the matter by the discovery that Frank had written to protest
his innocence, which letter had never come to hand, and that it was Fred
who had urged Frank to fly and had supplied him with money to do so.

"I always knew he was at the bottom of it," Alice said decidedly. "I
always said it was Fred. But I hope, Frank, you or uncle don't mean to
take any steps to get him into trouble. I hate him, you know, and always
have; still, I think he will be punished enough with the loss of the
money he so wickedly tried to gain."

"I think so too, Alice; he has behaved like a scoundrel of the worst
kind, but, for my part, I am quite content to leave him alone. Still, we
must if possible prove that I was innocent."

"But we all know you are innocent, Frank. Uncle never would have doubted
it if it had not been for the stories Fred told."

"Yes, Alice; but all the fellows at Westminster were told I was guilty.
I shall be constantly meeting them in the world, and all my life this
blot will hang to me if it is not set straight. When we get home I shall
go back to the School and see if I cannot hit on some clue or other. Of
course if Fred would confess it would be all right, but, after all, we
have not a shadow of real proof against him. We have only our suspicion,
and the fact that the letter did not come to hand; and if he faces it
out, and declares he posted it all right, who is to gainsay him? Letters
have gone wrong before now. I must clear myself if I can, but I promise
you that I will not bring public disgrace upon him if it can possibly be
avoided."

"He ought to be publicly disgraced," Captain Bayley roared, "the mean
scoundrel, with his quiet voice and his treacherous lies. Not disgrace
him? I would tie him up to a post in St. Paul's Churchyard, and hire a
bellman to stand on a chair beside him and tell the story of what he has
done every half-hour. Why, sir, he would have taken in St. Dunstan with
his pretended hesitation to say anything to your disadvantage, and the
affectation of pain with which he hinted that you had confessed your
guilt to him. The scoundrel, the rascal, the hypocrite! When I think
what his work has done, that you were disgraced at school, and sent
wandering for three years--not that that has done you any harm, rather
the contrary--to think that Alice has been wretched, and I have been on
thorns and out of temper with myself and every one else for the same
time, that for the last year we have been wandering about Europe like
three sentimental travellers, wasting our lives, spending our money, and
making fools of ourselves, I tell you, sir, if I was sitting as
president of a court-martial on him, I would give him five hundred
lashes, and then order him to be drummed out of the regiment."

Frank was about to speak, but Alice shook her head to him behind her
uncle's back; she knew that his bark was much worse than his bite, and
that, while contradiction would only render him obstinate, he would, if
left alone, cool down long before the time for action arrived, and could
then be coaxed into any course they might all agree upon.

The next morning the party started for San Francisco. Frank had already
found a purchaser for his team of mules at a good price, had wound up
all his affairs, and obtained an order from the bank on their agents in
England for the amount standing to his credit, which came to seven
thousand five hundred and sixty pounds.

His uncle was astounded when he heard how much Frank had earned in less
than two years' work. "I shall look at these red-shirted ruffians with
more respect in future, Frank; for, for aught I know, they may have tens
of thousands standing to their credit at the bank."

"My luck has been exceptional, sir," Frank said. "I might dig for
another fifty years without making so much. Of course, there are people
who have made a good deal more in the same time, but then there are
thousands who are no richer than when they began. We had done little
more than keep ourselves when we went to work on Adams's claim. We had
nearly four hundred apiece from him, besides what we made for our
labour, for the horses pretty well kept us; then from the claim six
hundred apiece. We had four thousand each out of the rich strike we
made at the head of the gulch; the bank gave me two thousand more; the
odd money represents the receipts of the rest of my digging and of my
earnings with the mule team."

They started for Europe by the first steamer which left San Francisco
for Panama, and reached home without adventure. The next morning Captain
Bayley took Frank to Mr. Griffith, and told him the story as he had
learned it from Frank.

"There, Griffith," he said triumphantly, when he had finished, "if you
are not ready to admit that you are the most obstinate, pig-headed
fellow that ever lived, I give you up altogether."

"I was wrong, I am glad to see," the lawyer said, smiling, "but I cannot
admit that I was wrong as far as the evidence that was before me went;
but certainly with the light our young friend has thrown upon the matter
I cannot doubt that the view you took was the correct one. Still,
remember there is still no actual proof such as a court of justice would
go upon. Morally we may be convinced, but unless you obtain further
evidence I do not think you are in a position openly to charge Fred
Barkley with stealing that ten-pound note, nor do I see how you are to
set about getting such evidence."

"We are going to try, anyhow," Captain Bayley said. "Frank and I are
going down to Westminster to-morrow to open the investigation again, and
with what we know now it is hard if we don't manage to get something."



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXII.

CLEARED AT LAST.


THE following day, after lunch, Captain Bayley and Frank drove round to
Westminster. Football was going on in Dean's Yard, and Frank recognised
among the players many faces that he knew. It seemed strange to him to
think that while he had gone through so much, and had grown from a boy
into a man, that they had changed so little, and had been working away
regularly at the old round of Euripides and Homer, Terence and Virgil.
The carriage stopped at the entrance to Dean's Yard, and, alighting,
they walked across to Mr. Richards'.

Captain Bayley had written a line to the master, asking him if possible
to remain at home, as he wished particularly to see him, and he and
Frank were ushered straight into the master's study. He shook hands with
Captain Bayley, whose acquaintance he had made while Frank had boarded
with him, and then looked at Frank; for a minute he did not recognise
him, then he exclaimed in surprise, "Frank Norris!"

"Yes, it's I, sir," Frank said; "I don't ask you to take my hand, for
you believe me guilty of the crime of which I was accused here. I can
only say now, as I said then, that I am innocent. I know now that I was
a fool to run away instead of facing it out, but I was desperate,
because every one thought me guilty."

"Your schoolfellows did not, Norris," Mr. Richards said. "I don't think
that I did, even at first; a few hours afterwards I almost knew you were
innocent, and had you not run away I could have gone far to prove it."

Frank gave an exclamation of joy, and Captain Bayley exclaimed
indignantly--

"Then why did you not prove it, sir? Why did you allow my nephew to
remain with the foul disgrace on his name?"

"I did not act without consideration," Mr. Richards said calmly. "Norris
had gone, and I resolved if he returned again to say what I had learned;
but my proofs were not absolute. We had made, it seemed to me, a
terrible mistake, and I did not wish to cause ruin to another boy unless
it was absolutely necessary to do so to clear Norris. Now that he has
returned I can no longer hesitate; but before I begin I must ask you
both whether your suspicions have fallen on any one else?"

"It is not suspicion, sir, it is certainty," Captain Bayley said; "we
have no doubt whatever that the whole thing was the work of Frank's
rascally cousin, Fred Barkley. He was, you know, a sort of rival of
Frank for my favour, and he had reason to believe that I had determined
that Frank should inherit the larger portion of my property; thus he had
a motive for bringing disgrace on him. It was just as probable that he
should have stolen the money and sent it to Frank as that Frank should
have stolen it himself; so far it seemed to me that it might lie between
either of them.

"What has settled the case in my mind is that I have learned that Fred
was intrusted with a letter by Frank to me, declaring his innocence,
which, as you know, I never doubted until Frank left without writing to
me. That letter I never received, and I believe that it was suppressed.
In the second place it was Fred who persuaded his cousin to take that
ruinous step of running away, and pressed upon him money to enable him
to do so, although he had refused to lend him a halfpenny when Frank
required it to pay that broken-nosed tailor to hold his tongue."

"Very well," Mr. Richards said, "then I can speak freely; my silence was
caused to some considerable extent by regard for your feelings. You had
lost one nephew, who had gone away with a cloud of disgrace surrounding
him--for aught I could tell, Norris, in his despair, might have
committed suicide, or he might have so cut himself off from you that you
might never have heard from him again--thus, then, I felt that it would
be cruel indeed to prove that your other nephew was a villain, unless by
so doing I could restore Norris to you. So, after much thought and
deliberation, I determined to hold my tongue until I heard that Norris
had either returned or had been heard of.

"On the morning when it was discovered that Frank had fled, I called up
one by one the whole of the boys in the house. Even after his flight I
could not believe that Norris had done this thing, it was so absolutely
contrary to all that I knew of his disposition, and I determined to sift
the matter to the bottom. From the elder boys I learned nothing,
although I questioned them most closely as to everything that had taken
place in the house during the past week. I was not disappointed, for I
had hardly expected to learn much from them.

"It was from the four boys who were the fags of the four who had been in
Frank's secret that I hoped to learn something, and I was not mistaken.
From the three in the house I learned nothing; but when I came to
Pearson, who was Barkley's junior and fag, I met with even more success
than I had expected. At first, of course, the boy did not like to say
anything; but I told him that unless he answered my questions freely I
should have him up before Doctor Litter, and he then told me all he knew
about it.

"The more willingly, for, like most other boys in the School, he was
fond of Norris, while Barkley was by no means a kind master. He said
that twice Barkley had got into a rage with him about things which
didn't seem of any importance. The first occasion was a week previous.
He had gone into Barkley's study to ask him to explain some difficulty
in his Cæsar; the door was not fastened, and as he had been working with
his shoes off, Barkley did not hear him till he was close to the table.
The boy noticed that he had a sheet of writing-paper before him, on
which he was writing, not in his usual hand, but in printed characters.
He would have thought nothing of it had not Barkley, on looking up and
seeing him standing there, jumped up in a sudden rage and boxed his ears
furiously, calling him a prying little sneak. The boy could not fix this
to a day, but it was certainly just about the time when this letter was
posted to you.

"The other affair had happened the day previously. He had gone into
Barkley's room with his books on coming down from school at twelve
o'clock, and seeing on his table a letter stamped and ready for the
post, he supposed that as usual he was to post it, and was running
downstairs with it in his hand when he met Barkley coming up. 'What have
you got there?' he asked. 'I am taking your letter to the post,' he
said; whereupon Barkley flew into another rage, called him an officious
little beast, gave him a box in the ear, and took the letter from him. I
asked the boy if he noticed to whom the letter was directed. He said he
had, and that it was to you. Knowing nothing about the suppression of a
letter of Norris's, and thinking that perhaps Barkley had written to his
uncle about the matter, and had then changed his mind about posting it,
this second affair did not strike me as having any importance whatever.
The first matter, however, seemed important, for that just at the time
when a letter was sent to Norris written in printing characters Barkley
should have been seen writing a letter of that sort, struck me as most
remarkable; and although I did not know exactly how the two lads stood
in reference to yourself, it struck me at once that it was at least
possible that we had been wrong, and that it was Barkley after all who
took the note.

"Had I suspected for an instant that he had done it to bring disgrace
upon his cousin, I should at once have communicated with Dr. Litter, and
have probed the affair from the bottom; but I thought that he had taken
the note with the intention of helping his cousin out of his difficulty,
and that when the note was traced, and the matter became public, he had
in a base and cowardly manner allowed Frank to bear the blame. This
would have been bad enough in all conscience, although comparatively
venial to his deliberate attempt to bring disgrace upon Norris.

"However, the matter seemed bad enough to me as it stood; but, as I
said, I shrunk from causing the ruin of another young fellow unless it
was necessary to clear Norris. I hesitated for a long time whether,
knowing as much as I did, I ought not to take some steps in the matter;
but for the reasons I have told you I determined to wait, hoping that
you would soon have Norris back again, and knowing that I should hear of
his return from some of the boys who were his special friends. Barkley
must have seen from my manner that there was something wrong between him
and me; but he never asked me the reason for the change in my manner to
him, and completely ignored my coolness. It was a relief to me when the
time came for his going up to the University, for I then felt that some
of the responsibility was off my shoulders, and that I was no longer
shirking my duty to expose him.

"That is all, Captain Bayley; but I think that this, with what you have
told me, is quite sufficient to bring the guilt home to the true party,
and to completely clear Norris."

"Quite sufficient," Captain Bayley said, "and I am thankful indeed that
you obtained the one missing link of evidence necessary to prove Frank's
innocence. I am greatly obliged to you, Mr. Richards, for the kind and
thoughtful manner in which you acted, which was indeed in every way for
the best; for had I at the time been made aware that Fred was the
culprit, I should have gone half out of my mind at the injustice we had
done Frank, and at not knowing where to find him or how to communicate
with him. And now what is to be done next? I do not want this unhappy
lad to be punished, but at the same time it is absolutely necessary that
Frank's innocence shall be publicly proclaimed. Fred will no doubt
brazen it out."

There was silence for a minute or two, and then Mr. Richards said.

"If you like, Captain Bayley, I will take the matter in hand. I will
write to Barkley and tell him that Norris has now come home, and that I
must therefore take up the matter at the point at which I dropped it. I
will recapitulate to him the reasons that there are for supposing that
he stole the money,--first, his interest in Frank's disgrace; secondly,
the fact that he was seen writing a letter in printed characters on the
day on which the note was sent to Norris; thirdly, his suppression of
the letter to yourself; fourthly, the part he took in persuading Norris
to run away; lastly, the hints which you say he gave you that Norris had
confessed his guilt.

"I shall tell him I have had this interview with you; that you are
thoroughly convinced of his guilt and of Norris's innocence; and that
while you are determined that Norris shall be vindicated, you are
desirous that his act of treacherous villainy shall not be made public;
if, then, he will write a confession, saying that he took it, this
confession shall not be made public.

"I shall of course show it to the Doctor, and explain the whole
circumstances to him, and ask him to make a public statement in school
to the boys, to the effect that it has been found out that Norris was
not guilty of the act of which two years ago he was charged, and that
the real thief has been discovered, but that as he is no longer at
school it is unnecessary now to mention his name, and that, moreover, he
has been heavily punished for the crime--which indeed is the case--by
his loss of your favour and of the fortune which he looked to obtain
under your will.

"I shall tell Barkley that if he refuses to confess it will be
necessary, in order to clear Norris, that the affair should be
investigated in a Public Court, and that Dr. Litter will at once apply
for a warrant for his apprehension on the charge of theft, and that the
whole matter will then be gone into in a Police Court. I cannot doubt
but that he will accept the first alternative, for the second will be
ruin to him."

Captain Bayley cordially assented. Three days later Frank received a
letter from Dr. Litter asking him to call upon him.

"I am truly sorry, Norris," the head-master said, as he entered, "for
the injustice I did you; truly and heartily sorry. The affair caused me
intense pain at the time; it has been on my mind ever since. Over and
over again something has told me that you were innocent; and yet,
thinking the case over again, my reason has always convinced me for the
time of your guilt, for I could see no other possible solution of the
mystery. I am glad indeed to find that I was mistaken, and that you were
a victim of a piece of what I can only term villainy. The affair will be
a lesson to me for my life, and henceforth I will never allow
appearances, however apparently conclusive, to weigh against a uniformly
excellent character. I trust that you will forgive my terrible error."

"I don't see that you could have acted otherwise, sir," Frank said, "for
even at the time, although I knew that I was innocent, I perceived that
the proofs against me were so overwhelmingly strong that my guilt must
appear a certainty to every one. I am happy indeed that I am cleared at
last; and, after all, it has done me no harm. I have, of course, lost
the University education which I looked forward to; but I think, after
all, that the three years I have spent in America have in many ways done
me more good than the University could have done."

"Very likely, Norris," the doctor said; "they have in every sense of the
word made a man of you, and a very fine man too, and I sincerely trust
that no further cloud will ever fall upon your career. And now I want
you to come up School with me, for I must publicly make amends for my
error, and set you right before the School."

As Frank followed Dr. Litter into the great schoolroom he felt
infinitely more nervous than he had done in any of the dangers he had
passed through in his journey across the plains. When the head-master
was seen to enter the School accompanied by a gentleman, a silence of
surprise fell upon the boys, for such an event was altogether
unprecedented there. As in the stranger, who stood nearly as tall and
far broader than the doctor, many of the boys in the upper forms
recognised Frank Norris, a buzz ran round the School, followed again by
the silence of excited expectation. Dr. Litter walked to his table at
the further end of the School and then turned.

"You will all stand up," he said. "Boys," he went on, "all of you in the
Fifth Form, and those above it, and some of you in the under forms, will
recognise in the gentleman who stands beside me your former schoolfellow
Norris; those who do will be aware of the circumstances under which he
left, and will be aware that I charged him with stealing a note of the
value of ten pounds from my desk. I am happy to say that it has been
proved that charge was entirely false."

A sudden burst of enthusiastic cheering broke from the upper forms.
Norris's innocence had been a matter of faith among his schoolfellows,
and even his running away had not sufficed to shake their trust in him.
They stood upon the forms and cheered until they were hoarse. At last a
wave of the doctor's hand restored silence, and he went on.

"I wish now, before you all, boys, to express my deep regret to Norris,
and to apologise to him most heartily for the accusation which I made. I
have now in my hand the confession of the real culprit. I shall not
mention his name; he has long since ceased to be among you, and I may
say that he has been punished severely, though to my mind most
insufficiently, for his crime, and as Norris is desirous that the matter
shall be dropped, the least I can do is to give in to his wishes. And
now, as I think that after this you will scarcely do any useful work
this afternoon, you may as well go down at once."

A fresh roar of cheering broke out, and then the boys who had been at
school with Frank jumped from their forms and crowded round him, each
striving to grasp his hand, and all shouting words of welcome and
congratulation.

It was some time before Frank could reply to these greetings, so shaken
was he by the scene. On emerging from the schoolroom his old house-mates
urged him to go up to Richards', and the Sixth were invited to accompany
him. Although contrary to the usual rules, an unlimited supply of
shandy-gaff was sent for, and for an hour Frank sat and chatted with
his old schoolfellows, and to their great admiration gave them an
outline of his adventures on the Mississippi, his journey across the
plains, and as a gold-digger in California; then with a glad heart, and
a feeling that he was at last cleared of the cloud which had so long
hung over him, Frank returned to Eaton Square.

His path in life never afterwards crossed that of his cousin. The
latter, after passing through the University with credit, entered the
Bar. Somehow he was not successful there. That he was clever all
allowed, but a cloud seemed to hang over him. The tale of Frank's
reinstallation had gone up from Westminster to the University; his old
schoolfellows there had talked the matter over, and although nothing was
known for certain, somehow the belief that Barkley was the culprit
spread among them.

He had never been popular, and now his old schoolfellows gradually drew
aloof from him. Nothing was ever openly said. The thing was talked of in
whispers, but even whispers, sometimes, are heard; and during his last
year at the University Fred Barkley stood alone among his fellows. The
whispers found their echo in town, and Fred Barkley found that a cloud
rested on him which all his efforts were unable to dissipate. After some
years of useless attempts to make his way, he was glad to accept the
offer of a petty judgeship in India, and there, ten years later, he
died, stabbed to the heart by a Mahomedan dacoit whom he had sentenced
to a term of imprisonment.

A year after his return from America Frank married Alice. Turk, for some
time after his arrival in England, had steadily declined all advances
which she made to him, perceiving clearly in his heart that she was a
rival in his master's affection. He had at last, however, the good
sense to accept the situation; but to the end of his life, which was a
long one, he never accorded her more than toleration, keeping all the
affection of his great heart for his master, although in his old years
he took to his master's children, and endured patiently, if not
cordially, the affection which they bestowed upon him.

Frank sits in Parliament at present, as member for the county in which
the broad estates which came to him with his wife are situated. It was
rather a disappointment to her that he did not distinguish himself
greatly in Parliament, but he was fonder of the country life of an
English gentleman than of the squabbles at Westminster. He can always be
depended upon to vote with his party, and he occasionally makes vigorous
and indignant attacks against any policy which he believes to be
lowering the prestige and position of his country; but, except upon
occasions when subjects of national interest are being discussed, he is
seldom to be found in the house, and his wife is now well content with
his reputation as one of the best masters of fox-hounds, one of the best
landlords, and one of the most popular country gentlemen in England.

Captain Bayley died but ten years ago, at a great age, and his grandson,
long since able to dispense with his crutches, is one of the most
prominent members in the House of Commons. He could, had he chosen, have
long since had a place in the Ministry, but he declined, as it would
have taken too much of his time from the favourite subject which
occupies the chief part of his thoughts and life, namely the effort to
ameliorate the condition of the poorer classes in the great towns.

Evan Holl is a distinguished engineer. The business of John Holl, Dust
Contractor, is still carried on under that name by the children of John
and Sarah, who died within a few days of each other, some twenty years
since, full of happiness and contentment.

          "More suitable books, especially for boys, it
          would be impossible to imagine. Whether of
          adventure, school life, or domestic interest,
          every story is alike marked with those wholesome
          and robust characteristics which form so valuable
          a feature in juvenile literature."--_Christmas
          Bookseller_.

       *       *       *       *       *

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BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Here we have Mr. George Henty--the Boys' Own
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_WITH LEE IN VIRGINIA:_

          A Story of the American Civil War. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 10 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE,
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Few great wars have been fought out by each side with greater intensity
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          A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 12 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE.
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The adventures of the son of a Scotch officer in French service who had
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parents. He kills his father's foe in a duel, and escaping to the coast,
shares the adventures of Prince Charlie, but finally settles happily in
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BY G. A. HENTY.

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         A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic. By G. A.
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A story covering the period when the Netherlands revolted against the
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_CAPTAIN BAYLEY'S HEIR:_

         A Tale of the Gold Fields of California. By G. A.
           HENTY. With 12 full-page Illustrations by H. M.
           PAGET. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges,
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A frank manly lad and his cousin, who is of the plausible scheming type,
are rivals in the heirship of a considerable property. The former falls
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          "A Westminster boy who, like all this author's
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          A Tale of Venice in the Fourteenth Century. By G.
            A. HENTY. With 10 full-page Illustrations by
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A story of Venice at a period when her strength and splendour were put
to the severest tests. The hero, the son of an English trader who has
taken up residence in the city, displays a fine sense and manliness
which carry him safely through an atmosphere of intrigue, crime, and
bloodshed. In his gondola on the canals and lagunes, and in the ships
which he rises to command, he is successful in extricating his friends
and himself from imminent dangers, and contributes largely to the
victories of the Venetians at Porto d'Anzo and Chioggia. He is honoured
by the state and finally wins the hand of the daughter of one of the
chief men of Venice.

          "Every boy should read _The Lion of St. Mark_. Mr.
          Henty has never produced any story more
          delightful, more wholesome, or more vivacious.
          From first to last it will be read with keen
          enjoyment."--_Saturday Review._

          "Mr. Henty has probably not published a more
          interesting story than _The Lion of St. Mark_. He
          has certainly not published one in which he has
          been at such pains to rise to the dignity of his
          subject."--_The Academy._


_THE LION OF THE NORTH._

          A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus and the Wars of
            Religion. By G. A. HENTY. With 12 full-page
            Illustrations by JOHN SCHÖNBERG. Crown 8vo, cloth
            elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

In this story Mr. Henty gives the history of the first part of the
Thirty Years' War, a struggle unprecedented in length, in the fury with
which it was carried on, and in the terrible destruction and ruin which
it caused. The issue had its importance, which has extended to the
present day, as it established religious freedom in Germany. The army of
the chivalrous King of Sweden, the prop and maintenance of the
Protestant cause, was largely composed of Scotchmen, and among these was
the hero of the story. The chief interest of the tale turns on the great
struggle between Gustavus and his chief opponents Wallenstein, Tilly,
and Pappenheim.

          "As we might expect from Mr. Henty the tale is a
          clever and instructive piece of history, and as
          boys may be trusted to read it conscientiously,
          they can hardly fail to be profited as well as
          pleased."--_The Times._

          "A praiseworthy attempt to interest British youth
          in the great deeds of the Scotch Brigade in the
          wars of Guatavus Adolphus. Mackay, Hepburn, and
          Munro live again in Mr. Henty's pages, as those
          deserve to live whose disciplined bands formed
          really the germ of the modern British
          army."--_Athenæum._

          "A stirring story of stirring times. This book
          should hold a place among the classics of youthful
          fiction."--_United Service Gazette._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Mr. Henty's books never fail to interest boy
          readers."--_Academy._

       *       *       *       *       *


_FOR THE TEMPLE:_

          A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 10 full-page Illustrations by S. J. SOLOMON:
            and a coloured Map. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant,
            olivine edges, $1·50.

Mr. Henty here weaves into the record of Josephus an admirable and
attractive story. The troubles in the district of Tiberias, the march of
the legions, the sieges of Jotapata, of Gamala, and of Jerusalem, form
the impressive and carefully studied historic setting to the figure of
the lad who passes from the vineyard to the service of Josephus, becomes
the leader of a guerrilla band of patriots, fights bravely for the
Temple, and after a brief term of slavery at Alexandria, returns to his
Galilean home with the favour of Titus.

          "Mr. Henty's graphic prose pictures of the
          hopeless Jewish resistance to Roman sway add
          another leaf to his record of the famous wars of
          the world."--_Graphic._

          "The story is told with all the force of
          descriptive power which has made the author's war
          stories so famous."--_Church Times._


_WITH CLIVE IN INDIA:_

          Or the Beginnings of an Empire. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 12 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE,
            in black and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant,
            olivine edges, $1·50.

The period between the landing of Clive as a young writer in India and
the close of his career was critical and eventful in the extreme. At its
commencement the English were traders existing on sufferance of the
native princes. At its close they were masters of Bengal and of the
greater part of Southern India. The author has given a full and accurate
account of the events of that stirring time, and battles and sieges
follow each other in rapid succession, while he combines with his
narrative a tale of daring and adventure, which gives a lifelike
interest to the volume.

          "In this book Mr. Henty has contrived to exceed
          himself in stirring adventures and thrilling
          situations. The pictures add greatly to the
          interest of the book."--_Saturday Review._

          "Among writers of stories of adventure for boys
          Mr. Henty stands in the very first rank, and Mr.
          Gordon Browne occupies a similar place with his
          pencil. . . . Those who know something about India
          will be the most ready to thank Mr. Henty for
          giving them this instructive volume to place in
          the hands of their children."--_Academy._

          "He has taken a period of Indian History of the
          most vital importance, and he has embroidered on
          the historical facts a story which of itself is
          deeply interesting. Young people assuredly will be
          delighted with the volume."--_Scotsman._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Surely Mr. Henty should understand boys' tastes
          better than any man living."--_The Times._

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE YOUNG CARTHAGINIAN:_

          A Story of the Times of Hannibal. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 12 full-page Illustrations by C. J.
            STANILAND, R.I. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

Boys reading the history of the Punic Wars have seldom a keen
appreciation of the merits of the contest. That it was at first a
struggle for empire, and afterwards for existence on the part of
Carthage, that Hannibal was a great and skilful general, that he
defeated the Romans at Trebia, Lake Trasimenus, and Cannæ, and all but
took Rome, represents pretty nearly the sum total of their knowledge.

To let them know more about this momentous struggle for the empire of
the world Mr. Henty has written this story, which not only gives in
graphic style a brilliant description of a most interesting period of
history, but is a tale of exciting adventure sure to secure the interest
of the reader.

          "The effect of an interesting story, well
          constructed and vividly told, is enhanced by the
          picturesque quality of the scenic background. From
          first to last nothing stays the interest of the
          narrative. It bears us along as on a stream, whose
          current varies in direction, but never loses its
          force."--_Saturday Review._

          "Ought to be popular with boys who are not too ill
          instructed or too dandified to be affected by a
          graphic picture of the days and deeds of
          Hannibal."--_Athenæum._


_WITH WOLFE IN CANADA:_

          Or, The Winning of a Continent. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 12 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

In the present volume Mr. Henty gives an account of the struggle between
Britain and France for supremacy in the North American continent. On the
issue of this war depended not only the destinies of North America, but
to a large extent those of the mother countries themselves. The fall of
Quebec decided that the Anglo-Saxon race should predominate in the New
World; that Britain, and not France, should take the lead among the
nations of Europe; and that English and American commerce, the English
language, and English literature, should spread right round the globe.

          "It is not only a lesson in history as
          instructively as it is graphically told, but also
          a deeply interesting and often thrilling tale of
          adventure and peril by flood and
          field."--_Illustrated London News._

          "A model of what a boy's story-book should be. Mr.
          Henty has a great power of infusing into the dead
          facts of history new life, and his books supply
          useful aids to study as well as
          amusement."--_School Guardian._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "The brightest of all the living writers whose
          office it is to enchant the boys."--_Christian
          Leader._

       *       *       *       *       *


_THROUGH THE FRAY:_

          A Story of the Luddite Riots. By G. A. HENTY. With
            12 full-page Illustrations by H. M. PAGET, in
            black and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

The author in this story has followed the lines which he worked out so
successfully in _Facing Death_. As in that story he shows that there are
victories to be won in peaceful fields, and that steadfastness and
tenacity are virtues which tell in the long run. The story is laid in
Yorkshire at the commencement of the present century, when the high
price of food induced by the war and the introduction of machinery drove
the working-classes to desperation, and caused them to band themselves
in that wide-spread organization known as the Luddite Society. There is
an abundance of adventure in the tale, but its chief interest lies in
the character of the hero, and the manner in which by a combination of
circumstances he is put on trial for his life, but at last comes
victorious "through the fray."

          "Mr. Henty inspires a love and admiration for
          straightforwardness, truth, and courage. This is
          one of the best of the many good books Mr. Henty
          has produced, and deserves to be classed with his
          _Facing Death_."--_Standard._

          "The interest of the story never flags. Were we to
          propose a competition for the best list of novel
          writers for boys we have little doubt that Mr.
          Henty's name would stand first."--_Journal of
          Education._


_TRUE TO THE OLD FLAG:_

          A Tale of the American War of Independence. By G.
            A. HENTY. With 12 full-page Illustrations by
            GORDON BROWNE. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

In this story the author has gone to the accounts of officers who took
part in the conflict, and lads will find that in no war in which
American and British soldiers have been engaged did they behave with
greater courage and good conduct. The historical portion of the book
being accompanied with numerous thrilling adventures with the redskins
on the shores of Lake Huron, a story of exciting interest is interwoven
with the general narrative and carried through the book.

          "Does justice to the pluck and determination of
          the British soldiers during the unfortunate
          struggle against American emancipation. The son of
          an American loyalist, who remains true to our
          flag, falls among the hostile redskins in that
          very Huron country which has been endeared to us
          by the exploits of Hawkeye and
          Chingachgook."--_The Times._

          "Mr. G. A. Henty's extensive personal experience
          of adventures and moving incidents by flood and
          field, combined with a gift of picturesque
          narrative, make his books always welcome visitors
          in the home circle."--_Daily News._

          "Very superior in every way. The book is almost
          unique in its class in having illustrative
          maps."--_Saturday Review._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Mr. Henty is the king of story-tellers for
          boys."--_Sword and Trowel._

       *       *       *       *       *


_IN FREEDOM'S CAUSE:_

          A Story of Wallace and Bruce. By G. A. HENTY. With
            12 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE, in
            black and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

In this story the author relates the stirring tale of the Scottish War
of Independence. The extraordinary valour and personal prowess of
Wallace and Bruce rival the deeds of the mythical heroes of chivalry,
and indeed at one time Wallace was ranked with these legendary
personages. The researches of modern historians have shown, however,
that he was a living, breathing man--and a valiant champion. The hero of
the tale fought under both Wallace and Bruce, and while the strictest
historical accuracy has been maintained with respect to public events,
the work is full of "hairbreadth 'scapes" and wild adventure.

          "Mr. Henty has broken new ground as an historical
          novelist. His tale is full of stirring action, and
          will commend itself to boys."--_Athenæum._

          "It is written in the author's best style. Full of
          the wildest and most remarkable achievements, it
          is a tale of great interest, which a boy, once he
          has begun it, will not willingly put on one
          side."--_The Schoolmaster._

          "Scarcely anywhere have we seen in prose a more
          lucid and spirit-stirring description of
          Bannockburn than the one with which the author
          fittingly closes his volume."--_Dumfries
          Standard._


_UNDER DRAKE'S FLAG._

          A Tale of the Spanish Main. By G. A. HENTY.
            Illustrated by 12 full-page Pictures by GORDON
            BROWNE, in black and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth
            elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

A story of the days when England and Spain struggled for the supremacy
of the sea, and England carried off the palm. The heroes sail as lads
with Drake in the expedition in which the Pacific Ocean was first seen
by an Englishman from a tree-top on the Isthmus of Panama, and in his
great voyage of circumnavigation. The historical portion of the story is
absolutely to be relied upon, but this, although very useful to lads,
will perhaps be less attractive than the great variety of exciting
adventure through which the young adventurers pass in the course of
their voyages.

          "A stirring book of Drake's time, and just such a
          book as the youth of this maritime country are
          likely to prize highly."--_Daily Telegraph._

          "Ned in the coils of the boa-constrictor is a
          wonderful picture. A boy must be hard to please if
          he wishes for anything more exciting."--_Pall Mall
          Gazette._

          "A book of adventure, where the hero meets with
          experience enough one would think to turn his hair
          gray."--_Harper's Monthly Magazine._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Mr. Henty's books for boys are always
          admirable."--_Birmingham Post._

       *       *       *       *       *


_ONE OF THE 28TH:_

          A Tale of Waterloo. By G. A. HENTY. With 8
            full-page Illustrations by W. H. OVEREND, and 2
            Maps. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges,
            $1·50.

Herbert Penfold, being desirous of benefiting the daughter of an
intimate friend, and Ralph Conway, the son of a lady to whom he had once
been engaged, draws up a will dividing his property between them. At his
death the authorized search for the will fails to bring it to light. The
mother of Ralph, however, succeeds in entering the house as a servant,
and after an arduous and exciting search secures the will. In the
meantime, her son has himself passed through a series of adventures. He
enters the army, and after some rough service in Ireland, takes part in
the Waterloo campaign, from which he returns with the loss of an arm,
but with a substantial fortune.

          "Written with Homeric vigour and heroic
          inspiration. It is graphic, picturesque, and
          dramatically effective . . . shows us Mr. Henty
          at his best and brightest."--_Observer._

          "_One of the 28th_ contains one of the best
          descriptions of the various battles which raged
          round Waterloo which it has ever been our fate to
          read."--_Daily Telegraph._


_THE CAT OF BUBASTES:_

          A Story of Ancient Egypt. By G. A. HENTY. With 8
            full-page Illustrations by J. R. WEGUELIN. Crown
            8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

In availing himself of the pictured records of Egyptian life and
history, Mr. Henty has produced a story which will give young readers an
unsurpassed insight into the customs of one of the greatest of the
ancient peoples. Amuba, a prince of the Rebu nation on the shores of the
Caspian, is carried with his charioteer Jethro into slavery. They become
inmates of the house of Ameres, the Egyptian high-priest, and are happy
in his service until the priest's son accidentally kills the sacred cat
of Bubastes. In an outburst of popular fury Ameres is killed, and it
rests with Jethro and Amuba to secure the escape of the high-priest's
son and daughter. After many dangers they succeed in crossing the desert
to the Red Sea, and eventually making their way to the Caspian.

          "The story is highly enjoyable. We have pictures
          of Egyptian domestic life, of sport, of religious
          ceremonial, and of other things which may still be
          seen vividly portrayed by the brush of Egyptian
          artists."--_The Spectator._

          "The story, from the critical moment of the
          killing of the sacred cat to the perilous exodus
          into Asia with which it closes, is very skilfully
          constructed and full of exciting adventures. It is
          admirably illustrated."--_Saturday Review._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Mr. Henty is one of our most successful writers
          of historical tales."--_Scotsman._

       *       *       *       *       *


_IN THE REIGN OF TERROR:_

          The Adventures of a Westminster Boy. By G. A.
            HENTY. With 8 full-page Illustrations by J.
            SCHÖNBERG. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

Harry Sandwith, a Westminster boy, becomes a resident at the chateau of
a French marquis, and after various adventures accompanies the family to
Paris at the crisis of the Revolution. Imprisonment and death reduce
their number, and the hero finds himself beset by perils with the three
young daughters of the house in his charge. The stress of trial brings
out in him all the best English qualities of pluck and endurance, and
after hair-breadth escapes they reach Nantes. There the girls are
condemned to death in the coffin-ships Les Noyades, but are saved by the
unfailing courage of their boy-protector.

          "Harry Sandwith, the Westminster boy, may fairly
          be said to beat Mr. Henty's record. His adventures
          will delight boys by the audacity and peril they
          depict. . . . The story is one of Mr. Henty's
          best."--_Saturday Review._

          "The interest of this story of the _Reign of
          Terror_ lies in the way in which the difficulties
          and perils Harry has to encounter bring out the
          heroic and steadfast qualities of a brave nature.
          Again and again the last extremity seems to have
          been reached, but his unfailing courage triumphs
          over all. It is an admirable boy's
          book."--_Birmingham Post._


_ST. GEORGE FOR ENGLAND:_

          A Tale of Cressy and Poitiers. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 8 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE,
            in black and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant,
            $1·50.

No portion of English history is more crowded with great events than
that of the reign of Edward III. Cressy and Poitiers laid France
prostrate at the feet of England; the Spanish fleet was dispersed and
destroyed by a naval battle as remarkable in its incidents as was that
which broke up the Armada in the time of Elizabeth. Europe was ravaged
by the dreadful plague known as the Black Death, and France was the
scene of the terrible peasant rising called the Jacquerie. All these
stirring events are treated by the author in _St. George for England_.
The hero of the story, although of good family, begins life as a London
apprentice, but after countless adventures and perils, becomes by valour
and good conduct the squire, and at last the trusted friend of the Black
Prince.

          "Mr. Henty has developed for himself a type of
          historical novel for boys which bids fair to
          supplement, on their behalf, the historical
          labours of Sir Walter Scott in the land of
          fiction."--_Standard._

          "Mr. Henty as a boy's story-teller stands in the
          very foremost rank. With plenty of scope to work
          upon he has produced a strong story at once
          instructive and entertaining."--_Glasgow Herald._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Mr. Henty is the prince of story-tellers for
          boys."--_Sheffield Independent._

       *       *       *       *       *


_A FINAL RECKONING:_

          A Tale of Bush Life in Australia. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 8 full-page Illustrations by W. B. WOLLEN.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

In this book Mr. Henty has again left the battlefields of history and
has written a story of adventure in Australia in the early days of its
settlement.

The hero, a young English lad, after rather a stormy boyhood, emigrates
to Australia, and gets employment as an officer in the mounted police.

A few years of active work on the frontier, where he has many a brush
with both natives and bush-rangers, gain him promotion to a captaincy,
and he eventually settles down to the peaceful life of a squatter.

          "Mr. Henty has never published a more readable, a
          more carefully constructed, or a better written
          story than this."--_Spectator._

          "Exhibits Mr. Henty's talent as a story-teller at
          his best. . . . The drawings possess the uncommon
          merit of really illustrating the text."--_Saturday
          Review._

          "All boys will read this story with eager and
          unflagging interest. The episodes are in Mr.
          Henty's very best vein--graphic, exciting,
          realistic; and, as in all Mr. Henty's books, the
          tendency is to the formation of an honourable,
          manly, and even heroic character."--_Birmingham
          Post._


_THE BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE:_

          Or, With Peterborough in Spain. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 8 full-page Illustrations by H. M. PAGET.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, $1·50.

There are few great leaders whose lives and actions have so completely
fallen into oblivion as those of the Earl of Peterborough. This is
largely due to the fact that they were overshadowed by the glory and
successes of Marlborough. His career as General extended over little
more than a year, and yet, in that time, he showed a genius for warfare
which has never been surpassed, and performed feats of daring worthy of
the leaders of chivalry.

          "Mr. Henty has done good service in endeavouring
          to redeem from oblivion the name of the great
          soldier, Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough.
          The young recruit, Jack Stilwell, worthily earns
          his commission and tells his tale with
          spirit."--_Athenæum._

          "Mr. Henty never loses sight of the moral purpose
          of his work--to enforce the doctrine of courage
          and truth, mercy and loving kindness, as
          indispensable to the making of a gentleman. Lads
          will read The Bravest of the Brave with pleasure
          and profit; of that we are quite sure."--_Daily
          Telegraph._

          "In describing the brief, brilliant, most
          extraordinary campaigns of this chivalric and
          picturesque commander Mr. Henty is in his element,
          and the boy who does not follow the animated and
          graphic narrative with rapture must sadly lack
          spirit and pluck."--_Civil Service Gazette._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Among writers of stories of adventure for boys
          Mr. Henty stands in the very first
          rank."--_Academy._

       *       *       *       *       *


_FOR NAME AND FAME:_

          Or, Through Afghan Passes. By G. A. HENTY. With 8
            full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE, in black
            and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, $1·50.

This is an interesting story of the last war in Afghanistan. The hero,
after being wrecked and going through many stirring adventures among the
Malays, finds his way to Calcutta, and enlists in a regiment proceeding
to join the army at the Afghan passes. He accompanies the force under
General Roberts to the Peiwar Kotal, is wounded, taken prisoner, and
carried to Cabul, whence he is transferred to Candahar, and takes part
in the final defeat of the army of Ayoub Khan.

          "Mr. Henty's pen is never more effectively
          employed than when he is describing incidents of
          warfare. The best feature of the book--apart from
          the interest of its scenes of adventure--is its
          honest effort to do justice to the patriotism of
          the Afghan people."--_Daily News._

          "Here we have not only a rousing story, replete
          with all the varied forms of excitement of a
          campaign, but an instructive history of a recent
          war, and, what is still more useful, an account of
          a territory and its inhabitants which must for a
          long time possess a supreme interest for
          Englishmen, as being the key to our Indian
          Empire."--_Glasgow Herald._


_BY SHEER PLUCK:_

          A Tale of the Ashanti War. By G. A. HENTY. With 8
            full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE, in black
            and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, $1·50.

The Ashanti Campaign seems but an event of yesterday, but it happened
when the generation now rising up were too young to have made themselves
acquainted with its incidents. The author has woven, in a tale of
thrilling interest, all the details of the campaign, of which he was
himself a witness. His hero, after many exciting adventures in the
interior, finds himself at Coomassie just before the outbreak of the
war, is detained a prisoner by the king, is sent down with the army
which invaded the British Protectorate, escapes, and accompanies the
English expedition on their march to Coomassie.

          "Mr. Henty keeps up his reputation as a writer of
          boys' stories. 'By Sheer Pluck' will be eagerly
          read."--_Athenæum._

          "The book is one which will not only sustain, but
          add to Mr. Henty's reputation."--_The Standard._

          "Written with a simple directness, force, and
          purity of style worthy of Defoe. Morally, the book
          is everything that could be desired, setting
          before the boys a bright and bracing ideal of the
          English gentleman."--_Christian Leader._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Mr. Henty's books are always welcome visitors in
          the home circle."--_Daily News._

       *       *       *       *       *


_FACING DEATH:_

          Or the Hero of the Vaughan Pit. A Tale of the Coal
            Mines. By G. A. HENTY. With 8 full-page
            Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE, in black and tint.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, $1·50.

"Facing Death" is a story with a purpose. It is intended to show that a
lad who makes up his mind firmly and resolutely that he will rise in
life, and who is prepared to face toil and ridicule and hardship to
carry out his determination, is sure to succeed. The hero of the story
is a typical British boy, dogged, earnest, generous, and though
"shamefaced" to a degree, is ready to face death in the discharge of
duty. His is a character for imitation by boys in every station.

          "The tale is well written and well illustrated,
          and there is much reality in the
          characters."--_Athenæum._

          "If any father, godfather, clergyman, or
          schoolmaster is on the look-out for a good book to
          give as a present to a boy who is worth his salt,
          this is the book we would recommend."--_Standard._


_ORANGE AND GREEN:_

          A Tale of the Boyne and Limerick. By G. A. HENTY.
            With 8 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

The history of Ireland has assumed such immediate interest that Mr.
Henty's fictional treatment of one of its important crises will be
welcomed by all who desire that the young should realize vividly the
sources of many of its troubles. The story is the record of two typical
families--the Davenants, who, having come over with Strongbow, had
allied themselves in feeling to the original inhabitants; and the
Whitefoots, who had been placed by Cromwell over certain domains of the
Davenants. In the children the spirit of contention has given place to
friendship, and though they take opposite sides in the struggle between
James and William, their good-will and mutual service are never
interrupted, and in the end the Davenants come happily to their own
again.

          "An extremely spirited story, based on the
          struggle in Ireland, rendered memorable by the
          defence of 'Derry and the siege of
          Limerick."--_Saturday Review._

          "The work is not only amusing and instructive, but
          it is also one, as all Mr. Henty's books are,
          likely to make any lad desire to be a noble and
          useful member of society, whether he be a soldier
          or aught else."--_Practical Teacher._

          "The narrative is free from the vice of prejudice,
          and ripples with life as vivacious as if what is
          being described were really passing before the
          eye. . . . _Orange and Green_ should be in the
          hands of every young student of Irish history
          without delay."--_Morning News (Belfast)._



BY G. A. HENTY.

          "Mr. Henty as a boys' story-teller stands in the
          very foremost rank."--_Glasgow Herald._

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE DRAGON AND THE RAVEN:_

          Or, The Days of King Alfred. By G. A. HENTY. With
            8 full-page Illustrations by C. J. STANILAND, R.I.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, $1·50.

In this story the author gives an account of the desperate struggle
between Saxon and Dane for supremacy in England, and presents a vivid
picture of the misery and ruin to which the country was reduced by the
ravages of the sea-wolves. The hero of the story, a young Saxon thane,
takes part in all the battles fought by King Alfred, and the incidents
in his career are unusually varied and exciting. He is driven from his
home, takes to the sea and resists the Danes on their own element, and
being pursued by them up the Seine, is present at the long and desperate
siege of Paris.

          "Perhaps the best story of the early days of
          England which has yet been told."--_Court
          Journal._

          "We know of no popular book in which the stirring
          incidents of the reign of the heroic Saxon king
          are made accessible to young readers as they are
          here. Mr. Henty has made a book which will afford
          much delight to boys, and is of genuine historic
          value."--_Scotsman._


_STURDY AND STRONG:_

          Or, How George Andrews made his Way. By G. A.
            HENTY. With 4 full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo,
            cloth extra, $1.

          "The history of a hero of everyday life, whose
          love of truth, clothing of modesty, and innate
          pluck, carry him, naturally, from poverty to
          affluence. George Andrews is an example of
          character with nothing to cavil at, and stands as
          a good instance of chivalry in domestic
          life."--_The Empire._


_TALES OF DARING AND DANGER._

          By G. A. HENTY. With 2 full-page Illustrations.
            Crown 8vo, cloth extra, 75 cents.

          "It would be hard to find better holiday reading
          for boys and girls."--_World._


_YARNS ON THE BEACH._

          By G. A. HENTY. With 2 full-page Illustrations.
            Crown 8vo, cloth extra, 75 cents.

          "This little book should find special favour among
          boys. The yarns are spun by old sailors, and are
          admirably calculated to foster a manly
          spirit."--_Echo._



BY S. BARING-GOULD.

       *       *       *       *       *


_GRETTIR THE OUTLAW:_

          A Story of Iceland. By S. BARING-GOULD, author of
            "John Herring," "Mehalah," &c. With 10 full-page
            Illustrations by M. ZENO DIEMER, and a Coloured
            Map. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges,
            $1·50.

A narrative of adventure of the most romantic kind, and at the same time
an interesting and minutely accurate account of the old Icelandic
families, their homes, their mode of life, their superstitions, their
songs and stories, their bearserk fury, and their heroism by land and
sea. The story is told throughout with a simplicity which will make it
attractive even to the very young, but the clearness is really secured
by a close personal knowledge, not only of the whole saga-literature,
but of the places in which the events occurred. It will on this account
be turned to with no little interest by students of the old sagas, while
no boy will be able to withstand the magic of such scenes as the fight
of Grettir with the twelve bearserks, the wrestle with Karr the Old in
the chamber of the dead, the combat with the spirit of Glam the thrall,
and the defence of the dying Grettir by his younger brother.

          "A foremost place in the boys' fiction of the
          season must be given to _Grettir the
          Outlaw_."--_Globe._

          "Is the boys' book of its year. That is, of
          course, as much as to say that it will do for men
          grown as well as juniors. It is told in simple,
          straightforward English, as all stories should be,
          and it has a freshness, a freedom, a sense of sun
          and wind and the open air which make it
          irresistible."--_Scots Observer._



BY PROFESSOR CHURCH.

       *       *       *       *       *


_TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO:_

          Or, The Adventures of a Roman Boy. By Professor A.
            J. CHURCH. With 12 full-page Illustrations by
            ADRIEN MARIE. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

Prof. Church has in this story sought to revivify that most interesting
period, the last days of the Roman Republic. The hero, Lucius Marius, is
a young Roman who has a very chequered career, being now a captive in
the hands of Spartacus, again an officer on board a vessel detailed for
the suppression of the pirates, and anon a captive once more, on a
pirate ship. He escapes to Tarsus, is taken prisoner in the war with
Mithradates, and detained by the latter in Pontus for a number of years.

          "Adventures well worth the telling. The book is
          extremely entertaining as well as useful: there is
          a wonderful freshness in the Roman scenes and
          characters."--_Times._

          "Entertaining in the highest degree from beginning
          to end, and full of adventure which is all the
          livelier for its close connection with
          history."--_Spectator._



BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.

          "Mr. Fenn is in the front rank of writers of
          stories for boys."--_Liverpool Mercury._

       *       *       *       *       *


_DICK O' THE FENS:_

          A Romance of the Great East Swamp. By G. MANVILLE
            FENN. With 12 full-page Illustrations by FRANK
            DADD. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges,
            $1·50.

A tale of boy life in the old Lincolnshire Fens, when the first attempts
were made to reclaim them and turn the reedy swamps, and wild-fowl and
fish haunted pools into dry land. Dick o' the Fens and Tom o' Grimsey
are the sons of a squire and a farmer living on the edge of one of the
vast wastes, and their adventures are of unusual interest. Sketches of
shooting and fishing experiences are introduced in a manner which should
stimulate the faculty of observation and give a healthy love for country
life; while the record of the fen-men's stealthy resistance to the great
draining scheme is full of the keenest interest. The ambushes and shots
in the mist and dark, the incendiary fires, the bursting of the
sea-wall, and the long-baffled attempts to trace the lurking foe, are
described with Mr. Manville Fenn's wonted skill in the management of
mystery.

          "We should say that in _Dick o' the Fens_ Mr.
          Manville Fenn has very nearly attained perfection.
          Life in the Fen country in the old ante-drainage
          days is admirably reproduced. . . . Altogether we
          have not of late come across a historical fiction,
          whether intended for boys or for men, which
          deserves to be so heartily and unreservedly
          praised as regards plot, incidents, and spirit as
          _Dick o' the Fens_. It is its author's masterpiece
          as yet."--_Spectator._


_BROWNSMITH'S BOY._

          By GEORGE MANVILLE FENN. With 12 full-page
            Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE, in black and tint.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

The career of "Brownsmith's Boy" embraces the home adventures of an
orphan, who, having formed the acquaintance of an eccentric old
gardener, accepts his offer of a home and finds that there is plenty of
romance in a garden, and much excitement even in a journey now and then
to town. In a half-savage lad he finds a friend who shows his love and
fidelity principally by pretending to be an enemy. In "Brownsmith's Boy"
there is abundance of excitement and trouble within four walls.

          "_Brownsmith's Boy_ excels all the numerous
          'juvenile' books that the present season has yet
          produced."--_Academy._

          "Mr. Fenn's books are among the best, if not
          altogether the best, of the stories for boys. Mr.
          Fenn is at his best in _Brownsmith's Boy_. The
          story is a thoroughly manly and healthy
          one."--_Pictorial World._

          "_Brownsmith's Boy_ must rank among the few
          undeniably good boys' books. He will be a very
          dull boy indeed who lays it down without wishing
          that it had gone on for at least 100 pages
          more."--_North British Mail._



BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.

          "Mr. Manville Fenn may be regarded as the
          successor in boyhood's affections of Captain Mayne
          Reid."--_Academy._

       *       *       *       *       *


_QUICKSILVER:_

          Or a Boy with no Skid to his Wheel. By GEORGE
            MANVILLE FENN. With 10 full-page Illustrations by
            FRANK DADD. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

Dr. Grayson has a theory that any boy, if rightly trained, can be made
into a gentleman and a great man; and in order to confute a friendly
objector decides to select from the workhouse a boy to experiment with.
He chooses a boy with a bad reputation but with excellent instincts, and
adopts him, the story narrating the adventures of the mercurial lad who
thus finds himself suddenly lifted several degrees in the social scale.
The idea is novel and handled with Mr. Manville Fenn's accustomed
cleverness, the restless boyish nature, with its inevitable tendency to
get into scrapes, being sympathetically and often humorously drawn.

          "_Quicksilver_ is little short of an inspiration.
          In it that prince of storywriters for boys--George
          Manville Fenn--has surpassed himself. It is an
          ideal book for a boy's library."--_Practical
          Teacher._

          "Mr. Fenn possesses the true secret of producing
          real and serviceable boys' books. Every word he
          writes is informed with full knowledge and, even
          more important, quick sympathy with all the phases
          of youthful life. In _Quicksilver_ he displays
          these qualities in a high degree."--_Dundee
          Advertiser._


_DEVON BOYS:_

          A Tale of the North Shore. By GEORGE MANVILLE
            FENN. With 12 full-page Illustrations by GORDON
            BROWNE. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges,
            $1·50.

The adventures of Sep Duncan and his school friends take place in the
early part of the Georgian era, during the wars between England and
France. The scene is laid on the picturesque rocky coast of North Devon,
where the three lads pass through many perils both afloat and ashore.
Fishermen, smugglers, naval officers, and a stern old country surgeon
play their parts in the story, which is one of honest adventure with the
mastering of difficulties in a wholesome manly way, mingled with
sufficient excitement to satisfy the most exacting reader. The discovery
of the British silver mine and its working up and defence take up a
large portion of the story.

          "We do not know that Mr. Fenn has ever reached a
          higher level than he has in _Devon Boys_. It must
          be put in the very front rank of Christmas
          books."--_Spectator._

          "An admirable story, as remarkable for the
          individuality of its young heroes--the cynical Bob
          Chowne being especially good--as for the excellent
          descriptions of coast scenery and life in North
          Devon. It is one of the best books we have seen
          this season."--_Athenæum._



BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.

          "There is a freshness, a buoyancy, a heartiness
          about Mr. Fenn's writings."--_Standard._

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE GOLDEN MAGNET:_

          A Tale of the Land of the Incas. By G. MANVILLE
            FENN. With 12 full-page Pictures by GORDON BROWNE.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

The tale is of a romantic lad, who leaves home, where his father
conducts a failing business, to seek his fortune in South America by
endeavouring to discover some of that treasure which legends declare was
ages ago hidden by the Peruvian rulers and the priests of that
mysterious country, to preserve it from the Spanish invaders. The hero
of the story is accompanied by a faithful companion, who, in the
capacity both of comrade and henchman, does true service, and shows the
dogged courage of the British lad during the strange adventures which
befall them. The plot of the story is simple, but the movement is rapid
and full of strange excitement.

          "This is, we think, the best boys' book Mr. Fenn
          has produced. . . . The illustrations are perfect
          in their way."--_Globe._

          "There could be no more welcome present for a boy.
          There is not a dull page in the book, and many
          will be read with breathless interest. '_The
          Golden Magnet_' is, of course, the same one that
          attracted Raleigh and the heroes of _Westward
          Ho!_"--_Journal of Education._


_BUNYIP LAND:_

          The Story of a Wild Journey in New Guinea. By G.
            MANVILLE FENN. With 12 full-page Illustrations by
            GORDON BROWNE. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

"Bunyip Land" is the story of an eminent botanist, who ventures into the
interior of New Guinea in his search for new plants. Years pass away,
and he does not return; and though supposed to be dead, his young wife
and son refuse to believe it; and as soon as he is old enough young Joe
goes in search of his father, accompanied by Jimmy, a native black.
Their adventures are many and exciting, but after numerous perils they
discover the lost one, a prisoner among the blacks, and bring him home
in triumph.

          "Mr. Fenn deserves the thanks of everybody for
          'Bunyip Land' and 'Menhardoc,' and we may venture
          to promise that a quiet week may be reckoned on
          whilst the youngsters have such fascinating
          literature provided for their evenings'
          amusement."--_Spectator._

          "One of the best tales of adventure produced by
          any living writer, combining the inventiveness of
          Jules Verne, and the solidity of character and
          earnestness of spirit which have made the English
          victorious in so many fields of labour and
          research."--_Daily Chronicle._



BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.

          "Our boys know Mr. Fenn well, his stories having
          won for him a foremost place in their
          estimation."--_Pall Mall Gazette._

       *       *       *       *       *


_IN THE KING'S NAME:_

          Or the Cruise of the _Kestrel_. By G. MANVILLE
            FENN. Illustrated by 12 full-page Pictures by
            GORDON BROWNE, in black and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth
            elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

"In the King's Name" is a spirited story of the Jacobite times,
concerning the adventures of Hilary Leigh, a young naval officer in the
preventive service off the coast of Sussex, on board the _Kestrel._
Leigh is taken prisoner by the adherents of the Pretender, amongst whom
is an early friend and patron who desires to spare the lad's life, but
will not release him. The narrative is full of exciting and often
humorous incident.

          "Mr. Penn has won a foremost place among writers
          for boys. 'In the King's Name' is, we think, the
          best of all his productions in this
          field."--_Daily News._

          "Told with the freshness and verve which
          characterize all Mr. Fenn's writings and put him
          in the front rank of writers for
          boys."--_Standard._


_MENHARDOC:_

          A Story of Cornish Nets and Mines. By G. MANVILLE
            FENN. With 8 full-page Illustrations by C. J.
            STANILAND, R.I., in black and tint. Crown 8vo,
            cloth elegant, $1·50.

The scene of this story of boyish aspiration and adventure is laid among
the granite piles and tors of Cornwall. Here amongst the hardy, honest
fishermen and miners the two London boys are inducted into the secrets
of fishing in the great bay, they learn how to catch mackerel, pollack,
and conger with the line, and are present at the hauling of the nets,
although not without incurring many serious risks. Adventures are pretty
plentiful, but the story has for its strong base the development of
character of the three boys. There is a good deal of quaint character
throughout, and the sketches of Cornish life and local colouring are
based upon experience in the bay, whose fishing village is called here
Menhardoc. This is a thoroughly English story of phases of life but
little touched upon in boys' literature up to the present time.

          "They are real living boys, with the virtues and
          faults which characterize the transition stage
          between boyhood and manhood. The Cornish fishermen
          are drawn from life, they are racy of the soil,
          salt with the sea water, and they stand out from
          the pages in their jerseys and sea-boots all
          sprinkled with silvery pilchard
          scales."--_Spectator._

          "Mr. Fenn has written many books in his time; he
          has not often written one which for genuine merit
          as a story for young people will exceed
          this."--_Scotsman._



BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.

          "No one can find his way to the hearts of lads
          more readily than Mr. Fenn."--_Nottingham
          Guardian._

       *       *       *       *       *


_PATIENCE WINS:_

          Or, War in the Works. By G. MANVILLE FENN. With 8
            full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE, in black
            and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, $1·50.

This is a graphic narrative of factory life in the Black Country. The
hero, Cob, and his three uncles, engineers, machinists, and inventors,
go down to Arrowfield to set up "a works." They find, however, that the
workmen, through prejudice and ignorance, are determined to have no
new-fangled machinery. After a series of narrow escapes and stirring
encounters, the workmen by degrees find that no malice is borne against
them, and at last admiration takes the place of hatred. A great business
is built up, and its foundation is laid on the good-will of the men.

          "An excellent story, the interest being sustained
          from first to last. This is, both in its intention
          and the way the story is told, one of the best
          books of its kind which has come before us this
          year."--_Saturday Review._

          "Mr. Fenn is at his best in 'Patience Wins.' It is
          sure to prove acceptable to youthful readers, and
          will give a good idea of that which was the real
          state of one of our largest manufacturing towns
          not many years ago."--_Guardian._

          "Mr. Fenn has written many a book for boys, but
          never has he hit upon a happier plan than in
          writing this story of Yorkshire factory life. The
          whole book, from page 1 to 352, is all aglow with
          life, the scenes varying continually with
          kaleidoscopic rapidity."--_Pall Mall Gazette._


_NAT THE NATURALIST:_

          A Boy's Adventures in the Eastern Seas. By G.
            MANVILLE FENN. Illustrated by 8 full-page Pictures
            by GORDON BROWNE, in black and tint. Crown 8vo,
            cloth elegant, $1·50.

This is a pleasant story of a lad who has a great desire to go abroad to
seek specimens in natural history, and has that desire gratified. The
boy Nat and his uncle Dick go on a voyage to the remoter islands of the
Eastern seas, and their adventures there are told in a truthful and
vastly interesting fashion, which will at once attract and maintain the
earnest attention of young readers. The descriptions of Mr. Ebony, their
black comrade, and of the scenes of savage life, are full of genuine
humour.

          "Mr. Manville Fenn has here hit upon a capital
          idea. . . . This is among the best of the boys'
          books of the season."--_The Times._

          "This sort of book encourages independence of
          character, develops resource, and teaches a boy to
          keep his eyes open."--_Saturday Review._

          "We can conceive of no more attractive present for
          a young naturalist."--_Land and Water._

          "The late Lord Palmerston used to say that one use
          of war was to teach geography; such books as this
          teach it in a more harmless and cheaper
          way."--_Athenæum._



BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.

          "Mr. Fenn is in the front rank of writers of
          stories for boys."--_Liverpool Mercury._

       *       *       *       *       *


_MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKEN:_

          Her Voyage to the Unknown Isle. By G. MANVILLE
            FENN. With 8 full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo,
            cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

A stirring story of adventure in the Eastern seas, where a lad shares
the perils of his father, the captain of the merchant ship _The Petrel_.
After touching at Singapore, they are becalmed off one of the tropic
isles, where the ship is attacked and, after a desperate fight, set on
fire by Malay pirates. They escape in a boat and drift ashore upon a
beautiful volcanic island, where, after sundry adventures, they come
upon the half-burned remains of the ship, out of whose timbers they
construct a small vessel, but when on the point of sailing are
discovered by the Malays. They are in great peril, when a volcanic
eruption, while increasing their danger, relieves them of their enemies,
and they finally escape and reach a civilized port.

          "Jules Verne himself never constructed a more
          marvellous tale. It contains the strongly marked
          features that are always conspicuous in Mr. Fenn's
          stories--a racy humour, the manly vigour of his
          sentiment, and wholesome moral lessons. For
          anything to match his realistic touch we must go
          to Daniel Defoe."--_Christian Leader._


_YUSSUF THE GUIDE:_

          Being the Strange Story of the Travels in Asia
          Minor of Burne the Lawyer, Preston the Professor,
          and Lawrence the Sick. By G. MANVILLE FENN. With 8
          full-page Illustrations by JOHN SCHÖNBERG. Crown
          8vo, cloth elegant, $1·50.

Deals with the stirring incidents in the career of Lawrence Grange, a
lad who has been almost given over by the doctors, but who rapidly
recovers health and strength in a journey through Asia Minor with his
guardians "The Professor" and "The Lawyer." Yussuf is their guide; and
in their journeyings through the wild mountain region in search of the
ancient cities of the Greeks and Romans they penetrate where law is
disregarded, and finally fall into the hands of brigands. Their
adventures in this rarely-traversed romantic region are many, and
culminate in the travellers being snowed up for the winter in the
mountains, from which they escape while their captors are waiting for
the ransom that does not come.

          "This story is told with such real freshness and
          vigour that the reader feels he is actually one of
          the party, sharing in the fun and facing the
          dangers with them."--_Pall Mall Gazette._

          "Takes its readers into scenes that will have
          great novelty and attraction for them, and the
          experiences with the brigands will be especially
          delightful to the boyish
          imagination."--_Scotsman._



BY SARAH DOUDNEY.

       *       *       *       *       *


_UNDER FALSE COLOURS._

          By SARAH DOUDNEY. With 12 full-page Illustrations
            by G. G. KILBURNE. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant,
            olivine edges, $1·50.

A story which, while it is eminently suitable for girls' reading because
of the purity of its style, its genuine pathos and healthy sentiment,
has in it so strong a dramatic element that it will attract readers of
all ages and of either sex. The incidents of the plot, arising from the
thoughtless indulgence of a deceptive freak, are exceedingly natural,
and the keen interest of the narrative is sustained from beginning to
end. It is worthy of the high reputation attained by the author as a
writer of stories interesting as novels and destined for the delight of
the home circle.

          "This is a charming story, abounding in delicate
          touches of sentiment and pathos. Its plot is
          skilfully contrived. It will be read with a warm
          interest by every girl who takes it
          up."--_Scotsman._

          "Sarah Doudney has no superior as a writer of
          high-toned stories--pure in style, original in
          conception, and with skilfully wrought-out plots;
          but we have seen nothing from this lady's pen
          equal in dramatic energy to her latest work,
          _Under False Colours_."--_Christian Leader._



BY ROSA MULHOLLAND.

       *       *       *       *       *


_GIANNETTA:_

          A Girl's Story of Herself. By ROSA MULHOLLAND.
            With 8 full-page Illustrations by LOCKHART BOGLE.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

The daughter of an Anglo-Irish gentleman, who had married a poor Swiss
girl, was stolen as an infant by some of her mother's relatives. The
child having died, they afterwards for the sake of gain substitute
another child for it, and the changeling, after becoming a clever
modeller of clay images, is suddenly transferred to the position of a
rich heiress. She develops into a good and accomplished woman, and
though the imposture of her early friends is finally discovered, she has
gained too much love and devotion to be really a sufferer by the
surrender of her estates.

          "Extremely well told and full of interest.
          Giannetta is a true heroine--warm-hearted,
          self-sacrificing, and, as all good women nowadays
          are, largely touched with the enthusiasm of
          humanity. The illustrations are unusually good,
          and combine with the binding and printing to make
          this one of the most attractive gift-books of the
          season."--_The Academy._

          "No better book could be selected for a young
          girl's reading, as its object is evidently to hold
          up a mirror, in which are seen some of the
          brightest and noblest traits in the female
          character."--_Schoolmistress._



BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD.

          "Mr. G. A. Henty has found a formidable rival in
          Mr. Collingwood."--_Academy._

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE LOG OF THE "FLYING FISH:"_

          A Story of Aerial and Submarine Peril and
            Adventure. By HARRY COLLINGWOOD. With 12 full-page
            Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. Crown 8vo, cl.
            elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

In this story the aim of the author has been, not only to interest and
amuse, but also to stimulate a taste for scientific study. He has
utilized natural science as a peg whereon to hang the web of a narrative
of absorbing interest, interweaving therewith sundry very striking
scientific facts in such a manner as to provoke a desire for further
information.

Professor Von Schalckenberg constructs a gigantic and wonderful ship,
appropriately named the _Flying Fish_, which is capable of navigating
not only the higher reaches of the atmosphere, but also the extremest
depths of ocean; and in her the four adventurers make a voyage to the
North Pole, and to a hitherto unexplored portion of Central Africa.

          "The _Flying Fish_, that marvellous achievement of
          science, actually surpasses all Jules Verne's
          creations; with incredible speed she flies through
          the air, skims over the surface of the water, and
          darts along the ocean bed. We strongly recommend
          our school-boy friends to possess themselves of
          her log."--_Athenæum._

          "Is full of even more vividly recounted adventures
          than those which charmed so many boy readers in
          _Pirate Island and Congo Rovers_. . . . There is a
          thrilling adventure on the precipices of Mount
          Everest, when the ship floats off and
          providentially returns by force of
          'gravitation.'"--_Academy._


_THE MISSING MERCHANTMAN._

          By HARRY COLLINGWOOD. With 8 full-page Pictures by
            W. H. OVEREND. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

A fine Australian clipper is seized by the crew; the passengers are
landed on one desert island, the captain and a junior officer on
another; and the young hero of the story is kept on board to navigate
the ship. The mutineers refit the ship as a pirate vessel at an island
which affords them convenient shelter, and in which Ned makes the
discovery of an old-world treasure-hoard. At length, with the aid of a
repentant member of the crew, Ned succeeds in carrying off the ship. In
the meantime the captain and his associates have succeeded in rejoining
the passengers, and they are after many adventures found by Ned.

          "Mr. Collingwood is _facile princeps_ as a teller
          of sea stories for boys, and the present is one of
          the best productions of his pen."--_Standard._

          "This is one of the author's best sea stories. The
          hero is as heroic as any boy could desire, and the
          ending is extremely happy."--_British Weekly._



BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD.

          "Mr. Collingwood has established his reputation as
          a first-rate writer of sea-stories.--_Scotsman._

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE ROVER'S SECRET:_

          A Tale of the Pirate Cays and Lagoons of Cuba. By
            HARRY COLLINGWOOD. "With 8 full-page Illustrations
            by W. C. SYMONS. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·50.

The hero of the _Rover's Secret_, a young officer of the British navy,
narrates his peculiar experiences in childhood and his subsequent perils
and achievements: the mutiny on board the _Hermione_; his escape with a
companion to La Guayra, their seizure by the Spaniards, their romantic
flight, and the strange blunder which commits them to a cruise to the
headquarters of the notorious pirate Merlani, whose ultimate capture and
confession come about in a way as exciting as unexpected.

          "_The Rover's Secret_ is by far the best sea-story
          we have read for years, and is certain to give
          unalloyed pleasure to boys. The illustrations are
          fresh and vigorous."--_Saturday Review._

          "A book that will rejoice the hearts of most lads.
          We doubt whether, since the days of Captain
          Marryat, there has arisen a writer who combined
          fertility of invention in stirring episodes, with
          practical knowledge of seafaring life, in the
          degree to which Mr. Collingwood attains in this
          volume."--_Scottish Leader._


_THE PIRATE ISLAND:_

          A Story of the South Pacific. By HARRY COLLINGWOOD.
            Illustrated by 8 full-page Pictures by C. J.
            STANILAND and J. R. WELLS, in black and tint.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, $1·50.

This story details the adventures of a lad who was found in his infancy
on board a wreck, and is adopted by a fisherman. By a deed of true
gallantry his whole destiny is changed, and, going to sea, he forms one
of a party who, after being burned out of their ship in the South
Pacific, and experiencing great hardship and suffering in their boats,
are picked up by a pirate brig and taken to the "Pirate Island." After
many thrilling adventures, they ultimately succeed in effecting their
escape. The story depicts both the Christian and the manly virtues in
such colours as will cause them to be admired--and therefore imitated.

          "A capital story of the sea; indeed in our opinion
          the author is superior in some respects as a
          marine novelist to the better known Mr. Clarke
          Russell."--_The Times._

          "The best of these books. . . . The events are
          described with minuteness and care. The result is
          a very amusing book."--_Saturday Review._

          "Told in the most vivid and graphic language. It
          would be difficult to find a more thoroughly
          delightful gift-book."--_The Guardian._

          "One of the very best books for boys that we have
          seen for a long time: its author stands far in
          advance of any other writer for boys as a teller
          of stories of the sea."--_The Standard._



BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD.

          "Stands far in advance of any other writer for
          boys as a teller of sea stories."--_Standard._

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE CONGO ROVERS:_

          A Tale of the Slave Squadron. By HARRY COLLINGWOOD.
            With 8 full-page Illustrations by J. SCHÖNBERG,
            in black and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth extra, $1·50.

The scene of this tale is laid on the west coast of Africa, and in the
lower reaches of the Congo; the characteristic scenery of the great
river being delineated with wonderful accuracy and completeness of
detail. The hero of the story--a midshipman on board one of the ships of
the slave squadron--after being effectually laughed out of his boyish
vanity, develops into a lad possessed of a large share of sound common
sense, the exercise of which enables him to render much valuable service
to his superior officers in unmasking a most daring and successful ruse
on the part of the slavers.

          "Mr. Collingwood carries us off for another cruise
          at sea, in _The Congo Rovers_, and boys will need
          no pressing to join the daring crew, which seeks
          adventures and meets with any number of
          them."--_The Times._

          "We can heartily recommend _The Congo Rovers_ as a
          book that boys will be sure to read throughout
          with pleasure, and with advantage, also, to their
          morals and their imaginations."--_Academy._



BY G. NORWAY.

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE LOSS OF JOHN HUMBLE:_

          What Led to It, and what Came of It. By G. NORWAY.
            With 8 full-page Illustrations by JOHN SCHÖNBERG.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

John Humble, an orphan, is sent to sea with his Uncle Rolf, the captain
of the _Erl King_, but in the course of certain adventures the boy is
left behind at Portsmouth. He escapes to a Norwegian vessel, the _Thor_,
which is driven from her course in a voyage to Hammerfest, and wrecked
on a desolate shore. The survivors experience the miseries of a long
sojourn in the Arctic circle, but ultimately, with the aid of some
friendly but thievish Lapps, they succeed in making their way to a
reindeer station and so southward to Tornea and home again.

          "Since the days when we read _Robinson Crusoe_, no
          book of its kind has delighted us more. It is just
          the gift for boys. 'Old Boys' will read it with
          pleasure."--_Schoolmaster._

          "This story will place the author at once in the
          front rank. It is full of life and adventure, and
          the interest is sustained without a break from
          first to last."--_Standard._



BY SARAH TYTLER.

       *       *       *       *       *


_GIRL NEIGHBOURS:_

          Or, The Old Fashion and the New. By SARAH TYTLER.
            With 8 full-page Illustrations by C. T. GARLAND.
            Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1·50.

A story specially adapted for girls, told in that quaint delightful
fashion which has made Miss Tytler's former books so popular and
attractive. The characters of the Girl Neighbours Sapientia (Pie)
Stubbs, and Harriet (Harry) Cotton, who may be said respectively to
illustrate the old and the new fashioned method of education, are
admirably delineated; and the introduction of the two young ladies from
London, who represent the modern institutions of professional nursing
and schools of cookery, is very happily effected. The story possesses
abundant humour and piquant descriptions of character.

          "One of the most effective and quietly humorous of
          Miss Tytler's stories. _Girl Neighbours_ is a
          healthy comedy, not so much of errors as of
          prejudices got rid of, very healthy, very
          agreeable, and very well written."--_Spectator._

          "Girls will find it very interesting. The
          illustrations are very good; the frontispiece,
          especially, possesses a delicacy of execution not
          often met with in books of this class."--_School
          Guardian._



BY ASCOTT R. HOPE.

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE WIGWAM AND THE WAR-PATH:_

          Stories of the Red Indians. By ASCOTT R. HOPE.
            With 8 full-page Pictures by GORDON BROWNE, in
            black and tint. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, $1·50.

The interest taken by boys in stories of the North American Indians is
probably as keen as ever. At all events the works of Fenimore Cooper and
other writers about the red men and the wild hunters of the forests and
prairies are still among the most popular of boys' books. "The Wigwam
and the War-path" consists of stories of Red Indians which are none the
less romantic for being true. They are taken from the actual records of
those who have been made prisoners by the red men or have lived among
them, joining in their expeditions and taking part in their semi-savage
but often picturesque and adventurous life.

          "Mr. Hope's volume is notably good: it gives a
          very vivid picture of life among the
          Indians."--_Spectator._

          "So far, nothing can be better than Mr. Ascott
          Hope's choice of _The Wigwam and the War-path_ as
          the name of a collection of all the most scalping
          stories, so to speak, of the North American
          Indians we have ever heard."--_Saturday Review._



BY F. FRANKFORT MOORE.

          "In writing a spirited tale of adventure to
          delight the hearts of boys, Mr. Frankfort Moore
          shows himself a master."--_The Guardian._

       *       *       *       *       *


_HIGHWAYS AND HIGH SEAS:_

          Cyril Harley's Adventures on Both. By F. FRANKFORT
            MOORE. With 8 full-page Illustrations by ALFRED
            PEARSE. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges,
            $1·50.

The story belongs to a period when highways meant post-chaises, coaches,
and highwaymen, and when high seas meant post-captains, frigates,
privateers, and smugglers; and the hero--a boy who has some remarkable
experiences upon both--tells his story with no less humour than
vividness. He shows incidentally how little real courage and romance
there frequently was about the favourite law-breakers of fiction, but
how they might give rise to the need of the highest courage in others
and lead to romantic adventures of an exceedingly exciting kind. A
certain piquancy is given to the story by a slight trace of nineteenth
century malice in the picturing of eighteenth century life and manners.

          "This is one of the best stories Mr. Moore has
          written, perhaps the very best. The exciting
          adventures among highwaymen and privateers are
          sure to attract boys."--_Spectator._

          "It is pleasant to come across such honest work as
          _Highways and High Seas_. The author breathes a
          vein of genuine humour, his Captain Chink being a
          real achievement in characterization, and as some
          of his incidents are veritably thrilling."--_Scots
          Observer._


_UNDER HATCHES:_

         Or, Ned Woodthorpe's Adventures. By F. FRANKFORT
           MOORE. With 8 full-page Illustrations by A.
           FORESTIER. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges,
           $1·50.

In rescuing another lad from drowning, Ned Woodthorpe is compelled to
take refuge in a light-ship, from which he is involuntarily transferred
to an outward-bound convict-ship. After a series of exciting events, in
which Bowkitt, an innocent convict, plays a brilliant part, the convicts
and mutinous crew obtain the mastery under the leadership of a fanatical
gold-seeker. The officers, Ned, and Bowkitt are set adrift in the
cutter, and eventually land on a desert island, to which also the
mutineers find their way. By the want of discipline of the latter,
opportunity is afforded for the daring recapture of the ship, and Ned
and his friends escape from the island.

          "Mr. Moore has never shown himself so thoroughly
          qualified to write books for boys as he has done
          in _Under Hatches_."--_The Academy._

          "A first-rate sea story, full of stirring
          incidents, and, from a literary point of view, far
          better written than the majority of boys'
          books."--_Pall Mall Gaz._



BY ALICE CORKRAN.

       *       *       *       *       *


_DOWN THE SNOW STAIRS:_

          Or, From Good-night to Good-morning. By ALICE
            CORKRAN. With 60 character Illustrations by GORDON
            BROWNE. Square crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
            edges, $1·25.

This is a remarkable story: full of vivid fancy and quaint originality.
In its most fantastic imaginings it carries with it a sense of reality,
and derives a singular attraction from that combination of simplicity,
originality, and subtle humour, which is so much appreciated by lively
and thoughtful children. Children of a larger growth will also be deeply
interested in Kitty's strange journey, and her wonderful experiences.

          "A fascinating wonder-book for
          children."--_Athenæum._

          "Among all the Christmas volumes which the year
          has brought to our table this one stands out
          _facile princeps_--a gem of the first water,
          bearing upon every one of its pages the signet
          mark of genius. . . . All is told with such
          simplicity and perfect naturalness that the dream
          appears to be a solid reality. It is indeed a
          Little Pilgrim's Progress."--_Christian Leader._


_MARGERY MERTON'S GIRLHOOD:_

          By ALICE CORKRAN. With 6 full-page Illustrations
            by GORDON BROWNE. Crown 8vo, cloth extra, $1·25.

The experiences of an orphan girl who in infancy is left by her
father--an officer in India--to the care of an elderly aunt residing
near Paris. The accounts of the various persons who have an after
influence on the story, the school companions of Margery, the sisters of
the Conventual College of Art, the professor, and the peasantry of
Fontainebleau, are singularly vivid. There is a subtle attraction about
the book which will make it a great favourite with thoughtful girls.

          "Another book for girls we can warmly commend.
          There is a delightful piquancy in the experiences
          and trials of a young English girl who studies
          painting in Paris."--_Saturday Review._


_MEG'S FRIEND._

          By ALICE CORKRAN. With 6 full-page Illustrations
            by ROBERT FOWLER. Crown 8vo, cloth extra, $1·25.

Meg, a child of unknown parentage, has been brought up by a woman who
abuses the trust. She is removed to a ladies' school, passes
successfully through the many troubles incident to so complete a change,
and is ultimately taken into the house of a mysterious benefactor, who
proves to be her grandfather. Her fine nature at length breaks down his
coldness and apparent aversion to her; and after long separation she
once more meets the friend of her neglected childhood.

          "Another of Miss Corkran's charming books for
          girls, narrated in that simple and picturesque
          style which marks the authoress as one of the
          first amongst writers for young people."--_The
          Spectator._


BY MARY C. ROWSELL.

       *       *       *       *       *


_THORNDYKE MANOR:_

          A Tale of Jacobite Times. By MARY C. ROWSELL. With
            6 full-page Illustrations by L. LESLIE BROOKE.
            Crown 8vo, cloth extra, $1·25.

Thorndyke Manor is an old house, near the mouth of the Thames, which is
convenient, on account of its secret vaults and situation, as the base
of operations in a Jacobite conspiracy. In consequence its owner, a
kindly, quiet, book-loving squire, who lives happily with his sister,
bright Mistress Amoril, finds himself suddenly involved by a treacherous
steward in the closest meshes of the plot. He is conveyed to the Tower,
but all difficulties are ultimately overcome, and his innocence is
triumphantly proved by his sister. The story, is an excellent
representation of English life in the earlier part of the eighteenth
century.

          "The lifelike characters and agreeable style in
          which the tale is written will charm youthful
          readers."--_Leeds Mercury._


_TRAITOR OR PATRIOT?_

          A Tale of the Rye-House Plot. By MARY C. ROWSELL.
            With 6 full-page Pictures. Crown 8vo, cloth extra,
            $1·25.

          "A romantic love episode, whose true characters
          are lifelike beings, not dry sticks as in many
          historical tales."--_Graphic._



BY CAROLINE AUSTIN.

       *       *       *       *       *


_COUSIN GEOFFREY AND I._

          By CAROLINE AUSTIN. With 6 full-page Illustrations
            by W. PARKINSON. Crown 8vo, cloth extra, $1·25.

The only daughter of a country gentleman finds herself unprovided for at
her father's death, and for some time lives as a dependant. Life is kept
from being entirely unbearable to her by her cousin Geoffrey, who at
length meets with a serious accident for which she is held responsible.
In despair she runs away, and makes a brave attempt to earn her own
livelihood, and being a splendid rider, she succeeds in doing this,
until the startling event which brings her cousin Geoffrey and herself
together again.

          "A powerfully written and realistic story of girl
          life . . . The tone of the book is pure and
          good."--_Practical Teacher._


_HUGH HERBERT'S INHERITANCE._

          By CAROLINE AUSTIN. With 6 full-page Illustrations
            by C. T. GARLAND. Crown 8vo, cloth extra, $1·25.

          "A story that teaches patience as well as courage
          in fighting the battles of life."--_Daily
          Chronicle._


_SIR WALTER'S WARD:_

          A Tale of the Crusades. By WILLIAM EVERARD. With 6
            full-page Illustrations by WALTER PAGET. Crown
            8vo, cloth extra, $1·25.

          "This book will prove a very acceptable present
          either to boys or girls. Both alike will take an
          interest in the career of Dodo, in spite of his
          unheroic name, and follow him through his exciting
          adventures."--_Academy._

          "With its gentle elevation, its large-hearted
          charity, its quiet satire of folly and baseness,
          the story is one to win the affection and charm
          the fancy not only of boys and maidens, but also
          of grown men and women."--_Brit. Weekly._


_THE SEARCH FOR THE TALISMAN:_

          A Story of Labrador. By HENRY FRITH. With 6
            full-page Illustrations by J. SCHÖNBERG. Crown
            8vo, cloth extra, $1·25.

          "Mr. Frith's volume will be among those most read
          and highest valued. The adventures among seals,
          whales, and icebergs in Labrador will delight many
          a young reader, and at the same time give him an
          opportunity to widen his knowledge of the
          Esquimaux, the heroes of many tales."--_Pall Mall
          Gazette._

          "A genial and rollicking tale. It is a regular
          boys' book, and a very cheery and wholesome
          one."--_Spectator._


_STORIES OF OLD RENOWN:_

          Tales of Knights and Heroes. By ASCOTT R. HOPE.
            With 100 Illustrations from designs by GORDON
            BROWNE. Crown 8vo, cloth extra, $1·25.

          "Mr. Ascott Hope's volume makes a really
          fascinating book, worthy of its telling title.
          There is, we venture to say, not a dull page in
          the book, not a story which will not bear a second
          reading."--_Guardian._

          "Ogier the Dane, Robert of Sicily, and other
          old-world heroes find their deeds embedded in
          beautiful type, and garnished with animated
          sketches by Gordon Browne. It is a charming
          gift-book."--_Land and Water._


_REEFER AND RIFLEMAN:_

          A Tale of the Two Services. By J. PERCY-GROVES,
            late 27th Inniskillings. With 6 full-page
            Illustrations by JOHN SCHÖNBERG. Crown 8vo,
            cloth extra, $1·25.

          "A good, old-fashioned, amphibious story of
          fighting with the Frenchmen in the beginning of
          our century, with a fair sprinkling of fun and
          frolic."--_Times._

          "The author writes with a picturesque dash which
          is fast bringing him to the front rank among the
          writers of boys' books."--_Daily News._


_WHITE LILAC:_

          A Story of Two Girls. By AMY WALTON, author of
            "Susan," "The Hawthorns," &c. With 4 full-page
            Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth extra, $1.

White Lilac proved a fortune to the relatives to whose charge she
fell--a veritable good brownie, who brought luck wherever she went. The
story of her life forms a most readable and admirable rustic idyl.


_MISS WILLOWBURN'S OFFER._

          By SARAH DOUDNEY. With 4 full-page Illustrations.
            Crown 8vo, cloth extra, $1.

          "Patience Willowburn is one of Miss Doudney's best
          creations, and is the one personality in the story
          which can be said to give it the character of a
          book not for young ladies but for
          girls."--_Spectator._


_HETTY GRAY:_

          Or Nobody's Bairn. By ROSA MULHOLLAND. With 4
            full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth extra,
            $1.

          "A charming story for young folks. Hetty is a
          delightful creature--piquant, tender, and true,
          and her varying fortunes are perfectly
          realistic."--_World._


_THE WAR OF THE AXE:_

          Or Adventures in South Africa. By J. PERCY-GROVES.
            With 4 full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth
            extra, $1.

          "The story of their final escape from the Caffres
          is a marvellous bit of writing. . . . The story is
          well and brilliantly told, and the illustrations
          are especially good and effective."--_Literary
          World._


_JACK O' LANTHORN:_

          A Tale of Adventure. By HENRY FRITH. With 4
            full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth extra,
            $1.

          "_Jack o' Lanthorn_ will hold its own with the
          best works of Mr. Henty and Mr. Manville
          Fenn."--_Morning Advertiser._

          "The narrative is crushed full of stirring
          incident, and is sure to be a prime favourite with
          our boys."--_Christian Leader._


_BROTHERS IN ARMS:_

          A Story of the Crusades. By F. BAYFORD HARRISON.
            With 4 full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth
            extra, $1.

          "Full of striking incident, is very fairly
          illustrated, and may safely be chosen as sure to
          prove interesting to young people of both
          sexes."--_Guardian._

          "One of the best accounts of the Crusades it has
          been our privilege to read. The book cannot fail
          to interest boys."--_Schoolmistress._



BOOKS OF ADVENTURE FOR BOYS.


          Beautifully Illustrated, and bound in cloth
            elegant. Price $1 per volume.

       *       *       *       *       *


STORIES OF THE SEA IN FORMER DAYS: Narratives of Wreck and Rescue.


          "Next to an original sea-tale of sustained
          interest come well-sketched collections of
          maritime peril and suffering which awaken the
          sympathies by the realism of fact. _Stories of the
          Sea_ are a very good specimen of the kind."--_The
          Times._


TALES OF CAPTIVITY AND EXILE.

          "It would be difficult to place in the hands of
          young people a book which combines interest and
          instruction in a higher degree."--_Manchester
          Courier._


FAMOUS DISCOVERIES BY SEA AND LAND.

          "Such a volume may providentially stir up some
          youths by the divine fire kindled by these 'great
          of old' to lay open other lands, and show their
          vast resources."--_Perthshire Advertiser._


STIRRING EVENTS OF HISTORY.

          "The volume will fairly hold its place among those
          which make the smaller ways of history pleasant
          and attractive. It is a gift-book in which the
          interest will not be exhausted with one
          reading."--_Guardian._


ADVENTURES IN FIELD, FLOOD, AND FOREST. Stories of Danger and Daring.

          "One of the series of books for young people which
          Messrs. Scribner excel in producing. The editor
          has beyond all question succeeded admirably. The
          present book cannot fail to be read with interest
          and advantage."--_Academy._


THE STORIES OF WASA AND MENZIKOFF: The Deliverer of Sweden and the
Favourite of Czar Peter.

          "Both are stories worth telling more than once,
          and it is a happy thought to have put them side by
          side. Plutarch himself has no more suggestive
          comparison."--_Spectator._

       *       *       *       *       *

          SCRIBNER & WELFORD,
          743 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 63, "save" changed to "say" (time to say prayers)

Page 142, word "or" added to text (for a day or)

Page 236, "calvacade" changed to "cavalcade" (their cavalcade from)

Page 319, word "a" added to text (a steamer to Europe)

Page 324, "Heillo" changed to "Hello" (Hello, Abe!)

Page 342, word "a" added to text (they had taken a)

Page 377, "Caesar" changed to "Cæsar" (difficulty in his Cæsar)

Varied hyphenation was retained in the following words:

          school-fellow       schoolfellow
          hair-breadth        hairbreadth
          no-how              nohow
          store-keepers       storekeepers
          wide-spread         widespread





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