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Title: The Copper Princess - A Story of Lake Superior Mines
Author: Munroe, Kirk, 1850-1930
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Copper Princess - A Story of Lake Superior Mines" ***

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THE COPPER PRINCESS

A Story of Lake Superior Mines

_By_ KIRK MUNROE. _Author of "The Painted Desert" "Rick Dale" The
"Mates" Series, etc._

_Illustrated by_ W. A. ROGERS


[Illustration: Logo]


  NEW YORK AND LONDON
  HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
  1898


[Illustration:

Page 105

ON THE FACE OF THE CLIFF STOOD A GIRLISH FIGURE]


BY KIRK MUNROE.

  THE PAINTED DESERT. A Story of Northern Arizona.
  RICK DALE. A Story of the Northwest Coast.
  SNOW-SHOES AND SLEDGES. A Sequel to "The Fur-Seal's Tooth."
  THE FUR-SEAL'S TOOTH. A Story of Alaskan Adventure.
  RAFTMATES. A Story of the Great River.
  CANOEMATES. A Story of the Florida Reef and Everglades.
  CAMPMATES. A Story of the Plains.
  DORYMATES. A Tale of the Fishing Banks.

_Each one volume. Illustrated. Post 8vo, Cloth, $1 25._

_The "Mates" Series, 4 vols., in a box, $5 00._


  WAKULLA. A Story of Adventure in Florida.
  THE FLAMINGO FEATHER.
  DERRICK STERLING. A Story of the Mines.
  CHRYSTAL, JACK & CO., and DELTA BIXBY. Two Stories.

_Each one volume. Illustrated. Square 16mo, Cloth, $1 00._


  NEW YORK AND LONDON:
  HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS.


Copyright, 1898, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

_All rights reserved._



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE

  I. STARTLING INTRODUCTION OF TOM TREFETHEN                           1

  II. PEVERIL TIES "BLACKY'S" RECORD                                   9

  III. A 'VARSITY STROKE STRIKES ADVERSE FORTUNE                      17

  IV. STARTING IN SEARCH OF THE COPPER PRINCESS                       25

  V. THE TREFETHENS                                                   32

  VI. A MILE BENEATH THE SURFACE                                      40

  VII. CORNWALL TO THE RESCUE                                         48

  VIII. IN THE NEW SHAFT                                              56

  IX. WINNING A FRIEND BY SHEER PLUCK                                 65

  X. HEROISM REWARDED                                                 73

  XI. NELLY TREFETHEN FINDS A LETTER                                  81

  XII. A VISION OF THE CLIFFS                                         89

  XIII. LOG-WRECKERS AND SMUGGLERS                                    95

  XIV. A VAIN EFFORT TO RECOVER STOLEN PROPERTY                      102

  XV. PEVERIL IN THE HANDS OF HIS ENEMIES                            110

  XVI. LOST IN A PREHISTORIC MINE                                    118

  XVII. UNDERGROUND WANDERINGS                                       125

  XVIII. FROM ONE TRAP INTO ANOTHER                                  133

  XIX. "DARRELL'S FOLLY" AND ITS OWNER                               141

  XX. PEVERIL IS TAKEN FOR A GHOST                                   148

  XXI. MIKE CONNELL TO THE RESCUE                                    156

  XXII. THE SIGNAL IS CHANGED                                        164

  XXIII. A BATTLE WITH SMUGGLERS                                     172

  XXIV. CONNELL MAKES GOOD HIS ESCAPE                                180

  XXV. A SEA FIGHT ON LAKE SUPERIOR                                  188

  XXVI. FIRST NEWS OF THE COPPER PRINCESS                            196

  XXVII. A NIGHT WITH A MADMAN                                       205

  XXVIII. LEFT IN SOLE POSSESSION                                    213

  XXIX. A ROYAL NAME FOR A ROYAL MINE                                221

  XXX. PEVERIL ACQUIRES AN UNSHARED INTEREST                         230


ILLUSTRATIONS


  ON THE FACE OF THE CLIFF STOOD A GIRLISH FIGURE         _Frontispiece_

  "IN BREATHLESS SILENCE THE GROUP WATCHED PEVERIL'S
    MOVEMENTS"                                            _Facing p._ 12

  PEVERIL GOES TO WORK                                       "        36

  THE CAR-PUSHERS MADE A FURIOUS ATTACK ON PEVERIL           "        46

  PEVERIL LEAPED DOWN AMONG THE SPUTTERING FUSES             "        66

  THE MEN HASTILY THREW PEVERIL HEAD-FIRST INTO
    THE BUSHES                                               "       106

  PEVERIL SAT BESIDE THE FIRE IN FORLORN MEDITATION          "       130

  AT SEEING PEVERIL, THE MEN UTTERED A CRY OF TERROR         "       152

  A WILD-LOOKING MAN LEVELLED A PISTOL AT PEVERIL            "       174

  THE TWO MEN STOOD AND LISTENED                             "       194

  RESCUED FROM THE SHAFT                                     "       200

  PEVERIL FINDS MARY AGAIN                                   "       234



THE COPPER PRINCESS



CHAPTER I

STARTLING INTRODUCTION OF TOM TREFETHEN


"Look out, there!"

"My God, he is under the wheels!"

The narrow-gauge train for Red Jacket had just started from the
Hancock station, and was gathering quick headway for its first steep
grade, when a youth ran from the waiting-room and attempted to leap
aboard the "smoker." Missing the step, he fell between two cars,
though still clutching a hand-rail of the one he had attempted to
board.

With cries of horror, several of those who witnessed the incident from
the station platform averted their faces, unwilling to view the
ghastly tragedy that they believed must occur in another instant.

At sound of their cries, a neatly dressed young fellow,
broad-shouldered and of splendid physique, who was in the act of
mounting the car-steps, turned, and instantly comprehended the
situation. Without a moment of hesitation he dropped the bag he was
carrying and flung his body over the guard-rail, catching at its
supporting stanchions with his knees. In this position, with his arms
stretched to their utmost, he managed to grasp the coat-collar of the
unfortunate youth who was being dragged to his death. In another
moment he had, by a supreme effort, lifted the latter bodily to the
platform.

Those who witnessed this superb exhibition of promptly applied
strength from the station platform gave a cheer as the train swept by,
but their voices were drowned in its clatter, and the two actors in
their thrilling drama were unaware that it had been noticed. The
rescued youth sat limp and motionless on the swaying platform where he
had been placed, dazed by the suddenness and intensity of his recent
terror; while the other leaned against the guard-rail, recovering from
his tremendous effort. After a few minutes of quick breathing he
pulled himself together and helped his companion into the car, where
they found a vacant seat.

A few of the passengers noted the entrance of two young men, one of
whom seemed to be in need of the other's assistance, and glanced at
them with meaning smiles. There had been races at Hancock that day,
and they evidently believed that these two had attended them. No one
spoke to them, however, and it quickly became apparent that the
supremest moment in the life of one of the two, which would also have
been his last on earth but for the other, had passed unnoticed by any
of the scores of human beings in closest proximity to them at the
time.

It was hard to realize this, and for a few minutes the young men sat
in silence, dreading but expecting to be overwhelmed with a clamor of
questions. It was a relief to find that they were to be unmolested,
and when the conductor had passed on after punching their tickets, the
one who had rescued the other turned to him with a smile, saying:

"No one knows anything about it, for which let us be grateful."

"You can bet I'm grateful, Mister, in more ways than one," answered
the other, his eyes filling with the tears of a deep emotion as he
spoke. "I won't forget in a hurry that you've saved my life, and from
this time on, if ever you can make any use of so poor a chap as me,
I'm your man. My name's Tom Trefethen, and I live in Red Jacket, where
I run a compressor for No. 3 shaft of the White Pine Mine. That's all
there is to me, for I 'ain't never done anything else, don't know
anything else, and expect I'm no good _for_ anything else. So, you
see, I hain't got much to offer in exchange for what you've just give
me; same time, I'm your friend all right, from this minute, and I
wouldn't do a thing for you only just what you say; but that goes,
every time."

"That's all right, Tom, and don't you worry about trying to make any
return for the service I have been able to render you. I won't call it
a slight service, because to do so would be to undervalue the life I
was permitted to save. Besides, you have already repaid me by giving
me a friend, which was the thing of which I stood in greatest need,
and had almost despaired of gaining."

"Why, Mister--"

"Peveril," interrupted the other. "Richard Peveril is my name, though
the friends I used to have generally called me 'Dick Peril."'

"Used to have, Mr. Peril? Do you mean by that that you hain't got any
friends now?"

"I mean that five minutes ago it did not seem as though I had a friend
in the world; but now I have one, who, I hope, will prove a very
valuable one as well, and his name is Tom Trefethen."

"It's good of you to say so, Mr. Peril, though how a poor, ignorant
chap like me can prove a valuable friend to a swell like you is more
than I can make out."

At this the other smiled. "I don't know just what you mean by a
swell," he said. "But I suppose you mean a gentleman of wealth and
leisure. If so, I certainly am no more of a swell than you, nor so
much, for I have just expended my last dollar for this railroad
ticket, and have no idea where I shall get another. In fact, I do not
know where I shall obtain a supper or find a sleeping-place for
to-night, and think it extremely probable that I shall go without
either. I hope very much, though, to find a job of work to-morrow that
will provide me with both food and shelter for the immediate future."

"Work! Are you looking for work?" asked Tom, gazing at Peveril's natty
travelling-suit, and speaking with a tone of incredulity.

"That is what I have come to this country to look for," was the
smiling answer. "I came here because I was told that this was the one
section of the United States unaffected by hard times, and because I
had a letter of introduction to a gentleman in Hancock whom I thought
would assist me in getting a position. To my great disappointment, he
had left town, to be gone for several months, and, as I could not
afford to await his return, I applied for work at the Quincy and other
mines, only to be refused."

"Is it work in the mines you are looking for?" asked Tom Trefethen,
evidently doubting if he had heard aright.

"Yes, that or any other by which I can make an honest living."

"Well, sir, I wouldn't have believed it if any one but yourself had
told me."

"But you must believe it, for it is true, and I am now on my way to
Red Jacket because I have been told there is more work to be had there
than at any other place in the whole copper region, or in the State,
for that matter."

"And more people to do it, too," muttered Tom Trefethen, as he sank
into a brown-study.

By this time the train had climbed from the muddy level of Portage
Lake, which with its recently cut ship-canals bisects Keweenaw Point,
making of its upper end an island, and was speeding northward over a
rough upland. Its way led through a naked country of rocks and
low-growing scrub, for the primitive growth of timber had been
stripped for use in the mines. Every now and then it passed tall
shaft-houses and chimneys, belching forth thick volumes of smoke,
which, with their clustering villages, marked the sites of
copper-mines. Finally, as darkness began to shroud the uninteresting
landscape, the train entered the environs of a wide-spread and
populous community, where huge mine buildings reared themselves from
surrounding acres of the small but comfortable dwellings of
North-country miners. Everywhere shone electric lights, and everywhere
was a swarming population.

Peveril gazed from his car window in astonishment. "What place is
this?" he asked.

"Red Jacket," answered his companion. "That is, it is Red Jacket, Blue
Jacket, Yellow Jacket, Stone Pipe, Osceola, White Pine, and several
other mining villages bunched together and holding in all about
twenty-five thousand people."

"Whew! and I expected to find a place of not over one thousand
inhabitants."

"You don't know much about the copper country, that's a fact," said
Tom Trefethen, with the slight air of superiority that residents of a
place are so apt to assume towards strangers. "Why, a single company
here employs as many as three thousand men."

"I am willing to admit my ignorance," rejoined Peveril, "but I am also
very anxious to learn things, and hope in course of time to rank as a
first-class miner. Therefore, any information you can give me will be
gratefully received. To begin with, I wish you would tell me the name
of some hotel where my grip will serve as security for a few days'
board and lodging."

"A hotel, Mr. Peril! You can't be feeling so very poor if you are
thinking of going to a hotel. Or perhaps you don't know how expensive
our Red Jacket hotels are. You see, there is always such a rush of
business here that prices are way up. Why, they don't think anything
of charging two dollars a day; and they get it, too--don't give you
anything extra in the way of grub, either. I can do lots better than
that for you, though. There's a-plenty of boarding-houses here that'll
fix you up in great shape for five a week. You just wait here at the
station a few minutes while I go and look up one that I know of."

Without waiting for a reply Tom Trefethen hurried from the train,
which was just coming to a stop at the bustling Red Jacket station,
and disappeared in the crowd of spectators who had gathered to witness
its arrival. Peveril followed more slowly, and, depositing the
handsome dress-suit case that he had learned to call a "grip" in a
vacant corner of the platform, prepared to await the return of his
only acquaintance in all that community, "or in the whole State of
Michigan, so far as I know," reflected the young man.

"As for friends, I wonder if I have any anywhere. This Tom Trefethen
claims to have a friendly feeling towards me, and, if he comes back, I
will try to believe in him. It is more than likely though that his
leaving me here is only a way of escaping an irksome obligation, and I
shouldn't be one bit surprised never to see him again. It seems to be
the way of the world, that if you place a fellow under an obligation
he begins to dislike you from that moment. My! if all the fellows
whom I have helped would only pay what they owe me, how well fixed I
should be at this minute. I could even put up with a clear conscience
at one of Tom Trefethen's two-dollar-a-day hotels. What an
unsophisticated chap he is, anyway. Wonder what he would say to the
Waldorf charges? And yet only a short time ago I thought them very
moderate. It's a queer old world, and a fellow has to see all sides of
it before he can form an idea of what it is really like. I must
confess, however, that I am not particularly enjoying my present point
of view. Must be because I am so infernally hungry. Odd sensation, and
so decidedly unpleasant that if my friend with the Cornish name
doesn't return inside of two minutes more I shall abandon our tryst
and set forth in search of a supper."

At this point in his dismal reflections Peveril became aware of a
short, solidly built man, having a grizzled beard, and wearing a rough
suit of ill-fitting clothing, who was standing squarely before him and
regarding him intently. As their eyes met, the new-comer asked,
abruptly:

"Be thy name Richard, lad?"

"Yes."

"What's t'other part of it?"

"Peveril. And may I inquire why you ask?"

"Because, lad, in all t'world thee has not a truer friend, nor one
more ready to serve thee, than old Mark Trefethen. So come along of
me, and gi' me a chance to prove my words."



CHAPTER II

PEVERIL TIES "BLACKY'S" RECORD


"Are you the father of Tom Trefethen?" asked Peveril of the man who
had so abruptly introduced himself.

"Certain I be, lad, feyther to the young fool who, but for thee, would
never have come home to us no more. His mother was that upset by
thought of his danger that she couldn't let him leave her, and so bade
me come to fetch you mysel'. Not that I needed a bidding, for I'm
doubly proud of a chance to serve the man who's gied us back our Tom.
So come along, lad, to where there's a hearty welcome waiting,
togither with a bite and a bed."

"But, Mr. Trefethen, I can't allow you to--"

"Man, you must allow me, for I'm no in the habit o' being crossed.
Besides, I'd never dare go back to mother without you. This thy grip?"

With this the brawny miner swung Peveril's bag to his shoulder, and
started briskly down the station platform, followed closely by the
young man, who but a moment before had believed himself to be without
a friend.

They had not gone more than a block from the station, and Peveril was
wondering at the crowds of comfortable-looking folk who thronged the
wooden sidewalks, as well as at the rows of brilliantly lighted shops,
when his guide turned abruptly into the door of a saloon.

Following curiously, the young man also entered, and, passing behind a
latticed screen, found himself in a long room having a sanded floor,
and furnished with a glittering bar, tables, chairs, and several
queer-looking machines, the nature of which he did not understand.
Several men were leaning against the counter of the bar; but without
noticing them other than by a general nod of recognition, Mark
Trefethen walked to the far end of the room, where he deposited
Peveril's bag on the floor beside one of the machines already
mentioned.

It was a narrow, upright frame, placed close to the wall, and holding
a stout wooden panel. In the centre of this, at the height of a man's
chest, was a stuffed leathern pad, on which was painted a grotesque
face, evidently intended for that of a negro, and above it was a dial
bearing numbers that ranged from 1 to 300. The single pointer on this
dial indicated the number 173, a figure at which Mark Trefethen
sniffed contemptuously.

"Let's see thee take a lick at 'Blacky,' lad, just for luck," he said.

Although he had never before seen or even heard of such a machine as
now confronted him, Peveril was sufficiently quick-witted to realize
that his companion desired him to strike a blow with his fist at the
grinning face painted on the leathern pad, and he did so without
hesitation. At the same time, as he had no idea of what resistance he
should encounter, he struck out rather gingerly, and the dial-pointer
sprang back to 156.

Mark Trefethen looked at once incredulous and disappointed. "Surely
that's not thy best lick, lad," he said, in an aggrieved tone; "why,
old as I am, I could better it mysel'." Thus saying, the miner drew
back a fist like a sledge-hammer, and let drive a blow at "Blacky"
that sent the pointer up to 180.

"Now, lad, try again," he remarked, with a self-satisfied air; "and
remember, what I should have telled thee afore, that the man who lets
pointer slip back owes beer to the crowd."

Wondering how he should cancel the indebtedness thus innocently
incurred, and also at the strangeness of such proceedings on the part
of one who had just invited him to a much-longed-for supper, Peveril
again stepped up and delivered a nervous blow against the unresisting
leathern pad, driving the pointer to 184.

The miner's shout of "Well done, lad! That's spunky," attracted the
idlers at the bar and brought them to the scene of contest. They
arrived just in time to see Trefethen deliver his second blow, the
force of which drove the sensitive needle six points farther on, or
until it registered 190.

With a flush of pride on his strongly marked face, the old Cornishman
exclaimed, "There's a mark for thee lad, but doan't 'ee strike 'less
thee can better it, for I'd like it to stand for a while."

Peveril only smiled in answer, and, taking a quick forward step,
planted so vigorous a blow upon the painted leather that the pointer
gained a single interval. So small were the spaces that at first it
was thought not to have moved; but when a closer examination showed it
to indicate 191, a murmur of approbation went up from the spectators.
Mark Trefethen said not a word, but, throwing off his coat and baring
his corded arm for a mighty effort, he again took place before the
machine. Carefully measuring his distance, he drew back and delivered
a blow into which he threw the whole weight of his body. As though
galvanized into action, the needle leaped up four points and
registered 195.

"A record! A record!" shouted the spectators, while the miner turned a
face beaming with triumph towards his athletic young antagonist. On
many an occasion had he played at solitaire fisticuffs with that
leathern dummy, but never before had he struck it such a mighty blow,
and now he did not believe that another in all Red Jacket could equal
the feat he had just performed.

"Lat it stand, lad! Lat it stand!" he said, good-humoredly, but in a
tone unmistakably patronizing. "You've done enough to take front rank,
for not more than three men in all the Jackets have ever beat your
figure. Besides, the beer is on the house now for a record, but 'twill
be on any man who lowers yon--so best lat well enough alone."

[Illustration: "IN BREATHLESS SILENCE THE GROUP WATCHED PEVERIL'S
MOVEMENTS"]

This advice was tendered in all sincerity, and was doubtless very
good, but Peveril was now too deeply interested in the novel contest
to accept defeat without a further effort. Besides, the stroke-oar of
a winning crew in the great Oxford-Cambridge boat-race, which is what
Dick Peveril had been only two months earlier, was not accustomed to
be beaten in athletic games.

So he, too, threw off his coat and bared the glorious right arm that
had at once been the pride of his college and the envy of every other
in the 'varsity. In breathless silence the little group of spectators
watched his movements, and when, with sharply exhaled breath, he
planted a crashing "facer" straight from the shoulder squarely upon
the leathern disk they sprang eagerly forward to note the result. For
an instant they gazed at each other blankly, for the needle, though
trembling violently, remained fixedly pointing at the figure 195.

Then they realized what had happened. Mark Trefethen's score had been
neither raised nor lowered, but had been duplicated. A double record
had been established, and that in a single contest. Such a thing had
never before happened in Red Jacket, where trials of strength and
skill similar to the one they had just witnessed were of frequent
occurrence. As the amazing truth broke upon them, they raised a great
shout of applause, and every man present pressed eagerly about the two
champions with cordially extended hands.

But Peveril and the old miner were already shaking hands with each
other, for Mark Trefethen had been the first to appreciate the result
of his opponent's blow, and had whirled around from his examination
of the dial to seize the young man's hand in both of his.

"Now I believe it, lad!" he cried. "Now I believe the story boy Tom
telled this night. I couldn't make it seem possible that you had
lifted him as he said, and so I wanted proof. Now I'm got it, and now
I know you for best man that's come to mines for many a year. Pray
God, lad, that you and me'll never have a quarrel to settle wi' bare
fists, for I'm free to say I'd rayther meet any ither two men in the
Jackets than the one behind the fist that struck yon blow."

"You will never meet him in a quarrel if I can help it, Mr.
Trefethen," replied Peveril, flushing with gratified pride, "for I
can't imagine anything that would throw me into a greater funk than to
face as an enemy the man who established the existing record on that
machine. But, now, don't you think we might adjourn to the supper of
which you spoke awhile since? I was never quite so famished in my
life, and am nearly ready to drop with the exhaustion of hunger."

"Oh, Jimmy!" groaned one of the listening spectators. "If 'e done wot
'e did hon a hempty stummick, hit's 'eaven 'elp the man or the machine
'e 'its when 'e's full."

"Step up for your beers, gentlemen," cried the bartender at this
moment. "The house owes two rounds for the double record, and is proud
to pay a debt so handsomely thrust upon it."

This invitation was promptly accepted by the spectators of the recent
contest, all of whom immediately lined up at the bar. Mark Trefethen
stood with them, and when he noticed that Peveril held back, he called
out, heartily, "Step up, lad, and doan't be bashful. We're waiting to
take a mug wi' thee."

"I thank you all," rejoined Peveril, politely, "but I believe I don't
care to drink anything just now."

"What! Not teetotal?"

"Not wholly," replied the other, with a laugh, "but I long ago made it
a rule not to take liquor in any form on an empty stomach."

"Oh, it won't hurt you. And this time needn't count, anyway," said one
of the men, whose features proclaimed him to be of Irish birth.

"I think it would hurt me," replied Peveril, "and if my rule could be
broken at this time, of course it could at any other. So I believe I
won't drink anything, thank you."

"You mane you're a snob, and don't care to associate with
working-men," retorted the other.

"I mean nothing of the kind, but exactly what I said, that I don't
propose to injure my health to gratify you or any other man. As for
associating with working-men, I am a working-man myself, and have come
to this place with the hope of finding a job in one of the mines. If I
hadn't wanted to associate with working-men I shouldn't be here at
this minute."

"Well, you can't associate with them in one thing if not in all, Mr.
Workingman," rejoined the Irishman, sneeringly, "and so, if you won't
drink with us, you can't become one of us."

"That's right," murmured several voices.

"Moreover," continued the speaker, "you don't look, talk, or act like
a working-man, and I'm willing to bet the price of these beers that
you never earned a dollar by honest labor in your life."

"If I didn't, that's no reason why I shouldn't."

"But did you?"

"No, I never did."

"I knew it from the first," exclaimed the other, triumphantly, "you're
nothing but a d--d--"

"Shut up, Mike Connell! don't ye dare say it!" shouted Mark Trefethen,
shaking a knotted fist in close proximity to the Irishman's face. "How
dare you insult the friend I've brought to this place? Lad's right
about the liquor, too, and damned if I'll drink a drop of it mysel'.
Same time, working-man or no, he's worth any two of you wi' his fists,
and, I'll bate, has more brains than the rest of us put together. So
keep a civil tongue in your head in the presence of your betters, Mike
Connell. Come, lad, time we were getting home. Mother 'll be fretting
for us."

Thus saying, the sturdy miner laid his toil-hardened hand on Peveril's
shoulder and led him from the place.



CHAPTER III

A 'VARSITY STROKE STRIKES ADVERSE FORTUNE


Richard Peveril, student at Christ Church, was not only one of the
most popular men in his own college, but, as stroke of the 'varsity
eight, was becoming one of the best known of Oxford undergraduates
when the blow was struck that compelled him to leave England and
return to the land of his birth without even waiting to try for his
degree. He had been an orphan from early boyhood, and, under the
nominal care of a guardian who saw as little of his charge as
possible, had passed most of his time in American boarding-schools,
until sent abroad to finish his education. While his guardian had
never been unkind to him, he had not tried to understand the boy or to
win his affection, but had placed him at the best schools, supplied
him liberally with pocket-money, and then let him alone.

Although the lad had thus been denied the softening influence of a
home, the tender care of a mother, and a father's counsel, his
school-life had trained him to self-reliance, prompt obedience to
lawful authority, a strict sense of honor, and to a physical condition
so perfect that in all his life he had never known a day's sickness.
Having always had plenty of money, he had never learned its value,
though in his school-days his allowance had been limited by the same
wise rules that also checked undue extravagance. Thus, while brought
up to live and spend money like a gentleman, he had not been permitted
to acquire vicious habits.

Even at college his allowance had always been in excess of his needs,
and so, though ever ready to help a friend in trouble, he had never
run into debt on his own account.

Another influence for good was the lad's inherited love for all
out-of-door sports, and he could not remember the time when he was not
in training for a team, a crew, or an athletic event of some kind.
Thus the keeping of regular hours, together with a studied temperance
in both eating and drinking, had been grafted into his very nature.

Life had thus been made very pleasant for our hero, and, believing
himself to be heir to a fortune, he had never been disturbed by
anxieties concerning the future. Of course, while he had hosts of
acquaintances, most of whom called themselves his friends, he was well
aware that some of them were envious of his position and would rejoice
at his downfall, should such an event ever take place. It was partly
this knowledge, partly his own sense of absolute security in life, and
partly a habit acquired during a long career of leadership among his
school companions that rendered him brusque with those for whom he did
not particularly care and contemptuous to the verge of rudeness
towards such persons as he disliked. Thus it will be seen that our
young man possessed a facility for the making of enemies as well as
friends.

Of his secret enemies the most bitter was a fellow-student, also an
American, named Owen, who, possessed of barely means enough to carry
him through college, and with no prospects, had, by relinquishing
everything else, taken much the same stand in scholarship that Peveril
had in athletics. As a consequence, each was envious of the other, for
the stroke of the 'varsity eight was so little of a student that he
had never more than barely scraped through with an examination in his
life, and was always overwhelmed with conditions. This jealousy would
not, however, have led to enmity without a further cause, which had
been furnished within a year.

Owen had crossed on a steamer with Mrs. Maturin Bonnifay, of New York,
and her only daughter, Rose. They did London together, and never had
the young American found that smoke-begrimed city so delightful. At
his solicitation the Bonnifays consented to visit Oxford, and
permitted him to act as their escort. In contemplating the pleasure of
such a visit, Owen had lost sight of its dangers; but, alas for his
happiness! they became only too quickly apparent.

The ladies must be taken to the river, of course, and there the one
thing above all others to see was the 'varsity eight at practice. Of
the entire crew none attracted such instant attention as the
stroke-oar, and when they learned that he was an American their
interest in him was doubled.

Of course he and Mr. Owen, being compatriots in a strange land, and
both having done so splendidly at the dear old university, must be
friends.

Oh, certainly.

Then wouldn't Mr. Owen present his friend? It was always so pleasant
to meet the right kind of Americans when abroad. "Why! There he comes
now! I am sure that must be he; isn't it, Mr. Owen? Though one does
look so different in a boat and out of it."

It was indeed Peveril, who had purposely sauntered in that direction
for a closer view of the pretty girl whom "Dig" Owen, of all men, had
picked up; and, in another minute, Owen, with an extremely bad grace,
had introduced him.

From that moment, as is always the case when athletes and scholars
compete for feminine favor, the scholar was almost ignored, while his
muscular rival was petted to a degree that Owen declared simply
scandalous. Although the latter was still allowed to act as
second-best escort to the ladies, and form a fourth in their various
excursions, it was always Peveril who walked, sat, strolled, and
talked with Miss Rose, while Owen was monopolized by her mother.

The Bonnifays had only intended to spend a day or two in Oxford, but
the place proved so charmingly attractive that they remained a month,
and when they finally took their departure for the Continent Miss Rose
wore a superb diamond ring on the third finger of her left hand, that
had very recently been placed there by Peveril.

Before they separated it had been arranged that he and they should
travel through Norway together during the following summer. Owen had
also been invited to join the party, but had declined on the ground
that immediately upon taking his degree he would be obliged to return
to America.

So that winter the scholar, filled with envy and bitterness, ground
away gloomily but persistently at his books; while the athlete,
radiant with happiness, steadily cheerful and good-natured, labored
with his crew. Finally, he stroked them to a win on the Thames, and
then, at the height of his glory, began to consider his chances for a
degree. At this moment the blow was struck, and it came in the shape
of a cablegram from a New York law firm.

     "Return at earliest convenience. Carson dead. Affairs badly
     involved."

Boise Carson was the guardian whom Peveril had so seldom seen, but who
had always controlled his affairs and provided so liberally for all
his wants. Upon coming of age, a few months before, Peveril had sent
over a power of attorney, and his ex-guardian had continued to act for
him as before. They were to have had a settlement when the young man
took his degree, for which purpose he had planned to run over to New
York, spend a few days there, and return in time for his Norway trip
with the Bonnifays. In the autumn he and they would sail for New York
together, and the wedding would take place as soon thereafter as was
practicable.

Now this wretched cablegram promised to upset everything, and he must
look forward to spending the summer in trying to disentangle an
involved business, instead of spending it with the girl of his heart.
Perhaps, though, "badly involved" did not mean so _very_ badly, and
possibly he might get through with the hated business in time for the
Norway trip after all, if he only set to work at once. Of course that
would necessitate the giving up of his degree, but what difference did
that make? Other things were of infinitely more importance.

So Peveril bade farewell to Oxford, wrote a long letter, full of love
and hopeful promises, to Rose Bonnifay, at Rome, sent her a reassuring
telegram from Southampton, and sailed for New York. Having been so
long absent, he found very few friends in that city, and it seemed to
him that some even of those few greeted him with a constraint
bordering on coldness.

As Boise Carson, who had lived and died a bachelor, had roomed at the
Waldorf, Peveril also established himself in that palatial
caravansary, and was then ready to plunge into the business that had
brought him to America.

His first shock came from the lawyer who had summoned him, and who at
once told him that he feared everything was lost.

"I don't exactly understand what you mean," said Peveril.

"In plain terms, then, I am afraid that your late guardian not only
squandered his own fortune in unwise speculation, but yours as well.
Perhaps this note, left for you, will explain the situation."

Thus saying, the lawyer handed Peveril a sealed envelope addressed to
him in the well-known handwriting of Boise Carson. Tearing it open,
the young man read as follows:

     "MY DEAR RICHARD:

     "Having lost everything, including your fortune and my own
     honor, I have no longer an object in living. I therefore
     conclude that it will be best to efface myself as speedily as
     possible. I have made a will, leaving you my sole heir and
     executor. You are welcome to whatever you can save from the
     wreck. All papers belonging to your father and left in my
     charge will be handed you by Mr. Ketchum. Good-bye.

     "Yours, for the last time,

     "BOISE CARSON."


"He didn't commit suicide?" exclaimed Peveril, incredulously.

"It is to be feared that he did," replied the lawyer, "and the state
of his affairs bears out the supposition."

After this Peveril spent a month in New York, trying to recover
something from the wreck of his fortune. At the end of that time he
found himself with less than one hundred dollars over and above his
obligations. Realizing at length that he must for the future depend
entirely upon his own efforts, he made several applications for vacant
positions in the city, only to find in every case that they were also
sought by men more competent to fill them than he.

One day, when, for want of something better to do, he was
mechanically looking over a package of old papers that had belonged to
his father, he came across a contract of partnership between his
parent and a certain Ralph Darrell. It was for the opening and
development of a mine, to be known as the "Copper Princess," and
located in the upper peninsula of Michigan. By the terms of the
contract the partnership was to exist for twenty years, and, if either
party died during that time, his heir or heirs were to accept the
liabilities and receive all benefits accruing to an original partner.
It was, however, provided that the claims of such heirs must be made
before expiration of the contract, otherwise the entire property would
fall into possession of the longest-surviving partner or his heirs.
The document bore a date nineteen years old.

"Well," said Peveril, reflectively, as he finished reading this paper,
"although everything else is lost, it would seem that as my father's
sole heir I am still half-owner in a copper mine. I wonder if it is
worth looking up?"



CHAPTER IV

STARTING IN SEARCH OF THE COPPER PRINCESS


Viewed through the sanguine eyes of youth, the possession of a
half-interest in a copper mine seemed to offer a ready solution of
Peveril's recent difficulties. He vaguely recalled stories of great
fortunes made in copper, and speculated concerning the market value of
his newly discovered property. "There must be plenty of people ready
to buy such things, if they are only offered cheaply enough," he said
to himself; "and Heaven knows I wouldn't hold out for any fancy price.
Ten thousand dollars, or even five, would be sufficient for the Norway
trip, and after that something would be certain to turn up."

Of all his trials none had seemed so hard to bear as the giving up of
that journey to Norway, and now it might be accomplished, after all.
He had written several letters to Rose since reaching New York, and at
first they had been filled with hopes of a speedy reunion. Then, as he
began to realize the condition of his fortunes, they became less
frequent and less hopeful, until for some weeks, not knowing what to
write, he had not written at all.

Now filled with a new courage, he wrote a long and cheerful letter,
in which he stated a belief that his business troubles were so nearly
ended that he would speedily be able to join his friends in Norway.
This letter, finished and mailed, the young mine-owner visited his
lawyer, to inform him of his discovery and learn its probable value.

Mr. Ketchum smiled grimly as he glanced at the contract on which
Peveril was building such high hopes, and then, handing it back, said,
pityingly:

"My dear boy, I hate to dash your hopes, but I doubt if this thing is
worth anything more than the paper on which it is written. Boise
Carson brought it to us years ago, and we looked into it at that time.
We discovered that a property located somewhere in Northern Michigan,
and supposed to be rich in copper, had been purchased at a stiff price
by your father and this Ralph Darrell, who was a banker in one of the
New England cities--Boston, I believe. They christened it the 'Copper
Princess,' invested nearly a million dollars in a complete
mining-plant, and sank a shaft into barren rock. Not one cent did the
mine ever yield, and the deeper they went the poorer became their
prospects. Finally, Darrell, completely ruined financially, became
crazed by his troubles and disappeared; nor has he ever been heard
from since. Your father, having put half of his fortune into the
venture, brooded over its loss until his death, which, I am convinced,
was largely caused by the failure of the Copper Princess."

"What became of the property after that?" asked Peveril, who had
listened with a sinking heart to this recital.

"I believe it stands to-day, as it was abandoned years ago, one of the
many monuments of ruined hopes in that country of squandered
fortunes."

"But there is copper in that region, is there not?"

"Certainly there is, and in fabulous quantity, but apparently not in
the immediate vicinity of the Copper Princess."

"Did you visit the place yourself?"

"No. We conducted our inquiries through a mine-owner of Hancock, which
was at that time the nearest town of importance to the property."

"Does your correspondent still live there?"

"I believe so. At any rate, he did within a year."

"Will you give me a note of introduction to him, and also a paper of
identification, by which I may substantiate my claim to a
half-ownership in the Copper Princess?"

"Certainly I will; but may I ask how you propose to use such
documents? You surely do not intend to visit the property with the
hope that anything can be realized from it?"

"I don't think I have much hope of any kind just now," replied
Peveril, bitterly. "But I suppose there is as much work to be done in
the copper country as anywhere else, while my chances of obtaining
employment there will at least be as good as they are here. Besides,
it will be a sort of satisfaction to gaze upon the only existing
evidence that there ever was a fortune in the family. You said that
buildings of some sort had been erected on the property, did you not?"

"Yes, according to my recollection there was quite a village of
miners' houses, besides all the other necessary structures."

"Then I may at least discover a roof under which I can dwell, rent
free, while the sensation of finding myself lord of a manor will be
decidedly novel."

Having thus decided upon a course of action, our young mine-owner lost
no time in carrying out his newly formed plans. That very afternoon he
purchased a ticket for Buffalo, from which point he proposed to
economize his slender resources by taking a lake steamer to his point
of destination. His last duty before leaving New York, and the one
from which he shrank most, was the writing of a second letter to Rose,
telling her that the trip to Norway was no longer a possibility, so
far as he was concerned. He wrote:

     "I am suddenly confronted with the necessity of taking rather a
     long Western journey, to investigate the condition of a mine in
     which I own a half-interest. I hate to go, because every mile
     will lengthen the distance between us, and am more bitterly
     disappointed than I can express at being compelled to give up
     our Norwegian trip. But my call to the West is imperative, and
     must be obeyed. So, dear, let us bear our disappointment as
     best we can, for I hope it is one to you as well as to me, and
     look forward to a joyful reunion in this city next autumn."

The epistle, of which the above is but a fragment, not only caused
Miss Bonnifay to utter an impatient exclamation as she read it, but
also led to complications.

Feeling that, with Peveril safely across the Atlantic, there might be
some hope for him, Owen had reconsidered his determination not to go
to Norway, and had written from Oxford, offering to escort the ladies
on that trip. His letter reached them in company with that from
Peveril announcing that he too would shortly be with them. Thereupon
Mrs. Bonnifay replied to Owen that, while they should be delighted to
have him join their party, he must not inconvenience himself to do so,
as Mr. Peveril's business was in such shape that he would be able to
carry out his original intention of accompanying them.

Then came Peveril's second letter, stating that he could not leave
America, after all, and the elder lady hurriedly penned the following
note:

     "MY DEAR MR. OWEN:

     "We are so glad that you can accompany us to Norway, the more
     so that Mr. Peveril will, after all, be prevented from so
     doing. He has just written that business of the utmost
     importance, connected with an immensely valuable mine that he
     owns somewhere in the West, will prevent his leaving America
     this summer. Of course he is in despair, and all that, while we
     are awfully sorry for him, but we shall not allow our grief to
     interfere in the least with the pleasure we are anticipating
     from a trip to Norway under your escort. Hoping, then, to see
     you here very soon,

     "I remain," etc., etc.

Quickly as this letter followed its immediate predecessor, it arrived
too late to accomplish its purpose; for, on the very day that he
received it, Owen had cabled his acceptance of a position offered him
in the United States and procured his ticket for New York.

"Was ever a man so cursed by fate!" he cried, as he finished reading
Mrs. Bonnifay's note; "or, rather, by the stupidity of a blundering
idiot! I don't believe Dick Peveril cares a rap for the girl; if he
did, he would not desert her on any such flimsy pretext. The idea of
his having business with a mine! He never did have any business, and
never will. How I hate the fellow!"

With this, Mr. Owen composed a letter to Mrs. Bonnifay, in which his
regrets at the miscarriage of their plans were skilfully interwoven
with insinuations that possibly Peveril had found America to hold even
greater attractions than Norway. He also promised to keep them
informed concerning the latest New York news.

This promise he redeemed two weeks later by forwarding whatever of
gossip he could gather regarding Peveril. It included the information
that the latter had not only lost his fortune, but had sought so
unsuccessfully for employment in the city that he had finally been
obliged to leave it, and no one knew whither he had gone. Having
accomplished this piece of work, Mr. Owen also departed from New York,
and turned his face westward.

In the mean time, Peveril, happily unconscious of these several
epistles, was finding his own path beset by trials such as he had
never encountered on any previous journey, for they were those caused
by a scarcity of funds with which to meet his every-day expenses.

His determination to economize failed because of his ignorance of the
first principles of economy. Besides that, his appearance, his manner,
his dress, and his personal belongings were all so many protests
against economy. Thus, when he inquired concerning a hotel in Buffalo,
no one thought of naming any save the most expensive, and he drove to
it in a carriage, because he did not know how else to reach it. Then
it happened that the first boat leaving for the Superior country was
the _Northland_, one of the most luxurious and extravagant of lake
craft. To be sure, she was also the swiftest, and would carry him
through without loss of time; but when he left her at the Sault, as he
found he must in order to reach the copper country, his scanty stock
of money was depleted beyond anything he had deemed possible on so
short a trip. From the Sault he travelled by rail, and finally reached
Hancock with but five dollars in his pocket.

Then, failing to find the only person to whom he had a note of
introduction, and also being unable to obtain work, he finally
expended his last dollar for transportation to Red Jacket, where he
knew he must either find employment or starve. And thus was our hero
led to the point at which we first made his acquaintance.



CHAPTER V

THE TREFETHENS


As Peveril walked with his newly made acquaintance through the brisk
mining-town, of whose very name he had been ignorant until that day,
Mark Trefethen directed his attention to its various places and
objects of interest. Of one small but handsome stone building,
surrounded by grass and shade-trees, he said:

"There's where the swells get's their beer."

Peveril instantly knew it for a club-house, and, with a pang of regret
for the lost comforts of such an establishment, glanced enviously at
its cosey interior, disclosed through open windows.

At length they reached the modest cottage, built on the plan of a
hundred others, that Mark Trefethen rented from the company and called
his home. The room into which Peveril was ushered was scrupulously
clean and neat, but seemed to him painfully bare and cheerless. It was
lighted by a single, unshaded lamp, that stood in the middle of an
oilcloth-covered table laid for supper. Half a dozen cheap wooden
chairs and a sewing-machine of inferior grade completed its
furnishing. The new-comer had only time for a single glance at these
things as he entered the door, before his recent acquaintance of the
train, who now seemed almost like an old friend, sprang forward with
outstretched hand, exclaiming:

"I'm so glad you've come, for I was afraid father might not find you,
or you might get tired of waiting, or that something might have
happened to take you some other place. I would have gone back myself,
only father wouldn't have it that way, and claimed 'twas his place to
fetch you."

"Surely, son; and why not? Could I do less than give the first welcome
to one who has done for us what Mr. Peril has? Mother, take a step and
shake hands wi' him who saved our boy to us this day. I couldn't
believe it till I seen him hit 'Blacky' such a blow as but one other
in all Red Jacket has ever struck. What do you think of one
ninety-five for a record?"

"Oh, father! you surely didn't take him--"

But Tom's words were lost in the heartfelt though somewhat trying
greeting that Peveril was at that moment receiving from Mrs.
Trefethen. She was a large woman, whose ample form was unconfined by
stay or lace, and with whom to "take a step" was evidently an
exertion. That she was also of an emotional nature was shown by the
tears that rolled in little well-defined channels down her cheeks as
she made an elephantine courtesy before her guest.

"Mister Peril, sir," she said, in a voice that seemed to bubble up
through an overflow of tears, "may you never hexperience the feelinks
of a mother, more especial the mother of a honly son, which 'arrowing
is no name for them. As I were saying to Miss Penny this very day--a
true lady, sir, if there is one in hall Red Jacket, and wife of No. 2,
timber boss, my Mark being the same in No. 3--Miss Penny, sez I--but,
laws! what's the use of telling sich things to a mere man? as I
frequent sez to my Mark and my Tom, which he hain't no more'n a boy
when all's said and done, if he does claim to vote, and halways on the
side of 'is father, when, if wimmen had the privilege--as Miss Penny,
who is a geniwine lady, and by no means a woman-sufferer, has frequent
said to me, that it's a burning shame they shouldn't--things would be
more naturally equalled up. Same time, young sir, seeing has 'ow
you've come--"

"And is also nearly starved," interrupted Mark Trefethen. "Let's have
supper. You've done yourself proud, mother, and give Mr. Peril a
master-welcome; but eating before talking, say I, and so let us fall
to."

Faint with hunger as he was, the guest needed no second invitation to
seat himself at the homely but hospitable table, on which was placed a
great dish of corned beef and cabbage, another of potatoes, a wheaten
loaf, and a pot of tea. Cups, plates, and saucers were of thickest
stone-ware, knives and forks were of iron, and spoons were of pewter,
but Peveril managed to make successful use of them all, and though
betraying a woful ignorance of the proper functions of a knife, ate
his first working-man's meal with all of a working-man's appetite and
hearty appreciation.

Mrs. Trefethen occupied a great rocking-chair at one end of the
table, surrounded by a group of clamorous little ones, into whose open
mouths she dropped bits of food as though they were so many young
birds in a nest, and kept up an unceasing flow of conversation
regarding her friend Mrs. Penny, to which Peveril strove to pay polite
attention.

From the opposite end her husband expatiated between mouthfuls upon
the fate that had overtaken 'Blacky' that evening, but Peveril was too
hungry to talk, and so apparently was Tom. These four were waited on
by a slim, rosy-cheeked lass, with demure expression but laughing
eyes, to whom the guest had not been introduced, but who, from her
likeness to Tom, he rightly concluded must be his sister. She was
addressed as "Nelly."

After supper the three men adjourned to a little front porch, where
Mark Trefethen lighted a pipe and questioned Peveril concerning his
plans for the future. After listening attentively to all that his
guest chose to tell of himself, he said:

"It's plain, lad, thee's not been brought up to work, and knows nought
of mining; but thee's got head to learn and muscle to work with. So if
'ee wants job thee shall have it, or Mark Trefethen 'll know why. Now
I tell 'ee what. Bide along of us, and be certain of welcome. Take
to-morrow to look about, and by night I'll have news for you."

Gratefully accepting this invitation, the Oxford undergraduate slept
that night in a tiny chamber of the Trefethen cottage, from which he
shrewdly suspected Miss Nelly had been turned out to make room for
him.

The next day he went with his new-found friends to the mine, where, in
the "Dry," he saw the underground laborers change into their
red-stained working-suits. Then he watched them clamber, a dozen at a
time, into the great ore-cages and disappear with startling suddenness
down the black shaft into unknown depths of darkness. After all were
gone he spent some time in the "compressor-room" of the engine-house
with Tom, who was there on duty. The remainder of the day he passed in
wandering among shaft-houses, rock-crushers, ore-cars, and shops,
making close observations, asking questions, and gaining a deal of
information concerning the mining of copper.

That evening Mark Trefethen told him that he had made arrangements by
which he could, if he chose, go to work in the mine the following
morning. "Job's wi' timber gang, lad," he said, "in bottom level. It's
hard work and little pay at first--only one twenty-five the day--but
if 'ee's game for it, job's thine."

"I am game to try it, at any rate," replied the young man, gratefully,
"and will also try my best to prevent you from being ashamed of me."

"No fear, lad. Only fear is I'll be proud of thee, and lat others see
it, which would be very bad indeed. Now, I'll bate 'ee hasn't rag of
clothing fit for mine work."

"I have only what I am wearing," answered Peveril, who had left his
trunks in Hancock, "but I guess they will do until I can earn the
money to buy others more suitable."

[Illustration: PEVERIL GOES TO WORK]

"Do, lad! They'd be ruined forever in first five minutes. Besides,
thee'd be laughing-stock of whole mine, if 'ee went down dressed like
Jim Dandy. No, no; come along of me and I'll rig 'ee out proper."

So Peveril was taken to the company store, where, with Mark Trefethen
to vouch for him, he was allowed to purchase, on credit, two
blue-flannel shirts, a suit of brown canvas, a pair of heavy hobnailed
shoes, two pairs of woollen socks, a hard, round-topped hat, a
dinner-pail, and a miner's lamp. As these things were, by order of the
timber boss, charged to "Dick Peril," that was the name under which
our young Oxonian began his new life and became known in the strange
community to which erratic fortune had led him.

On the following morning he sallied forth from the Trefethen cottage
with a tin dinner-pail on one arm, his working-suit under the other,
and uncomfortably conscious that he was curiously regarded by every
person whom he met on his way to the mine. As the "Dry" was already
overcrowded, he shared Tom's locker, and was grateful for the
opportunity of changing his clothing in the comparative seclusion of
the compressor-room rather than in company with the two hundred men
who thronged the steam-heated building devoted especially to that
purpose.

Having assumed his new garments, and feeling very awkward in them,
Peveril made his way to the shaft-mouth. There he was joined by Mark
Trefethen, who regarded the change made in his protégé's appearance
with approving eyes. Together, and in company with a stream of men
talking in a bewildering Babel of tongues, they climbed flight after
flight of wooden stairs to the uppermost floor of the tall
shaft-house.

An empty cage that had just deposited its load of copper conglomerate
was again ready to descend into the black depths, and, hurrying
Peveril forward, Mark Trefethen, with half a dozen other miners,
entered it. An iron gate closed behind them and a gong clanged in the
engine-house.

"Hold fast, lad, and remember there's no danger," was all that the
timber boss had time to say. Then the bottom seemed to drop out of
everything, and Peveril, experiencing the sickening sensation of
having left his stomach at the top of the shaft, found himself rushing
downward with horrible velocity through utter blackness. Instinctively
reaching out for something by which to hold on, he clutched a
rough-coated arm, but his grasp was rudely shaken off, and a gruff
voice bade him keep his hands to himself.

He could not frame an answer, for his brain was in a whirl, his ears
were filled with a dull roaring, and a whistling rush of air caught
away his breath. The motion of the cage was so smooth and noiseless
that after a while he could not tell whether it were going up or down,
though it seemed to be doing both, as though poised on a gigantic
spring. At length faint glimmers of light began to flash past as it
shot by the mouths of working levels, and finally it stopped with a
jerk that threw its passengers into a confused huddle.

A gate was flung open, and as Peveril stumbled out of the cage he was
only conscious of dancing lights, a crashing rumble of iron against
iron, and a medley of shouting voices. At the same time all these
sounds seemed far away and unreal.



CHAPTER VI

A MILE BENEATH THE SURFACE


"Swallow, lad!"

Mark Trefethen uttered the words, and Peveril, dimly comprehending
him, instinctively obeyed. The effect of that simple muscular action
was marvellous. His brain was instantly cleared of its weight, the
ringing in his ears ceased, and his hearing was restored to its normal
keenness. At the same time he was happily conscious that his stomach
had been restored to its proper position.

"This is plat of bottom level, and we're a mile underground,"
continued Mark. "They put us down in one-thirty this time, but often
they do it ten seconds better."

"I wonder how much longer it would take to drop from a balloon one
mile above the earth?" reflected Peveril, at the same time gazing
about him with a lively interest.

The place in which he stood was a spacious room, hewn from solid rock.
Lighted by several lanterns and little, flaring mine-lamps, it was
also smoothly floored with iron plates, and from it a narrow-gauge
railway led away into the blackness. Articles of clothing and
dinner-pails were hung about the walls, and on the side opposite the
shaft was a bench of rude workmanship.

Every few minutes an iron car holding several tons of copper rock was
run into the plat with a tremendous clatter from the little railway
that penetrated to every "drift" and "stope" of the level. Each of
these cars was pushed by a team of three wild-looking men, who were
stripped naked to the waist. Their haggard faces and naked bodies were
begrimed with powder-smoke, stained red with ore-dust, and gleamed in
the fitful lamp-light with trickling rivulets of perspiration. The
car-pushers were all foreigners--Italians, Bohemians, Hungarians, or
Poles--and the uncouth jargon of their shouts intensified the wildness
of their appearance. Theirs was the very lowest form of mine drudgery,
and but few of them were possessed of intelligence or ambition
sufficient to raise them above it.

One, who was accounted somewhat brighter than his fellows, by whom he
was regarded as a leader, had indeed been promoted on trial by the
timber boss to a position in his own gang. He was a perfect brute for
strength, but so densely ignorant and of such sullen disposition that
when a better man was offered, in the person of Dick Peveril, the boss
was only too glad to return him to his hated task of car-pushing and
accept the new-comer in his place. His sentence of degradation,
pronounced only the day before, had been received as a personal
affront by every wild-eyed car-pusher of the mine. All knew that some
one must fill the place from which their leader had been ousted, and
all were prepared to hate him the moment his identity should be
disclosed.

Thus, as Peveril stumbled awkwardly out of the cage in which he had
just made that breathless, mile-deep descent, he was instantly spotted
as being a new man, and a team of car-pushers, slaking their thirst at
a water-barrel in one corner of the plat, gazed at him with scowling
intentness, that they might minutely describe his appearance to their
fellows. As he knew nothing of the circumstances through which a place
had been made for him, he paid no attention to these men, other than
to note their savage appearance as a feature of his novel
surroundings.

In fact, he had barely time to take a single comprehensive glance
around the plat before a man who had been one of his fellow-passengers
in the cage remarked, sneeringly:

"Pretty well scared, wasn't you, young feller?"

"Yes, I was," replied Peveril, turning and facing his questioner. "But
how did you know it?"

"By the way you grabbed my arm. If you'd done it again I'd have
punched your head; for I don't 'low no man to catch holt on me that
way."

Peveril had already recognized the speaker's face; but, without
deigning a further reply, he turned to Mark Trefethen and said:

"Will you kindly give me the name of this unpleasant person, as I wish
to file it away in my memory for future reference?"

"Person be blowed!" exclaimed the man, stepping forward with a
menacing gesture. "What do you mean by calling me names, you damned--"

"Shut up, Mike Connell, and go about your business," commanded the
timber boss. "Come, lad, he's not worth noticing," and, thus saying,
Mark Trefethen led Peveril away.

Although the car-pushers had not caught the words of this brief
conversation, they had readily understood Mike Connell's threatening
gesture towards the new-comer, and several times during that day one
or more of them might have been seen in low-voiced consultation with
the scowling-faced Irishman.

"Here, lad, fill lamp wi' sunlight," said the timber boss, as he and
his protégé were leaving the plat. "First rule of mine is always have
lamp in trim, and carry candle, besides plenty of matches in pocket."

With this Mark scooped up in his hand a small quantity of a stiff,
whitish substance from an open box beside them, and stuffed it into
his lamp. The box was indeed marked "Sunlight," but when Peveril
followed his companion's example he found its contents to be merely
solidified paraffine.

With their lamps well filled and flaring brightly, the two walked for
half a mile through a dry and well-ventilated gallery, which had been
driven by drill and blast through solid rock, and from which thousands
of tons of copper had been taken. Now Peveril learned for the first
time what "timbering" a mine meant, and realized the necessity for the
huge piles of great logs that he had seen above ground in close
proximity to the shaft. Not only had it been incased on all four sides
by logs mortised together and laid up like the walls of a house, but
the drift through which he now walked was timbered from end to end.
Its roof was upheld by huge tree-trunks standing from ten to twenty
feet apart, and occasionally in groups of three or four together.
Supported by them, and pressing against the roof or "hanging," were
other great timbers known as "wall plates," and behind these was a
compactly laid sheathing of split timber spoken of as "lagging."

As the two men advanced deeper into the drift, an occasional ore-car,
pushed by its panting human team, rumbled heavily past, while every
now and then came dull, tremulous shocks like those of an earthquake.
These were blasts on other levels, or in other parts of the one on
which they were.

At sound of a confused shouting from somewhere ahead of them, they
stood still until, with a crashing roar that bellowed and echoed
through the galleries like a peal of loudest thunder, one of these
blasts was fired close at hand. A minute later they were enveloped in
a pungent smoke, through which twinkled dimly a score of lights.
Brawny, half-naked forms were already wielding pick and shovel amid
the masses of rock just loosened, a powerful air-drill was being
placed in position for another attack upon the wall of tough rock, and
a small timber gang was struggling to hoist a huge log that they
called a "stull" into position.

"Here's the place, lad. Take hold and give a lift. Now, boys,
altogether"! shouted Mark Trefethen, and in another moment Dick
Peveril found himself hard at work.

Within a few minutes the new hand was as begrimed and dripping with
perspiration as any member of the gang, all of whom exchanged
significant glances as they noted the willingness with which he
exerted his great strength. Never had the heavy timbers been set in
place so quickly, and never in their remembrance had a green hand
"caught on" so readily.

"He won't last long, though, at that pace," remarked one of the older
men to Trefethen, as he paused to wipe the sweat-drops from his eyes,
"he's too fresh."

"Perhaps not," replied the timber boss. "We'll give him a bit of a
try, though, before dropping him," and then he walked away to inspect
the operations of another gang in a distant part of the mine.

Late that day, as Peveril's first shift of work drew towards its
close, he ached in every part of his body, but was learning his new
trade so rapidly that his fellows were already beginning to regard him
as one of the best men in their gang. He had made several trips to and
from the foot of the timber-shaft in company with others, and so,
when, shortly before quitting time, the foreman of his gang sang out:

"Oh, Peril! Just run back to the stack and bring us one of them small
sprags. Hurry, now!" the new man started without a moment's
hesitation.

He found his way without difficulty to the timber pile, and began a
search for such a piece as he had been told to fetch. The better to
see what he was doing, he removed the lamp from his hat and held it
low in front of him, in which position his own face was clearly
revealed by its light. While he was thus engaged, a miner, who, with
his day's work finished, was walking towards the plat, paused to
regard him. The man's face bore a malicious expression, and he seemed
to meditate some mischief towards the unsuspecting youth, for he
clinched his fists and took a step in Peveril's direction. Just then
the rumble of an approaching car caused him to pause and wait until it
should pass. As it came abreast of him he recognized one of its
pushers, and drew him aside, while the car, still propelled by two
members of its team, moved on out of sight.

Without a word the miner directed his companion's attention to the
figure still bending over the log pile, and made several significant
gestures. The brutish face of the pusher lighted with an ugly leer,
expressive of understanding, and he began to move cautiously towards
the man who had that day displaced him from the timber gang. As he had
left his light on the car, there was nothing to warn Peveril of his
approach until he was close at hand and about to deliver a cowardly
blow.

At that instant the mysterious premonition that always gives warning
of human presence caused the young man to turn his head. Although he
was too late to avoid the impending blow, it was deflected by his
movement, and instead of stunning him it merely caused him to stagger
and drop his lamp. He also partially warded off a closely following
second blow, and then his own terrible fist was planted with crashing
force full on his assailant's jaw.

[Illustration: THE CAR-PUSHERS MADE A FURIOUS ATTACK ON PEVERIL]

The man uttered a scream of agony, covered his face with his hands,
and started to run. At this moment the other two car-pushers appeared
on the scene, and with fierce cries began a furious attack upon the
young man whom they had sworn either to kill or drive from the mine.
At this time the battleground was only dimly illumined by the
flickering light of the miner who was thus far sole spectator of the
contest. Peveril fought in dogged silence, but his assailants uttered
shrill cries in an unknown tongue. Attracted by these, other lights
began to appear from both directions, and all at once Mark Trefethen's
gruff tones were heard demanding to know what was going on.

At this sound Peveril uttered a joyful shout, while at the same moment
the light in Mike Connell's hat was extinguished.

Recognizing his protégé's voice, the timber boss sprang to his side,
and within another minute the two car-pushers would have been
annihilated had not the coming of a second car given them a
reinforcement of three more half-naked savages.

Thus beset and outnumbered by more than two to one, Trefethen thought
it no shame to call for aid, and, uplifting his mighty voice, he sent
rolling and echoing through the rock-bound galleries the rallying cry
of the Cornishmen:

"One and all for Cornwall! One and all!"



CHAPTER VII

CORNWALL TO THE RESCUE


"One and all!" The rallying-cry of the most clannish county in
England. The one in which, from Land's End to Plymouth Sound, every
family claims some degree of cousinship with every other, until, at
home and abroad, "Cousin Richard" is the name proudly borne by all
Cornishmen.

"One and all!" As the startling cry rang through the black underground
depths it was heard and answered, caught up and repeated, until it
penetrated the remotest corners of the far-reaching level. At its
sound the men of Cornwall, working in stope or drift, breast or
cross-cut, dropped their tools and sprang to obey its summons. By twos
and threes they ran, shouting the magic words that Cornish tongues
have carried around the world. They met in eager groups, each
demanding to know who had first given the alarm and its cause. As none
could answer, and the shouts still came from far away, they swept on,
in ever-increasing numbers and with growing anxiety, for the call of
Cornwall is never given save in an emergency.

In the meantime the fight between two and five rages with unabated
fury; the two, with their backs to a wall, putting up the splendid
defence of trained boxers against the fierce but untaught rush of mere
brutes. Science, however, labored under the disadvantage of fighting
in a gloom that was almost darkness, for Mark Trefethen's lamp had
been extinguished at the outset, and the only one still burning was on
a car standing at a distance from them.

Of a sudden the timber boss heard a groan at his side, and found
himself fighting alone. His comrade had sunk limply to the ground, and
an exultant yell from the others proclaimed their knowledge that they
had no longer to fear his telling blows. As they were about to rush in
and complete their victory, the battle-cry of Cornwall, accompanied by
the flash of many lights, came rolling down the gallery.

Help was close at hand. If Mark Trefethen could hold out for another
minute he would be surrounded by friends. With an answering shout of
"One and all!" he sprang to meet his assailants, and, realizing their
danger, they fled before him. At the same instant the lamp on their
car disappeared, and in the utter darkness that followed Trefethen
could only grope his way back to Peveril's side.

A moment later the flaring lights of the Cornish miners disclosed the
old man, with face battered and bleeding, standing grimly undaunted
beside the motionless form of the newest comer to the mine. The latter
lay unconscious, with an ugly wound on the side of his head, from
which blood was flowing freely. It had been made by a fragment of
copper rock, evidently taken from the loaded car close at hand, and
flung from that direction. Several other similar pieces were picked up
near where the two men had defended themselves, and, now that
Trefethen had time for reflection, he recalled having heard these
crash against the wall behind him.

Who had flung them was a mystery, as was the cause of the attack on
Peveril. Even the identity of his assailants seemed likely to remain
unrevealed, for these had slipped away in the darkness, and though the
rescuing party searched the level like a swarm of angry hornets, they
could not discover a man bearing on his person any signs of the recent
fray.

In the gloom shrouding the scene of conflict, Mark Trefethen had not
been able to recognize those with whom he fought, but only knew them
to be foreigners and car-pushers. It afterwards transpired that a
number of these had, on that evening, made their way to a shaft a mile
distant, and so gained the surface. One of them was reported to have
had his head tied up as the result of an accident, but no one had
recognized him.

While certain of the Cornishmen searched the mine, Trefethen and
others bore the still unconscious form of Richard Peveril to the plat,
and sounded the alarm signal of five bells. Nothing so startles a
mining community as to have this signal come from underground. It may
mean death and disaster. It surely means that there are injured men to
be brought up to the surface, and the time elapsing before their
arrival is always filled with deepest anxiety.

It was so in the present case, and when the cage containing the two
battered miners, one of whom had also every appearance of being dead,
emerged from the shaft, a throng of spectators was waiting to greet
it.

These learned with a great sigh of relief that there had been no
accident, but merely a fight, in which the men just brought up were
supposed to be the only ones injured. Their revulsion of feeling led
many of the spectators to treat the whole affair as a joke, especially
as the only person seriously hurt was a stranger.

"It's always new-comers as stirs up shindies," growled a miner who,
having reached the surface a few minutes earlier, formed one of the
expectant group. "They ought not to be let underground, I say."

"How about Trefethen?" asked a voice. "He's no new-comer."

"Oh, Mark's a quarrelsome old cuss, who's always meddling where he has
no call."

"You lie, Mike Connell, and you know it. My father never fights
without good cause," cried Tom Trefethen, who had arrived just in time
to resent the slurring remark.

"I'll teach you, you young whelp!" shouted the miner, springing
furiously forward; but Tom leaped aside, leaving the other to be
confronted by several burly Cornishmen, in whose ears was still
ringing the cry of "One and all!"

"Lad's right, Maister Connell," said one of these. "If 'ee doan't
believe it, come along and get proof."

But the Irishman, muttering something about not caring to fight all
Cornwall, turned abruptly and walked away.

Tom Trefethen, not yet knowing that Peveril had been hurt, also
hurried away to find his father, who, having left his young friend in
the hands of the mine surgeon, had gone to change his clothing. At the
same time poor Peveril lay in a small room of the shaft-house, having
the gash in his head sewn up. Several spectators regarded the
operation curiously, and among them was a gentleman, addressed by the
doctor as Mr. Owen, whom none of the others remembered to have seen
before, but who seemed to take a great interest in the still
unconscious sufferer.

"Do you consider it a serious case, doctor?" he asked.

"No. Not at all serious. These miners are a tough lot, and not easily
done for, as you'll find out before you have seen as much of them as I
have. This one will probably be out and at work again in a day or two.
I'm always having such little jobs on my hands, the results of
accident, mostly, though this, I believe, is a case of fighting,
something very uncommon in our mine, I can assure you. Splendid
physique, hasn't he? Savage-looking face, though. Hate to trust myself
alone with him. I understand old Mark Trefethen had a hard tussle
before he brought him to terms."

"What was the trouble?"

"I don't know, exactly. Insubordination, I suppose; but old Mark
don't put up with any nonsense."

"Do you know this fellow's name, or anything about him?"

"Um--yes. I have learned something, but not much. His name is
Peril--Richard Peril. Odd name, isn't it? He's a new-comer, and, like
yourself, has just entered the company's employ. Rather a contrast in
your positions, though. Illustrates the difference between one brought
up and educated as a gentleman, and one destined from the first for
the other thing, eh? It is all poppycock to say that education can
make a gentleman; don't you think so? In the present case, for
instance, I doubt if even Oxford could make a gentleman of this
fellow. His whole expression is a protest against such a supposition.
But now he's coming to all right, and I'm glad of it, for I have an
engagement at the club, and don't want to spend much more time with
him."

Poor Peveril, whose begrimed and blood-streaked face was not
calculated to prepossess one in his favor, began just then to have a
realizing sense that he was still alive, and the doctor, bending over
him, said:

"There now, my man, you are doing nicely, and by taking care of
yourself you will be about again in a day or two. You had a close
call, though, and it's a warning to behave yourself in the future; for
I can assure you that one given to fighting or disobedience of orders
is not allowed to linger in these parts. I must leave you now, but
will call again this evening to see how you are getting along. What
is your address?"

"He lives along of us, sir," answered Tom Trefethen, who had just
entered the room; "and if you think it's safe to move him, we'll take
him right home."

"Certainly you can move him; in fact, he could walk if there was no
other way; but it will be as well to take him in a carriage. Let me
see, your name is Trefethen, is it not?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well; put your boarder to bed as soon as you get him home, keep
him quiet, give him only cooling drinks, and I'll call round after a
while. Now I must hurry along."

The stranger, who walked away with the self-important young doctor,
was none other than Peveril's Oxford classmate--"Dig" Owen--who,
having obtained a position in the Eastern office of the White Pine
Mining Company, had been advised to visit the mine and learn something
of its practical working before assuming his new duties. He had just
arrived when the rumor of an accident caused him to hurry to the
shaft-mouth. There he was thunderstruck at recognizing in one of the
two men brought up from the depths his recent college-mate and rival.
In the excitement of the moment he had very nearly betrayed the fact
of their acquaintance, but managed to restrain himself, and was
afterwards careful to keep out of Peveril's sight, foreseeing a great
advantage to himself by so doing.

That same evening he sat in the comfortable writing-room of the
club-house--at which poor Peveril had gazed with envious eyes--and
composed a long epistle to Rose Bonnifay, in which he mentioned that
he had just run across their mutual friend, Dick Peveril, working as a
day-laborer in a copper-mine.

     "This" [he continued] "is doubtless the mine in which he
     claimed to be _interested_, and under the circumstances one can
     hardly blame the poor fellow for putting it in that way. At the
     same time, I consider it only fair that _you_ should know the
     real facts in the case.

     "His misfortunes seem also to have affected his disposition,
     for on the very day of my arrival he was engaged in a most
     disgraceful fight with some of his low associates, by whom he
     was severely and justly punished. Of course I could not afford
     to recognize him, and so took pains to have him kept in
     ignorance of my presence. Is it not sad that a fellow of such
     promise should in so short a time have fallen so low?

     "Within a few days I shall return to the East, where my own
     prospects are of the brightest," etc.

"There," said Mr. Owen to himself, as he sealed and addressed this
letter. "If that don't effectually squelch Mr. Richard Peveril's
aspirations in a certain direction, then I'm no judge of human
nature."



CHAPTER VIII

IN THE NEW SHAFT


When the mine-surgeon visited his patient that evening he found only
Mrs. Trefethen, sitting on the porch and awaiting him, "her men-folk,"
as she informed him, "being on the trail of they murderers."

"Which, if they ain't so many Cainses this night, hit bain't their
fault, as I sez to Miss Penny the moment I sees that pore lamb brought
into the 'ouse just like 'e was struck down the same as a flower of
the field that bloweth where hit listeth; and she sez to me--for me
and Miss Penny was wishing at that blessed minute, like hit were
providential--she sez--"

"It is certainly very kind of you to take such an interest in a
stranger," ruthlessly interrupted the doctor; "but may I inquire how
my patient is getting along?"

"You may indeed, sir, and may the good Lord preserve you from a like
harm, which hit make my blood boil to think of my pore Mark's hescape,
him being what you might call owdacious to that degree. He were
telling me has'ow 'One and hall' was everythink that saved 'im, and
they rocks pattering same has 'ailstones hall the time. Law, sir!"

"Doubtless, madam, the episode must have been most exciting; but now,
if you will allow me to interview the cause of all this trouble, I
shall be much obliged."

"Trouble, doctor, dear! Don't mention the word when hit's 'im 'eld the
life of my Tom in 'is two 'ands, and but for they cruel rocks that
battered 'is fore'ead would ha' throttled them rascal pushers same as
rattan in tarrier's grip; for my man 'olds there was ne'er a
fisticuffer like 'im in hall the Jackets. But, doctor! doctor! Oh,
drat the man! now 'e'll go hand wake Maister Peril, which I were
a-settin' 'ere a pu'pos' to tell 'im lad's asleep."

Impatient of longer delay, and despairing of obtaining a direct answer
to his questions, the doctor had indeed slipped into the house and
instinctively made his way up-stairs towards the only room in which a
light was burning. He was met outside the door by a warning "Sh!" from
Nelly Trefethen, who had been left on guard by her mother, and
together they entered the room where the wounded man lay tossing in
restless slumber.

The doctor started at close sight of him, and for a moment refused to
believe that the handsome, high-bred face, from which every trace of
grime and blood had been carefully removed, was that of the young
fellow who, he had declared, could never become a gentleman. Only the
evidence of his own handiwork, in shape of the bandages still swathing
Peveril's head, served to convince him that this was indeed his
patient of the shaft-house.

After a few minutes of observation he left the room, without awakening
the sleeper, and gave his directions for the night down-stairs. He
also questioned Nelly closely concerning the young man who had so
aroused his curiosity, but she could only tell him that the stranger's
name was "Peril," that he had come to Red Jacket in search of work,
had saved her brother's Tom's life, and had in consequence been given
a job in the mine.

"But he is evidently a gentleman?" said the doctor.

"Claims to be working-man," put in Mrs. Trefethen.

"He can be both, can't he, mother?" asked Nelly, somewhat sharply.
"Surely you think father is a gentleman."

"Not same as him yonder," replied the older woman, stoutly.

"Well, I don't care what he is or isn't," answered the girl, with a
toss of her pretty head, "he hasn't shown any sign yet of holding
himself above us, and Tom thinks he is just splendid. If he was here
he wouldn't hear a word said against him, I know that much."

"Save us, lass! Who's said aught 'gainst thy young man?"

"He's not my young man, mother, and you know it. Can't a girl stand up
for a stranger who saved her brother's life, and who has just been
knocked senseless while fighting beside her own father, without being
twitted about him?"

"Certainly she can," replied the doctor, with an admiring glance at
the girl's spirited pose and flushed face. "But have a care, Miss
Nelly. There's nothing so dangerous to a girl's peace of mind as an
interesting invalid of the opposite sex."

"Thank you, for nothing, doctor, and you needn't fret one little bit
about me. We Red Jacket girls can take care of ourselves without going
to any man for advice."

"Save us, lass, but thee's getting a pert hussy!" cried Mrs.
Trefethen; but the doctor only laughed, and took his departure,
promising to call again the next day.

He had hardly gone before Mark Trefethen returned, filled with
excitement over certain discoveries he had just made. One was that the
car-pushers of the mine had sworn either to force Peveril from it or
to kill him. He had also learned that Rothsky, the Bohemian, who had
been found wanting when tried in the timber gang, had led the attack
of that evening, and had received a broken jaw in consequence. The
identity of the two car-pushers who were with him at the time having
also been discovered, the captain of the mine had promptly discharged
all three. Moreover, the Cornish miners had sworn that if either their
own leader or his protégé were again molested while underground they
would drive every foreign car-pusher from the workings.

When Tom came home he confided to his father a belief that Mike
Connell had been at the bottom of all the recent deviltry, but, as he
confessed that he could not verify his suspicions, Mark Trefethen
bade him keep them to himself.

"We'll not take away any man's character, lad," he said, "without
proof that he deserves to lose it. But if ever I know for certain that
Mike Connell had hand in this, lat him have a care o' me. As for yon
Dick Peril, there's no fear but what he can look out for hissel', now
that we can warn him of his enemies."

For two days Peveril kept his bed, assiduously waited on by Mrs.
Trefethen and her daughter, watched over at night by Tom, and an
object of anxious solicitude to the entire family. Then he was allowed
to venture down-stairs, while the children were driven from the house,
that they might not disturb him. Before the week ended he was taking
short walks, escorted by Miss Nelly, who was only too proud to show
off this new cavalier before the other girls of her acquaintance.
Several times as the doctor saw them thus together he shook his head
doubtfully.

During one of these walks Peveril made the joyful discovery of a
public library, and thereafter much of his convalescence was passed
within its walls. There he read with avidity all that he could find
concerning the Lake Superior copper region, and mining in general.
Particularly was he interested in everything pertaining to the
prehistoric mining of copper by a people, presumably Aztecs or their
close kin, who possessed the art, long since lost, of tempering that
metal.

All this time he never for a moment forgot the object of his coming
to that country, nor neglected a possible opportunity for gaining news
of the mine in which he believed himself to be a half-owner. Thus, in
all his reading, as well as in his conversations with Mark Trefethen
and other miners, he always sought for information concerning the
Copper Princess, but could find none. His books had nothing to say on
the subject, and, while the men knew by report of many abandoned
mining properties, they had not heard of one bearing the name in
question.

Finally, chafing under this enforced idleness, as well as under the
poverty that compelled him to be a pensioner on those who could ill
afford to support him, Peveril announced his complete restoration to
health, and declared his intention of again going to work.

Mark Trefethen tried to persuade him to wait a while longer before
thus testing his strength, but without avail, and at length, finding
the young man set in his determination, used his influence to procure
for him a temporary situation in which the work would be much lighter
than with the timber gang. This job was in a shaft then being sunk by
the White Pine Company, and included a certain supervision of the
explosives used in blasting.

The new shaft was already down several hundred feet, and was being
driven through solid rock by drill and blast, at the rate of twenty
feet per week. Of course there was no regular running of cages up and
down as yet, but the loosened material was hoisted to the surface in a
big iron bucket, or "skip," and in this the miners engaged in the
work also travelled back and forth.

The great opening was a rectangle twenty-two by six and a half feet,
and to sink it a series of holes was drilled around its sides. Then
all the men but one were sent to the surface, while Peveril descended
with a load of dynamite and a fuse. The man left at the bottom was
always an experienced miner, and it was his duty to charge the holes,
place and light the fuses, which were timed to burn for several
minutes, jump into the skip and give the signal for hoisting. In all
of this work he was of course assisted by Peveril, and when their task
was completed the two men were lifted to the surface as quickly as
possible.

After our young friend had been engaged in this delicate business some
two weeks, and had become thoroughly familiar with its details, he was
disagreeably surprised one day, upon descending with his freight of
explosives, to find Mike Connell awaiting him at the bottom of the
shaft. The Irishman seemed equally annoyed at seeing him, but the
purpose for which they were there must be accomplished, and so, glad
as each would have been for a more congenial companion, they set
doggedly to work.

When Connell, in a spirit of bravado, handled the sticks of dynamite
with criminal recklessness, and finally managed to drop one of them
close beside Peveril, the latter sharply commanded him to be more
careful.

"Afraid, are you?" sneered the other.

"Yes, I am afraid to work with a man who knows so little of his
business as you appear to," answered Peveril.

"Go to the top then, and lave me to finish the job alone. Lord knows,
I don't want no dealings with a coward."

"It makes no difference what you want or do not want," answered the
younger man steadily, though with a hot flush mounting to his cheeks.
"I was sent here for a certain duty, and intend to stay until I have
performed it."

"And I've a great mind to do what I ought to have done the first day
you struck Red Jacket, and that is to punch your head."

"You shall have a chance to try it when we get to the surface."

"Where you think you'll find friends to protect you. No, by ----, I'll
do it now!"

With this the Irishman sprang forward with clinched fists, but the
other, being on guard, caught him so deft a blow under the chin that
he dropped like a log. Then, with the full exercise of his strength,
the young Oxonian picked his enemy up and dropped him into the skip.
After doing which he proceeded to complete arrangements for the blast.

He worked with nervous haste, and did not see that his enemy had so
far recovered as to be watching him with an expression of deadly hate
over the side of the great iron bucket. But it was so, and, just as
Peveril had lighted the several fuses, Connell gave the signal to
hoist.

The movement of the skip disclosed his devilish purpose in time for
Peveril to spring and catch with outstretched arms one of its
supporting bars. With a mighty effort he drew himself up, and, in
spite of Connell's furious attempts to prevent him, gained its
interior.

At that moment something went wrong with the hoisting machinery, the
upward movement was arrested, and the bucket hung motionless not more
than ten feet above the deadly mine. In the awfulness of their common
danger, the men forgot their enmity and gazed at each other with
horror-stricken eyes. Then, with a groan of despair, Mike Connell sank
limply to the bottom of the skip.



CHAPTER IX

WINNING A FRIEND BY SHEER PLUCK


Peveril's lamp had been extinguished during his struggle to force an
entrance into the skip, while that in Mike Connell's hat went out as
he sank helpless from terror and crouched at the other's feet. So the
blackness that shrouded them as with a pall was only faintly illumined
by the fitful flashing of the fuses that hissed like so many fiery
serpents beneath them. Their red eyes gleamed spitefully through the
gloom, and for an instant Peveril, leaning over the side of the skip,
gazed at them in fascinated helplessness.

Then he leaped down among them and began to tear them from their
connection with the devilish forces that only awaited a signal to
burst forth and destroy him. The fiery serpents bit at him as he flung
them, to writhe in impotent rage, where they could do no harm; but he
heeded not the pain, and after a little they expired, one by one,
hissing spitefully to the last.

Some of them had already burned so low that he could not pluck them
forth, and was forced to stamp out their venomous lives with the
constant knowledge that, should a single spark escape this imperfect
method of extinguishment, he would still be lost. So fiercely did he
labor that in less than one minute the last visible spark from a score
of fuses had glimmered out, and he stood in absolute darkness. But he
must wait for a full minute more before he could be certain that none
had escaped him, to creep viciously down through the loose tamping and
still reach the hidden dynamite. It was a period of the same helpless
anxiety that immediately precedes the hearing of a sentence that may
be either one of death or acquittal. While it lasted Peveril was
bathed in a cold perspiration, his brain reeled, and his limbs
trembled until he was obliged to lean against the side of the shaft
for support.

As second after second dragged itself away, until it was finally
certain that sixty of them had passed, and that sentence had been
pronounced in his favor, the young miner sank to his knees and framed,
as best he could, a prayer of gratitude. How long he thus remained in
grateful contemplation of his narrow escape from death he never knew,
but he was at length aroused by a shout from above, and, looking up,
saw an approaching light twinkling like a star of good promise through
the blackness. The call that came to him was one of anxious
uncertainty; but, as his answering shout sped upward, it was changed
to an exultant cry of joy. Then came cheer after cheer as the skip
slowly descended until it finally reached the bottom, and a solitary
figure sprang from it.

[Illustration: PEVERIL LEAPED DOWN AMONG THE SPUTTERING FUSES]

This person acted like a crazy man, first flinging his arms about
Peveril, and then falling on his knees at the young man's feet, with
a torrent of words in which praise and gratitude were mingled with
pleas for forgiveness. He was Peveril's recent companion and avowed
enemy, who, after the former had leaped from the skip, had leaned
weakly over its side and watched with fascinated gaze the struggle for
life going on below him. Ere it was ended, the hoisting-machinery
began again to work, and the skip was suddenly impelled upward with
breathless speed.

Those who witnessed its safe arrival at the surface had their
congratulations changed to exclamations of dismay by the discovery
that it contained but a single occupant. Though the time-limit for the
explosion was already passed, and though Mike Connell begged them to
send him down again at once, they refused to do so until another full
minute should elapse. During its slow passage they crowded about the
shaft-mouth in breathless silence, listening with strained ears for
the awful sound they so dreaded to hear.

Even with the minute of safety passed, it was not certain that the
explosion might not yet occur; but the young Irishman demanded so
fiercely to be instantly lowered to the very bottom that they finally
consented to do as he desired. Several were even willing to accompany
him, but he waved these back and insisted upon going alone.

He had to meet the man to whom he owed his life, as well as a shameful
confession of cowardly acts, and he preferred to meet him alone. Two
minutes later he was at the bottom of the shaft, kneeling in
semi-darkness on its rocky floor, acknowledging his obligation,
confessing his guilt, and imploring forgiveness.

"You are the bravest man I've ever known, Mister Peril, though I've
met them as was counted brave before; but none of them would dare do
what you have this day. You have given me my life, and yet I tried
twice to take yours, for 'twas me flung that rock in the mine.
And--I'm choked with the shame of the black deed--but I gave the
signal to hoist the skip a few minutes since, and tried to leave you
here to die. I'm a coward and a murderer at heart, Mister Peril, and
the dirtiest blackguard that ever was let live. I'm not worthy of your
contempt, and yet, sir, I'm going to dare ask a favor of you."

"My dear fellow," interrupted Peveril, who was greatly moved by the
man's attitude and words of self-condemnation. "Believe me--"

"Wait, Mister Peril. Please wait, sir, till you've heard me through.
You have the right to hate me, to despise me, or even to kill me, and
I'd not lift a finger to prevent you; but I'm going to ask you to
forgive me. If you don't, I can never hold up my head or look an
honest man in the face again. If you can't forgive me I shall never
dare ask the forgiveness of God in heaven."

"I do forgive you, with all my heart," exclaimed Peveril, "and there
is my hand on it." With this he grasped the young Irishman's hand and
almost lifted him to his feet. "You have done a brave deed in coming
down here after me," he added, "while there was still danger of an
explosion, and one much braver even than that, in confessing your
faults. These two things prove that you are not a coward, and from
this time on I shall claim you as a friend."

"Thank you, Mister Peril, and may God bless you for them words," cried
Connell, in a voice choked with feeling. "As for being your friend,
sir, I'd be proud to be counted your slave."

"I would much rather have a friend than a slave," returned the other,
smiling. "And so, if you don't mind, we'll stick to the first
proposition. But, Connell, I want to ask you a question. What made you
hate me, as you seemed to do from the very first?"

"Jealousy, Mister Peril. Just black, bitter jealousy, and nothing at
all else."

"How could that be, when you didn't even know me?"

"Because, sir, I'm near crazy with love for a girl who only laughs at
me, and whose folks treat me with contempt. When I first saw you, so
strong and handsome and gentleman-like, with her father, and knew he
was going to take you to live in the very house along of her, I
couldn't help but hate you."

"You surely can't mean Miss Trefethen?"

"Yes, sir, no other; and when I seen you and her walking together, and
she looking up so smiling into your face, I swore I'd kill you if ever
I had the chance, and this day the devil gave it to me. But now,
Mister Peril, you've proved yourself the best man of us two, and if
you want her I'll never again stand in your way."

"But I don't want her!" cried Peveril. "Nothing was ever farther from
my thoughts; and even if I did, I couldn't have her, because I am
engaged to another young lady."

"You are, sir? Bless you for them words! And may I tell her that you
are already bespoke?"

"Certainly; or, better still, I will tell her myself at the very first
opportunity I have for speaking with her on such a subject. But, now
that everything is settled between us, don't you think we'd better
prepare the blast again before we go up? There is fuse enough left in
the skip."

"Well, you are a game one!" exclaimed Connell, admiringly. "Of course,
if you are willing to do it after what you've just gone through, I'm
the man to stand by you. Only I do hope as there won't be no hitch in
the hoisting this time."

The signal, "All's well," having already been sent to the surface,
Connell now notified the engineer to be ready to hoist for a blast,
and the two set to work. In a few minutes the charge, that had so
nearly proved fatal to both of them, was again ready for firing, and
the hissing fuses were lighted. Then both men sprang into the skip,
the signal to hoist was hurriedly sounded, and away they sped up the
black shaft towards the distant sunlight.

As they reached the surface and clambered from the skip, aided by a
dozen eager hands, there came from the depths below a dull roar and
the tremor of a heavy explosion. At this a throng of persons which, to
Peveril's surprise, was gathered at the shaft-mouth raised a mighty
cheer. Then they crowded tumultuously forward to shake hands with, or
even to gaze on, the hero of the hour; for, on his previous visit to
surface, Mike Connell had told of Peveril's brave deed, and news of it
had already spread far and wide. So the night-shift had paused to see
him before entering the mine, and the day-shift had waited to greet
him before going to their homes, while others had come from all
directions.

Waving them all back, and grasping Peveril's hand, Mike Connell
shouted:

"Wait a minute, mates! Only one minute, and then you shall have a
chance at him. First, though, I want you all to know that Mister Peril
here has just stepped from the very jaws of hell, where he went of his
own free will to save my life. It's proud I am to call him my friend,
and for the deed he has done this day I name him the bravest lad in
all Red Jacket. If any man denies that, he'll have to settle with Mike
Connell, that's all. And now, boys, you may treat him as a brave man
deserves to be treated."

Poor Peveril, covered with confusion, tried to explain that whatever
he had done was for his own salvation as well as for that of his
friend, Mr. Connell; but no one would listen. All were too busy with
cheering and in crowding forward for a look at him.

In another minute he was hoisted on the shoulders of half a dozen
sturdy miners, the foremost of whom was proud old Mark Trefethen, and
was being borne in triumphal procession through the principal streets
of the town.

It was a spontaneous tribute of working-men to a fellow-workman; and,
gladly as Peveril would have modified the form of the ovation, he was
more proud of it than of any ever tendered him for having stroked the
Oxford 'varsity eight to a win.



CHAPTER X

HEROISM REWARDED


As the story of Peveril's brave act preceded him, it gained so
remarkably in passing from mouth to mouth that, by the time it reached
Mrs. Trefethen, she received a confused impression that by some
unheard-of bravery the young man had saved all in the mine, including
her Mark and her Tom, from instant destruction. Her information having
come direct from her dearest friend, Mrs. Penny, she could not doubt
its truth, nor had she time to do so before the triumphal procession
of miners appeared and halted at her very door.

Calling upon Nelly to support her, the worthy woman started forth to
greet her heroes, and welcome them with all the warmth of her
overflowing heart. As she gained the roadway, she was so blinded by
thankful tears that she could not distinguish one person from another,
but impulsively flung her arms about the neck of the first man she
encountered, who happened to be Mike Connell, and treated him to a
hearty embrace.

"Gie mun a kiss, lass!" she called to Nelly, as she loosed her arms
and made towards another victim. "Nought's too good for they brave
lads this day. Oh, Mark, man! but I be proud o' being thy earthly
wife, 'stead o' seeing thee in 'eaven this blessed minute."

This last was addressed to a bewildered stranger whom Mrs. Trefethen
had mistaken for her husband, and who was vainly striving to escape
from her encircling arms.

"Art crazy, mother, to be hustling men in public street thiccy way? I
be 'shamed of 'ee!" cried Mark Trefethen, catching hold of his wife at
this moment. "Come along in house, or if 'ee must have man to hug take
me or Tom here, or Maister Peril, who deserves it best of all for this
day's work."

Nothing loath to do as she was bid, Mrs. Trefethen made a third effort
to express her feelings towards Peveril, in her own peculiar fashion;
but he laughingly evaded her, and she fell instead upon the neck of
another astonished stranger who happened in her way, and upon whose
head she tearfully called down the choicest blessings of Heaven.

"Thee's saved me from widow's grave, lad, which the same, I frequent
saz to Miss Penny, I did 'ope never to live to see; but our 'Eveanly
Feyther knows best, and if hits 'Is will--But there, I'm that
over-set--Nelly, gie Maister Peril a kiss, lass, in token of thy
forgiveness for what 'e's done this day."

So saying, the well-meaning blunderer released her victim, with the
view of allowing Nelly a chance to express her gratitude, and, for the
first time, caught sight of his face.

"Thee's not Dick Peril!" she cried. "W'at's thee mean by scandalizing
honest woman thiccy way? Isn't thee 'shamed on thysel', thou great
lump?"

The poor man tried in vain to explain his innocence of act or
intention, but his voice was drowned in the boisterous laughter of his
mates, amid which the crowd gradually dispersed, while Mrs. Trefethen,
still exclaiming against the duplicity of men in general, was led into
the house by her husband and son.

In the meantime Miss Nelly had demurely shaken hands with Mike
Connell, who was still gasping in astonishment at the warmth of Mrs.
Trefethen's reception. Then she kissed her father and Tom, stole one
look at Peveril's face, and, murmuring something about seeing after
supper, ran into the house.

Although Peveril had not forgotten the promise to his newly made
friend to inform Nelly of his own engagement as soon as possible, he
had no chance to do so that evening; for supper had hardly been eaten
when he began to receive visitors eager to congratulate him upon his
recent act of heroism. Among these was Major Arkell, general manager
of the mine, whom the young man had never before met.

The Trefethens were thrown into a flutter of hospitable pride by the
coming to their cottage of so distinguished a visitor, but, after a
courteous greeting to them, he devoted his entire attention to him
whom he had come purposely to see. After the latter had been
introduced to him as "Mr. Peril," he asked so many questions
concerning the recent incident as to finally draw out the whole story
of that day's experience. He was a good listener, though a man of few
words, and during Peveril's narrative gained a very fair idea of our
young miner's education and capabilities. When the latter had
finished, the major asked him if he proposed to continue his career as
a miner.

"I expect I shall have to," answered Peveril, "seeing that I am
entirely dependent upon my own exertions for a livelihood, and have no
knowledge of any other business."

"Do you mind telling me what led you to choose this line of work from
all others?"

"Because," replied Peveril, flushing, "finding myself in Red Jacket
without a dollar, I was glad to accept the first job that offered."

"And we was only too glad to have him for one of us, major," broke in
Mark Trefethen, "seeing as how he introduced himself by saving our
Tom's life."

"Indeed! I hadn't heard of that. How did it happen?"

Glad of an opportunity for singing his young friend's praises, the
timber boss eagerly related the incident; and when it was told the
manager said, with a smile:

"Well, sir, you seem to have such a happy faculty for life-saving that
I don't know but what we ought to appoint you inspector of accidents.
Seriously, though, I am very glad to have a man of your evident
ability and steady nerve with us, and if you are inclined to remain in
our employ I shall make it my business to see that your interests do
not suffer. So, if you will call at my office about eight o'clock
to-morrow morning I shall be pleased to have a further talk with
you."

"Thank you, sir," rejoined Peveril; "I will not fail to be there."

After the great man had departed, the Trefethens indulged in many
speculations as to what he intended to do for their guest; nor was
Peveril himself devoid of a hopeful curiosity in the same direction.

"Mayhap he'll make 'ee store-keeper," suggested Mrs. Trefethen; "hand
if 'e only will, Maister Peril, me and Miss Penny 'll take all our
trade to thy shop, though they do say has 'ow company ginghams woan't
wash, while has for white goods, they've poorest stock in hall Red
Jacket. Same time, there's many other little things can be 'ad
reasonable, and Miss Penny's a lady as isn't above buying 'er own
groceries, which hit's a treat to see 'er taking, a taste of this or a
nibble at that, and always giving shopkeeper the benefit of 'er
hexperience."

"Store-keeper be danged!" growled Mark Trefethen. "'Tisn't likely
they'll try to make a counter-jumper outen a lad of Maister Peril's
size and weight o' fist, to say nothing of his l'arnin'. No, no. More
like he'll get a good berth underground--foreman of gang, or plat
boss, or summut like that."

Tom thought it might be a job connected with the railroad, which was
his own ambition; while Nelly, usually so ready with her tongue, for a
wonder kept silent and made no suggestions.

On the following morning, when, promptly at eight o'clock, Peveril
presented himself at the manager's office, his patience was tried by
being compelled to wait in an anteroom for more than an hour while the
great man despatched an immense amount of business with many
subordinates. Richard could not help overhearing many of the
conversations carried on in the private office, and, as he listened,
was filled with admiration at the decisive readiness with which the
manager disposed of one difficult problem after another.

Finally, when all the others had been dismissed, Peveril was summoned
to the inner room, where, after a word of regret at having kept him so
long in waiting, the manager bade him be seated, and said:

"Mr. Peril, it is so evident that you have been accustomed to a
position far removed from that of a common laborer, that I am desirous
of knowing something more of your life before intrusting you with a
responsibility. Do you mind telling me what brought you to this
section of country?"

"No, sir; I don't know that I do. I came out here ruined in fortune,
through no fault of my own, to seek information concerning an old,
and, I believe, a long-ago-abandoned mine, known as the Copper
Princess."

"Um! I remember hearing the name; and, if I am not mistaken, it
applied to a worthless property on which a large sum of money was
squandered many years since."

"Yes, sir."

"How are you interested in it?"

"My father was an owner, and I am his heir."

"I am glad you have told me this, and relieved to find that no worse
folly has caused a gentleman to seek employment as a common miner,
though I cannot hold out the slightest hope that you will ever recover
a dollar from your property. Still, I will make inquiries, and let you
know anything I may learn."

"Thank you, sir."

"Do you know anything about boats?" asked the manager, abruptly
changing the subject.

"Yes, sir; I have handled boats more or less all my life."

"Good! Then I want you to take charge of a gang of men whom you will
find awaiting you on the company's tug down at the landing. They are
going some distance up the coast, to recover whatever may be found of
a valuable timber raft belonging to us, and wrecked near Laughing Fish
Cove during the gale of two days ago. All our logs are marked 'W. P.'
If you find any such in possession of other parties, you will lay
claim to them, and even take them by force if necessary. The tug will
leave you at the cove, where you will establish a camp, and to which
you will raft the recovered logs, holding them against her return,
which will be in about a week. Here is a note of introduction to her
captain. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir; I think I do."

"Then you may start at once."

"Very well, sir;" and the young man, realizing his employer's love of
promptness, rose to leave.

"By the way," said the other, as he reached the door, "is your name
Peril?"

"No, sir; it is Peveril."

"Richard?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then this letter is probably for you. It has lain here several days,
awaiting a claimant."

With this Major Arkell handed the young man a dainty-looking missive
that he acknowledged to be for him, and which, as he thrust it into
his pocket, he saw with a thrill of joy was addressed in the
handwriting of Rose Bonnifay.



CHAPTER XI

NELLY TREFETHEN FINDS A LETTER


Having donned his best suit for the interview with Major Arkell, and
realizing that his mine clothing would be more in keeping with the job
now on hand, Peveril first hastened home to make the change. He found
only Mrs. Trefethen in the house, and at sight of him she expressed an
eager curiosity to learn the result of his recent interview.

"It's all right," he laughed, as he bounded up the narrow stairway
leading to his room. "I'm to turn sailor, and be captain of a craft
somewhere up the coast."

"Whativer can lad mean?" exclaimed the perplexed woman. "'Im a sailor!
Did iver any one 'ear the like o' that? Oh, Maister Peril! be iver
coming back?"

"Of course I am!" shouted Peveril from the little upper room, in which
he was hastily changing his clothing. "I shall be back whenever my
ship comes in, which will probably be in a week, or it may take a few
days longer. There's a wreck, you know, and I am going to save the
pieces. But I'll be down directly."

"A wrack!" gasped Mrs. Trefethen, "and 'im in hit! Save us! but 'twill
be worse than down shaft. Shaft be dry land, anyway, but they awful
sea that rageth like a lion seeking whom it may devour. Oh, Maister
Peril!"

"Yes, coming!"

The young man was just then making a hasty transfer of the contents of
his pockets, besides cramming into those of his working-suit several
articles that he imagined might prove useful. At that moment an
impatient whistle from the timber train that would take him to the
landing warned him that he had no more time to spare, and, snatching
his hat, he sprang down the stairway.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Trefethen!" he cried. "Tell Miss Nelly she sha'n't be
turned out of her own room any longer, and tell her--But never mind;
only tell her that I will have something important to say to her when
I come back. Give her my love, and--" Here his words were cut short by
another shrill whistle from the waiting train; and Peveril ran from
the house, shouting back "Good-bye!" as he went, and leaving the good
woman gasping with the breathless flurry of his departure.

When Nelly Trefethen reached home a half-hour later she received such
a confused account of what had just happened as caused her rosy cheeks
to take on a deeper color and filled her with a strange agitation. Mr.
Peril had gone to be a sailor, and would come back very shortly as
captain of a ship. Perhaps it would be a splendid, great steamer, such
as she had seen lying at the Marquette ore docks. He had left his
love for her; he would have something of the greatest importance to
say the next time he saw her; and she was not to be turned out of her
room again. What could he mean by that, and what a very strange thing
it was for a young man to say? Since he had said it to her mother,
though, it must have meant--Oh dear! how she wished she had not gone
out that morning, and what an endless time a whole week seemed!

At length, anxious to escape from her mother's torrent of words, and
to be alone with her own thoughts, the blushing girl fled up-stairs on
the pretence of putting Mr. Peril's room in order.

The very first thing she spied on entering the room, about which his
belongings were scattered in every direction, was a letter lying on
the floor, and almost hidden beneath the bed. Picking it up, she was
surprised to find it sealed, and still more so to note that it was
addressed to Mr. Richard _Peveril_. How could that be? Was their guest
living among them under an assumed name? No, of course he wouldn't do
such a thing; and this letter must have been handed to him by mistake.
That was the reason why he had not opened it. The names were very much
alike in sound, though so differently spelled. Besides, this letter
was addressed in a lady's handwriting, and evidently came from some
foreign country. She knew Mr. Peril was an American, because he had
said so. He had also told them that he was, so far as he knew, without
a relative in the world, so there were no sisters or young lady
cousins to write to him.

She did not think he could be engaged, because he had never mentioned
the fact, while all the other young men of her acquaintance were in
the habit of talking very freely about their "best girls," if they
were so fortunate as to have such. Besides, had not Mr. Peril just
left his love for _her_, and a message to the effect that he had
something very important to tell _her_? She would keep this hateful
letter, though, and confront him with it the moment she saw him again.
Then his manner would convey the information she wanted. How she did
long to open it and just glance at its contents! The impulse to do
this was so strong that only by thrusting the letter into her pocket
could she resist it.

Now the innocent cause of her perplexity seemed to burn like a coal of
fire until she again drew it forth. A dozen times that day did she do
this, with the temptation to set her doubts at rest by tearing open
the sealed envelope always assailing her with increased force.
Finally, to her great relief, an honorable way of escaping this
temptation presented itself. She would return the horrid letter to the
post-office. From there, if it were indeed for Mr. Peril, he would in
due course of time receive it, as he had before; while, if it were
intended for some one else, it would be delivered to its rightful
owner. This plan was no sooner conceived than executed; and, as the
troublesome missive disappeared through the narrow slit of the
post-office letter-box, the girl heaved a sigh of relief.

When, the very next day, that identical letter was advertised on the
post-office bulletin, and Nelly Trefethen saw the notice, she was
assured that she had done the right thing. For ten days that
advertisement stared her in the face whenever she visited the office,
and then, to her great satisfaction, it disappeared. Rose Bonnifay's
message from across the sea had gone to the place of "dead" letters,
but Nelly believed that it had at last found its rightful owner.

On the very evening of Peveril's departure Miss Nelly's old
sweetheart, Mike Connell, joined her for a walk, and, after much
preliminary conversation, finally plucked up courage to ask if Mr.
Peril had told her anything of importance before going away.

"What should he have to tell me?" asked the girl, evasively.

"He might have tould you that he liked you better than any other girl
in the world," was the diplomatic answer.

"You know he'd never say a thing like that, Mr. Connell," cried Nelly,
blushing furiously.

"Well, then, he might have said he was already bespoke."

"I don't believe it."

"It's true, all the same."

"What right have you to say so?" asked Nelly, whose face was now quite
pale.

"The right of his own words, for he telled me so himself."

"Who is she?"

"He didn't say."

"Where does she live, then?"

"Divil a bit do I know."

"I don't believe you know anything at all about it. You are just
making up a story to tease me."

"T'asing you is the last thing I'd be thinking of, Nelly darlin',
except it was t'asing ye to marry me. No, alanna, it's the truth I'm
telling you, and if you can't believe me just ax him. At the same
time, I'm sore hurted that ye should be caring whether he's bespoke or
no."

"I will ask him," answered the girl, "and until I do I'll thank you,
Mr. Connell, never to mention Mr. Peril's name again."

"Not even to tell you what a brave, bowld lad he is, and how
handsome?"

"You'd not be telling me anything I don't know."

"But, darlin', when he tells you with his own mouth that he's already
bespoke and not to be had at all, you'll not refuse a bit of hope to
one who loves the very ground trod by your two little feet."

"Good-night, Mr. Connell. Here's the door, and I'm going in."

In the meantime Peveril, after bidding good-bye to Mrs. Trefethen, had
been whirled away by the little timber train to a landing on the lake
shore, where he found the tug _Broncho_ awaiting him. Towing behind it
was a light double-ended skiff, and on its narrow deck he saw three
men, dressed very much as he was himself, whom he knew must be those
chosen to assist him in his forthcoming labors. One of them was a
bright-looking French Canadian, while the others were evidently
foreigners of the same class as the car-pushers in the mine. The
captain of the tug was a Yankee named Spillins.

The latter glanced over the note from Major Arkell that the new-comer
handed him, and said, "All right, Mr. Peril; if you're ready for a
start, I am."

"Yes," replied Peveril, "I'm ready," and in another minute they were
off. As they got under way the young leader of the expedition walked
aft to make the acquaintance of his men. He was annoyed to find that,
while two of them were brawny fellows who looked well fit for work,
they could not muster a dozen words of English between them. Noting
his efforts to converse with them, the third man, who introduced
himself as Joe Pintaud, came to his assistance.

"No goot you talk to dem Dago feller, Mist Pearl," he said; "zey can
spik ze Anglais no more as woodchuck. You tell 'em, 'dam lazy
scoundrel,' zey onstan pret goot; but, by gar, you talk lak white man
you got kick it in hees head."

Realizing the truth of Joe Pintaud's words, Peveril left the others to
a stolid smoking of their long-stemmed pipes, and sought whatever
information their more intelligent companion had to give concerning
their present undertaking. He quickly discovered that, while Joe was
as ignorant as himself of that coast, he was an expert raftsman and
logger. He also found that the tug carried a good supply of rope,
axes, pike-poles, and other things necessary for the work in hand.

After having satisfied himself on these points, Peveril gazed for a
while at the bleak, rock-bound coast along which they were running,
and then, suddenly bethinking himself of a pleasure that he had
reserved for a leisure moment, he entered the pilot-house, and,
sitting down on a cushioned locker behind Captain Spillins, who stood
at the wheel, began to feel in his pockets.

As he did this his movements grew more and more impatient, until
finally, with a muttered exclamation, he turned the entire contents of
his pockets out on the cushion.

"Lost something?" asked the captain, looking around.

"Yes."

"Not your money, I hope."

"No, but a letter that was worth more to me than all the money in the
world."

"Whew!" whistled the captain. "Must have been important."



CHAPTER XII

A VISION OF THE CLIFFS


Rose Bonnifay had acted more from impulse than from real feeling when
she consented to become engaged to Richard Peveril. As a popular
Oxford man and stroke of the 'varsity eight he was a hero to attract
almost any girl. His wealth was by no means to be despised, and it
would certainly be a fine thing to have him in devoted attendance
during her proposed trip to Norway. She was greatly disappointed at
his failure to rejoin them, and wondered what he could mean by
announcing the loss of his fortune when he was still the owner of a
gold-mine.

Miss Rose said "gold"-mine to herself, because, while Peveril had not
specified the character of his property, she imagined all Western
mines to be gold-bearing. Of course, too, their owners must be
wealthy. So she hoped for the best; and, while realizing that she was
not at all in love, determined to let her engagement hold good for the
present.

Under the circumstances she felt that this decision was very
creditable to her loyalty, which, however, was sadly shaken by Owen's
first gossipy letter from New York. With its disquieting news still
fresh in her mind, she received a second that completely dispelled
her illusions, and caused her to wonder how she could ever have been
so foolish as to engage herself to a man of whom she knew so little.

This second letter, which contained the cruel distortion of facts
penned by Mr. Owen in Red Jacket, followed the Bonnifays to Norway,
where it was received. Acting on the impulse acquired by reading it,
Rose immediately sat down and wrote to Peveril the letter that reached
him in due course of time, but which he lost without even having
broken its seal.

He had joyfully recognized the handwriting of its address, but was at
the same time puzzled to know how Rose could have learned his present
abiding-place. Now he was filled with consternation at his
carelessness. Of course, though, he must have dropped the letter while
transferring the contents of his pockets, and he would surely find it
again upon his return to the Trefethen cottage.

At Laughing Fish Cove the log-wrecking party was landed, shortly after
noon, near a fishing settlement of half a dozen forlorn-appearing huts
that stood in an irregular row on the beach. A few slatternly women,
and twice their number of wild-eyed children, were the sole occupants
of the place, for its men were away on the lake tending their nets.

Again was Peveril disappointed to learn, from the appearance and
conversation of these people, that they also were foreigners, speaking
a language unintelligible to him, though evidently comprehended by two
of his men.

Captain Spillins explained that, uninviting as the place looked, it
was one of the very few harbors on that rugged coast in which the logs
of which Peveril was in search could be rafted and held in safety
until called for. So the stores and supplies were landed, and, after
the tug had steamed away, Peveril set his men at work building a camp
and collecting firewood, while he took the skiff for an exploration of
the adjacent coast.

On the south side of Laughing Fish Cove he found logs bearing the
letters "W. P." strewn for miles along the shore, and piled in every
conceivable position among the rocks, on which they had been hurled by
furious seas. As he studied the situation, our young wreck-master
foresaw an immense amount of labor in dislodging these and getting
them once more afloat. Besides those on the rocks he discovered a
number on the beach of the cove that could easily be got into the
water. But all that he thus saw formed only about one-half of what had
been contained in the great raft.

The remainder must, then, be found somewhere to the northward of
Laughing Fish, and, accordingly, late in the afternoon he headed his
skiff in that direction. The coast that he now skirted was very wild
but grandly beautiful, with precipitous cliffs brilliant in the reds
and greens of mineral stains, and surmounted by a dense growth of
sharp-pointed firs, among which were set groups of white birches. At
the base of the cliffs, and amid the detached masses fallen from them,
the crystal-blue waters plashed softly, and an occasional wood-duck
in iridescent plumage swam hurriedly from his course with anxious
backward glances. In the upper air, nesting gulls in spotless white
darted to and fro, noting his movements with keen, red eyes.

He found some logs near the cove; but the farther he went from it the
scarcer they became, until finally he passed a mile or more of coast
without seeing one.

"Strange!" muttered the young man. "What can have become of them?
There are hundreds still missing, and they should be somewhere in this
vicinity."

He was paddling almost without a sound, and skirting a ledge of black
rocks that jutted well out into the lake, as he spoke. At that same
moment something impelled him to glance upward and encounter a vision
startling in its unexpectedness.

On the very face of the cliff, some twenty feet above the water, and
leaning slightly forward, stood a girlish figure gazing directly at
him with great, wondering eyes. For an instant she seemed to read his
very soul. Then a vivid flush sprang to her cheeks, and with a quick
movement she disappeared as though the solid rock had opened to
receive her.

Peveril rubbed his eyes and looked again. She certainly was not there,
nor could he discover the slightest indication of an opening through
which she could have vanished. Yet, even as he looked, a pebble
leaped, apparently from the unbroken face of the cliff, and dropped
with a clatter to the ledge close beside him.

He paddled farther out into the lake, but still failed to discover
any aperture. He moved for short distances both up and down the coast
without any better success. To be sure, a stunted cedar growing out
from the rocky face near where the girl had disappeared showed the
existence of either a crevice or ledge, and she might have concealed
herself behind it, though Peveril did not believe she had. Even if she
were thus hidden, how had she gained that perilous position?--how
would she escape from it?--who was she?--and where had she come from?

She was not one of the fisher-women from the cove; of that he was
certain. Neither was she an Indian girl, for the face, indelibly
pictured in his memory, was fair and refined. It had not struck him as
being beautiful, except for the glorious eyes that had looked so fully
into his.

He called several times: "Are you in trouble? Can I help you?" But
only mocking echoes, and the harsh screams of a flock of gulls
circling about the very place where he had seen her, came to him in
answer. He sought for some means of scaling the cliff, but found none.
Everywhere it was smooth and sheer. Never in his life had the young
man been so baffled and never so loath to own himself beaten; but he
was at length warned by the setting of the sun to give over his quest
and row vigorously back the way he had come.

Twilight was merging into darkness when he again entered Laughing Fish
Cove, but a bright fire on the beach served at once as a beacon and a
promise of good cheer.

A comfortable cabin of poles and bark had been built by the men during
his absence. In it were all the stores, as well as a quantity of
spruce boughs and hemlock tips for bedding. The chill evening air was
filled with a delicious fragrance of burning cedar, mingled with the
pleasant odor of boiling coffee. Several white-fish nailed to oak
planks were browning before a bed of glowing coals, while slices of a
lake-trout were sizzling together with bits of bacon in the
frying-pan.

Supper was ready, as Joe, who superintended the culinary operations,
announced with a shout the moment Peveril's skiff grated on the beach.
Several of the fisher-huts were lighted, others had bright fires
blazing outside their doors. The boats had returned, and there was a
pleasant bustle about the little settlement.

Peveril did not mention the perplexing vision he had seen that
afternoon, though it continually haunted him, and a decided zest was
given to his work of the coming week by the thought of this mystery.
As he lay on his couch of fragrant boughs that evening planning how to
solve it, he almost forgot his unhappiness of the morning, and a
little later a new face had found its way into his dreams.



CHAPTER XIII

LOG-WRECKERS AND SMUGGLERS


There were no laggards in the camp on the following morning, for, with
the stars still shining, Peveril routed out his men from their
fragrant couches. Leaving Joe Pintaud to prepare breakfast, he and the
two Bohemians began to form their raft by rolling to the water's edge,
setting afloat, and securing such logs as lay nearest at hand.

While the wreckers were thus engaged, the fishermen appeared from
their huts and made ready for another day on the lake. They were an
ill-favored set, and Peveril was not pleased to note that they seemed
to make sneering remarks concerning the task on which he was engaged.
Beneath their jeers his own men grew so surly and restless that he was
relieved when Joe called them to breakfast.

After that all hands set forth in the skiff to work at the logs
stranded along the coast to the southward. As they pulled out of the
cove Peveril noticed that a small schooner, which he had believed
belonged to the fishermen, was still at anchor, and that the crew
lounging about her deck were of a different class from those who had
already gone out. He was about to call Joe's attention to this, when
that individual hailed the schooner, and began to carry on a lively
conversation with her men.

When they had passed beyond hearing, Peveril questioned the Canadian
concerning the strange craft, and was told that she was not a
fishing-boat, but a trader.

"What does she trade in?"

"Plenty t'ing. Cognac, seelk, dope, everyt'ing. Plenty trade, plenty
mun. Much better as mining. Mais, parbleu! I am a fool, me."

"Why?"

"Zat I, too, vill not trade and make ze mun."

"Why don't you, if you prefer that business?"

"Ah! It is because I am what you call too mooch a cow--a hard cow. I
like not ze jail, me."

"You mean a coward?"

"Oui, oui. Cowhard. I am one cowhard for ze jail."

"Oh!" cried Peveril, suddenly enlightened. "Your friends of the
schooner are smugglers."

"Oui, zat it. Smoogler, an' bimeby, some time, maybe, soldat catch it.
Take all ze mun, put it in jail. Bim! No good!"

"That is the first time I ever heard of any smugglers on this coast,"
remarked Peveril, reflectively. "I wonder if they can have taken our
logs?"

"Log, no," replied Joe, contemptuously. "Canada, he gat plenty
log--too plenty. Tradair tak' ze drapeau, ze viskey, ze tick-tick, but
not ze log."

Here the conversation was ended by the arrival at the scene of labor,
and the work of dislodging stranded logs was begun. All day long they
toiled at the difficult task, straining, lifting, stumbling, rolling,
and slipping on the wet rocks, receiving many a bump and bruise,
pausing only for a bite of lunch and a whiff of pipe-smoke at noon,
and finally returning to Laughing Fish at dusk, slowly towing into the
cove a small raft of the recovered wreckage.

For several days longer, sometimes in clear weather, but often in
cheerless rain and fog, was the task of collecting such logs as had
stranded on the south side of the cove continued. At length the last
one was gathered from that direction, and our wreckers were ready to
explore the coast lying to the northward.

Not since the day of his coming had Peveril found leisure to revisit
the place where he had seen the mysterious figure of the cliffs. He
had thought often of her, and had so longed to return to that part of
the coast that only a strict sense of duty had prevented him. Now that
he was free to unravel the mystery if he could, he was as excited as a
boy off for a holiday.

He purposed gathering the few logs already seen on that side of the
cove, and then to continue his exploration indefinitely in search of
others; but, to his amazement, as they skirted the rugged coast, not a
log was to be found. In vain did the young leader stand up in his
boat, the better to scan every inch of the shore. In vain did he land
on the rocks and scramble over their broken surface. There were no
logs, and yet he knew they had been there five days earlier. Nor had
there been any storm during that time to dislodge them.

"Joe, your smuggling friends must have taken them."

"Non. He gat plenty log in Canada, him."

"What, then, has become of them?"

"Dunno. Maybe dev catch him."

"It is a human devil of some kind, then, and he must have carried them
still farther up the coast, for we should have seen them if they had
been carried the other way."

"Oui, m'sieu."

"Give way, men! I'm going to find those logs if they are anywhere on
Keweenaw Point."

So the light skiff shot ahead, with the two Bohemians rowing, and the
others in bow and stern, watching the coast sharply as they slipped
past its rocky front. They were already beyond any point at which
Peveril had previously discovered logs, and were rapidly approaching
the place of his mystery. He could see the jutting ledge, and was
eagerly scanning the cliffs above it, when suddenly Joe held up his
hand with a warning "Hist!"

Without a word Peveril gave the signal to stop rowing, which was
instantly obeyed. In the silence that followed they heard a sound of
singing. It was a plaintive melody, sung in a girlish voice,
untrained, but full and sweet. To his amazement Peveril recognized it
as one of the very latest songs of a popular composer, whose music he
had supposed almost unknown in America. The voice also seemed to be
close at hand.

At first the men gazed about them with an idle curiosity, but, not
seeing anyone, they began to grow uneasy, and to cast frightened
glances on every side.

"By gar!" exclaimed Joe Pintaud, and on the instant the singing
ceased.

The sudden silence was almost as disquieting as the voice of an
invisible singer, and again Joe uttered his favorite exclamation.

"Where did that voice come from?"

"Dunno, Mist Pearl. One tam I t'ink from rock, one tam from water.
Fust he come from ze hair, zen he gat under ze bateau. Bimeby he come
every somewhere. One tam I t'ink angele, me; one tam dev. Mostly I
t'ink dev."

"It seemed to me to come from the cliff," said Peveril.

"Oui; so I t'ink."

"Though I could also have sworn that it rose from the water."

"Oui, m'sieu. You say dev, I say dev."

By this time Peveril had again got his craft under way, and they were
skirting a wooded islet that lay off the coast just beyond the black
ledge. This island appeared to be nearly cut in two by a narrow bay;
but as those in the boat seemed to see every part of this, and were
convinced that it contained no logs, they did not enter it.

The young leader was not giving much thought to either logs or his
immediate surroundings just then, for his ears were still filled with
the music that had come to him as mysteriously as had the vision of a
few days earlier.

So lost was he in reflection that he started abruptly when the rowing
again ceased, and one of the men whispered, hoarsely:

"Mist Pearl, look!"

He was pointing back from where they had come; and, turning, Peveril
saw, apparently gliding from the very shore of the island they had
just passed, a small schooner. She must have sailed from the bay into
which they had gazed, and yet they believed they had scrutinized every
inch of its surface.

"By gar!" cried Joe Pintaud. "Some more dev, hein?"

"It looks to me like the boat of your friends the smugglers,"
suggested Peveril, studying the vessel closely.

"Oui, certainment! It ees ze sheep of ze tradair."

"Then we will go and see where she came from, for so snug a
hiding-place is worth discovering."

So the skiff was put about and rowed back to the little bay bisecting
the island. Then it was found that there were two small islands, and
that the supposed bay was really an inlet from the lake, which made a
sharp angle at a point invisible from outside. This channel led to a
narrow sound, from which another inlet cut directly into the
rock-bound coast. It was quite short, and quickly widened into an
exquisite basin, completely land-locked and very nearly circular.

Peveril had followed this devious course with all the eagerness of an
explorer; but his men had cast many nervous glances over their
shoulders, and even Joe Pintaud had expressed a muttered hope that
they were not being led into some trap.

As the skiff emerged from the high-walled inlet and shot into the
smiling basin, an exclamation burst from all four men at once.

"Ze log!" cried Joe.

"Our logs!" echoed Peveril.

The others probably used words meaning the same thing. At any rate,
they talked excitedly, and pointed to the opposite side of the basin,
where was moored a raft of logs.

Two men with a yoke of oxen were in the act of hauling one of these
from the water, and a deeply marked trail, leading up the bank to a
point of disappearance, showed where a number of its predecessors had
gone.

"Give way!" cried Peveril, and the skiff sped across the basin.

As it ranged alongside the moored raft, the young leader recognized
the deep-cut mark of the White Pine Mine on one floating stick after
another.

"Hold on!" he shouted. "Where are you going with that log?"

"None of your business!" answered one of the two men, who was old and
white-headed. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

"I've come after these logs."

"Well, you can't have them, and you want to get out of here quicker
than you came in!" With this the man spoke a few words to his
assistant, who immediately ran up the trail and disappeared, while
Peveril, with a hot flush mounting to his forehead, ordered his crew
to pull for the shore.



CHAPTER XIV

A VAIN EFFORT TO RECOVER STOLEN PROPERTY


Leaping ashore the moment his skiff grated on the beach, Peveril
stepped directly up to the old man and said:

"I do not know who you are, sir, nor what claim you make to ownership
in those logs. I do know, however, that they bear the private mark of
the White Pine Mining Company, and formed part of a raft recently
wrecked on this coast. Having been sent here expressly to secure this
property, I am determined to use every endeavor to carry out my
instructions. Such being the case, I trust that you will not interfere
with the performance of my duty."

"I shall, though," answered the old man, gruffly. "I have need of this
timber, and consider that I have a just claim to it, seeing that it
was cast up by the sea on my land. I have also expended a great amount
of labor in bringing it to this place; so that if I had no other claim
I have one for salvage."

"Which will doubtless be allowed when presented in proper form,"
replied Peveril. "In the meantime I am ordered to take possession of
all logs that I may find bearing the W. P. mark."

"Supposing I forbid you to do so?"

"I am also authorized to use force, if necessary, to carry out my
instructions."

"That sounds very much like a threat, my young friend; but I decline
to be frightened by it, and still forbid you to touch those logs."

Joe Pintaud had followed his young leader ashore, and stood close
beside him during the foregoing interview, while the Bohemians still
remained in the skiff. Now, without deigning any further reply to the
old man, Peveril, in a low tone, ordered the Canadian to provide
himself and the others with poles, and, if possible, shove the raft
off from shore, adding that he would join in their efforts the moment
he had cast loose its moorings.

As Joe started to obey these instructions, Peveril ran to the farther
of two ropes holding the raft and unfastened it. While he did this the
old man stood without remonstrance, but with a cynical smile on his
thin lips.

Finding himself uninterrupted, Peveril fancied that no resistance was
to be offered, after all, and, with the carelessness of confidence,
stooped to cast off the remaining line. The next instant a nervous
shove from behind sent him headforemost into the lake. Just then there
came a rush of feet, and as Peveril, half-choked by his sudden bath in
the icy water, rose to the surface and attempted to regain the bank he
was seized by half a dozen pair of brawny hands belonging to as many
wild-looking men who had been summoned from beyond the ridge.

In another minute the young wrecker was lying in the bottom of his own
skiff, and it was being towed out to sea by a second boat manned by
two lusty foreigners. In its stern-sheets sat the old man holding a
cocked revolver, from which he threatened to put a bullet through
Peveril's head if he lifted it above the gunwale.

Under the circumstances the latter, though raging at his sudden
discomfiture, deemed it best to lie still and await, with what
patience he might, the result of his misadventure.

So he was towed for a long distance, and when his skiff finally seemed
to have lost motion and be drifting, he ventured to lift his head.
Before he could see over the side there came the sharp report of a
pistol, a bullet whistled close above him, and he was ordered to
remain quiet until he received permission to sit up.

Peveril obeyed, and for nearly half an hour longer lay motionless.
Then his craft struck bottom, and he sprang up in alarm. He was alone,
and his skiff was bumping against a black ledge that he recognized as
the one lying at the foot of the mysterious cliff. Not a boat was to
be seen, but on the rocks close at hand lay the oars that had been
taken from his skiff when he was thrown into it. They were not lying
together, but at some distance apart, as though flung there, but
whether from a boat or from some other direction he could not tell. At
any rate, he was thankful to have them, and at once began to plan how
he should use them in connection with his regained liberty.

At first his indignation at his recent treatment suggested that he row
back and attempt, at least, to recover his men; but a moment's
reflection showed the folly of such a scheme. Not only would he again
be confronted by an overpowering number of opponents, but it was
probable that his men were even then on their way overland to Laughing
Fish, for he did not believe the old man would dare hold them
prisoners. At any rate, it would be best to rejoin them before
planning to gain possession of the logs in the basin, upon which he
was still determined.

Although the young man did not know it, he was keenly watched during
these moments of indecision by a pair of bright eyes that peered down
from the cliff above him. When he shiveringly re-entered his skiff the
eyes were hastily withdrawn lest he should look up. A little later a
young girl of slight figure, clad in a dark gown, stepped out from the
cliff, as from behind a curtain, and, half concealed by the stunted
cedar, watched him curiously until he was lost to view.

"He is ever so different from an ordinary miner," she soliloquized,
"and looks as though he might be interesting. I wonder if I shall ever
see him again? I am glad I thought of getting these oars and throwing
them down, even if he has used them to go away with. What will papa
think when he finds them gone? Anyhow, the monotony of this stupid
place has been broken at last, and now, perhaps, something else will
happen. I believe something must be going to happen very soon, anyhow,
from the way papa talks. Dear papa! how queerly he acts, and how I
wish I could see him happy just once! Now I must go and tell him that
the schooner is coming."

With this the girl apparently performed a miracle, for she seemed to
push aside a portion of the red-stained cliff and disappear behind it
without leaving a trace of an opening.

As Peveril rowed steadily down the coast he saw in the distance a
schooner that he believed to be the one belonging to Joe Pintaud's
friends beating up from the southward. For a moment he thought of
trying to board her, but, quickly dismissing the idea, doggedly
pursued his way.

Arrived at the cove, he was disappointed to find his camp vacant and
without a sign that his coming companions had returned to it. Building
a fire, he made a pot of coffee, and prepared to await their coming
with what patience he could command. Some of the fisher-children came
and watched him shyly, but when he attempted to draw them into
conversation they only laughed and ran away.

Feeling very lonely, and undecided as to what he should do, he had
just begun to eat a lunch of cold food prepared by Joe that morning
when a plan occurred to him. It was to set forth on foot to meet his
men, failing to do which he could at least spy out the enemy's
strength. "I can discover, too, what lies behind that ridge, and where
they are carrying those logs," he said, half aloud.

[Illustration: THE MEN HASTILY THREW PEVERIL HEAD-FIRST INTO THE
BUSHES]

So impatient was he to put this plan into execution that he would not
wait to finish his lunch, but, swallowing a mug of coffee and stuffing
a few hard biscuit into the ample pockets of his now nearly dry coat,
he set forth. Coming across a well-trodden though narrow trail,
leading in what he believed to be the right direction, he turned into
it, and followed it briskly for several miles.

It was by this time late afternoon, and long shadows were creeping
over the rugged upland country that he traversed. No house was to be
seen, nor evidence of human occupation. All the large timber having
been long since cut off, the region was now covered with a ragged
second growth and thick underbrush. Extensive tracts had been burned
over, and thousands of small trees, standing in the melancholy
attitudes of death, added to the desolation of the scene. Every now
and then he passed yawning prospect-holes, offering mute evidence of
disappointed hopes.

At length he caught a whiff of smoke, a dull clang of machinery came
to his ears; and, with curiosity keenly aroused, he pursued his way
more cautiously. A few minutes later he reached a point where he
caught glimpses of buildings, evidently belonging to a mine. A tall
shaft-house was surrounded by various shops and a cluster of
dwellings, most of them very humble in appearance, though one was
large and pretentious.

Although smoke was curling lazily from a lofty stack, that he imagined
belonged to an engine-house, and though there was a certain amount of
noise, as of machinery in motion, there were no other signs of
activity about the place. In fact, it was pervaded by an aspect of
desolation and desertion. There were no hurrying men nor teams. Most
of the buildings appeared to be permanently closed; doors were boarded
up, windows were broken, and the smaller dwellings were almost hidden
by the rank growth of weeds and bushes that closely surrounded them.

As Peveril stared in perplexity at this melancholy picture his
attention was attracted by a sound of voices near at hand. He gazed
eagerly, and even took a few steps forward, hoping to meet his own
party, but was grievously disappointed to see instead a group of three
burly strangers clad in mining costume. As they drew near he
recognized them to be Bohemians, and was particularly struck by the
hideous expression of him who seemed to act as leader of the party.

Although the new-comers started at sight of the young man, and
regarded him with scowling faces as they drew near, they did not speak
nor offer to molest him, but passed by in silence.

Disappointed that they were not his own men, but relieved to be so
easily rid of them, Peveril again turned his attention to the
semi-deserted mining village that had so aroused his curiosity. So
deeply interested did he at once become in watching a team of oxen
that had just appeared, hauling a log over a rise of ground, that he
did not hear the approach of stealthy footsteps nor note the crouching
forms creeping up behind him. Closer and closer they came, until they
were within reach of their unconscious victim. Then they sprang upon
him all at once, and he was hurled to the ground.

In another moment his arms were bound, and he recognized in one
distorted face, leering close above his own, that of the man who had
led the attack on him in the mine, and whom he had sent reeling away
with a broken jaw.

Now the cruel face was rendered doubly hideous by a grin of triumph,
and Peveril's heart sank within him as he gazed into the pitiless eyes
that lighted its brutish features.



CHAPTER XV

PEVERIL IN THE HANDS OF HIS ENEMIES


Having been driven from Red Jacket by the Cornishmen under Mark
Trefethen, the Bohemian, Rothsky, and his fellow car-pushers of the
White Pine Mine who had assaulted Peveril on his first day of work,
had taken to the woods like wild beasts. Although restrained of their
evil intentions for the time being, they were more bitter than ever
against the innocent cause of their trouble, and swore, with strange,
foreign oaths, to kill him if the chance should ever offer.

In the meantime they must find some way of gaining a livelihood, and
this finally came to them at a queer, semi-abandoned mine across which
they stumbled in the course of their wanderings. Its proprietor was an
old man who seemed half crazed; and the mine that he was working in a
small way, with a pitifully inadequate force, was absolutely barren of
copper; but, as he paid their wages promptly, the car-pushers were
willing to do his bidding without asking questions.

One of the scarcest things about this mine was timber with which to
support the roof of the only drift that was being opened. The
proprietor tried to force his men to continue their work, and open the
drift far beyond a point of safety without the protection of this most
necessary adjunct, and when they refused he became furiously angry.
Their job seemed to have come to an end, and all hands were about to
leave, when, by an opportune gale, a supply of the desired material
was cast up on the adjacent coast.

Every able-bodied man was immediately set to work collecting this, and
in towing raft after raft of the Heaven-sent logs to a land-locked
basin that lay but a short distance from the mine. In this way, even
before the arrival of Peveril and his wreckers, a large amount of the
needed timber had been secured.

Although the miners were well aware that their employer carried on
some other business besides the development of his barren property,
they neither knew nor cared to know what it was. They discovered that
it was in some way connected with the coming and going of certain
vessels, but beyond this they were kept in ignorance.

When one of these vessels reported a party at Laughing Fish also
engaged in a search for wrecked logs, the exertions of the
white-haired mine-owner were so redoubled that before Peveril found
time to work the coast to the northward of his camp, it had been
stripped of every log. Having obtained possession of his coveted
timber, the old man was now making every effort to have it transported
to the mouth of his shaft, believing that, if he could once get it
underground, his right to the logs would remain unquestioned. He had,
however, only partially succeeded in effecting this removal, when, to
his chagrin, Peveril appeared on the scene of activity.

After the defeat of the young man's attempt to capture the raft, his
two Bohemians were easily induced to join the enemy by promises of
better pay than they were getting. As for Joe Pintaud, he was indeed
taken prisoner, but was purposely so loosely guarded that he found no
difficulty in escaping to the schooner of his friends, which came into
port that afternoon, and on which he was carried off to Canada.

Thus was the White Pine wrecking expedition completely broken up, and
only its leader was left to carry out, if he could, its objects. Even
he had been set adrift in an oarless skiff, with the hope that he
would be so long delayed in reporting to his employers as to allow
time for the captured logs to be put underground before another demand
for them could be made.

This disposition of the captive was only known to the old man, who
had, unobserved, removed the oars from Peveril's skiff; and so it was
generally supposed that he would return directly to his camp at
Laughing Fish.

Rothsky, the Bohemian, who was one of those working near the log raft,
had instantly recognized Peveril, and at sight of him his hatred
blazed up with redoubled fury. To be sure, his broken jaw had healed,
but so awry as to disfigure his face and render it more hideous than
ever. Now to find the man who had done him this injury again
interfering with his plans filled him with rage.

Although he had no opportunity for venting it at the moment, he easily
learned from Peveril's late followers the location of their camp, and,
believing that the young man would be found there, he planned an
attack upon it for that very night. He had no difficulty in inducing
the two other car-pushers who had been driven from the White Pine to
join him, and as soon as they quit work that evening they set forth on
foot.

They had not settled on any plan of action, and, though Rothsky was
determined to kill the man he hated, his associates imagined that the
young fellow was only to be punished in such a way as would cause him
a considerable degree of suffering and at the same time afford them
great amusement. They did not anticipate any interference with their
plans, even should they be discovered, for the fishermen of the cove
were their fellow-countrymen, bound to them by the ties of a common
hatred against all native-born Americans.

Now it so happened that the only daughter of the erratic old
mine-owner had set forth that afternoon, accompanied only by her
ever-present body-guard, a great, lean stag-hound, on a long gallop
over the wild uplands surrounding her home. For that desolate little
mining village was the only home Mary Darrell had known since the
death of her mother, five years before, or when she was but twelve
years of age.

Until then she had lived in New England, and had only seen her father
upon the rare occasions of his visits from the mysterious West in
which his life was spent. To others he was a man of morose silence,
suspicious of his fellows, secretive and unapproachable, but to his
only child, the one light of his darkened life, and the sole hope of
his old age, he was ever the loving father, tender and indulgent.

Bringing her to the only home he had to offer, he had made all
possible provision for her comfort and happiness. The most recent
books were sent to her, and the latest music found its way into the
wilderness for her amusement. Himself a well-educated man, Ralph
Darrell devoted his abundant leisure to her instruction, and to the
study of her tastes. Only two of the girl's expressed wishes were left
ungratified, and both of these he had promised to grant when she
should be eighteen years of age.

One of them was that they might return to the home of her childhood.
To this her father's unvarying answer was that business and a regard
for her future welfare compelled him to remain where they were until
the expiration of a certain time. When it should be elapsed, he
promised that she should lead him to any part of the world she chose.
Cheered by this promise, she planned many an imaginary journey to
foreign lands, and many a long hour did Mary and her father beguile in
arranging the details of these delightful wanderings.

Her other wish was for a companion of her own age; but this was so
decidedly denied that she knew it would be useless to express it again
after the first time.

"It would mean ruin, absolute ruin and beggary for us both," said Mr.
Darrell, "if I were to allow a single stranger, young or old, of even
ordinary intelligence, to visit this place. From the time you are
eighteen years of age you shall have plenty of friends of your own
choosing; but until that date, dear, you must be content with only the
society of your old dad."

So Mary Darrell studied, sang, read, rode, and thought the fanciful
thoughts of girlhood alone, but always with impatient longings for the
coming of the magic hour that should set her free. And yet she was not
wholly alone, for her father would at any time neglect everything else
to give her pleasure, while she also had both "Sandy," her stag-hound,
and "Fuzz," her pony, for devoted companions.

She was allowed to ride when and where she pleased, with only these
attendants, on two conditions. One was that she should never visit,
nor even go near, a human residence; and the other that, when on such
excursions, she should, for greater safety, dress as a boy. When she
was thus costumed her father was very apt to call her by her middle
name, which was Heaton; and so it was generally supposed by the few
miners who caught glimpses of her that the old man had two children--a
girl, and a boy who was not only younger than she, but devoted to
horseback riding.

Only one duty devolved upon the girl thus strangely reared, and that
was the keeping watch for certain vessels that came in from the great
lake and sailed away again at regular intervals.

So Mary Darrell was out riding on the evening that witnessed the
capture of Richard Peveril by his bitterest enemies, and as twilight
deepened into dusk she was urging her way homeward with all speed.

In the meantime the three rascal car-pushers, who had come so
unexpectedly upon him whom they sought, and had so easily effected his
capture, led Peveril directly away from the trail he had been
following to a place in the woods known only to Rothsky. Close to
where they finally halted and began preparations for the punishment of
the prisoner, who was also expected to afford them infinite amusement
by his sufferings, yawned a great black hole. It was of unknown depth,
and was nearly concealed by a tangle of vines and bushes. Rothsky had
stumbled upon it by accident only a few days before, and now conceived
that it would be a good place in which to dispose of a body, in case
they should happen to have one on their hands.

Trusting to the wildness of their surroundings and the absence of
human beings from that region to shield them from observation, they
ventured to build a fire, by the light of which they proposed to carry
out their devilish plans.

Besides binding Peveril's arms, they had, on reaching this place,
taken the further precaution of tying his ankles, so that he now lay
on the ground utterly helpless, a prey to bitter thoughts, but nerving
himself to bear bravely whatever torture might await him.

All at once the deep baying of a hound and a crash of galloping
hoofs, coming directly towards the fire-light, sounded through the
wood.

With a fierce imprecation Rothsky gave a hasty order, at which all
three men sprang to where Peveril was lying in deepest shadow.
Hurriedly picking him up, they carried him a short distance, gave a
mighty swing, and flung him from them. There was a crash of parted
bushes and rending vines, a stifled cry, and all was still.

A minute later, when a boyish figure on horseback swept past the fire,
the three men seated by it only aroused a fleeting curiosity in Mary
Darrell's mind as to what they could be doing in such a place at such
a time.



CHAPTER XVI

LOST IN A PREHISTORIC MINE


After the disappearance of the young rider, whose coming had so
materially changed the plan of Rothsky and his associate scoundrels,
they gazed at each other for a full minute in sullen silence. In the
minds of two of them the anger of their disappointment was mingled
with a cowardly terror at the awful deed they had committed, and they
began fiercely to denounce their leader for having implicated them in
it.

Rothsky answered with equal bitterness that he was no more to blame
than they, and the quarrel grew so furious that for a time it seemed
as though only the shedding of blood could settle it. At length they
were quieted by a realizing sense of the common danger that might only
be averted by mutual support. So they finally swore with strange oaths
never to betray each other, or breathe a word to a living soul of what
had just taken place.

Of course they did not for a moment anticipate that their crime would
ever come to light, though each was secretly determined that if it did
he would promptly secure his own safety by denouncing his comrades.

With the patching up of this truce and the forming of their worthless
compact the three wretches prepared to depart from the scene of their
villany. First, however, they advanced cautiously as close as they
dared to the edge of the pit into which they had flung their victim,
and, peering into its blackness, listened fearfully. No sound broke
the awful silence, and of a sudden the three men, moved by a common
impulse, turned and fled through the darkness, stumbling and falling,
clutched at by invisible fingers as they ran, and uttering
inarticulate cries of terror.

At that same moment their victim was lying on a ledge of rock deep
down in the ground beneath them, still alive, but numbed almost into
unconsciousness by the hopeless horror of his situation. In the first
agony of falling he had instinctively exerted a strength of which he
would have been incapable under other circumstances, and burst asunder
the bonds confining his arms.

He believed that in a moment he would be dashed into eternity, and yet
a medley of incongruous and commonplace thoughts darted through his
mind with inconceivable rapidity. Innumerable scenes of his past life
glanced before him, but more distinct than any, sharp and clear as
though revealed by a flash of lightning, shone the wonderful eyes that
had appeared to him from the red-stained cliffs overlooking the great
lake. And, strangest of all, the face seemed to smile at him with a
promise of hope.

In another instant all the pictures were blotted out, and his whole
world was gulfed by a rush of water in which he sank to fathomless
depths.

After an endless space of time he began slowly to rise, until at
length, to his infinite amazement, he found himself still alive and
gasping for a breath of the blessed air into which he had once more
emerged.

Although his ankles were still bound, his arms were free, and, with
the instinct of self-preservation strong within him, he began,
awkwardly and feebly, to swim. Dazed, fettered, and weighted by
clothing as he was, his utmost efforts would not have carried him more
than a few feet, and then he must have sunk forever in that black
flood. But the strength given him was sufficient, and ere it was
exhausted his hands struck a shelf of rock upon which he finally
managed to drag himself.

On the flinty platform that he thus gained he lay weakly motionless,
chilled to the bone, dimly conscious that he had for a time been
granted a respite from death, but without a hope that it would be much
longer extended.

After a while the sense that he still lived became stronger, and with
it grew the desire for life. Animated by it he sat up and made an
effort to loosen the cord that still bound his ankles. It was tightly
knotted, and the knot was so hardened with the water that for a long
time his trembling fingers could make no impression on it. Still he
persevered, and his exertions infused him with a slight warmth.
Finally the knot yielded and his limbs were free, though so numbed
that it was several minutes before he could stand up.

Knowing nothing of his surroundings he dared not move more than a step
or two in any direction for fear of again plunging into that deadly
water. Nor could he with outstretched arms touch a wall on any side.

"Oh, for a light!" he groaned, "that I might at least see what my tomb
looks like!"

Then he remembered that he actually did possess both matches and a
candle, it having been impressed upon him by old Mark Trefethen that a
miner should never be without those necessities. So he had always
carried them in a pocket of his canvas mining-suit. But were they not
rendered useless by the double wetting he had received that day?

With trembling eagerness he drew forth the silver match-safe that Tom
Trefethen had insisted on presenting to him in token of his gratitude.
It had been called water-tight. Would it prove so in this time of his
greatest need? A match was withdrawn, and he struck it against a
roughened side of the safe. There was a splutter of sparks, but no
flame. That, however, was more than he had dared hope for, and,
sitting down, that he might not run the chance of dropping his
precious box, he rubbed it briskly in his hands until it was
thoroughly dry before making another attempt.

This time there was no result, the head of the match having evidently
flown off. With breathless anxiety he tried a third, and was thrilled
with joy by having it burst into flame. Tom Trefethen's gift had
redeemed its promise.

By the fitful flare of that match, whose cheery gleam filled him with
a new hope, Peveril saw that he was sitting on the rocky floor of a
cave or chamber that extended back beyond his narrow circle of light.
On the other side, and but a few inches below him, was outspread a
gleaming surface of water, smooth as a mirror and black as ink. These
things he saw, and then his match burned out.

The darkness that followed was so absolute as to be suffocating; but
before striking another of the priceless "fire-sticks" he drew forth
the candle that had lain quietly in his pocket for several weeks
awaiting just such an emergency as the present. After many reluctant
sputterings, it, too, yielded to his efforts, and finally burned with
a steady flame. With it he was enabled to make a much more careful and
extended survey of his surroundings. To his great delight he
discovered, lodged here and there on the rocks about him, a
considerable quantity of dry wood in small pieces.

Whittling some shavings from one of these, he soon had a brisk blaze
that not only drove the black shadows to a respectful distance, but
imparted a delicious warmth to his chilled body.

"I'll live to get out of this place yet and confront the wretches who
tried to murder me--see if I don't!" he cried, filled with a new
courage inspired by the magic of light and warmth. "They probably
think me safely dead long ere this; but they'll find out that I am
very much alive, and I'll know them when I see them again, too. What
could have been their object, and what can they have against me? I
wonder if the old fellow who claimed the logs could have set them on
to me? I hate to believe it; but the whole business looks awfully
suspicious.

"There's a deep game going on somewhere, but I may live to fathom it
yet. What made them start up in such a hurry and fling me down this
hole? I remember: they were scared by the barking of a dog and the
approach of some one on horseback. Whoever that chap was, I'll owe him
a debt of gratitude if ever I get out of here; and if I don't--Well,
perhaps he did me a good turn anyhow, for they would probably have
killed me in the end. Hello! I had forgotten these hardtack."

Mechanically thrusting his hands into the pockets of his coat during
this soliloquy, Peveril found the hard biscuit that he had slipped
into them on leaving camp. Now, though these were soggy with water,
they were still in a condition to be handled, and, carefully
withdrawing them, he ate one hungrily, but laid the other near the
fire to dry. Then he removed his clothing, wrung what water he could
from each article, rubbed his body into a glow, re-dressed, and again
sat beside his fire for a further consideration of his strange
situation.

As he could arrive at no conclusion regarding an attempt to escape
until the coming of daylight, which he hoped would reach him with
sufficient clearness to disclose the nature of his prison, his
thoughts finally drifted to other matters. He recalled his lost
letter, and wondered if Rose would grow very impatient at his long
delay in answering it.

"If she does, she must," he remarked, philosophically, "for I am not
in a position to hurry the mails just now. How distressed the dear
girl would be, though, if she could see me at this minute! That is, if
she didn't find it a situation for laughter, and, by Jove! I believe
she would, for she laughs at most everything. I only hope we will have
the chance to laugh over it together some time."

In some way thoughts of Rose led to a recollection of that other girl,
whom he had only seen for an instant; and when, a little later, in
spite of his desperate situation, he actually fell asleep on his bed
of cold flint, it was the face of the unknown that again haunted his
dreams.



CHAPTER XVII

UNDERGROUND WANDERINGS


When Peveril next awoke he was racked with pain, and so stiff in every
joint that an attempt to move caused him to groan aloud. A faint light
dimly revealed his surroundings; but these were so strange and weird
that for several minutes he could not imagine where he was nor what
had happened. Slowly the truth dawned upon him, and one by one the
awful incidents of the past night began to shape themselves in his
mind.

"I have been murdered and drowned," he said to himself. "Now I am
entombed alive, beyond reach of hope or human knowledge. Never again
shall I see the sunlight, never revisit the surface of the earth,
never look upon my fellows nor hear the voice of man. I may live for
several days, but I must live them alone--alone must I bear my
sufferings, and finally I must die alone. What have I done to deserve
such a fate? Is there no escape from it? I shall go mad, and I hope I
may. Better oblivion than a knowledge of such agony as is in store for
me.

"And yet why should I lose faith in the Power that has thus far
miraculously preserved me? I am alive, and in possession of all my
faculties. I shall not suffer from thirst. I even have a certain
amount of food, together with the means for procuring fire. I am not
left in utter darkness, and, above all, I have not yet proved by a
single trial that escape is impossible. How much better off I am in
every respect than thousands of others, who, finding themselves in
desperate straits, have yet had the strength and courage to work out
their own salvation! What an ingrate I have been! What a coward! But,
with God's help, I will no longer be either!"

Having thus brought himself to a happier and more courageous frame of
mind, Peveril stiffly gained his feet, moved his limbs, and rubbed
them until a certain degree of suppleness was restored. He was about
to build a fire, but refrained from so doing upon reflection that his
stock of fuel must be limited, and that a fire might be of infinitely
greater value at some other time.

Now the prisoner began a careful survey of his surroundings by the
feeble light finding its way down the shaft into which he had been
flung. As it did not materially increase, he concluded that full day
had already reached the upper world. It was also brightest in the
middle of the black pool, which showed that the opening through which
it came must be directly above that point, and that the shaft must be
perpendicular.

Peveril called the hole a shaft, because, while he could neither see
to the top nor clearly make out the outlines of the portions nearest
at hand, it still impressed him as being of artificial construction,
while the opening at one side, in which he stood, also seemed very
much like a drift or gallery hewn from the solid rock by human hands.

The impossibility of scaling the sheer, smooth walls of the shaft was
evident at a single glance, and Peveril turned from it with a heavy
heart. At the same moment his attention was attracted by a sharp
squeaking, and, to his dismay, he made out a confused mass of
something in active motion about the precious biscuit that he had left
beside his fireplace. With a loud cry he sprang in that direction,
only to stumble and fall over a small pile of what he took to be rocks
that lay in his path.

Without waiting to regain his feet, he flung several of these at the
animals that had discovered and were devouring his hardtack. A louder
squeak than before showed that at least one of his missiles had taken
effect, and then there was a scampering away of tiny feet. When he
reached the scene of destruction his only biscuit was half eaten,
while beside it lay a huge rat that had been killed by one of his
shots.

"With plenty of rats and plenty of rocks I need not starve, at any
rate," he remarked, grimly. "The idea of eating rats is horrid, of
course, but I don't know why it should be. Certainly many persons have
eaten them, and in an emergency I don't know why I should be any more
squeamish than others.

"What heavy rocks those were, though, and what sharp edges they had! I
expect it will be a good idea to collect a few, and have them ready
for my next rat-hunt."

With this Peveril returned to the pile over which he had stumbled, and
to his amazement found it to be composed of hammers and hatchets,
chisels, knives, and other tools that he was unable to name, all of
quaint shape, and all made of tempered copper. In an instant the
nature of his prison became clear. He was in a prehistoric
copper-mine, opened and worked thousands of years ago by a people so
ancient that even tradition has nought to say concerning them.

The knowledge thus thrust upon him filled the young man with awe, and
he glanced nervously about him, as though expecting to see the ghosts
of long-ago delvers advancing from the inner gloom. The thought that
he was probably the first human being to set foot on that rocky
platform since the prehistoric workmen had flung down their tools on
it for the last time was overpowering.

At the same time, if this were indeed a mine, it must also be a tomb,
for it was not likely to have any exit save the unscalable shaft
glimmering hopelessly above him. Here, then, was the end of all his
hopes, for of what use were strength and courage in a place where
neither could be made available?

But hold! Where had the rats come from? Certainly not from the water,
nor was it probable that they had come down the shaft, for its rocky
sides appeared as straight and smooth as those of a well. Why should
they have come at all to a place that could not contain a crumb of
food, except the scanty supply that he had brought? If that alone had
attracted them, why had they not found it hours before, while he was
asleep? Might it not be possible that they had come from a distance in
search of water after a night of feasting elsewhere? They had, at any
rate, run back into the gallery; and by following the lead thus
presented he might find some place of exit from that terrible
subterranean prison. Even if it were only a rat-hole, he might be able
to enlarge it, now that he had tools with which to work.

At this moment how he blessed the dear old friend at whose insistence
he had provided himself with the matches and candle that now rendered
it possible for him to explore the dark depths of that prehistoric
drift! Before starting on the trip that he was now determined to make,
he ate the portion of biscuit left by the rats. He also so far
overcame his repugnance as to skin and clean the dead rat, which he
placed on a ledge of rock for future use in case he should be driven
to it. Then he lighted his candle and set forth.

For a considerable distance the gallery was open and fairly spacious,
while everywhere the young explorer found scattered on its floor the
ancient and quaintly shaped tools that told of the great number of
workmen employed in its excavation. After a while his way began to be
encumbered by piles of loose rock that seemed to have been collected
for the purpose of removal.

Now his way grew narrower and rougher, until in several places it was
nearly blocked by masses of material that had fallen from the roof or
caved in from the sides. Over some of these he was forced to creep on
hands and knees, flattening himself into the smallest possible
compass.

At length the gallery came to an end, though from it a small "winze,"
or passage, barely wide enough to crawl through, led upward at a sharp
angle. At the bottom of this Peveril hesitated. His precious candle
was half burned out, and would not much more than serve to carry him
back to the place from which he had started. Besides this, the passage
before him was so small that a person entering it could by no
possibility turn around if he should desire to retrace his course. It
was even doubtful if he could back out after having penetrated a short
distance into the winze.

"I don't know why I should care, though," said Peveril, bitterly,
"for, even if I should get stuck in there, it would only be exchanging
a tomb for a grave. At the same time, one does like to have room even
to die in, and I don't believe the risk is worth taking. There isn't
the slightest chance of a hole like that leading anywhere, and, so
long as I can draw a breath at all, I am going to draw it in the
open."

So, with the last spark of hope extinguished, and with a heart like
lead, the poor fellow turned to retrace his steps to the place in
which he proposed to spend his few remaining hours of life, and then
to yield it up as bravely as might be. As he did so a little gusty
draught of air blew the flame from his candle and plunged him into
absolute darkness.

[Illustration: PEVERIL SAT BESIDE THE FIRE IN FORLORN MEDITATION]

Peveril was so startled by this occurrence that for some time he
plunged blindly with outstretched hands back over the way he had come,
forgetting in his bewilderment that he still had matches with which to
relight his candle. Ere this was suggested to him he had retraced
about half the distance, guided solely by the sense of feeling, though
not without innumerable bruises and abrasions.

When he at length reached the end of the gallery and stood once more
beside the black pool into which he had been flung, what little of
daylight found its way into those dim depths was rapidly fading. It
only served while he gathered every stick of drift that some former
high stage of water had deposited on the rocky platform, and then
another night of almost arctic length was begun.

To escape the awful gloom, Peveril lighted a fire and sat beside it in
forlorn meditation, carefully feeding it one stick at a time, and
longing for some sound to break the oppressive silence. Finally, faint
with hunger, he recalled the bit of game that he had stored away ready
for cooking. Fetching this, he quickly had it spitted on a sliver of
wood and broiling with appetizing odor over a tiny bed of coals. It
smelled so good as it sizzled and browned that all his repugnance
vanished, and he was only impatient for it to be cooked. The moment it
was so he began to devour it ravenously, regretting at the same time
that he had not half a dozen rats to eat instead of one.

He felt better after his meal, and a new courage crept into his heavy
heart as he again sat in meditation beside his flickering blaze. Why
he should feel more hopeful he could not imagine, for no glimmer of a
plan for escape had presented itself.

It was not until he had once more stretched himself on his flinty bed,
with a block of wood for a pillow, and was trying to forget his
wretchedness in sleep, that he knew. Then he sprang up with a shout.

"What an idiot I am! What an absolute idiot! Where did the draught
that blew out my light come from? From up that sloping passage, of
course, and a draught can only be caused by an opening of some kind to
the outer air. If I can only find it, I believe I shall also find a
way out of here. So, old man, cheer up and never say die! You'll live
to stand on top of the world again, yet--see if you don't!"



CHAPTER XVIII

FROM ONE TRAP INTO ANOTHER


The light of another day was dimly penetrating those underground
depths before our prisoner was prepared to make his last effort for
liberty. For all the aid he would receive from the pitiful amount
allotted to him he might as well have started hours earlier; but while
he longed to make the trial he also dreaded it. The thought of that
box-like passage, through which he would be obliged to force his way
without a chance of retreat, was so terrible that he shrank from it as
we all shrink from anything dangerous or painful. Then, too, if he
should escape, he would want daylight by which to guide his future
movements. So, after tossing for hours on his hard bed and considering
every aspect of his situation, he finally fell into a troubled sleep
that lasted until morning.

For breakfast he had only water, but of this he drank as much as he
could, for he knew not when he would find another supply. Then he
selected such of the copper tools as he thought might prove useful.
Into one of them, which was a sort of a pick, he fitted a rude wooden
handle, while the others, which had cutting edges and were in the
nature of knives, he thrust into his pockets. Having thus completed
his simple preparations, he took a long look, that he well knew might
be his last, on the daylight that was now so doubly precious, and then
resolutely faced the inner gloom of the ancient mine.

Determined to save his candle for use in the unknown winze, he slowly
groped his way through utter darkness, and finally reached what he
believed to be the end of the drift. Now he lighted his candle, and
for a moment his unaccustomed eyes ached from the glare of its flame.
He was, as he had thought, at the lower opening of the narrow passage,
and, as he noted its steep upward slope, he was agitated by
conflicting hopes and fears. It might lead to liberty, but there was
an equal chance that in it he should miserably perish.

At the very outset he was confronted by a condition that was not only
disappointing, but exerted a most depressing influence. There was no
draught, such as he had believed would issue from the winze. In vain
did he hold up a wetted finger, in vain watch for the slightest
flicker in the flame of his candle. The air was as stagnant as that of
a dungeon. And yet there certainly had been a decided current at that
very place only a few hours before. Puzzled and disheartened, he was
still determined to press forward, and, stooping low, he entered the
passage.

It almost immediately became so contracted that he was compelled to
creep on hands and knees, by which method he slowly and painfully
overcame foot after foot of the ascent. A little later he was forcing
his way with infinite labor, an inch at a time, through a space so
narrow that he was squeezed almost to breathlessness. He was also
bathed in perspiration, and was obliged to recruit his strength by
frequent halts.

At length his candle, which had burned low, was about to expire. With
despairing eyes he watched its last flickering flame, feeling only the
terror of impending darkness, and heedless of the fact that it was
burning his hand. With the quenching of its final spark he resigned
himself to his fate. He had fought his best, but the odds against him
were too heavy, and now his strength was exhausted. Closing his eyes,
and resting his head wearily on his folded arms, he prepared for the
oblivion that he prayed might come speedily.

Lying thus, and careless of the passage of time, he was visited by
pleasant dreams, in which were mingled happy voices, laughter, and
singing. He rested on a couch of roses, and cool breezes fanned his
fevered brow. He was free as air itself and surrounded by illimitable
space.

All at once he became conscious that he was not dreaming, but was wide
awake and staring with incredulous eyes at a glimmer of light, so
wellnigh imperceptible that only by passing a hand before his face and
so shutting it out for an instant could he be certain of its
existence. At the same time an unmistakable draught of air was finding
its way to him, and a voice as of an angel came to his ears faintly
but distinctly with the snatch of a gay song.

With hot blood surging to his brain, the poor fellow tried to call
out, but the words died in his parched throat, and he could only emit
a husky whisper. Then he struggled forward, and found himself in a
larger space that widened rapidly until he was able to sit up and move
his arms with freedom.

He had reached the end of the passage; for, above his head, he could
feel only a smooth surface of rock. The singing had ceased, the ray of
light had faded into darkness, and the draught of air was no longer
felt. But Peveril had noted the aperture by which it had come, and
could now thrust his hand through this into a vacant space beyond.

It seemed to him that the rock above his head was but a slab of no
great thickness, and he tried to lift it. For some minutes he could
not succeed, but finally he secured a purchase, got his shoulders
directly beneath it, and, with a mighty upward heave, moved it
slightly from the bed in which it had lain for centuries.

With another powerful effort it was lifted the fraction of an inch,
and, though it immediately settled back in place, the prisoner knew
that the time of his deliverance had come. He could not raise the
great slab bodily, but with wedges he could hold the gain of each
upward lift. His first aids of this kind were the copper knives that
he had brought with him. Then, by a dim light that came through the
crevice thus opened, he used his pick to break off fragments of rock,
which were slipped under the slab.

It was thus raised and supported an inch at a time, until at length
an opening nearly two feet in width was presented. The moment this was
effected Peveril drew himself through it, and, with a great sigh of
thankfulness for his marvellous escape, lay for some minutes
recovering breath after his tremendous exertions and studying his new
surroundings.

Although the small amount of light greeting his eyes as he lifted the
rock had shown him that he was not to emerge into the open air, he
could not help a feeling of disappointment at finding himself still
underground. To be sure, he was in a spacious chamber or cavern, he
could not yet tell which, illumined by a faintly diffused light that
gave promise of some connection with the outer world; but he feared
this might prove to be another unscalable shaft, in which case he
would be no better off than before--in fact, he might find himself
worse off, for he was desperately thirsty and could see no sign of
water.

"It would be pretty hard lines if I should be compelled to return to
my old well for a drink," he said to himself.

As soon as he had recovered breath, Peveril rose to his feet and began
to walk slowly towards that part of the cavern where the light seemed
brightest. As he went he looked eagerly on all sides for some trace of
the singer whose voice had inspired him with a new hope at the moment
of his blackest despair, but no person was to be seen or heard.

At the same time he found abundant proof that human beings had
recently visited that place, and would doubtless soon do so again.
This was in the shape of boxes, bales, and casks piled against the
walls on both sides of the passage. For a moment Peveril was greatly
puzzled by these; then, as he recalled Joe Pintaud's conversation
regarding smugglers, he concluded that he had stumbled across a depot
of goods belonging to those free-traders of the great lake.

"In which case," he said to himself, "I shall surely be out of here
within a few minutes; for an entrance for smugglers must mean an exit
for prisoners."

This was a sound theory, but, like a great many other theories, one
that proved faulty upon practical application, as our young friend
discovered a few minutes later.

Directly beyond the packages of goods he came upon a small derrick,
set firmly into the solid rock at both top and bottom. It had a
substantial block-and-fall attachment, and was swung inward. At this
point also a heavy tarpaulin, reaching from floor to ceiling, was hung
completely across the cavern.

Cautiously raising one corner of this, Peveril was blinded by such a
flood of light that for a moment he was completely dazzled. As his
vision was gradually restored he found himself on the brink of a
precipice and gazing out over a boundless expanse of water--in fact,
over the great lake itself. A narrow ledge projected a little beyond
the curtain that he had lifted, and as he hesitatingly stepped out
upon it he also instinctively grasped a small cedar that grew from it
to steady himself while he looked down.

The descent was sheer for twenty feet, and so smooth as not to afford
a single foothold along its entire face. From the rippling water at
its base rose a jagged ledge of black rocks, which Peveril recognized
the moment his eyes fell upon them.

"Of all mysteries this is the most inexplicable!" he cried; "and yet
it surely is the very place."

As he spoke he turned to look at the curtain which he had let fall
behind him, and very nearly tumbled from the ledge in amazement at
what he saw. Instead of the sheet of dingy canvas that he expected, he
was confronted by a sheer wall of cliff, stained the same rusty red as
that extending for miles on either side, and apparently not differing
from it in any particular. He was compelled to reach out his hand and
touch it before he could dispel the illusion and convince himself that
only a sheet of painted canvas separated him from the cavern he had
just left.

"It is one of the very cleverest things in the way of a hiding-place I
ever heard of," he said, half aloud; "and now I understand the
disappearance of that girl. But where on earth did she come from? How
did she get here? and where did she go to? Could it have been she whom
I heard singing a little while ago? If so, where is she now? Not in
the cavern. That I'll swear to."

Peveril might have speculated at much greater length concerning this
mystery had not the sight of water that he could not reach so
aggravated his thirst that for the moment he could think of little
else. All at once he hit upon a plan, and two minutes later had drawn
aside the curtain, swung out the little derrick, and was letting
himself down towards the ledge by means of its tackle.

Lying flat on the rough rocks, he drank and drank of the delicious
water, lifting his head for breath or to gaze ecstatically about him,
and then thrusting it again into the cool flood for the pleasure of
feeling the water on his hot cheeks.

At length a slight sound caused him to turn quickly and look upward.
To his dismay and astonishment the tackle by which he had lowered
himself had disappeared. Unless he could make up his mind to swim for
miles through water of icy coldness, he was as truly a prisoner on
that ledge of rock as ever he had been in the underground depths from
which he had so recently escaped.



CHAPTER XIX

"DARRELL'S FOLLY" AND ITS OWNER


Ralph Darrell was possessed by a passion for accumulating wealth, and,
not satisfied with the certain but slow gains of his legitimate
business of banking, was always on the lookout for extraordinary
investments, in which he was willing to take great risks on the chance
of receiving proportionate returns. During an excitement caused by
marvellous finds of copper in the upper peninsula of Michigan, he,
too, caught the fever, and became convinced that here was his
opportunity for acquiring a fortune.

From experts in whom he placed confidence he received such good
accounts of a certain mineral tract located on Keweenaw Point, where
mines of fabulous richness were already opened, that he purchased it,
and persuaded Richard Peveril's father to become associated with him
in a scheme for its development.

When the crash came, and their golden dreams were dispelled by a rude
awakening, he had sunk his own modest fortune, together with half of
Peveril's, in a barren mine, and the blow was so heavy as to partially
deprive him of his reason. He imagined himself to be the object of a
conspiracy, headed by his partner, to obtain entire control of the
mine, which he also imagined to be immensely valuable.

For the purpose of protecting the interests that he fancied to be
thus endangered, Ralph Darrell disappeared from his home, made his
way to the scene of his wrecked hopes, and took up a solitary abode
in the deserted mining village. Although he was now a desperate man,
and also one so crazed by misfortune that he believed every rock
taken from the Copper Princess to be rich in metal, he retained much
of the business shrewdness gained by years of experience. At the same
time, he had become sly, suspicious of his fellows, and absolutely
non-communicative. He had conceived the idea of holding on to the
mine, and at the same time spreading reports of its worthlessness
until the term of contract had expired, when he hoped that, in default
of other claims, the entire property would fall into his hands. Then
he would proclaim its true value and reap his long-delayed reward.

So he lived alone in the comfortable house that had been built for the
manager of the mine, held no intercourse with his widely scattered
neighbors, discouraged all attempts on the part of outsiders to learn
anything concerning him, rejoiced when he heard his mine spoken of as
"Darrell's Folly," and devoted himself to keeping its valuable plant
in repair, against the time when he should be free to use it for his
own sole benefit.

In looking about for some method of acquiring means with which to
reopen and work the mine when it should be wholly his, he ran across
a crew of Canadian fishermen, who were also smugglers in a small way,
and, joining them, soon developed their unlawful trade into a
flourishing business.

Having discovered a deep cavern opening on the lake and extending
close to the cellar of the very house in which he dwelt, he decided to
use it as a receptacle and hiding-place for smuggled goods. To enhance
its value for this purpose, he connected it with his own residence by
an underground passage. On this he expended a vast amount of labor,
digging it with his own hands, and holding it a secret from every
human being. Even the smugglers, who implicitly obeyed his orders,
since he had made it so profitable for them to do so, knew nothing of
it, nor what became of their goods after they were delivered at night
on a certain rocky ledge, and hoisted up the face of the cliff to some
place that they never saw. Nor were the peddlers, by whom these same
goods were carried far and wide, any wiser, for they always transacted
their business with "old man" Darrell, and received their merchandise
after dark, in a certain room of his house, the only one they were
ever allowed to enter.

Not only had Darrell retained to himself the secret of the cavern, but
he had also conceived the idea of hiding it from the observation of
passing vessels by means of a canvas screen drawn over its entrance,
and cleverly painted to resemble the adjacent cliffs.

Surrounded by these safeguards, and further protected by its locality
in that desolate region, the unlawful business flourished amazingly.
It not only yielded its chief promoter a sufficient income to support
his family comfortably in their distant Eastern home and enable him to
keep his mining-plant in good repair, but each year saw a very tidy
surplus stored away for the future development of the Copper Princess.

Darrell had learned of his partner's death, and waited anxiously for
years to hear from the Peveril heirs. As they remained silent, and
made no claim against the property in which his own life was so
completely bound up, he cherished the belief that they considered it
too worthless even to investigate, and that he would be left in
undisturbed possession to the end. He became so emboldened by this
belief that, when the term of contract had so nearly expired that it
had but a few months more to run, he even began in a small way to
resume work in the mine. Thus he had it pumped out and partially
retimbered. He also started work on a new level, and in every way
possible, without attracting too much attention, got his property
ready for the great scheme of development upon which he was determined
the moment he should be freed from his contract.

In the meantime his wife had died, and his only child, who had been
born since he entered upon this strange existence, had come to share
his lonely home. As she was but twelve years old when this great
change in her life took place, she of course knew nothing of business,
and had never heard of such a thing as smuggled goods. In her eyes
everything that her dear papa did was right, and she was too happy at
being permitted to become in any degree his assistant to think of
questioning his methods.

So the secret of the cavern and its underground connection was finally
confided to her. She was also intrusted with the duty of watching for
the little vessels that brought the goods in which her father dealt,
and of hanging out the signal-lights by which their movements were
guided. As these lights were always displayed from the stunted cedar
at the mouth of the cavern, and as this place also served her for a
post of observation, she passed much of her time within the limits of
the great cave.

Her father had won her promise never to mention the existence of the
cavern, and had also warned her not to allow herself to be seen in it.
There was, however, no necessity of such a warning, for Mary Darrell
was too proud of her great secret to share it. Even Aunty Nimmo, the
old black nurse who had come West with her, and had remained to care
for her ever since, was not told of the cavern, though she shrewdly
suspected its existence.

If to the foregoing explanation it is added that the little
trading-vessels, which were also to all appearance fisher-boats, never
took on their return cargoes from the cavern, but always at either
Laughing Fish Cove or the land-locked basin, the situation as it
existed at the time of Peveril's appearance on the scene will be
understood.

As the sister schooner of the one that had carried off Joe Pintaud was
due to arrive at about this date, Mary Darrell was keeping a sharp
watch for it, and paying frequent visits to her post of observation at
the mouth of the cavern for that purpose. On each of these she of
course drew aside the painted curtain, thereby letting in a rush of
air that penetrated to the innermost recesses of the great cavity
behind her.

It was a little breath from one of these that, finding its way through
the aperture beside the slab of rock, and so on down the narrow
passage that led to the prehistoric mine, had blown out Peveril's
candle. Of course the girl, who was the innocent cause of that bit of
mischief, had no idea of what the breeze was doing, for neither she
nor her father, or any one else for that matter, knew of the existence
of the old workings so close at hand.

On the following morning Mary again entered the cavern, singing
light-heartedly as she did so. This time she remained but a few
minutes, for she had something to attend to in the house; but she held
aside the canvas curtain long enough to look out, assure herself that
no vessel was in sight, and to allow another inrush of air. From it a
second little breeze found its way beneath the great slab and into the
darkness of the underground passage, where it restored poor,
despairing Peveril to life and hope by cooling his fevered brow and
carrying the sound of singing to his ears.

The very next time the girl entered the cavern she was at first
bewildered to find the canvas screen drawn aside from its opening and
the place flooded with light. Next she was frightened to note that the
derrick was swung outward, and that its attached tackle was hanging
down out of sight.

Her first impulse was to run and call her father. Then she remembered
that, as he was down in the mine, it would be a long time before he
could come. Also, being a brave young woman and not easily frightened,
she determined to find out for herself if there was any real cause for
alarm. So she crept softly to the mouth of the cavern and peered
cautiously out.

At sight of a man lying on the rocks at the foot of the cliff, with
his head in the water, her heart almost stopped its beating and she
almost screamed. He lay so still that for a moment she imagined him to
be dead, though the next instant she knew he was not, for he lifted
his head to catch a breath. Then he again plunged it into the water,
and quick as thought the girl drew up the tackle by which he had
lowered himself.

"There," she said to herself; "I guess you will stay where you are,
Mister Man, until I can bring papa; and he'll know what to do with
you!"

She had drawn in the tackle very cautiously, without noticing the
little scraping noise that its lower block made in crossing the rocky
ledge, and she turned to go as she spoke.

But she must take one more look, just to see if that horrid man was
still there, and what he was doing.

So she very carefully leaned forward and gazed straight down into the
upturned face of Richard Peveril.



CHAPTER XX

PEVERIL IS TAKEN FOR A GHOST


The situation in which the two principal characters of this story were
left at the close of the preceding chapter was so embarrassing to both
that for several seconds they continued to stare at each other in
silent amazement. Mary Darrell, her face alternately flushing and
paling with confusion, seemed fascinated and incapable of motion. In
spite of Peveril's astonishingly disreputable appearance, she at once
recognized him as being the young stranger whom she had seen twice
before, and had even helped out of an awkward predicament. She also
knew that he had in some way aroused her father's enmity. But he had
taken his departure from that vicinity several days earlier, and,
though she had wondered if he would ever come back, she had not really
expected to see him again.

Now to come upon him so suddenly, looking so dreadful, and to realize
that, incredible as it seemed, he must have learned the secret of the
cavern, was all so bewildering and startling as to very nearly take
away her breath. So she simply stared.

It must be confessed that Peveril's present appearance was not so
prepossessing as it had been at other times, and might be again. He
had lost his hat, his hair was uncombed, his hands were bruised and
soiled, while his clothing was torn and covered with dirt from the
underground passages through which he had so recently struggled. But
his face was quite clean, for he had just given it a thorough
scrubbing, and to it the girl's gaze was principally directed.

It was Peveril who first broke the embarrassing silence.

"I am very glad to see you again," he said, "and to find that you are
a real flesh-and-blood girl, instead of only a vision, or a sort of a
rock-nymph, as I imagined you might be from the way you disappeared
that other time."

"What makes you think I am a girl?" asked Mary Darrell, whose face was
the only part of her that Peveril could see.

"Why, because," he began, hesitatingly--"because you are too
good-looking to be anything but a girl, and because--Oh, well, because
I am certain that you are. What else could you be, anyway?"

Mary Darrell's face was crimson, but still she answered, stoutly, "I
might be a boy, you know."

"No, indeed. No boy could blush as you are doing at this moment."

In reply, the girl rose to her feet and stepped out on the ledge in
full view of the young man. She was clad in a golf suit, neat-fitting
and becoming, but masculine in every detail. She had become so
accustomed to dressing in that way that she was perfectly at her ease
in the costume, and even preferred it to her own proper garments.

"I beg your pardon," stammered poor Peveril, as he gazed in
bewilderment at the apparition thus presented. "I'm awfully ashamed to
have made such a stupid mistake, but really, you know--"

"Oh, it's all right," replied the other, "and you needn't apologize. I
have so often been taken for a girl that I am quite used to it. And
now may I ask who you are? why you are here? what you are doing down
there? how you propose to get away? and--"

"Hold on, my dear fellow!" interrupted Peveril. "Don't you think your
list of questions is already long enough without adding any more?"

"I suppose it is," laughed the other, assuming a seat in an expectant
attitude at the base of the stunted cedar.

The novelty of the situation, combined with its absolute safety, so
far as she was concerned, was fascinating to the lonely girl. "Now you
may begin," she added, "and tell me everything you know about
yourself."

"That would be altogether too long a story," replied Peveril, a little
nettled at what he mentally termed the cheek of the youth. "Besides,"
he continued, "I am too nearly starved to do much talking, seeing
that, for more days than I can remember, I have had nothing to eat but
a rat, and--"

"A rat!" cried the other, in a tone of horror. "You didn't really eat
a rat?"

"Indeed I did, and I would gladly eat another at this very minute, I
am so hungry. Don't you think you could get me one? Or if you had any
cold victuals that you could spare--"

At that moment Mary Darrell, without waiting to hear another word,
jumped up and disappeared, leaving Peveril to wonder what had struck
the young fellow, and hoping that he had gone for something in the
shape of food.

"I wish I'd got him to let down that rope again first," he said to
himself, as he paced back and forth across the ledge; "then I could
have pulled myself up and gone with him, thereby saving both time and
trouble. I would have sworn, though, that he was a girl. Never was so
deceived in my life. He must have a sister, and perhaps they are
twins, for it surely was a girl that I saw here the other time. All
the same, I'm rather glad she isn't on hand just now, for I should
hate to have any girl see me in my present disguise. My appearance
must be decidedly tough and tramp-like. Wonder if I can't do something
to improve it? That chap might be just idiot enough to bring his
sister back with him."

Thus thinking, the young man attempted to get a look at himself in the
water-mirror of the lake, and was trying to comb his hair with his
fingers, when a merry laugh from above put an end to his toilet and
caused him to start up in confusion.

His young friend of the golf suit had returned, and was letting down a
small basket attached to a stout cord.

"Why don't you drop the tackle and let me come up there to you?"
suggested Peveril, who was not only very tired of the ledge, but
curious to make a closer acquaintance with his new friend.

"Oh no," said the other, hurriedly, "I can't do that. But look out!
catch the basket. I am sorry not to have brought you a better lunch,
but you seemed in such a hurry that I thought you might not be
particular."

"It's fine," rejoined Peveril, who was already making a ravenous
attack on the bread and cold meat contained in the basket. "You
couldn't have brought me anything that I should have liked better, or
that would have done me more good, and I am a thousand times obliged."

A few minutes of silence ensued after this, while the one in the golf
suit eagerly watched the other satisfy his hunger.

When the last crumb of food had disappeared, Peveril heaved a sigh of
content. "I feel like a new man now," he said, "and if you will only
be so kind as to throw down that tackle--"

"But you haven't answered a single one of my questions," interrupted
the other.

"Can't I do that up there as well as here?"

"No, I want them answered right off, now."

"Well, you are a queer sort of a chap," retorted Peveril; "but, seeing
that you were so kind about the lunch, I don't mind humoring you a
bit. Let me see: What were they? Oh! First--who am I? Well, I am
Richard Peveril; but beyond that I hardly know how to answer.
Second--why am I here? Because I can't get away. Third--what am I
doing? Answering questions. Fourth--how do I propose to get away? By
climbing the rope that you will let down to me, of course, and then
have you show me the same way out of the cavern that you take."

[Illustration: AT SEEING PEVERIL, THE MEN UTTERED A CRY OF TERROR]

"Oh, but I can't do that!"

"Why not?"

"Because I have promised never to show it to any one. But, if you
don't know the way, how did you get into the cavern?"

"If you'll show me your way out, I'll show you mine," replied Peveril,
who was growing impatient.

"I tell you I can't. It is simply impossible."

"Oh, well! I won't urge you, then. Only let down the rope, so that I
can get up to where you are, and I'll manage to find my own way out."

"But I don't dare even to do that," answered the other, in genuine
distress.

"You don't mean to leave me down here forever, do you?"

"No, of course not; but--Oh, I know! I'll send a boat for you. So,
just wait patiently a little while longer and you shall be taken off."

"I say! hold on!" cried Richard; but his words were unheeded, for,
acting on the impulse of the moment, the other had disappeared, and he
was talking to empty space.

"Confound the boy!" he exclaimed, impatiently. "I never heard of
anything so utterly absurd. Why, in the name of common-sense, should
he object to showing me the way out of his old cave? One would think
that ordinary humanity--But boys are such heartless young beggars that
there's no such thing as appealing to their sympathies. If it had only
been his sister now!"

In the meantime Mary Darrell had hastened from the cavern full of her
new plan for rescuing the prisoner without betraying the secret of the
underground passage.

She at first thought of appealing to her father for aid, but,
remembering his bitterness against the young man, decided to act
without him. So she called two miners who were at work about the mouth
of the shaft and bade them follow her. As they did so she led the way
to the basin, and, entering a boat, ordered the men to row her out
into the lake.

They obeyed without hesitation, and, as Mary steered, she soon had the
satisfaction of seeing her prisoner just where she had left him.

He was at the same time relieved of a growing anxiety by the approach
of the boat, in which he finally recognized the young fellow who,
although acting so curiously, had, on the whole, proved himself a
friend.

The boat approached so close to the ledge that Mary had given the
order to cease rowing before the oarsmen turned their heads to see
where they were. As they did so, they uttered a simultaneous cry of
terror, again seized their oars, whirled their light craft around,
and, in spite of Mary Darrell's angry protestations, began to row with
frantic haste back in the direction from which they had come.

Although Peveril was not so much surprised at this proceeding as he
might have been had he not recognized the villain Rothsky in the
bow-oarsman, he was bitterly disappointed, and paced up and down his
narrow prison with restless impatience.

"Oh! If I ever get out of this scrape!" he cried.

Less than an hour afterwards, when Mary Darrell again entered the
cavern, but this time in company with her father, to whom she had
confided the whole story, Peveril had disappeared. There was no boat
to be seen, and they were confident that none had been on the coast
that day. The derrick, with its tackle, was just as Mary had left it,
yet neither in the cavern nor on the ledge was a trace of the young
man to be seen.



CHAPTER XXI

MIKE CONNELL TO THE RESCUE


On the very day that the White Pine logging expedition had been so
completely disbanded, the tug _Broncho_ had been sent up the coast in
a hurry after a supply of timber. She reached Laughing Fish Cove in
the evening after Peveril's departure from his camp, and spent the
night there awaiting him. Her captain was greatly perplexed by the
failure of any of the party to put in an appearance, and the more so
when he learned from the fishermen that Peveril had returned alone
only to depart again on foot soon afterwards.

By morning he dared not wait longer, for his instructions were to
start back immediately with such logs as had been collected. He also
imagined that, having picked up all the timber they could find, and
becoming tired of waiting for him, the wreckers might have set out for
Red Jacket on foot. So, taking in tow the raft that he found in the
cove, he started down the coast, arriving at his destination that same
evening.

Mike Connell, who had been anxiously awaiting Peveril's coming, was at
the landing to meet his friend, and was much disappointed at his
non-appearance. After gaining all the news concerning the missing
party that Captain Spillins could give him, he hastened back to Red
Jacket, and went at once to the Trefethen cottage with a faint hope
that Peveril might be there.

The inmates of the little house had also pleasantly anticipated the
return of the young man in whom they were so interested, and had made
such simple preparations as came within their means for welcoming him.
Now their disappointment at Connell's report was mingled with a
certain anxiety that increased as they discussed the situation.

"I'm feared lad's got into some trouble along of they furriners,"
reflected Mark Trefethen, as he puffed thoughtfully at his short pipe.
"Not but he'll find way outen it, though, for he's finely strong and
handy wi' his fists. Still, there's always the knives and deviltry of
they furriners to be reckoned with."

"They do tell as hit's a cruel country up yon, full o' thieves and
murderers, to say naught o' smuggling pirates," put in his wife;
"which, as I were saying to Miss Penny no longer ago than yesterday,
when me and 'er was looking in at company store, the same as Maister
Peril should be running this blessed minute if 'e 'ad 'is rights,
'Miss Penny,' sez I, 'that pore young man'll never get it in this
world, now 'e's gone for a sailor, mark my words,' little thinking
they'd so soon come true."

"If I was a man," said Nelly Trefethen, at the same time casting a
meaning glance at her sweetheart, "I'd not be sitting here wondering
how he's to be got out of trouble, especially if he'd done for me what
he has for some."

"No more will I," spoke up Mike Connell, "for I'm going to find him,
which is what I came to say along with telling the news."

"And I'll go with you!" exclaimed Tom Trefethen, springing to his
feet, as though for an immediate start.

"No, Tom; glad as I'd be of your company, it's best I should go alone,
seeing as I know that country well, and one man can get along in it
when two couldn't. Besides, you are needed here, while I'm not."

In spite of young Trefethen's protests, the Irishman remained firm in
his decision to set forth alone in search of his friend; and as he
left the house Nelly, who with the others accompanied him to the door,
managed to give his hand an approving squeeze.

Although Major Arkell gave orders for the tug to return to Laughing
Fish in search of the missing loggers the moment her services could be
spared, it was not until twenty-four hours after bringing in the raft
that it was possible for her to do so.

In the meantime Mike Connell, starting at the break of day, and
walking briskly northward, reached the cove that still held Peveril's
deserted camp that same afternoon.

Through an intimacy with several of his countrymen who were successful
peddlers of Ralph Darrell's smuggled goods, Connell had learned much
concerning that section of country, and the various operations
conducted within its limits. He had at one time seriously contemplated
going into the peddling business himself, and had made so many
inquiries in regard to its details that he was even familiar with
"Darrell's Folly," though it was a place he had never visited.

Knowing it to be a headquarters for smugglers, and believing that, if
Peveril had really got himself into trouble, it would be in connection
with some of those people, he felt that it was a likely locality in
which to search for information. Accordingly he headed directly for
it, only going a short distance out of his way to visit Laughing Fish
Cove. Having heard that the fisher-folk were in league with the
smugglers, he did not care to betray his presence to them, and so did
not show himself in the little settlement, but only skirted it, until
certain that his friends were not there. Then he proceeded towards his
destination by the same trail that Peveril had followed only two
nights before.

As he walked slowly along the narrow pathway, trying to invent some
plausible excuse for presenting himself before the irascible old man
who, he had heard, excluded all strangers from "Darrell's Folly," his
steps were arrested by the sound of voices approaching from the
opposite direction. In another moment he saw three men hurrying
towards him, gesticulating wildly and talking loudly in an unknown
tongue.

As they drew near he recognized in them the three car-pushers recently
driven from the White Pine Mine. It also flashed into his mind that
these were the men whom he had urged to make a cowardly attack on the
young fellow he had then considered an enemy, but for whom he was now
searching as for a dear friend.

The new-comers also recognized him, and, regarding him as of one
purpose with themselves in all that concerned Peveril, did not
hesitate to advance and speak to him. After an exchange of greetings,
Connell broached the business in hand by asking if they had seen
anything in those parts of the chap who had driven them from White
Pine.

The men glanced at each other hesitatingly for a moment, and then
Rothsky answered:

"Yes, my friend, indeed we have seen him, and to our sorrow, since it
is but now that he has driven us from another job, better even than
that."

"How so?" inquired Connell, pricking up his ears.

"It is this way: We are working, at good wages, for the old fool over
yonder, when that devil of a Per'l comes and tries to steal our
timbers. Then the boss compels us to seize him and put him in his
boat, which we tow far out in the lake. Then, as he makes a try to
escape, the boss, who is like a man crazy, shoots him with a pistol
through the head, and we all see him fall without life in the bottom
of his boat. He is so very dead that he does not even move, and so is
let go to drift, him and his boat, while we return to shore."

"A fine way of treating trespassers, bedad!" exclaimed Connell; "but
all the same, there is folks who would call it murder."

"Yes, was it not? But wait. All that was three days ago; and yet, but
one hour since, two of us have seen the ghost of this beast Per'l
standing on the black rocks, with the white face of death, the wet
hair of the drowned, and his clothing torn by the teeth of fishes. He
said not one word, but waited for us, and would have dragged us to the
bottom if we had not fled in time. Now, with such things allowed, we
can no longer work in this place, and so, for the second time, has he
driven us from our good job."

"It's a cruel shame and an outrage on dacency, nothing less!" cried
Connell, in pretended indignation. "At the same time, Rothsky, man,
I'd like to have been with you, for do you know I've never laid eyes
on a ghost at all, but would like mightily to have the exparience.
Would ye mind tellin' me now where could I find this one, just for the
pleasure of the sensation?"

"No, no, Mist Connell! Don't go near it, for you'll be going to your
death if you do."

"But, if I'm willing to risk it why not?"

So the Irishman insisted that they should permit him to share with
them the glory of having seen a ghost, and finally won from them full
directions how to discover the place from which they had fled in
terror. The sly fellow even made pretence of wishing them to go back
with him, and, when they declined to consider his invitation, declared
them to be a set of cowards, and set forth alone.

"It's my belief," he said to himself, as he made his way towards the
place where they had told him he would find a boat, "that them divils
of Dagos have played some dirty trick on Mister Peril. If there'd been
but two of them I'd found some way of extorting a confession from
their lying mouths, but odds of three to one is too big to risk. So I
had to blarney them; but maybe I'll be able to help the lad some way;
and, anyhow, here's for the trying."

It was dusk when Connell, having found the boat, pulled unobserved out
of the land-locked basin, and by the time he reached the ledge, where
he had been told he would find Peveril's ghost, darkness had so closed
in that he could not tell whether it was occupied or not until he had
left his craft and explored its limited area.

"Mister Peril!" he called, softly; "come out, if you're hiding, for
it's only me, Mike Connell, come to take you away from this--Oh, bad
cess to it, he's not here at all, and it's a great song-and-dance them
Dagos give me! Now I'll have to go and beg a night's lodging of the
old man, and maybe he'll give me a job in place of them as has just
left him. In that case I'll find out something, or me name's not--Holy
smoke! where's me boat? Bad luck to the slippery craft! It's gone
entirely, and here I am left to spend the cruel night alone on a bit
of a rock in the sea. If I was in jail I'd be better off."

It was only too true. The light skiff, carelessly left to its own
devices, had been caught by a gentle breeze and borne without a sound
beyond sight or hearing.

As the second prisoner claimed by the black ledge that day stood
dismally bemoaning his hard fate, a light flashed out above him, and,
glancing upward, he saw what he took to be a man in the act of hanging
two lanterns to a bit of a tree. It was a danger-signal warning the
smugglers to keep away, and Mary Darrell was placing it by order of
her father, who feared Peveril might still be lingering in that
vicinity.

"Hey, lad," cried Connell, noting her slight figure, "will you help a
fellow-creature in distress by tossing down the end of a rope?"

"Are you really still there?" exclaimed the girl, in a tone of dismay,
and striving to peer down through the darkness.

"I am that, but most anxious to get away."

"And if I do let down the rope, will you promise to depart at once the
same way you came?"

"I'll promise anything if you'll only let me up."

"Well, then, there it is. I know I am doing wrong, but I can't leave
you down there all night, for you would be dead by morning."

"True for ye," answered Connell, as he began briskly to climb the
rope, hand over hand.

As his face appeared within the circle of lantern-light, the poor
girl, who was waiting with trembling anxiety, uttered a cry of terror
and fled into the gloom of the cavern.

"Well, if that don't bate my time!" exclaimed the new-comer, as he
gained a foothold on the ledge. "Whatever could the lad be frightened
of?"



CHAPTER XXII

THE SIGNAL IS CHANGED


Peveril had been amazed and disgusted at the sudden turning about and
departure of the boat that had so nearly effected his rescue. Of
course, on recognizing the oarsmen, he understood why they declined to
help him, though it did not enter his mind that they regarded him as a
supernatural being.

"What cowards they are!" he reflected, bitterly. "They are determined
to kill me though, that is evident, and I don't believe they will be
content with simply leaving me here to die of exposure. It's more than
likely they will roll rocks down on me from the cliffs during the
night. There's a cheerful prospect to contemplate, with darkness
already coming on, too!

"That young fellow seemed willing enough to help me, only he was bound
to do it in his own way; but now I suppose those wretches will prevent
him from making any more efforts in my behalf. What is he doing with
that gang of murderers, I wonder? Apparently he is about as far
removed from that class as a person can be. Well, that's neither here
nor there. The one thing to be considered just now is, how am I to
get out of this fix? I wonder if there is any possibility of that cord
bearing my weight."

The cord thus referred to was the one by which the basket of food had
been lowered. As it still hung close at hand, Peveril gave it a sharp
pull. Although it yielded slightly, it did not break, and, encouraged
by this, he threw his whole weight on it as a conclusive test of its
strength. The result was sudden, surprising, and wellnigh disastrous.
The cord gave way so readily that Peveril sprawled at full length on
the rocks, while, at the same time, something heavy fell with a rush
down the face of the cliff and struck with great force close beside
his head.

Springing to his feet in alarm at this most unexpected happening, the
prisoner found to his amazement and also to his delight that he had
pulled down the derrick-tackle by which he had descended. To be sure,
the block at its lower end had very nearly dashed out his brains, but
what did he care for that so long as he had been given the benefit of
the miss? For a moment he was puzzled to know how his pull on the cord
could have effected so desirable a result, but, upon an examination of
the tackle, he laughed aloud at the simplicity of the proposition. For
want of something better to hold her end of the cord, Mary Darrell had
tied it to the block of the derrick-tackle, intending, of course, to
draw up the basket again as soon as her starving guest had emptied it.
Then, absorbed in a suddenly evolved plan for releasing him from his
predicament and at the same time preserving her father's secret, she
had gone away and neglected to do so.

Peveril was not slow to avail himself of the means of escape thus
provided, and a few minutes later stood once more within the portal of
the great cavern. His first care was to haul up the tackle and dispose
it as he imagined it to have been left, with the attached cord hanging
down the face of the cliff.

"There!" he said, when this was done to his satisfaction. "The young
fellow is almost certain to come back for another look at me, and,
though I fancy he'll be somewhat surprised to find me gone, it will
never enter his head that I am up here. Then when he leaves I will
simply follow his lead, and so find the way out of this mysterious
place. Perhaps, though, I can discover it for myself."

Thus thinking, Peveril made as careful an examination of the cavern
walls as the fading light would permit, but could find no sign of an
opening. Finally, deciding to carry out his original plan, he selected
a hiding-place, and, settling himself in it as comfortably as
possible, began to await with what patience he might the return of his
young friend.

By this time the cavern was quite dark, save for a dim twilight at its
opening; and, having nothing to distract his attention, he began to
realize how very weary he was after the exertions and nervous strain
of the past three days. He had also just eaten a hearty meal. It is
little wonder then that, within five minutes, and in spite of his
strenuous exertions to keep awake, he fell fast asleep. Fortunately
he did not snore, nor make any sound to betray his presence, but
unfortunately, also, his slumber was so profound that when, a little
later, Mary Darrell and her father softly entered the gallery and
cautiously proceeded to its mouth for a look at the prisoner, whom
they supposed still to be on the black ledge, he did not waken.

Puzzled as they were at his disappearance, they were also greatly
relieved to have him gone. They never for a moment imagined that he
could have regained the cavern, and so, after drawing up the basket,
they retired as they had come, leaving Peveril undisturbed to his nap.

While it was not certain that the expected smuggling schooner would
reach the coast that evening, she might do so, and, with the
cautiousness marking all of his operations, Ralph Darrell decided that
it would not do for her cargo to be landed while there was a chance of
a stranger, who was at the same time an enemy, being in the
neighborhood. He felt assured that the young man who had so
mysteriously appeared and disappeared that day must be an enemy; for,
though Mary had not mentioned his name, she had described him as being
the one who had recently attempted to steal his logs from the
land-locked basin. Now he had no doubt that the chap was a
revenue-officer who had come to spy out his smuggling operations, and
only pretended to be in search of wrecked timber as a cloak for his
real designs. Else why should he still hang around, and especially in
the vicinity of the cavern, where there were no logs?

Mary even declared a belief that he had been in their carefully
concealed hiding-place, but, of course, she must be mistaken. Still,
no more cargo must be landed until the spy was located and driven from
that region.

"I sha'n't need to carry on the business much longer," said the old
man to himself; "but so long as I choose to remain in it I don't
propose to be interfered with."

So Mary was directed to go and display two lanterns at the mouth of
the cavern as a signal that no goods were to be landed that night,
while her father went out for the final look at his precious mining
property that he took every evening just after the men had quit work.

Ralph Darrell's heart was bound up in the new work he had recently
began, and so anxious was he to push it that he was engaging all
laborers who came that way. As yet his force was very small, but he
was in hopes of speedily increasing it. Thus, to discover that three
of his strongest men had suddenly thrown up their jobs and left him
without warning filled him with anger. So furious was he, even after
he entered the house, that poor Mary, who had just returned badly
frightened from the cavern, dared not confess to him that, through her
own carelessness, another stranger had been admitted to the hidden
storehouse of the cliffs.

Perhaps by morning this unwelcome visitor would have disappeared, as
the other had done; and, at any rate, he could never find the secret
passage, for it was too carefully concealed. By morning, too, her
father would be restored to his ordinary frame of mind, and it would
be easier to tell him what she had done, if, indeed, it should prove
necessary to tell him at all.

In the meantime Mike Connell was much puzzled by the nature of the
place in which he found himself after his climb, as well as by the
abrupt disappearance of the lad upon whom he had counted for guidance.
The darkness, with its accompanying profound silence, so affected him
that, while he called several times, "Whist now! Where are you? Come
out o' that, young feller, and have done with your foolin'!" he did so
in an awed tone but little above a whisper.

"All right; stay where you are then!" he added, after listening vainly
for a reply. "If it's a game of hide-and-seek ye want, I can soon
accommodate you, seeing as how you've been so kind as to leave me a
couple of glims, though it's only one of them I'll need."

Thus saying, the new-comer removed one of the two lanterns that had
been hung out as a warning to the smugglers, and unwittingly changed
the danger-signal into one of safety and invitation by so doing. With
the lantern thus acquired to light his footsteps, he began a careful
survey of the cavern, hoping to discover either an exit from it or his
vanished guide.

With his previous knowledge of the principal industry of that region,
it did not take him long to conjecture the meaning of the bales and
boxes upon which he soon stumbled.

"Holy smoke!" he cried; "it's a cave of smugglers you've broke into,
Mike Connell, no less, and a sorrowful time ye'll have of it if the
folks comes home and catches you at the trespassing! Where the divil
is the back door, I wonder, for the one in front is no good at all?
Saints preserve us! What's that?"

With this last exclamation the frightened Irishman began to retreat
slowly backward, holding his lantern so that, while it revealed his
own terror-stricken face, its light also fell full on the form of
Richard Peveril standing before him and staring in blankest amazement.

"Plaze, good Mister Spook--I mean yer Honor--Oh, Holy Fathers! what
will I say?" stammered the poor fellow, in such faltering accents that
Peveril broke into a roar of laughter.

"Mike Connell!" he cried; "wherever did you come from? and what has
happened? You look as though you had seen a ghost!"

"And haven't I?" retorted the other, still staring dubiously. "Is it
yourself, lad? But sure it must be, seeing you have a voice of your
own, which is a thing never yet given to a spook. Glory be to
goodness, Mister Peril, that I've found you just as I'd lost you
entirely, and meself as well!"

"But how do you happen to be here?" asked the still bewildered
Peveril.

"Sure I just came, thinking you might want me."

"Which way did you come?"

"Through the front door, the same as yourself."

"But I came in by a back entrance."

"Then we'd best be getting out that way, for I'm afeard there'll soon
be others here as won't be pleased to see us."

"We can't, for that way is barred," answered Peveril; "but let us sit
down and try to arrive at some understanding of this mysterious
affair."

So, for nearly an hour, the two talked over the situation; and, though
each frequently interrupted the other with questions or exclamations,
they finally gained a pretty clear comprehension of their position. At
the end of the conference Peveril exclaimed:

"Then, so far as I can see, we are shut up here like two rats in a
trap."

"Yes," cried Connell, "and here comes the rat-catchers after us now!"

As he spoke he pointed to the outer entrance, where the head and
shoulders of a man had just appeared above the rocky ledge.



CHAPTER XXIII

A BATTLE WITH SMUGGLERS


After supper that same evening the violence of Ralph Darrell's rage
had so subsided that his daughter ventured to inquire concerning its
cause. When he had informed her, she said:

"Why should you let a little thing like that worry you, papa? Surely
you can engage plenty more miners if you want them. I don't see why
you should bother with the old mine, though. It don't seem to be worth
anything."

"Not worth anything!" cried the old man, standing up in his
excitement. "Why, child, it is worth millions! It is one of the
richest copper properties in the world, and in one week's time it will
be all my own. Rather, it will be yours, since it is for you alone
that I have lived in this wilderness all these years, thereby saving
it from destruction, and warding off the conspiracy that would reduce
you to beggary. For your sake only have I so guarded the secret of its
wealth that no living soul suspects it. Even the men who delve in its
depths know not the value of the material in which they toil, for I
have not told them. Nor have I allowed an assay to be made of its
smallest fragment; but I know its worth, its fabulous value, that will
make the owner of the Copper Princess one of the richest heiresses in
the world."

"Who is the Copper Princess, papa?" asked the girl, who, though
bewildered by the old man's extravagant statements, could not help but
be interested in them.

"You are, my darling, you are a copper princess; but the name also
applies to your mine, and was given to it before you were born.
'Darrell's Folly' is what men, in their ignorance, call it now, but in
one week's time it may assume its rightful title, and thereafter the
fame of the Copper Princess will spread far and wide."

"But why not let people call the mine by its real name now, papa? What
difference will one week make?"

"Because," replied Ralph Darrell, bending towards his daughter, and
lowering his voice almost to a whisper, as though fearful of being
overheard, "in one week's time--only one week from this very day--the
contract will expire, and the heirs of Richard Peveril can make no
claim."

"Richard Peveril!" cried the girl, with a sudden recollection; "why,
papa, that is the name of the young man who was in the cavern to-day,
for he told me so himself. He is the same, you know, who came for your
logs."

For an instant the old man glared at his daughter with an expression
so terrible that she shrank from him frightened. Then it cleared, and
in his ordinary tone he said, gently:

"I wish, dear, you would go and change your dress. I don't like to
have you wear this boy's costume in the evening."

With only a moment of hesitation the girl obeyed him and left the
room.

She had no sooner disappeared than the strange expression that he had
so successfully banished for a minute returned to the man's face, and,
possessing himself of a revolver, he proceeded to load it. As he did
so he muttered:

"I must do it for her sake, though she must never know. Richard
Peveril shall not be given an opportunity for making his claim. If he
is really in the cavern he must not be allowed to escape from it
alive."

So saying, the old man left the room, while Mary Darrell, who had been
anxiously watching his movements through a crack of the opposite
doorway, followed swiftly after him.

In the cavern, at that moment, two groups of men were confronting each
other suspiciously, but hesitating as to what attitude they should
assume. The expected schooner had reached the coast that evening, and,
assured of safety by the single light displayed from the cliffs, had
run boldly in to her accustomed anchorage. As the operations of the
smugglers were necessarily conducted with great promptness, a portion
of her valuable cargo was immediately transferred to a small boat, and
four men accompanied it to the usual landing-place on the black
ledge. Here the goods were taken out, and two of the men returned to
the schooner with the boat while the others remained on shore. These
became so impatient at not receiving the usual intimation from above
that all was in readiness for hoisting, nor any answer to their
repeated signals, that they finally decided to avail themselves of the
tackle hanging ready beside them to go up and investigate. The captain
of the schooner, who was an Englishman, went first, and the other, who
was a French Canadian, followed closely after him.

[Illustration: A WILD-LOOKING MAN LEVELLED A PISTOL AT PEVERIL]

To their amazement they found the cavern, which they had been told was
never entered except by old man Darrell or his son, in possession of
two strangers, who appeared equally surprised at seeing them.

"What are you chaps doing 'ere?" demanded the Englishman.

"Oui. By gar! vat you do in zis place?" added his follower.

"I was about to ask that same question," said Peveril. "What are _you_
doing here?"

"Yes, be jabers! That's what _we_ want to know. What be _yous_ doing
here?" chimed in Mike Connell.

At that moment a wild-looking, white-headed figure suddenly appeared
on the scene, and, with one searching glance at Peveril, who stood
fully revealed in the light of Mike Connell's lantern, levelled a
pistol full at him. As he did so, a cry of terror rang through the
rock-hewn chamber, and a pair of soft arms were flung about the old
man from behind. By this his aim was so disconcerted that, though the
shot still rang out with startling effect in that confined space, its
bullet flew wide of the intended mark, and Peveril stood unharmed.

In another second the schooner's captain had sprung upon the madman
and wrenched the pistol from his hand, crying out:

"No, no, Mr. Darrell! There must be no murder connected with this
business. It is bad enough, God knows, without having that added!"

"C'est vrai! Certainment! By gar!" shouted the Canadian.

"You bet your sweet life, old man! That sort of thing don't go down in
the copper country, and it's mighty lucky for you that the young
feller was on hand to kape you from carrying out your murderous
intentions," said Mike Connell, sternly.

Peveril, seeing that the man, whom he had already recognized, was
rendered harmless by the loss of his pistol, remained coolly silent,
waiting for some cue by which his own course of action might be
determined.

"I see I have made a mistake, gentlemen," said Ralph Darrell, changing
his tactics with all a madman's cunning and readiness. "And I beg
Mister--a--"

"Peveril," said the young man--"Richard Peveril is my name, sir."

"Yes, of course; and, as I was saying, I beg Mr. Richard Peveril's
pardon for being so hasty; but my daughter here, having informed me of
his suspicious presence in the vicinity of this warehouse, I came to
protect my property from possible depredation. Finding him in the very
place that I was most anxious to guard, I very naturally took him for
a burglar, and acted accordingly. I am sorry, of course, if I have
made a mistake; but, if I remember rightly, I have already had
occasion to accuse Mr. Peveril of trespassing, and to order him from
my premises."

"You did, sir, and I refused to go until I had recovered certain
property to which I have a claim."

"Do you refuse to go now, when I tell you that the property in
question has been removed beyond your reach?"

"I do not."

"Will you promise never to return?"

"I will not."

"Will you go with these men on their schooner?"

"Certainly not, unless compelled by force, for I have no inclination
to trust myself with a gang of smugglers."

By this time two more of the schooner's crew, who had reached the
ledge with a second boat-load of goods in time to be attracted by the
pistol-shot in the cavern, had made their appearance on the scene, and
stood wonderingly behind their captain.

To this individual the old man whispered: "I will give you one
thousand dollars to capture this spy, who threatens to break up our
business. Carry him on board your schooner, and keep him there for one
week--one whole week, remember. Five hundred down, and the remainder
at the end of the week, if you have him still on board."

"Done!" said the captain, eagerly; and, turning to his men, he
muttered a few words to them in a low tone.

Peveril and Connell watched this by-play with considerable anxiety,
for they had no idea what action would be best to take. It would be
folly to make an attack on so strong a force, especially as they had
no direct provocation for so doing. Even should they succeed in
driving them from the cavern, they had no clear idea of what would be
gained. At the same time they did not relish the idea of waiting
quietly while the others carried on their secret consultation.

"The divils mean mischief, Mister Peril," whispered Connell. "Kape
your eye on them; and mind, if we get separated in the shindy, I'm not
the lad to desert a friend. Look out! Here they come! Take that, you
imps of Satan!"

With this final exclamation, the Irishman hurled his lighted lantern
full into the faces of the group at that moment rushing towards them.
It struck with a crash of glass, and then everything was enveloped in
darkness.

The fight was fierce, but short-lived. Peveril found himself striking
out wildly, was conscious of delivering several telling blows, and of
receiving twice as many in return. Then he was overwhelmed by numbers,
and, still fighting stoutly, was borne to the rocky floor.

When all was over and a lantern was brought, it revealed several
bloody faces and blackened eyes. Peveril was lying flat on his back,
with three men holding him down. Connell had disappeared, and so had
Mary Darrell, who was still looked upon by all present, except her
father, as being a boy. The old man held the lighted lantern, and the
captain of the schooner, swearing savagely, was holding his hands to
his face, which had been badly cut by the Irishman's missile.

A cord was brought, the very one that had lowered the lunch-basket,
and with it Peveril was trussed like a fowl for roasting. Then he was
swung down to the ledge at the base of the cliffs, tossed into a boat,
and rowed away. A few minutes later he was handed aboard the schooner,
taken below, and chucked into a small, evil-smelling state-room, the
door of which was locked behind him.

It was a very unpleasant position to occupy, and yet his thoughts were
not dwelling half so much upon it as they were upon the fact that the
young person in golf costume who had saved his life that evening had
been spoken of as a _daughter_.



CHAPTER XXIV

CONNELL MAKES GOOD HIS ESCAPE


From the very first Mike Connell had determined not to be captured, if
he could possibly help it, wisely concluding that he would stand a
better chance of serving his friend in freedom than as a prisoner. He
realized that Ralph Darrell's enmity was especially directed towards
Peveril, and believed that he, therefore, would be the principal
object of attack. At the same time he knew that, no matter how
desperately two might fight against six, there was little hope of
success in face of such overwhelming odds. So, while he was prepared
to throw himself heart and soul into the fray, he was also on the
watch for a chance of escape.

The entrance of the Darrell's into the cavern had been so precipitate,
and both of them had been so intent upon the object of their coming,
that they had forgotten their usual precaution and neglected to close
the door giving them admittance.

It was a slab of stone, carefully fitted to its place, swinging easily
on iron pivots, and usually fastened by a stout spring. Being left
open, it disclosed a patch of blackness a shade darker than the wall
on either side, and this caught Connell's eye just as the rush was
made.

Believing that here was offered a chance of escape that could be
utilized better in darkness than in light, and knowing also that a
battle against odds could be more successfully waged under the same
conditions, he used his lantern as a weapon of offence, and thereby
dashed out its flame at the very beginning of the fracas.

For a moment he entertained a vague hope that he would be able to draw
Peveril with him into the place that he had discovered, and that thus
they might effect an escape together. Quickly finding this impossible,
he sprang to one side, after knocking down one of his enemies, groped
along the wall until he found the desired opening, and entered it.

As he did so he came in contact with the slight figure of Mary
Darrell, who had here taken refuge at the outbreak of the struggle,
and was awaiting its termination in trembling anxiety. Now, thinking
the new-comer to be her father, and desirous of saving him from harm,
she gave the stone door a push that closed it. Then she said:

"I am so glad to have you safely away from those dreadful men, dear
papa! Now you will go back with me to the house, won't you, for I am
afraid to go alone?"

"Yes, only hurry!" whispered the Irishman, readily accepting the
situation, but not daring to speak aloud for fear of betraying his
identity. At the same time the thought, "What a coward the young
fellow is, to be sneaking away from an elegant shindy like the one
behind us! I've a mind to give him a taste of me fist for luck when we
get out of this black hole! No, I will not, though. I'll lave him be,
for wasn't it him saved Mr. Peril's life, after all?"

Resting one hand lightly on his guide's shoulder, he followed her
closely, and had barely reached the foregoing conclusion when the girl
flung open a door, and the two stepped into a lighted room. For a
moment their eyes were completely dazzled by its brightness.

Mary was the first to become accustomed to the glare of light, and
turned to speak to her supposed father. Upon seeing the face of a
perfect stranger she uttered a cry of dismay, and started as though to
fly, but the other clutched her arm.

"None of that, young feller!" he said, sternly. "Now that you've
brought me so far you'll see me farther and show me the way out of
here. You're a fine, bold chap, ain't you?" he added, in a tone of
scorn. "Look like you was fitter to be a girl than a lad, any day,
and, if it wasn't for the good turn you done me friend back yonder,
I'd be tempted to give you a kindergarten lesson in the manly art of
self-defence. As it is, I'll let you off this time, provided you'll
show me the way out. But you want to get a move on."

Terribly frightened as she was, the girl still found strength to open
a door on the opposite side of the room and motion for the man to pass
through. As he did so she slammed it behind him and locked it. Then
her overwrought feelings gave way, and she sank into a chair, sobbing
hysterically.

Furious at finding himself thus tricked, the Irishman's first impulse
was to turn and batter down the door, but a couple of heavy kicks
delivered against it for this purpose brought forth a loud cry from
some lower region.

"Hi! up dar. What you all a-doin'?"

At the same time it flashed into Connell's mind that his recent
enemies of the cavern might appear at any moment and open the door in
such a way as to cause him to regret that it had not remained closed.
Besides, was he not capable of finding his own way out of a house?

"Of course I am," he muttered, "and I'd best be doing it in a hurry,
too. So good-bye, young feller, and here's hoping we'll meet again."

Then he made his way down-stairs, opened a door, and found himself in
a kitchen, confronted by a resolute old colored woman, who, after one
glance at his strange face, let fly at it a ladle of hot water. This
assault was immediately followed by such a well-directed shower of
plates, pans, and culinary utensils as caused the intruder to utter
howls of pain and make a blind dash for an outer door.

Even outside the house his troubles were far from ended, for shouting
men were running towards him through the darkness, while at the same
time a dog leaped at him.

Throttling the animal and flinging him off after a vigorous struggle,
Connell had next to knock down a man who was attacking him on the
opposite side, receive a blow from a broom-handle wielded by Aunty
Nimmo, dodge several other assailants, and finally to run for his
life.

When the poor fellow at length found himself alone and safe from
present pursuit, he sat breathlessly on a log, over which he had just
pitched headlong, and began to consider his situation.

"You may talk about your dynamite and gunpowder," he said, "but being
blown up with aither of them isn't a patch to what I've gone through
this night. What with being wracked on a rock in the sea, fighting
smugglers, nagurs, and Polanders--to say nothing of dogs and other
wild animals--beat and battered, torn and scalded, tripped up and lost
in the wilderness, and all in the middle of a cruel blackness, is an
experience that any man might be grateful to be done with. If I have a
whole bone left inside of me skin, or a rag to me back, it's more than
I'm hoping. Now what'll I do next?

"Will I go back to the house? Indade I will not. Will I make another
try for the cave? Not so long as I have me right mind. Will I go back
to Red Jacket?--and meet them as would ax me what had I done with
Mister Peril? Not on your life. Where is Mister Peril at this blessed
minute, anyhow? At sea on board the smuggler, or I miss me guess. How
will I get to him? By taking a boat, of course. Where will I find one?
At Laughing Fish Cove, to be sure. That's the very place, bedad! and
the sooner I'm getting there the better."

The tug _Broncho_ had reached Laughing Fish about an hour before Mike
Connell arrived at this decision. She had come in search of the party
of log-wreckers that she had brought to that place more than a week
earlier, and now those on board were greatly troubled at not finding a
trace of the missing men save their deserted camp. Nor could they
obtain any information concerning them from the fisher folk of the
cove.

On board the tug was Major Arkell, who had been led by curiosity to
take the trip. He was curious to know what had become of the young man
whom he had sent into that region to pick up wrecked logs, and he was
also curious to ascertain what had become of a large number of those
same logs that still remained unaccounted for. At the same time he
would like to investigate certain reports that had reached him of the
reopening of some old mine-workings in that neighborhood. He had hoped
that his researches might not take him beyond Laughing Fish, where he
anticipated finding Richard Peveril prepared to answer all his
questions. Failing to discover the young man, or any trace of him, the
problems that he had set out to solve became more interesting than
before, and he ordered Captain Spillins to start at daybreak on a
cruise still farther up the coast.

Early on the following morning, therefore, everything was in readiness
on board the tug, and its crew were getting up the anchor when their
attention was arrested by the shouts and gesticulations of a man on
the beach.

"Send a boat in and see what he wants," said the manager; and ten
minutes later Mike Connell was on board, telling his story to a highly
interested group of listeners.

Within an hour after receiving her new passenger, the _Broncho_, under
full head of steam, was several miles to the northward of Laughing
Fish, and well out to sea, in hot pursuit of a small schooner. The
latter was slipping easily along before the fresh morning breeze that
had recently set in after a night of calm. The water rippled merrily
past her flashing sides, and she was making some six miles an hour. At
the same time the _Broncho_, pouring forth great clouds of soft-coal
smoke and heaping the smooth water into double white-crested billows
as she rushed through it, was doing two miles to her one, and would
soon overtake her.

"Whatever can that bloomin' teakettle want of us?" growled the captain
of the schooner as he blinked with half-closed eyes at his pursuer.
"She ain't no revenue boat, as I can see. Tom, h'ist our ensign as a
hint for 'em to keep away."

The sailor obeyed, and a minute later ran the crimson flag of Great
Britain to the main peak, where it streamed out bravely in the
freshening breeze.

"Got a flag aboard this boat, Captain Spillins?" asked Major Arkell as
he watched the schooner from the _Broncho's_ pilot-house.

"Yes, sir, two of 'em."

"Good. We'll see that fellow and go him one better. Set 'em both."

In consequence of this order the Stars and Stripes were quickly
snapping defiantly from both the forward and after jack-staffs of the
on-rushing tug.

"Sheer off, blast you, or you'll run us down!" bellowed the captain of
the schooner as the tug ranged close abreast.

"Is that your man?" asked the manager, of Mike Connell.

"He is. Sure I'd know him from a thousand by me own frescos on his
purty face."

"Have you a man named Richard Peveril aboard your craft?" demanded
Captain Spillins.

"None of your d----d business."

"Run him down!" ordered Major Arkell, sternly, and the words had
hardly left his mouth before the two vessels came together with a
crash.



CHAPTER XXV

A SEA-FIGHT ON LAKE SUPERIOR


As no other schooner was in sight, and as this one was standing off
the coast when discovered, the _Broncho_ people had from the very
first believed her to be the one they wanted. Her hoisting of British
colors strengthened this belief, and it was finally confirmed by
Connell's recognition of her captain. Until that moment, however, they
had entertained serious doubts as to whether they should find Peveril
on board; for it did not seem credible that even a smuggler,
accustomed to running great risks, would dare abduct and forcibly
carry off an American citizen. They did not know of the tempting
reward promised to the schooner's captain for doing that very thing,
nor of his determination to make this his last voyage on the great
lake. So they anxiously awaited his answer to the question:

"Have you a man named Richard Peveril aboard your craft?"

When it came, although it was neither yes nor no, it so thoroughly
confirmed their suspicions that they had no hesitation in attempting
to rescue their friend by force, and the _Broncho's_ men gave a yell
of delight as the two vessels crashed together.

On board the tug this moment had been foreseen and prepared for. Two
small anchors had been got ready to serve as grappling-irons, and each
man had been told off for special duty. The regular crew of four men
had been materially strengthened by the addition of the two
passengers; but, as the engineer must be left on board under all
circumstances, the available fighting force was reduced to five. As it
happened, this was the exact number on board the schooner. So, as the
_Bronchos_ scrambled to her deck, each singled out an individual and
went for him.

The vessel had been thrown into the wind by the collision, her sails
were thrashing to and fro with a tremendous clatter, which, combined
with a roar of escaping steam from the tug, created such dire
confusion among the smugglers as rendered them almost incapable of
resistance. In fact, their captain was the only one who made a show of
fighting; and, springing at him with a howl of delight, Mike Connell
sent him sprawling to the deck with a single blow. Then the Irishman
dove down the companionway, cast a hasty glance about the little
cabin, and made for the only door in sight. A couple of vigorous kicks
burst it open, and in another minute Richard Peveril was again a free
man.

As the two friends reached the deck, Connell uttered a wild Irish yell
of triumph, while the released captive, who now gained his first
inkling of what had taken place, stared about him in bewilderment.

Then he burst into a shout of laughter at the spectacle of four men,
one of whom was the dignified manager of the great White Pine Mining
Company, calmly sitting on the prostrate bodies of four others, while
a fifth, who had just struggled to his feet with a very rueful
countenance, suddenly dropped to the deck again as he caught sight of
Connell.

Greeting Peveril with a hearty cheer, and carrying him with them, the
_Bronchos_ regained their ship and cast off the lines that held her to
the schooner. As these were loosed her jingle-bell rang merrily, her
screw churned the dimpled waters into a yeasty foam, and, with a
derisive farewell yell from her exultant crew, she dashed away,
leaving her recent antagonist enveloped in a cloud of sulphurous
smoke. The whole affair had occupied just five minutes.

There was no lack of entertainment on board the good tug _Broncho_ as
she again headed southward and ploughed her way briskly towards
Laughing Fish, for every one had thrilling stories to tell or to hear.

"It seems to me," remarked Major Arkell to Peveril, after listening
attentively to the young man's narration, "that you have managed to
compress a greater number of desperate adventures and hair-breadth
escapes into a short space of time than any other man in the Copper
Country. I, for instance, have been here for ten years, and haven't
yet had an adventure worth the telling."

"Not even the one of this morning?"

"Oh, that was only an incident compared with what has happened to you.
How do you manage it? Do you always find such stirring times wherever
you go?"

"No, indeed," laughed Peveril; "until very recently I have led a most
quiet and uneventful life. Even now I would gladly exchange all my
adventures, as you are pleased to call them, for the smallest scrap of
information regarding the mine that I came out here to find."

"Haven't you learned anything concerning your Copper Princess yet?"

"Not one word."

"That's strange! I wonder if it can be located in the Ontonagon
region?"

"I had just about made up my mind to visit that section and find out,"
replied Peveril. "That is, if I have earned enough money while working
for you to pay my travelling expenses."

"I guess you have," laughed the major; "but I can't let you go yet a
while, for I shall want you to help me settle accounts with that old
fellow who stole our logs. Besides, you have so aroused my curiosity
regarding those prehistoric workings of yours that I should like very
much to visit them. Do you think you could find the entrance again?"

"Which entrance--the hole down which I was thrown, or the one through
which I crawled out?"

"The one by which you were introduced to them, of course. From your
own account, the other is altogether too small for comfort, and the
chances of being shot for trespass are altogether too great in its
vicinity."

"I expect I could find the locality, but I hate the idea of ever going
near it again. I don't think you can imagine what I suffered while
down there. I am sure the place will haunt my worst dreams during the
remainder of my life."

"By going down again with plenty of light, company, and an assured
means at leaving at any moment, the place will present a very
different and much more cheerful aspect. Besides, the ancient tools
that you mention as existing in such numbers down there are becoming
so scarce as to be very valuable and well worth collecting. So, on the
whole, I think we had better go and take a look at your prehistoric
diggings this very day."

"Very well, sir. Since you insist upon it, I will act as your guide;
but I must confess that I shall be heartily glad to leave this part of
the country and return to the civilization of Red Jacket."

"Civilization of Red Jacket is good!" laughed the other. "How long
since you considered it as civilized?"

"Ever since I left there and found out how much worse other places
could be."

As a result of this conversation, four men left Laughing Fish soon
after the tug again dropped anchor in its cove, and took to the trail
that two of them had followed before. These two were Peveril and
Connell. The others were the White Pine manager and Captain Spillins.
Arrived at the point from which "Darrell's Folly" could be seen, they
turned abruptly to the right and plunged into the woods.

Only too well did Peveril remember the path over which he had been
dragged a helpless captive only three days before. But the way seemed
shorter now than then, and he was surprised to discover the dreaded
shaft within a few hundred feet of the trail they had just left.

They had brought ropes with them, as well as an axe, and candles in
abundance. Now, after cutting away the bushes from the shaft-mouth,
and measuring its depth by letting down a lighted candle until it was
extinguished in the water at the bottom, they prepared for the
descent. The major was to go first, and Peveril, whose dread of the
undertaking had been partially overcome, was to follow. The others
were to remain on the surface to pull their companions up, when their
explorations should be finished.

So Major Arkell seated himself in a loop of the rope, swung over the
edge of the old shaft, and was slowly lowered until the measured
length had run out. Then the others, peering anxiously down from
above, saw his twinkling light swing back and forth until it suddenly
disappeared. A moment later the rope was relieved of its strain, and
they knew that its burden had been safely deposited on the rocky
platform described by Peveril. He went next, and was quickly landed in
safety beside his companion.

"It is an old working, sure as you live!" exclaimed the major, who was
examining the walls of the gallery with a professional eye. "And here
are the tools you spoke of. Beautiful specimens, by Jove! Finest I
ever saw. We must have them all up--every one. But let us go back a
piece and examine the drift. First time I ever knew of those old
fellows drifting, though. They generally only worked in open pits
until they struck water, and then quit. Didn't seem to have any idea
of pumps."

Still filled with his recent horror of the place, Peveril tried to
dissuade the other from penetrating any farther into the workings, but
in vain; and so, each bearing a lighted candle, they set forth. At the
several piles of material, previously noted as barring the way, the
major uttered exclamations of delight and astonishment.

"It is copper!" he cried. "Mass copper, almost pure! The very richest
specimens I have ever seen! Why, man, the old mine must have been a
bonanza, if it all panned out stuff like this! These piles were
evidently ready for removal when something interfered to prevent.
Wonder what it could have been? Didn't find any bones, did you, or
evidences of a catastrophe?"

"No. Nothing but what you see. Good heavens, major! What's that?"

With blanched faces the two stood and listened. Strong men as they
were, their very limbs trembled, while their hearts almost ceased
beating.

Again it came from the black depths beyond them--a cry of agony,
pitiful and pleading.

"Let's get out of this," whispered the major, clutching at Peveril's
arm and endeavoring to drag him back the way they had come. "I've had
enough."

"No," replied the other, resolutely; "we can't leave while some human
being is calling for deliverance from this awful place."

[Illustration: THE TWO MEN STOOD AND LISTENED]

"You don't think it a human voice?"

"I do, and at any rate I am going to see. There! Hear it?"

Again came the shrill cry, echoing from the rocky walls. "Help! For
God's sake, don't leave us here to perish!"

At the sound Peveril sprang forward, and the major tremblingly
followed him.

Back in the gloom, a hundred yards from where they had halted, they
came upon a scene that neither will ever forget so long as he lives.

A slender youth and a white-haired man stood clinging to each other,
and gazing with wildly incredulous eyes at the advancing lights.

"It is Richard Peveril, father! Oh, thank God! Thank God, sir, that
you have come in time!" cried the younger of the two.

"Richard Peveril?" repeated the old man, huskily. "No, no, Mary! It
can't be! It must not be! Richard Peveril is dead, and the contract is
void. He has no claim on the Copper Princess. It is all mine. Mine and
yours. But don't let him know. Keep the secret for one week
longer--only one little week--then you may tell it to the world."



CHAPTER XXVI

FIRST NEWS OF THE COPPER PRINCESS


When Peveril made his miraculous escape from the old mine, he left his
place of exit open. In his impatience to get away from the scene of
his sufferings, he had not even given another thought to the great
stone slab that he had raised with such difficulty and precariously
propped into position by a few fragments of rock. So the narrow
passage leading down from the cavern into the ancient workings that
had been so carefully concealed for centuries was at length open to
the inspection of any who should happen that way. Thus it remained
during the day of exciting incidents in the cavern, and through the
struggle that was ended by the smugglers bearing Peveril away captive
to their schooner.

Having thus disposed of the person whom of all in the world he most
dreaded, and placed him where it was apparently impossible for him to
make a claim on the Copper Princess before the expiration of the term
of contract, Ralph Darrell rejoined his daughter.

She, noting his excitement and fearing to increase it, made no mention
of her own encounter with the other stranger, whose presence in the
cavern seemed to have escaped her father's notice. So they only
talked of Peveril; and the girl, picturing him as he had appeared on
the several occasions of their meeting, wondered if he could really be
trying to rob them of their slender possessions, as her father
claimed.

The latter talked so incoherently of a conspiracy, a contract, and of
the great wealth that would be theirs in one week from that time, that
she was completely bewildered, and for the first time in her life
began to wonder if her papa knew exactly what he was saying.

Thus thinking, she soothed him as best she could, and finally
succeeded in getting him off to bed; but in the morning the subject
was again uppermost in his mind, and he would talk of nothing else.
Now he wondered how Peveril could have found his way into the cavern;
and as Mary was also very curious on that point, she willingly
accompanied him on a tour of investigation.

In this search it was not long before they discovered the upraised
stone slab at the rear end of the cavern, and peered curiously into
the black passage beneath it, which from the very first Ralph Darrell
was determined to explore.

"It is a part of our own mine," he said, "and so I must find out all
about it. There is no danger, for I can go very carefully, and return
when I please. I must go, though, for it is clearly my duty to do so.
Who knows but what I may strike another vein down there, as valuable
as the one we are already working. So, dear, do you wait here, and I
will come back to you very shortly."

But brave Mary Darrell would not agree to any such proposition, and
declared that if her father insisted on going into that horrid place
she should follow him.

So the old man and the girl--the former filled with eager curiosity
and the latter with a premonition of danger--crept under the great
slab and entered the sloping passage. They had but a single candle
with them, and of this Mary was glad, for she knew it would limit
their exploration and compel a speedy return.

Both of them being of much slighter frame than Peveril, they found
little difficulty in slipping through the passage and reaching the
ancient workings to which it led. Here Darrell began to find copper,
and went into ecstasies over its richness.

Forgetful of everything else, he pushed eagerly forward from one pile
of the valuable metal to another, and Mary, inspired by his
enthusiasm, almost forgot her dread of the gloomy place in which so
much wealth was stored. So absorbed were they that neither of them
paid any attention to a dull sound, as of some heavy body falling,
that came from a distance.

Finally, their candle burning low warned them to hasten their return;
but to their consternation, when they again reached the end of the
passage, they found its entrance closed. The great slab, insecurely
supported, had fallen into place, and the utmost exertion of their
feeble strength was insufficient to move it.

As they realized the full extent of the disaster that had thus
befallen them, the girl was awed into a despairing silence; while the
old man's impaired intellect gave way completely beneath the awful
strain of the situation, and he broke into incoherent ravings. At
length Mary Darrell knew that her beloved father had lost his mind,
and that she must share her living tomb with a madman.

In his ravings he declared that the situation was exactly as he wanted
it; for now no one, not even Richard Peveril himself, could share
their new-found wealth. With the next breath he expressed an intention
of getting back to the piles of copper as quickly as possible, that he
might defend them with his life against all claimants.

Terrible as it was to the girl to hear her father talk in this way,
his mention of Peveril brought a faint ray of hope. If the young man
had indeed gained access to the cavern from this direction, then the
old workings must possess some other exit. If they could only discover
such a place, it was barely possible that they might still escape.
Thus thinking, she humored her father's desire to return to the piles
of copper, and even hastened his steps in that direction, for their
candle was burning perilously low. So nearly had it expired that they
had hardly regained the old workings before its feeble flame gave a
final flicker, and they were plunged into blackness.

Through this they still groped their way until the old man's strength
was exhausted and he refused to go farther. Then, clinging to him in
an agony of despair, the poor girl closed her eyes and prayed:

"Dear Christ, help me in this time of my bitter trouble, for I have no
strength save in Thee!"

Her cry was heard and her prayer was answered even as it was uttered;
for with the opening of her eyes she caught a far-away gleam of light.
A minute later, when Richard Peveril came to her, he seemed like one
sent from heaven, and at that moment she could have worshipped him.

Peveril's heart leaped at the sound of her voice, and he received two
other distinct thrills of delight from her father's incoherent words.
One was when he addressed the slight figure at his side as "Mary," and
the other was caused by his mention of the Copper Princess. By the
first Peveril's recently aroused suspicion concerning the sex of the
wearer of that golf costume was reduced to a certainty, while by the
other he gained his first clue to the mine of which he was in search.

At the moment, however, these things merely flashed through his mind;
for he realized that the present was neither the time nor the place to
discuss them. The two helpless ones, so wonderfully intrusted to his
care, must be removed at once from the place in which they had
suffered so keenly. Both he and the major agreed that it would be best
to take them out by way of the shaft, and though they were full of
curiosity as to how the Darrells came into their distressing position,
both manfully refrained from asking questions until they had escorted
them to the entrance. For this forbearance the major deserved even
greater credit than his young friend; for as yet he had no knowledge
of who the strangers were, nor how it happened that they seemed to
know Peveril.

[Illustration: RESCUED FROM THE SHAFT]

Arrived at the shaft, it was decided that the major should ascend
first, to prepare those at the top for what was coming, as well as to
receive the old man, who would be sent up next. As he adjusted the
rope about his body, he whispered to Peveril, who was assisting him:

"Who are they?"

"Darrells," was the laconic answer.

"Not old man Darrell of the 'Folly'?"

"Yes."

"And his daughter?"

"I believe so," replied the young man, at the same time wondering how
the other had discovered so quickly the rightful sex of the apparent
lad.

"But how on earth do they happen to know you?"

"They ought to, seeing that the old man has shot at me twice; while
Miss Darrell and I have met several times, and on one occasion, at
least, she saved my life."

"Whew! No wonder you greet each other like old friends," rejoined the
major, as he swung off over the black pool and began slowly to ascend
the ancient shaft.

When the rope was again lowered it brought some bits of stout cord for
which Peveril had asked, and with these he fastened the old man so
securely into the loop that there was no possibility of his falling
out. Although Ralph Darrell was still highly excited and talked
constantly, he readily agreed to every proposition made by his
daughter, and offered no objection to going up the shaft.

As he swung out from the platform, and those above began to hoist on
the rope, his daughter bent anxiously forward to note his progress.
Apparently unconscious of her own danger, she leaned out farther and
farther, until Peveril, fearful lest she should lose her balance and
plunge into the pool, reached an arm about her waist and held her.

The girl was so intent upon watching her father that for a moment she
paid no attention to this. Then, suddenly becoming conscious of the
strong support against which she was leaning, she stepped quickly back
to a position of safety.

"I didn't suppose you would think it necessary to take such care of a
boy," she said, with an attempt at dignity.

"I shouldn't," laughed Peveril; "but why didn't you tell me yesterday
that you were a young lady, and that your name was Mary?"

"I don't remember that you asked me."

"That's so. It was you who asked all the questions and I who answered
them. So now it is my turn."

"I sha'n't promise to answer, though."

"Oh, but you must; for there are some things that I am extremely
anxious to know. For instance, why do you dress in boy's costume?"

"Because my father wished me to."

"An excellent reason. Now I want to know if 'Darrell's Folly' and the
Copper Princess are one and the same mine?"

"I believe the Copper Princess has been called by that other name,
which, however, I will thank you not to repeat in my presence."

"All right, I won't; but tell me--"

"Here is the rope, Mr. Peveril, and, thanking you over and over again
for your very great kindness, I will bid you _au revoir_," said the
girl, hurriedly adjusting the loop and preparing to ascend.

There was never a more amazed or abashed man in this world than was
Mike Connell when the "young lady" whom he, full of curiosity, was
helping to hoist from the old shaft made her appearance, and he
discovered her to be the "lad" whom he had treated with such freedom
the evening before. He was so staggered that he could not utter a
word, but simply stared at her with an expression in which
mortification and admiration were equally blended.

The moment the girl gained a footing on the surface she made a
comprehensive little bow to the men assembled about the shaft-mouth,
and said:

"My father and I thank you, gentlemen, from overflowing hearts, for
your great kindness to us, and shall hope to see you at our home for
supper, after you have been rejoined by Mr. Peveril. Come, papa, let
us go and make ready for company." With this she led the old man away
in the direction of his "Folly."

Half an hour later the four men from White Pine were received at the
door of the Darrell house by a dignified young lady, simply but
becomingly dressed in the usual costume of her sex. Looking directly
at one of them, she said:

"I bid you welcome, Mr. Peveril, to your own Copper Princess."



CHAPTER XXVII

A NIGHT WITH A MADMAN


When left alone at the bottom of the ancient shaft, with the
impenetrable gloom of the prehistoric workings crowding him close,
Peveril had found a few minutes in which to reflect upon the strange
happenings of the past half-hour. "Darrell's Folly" was the Copper
Princess, the mine in which he owned a half-interest--the one for
which he had searched so long and had almost given up hopes of
finding. Was it of any value? Or did the name, applied in derision,
rightly describe it? And the old man who had twice attempted to take
his life, whom he had just rescued from a living tomb, was his
partner! How could they ever work harmoniously together? He certainly
should not agree to the carrying on of further smuggling operations,
and so there was a barrier to their amicable relations at the very
outset.

But was that man the person with whom he would have to deal, after
all? He was evidently crazy, and probably had been from the very
first; for Peveril now remembered that Mr. Ketchum had hinted at
something of the kind during their last interview. As a crazy man
could not legally transact business, his dealings would then be with
Ralph Darrell's heirs or legal representatives. Who were those heirs?
Were there any other besides this daughter, Mary? He hoped not. What a
brave, splendid girl she was, and how pleasant it would be to discuss
business plans with her! How absurd of him not to have recognized her
at once, even in her boyish costume, and how stupid she must think
him!

He wished those fellows up above had not been in such a hurry with
that rope, for there were a lot more questions he wanted to ask her.
So many that he would not have objected if he and she had been left
down there together ever so much longer. How different the old mine
seemed now to what it had when he first knew it! Hereafter it would
always be associated in his mind with memories of a slight figure that
he had been permitted to hold for a single minute, a flushed face, a
pair of glorious eyes, and a voice that he should never forget. How
shy she was, and at the same time how dignified; how sweet and womanly
in her anxiety about her father! He hoped they could be friends, as
all business partners should be. Of course they could never be
anything more than that; for he was not forgetting his obligation to
Rose--oh no, not for one minute.

How infernally slow those chaps up above were now, and why didn't they
let down the rope? Were they going to keep him waiting in that beastly
hole forever? It really seemed so.

By a simple process of reasoning, and the putting together of the
various bits of information gained from her father, Mary Darrell had
reached the conclusion that the young man whose fortunes had been so
strangely interwoven with hers during the past ten days was the
rightful owner of the mine that her father had claimed for so many
years. She was too loyal to the latter to believe for a moment that he
had consciously attempted to defraud Peveril of his rights, but
credited all his actions to the sad mental condition of which she had
only now become aware.

"Poor, dear papa!" she said to herself. "He has done splendidly to
take care of me for so long as he has, and now I will take care of
him. We will go away from this horrid place, where he gets so excited,
and find some little home in the East, where he can rest until his
mind is wholly restored.

"In the meantime this Mr. Peveril can have the old mine, to do with as
he pleases. I shall let him know that we consider it his property
before he has a chance to even make a claim against it. I mustn't let
him see for a moment how badly we feel about it, though, for he seems
very nice, and has certainly placed us under a great obligation by
coming to our rescue so splendidly. I wonder how he knew that papa and
I were down in that awful place?"

Having got her father to his room, told Aunty Nimmo to prepare for
company, and hurriedly changed her dress, Mary Darrell greeted the
expected guests according to her privately arranged programme, and
invited them in to supper. After seeing them seated at the table and
provided with a bountiful meal, she left them on the plea that her
father needed her attention.

The girl had not been gone many minutes, and Peveril's friends were
still congratulating him upon having come into his fortune, at the
same time speculating whether the "Folly" was worth anything or not,
when she re-entered the room with a frightened expression on her face.
Addressing herself to Major Arkell, she said:

"Would you mind coming up to see my father, sir? I fear he is very
ill."

The major at once complied with this request, and, after he had gone,
Captain Spillins said: "I shouldn't wonder if the old fellow played
out and left you in sole possession of the Princess, after all, Mr.
Peveril."

"Which Princess are you meanin', captain?" asked Mike Connell. "Sure
it seems to me there's two of them."

"Have a care, Connell," said Peveril, warningly. "Remember the
circumstances under which we are here."

"I beg your pardon, Mister Peril," exclaimed the Irishman, contritely;
"I'd near forgot that you was already bespoke."

A hot flush sprang to the young man's cheek, but ere he could frame a
reply Major Arkell reappeared, looking greatly worried.

"Boys," he said, "we've a very serious case on our hands, and one that
demands immediate action. The old man up-stairs is fairly out of his
head, besides being in a high fever. He needs medical attendance as
quickly as it can be got to him, and careful nursing. I have given him
an opiate, which I hope will keep him quiet for a while, and now I
propose to go to Red Jacket in the tug for a doctor and a nurse.
Captain Spillins will, of course, go with me, and we shall try to be
back by morning. In the meantime the poor young lady must not be left
alone, or with only that old aunty, who is nearly frightened out of
her wits, and so I think you, Peveril, ought to stay here with Connell
and do what you can. You are, in a sense, the proprietor here, you
know, and as Connell has also been here before, maybe the old man will
be more reasonable with you than he would be with entire strangers."

"I quite agree with you that some of us ought to stay here and do what
we can," said Peveril; "and, under the circumstances, I suppose
Connell and I are the ones to do so. At the same time, I haven't had
much experience in caring for madmen."

"No more have I," said Connell, "but I'll do me best, for sake of the
young lady, and maybe she'll forgive me for treating her the same as I
would a lad."

"And, major," added Peveril, "if you will kindly fetch my luggage from
the Trefethen's I shall be greatly obliged."

So the party separated; and, while two of them wended their way back
to the tug at Laughing Fish, the others prepared for the long vigil of
the night.

After the effect of the opiate had passed, their patient was seized
with paroxysms of raving and frantic efforts to leave his bed for the
purpose of protecting his property. At such times it required the
united efforts of the two volunteer nurses to restrain him, and after
each attack he was left weak and helpless as an infant. Then he would
weep, and beg piteously not to be abandoned to the mercy of his
enemies; or he would fancy himself still in the awful blackness of the
ancient workings, and plead with his attendants not to be left thereto
die.

"For the sake of my daughter, gentlemen--my only child--who has no one
else in the world to love her or care for her, I beg of you to save
me. If you are human, take pity on her and let me go!" he would cry.

At such times no voice, not even Mary's, seemed to soothe him as did
that of Peveril, and his most violent struggles were controlled by the
gentle firmness of the young athlete.

All through that dreadful night Mary Darrell watched Peveril with
tear-filled eyes, wondering at his strength and gentleness, and
unconsciously loving him for them. Not that she would for an instant
have admitted such a thing even to herself. She tried instead to
believe that he was the cause of all this sorrow, and that she hated
him for it. "In whatever he does," she said to herself, "he is
actuated by remorse, and a desire to atone in some way for ruining my
father's life."

The anxiously awaited dawn found Ralph Darrell lying quietly with
closed eyes and Peveril keeping wakeful watch beside him. Aunty Nimmo
had been sent to her bed long since, and Connell was fast asleep on
the floor of the hall just outside the sick-room door. Mary Darrell
sat in an easy-chair, overcome by exhaustion, also sleeping lightly.

As the growing light fell on her tear-stained face, crowned by a
wealth of close-clipped hair curling in tiny ringlets, Peveril looked
at her curiously, and wondered why he had never thought her beautiful
until that moment. Apparently conscious of the young man's gaze, the
girl suddenly opened her eyes, and a faint flush suffused her pale
cheeks. Ere either she or Peveril could speak, the muffled sound of a
steam-whistle broke the morning stillness.

"Our friends have come, Miss Darrell," whispered the watcher. "You
have just time to go to your room and refresh yourself with a dash of
cold water before they appear."

Nodding assent, the girl accepted the suggestion and departed.

Then Peveril sent Connell to meet the new-comers, who, as he knew,
would steam directly into the land-locked basin, and remained to
finish his vigil alone.

Suddenly, as he sat absorbed in meditation, the madman, who had been
watching through half-closed eyes, sprang upon him without a sound of
warning and clutched his throat with a vise-like grip.

Not even the utmost exertion of Peveril's splendid strength served to
loose that horrid hold. In silence he fought for his life, until he
grew black in the face and his eyes started from their sockets. His
head seemed on the point of bursting. He reeled, staggered, and then,
together with his terrible assailant, fell heavily to the floor. As
they did so, the old man's head struck on a sharp corner; he uttered a
moan, and at last the deadly clutch on Peveril's throat was relaxed.

With his next moment of consciousness Peveril was sitting on the floor
gasping for breath, and Ralph Darrell lay motionless beside him in a
pool of blood. Then came quick steps on the stair, and Mary Darrell,
accompanied by Major Arkell and the doctor from Red Jacket, entered
the room.

For an instant the girl stared horror-stricken at the scene before
her. Then she darted forward and clasped her father's body in her
arms, crying out as she did so:

"You have killed him, Richard Peveril!--killed an old man, sick and
helpless; robbed him of his all, and then murdered him! Oh,
papa!--dear, dear papa! Why did I leave you for a single minute?"

"My! How she hates poor Mr. Peril!" whispered Nelly Trefethen, who had
come to act as nurse, and who, guided by Mike Connell, reached the
doorway in time to witness the tableau, as well as to hear Mary
Darrell's cruel words.



CHAPTER XXVIII

LEFT IN SOLE POSSESSION


Although Ralph Darrell was to all appearance dead, the doctor
pronounced him to be still alive, and caused him to be lifted back to
the bed, where he dressed his wound, at the same time administering
restoratives. While this was being done, Major Arkell, taking charge
of Peveril, led him to another room, in which his things, brought from
the Trefethen house, had been placed. The young man was still
trembling from his recent awful experience.

"In another minute all would have been over with me," he said, in
describing the incident to his friend. "For I could no more loosen his
clutch than if it had been a band of steel."

"That fall was a mighty lucky thing, then," commented the other.

"Yes, I suppose it was, for apparently nothing else could have saved
me. At the same time, think how unpleasant it would have been for me
if it had killed him, and I had been charged with his murder!"

"Oh, pshaw! no one would have imagined such a thing."

"His daughter did," replied Peveril, in whose ears Mary Darrell's
terrible accusation was still ringing.

"She didn't know what she was saying. You must remember the trying
circumstances of her position, and forgive and forget everything else.
If I am any judge of human character, she is just the girl to bitterly
regret her hasty words, if she ever recalls having uttered them."

"Of course I forgive her," said Peveril; "but I doubt if I can forget
as long as I live."

A bath in water as hot as he could bear it, followed by a cold douche
and a brisk rubbing with the coarse towels procured from Aunty Nimmo,
restored the young man to his normal condition. Then he exchanged the
ragged garb of a miner, that he had worn ever since leaving Red
Jacket, for a suit of his own proper clothing. With this the
transformation in his appearance was so complete that when, a little
later, Mary Darrell passed him in the hall, it was without
recognition. She only regarded him as one of the many strangers who
seemed suddenly to have taken unauthorized possession of her home.

At breakfast-time the doctor reported that his patient was sleeping
quietly and doing wonderfully well. "In fact," said the medical
gentleman, "I believe the blood-letting that resulted from his fall
was just what he needed; and, as he seems to have a vigorous
constitution, unimpaired by intemperate living, I predict for him a
speedy recovery."

This prediction was so far fulfilled that, within two days, Ralph
Darrell was sitting up, and, by the end of a week, he had very nearly
regained his strength. At the same time his excitability had wholly
disappeared, leaving him very quiet and as docile as a child, but with
little memory of past happenings. His daughter was the one person whom
he recognized, and to her he clung with passionate fondness, readily
accepting her every suggestion, but always begging her to take him
back to his Eastern home.

His rapid convalescence was largely due to her devoted care, and to
the capital nursing of Nelly Trefethen, who proved most efficient in
the sick-room. During that week the night-watches were taken by Mike
Connell, whom Miss Darrell engaged expressly for the purpose, but
Peveril was not asked to share them.

On the few occasions when he and Mary chanced to meet she treated him
with formal politeness, but rarely spoke, and never gave him the
opportunity of exchanging with her more than a few commonplace
remarks. At the same time she watched him furtively, and he seldom
left the house or entered it without her knowledge. She had learned
his history, so far as Nelly Trefethen knew it, and, by her readiness
to listen, encouraged the girl to talk by the hour on this theme.

She also learned one thing about him that was not told her, and that
was that he was engaged to be married. One evening Nelly and Connell,
coming back from a walk, encountered Peveril near the house, and close
under a window at which Mary happened to be standing. As the young man
was about to pass them the Irishman stopped him, saying:

"Oh, Mister Peril, would you mind telling Nelly here the thing you
told me down the new shaft that time?"

"I don't think I remember what it was."

"About your being bespoke."

"Oh! about my engagement? Yes, I remember now that you did want me to
tell Miss Nelly of it, though I am sure I can't imagine why it should
interest her."

"Arrah, Mister Peril, don't every young woman be interested to know if
she's to smile on a young man or give him the cold stare?"

"If that is the case," laughed Peveril, "I am afraid all the girls
must give me the cold stare, for I certainly am engaged; and, by the
way, Miss Nelly, do you know if there is a letter awaiting me at your
house? I received one from my sweetheart on the very day that I left
Red Jacket, and, with most unpardonable carelessness, managed to lose
it without having even opened it."

"I don't know, Mr. Peril--I mean, I didn't hear mother, speak of it,"
stammered the girl, so frightened that for a moment she had no idea of
what she was saying. "I do mind, though, seeing one advertised in the
post-office with a name something like yours," she added, more
coherently.

"Then I must have dropped it on the street, and whoever found it must
have been honest enough to return it to the post-office. I will write
at once for it, and am much obliged for your information."

Some days later Peveril did write to the Red Jacket postmaster, and
received prompt answer that the bit of mail-matter in question had
been sent to the dead-letter office. So he wrote to Washington
concerning his missing letter, and in due time learned that it had
been returned to sender. Then, as he had no idea of "sender's" present
address, he decided to wait until hearing from her again before
attempting to forward his explanation of how it all happened.

In the meantime he was extremely interested in other affairs that
engrossed more and more of his attention. On that very first morning
he had shown to Major Arkell several papers that came to him with his
baggage. Among these were Boise Carson's letter, lawyer Ketchum's note
of identification, and the famous contract under which he claimed a
half-ownership in the Copper Princess.

At a later date he also attempted to show these papers to Mary
Darrell, but she declined to look at them, saying that, as she did not
doubt the validity of his claim, she had no desire to discuss it.

Major Arkell, however, examined the papers carefully, and expressed
himself as thoroughly satisfied that his young friend was a half-owner
in the mine heretofore known as "Darrell's Folly."

"And now," he said, "let us examine the property, and see whether it
is worth anything or not."

So these two set forth on a tour of inspection. They found the several
buildings to be in fair order, and all machinery in an excellent state
of preservation. Then they descended the shaft and examined the
material through which the several galleries had been driven, and
which the White Pine manager pronounced as barren even of promise as
any rock he had ever seen.

"The trouble seems to be," he said, "that they persistently drifted in
exactly the wrong direction, and went away from the true vein--which I
believe to be indicated by those ancient workings over yonder--instead
of towards it. Thus the engineer who laid out this mine either
displayed great ignorance, or else your property does not include that
strip of territory. But I'll tell you what we'll do. You stay here and
hold the fort for a few days while I go and look the thing up."

"I don't like to have you take so much trouble," protested Peveril.

"No trouble at all, my dear fellow--purely a matter of business. I
want, if possible, to become associated with you in this proposition.
As it now stands, your mine is worthless, unless it includes, or can
be made to include, those old workings. I believe they will make it
extremely valuable, for I am persuaded that the vein indicated by them
can be reached at a lower level from this very shaft."

So the major took his departure, and Peveril waited a whole week for
his return. In the meantime he familiarized himself with his property,
and, by means of a careful survey, established the relative positions
of the prehistoric mine and the shaft of the Copper Princess.

During this week, as has been said, he saw very little of Mary
Darrell, and often wondered how she occupied her time.

Finally there came a day when Miss Darrell informed Mike Connell that,
as her father was now so much better, it would no longer be necessary
to watch with him at night. So the honest fellow, who had been working
hard with Peveril on his measurements, and was rejoiced at the
prospect of an unbroken night's rest, retired early to the quarters
that he and the young proprietor occupied together at some distance
from the Darrells' house.

Very early on the following morning the two men were awakened by a
loud knocking at their door, and the voice of Nelly Trefethen calling
as though in distress.

"Coming!" shouted Peveril, as they both sprang from bed and hurriedly
dressed. As they emerged from the house the girl exclaimed:

"They're gone, Mr. Peril! gone in the night, and I never heard a
sound. How they went, no one can tell, for all the outer doors were
left locked, with the keys on the inside. But they're gone, for I have
hunted high and low without finding a sign of them."

"Who have gone?" demanded Peveril.

"Miss Mary and her father and the old colored woman."

That these three had taken a mysterious departure was only too
apparent when the two men returned with Nelly to the house and
searched it from top to bottom.

Then, under Connell's guidance, they went through the secret passage
to the cavern. There they found a lighted lantern hung on the stunted
cedar just outside the entrance, the canvas curtain drawn aside, the
derrick swung out, and its tackle hanging down to within a foot of
the black ledge, but that was all.

Three months after that time Peveril received the following letter:

     "DEAR MR. PEVERIL:

     "I feel it a duty to tell you that my dear father has at length
     passed peacefully away, and so will never trouble you again. At
     the very last he spoke lovingly of Richard Peveril, and said he
     was a splendid fellow; but I am inclined to think he referred
     to your father rather than to yourself. He was also perfectly
     rational on all subjects except that of the Princess, which he
     persisted in declaring was one of the richest copper mines of
     the world. I, of course, know better, for I realized long ago
     how truly the name 'Darrell's Folly' described that unfortunate
     venture.

     "Whatever pleasure you may find in owning such an
     unremunerative piece of property you may enjoy without any fear
     of molestation, for I, as my father's sole heir, shall never
     lay claim to any share in it, and hereby authorize you to do
     with it as you think best.

     "We have been very happy since we left you so suddenly and
     unexpectedly. The opportunity for departure came, and we
     embraced it.

     "I have but one more thing to say before closing this one-sided
     correspondence forever--I humbly beg your pardon and crave your
     forgiveness for the cruel injustice that I once did you in a
     moment of agony.

     "Trusting that you are happy (I knew of your engagement) and
     prosperous,

     "I remain, always under obligations, your friend,

     "MARY DARRELL."

With this letter there was no date nor address, and its only post-mark
was the stamp of the railway postal-service on a distant Eastern
road.



CHAPTER XXIX

A ROYAL NAME FOR A ROYAL MINE


Peveril was greatly distressed at the unforeseen and mysterious
disappearance of the Darrells; for it made him feel as though he had
driven them from their home and usurped their rights. The place also
seemed very empty and forlorn without Mary Darrell's winning face and
all-pervading presence; for, though he had seen but little of her and
had reason to believe that she did not feel kindly towards him, he now
realized how much his happiness had depended on the knowledge that she
was always close at hand.

Then, too, the domestic establishment that ran on so smoothly under
the supervision of Aunty Nimmo was completely broken up. Nelly
Trefethen must, of course, return at once to Red Jacket, and this she
did that very day on Mary Darrell's pony, under escort of Mike
Connell, who was only too happy to make the journey on foot. The few
men employed by Mr. Darrell having been paid off and discharged, the
departure of his two remaining friends left the young proprietor
entirely alone, in a place as desolate as though it were beyond the
reach of human knowledge. The sky was overcast, making the day dark
and cheerless, so that, as Peveril wandered disconsolately about his
deserted property, the future looked to him as gloomy as the present.

"There can't be anything in it," he said to himself, as he gazed
moodily down the black mouth of the shaft. "Of course, the men who
sank a fortune in that hole would have found it out long ago if there
were. As for those prehistoric workings on which the major counts so
largely, I don't believe but what the old fellows who opened them also
made a pretty thorough clean-up of everything in them. Certainly the
few small piles of copper that they left behind would not now pay for
their removal.

"It has all been very pleasant to dream of becoming a wealthy
mine-owner, but the sooner I realize that it is only a dream, and wake
from it to the necessity of earning a livelihood by hard work, the
better off I shall be. At any rate, I know I won't spend another day
alone in this place. If I did, I should go crazy. No wonder old man
Darrell lost his mind under the conditions surrounding him. I don't
believe Major Arkell will come back, anyway. Why should he, if, as is
probable, he has discovered the utter worthlessness of the property?
He knows that if he leaves me here alone I must turn up in Red Jacket
sooner or later, and thinks the bad news he has to tell will keep
until I do. Well, I shall throw the whole thing up to-morrow and go to
him for a job. There isn't anything else for it that I can see.

"I guess he will give me something to do, and after a while I shall
rise to be a plat-man, or timber boss, or even store-keeper, and
then--Well, then I can settle down and marry some nice girl like Nelly
Trefethen, perhaps achieve fame as a local politician, and so end my
days in a blaze of glory. Oh, it's a lovely prospect! As for poor
Rose, there's no use in thinking any longer of her, and the sooner she
forgets me the better. Probably she has ere this, and, if so, I can't
blame her."

At length the long day dragged itself wearily away, and darkness found
Peveril faint with hunger, for he had not had the heart to prepare a
dinner, awkwardly attempting to provide himself with something to eat
in Aunty Nimmo's kitchen. A single lamp threw a faint ray out from the
window, and in all that forlorn little mining village it was the only
gleam of light to be seen.

Suddenly there came a clatter of hoofs and a cheery "Hello, the
house!"

Instantly forgetful of his culinary operations, Peveril sprang to the
door, just in time to fling it open and welcome Major Arkell, who was
alighting from a weary-looking horse.

"What will you take for your Copper Princess, my boy?" shouted the
new-comer as he entered the room, rubbing his hands and sniffing
expectantly at the pleasant odors of cooking with which it was
pervaded.

"About five cents," responded Peveril.

"Done! It's a bargain," cried the other. "And we'll settle the details
of the transfer after eating the elegant supper that I discover in
process of preparation. But you are not cooking half enough. I could
eat twice as much as that and still be hungry. Let me show you how.
What has become of Aunty Nimmo, that I find you presiding over her
domain? Never mind; tell me later, after you've called Connell or some
one to look after my horse."

"I will gladly attend to the horse, major, if you will take charge of
the cooking," said Peveril, laughing for the first time that day. "You
see, I am not an expert at this sort of thing, and--"

"No, I should judge not," interrupted the other, glancing comically at
the various burned, lumpy, and muddy failures with which the stove was
covered; "but I'll do the trick for you if you will look after the
beast."

Half an hour later the two sat down to a bountiful and fairly
well-cooked meal that in the major's cheery company seemed to poor,
hungry Peveril about as fine a one as he had ever eaten. While it was
in progress he told of the happenings of the past week, including the
mysterious disappearance of the Darrells; but, as the major did not
seem to have any news to impart in return, he concluded that there was
none to tell, and so forbore to ask questions.

It was not until after they had finished supper and were sitting
before a cheerful blaze in the cosey living-room of the Darrell house
that the major said:

"Now for our bargain. Though I could, of course, hold you to that
five-cent deal, I won't do so, but will, instead, make an offer of ten
thousand dollars for one-half of your half-interest in the Copper
Princess."

"What!" gasped Peveril.

"Yes, I mean it; and, in addition, if you will devote that sum to the
development of the mine, I will advance an equal amount, or ten
thousand dollars more, for the same purpose. Now don't say a word
until I have explained the situation. By a careful searching of old
records and maps I have discovered that the Princess property not only
embraces our prehistoric mine, but extends some distance beyond it. I
think I have also found out why those who originally laid out this
mine started their cuts on the wrong side of their shaft. They
evidently knew that ancient workings existed somewhere in this
neighborhood, but they were deceived as to their location, for on all
the maps I find them marked, but the place thus indicated is always in
the opposite direction from that in which we now know them to lie."

"But--" began Peveril.

"Wait a minute. Of course those old fellows may merely have struck a
pocket and exhausted it, but I don't believe so, and am willing to
risk twenty thousand dollars on the continuance of the vein. If it is
there, that sum of money ought to enable us to reach it from your
present shaft; and if we do strike it, why, in the slang of the day,
the Copper Princess is simply a 'peach.' Are you game to accept my
offer and go in for raising that kind of fruit?"

"I certainly am."

"Good! Shake. The bargain is made, and the sooner we get to work the
better."

Ten days from that time sees the legal formalities of that quickly
concluded bargain settled, and the mining village of Copper Princess
presenting a vastly different appearance from what it did on the
melancholy day when Peveril was its sole occupant. All its houses are
now occupied, and from every window cheery lights stream out with the
coming of evening shadows.

Peveril occupies the comfortable quarters so long ago provided for the
manager, and until recently the home of the Darrells. With him lives a
young engineer of about his own age, recommended by Major Arkell, and
here, too, are the several offices. The nearest cottage to it is that
of our old friends the Trefethens--for Mark Trefethen is captain of
the mine, and Tom is shaft boss. Mrs. Trefethen and Nelly have their
hands full in caring for both these houses and in providing meals for
their occupants. Mike Connell is timber boss, and, in timbering the
ancient mine, as well as the new workings, is one of the busiest men
in the place.

Although he has a cottage of his own, it is still a lonely one, and he
is looking eagerly forward to the time when the anxiously expected
vein shall be struck. Then, and not until then--and, in case it is not
struck at all, perhaps never--will Nelly Trefethen become his wife. So
it is no wonder that the impatient fellow descends the shaft each day
to anxiously inspect the new work.

With nearly one hundred sturdy miners engaged on it, and the other
tasks necessary to its progress, it is driven by night as well as by
day, and in reality advances with great rapidity, though to Connell
it seems to creep by inches. The great chimney pours forth clouds of
smoke, heavy skips hurry up and down the shaft, there is always a
cheerful ring of anvils, rafts of logs lie in the land-locked basin,
men and teams are to be seen in every direction, and everywhere is
heard the inspiring hum of many industries, though as yet not one
pound of copper has been brought up from the underground depths.

For weeks and months the work goes on with unabated energy. Peveril,
always willing to listen to advice and never ashamed to ask it from
those more experienced than himself, is everywhere, seeing to
everything and directing everything. Though he is thinner than when we
first met him, and his face has taken on an anxious look, it wears at
the same time an expression of greater manliness, self-confidence, and
determination.

Major Arkell has not yet appeared on the scene in person, and only the
young proprietor is known as the responsible head of all this
bewildering activity.

It is bewildering to outsiders to see the long-abandoned "Darrell's
Folly" suddenly transformed into one of the busiest mining-camps of
the copper region, for as yet no one, except Connell and the
Trefethens, knows the secret hopes of the proprietors. Even those who
are driving the new side-cut far beneath the surface, straight as a
die towards the prehistoric mine, though on a much lower level, know
not what they are expected to find.

At length three months have passed since the night on which Peveril
sold for ten thousand dollars an undivided half of his interest in the
Copper Princess. Since that time he has not once left the scene of his
labors, his hopes, and his fears. He has not even visited Red Jacket
since the morning, that now seems so long ago, when he left it in
charge of a gang of log-wreckers. Now the money put into this new
venture is very nearly exhausted. It will hold out for one more
pay-day, but that is all. And as yet only barren rock has come up from
that yawning shaft that seems to gulp down money with an appetite at
once inordinate and insatiable.

A huge pile of rock has accumulated about its mouth. If it were copper
rock it would be worth a fortune; as it is, it is worse than
worthless, for it contains only disappointed hopes. And yet a point
directly beneath the ancient workings has been reached and passed. Is
the quest a vain one, after all? Is Peveril's as great a folly as
Darrell's ever was? It would seem so; and the young proprietor's heart
is heavy within him.

He has just received the letter in which Mary Darrell declares the
Copper Princess to be a worthless property. With it in his pocket he
visits the mouth of the shaft, intending to descend. As he approaches
it, a skip containing several men comes to the surface. When they
emerge into daylight they are yelling in delirious excitement. One of
them leaps out and runs towards him, shouting incoherently. It is Mike
Connell.

What had gone wrong? Has there been some terrible accident
underground?

"We've struck it, Mister Peril! We've struck the vein, and it's the
richest ever knowed!" yells the Irishman. "Here's a specimen. Did ever
you see the like? It's gold--nothing less! Hooray for us! Hooray for
the Princess! and hooray for Nell Trefethen, that'll be Mrs. Michael
Connell this day week, plaze God!"

A few minutes later every cottage in the settlement holds specimens of
the wonderful rock glistening with glowing metal. Every man is
cheering himself hoarse. The great steam-whistle is shrieking out the
glorious news, and Richard Peveril, with heavy pockets, is riding like
mad in the direction of Red Jacket. The Copper Princess--a royal name
for a royal mine--has at last entered as a power the ranks of the
world's wealth-yielding properties.



CHAPTER XXX

PEVERIL ACQUIRES AN UNSHARED INTEREST


An autumn evening two years later finds Richard Peveril seated in the
smoking-room of the University, the most thoroughly home-like and
comfortable of all New York clubs. He has dined alone, and now, with a
tiny cup of black coffee on the stand beside him, is reflectively
smoking his after-dinner cigar.

This is his first visit to the East since he left it, more than two
years before, almost penniless and wellnigh friendless, on a search
for a mine that he was assured would prove worthless when found. Today
that same mine is yielding an enormous revenue, of which he receives
one-quarter, or a sum vastly in excess of his simple needs, for he is
still a bachelor, acting as manager of the Copper Princess, and still
makes his home in the little mining settlement on the shore of the
great Western lake.

A fortune twice as large as his own, and derived from the same source,
lies idle in the vaults of a trust company awaiting a claimant who
cannot be found. Her name is Mary Darrell, and though from the very
first Peveril has guarded her interests more jealously than his own,
and though he has made every effort to discover her, her fortune still
awaits its owner.

He has not only been disappointed at the non-success of his efforts in
this direction, but is deeply hurt that the girl, who has been so
constantly in his thoughts during his two years of loneliness, should
so persistently ignore him. That she has occupied so great a share of
his time for thinking is due largely to the fact that there is no one
else to take a like place, for Rose Bonnifay long since released him
from his engagement to her, and he has contracted no other.

As soon as he believed his _fiancée_ to be in New York, he wrote her a
long letter descriptive of his good-fortune and promising very soon to
rejoin her for the fulfilling of his engagement. To his amazement it
was promptly returned to him, endorsed on the outside in Miss
Bonnifay's well-known handwriting.

  "As my last to you came back to me unopened, I now take
  pleasure in returning yours in the same condition."

He immediately wrote again, only to have his second letter treated as
the first had been, except that this time it came to him without a
word. From that day he had heard nothing further from Rose Bonnifay.

Now business had called him to New York, and he had reached the city
but an hour before his appearance at the club. Here he gazed curiously
about him, as one long strange to such scenes, but who hopes to
discover the face of a friend in that of each new-comer. Thus far he
had not been successful, nor had he been recognized by any of the men,
many of them in evening-dress, who came and went through the spacious
rooms. Peveril was also in evening-dress, for he had conceived a vague
idea of going to some theatre, or possibly to the opera. And now he
listlessly glanced over the advertised list of attractions in an
afternoon paper.

While he was thus engaged, a young man, faultlessly apparelled and
pleasing to look upon, stood in front of him, regarded him steadily
for a moment, and then grasped his hand, exclaiming:

"If it isn't old Dick Peveril--come to life again after an age of
burial! My dear fellow, I am awfully glad to see you. Where have you
been, and what have you been doing all these years? Heard you had gone
West to look up a mine, but never a word since. Hope you found it and
that it turned out better than such properties generally do. Was it
gold, silver, iron, or what?"

"You may imagine its nature from its name," answered Peveril, who was
genuinely glad to meet again his old college friend, Jack Langdon; "it
is called the 'Copper Princess.'"

"The 'Copper Princess'!" cried the other. "By Jove! you don't say so!
Why, that mine is the talk of Wall Street, and if you own any part in
it, you must be a millionaire!"

"Not quite that," laughed Peveril, "though I am not exactly what you
might call poor."

"I should say not, and only wish I stood in your shoes; but, you
see--" Here Langdon plunged into a long account of his own affairs, to
which Peveril listened patiently. Finally the former said:

"By the way, what have you on hand for to-night?"

"Nothing in particular. Was thinking of going to some theatre."

"Don't you do it! Beastly shows, all of them. Nothing but vaudeville
nowadays. Come with me and I'll take you to a place where you will not
only have a pleasant time, but will meet old friends as well. You
remember old Owen?--'Dig' Owen, we used to call him."

"Yes."

"Well, he is here in New York, and has made a pot of money--no one
knows how. Shady speculations of some kind, and, between ourselves, it
is liable to slip through his fingers at any moment. But that's
neither here nor there. He married, about a year ago, a nice enough
girl, who has apparently lived abroad all her life. Rather a
light-weight, but entertains in great shape. Always has something good
on hand--generally music. They give a blow-out to-night, to which I am
going to drop in for a while, and, of course, they will be delighted
to see you. So don't utter a protest, but just come along."

In accordance with the programme thus provided, Peveril found himself
an hour later entering the drawing-room of a spacious mansion on upper
Fifth Avenue. It was already so well filled that it was some time
before the new-comers could approach their hostess.

When they finally reached the place where she was talking and laughing
with a group of guests, her face was so averted that Peveril did not
see it until after Langdon had said:

"Good-evening, Mrs. Owen. You have gathered together an awfully jolly
crowd, and I have taken the liberty of adding another to their number.
He is an old college friend of your husband's, and quite a lion just
now, for he is the owner of the famous Copper Princess that every one
is talking about. May I present him? Mrs. Owen, my friend Mr. Richard
Peveril." With this Langdon stepped aside, and Peveril found himself
face to face with Rose Bonnifay.

For an instant she was deadly pale. Then, with a supreme effort, she
recovered her self-possession, the blood rushed back to her cheeks,
and, extending her hand with an engaging smile, she said:

"This is indeed an unexpected pleasure, Mr. Peveril, and I am ever so
much obliged to Mr. Langdon for bringing you. Did he know, I wonder,
that you were an old friend of mine, as well as of Mr. Owen's? No!
Then the surprise is all the pleasanter. Oh! there is mamma, and she
will be delighted to meet you again. Mamma, dear, here is our old
friend, Mr. Peveril. So pleased, and hope we shall see you often this
winter."

[Illustration: PEVERIL FINDS MARY AGAIN]

Other newly arrived guests demanding Mrs. Owen's attention at this
moment, Peveril found himself borne away by her mother, who had
greeted him effusively, and now seemed determined to learn everything
concerning his Western life to its minutest details. To accomplish
this she led him to a corner of the conservatory for what she was
pleased to term an uninterrupted talk of old times, but which really
meant the propounding of a series of questions on her part and the
giving of evasive answers on his.

While Peveril was wondering how he should escape, a hush fell on the
outer assembly, and some one began to sing. At first sound of the
voice the young man started and listened attentively.

"Who is she?" he asked.

"Nobody in particular," responded Mrs. Bonnifay; "only a girl whom
Rose met when she was studying music in Germany. I fancy she spent her
last cent on her musical education, which, I fear, won't do her much
good, after all; for, as you must notice, she is utterly lacking in
style. She is dreadfully poor now, and earns a living by singing in
private houses--all her voice is really fit for, you know. So Rose
takes pity on her, and has her in once in a while. Why, really, they
are giving her an encore! How kind of them; and yet they say the most
wealthy are the most heartless. But you are not going, Mr. Peveril? I
haven't asked you half--"

Peveril was already out of the conservatory and making his way towards
the piano, as though irresistibly fascinated. For her encore the
singer was giving a simple ballad that had been very popular some
years before. The last time Peveril heard it was when cruising along a
shore of Lake Superior, and it had come to him from somewhere up in
the red-stained cliffs.

At last he had found Mary Darrell--"his Mary," as he called her--in
quick resentment of the smiling throng about him, who _paid_ her to
sing for them.

He did not speak to her then, nor allow her to see him, but when, with
her task finished, she left the room, his eyes followed her every
movement and lingered lovingly on her beautiful face--for it was
beautiful. He knew it now, as he also knew that he loved her, and
always had done so from the moment that he first beheld her, a vision
of the cliffs.

When, accompanied by faithful Aunty Nimmo, she left the house, he was
waiting outside. She tried to hurry away as he approached her, but at
the sound of his voice she stood still, trembling violently.

An hour later, in the modest apartment far downtown, which was the
best her scanty earnings could afford, he had told his story. Mary
Darrell knew that she was no longer a poor, struggling singer, but an
heiress to wealth greater than she had ever coveted in her wildest
dreams. But to this she gave hardly a thought, for something greater,
finer, and more desirable than all the wealth of the world had come to
her in that same brief space of time. She knew that she was loved by
him whom she loved, for he had told her so. Even now he stood
awaiting, with trembling eagerness, her answer to his plea.

Could she not love him a little bit in return? Would she not go back
with him, as his wife, to the house that had been hers, and still
awaited her, by the shore of the great lake?

"But I thought, Mr. Peveril--I mean, I heard that you were engaged?"

"So I was. I was engaged to Mrs. Owen, at whose house you sang this
evening, and where I was so blessed as to find you. But she thought me
unworthy and let me go. I know I am unworthy still; but, Mary dear,
won't you give me one more chance? Won't you take me on trial?"

"Well, then, on trial," she answered, though in so low a tone that he
barely caught the words.

In another instant he had folded her in his arms, for he knew that she
was wholly his, and that in _this_ Copper Princess his interest was
unshared.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

By S. R. KEIGHTLEY


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