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Title: A Struggle for a Fortune
Author: Castlemon, Harry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: The space below was literally filled up with bags]


A STRUGGLE FOR A FORTUNE

HARRY CASTLEMON

Illustrated by W. H. Fry



M. A. Donohue & Company
Chicago

Copyright, 1905,
By
The Saalfield Publishing Company



A Struggle for a Fortune.



CHAPTER I.

_About Money._


It was in a little log cabin with a dirt floor and a stick chimney
which occupied almost the whole of one side of it, situated a few miles
from Pond Post Office, a small hamlet located somewhere in the wilds of
Missouri, that the opening scene of this story took place. There were
four occupants of the cabin, sitting around in various attitudes, and
they all seemed to be looking at a fifth person, Jonas Keeler by name,
who was standing in the middle of the floor with a whip in his hand
and a fierce frown on his face. Something was evidently troubling this
man Jonas, and, if we listen to a few scraps of the conversation that
passed between him and his wife, perhaps we can ascertain what it was.

“And is there any thing else that you want?” inquired Jonas, in a tone
that was fully as fierce as his frown. “It beats the world how many
things I have to get when I go to town. It is coffee here, and flour
there, until I have to have a memory as long as this whip-stock for
fear that I will forget some of them.”

“But, father, we have got to live somehow,” said his wife, who was
seated on a rickety chair. “We can’t grow fat on air.”

“To be sure you can’t, but it seems to me that you might make things
last longer. We wasn’t in this fix before the war. Then we had a house
and something that was fit to eat; but ever since the rebs and the
Yanks have got in here and burned us out, things is all mussed up and I
don’t know which way to turn.”

“Why, father, you have money now,” said his wife.

“Where did I get money? Not much I ain’t. It has been this way ever
since that old man Nickerson came here to board. I didn’t agree to take
him for nothing, and I would not have done it if you hadn’t showed
signs of getting up on your ear.”

“I know you didn’t. He gave you one thousand dollars when he first came
here, and you said it would be more than enough to keep him as long as
he lived.”

“But I did not suppose he was going to last forever, did I? He has
chawed that up in tobacco long ago; and every time I go to town I am
getting him a plug out of my own pocket.”

“Do you mean to say that he has used up a thousand dollars in three
years?” asked Mrs. Keeler, in a tone of astonishment.

“Now look at you. You seem to think that amount of money will last
forever. He has chawed that up and more, too. He must have had more
than a thousand dollars when he came here. The folks down to Manchester
used to say he was worth ten thousand dollars. What did you do with all
that money, old man?”

This question, addressed in no very amiable tone of voice, was spoken
to a person who was seated in a remote corner of the cabin as if he
was anxious to get out of reach of the speaker. He was a very aged
man, with white locks that came down upon his shoulders and hands that
trembled in spite of all he could do to prevent it, and there was
something in his eyes and face which he turned toward Jonas that would
have appealed to any heart except the heart of Jonas Keeler. The old
man was not in his right mind. He had worked hard and laboriously,
his hands showed that, for the little money he possessed--Jonas said
it was more than a thousand dollars--but those days were passed now.
Something, no one could have told exactly what it was, had operated
on his mind until he hardly knew what he was doing. But there was one
thing he did know and that was that during the last year his supply of
tobacco had been extremely limited. What Jonas did with the thousand
dollars that he gave him when he first came to his cabin and took
up his abode with him, no one ever knew. Some believed that he had
invested it in a mortgage while others thought he had it stowed away so
that he could draw on it whenever necessity required it. At any rate
his money went somewhere, and Jonas never got him a thing when he went
to town without finding fault about it.

There had been a time when this Mr. Nickerson who lived a short
distance from Manchester, was thought to be the richest person in all
that county. Every thing he had about him went to show it. His horses
were the fattest, his beef cattle brought the most money and his farm
was nicely kept up. But the war broke out about this time, and Mrs.
Keeler often wondered what had become of old man Nickerson who lived
twenty miles away. He had been the husband of her sister, but since her
death he had lived alone on his farm. He often said that he would not
go into either army, he had no hand in bringing on the war and those
who were to blame for it could settle the matter among themselves, and
the consequence was he was robbed by both Union and Confederates. Every
thing he had in sight was gone except one thousand dollars, which he
finally gave into the hands of Jonas Keeler with the understanding
that the amount was to support him while he lived.

“I don’t much like the idea of giving up my money,” said Mr. Nickerson,
after he had taken a long time to think the matter over. “If I keep it
with me I can get tobacco and other little things that I need; but now
that I have let Jonas have it,--I don’t know; I don’t know. The first
thing I know that thousand dollars will all be gone, and then what will
I do? We’ll see what sort of a man Jonas is to live up to his word.”

Jonas Keeler did not believe in war either, and he tried by every
means in his power to keep out of it. He hid in the woods when either
army came near him, and of course he lost everything he had. The
Confederates stole his horses and cattle, and the Union fellows said
if he were not a rebel he ought to be, and burned his house over his
head. But Jonas had the thousand dollars to go on and with this he was
remarkably content. He kept along until the war closed and then he was
ready to set out and make his living over again; but he found that it
was a hard thing to do. It was tiresome work to get up where he was
before, he never grew any richer, and Jonas, from being a quiet and
peaceable man, became sullen and morose, did not like to hear anybody
talk of spending money, even though he knew he must spend some in order
to live, and finally got so that his family were afraid of him. There
was one thing that he never could get through his head: Mr. Nickerson
had never said anything about what had become of the rest of his
money, and Jonas finally came to the conclusion that it was concealed
somewhere, and he wanted to know where it was.

“You need not talk to me about that sum being all the old man had,”
said he, when he had held one of his long arguments with his wife. “He
had more money than that and I know it. What did he do when Daddy Price
took him off into the army? He buried it; that’s what he did with it.”

“But the rebels must have got it,” said Mrs. Keeler. “You know they
went all over his house and took everything there was in it.”

“But they never got any money,” said Jonas. “The old man hangs onto a
dollar until the eagle hollers before he will give it up, and if they
had found anything he would not fail to say so. He has got that money
hidden somewhere, and I wish I knew where it was. He makes me so mad
when he denies it, that I have half a mind to take him by the scurf of
the neck and throw him out of doors.”

“Don’t do that, Jonas; don’t do that,” said Mrs. Keeler in alarm. “The
old gentleman is getting feeble, I can see that plainly enough, and the
only way you can do is to treat him kindly.”

“Good gracious! Ain’t that what I have been doing ever since he has
been here?” demanded Jonas in a heat. “I tell you that his tobacco
money is pretty near gone, and when it is _all_ gone he will not get
any more. It is high time he was quitting that bad habit.”

Mrs. Keeler made no remark when she heard this. The idea that a man
ninety years old could cease a habit that he had been accustomed to all
his life, was absurd. Jonas himself really delighted in a good smoke.
How would he feel if he were deprived of that privilege? Furthermore,
his wife did not believe that all Mr. Nickerson’s money was gone. She
was certain that Jonas could find a good deal of it if he looked around
and tried.

This conversation took place some time previous to the beginning of
our story. Mr. Nickerson’s thousand dollars were nearly gone, at least
Jonas said so, and at the time we introduce them to the reader it was
all gone, and the old man did not know what he would do next. He had
not a bit of that staff of life, as he regarded it, remaining, and now
Jonas wanted to know where he had hidden the rest of his money. He had
held a long talk with the old man down to the stable but could not get
any thing out of him. That was one thing that put him in such bad humor.

“What did you do with all that money, old man?” repeated Jonas, when
Mr. Nickerson looked up at him with a sickly smile on his face.

“What money?” inquired the old gentleman, as if he had never heard of
the subject before.

“Aw! what money!” said Jonas; and when he got into conversation on this
matter he nearly always forgot himself and shouted out the words as if
the man he was addressing were a mile away. “I mean the money you had
stowed away in your pocket-book where the soldiers could not find it;
the money we were talking about down to the barn. Where did you put it?”

“I gave you every cent I had left,” was the reply. “If there was any
more the rebels have got it. Say, Jonas, are you going to get me a plug
of tobacco when you go down town?”

“There it is again. No, I ain’t. Your money is all gone, and you will
have to do without it from this time on.”

Jonas started toward the door as if he were in a hurry to get out, but
before he had made many steps he suddenly paused in his walk, gazed
steadily at the dirt floor and then turned to Mr. Nickerson again.

“Don’t you remember where a dollar or two of that money went?” said he;
and he tried to make his voice as pleading as he knew how. “If you
could remember that, I might find you a plug or two of tobacco while I
am down town.”

“There was no more of it in the purse other than the money I gave you,”
said the old man, once more resting his forehead on his hands and his
elbows on his knees. “That was all I had left to give you. You saw the
inside of the purse as plainly as I did.”

“But you must have some other that was not in the purse,” said Jonas.
“Where did you put that?”

“All I had was there in my pocket and you have got that. I want a plug
of tobacco, too.”

“Well, you don’t get it out of me this trip,” shouted Jonas. “If you
won’t tell where your money is you can go without tobacco.”

Jonas went out, climbed into his wagon and drove off while the old man
raised his head from his hands, tottered to the door and watched him as
he was whirled away down the road. Then he came back and seated himself
on the chair again.

“Jonas still sticks to it that I had more money in that purse than I
gave him,” whined Mr. Nickerson. “I hid it under the doorstep before
Price took me away to the army. He knew that I was not able to do
anything toward driving the mules, I was too old; but he took me along
just to let me see that the Confederates ruled this State instead
of the Union people. He set me to getting the mules out of the mud
holes they got into, but in a few days he saw that I was not of any
use at that, so he discharged me where I was all of one hundred miles
from home, and left me to get there the best I could. I made it after
awhile, although I suffered severely while I was doing it, found my
thousand dollars right where I had left it and came up here and gave
it to Jonas, consarn my picture. He said it would be enough to get me
all the tobacco and clothes I needed, and now it is all gone. What I am
going to do beats me.”

“I have not got a cent, Mr. Nickerson,” said Mrs. Keeler. “If I had
I would give it to you in a minute. I have not seen the color of any
body’s money since the war.”

“I know you haven’t, Mandy,” said Mr. Nickerson. “I have not any kith
nor kin of my own, but you have always been good to me, and some day--”

The old man started as if he had been shot, looked all around him,
his gaze resting on the faces of the two boys who stood near the door
listening to what he had to say, and then hid his face in his hands
and burst into a loud cough, doubling himself up as if he were almost
strangled. Perhaps the boys were taken by surprise--and perhaps they
were not; but Jonas’s wife was really alarmed.

“Why, Mr. Nickerson, what is the matter?” she inquired.

“Oh, it is nothing. It will pass off in a few minutes. I get to
coughing that way once in a while.”

“Especially when you are going to say something you don’t want to,”
murmured one of the boys under his breath. “And some day you are going
to pay mother for her goodness to you. I wish I knew what you meant by
that.”

The boys turned and left the cabin, but they did not go in company with
each other. In fact, they tried to get as far apart as possible. There
was something wrong with them--a person could see that at a glance.
What these young fellows had to make them enemies, living there in the
wilderness with not another house in sight, shall be told further on.



CHAPTER II.

_A Friend In Need._


“Nat, what do you reckon he meant by that?”

“Meant by what?”

“Why he said that mother had always been good to him, and that some
day--then he went off coughing and didn’t say the rest.”

“I don’t know, I am sure.”

“I reckon he has got some money stowed away somewhere, as pap always
said he had, and that when he is gone mother will come into it. By
gracious! I wish I could find it.”

“Would you take it away from your mother?”

“Yes, sir, I would. I would take it away from any body. I need some
clothes, don’t I?”

“You would have to go down to Manchester if you got any money, and
that is a long ways from here.”

“I don’t care; I would find it if I was there. Are you going to get him
any tobacco?”

“Me? What have I got to buy him tobacco with? You talk as if I had lots
of money hidden away somewhere.”

“‘Cause if I see you slipping away any where and I can’t find you, I
will tell pap of it when he comes home. You know what you will get if I
do that?”

“Well, you keep your eyes on me and see if I slip away any where except
down to the potato patch,” said Nat, indignantly. “That is where I am
going now.”

The two boys separated and went off in different directions, Nat
wending his way to the potato patch and the other going toward the
miserable hovel they called a barn to finish his task of shelling corn.

“What a mean fellow that Nat Wood is,” said Caleb Keeler, as he turned
and gave his departing companion a farewell look. “That boy has got as
much as four or five dollars hidden away about this place somewhere,
and I tell you I am going to find it some day. Then won’t I have some
clothes to wear? I’ve got a pair of nice shoes which pap made him give
me, but I will have more if I find that money. Dog-gone him, he has no
business to keep things hidden away from us.”

These two boys, Caleb Keeler and Nat Wood, cherished the most undying
hatred to one another, and as far as Nat was concerned, there was
reason for it. It was all on account of his lost shoes, and they had
been taken away from him a year ago. The weather was getting cold,
every morning the grass and leaves were wet and it was as much as
a bare-footed boy wanted to do to run around in them, and Nat had
prepared for it by going down to the store one evening and purchasing
a pair of brogans and two pairs of stockings. He fully expected to
get into trouble on account of them, and sure enough he did. The next
morning he came out with them on, and his appearance was enough to
create astonishment on Caleb’s part who stood and looked at him with
mouth and eyes wide open.

“Well, if you haven’t got a pair of shoes I never want to see daylight
again,” said Caleb, as soon as he had recovered from his amazement.
“Where did you get them?”

“I bought them,” said Nat.

“Where did you buy them?”

“Down to the store.”

“Where did you get your money?”

“I earned it.”

“You did, eh? Well, you ain’t been a doing any thing about here to earn
any money,” declared Caleb, after he had fairly taken in the situation.
“If you have money to buy a pair of shoes you can get a pair for me
too. How much did they cost you?”

“Two dollars.”

“Have you got any more of them bills?”

“Not another bill,” said Nat; and to prove it he turned his pockets
inside out. There was nothing in them except a worn jack-knife with
all the blades broken which nobody would steal if he had the chance.

“I don’t care for what you have in your pockets,” exclaimed Caleb, who
grew angry in a moment. “You have got more hidden around in the bushes
somewhere. You want to get two dollars between this time and the time
we get through breakfast, now I tell you. I will go down to the store
with you.”

“Well, I won’t do it,” said Nat.

“If you don’t do it I will tell pap.”

“You can run and tell him as soon as you please. If you want shoes, go
to work and earn the money.”

Caleb waited to hear no more. He dropped the milk bucket as if it were
a coal of fire and walked as straight toward the house as he could
go. He slammed the door behind him but in two minutes he reappeared,
accompanied by his father. Things began to look dark for Nat.

“There, sir, I have lost my shoes,” said he. “If Uncle Jonas takes
these away from me he will be the meanest man I ever saw. They are
mine and I don’t see why I can not be allowed to keep them.”

When Jonas came up he did not appear so cross as he usually did. In
fact he tried to smile, but Nat knew there was something back of it.

“Hallo, where did you get them shoes, Natty?” was the way in which he
began the conversation.

“I got them down to the store,” was the reply, “and Caleb wants me to
buy him a pair; but I have not got the money to do it.”

“Don’t you reckon you could find two extry dollars somewhere?” said
Jonas.

“No, nor one dollar. I will tell you what I will do,” said Nat, seeing
that the smile of his uncle’s face speedily gave way to his usual
fierce frown. “I will tell you right where my money is hidden and then
Caleb can go and find it.”

“Well, that’s business,” said Caleb, smiling all over.

“If you will do that then me and you won’t have any trouble about them
shoes,” chimed in Jonas, once more calling the smile to his face.
“Where have you got it? How many years have you been here, Natty?”
continued Jonas, for just then an idea occurred to him. “You have been
here just eleven years--you are fourteen now--and you have kept that
money hidden out there in the brush all this while. Now why did you do
that?”

It was right on the point of Nat’s tongue to tell Jonas that he did
not have the money when he came there, but he knew that by so doing he
would bring some body else into trouble; so he said nothing.

“I was older than you and knew more, and you ought to have given me
the money to keep for you,” continued Jonas. “If you had done that you
could have come to me any time that you wanted a pair of shoes, and you
could have got them without the least trouble.”

“Won’t you take what there is left in my bag after you see it?” asked
Nat, hopefully.

“That depends. I want first to see how much you have in that bag. Where
is it?”

“Caleb, you know where that old fallen log is beside the branch near
the place where we get water?” said Nat. “Well, go on the off side of
that and you will see leaves pushed against the log. Brush aside the
leaves and there you will find the bag.”

Caleb at once posted off and Jonas, after looking in vain for a seat,
turned the milk bucket upside down, perched himself upon it and resumed
his mild lecture to Nat over keeping his money hidden from him for so
many years. He was the oldest and knew more about money than Nat did,
he was a little fellow when he came there--when Jonas reached this
point in his lecture he stopped and looked steadily at the floor. Nat
was only three years old when he came to take up his abode under the
roof of Jonas Keeler, to be abused worse than any dog that ever lived,
both by Jonas and his son Caleb, and how could he at that tender age
hide away his money so that Jonas could not find it?

“Wh-o-o-p!” yelled Jonas, speaking out before he knew what he was doing.

“What is the matter?” inquired Nat.

“Nothing much,” replied Jonas. “I was just a-thinking; that’s all. If
Nat was only three years old when he came here to live with me,” he
added to himself, “he couldn’t have had that money. Somebody has given
it to him since, and it was not so very long ago, either. Whoop!” and
it was all he could do to keep from uttering the words out loud. “He
has got it from the old man; there’s where he got it from. And didn’t
I say that the old man had something hidden out all these years? He
didn’t give me a quarter of what he saved from the rebels. Now he has
got to give me that money or there’s going to be a fracas in this
house. I won’t keep him no longer. You can bet on that.”

At this point in his meditations Jonas was interrupted by the return
of his son who was coming along as though he had nothing to live for,
swinging his hand with the bag in it to let his father believe that
there was nothing in it that he cared to save.

“What’s the matter?” inquired Jonas.

“I have found the bag but there is nothing in it, dog-gone the luck,”
sputtered Caleb. “There is just a ‘shinplaster’ in it and it calls for
two bits. Where is the rest of your money?” he added, turning fiercely
upon Nat.

“That is all I have,” replied Nat. “It was in that bag, wasn’t it? Then
I have no more to give you.”

Jonas took the bag, glanced at the shinplaster and put it into his
pocket. The smile had now given away to the frown.

“Say, pap, ain’t you going to give that to me!” asked Caleb, who began
to see that the interest he had taken in unearthing Nat’s money was not
going to help very much.

“No; you can’t get no shoes with that money. I will take it and get
some coffee with it the next time I go to town. Is this all the money
you have left, Nat?”

“Every cent; and now you are going to take that away from me, too?”

“Of course; for I think it is the properest thing to do. You don’t ever
go to church--”

“And what is the reason I don’t? It is because I have not got any
clothes to wear,” said Nat, who plainly saw what was coming next.

“That’s neither here nor there,” said Jonas. “Caleb goes to church, and
he would go every Sunday if he had the proper things.”

“You bet I would,” said Caleb.

“So I think that if you don’t go to church and Caleb does, you had
better take off them shoes. Take them off and give them to Caleb.”

“Now, Uncle Jonas, you are not going to make me go bare-footed this
cold weather,” said Nat, anxiously. “If Caleb wants shoes let him go to
work and earn them.”

“I can’t go to work about here,” said Caleb. “There’s nobody will hire
me to do a thing.”

“Because you are too lazy; that’s what’s the matter with you,” said
Nat, under his breath.

“Take off them shoes,” said Jonas.

Nat hesitated, but it was only for an instant. Jonas was not the man to
allow his orders to be disobeyed with impunity, so he arose from his
seat on the milk bucket with alacrity, disappeared in a little room
where he kept a switch which he had often used on the boys when they
did anything that Jonas considered out of the way, and when he brought
it out with him he found Nat on the floor taking off his shoes.

“You have come to time, have you?” said the man with a grin. “So you
are going to take them off and give them to Caleb, are you?”

“I am going to take them off because I can’t well help myself,” said
Nat, boldly. “If I was as big as you are I would not take them off.”

“None of that sort of talk to me,” said Jonas, lifting the switch as if
he were about to let it fall upon Nat’s shoulders. “You would take them
off if you were as big as a mountain.”

When he had removed his shoes Caleb picked them up and in company with
his father started toward the house. He wanted to put them where they
would be safe, and Nat stood there in his bare feet watching him until
he closed the door behind him.

We have not referred to the relationship which Nat bore to Jonas
Keeler, but no doubt those into whose hands this story falls will
be surprised to hear it. Jonas was his uncle, and, by the way, Mr.
Nickerson was no relation to any body under that roof. Nat’s father and
mother were dead; his father was killed in the rebel army. Jonas found
him in Manchester and brought him home “to keep him safe and sound;” at
least that was what he said; but those who knew Jonas thought that the
reason was because he suspected that Nat was heir to some money which
would some day turn up in his favor. He did not see where the money was
to come from, but he believed it, and that was enough. The truth of the
matter was, Nat did not have a cent. After he had been there for some
years Jonas began to think so too, and from that time his treatment
of Nat was anything but what it ought to be. It was only when Mr.
Nickerson began to take an interest in him that Nat had anything that
he could call his own. He did not like the way Nat was abused--he was
in his right mind then and hale and hearty in spite of his years--and
took pity on him and determined to help him. That was where Nat’s
money came from, and the way he happened to get it was this:

One day, when Jonas went to town, Mr. Nickerson watched his opportunity
and followed him out to the field where he was at work alone. Nat
greeted him very cordially for he was always glad to see him. Mr.
Nickerson was the only one except Mrs. Keeler, who had a kind word to
say to him, and Nat remembered him for it.

“Do you know what I would do if Jonas abused me as badly as he does
you?” said he.

“No, sir, I don’t,” replied Nat.

“I would sit down and rest. He has gone away to town now, and when he
comes home he can’t tell whether you have been at work or not.”

The boy leaned on his plow handles--he was eight years old and ought
not to have been required to do that sort of work--and looked at Mr.
Nickerson without speaking. He wanted to see if the man was in earnest.

“Jonas knows just how much I ought to have done, and when he comes home
and finds that I have not got it all done, he will use that switch on
me.”

Mr. Nickerson saw that there was some sense in this reasoning, and
after kicking some clods out of his way and looking toward the house to
make sure that there was no one watching him, he went on to say--

“Jonas uses you pretty rough, does he not?”

“Well, I will be a man some day, and then I will take it out of him, I
bet you,” said Nat; and when he uttered the words he clenched his hands
and his eyes flashed as if there were plenty of spirit in him.

“But that is going to be a long time for you to wait. If you had money
do you think you could hide it where Jonas and Caleb could not find it?”

“But I haven’t got any,” said Nat.

“But I say supposing you had some; could you keep it out of their
reach?” said Mr. Nickerson, when he saw Nat’s eyes brighten when he
thought of all the fine things that money would buy for him. “If you
don’t keep it out of their way you will get me into trouble.”

“Were you going to give me some money?” stammered Nat.

“I had thought some of it,” said the man, lowering his voice almost to
a whisper and glancing again toward the house. “I have some money but
I dare not keep it. Last night while I was awake, I saw Jonas come in
very quietly and go through my trousers’ pocket; but he did not find
any money there. If he had looked under the head of my bed close to the
wall, he would have found two hundred dollars.”

While Mr. Nickerson spoke he had drawn a well-filled book from his
pocket, opened it and showed to the astonished boy a whole lot of
greenbacks which he had stowed away there.



CHAPTER III.

“_Mental Reservation._”


Nat had never seen so much money before in his life. He thought if he
were worth that much that he would drop the plow handles then and there
and take to the woods.

“Where did you get so much?” he stammered at length.

“I worked for it, and that’s the way Jonas will have to get every cent
he makes,” said Mr. Nickerson. “What would you do if you had all this
money?”

“I would go down to the store and buy some new over-alls,” replied Nat,
pushing out one leg so that Mr. Nickerson could see the gaping rent in
his knee. “They haven’t been mended since I put them on.”

“Yes; and then when Jonas comes home he would see the new over-alls and
would want to know where you got them. That plan would not work at
all, for the first thing you know you would get me into trouble as well
as yourself. Now I am going to give you half of this, because I think
you are too smart a boy to let it fall into the hands of any body else.”

“But what shall I do with it? If you think Jonas will notice my new
clothes when he comes home, I can’t buy any.”

“I don’t give it to you to buy good clothes with. In fact you had
better let them alone. But when I was of your age I liked to have
something to eat when I went to town of a Saturday afternoon--some
candy and nuts and such like things.”

“Were you ever a boy?” said Nat, in surprise. The idea that that old,
gray-headed man could remember so long ago as that fairly took his
breath away.

“Oh, yes; I can remember when I was a boy, and it don’t seem so very
far off, either. I was a young boy, bare-footed as yourself, but I
always had money. My father let me have it all, and I never thought of
running away from him to get a chance to spend it. You don’t get much
candy, I suppose?”

“No, I don’t. I hardly know what it tastes like.”

“Well, you go down town and ask the grocery man to change one of these
bills for you. You see they are all fives, and if you don’t spend more
than ten cents at a time and keep the rest hidden away, it will be long
before any body finds out that you have got any money.”

As Mr. Nickerson spoke he glanced toward the house again, looked all
around to make sure that there was nobody in sight, and placed a
handful of bills in Nat’s grasp, reaching down by the side of him so
that no one could see him do it.

“Oh, Mr. Nickerson, you don’t know how much I thank you for--”

“Yes, I understand all about that. But there is something else that I
want to talk to you about. I want you to get me some tobacco with that
money.”

“I’ll do it, and Jonas and Caleb won’t know a thing about it. I will
hide it where they will never think of looking for it.”

“That is what I wanted,” said Mr. Nickerson, with a pleased smile on
his face. “But you must be very careful. Don’t take but one bill at a
time, and then if anybody should see you and take it away from you,
they won’t get all the money.”

Mr. Nickerson turned abruptly away from him and walked toward the
house, and Nat, feeling as he had never felt before, seized the plow
handles and went on with his work. He glanced up and down the field and
toward the house to satisfy himself that Caleb was not in sight, and
when he went by a little clump of bushes that grew at the lower end of
the lot he dropped the plow, took the reins off his neck and ran toward
a fence corner and took his bills from his pocket.

“I guess this place will do until I can find a better one,” he
muttered, as he scraped away the leaves and placed his treasure within
it. “By gracious! It is always darkest just before day-light. And how
do you suppose that Mr. Nickerson knew that I was planning to run away
from Jonas? Now I tell you that he had better keep a civil tongue in
his head or the first thing he knows when he calls me in the morning,
and comes to my bed to use that switch on me because I don’t get up, I
won’t be there. But then I can’t go as long as Mr. Nickerson lasts. He
will want me to get some tobacco for him.”

Nat laid ninety-five dollars in the hole which he had dug for it,
placed a chunk over it so that the leaves would not blow off and with a
five-dollar bill safe in his pocket he returned to his work. He wanted
to yell, he felt so happy; but when he raised his eyes as he turned his
horse about, he saw Caleb standing in the upper end of the clump of
bushes, regarding him intently. How long had Caleb been there and what
had he seen? There was one thing about it: If he knew, the secret of
that money he would have the hardest fight of his life before he placed
his hands upon it.

“What’s the matter with you?” said Caleb, who did not fail to notice
the look that came upon Nat’s face.

“There is nothing the matter with me,” said Nat. “I don’t see why I
should do all the work and you sitting around and doing nothing.”

“What was old man Nickerson doing out here so long with you?” asked
Caleb, who did not think it worth while to go into an argument about
the work that Nat had spoken of. “He was here with you for half an
hour, and you had all this piece of ground to be plowed up before pap
came home. And you stayed here and listened to him, too.”

“Where were you?” asked Nat.

“I was around in the barn where I could see everything you did,”
replied Caleb, with a knowing shake of his head.

“What did you see him do?”

“I saw him talking to you; that’s what I saw him do. You wasted fully
half an hour with him.”

Nat drew a long breath of relief and felt considerably more at ease
when he heard this, for if that was all that Caleb had seen, the
secret of his money was safe. He had not seen Mr. Nickerson when he
passed his hand down by his side and placed the bills safe in Nat’s
hands.

“What was he talking to you about?” demanded Caleb.

“About certain things that happened when he was a boy,” returned Nat.
“If you wanted to hear what he said you ought to have come out and
listened. But I must go on or I will not get this piece plowed by the
time your father comes back. Get up here, you ugly man’s horse.”

“Now you just wait and see if I don’t tell pap of that,” said Caleb,
who grew angry in a moment. “I learn you to call pap’s horse ugly.”

“I didn’t say he was ugly. I said he belonged to an ugly man; and if
your father did not look mad when he went to town, just because Mr.
Nickerson wanted some tobacco, I don’t want a cent.”

The horse, after being persuaded by the lines, reluctantly resumed his
work and Caleb was left there standing alone. There was something
about Nat that did not look right to him. He always was independent,
and acted as though he did not care whether Caleb spoke to him or not,
but just now he seemed to be more so than ever.

“I wish I knew what was up between that boy Nat and old man Nickerson,”
said he, as he started out toward the barn. “Every move that old man
makes I think he has got some money hidden somewhere about here. Pap
thinks so and so do I. I just keep a watch of Nat more closely than I
have heretofore, and if I can find his money--whoop-pe!”

Jonas did not find any fault when he came home that night, for Nat,
by keeping the horses almost in a trot, had got the field plowed, the
team unharnessed and fed before he returned. He found fault with him
and brought his switch into play more than once on other matters, but
during the five years that elapsed he never said “money” to him once.
During these five years he always kept his money concealed, and every
time he went to town he always bought a goodly store of tobacco for
the old man. And nobody ever suspected him or Mr. Nickerson, either. Of
course, during this time, Jonas became more sullen and ugly than ever,
and worse than all, Nat could see that there was something having an
affect upon his old friend, Mr. Nickerson. Either it was his age or the
treatment he received that had a gloomy impression upon him, but at any
rate Mr. Nickerson was losing his mind. He no longer talked with Nat
the way he used to, but was continually finding fault with his money
and where it went to so suddenly that he could not get any more tobacco
to chew to help him while away the hours. Jonas encouraged him to talk
this way for somehow he got it into his head that Mr. Nickerson would
some day forget himself, and that he would tell where he had hidden his
money; but not a thing did he get out of him. The old gentleman was
apparently as innocent of any thing he had concealed as though he had
never heard any thing about it.

“You may as well give that up,” said his wife, after Jonas had tried
for a long time to induce him to say something. “If he had any money
when the war broke out, the rebels have got it.”

“Not much I won’t give it up,” declared Jonas, turning fiercely upon
Mrs. Keeler. “If this old place could talk it would tell a heap. I have
hunted it over and over time and again, but I can’t find any thing. I
tell you I am going to get rid of him some day. I will send him to the
poor house; and there’s where he ought to be.”

When Nat heard Jonas talk in this way it always made him uneasy. As
soon as it came dark he would go to the place where he had hidden his
tobacco and money and take them out and conceal them somewhere else,
carefully noting the spot and telling the old man about it.

At the end of five years his money was all gone, and then Nat was in
a fever of suspense because he did not know where he was going to get
some more tobacco for Mr. Nickerson and candy for himself; and when he
was asked for more he was obliged to say that his tobacco money had
all been exhausted.

“Well, I expected it,” said Mr. Nickerson. “But it has lasted you a
good while, has it not? There’s some difference between you and Jonas.
I gave him all of a thousand dollars when I came here--”

Nat fairly gasped for breath. He wondered what Jonas could have done
with all that money.

“It is a fact,” said the old man. “He told me that it would keep me in
spending money as long as I lived, and now it has been gone for several
years. You had a hundred dollars, and it has lasted until now. You go
out to the barn and in about half an hour I will be out there.”

Like one in a dream Nat made his way to the tumble-down building that
afforded the cattle a place of refuge in stormy weather, and looked
around for something to do while he awaited Mr. Nickerson’s return. If
we were to say that he was surprised we would not have expressed it.
Was the old man made of money? It certainly looked that way, for when
a hundred dollars was gone he simply said “he had expected it” and
went out to find more. In a few minutes he returned and placed another
package of bills in Nat’s pocket.

“Do you know you told a lie to Jonas every time he asked you about this
money?” said Nat.

“No, I did not,” said Mr. Nickerson, earnestly. “I told him that I did
not have any more money for him; and I didn’t have, either. I have not
got a cent about me.”

Nat was not old enough to remember the form of oath administered by the
United States government to all its employees--“do you solemnly promise
without any mental reservation”--for if he had been he would have seen
how Mr. Nickerson got around it. Jonas did not administer this form of
oath, Mr. Nickerson had a “mental reservation” that he had some money
hidden but he did not say anything about it. He supposed that he was
living up to the truth.

“I did not have a cent,” repeated the old man. “He could have searched
me all over and not found any. When he asked me if I had any more
concealed somewhere in the bushes, I found some way to avoid it. It is
all right. I have not lied to him.”

With a hundred extra dollars in his pocket Nat thought he was able to
buy himself a pair of shoes when the weather became cold. He bought
them and as we have seen they were taken away from him and given to
Caleb, because Caleb went to church and Nat did not. He had to wait
a long time before Jonas bought him some foot-wearing apparel out of
some of Mr. Nickerson’s money, and then he invested in them because he
was fearful that his neighbors would have something to say about the
boy’s condition, going about in all that sloppy weather with nothing to
wear on his bare feet. This brings us down to the time when our story
begins, when Jonas got into his wagon and drove toward town and Nat
went to the potato patch to finish picking and digging and Caleb to the
barn to complete his task of shelling corn.

We left Mr. Nickerson sitting in company with Jonas’s wife, bemoaning
his loss of tobacco and trembling for fear of something he had said in
regard to what he would do with his money in case he were done with it.

“I wish I had some money so that I could give you some of it when I am
gone,” whined the old man. “For I shall not last much longer.”

“Oh, yes you will,” returned Mrs. Keeler. “You will last many years
yet. There is Mr. Bolton who is almost a hundred years old.”

“But he gets different treatment from what I do,” said Mr. Nickerson.
“He has tobacco every day in the week, if he is a mind to ask for it.
And he did not give his son one thousand dollars to keep him while he
lived.”

“Well, I can’t help that,” said Mrs. Keeler, with a sigh. “Your money
is all gone, at least Jonas says so, and I don’t see what else you can
do.”

“I don’t either,” said the old man; and as he spoke he got upon his
feet and staggered toward the door. “Thank goodness I have a little
money left,” he added to himself. “I must go and get me some tobacco.
I have to be all by myself when Jonas is here, or else he would see me
chewing it and would want to know where I got it. I hate to be so sly
about everything I do.”

Mr. Nickerson left the house without any hat on, he was so wrapped up
in his troubles that he forgot that he had a hat, and tottered toward
the barn where Caleb was at work shelling corn. Caleb looked up when
he heard his footsteps but when he saw who it was he went on with his
work, paying no heed to him. The old man went by and just then an idea
occurred to Caleb.

“I wonder if old Nickerson is going after some tobacco?” said he,
laying down his ear of corn and rising hastily to his feet. “He thinks
I am blind and Nat does, too; but I have seen him chewing tobacco
plenty of times when he has asked father to get him some and he would
not do it. I guess I’ll keep an eye on him.”

That was easy enough to do, for Mr. Nickerson did not pay much
attention to what was going on near him. He stepped hastily out of the
barn and followed along after him until he saw him enter the little
clump of bushes at the lower end of the potato patch. He did not dare
go any farther for fear the rustling of the bushes would attract the
old man’s attention, but kept on around the clump until he reached a
place where he could see the whole of the field without being seen
himself. Mr. Nickerson presently appeared, kept on to a certain fence
corner in which he was lost to view.

“Dog-gone my buttons! He has got some money there,” whispered Caleb, so
excited that he could scarcely stand still. “If he hasn’t got money he
has some tobacco, and I will just take it when he goes.”

While he was wondering how he was going to work to find out what Mr.
Nickerson had found there, he cast his eyes toward the upper end of
the field and saw that Nat had ceased his work, was standing with his
hands resting on his hips and closely watching Mr. Nickerson. He made
no attempt to stop him, and according to Caleb’s way of looking at it,
that was all the evidence he wanted to prove that Nat was in some way
interested in what was hidden there.

“Now what is to be done?” said Caleb to himself. “Nat must know what is
concealed there. I declare I have two fellows to fight now.”



CHAPTER IV.

_A Keepsake._


Caleb stood and thought about it. He could not go to the fence corner
where the old man was while Nat was in plain sight, and he must think
up some way of getting him away from there. It is true that he might
have waited until darkness came to conceal his movements, but Caleb
was a boy who did not believe in doing business that way. He wanted to
find out what was in that fence corner, and he must find it out now. He
could not afford to wait until night came.

“You must come away from there, Mister Nat,” said he, as he crouched
down behind the bushes and made his way toward the house. “You must
come away in five minutes, for I am not going to run any risk of your
slipping up and hiding that thing, whatever it is, that the old man
has found.”

In a few minutes he reached the house and went directly to the
water-pail in order to quench his thirst; but there was no water there.

“Mother, send Nat down to the branch after some water,” said he.

“Suppose you go yourself,” was the reply. “Nat is busy digging
potatoes.”

“I can’t go. I am busy getting that corn ready for pap to take to mill
tomorrow. I am so thirsty I can’t speak the truth. Nat can go as well
as not.”

“Bessie, go out and call Nat to get some water,” said Mrs. Keeler. “I
suppose he will have to go.”

Bessie went, and as soon as she was clear of the house Caleb bent his
steps toward the barn and from the barn to the bushes, where he arrived
just in time to see Mr. Nickerson come out of the fence corner, biting
a plug of tobacco as he came.

“That’s all the tobacco you will get out of that pile,” chuckled
Caleb, as he rubbed his hands together. “I will take it all and give it
to pap.”

Presently Bessie was heard calling Nat. The latter threw his hoe
spitefully down and went to obey the order, and as soon as he was out
of sight Caleb arose from the bushes and ran for the fence corner. He
had taken particular pains to mark the corner, and in fact there was
little need of it, for the old man’s marks were plainly visible there.
He found the leaves raked to one side, a little hollow exposed but
there was nothing in it. Caleb threw himself on his knees and made the
cavity larger, but there was not a thing that rewarded his search.

“There was just one plug of tobacco left and he got it,” said Caleb,
who was very much disappointed. “And there’s no money in it either. Now
had I better tell pap or not? There is a heap of skirmishing going on
here, the first thing you know, and if I keep watch perhaps I can find
some money. I guess I’ll think about that for awhile.”

Being anxious to reach the cover of the bushes before Nat should
return, Caleb did not stop long in the fence corner, but made all haste
to get out of sight. And he was none too soon. The bushes had hardly
closed up behind him before Nat came into view.

When darkness came the boys began to do their chores and Jonas returned
from town. One could always tell Jonas when he was half a mile away
because he shouted at his horses as though they were hard of hearing.
Mr. Nickerson heard him coming and went down to the barn to meet him.

“Did you get any tobacco for me, Jonas?” said he, in a whining voice
which had of late years become habitual with him.

“No, I did not,” roared Jonas. “You won’t tell me where your money is,
and you can go without tobacco. I wish there was something else you
liked as well as you do that weed, and I would shut down on that too.”

“I shall not be with you long,” began Mr. Nickerson. “I feel that I am
going--”

“Aw! Get along with, that,” interrupted Jonas, who hung one of his
harnesses on its peg and then turned savagely upon the speaker. “You
have always got something the matter with you when you don’t get any
tobacco.”

“I have a keepsake for you up at the house,” continued the old man. “If
you will come up there when you get through I will give it to you.”

Jonas began to prick up his ears at this. He wished now that he had
brought the old gentleman some tobacco; but as he had not done it, he
made all haste to smooth matters over as well as he could.

“I didn’t mean anything, Mr. Nickerson,” said he, coming forward to
shake him by the hand. “But I met with a heap of bother while I was
down town to-day, and I absolutely forgot all about your tobacco. Never
mind; I will send Nat down after it.”

“Thank you. Thank you,” said the old man. “It will be a heap of comfort
to me. You don’t know how long the time seems without it.”

“Yes, I know. I like a smoke pretty well, and I would not give it up
to please anybody. Now you run along to the house and in a few minutes
I will be there. A keepsake,” he muttered to himself. “It is money, I
know. I believe I took the right course when I shut down on that man’s
weed.”

It was astonishing what that word “keepsake” made in Jonas’s feelings.
He had but two expressions which came to his face--the smile and the
frown. No one to have seen him as he finished putting out his team,
would have thought that a frown ever came on his countenance. He was
all smiles, and once or twice he forgot himself so as to try to strike
up a whistle. This attracted the attention of Caleb who was amazed at
it.

“What’s the matter with you, pap?” said he.

“There is nothing the matter with me,” replied Jonas, cheerfully. “When
a man does right he always feels happy. That’s the kind of opinion
you want to grow up with. If you make everybody around you jovial, of
course you are jovial yourself.”

“Are you happy because you didn’t get the old man what he wanted?”
continued Caleb, who would have given everything he had to know what
had brought about that wonderful change in his father’s appearance.
Caleb knew that he could bring the frown back to his face in short
order. He had but to mention that the old man had a plug of tobacco in
his pocket, and that he had seen him dig it out of the fence corner;
but something told him that he had better keep quiet. He was going to
keep close watch of Nat and Mr. Nickerson now--he did not know how
he was going to do it, for he kept close watch of them already--and
perhaps they would lead him to the place where they had concealed some
money.

“Yes, sir, that is a point that I want you to remember all your life,”
Jonas went on. “I forgot all about Mr. Nickerson’s tobacco, and that
was the reason I didn’t bring it. But I will make up for it after
supper. Have you milked, Caleb? Then pick up your pail and let’s go up
to the house. A keepsake,” Jonas kept saying to himself, as he walked
along. “He knows that I want money worse than anything else, and that
was what he meant. The idea that he should keep money in that house so
long, and I was looking everywhere for it!”

Jonas was in a hurry, anybody could have seen that and he kept Caleb
in a trot to keep pace with him. When he opened the door he greeted
his wife with a cheerful “hello!” and picked up his youngest child and
kissed him. Mrs. Keeler was as much amazed at his actions as Caleb was.
She stood in the middle of the floor with her arms down by her side and
her mouth open, seemingly at a loss to comprehend his movements.

“Now, then, where is Mr. Nickerson?” said Jonas, pulling an empty chair
toward him.

“Mr. Nickerson,” said Caleb to himself. “There is something in the wind
there. He never called him Mr. Nickerson before unless he had something
to make out of him. He was always ‘that old man’ or ‘that inspired
idiot’ when he wanted him to do errands for him. What’s up, I wonder?”

“I forgot all about his tobacco,” said Jonas, seating himself and
repeating what he had said to Caleb. “I had a heap of trouble down
town, but I will send Nat down after it as soon as we get a bite to
eat. Ah, Mr. Nickerson, you are on hand, I see. What’s this?”

The old man had in his hand the “keepsake” which he intended to give to
Jonas. It was a book bound in cloth. It had been well-read evidently,
for some of the leaves were loose and one cover was nearly off. But the
leaves were all there, and there was _something_ in it that Jonas did
not know anything about; if he had known it he would have received it
very differently.

“What is that?” asked Jonas.

“It is the keepsake I promised you,” said Mr. Nickerson. “Take it,
read every word of it and you will find something in it before you get
through that will make you open your eyes and bless your lucky stars
that you have been so good to me.”

Jonas took the book and ran his thumb over the leaves. He turned the
back of the book toward him and read the name “Baxter’s Saints’ Rest”
on it in gilt type. The expression of intense disgust that came upon
his face when he looked at the book set Caleb to snickering, and even
Nat, who was leaning against the door post a little distance away,
smiled in spite of himself.

“And is this the only keepsake you have got to give me?” shouted Jonas.

“It is the only one,” said Mr. Nickerson. “Read it carefully, every
word of it, and you will thank me for giving it to you.”

“Where’s the money?” exclaimed Jonas, who could not get that thing out
of his mind.

“You have got all the money I have to give you. I gave you a thousand
dollars--”

Jonas became furious all on a sudden. With a muttered exclamation under
his breath, he drew back the book with the intention of throwing at
the old man’s head; but he stayed his hand in time. Then he turned it
upon Caleb; but the boy had rushed out of the door and was safe. But
Nat stood there, he had not moved at all, and instantly the book left
Jonas’s hand and flew with terrific force at the boy’s head. It struck
the door post and bounded out of doors, and Nat slowly straightened up
and went after it. It was a work of some difficulty to pick it up, for
the leaves were scattered in every direction, but Nat got it done at
last and went away with it.

“Jonas, Jonas, you will be sorry for that,” said Mr. Nickerson, who
covered his face with his hands.

“Get out of here! Get out, you inspired idiot!” roared Jonas, striding
up and down the cabin as if he were demented. “Don’t you dare come into
this house again.”

“Oh, father!” exclaimed Mrs. Keeler.

“Shut up your yawp, old woman,” said Jonas, turning upon her. “That
was the keepsake he had to give to me, was it? I thought it was money,
dog-gone it, and here he comes and presents me with a _book_! He shan’t
stay in my house no longer.”

Mr. Nickerson went out and tottered to the barn, and when Nat found him
there a few minutes later he was doubled up with his elbows on his
knees, but his jaws were working vigorously. If there was nothing else
which could comfort him, he found it in his tobacco.

“Here’s your book, Mr. Nickerson,” said Nat, who, if he had been big
enough, would have resented the way the old man had been treated.
“Shall I take it back and put it among your things?”

“No; never mind that now. Jonas has told me that I can not go into his
house again, and he may rest assured that I will never do it.”

“He did not mean what he said,” exclaimed Nat. “He is all over his
passion by this time.”

“It is too late. He will never see a cent of my money. Did you put
those leaves all in just as you found them?”

“I tried, but I reckon I did not succeed very well.”

“Did you find anything that did not belong there?”

“I found two leaves that were pasted together,” said Nat, and he
grew excited at once when he saw the expression that came upon Mr.
Nickerson’s face. “Did you know about those two leaves?”

“Have you brought them with you?”

“I have. I would have left the whole book behind before I would them,
for I knew they meant something,” said Nat, producing them from his
pocket the leaves of which he had spoken. “Now, by holding it up to the
light this way,” he added, “in order to see what was in them, I can see
through the leaves, and I can see a third piece of paper in there.”

“Yes; and there is something on that paper, too,” said the old man
rising to his feet and going toward the door. “We must first make sure
that there is nobody coming; for you have a fortune right there in your
hands.”

“A fortune?” gasped Nat.

“It was the money I had in the bank at the time the war broke out,”
said Mr. Nickerson, who, having looked up and down the place and toward
the house to satisfy himself that he and Nat were safe from intrusion,
returned to his seat. “It is all in gold, too.”

“How-how much is there of it?” said Nat, who did not know whether to
believe the story or not.

“As much as three or four thousand dollars; perhaps more; I did not
count it. You see I drew this money at different times, and as fast as
I got it, I hid it. When the rebels came there and took me away, they
searched the house high and low for some money that they supposed I
had, but it was not in the house; It was out in the field. You see this
black line?” he continued, taking the two leaves and pointing with his
shivering finger to one of the marks on the inclosed paper. “By the
way, you don’t want to take this out until you are already to go to
work, for fear that somebody may steal it from you. Well, you go to the
house--”

“But how can I tell where it is?” cried Nat. “Those men cleaned you
out. They thought they would get something by doing that.”

“They didn’t, so they might as well have left me my house. However, it
don’t matter much now. I shall never live in it again. You can tell
where the house stood, even if it isn’t there now, can’t you? You go
to the corner of that house nearest the woods, hold this paper before
you and follow as straight a course as you can down the hill and across
the break until you come to a brier patch. It is made up entirely of
briers, for I cut them down and put them there. Then leave that to your
right and go thirty yards and you will strike a stone, as big as you
can lift, which does not look as though it had ever been touched. But
it has been, and you can pry it up if you want to. When you get that
stone out of its place, you dig down about two feet, and there you will
find it.”

Nat listened with all his ears, but there was one thing that did not
look right about it: The old man talked about the place and the way to
find it as though there had never been anything the matter with him at
all. If there was something wrong about his mind, Nat failed to see
what it was. He talked as though he were reading from a book.

“But what makes you give all this to me?” said Nat at length. “You
don’t act as though you had any interest in it at all.”

“I am not going to last long, and I know it,” said Mr. Nickerson. “I
have neither kith nor kin in this land, or in any other so far as I
know, and since Jonas does not want the money, why you can have it. I
know enough about law to know that there is nobody can take it away
from you. If you could, I say if you could without too much trouble,
call and see Jonas’s wife after you get the money, and give her one
thousand dollars, I could rest easy. Could you do that much for me?”

“Of course I can. I will give it all to her if you say so.”

“No, I don’t want you to do that. I know you would give it all to her,
because you are an honest boy. You have been good to me during the
years I have been here, never had anything cross to say to me, you
don’t like Jonas, and neither do I. Mandy has been good to me, too, but
you see if I give her this money Jonas will have a chance to take it.
I don’t want him to see a cent of it.”

“But Mr. Nickerson, what was your object in pasting your description in
the book this way? The book might have been stolen.”

“But it was not stolen. As many as fifty soldiers, Union and
Confederate, have had that book in their hands, and when they came to
turn it up and see what the title was, they threw it aside. No soldier
wants to read a book like that. It is growing late and I must lie down
somewhere.”

“Come into my room and turn into my bunk,” said Nat. “You will sleep
well there.”

“Jonas has turned me out of his house and I am going to stay out,” said
Mr. Nickerson, with more spirit than he usually exhibited. “I will lie
down here and die in his barn.”

“Don’t talk that way, Mr. Nickerson,” said Nat; and some way or other
he could not get it out of his head that the old man was in earnest.
“If you are going to stay here I will go up and get a couple of
blankets and a pillow for you. I will see you all right in the morning.”

He laid the book beside the old man, folded up the two leaves and put
them into his pocket and hurried toward the house. Somehow he did not
feel exactly right about Mr. Nickerson.



CHAPTER V.

_Jonas Tries to Make Amends._


It is hard to tell what Jonas Keeler’s feelings were as he paced back
and forth in his narrow cabin, his eyes flashing, his hands clenched
and his lips framing to himself words that he dared not utter aloud. He
was disappointed--sorely disappointed because Mr. Nickerson, who knew
that he wanted money, that he thought of nothing else, had presumed to
present him a book for a keepsake. Sometimes he felt so angry at him
that he had half a mind to go out, find the old man and throw him over
the bars. His wife said nothing for some minutes, but seeing that Jonas
was getting madder instead of better natured, she ventured to put in a
word or two.

“Father, you didn’t do right in talking to the old man the way you
did,” said she, hardly knowing how her words would be received.

“The old fool!” hissed Jonas, throwing his hat into one corner and
burying both of his hands in his hair. “What did he want to give me a
book for when he knows how badly I need money? I am sorry that I was so
good natured with him afterward.”

“But father, there was something in the book,” continued Mrs. Keeler, a
sudden idea occurring to her.

Jonas stopped quickly and faced her, a queer expression on his face.

“There may have been something in the book that told you where his
money was. That is if he has got any money; which I don’t believe.”

Jonas began to see the matter in a different light now. He pulled a
chair close to his wife’s side and sat down in it.

“Do you think there was money in the book?” he almost whispered.

“No, I don’t. You threw the book with force enough to tear it all to
pieces; but there may have been a paper or something else in the leaves
which told where his money was hidden. But between you and me, I would
not put the least faith in it.”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“Because the old gentleman is not in his right mind. You have talked
about money, money and nothing but money ever since he has been here,
and you have finally got him in the way of believing that he has some.”

“Well, I don’t know about that. The old fellow talks plainly enough
sometimes, and then again he rattles on and you can’t make head or tail
of what he says. But I wonder if there was anything in that book? If
there was anything there, it must have been put in years ago, when the
old man was right in his top story.”

“It would not do any harm for you to find out. You can tell him that
you did not mean anything by what you had said--”

“That depends upon whether I do or not,” said Jonas hastily. “I will
wait until I see what is in that book first. If there is a plan in
there which tells where to go to find the money, but you say he hasn’t
got any, why then I will be kinder good natured with him; but if there
is nothing there, he can just keep out of my house; and that’s all
there is about it.”

Jonas thought that by this time Mr. Nickerson had gone to bed, so he
went out and started toward a little lean-to, it could scarcely have
been called any thing better, which was the place where the old man
slept. There were leaks in the roof and sundry cracks through which the
severe winds could seek entrance, but that was not the kind of sleeping
place Jonas had in the cabin. There everything was tight, and there
were a few articles of furniture scattered around, such as a table and
chairs and a wash stand. In place of a shake-down he had a regular
bed-stead and the blankets and quilts on it were abundant to keep him
warm in the coldest weather. It was dark in the lean-to, but Jonas knew
the way. He groped his way up to the shake-down but there was nobody
in it. In fact the bed had not been slept in at all.

“By George! I reckon the old fool took me at my word,” said Jonas, as
he turned toward the door. “I did not think the fellow had so much
pluck. I wonder where he is!”

He bent his steps this time toward the lean-to which Nat called his
room. It was a little better than Mr. Nickerson’s and but a very little
better. It was tight but there was no furniture in it; the dirt floor
did duty as chairs and washstand. Whenever Nat got up in the morning
and desired to perform his ablutions, there was the branch handy, and
it was but little trouble to go down there. It was dark in here, too,
but a slight feeling among the bed clothes showed Jonas that somebody
had been there. The pillow was gone, and so were the quilts that Nat
usually spread over him.

“This beats my time all hollow,” said Jonas, pulling off his hat and
wiping his forehead. “If he should go out among the neighbors--but
then he can’t have gone that far. Nat is going to make him up a bed
somewhere.”

Jonas’s next trip was to the barn, and there he found Mr. Nickerson
stretched out on a rude bed which Nat had made for him, and a lighted
lantern throwing a dim light over the scene. Jonas first impulse was
to find out what had become of that book. It was there, lying on the
pillow close beside Mr. Nickerson’s head. Nat was seated on the floor a
little ways from him, but he did not say anything when Jonas came in.

“Hello!” said the new-comer, with an attempt to appear cheerful. “What
you laying down out here for? Why don’t you get up and go to your own
room?”

“You have told me once that I need not come into your house any more,”
said the old man, in his usual whining tone, “and I am going to take
you at your word. I shall never go into your house again.”

“Shaw!” said Jonas, with a sorry effort at a laugh. “You didn’t pay any
attention to what I said, do you? If I had brought your tobacco you
would be all right now; but I was bothered so with a heap of things
that happened while I was down town, that I forgot all about it. I
didn’t mean nothing. Is this the book you were going to give me for a
keepsake!”

“Oh, yes, that’s the one.”

“What does it say in it?” continued Jonas; and Nat could see that he
was turning over the leaves very carefully.

“I wanted you to read it all, every word of it, and perhaps it would
have done you some good.”

“Well, get up and go into the house. The old woman has got some hot tea
left for you, and you will sleep better there than you will here. Have
you got a programme, or whatever you call it, so that I can find where
your money is hidden!”

“No, there is nothing of the kind there,” said Mr. Nickerson, with
a movement which showed plainly that he wished Jonas would go away.
“There is nothing but reading in the book.”

Jonas was getting angry again. Nat could see that by the looks of his
face.

“Are you sure there is nothing in it?” he asked, in a voice which
trembled in spite of himself.

“Not a thing. You can examine it and see for yourself. I shall not last
long--”

“I don’t want to hear no such talk as that. You will last longer than I
will, I bet you. Nat, have you got any of this book stowed away about
your good clothes?”

“No, sir, I have not,” answered Nat, rising to his feet. “You can
search me and see.”

Nat was perfectly safe in making this proposition. We said he had put
those two leaves into his pocket; so he did; but he had taken pains
to conceal them since. In a remote corner of the barn were some corn
huskings which Caleb had left there as he was working at the grain to
be taken to the mill. Underneath that pile were the two leaves that
Jonas wanted to find.

“That’s the way you always serve me when you think I have got anything
you want,” said Nat boldly. “You took a quarter away from me that I
had left after buying my shoes, and I haven’t seen it since.”

“Of course I did. It was the properest thing that I should have the
handling of all your money; but any more such talk as that will bring
the switch down on your shoulders in good shape. You hear me? There’s
nothing but reading in this book, you say old man?”

“That’s all, and you would not have it when I offered it to you. I gave
you a thousand dollars which you promised--”

“Aw! shut up about that,” said Jonas, rising to his feet; for in order
to hold conversation with Mr. Nickerson he had kneeled down by his
side. “There’s nothing in here that tells about the money?”

“No, no, there is nothing of that kind, I have not got any money. I am
a poor, feeble old man and shall not last long--”

“I will bet you won’t,” roared Jonas, livid with rage and shaking his
fist in the old man’s face. “You won’t get a bite of anything to eat
until you tell me where that money is; you hear me?”

“I don’t expect it; I never have expected it. I shall die before
morning--”

Jonas did not wait to hear any more, nor did he say anything further
about Mr. Nickerson getting up and going to his own room. He did stop
long enough to throw the book at Nat, but Nat was on the alert and the
missive did not touch him. It ruined the book so far as reading was
concerned. The remaining leaves were torn out of it and scattered all
over the floor, and it was useless for anybody to think of putting them
together again.

“Thank goodness, he has gone at last,” said Mr. Nickerson, with a long
drawn sigh of relief. “I expected he would come here.”

“So did I; and I took my leaves and hid them under this pile of corn,”
said Nat. “Now I wish there was something else that I could do for you.”

“There is nothing, nothing. I shall not be here much longer to bother
him, but he will think of me when I am gone. Nat, you must try to get
that money. Don’t you let anybody see that paper. Hide it carefully so
that no one can find it. Good night. I want to sleep now. Come in in
the morning and see me.”

“I will do it,” said Nat getting upon his feet and shaking the old man
cordially by the hand. “I shall not wait until morning, either. You may
want something or other during the night.”

Nat went away feeling heavy hearted over what had just occurred.
Something, he did not know what told him that the old man would never
live to see the sun rise again. He felt guilty in going away from him,
but Mr. Nickerson had requested it and he did not see what else there
was to be done.

“I won’t take my clothes off at all when I lie down,” said Nat, going
into his lean-to and shutting the door behind him. “And to think that I
am rich and going to be rich through his death! I wish the old man was
in perfect health and was going off with me. I would make his life be
as peaceable as I knew how.”

Nat’s brain was so upset with all that had happened that he could not
think very readily, but he did not ponder upon anything so much as he
did upon what the old gentleman had said to Jonas: “I shall die before
morning.” That was bringing the matter pretty close to him, and he
resolved that he would not go to sleep at all; but his work with the
potatoes had wearied him, and almost before he knew it he was in the
land of dreams. He awoke with a start and it was broad day-light. To
roll off his shake-down, seize his hat and make his way to the barn
was the work of a very few minutes. Everything seemed quiet and still
there. With cautious haste he opened the door and saw Mr. Nickerson
lying on his shake-down just as he left him the night before. He wanted
to say something to him but he did not dare. He drew a step closer and
one look was enough. With frantic speed he ran to the house, pushed
open the door and seized Jonas by the shoulder.

“Wake up, here,” he said, in a trembling voice. “The old man has
bothered you for the last time. He is dead.”

Jonas was a sound sleeper and it was a hard task to awaken him; but
there was something so thrilling in Nat’s words that he was on his feet
in an instant. He looked at the boy as though he did not know what he
meant.

“Mr. Nickerson lies dead down in your barn,” said Nat, earnestly. “He
told you last night that he would die before morning, and sure enough
he has.”

“Why-I-You don’t mean it!” exclaimed Jonas, his eyes wide with
excitement.

“Don’t stop to talk, Jonas,” said Mrs. Keeler nervously. “Did you see
him, Nat?”

“I have just come from there.”

“Then go along and see if you can do something,” urged his wife. “Maybe
he ain’t dead.”

Jonas had by this time hurriedly put his clothes on, and he led the
way to the barn with top speed, stopping only to call Caleb on the
way. Everything was as Nat had left it the night before. There was
“Baxter’s Saints’ Rest” with the leaves all torn out of it, lying by
the dead man’s head, and it seemed as though the old man had not moved
a finger since Nat bade him good night.

“Well, sir, he has gone up,” said Jonas; and Nat looked to see some
little twinge of remorse in his tones. But there was not a particle
that he could see, not even an expression of regret.

“Yes, he is gone, and now what remains for us to do? We can’t let him
lie here,” said Nat, as he looked at the withered form of the old man.

“Say, Nat, don’t you say any thing about his being out here where the
neighbors can hear it,” said Jonas, with a scowl, pulling Nat up close
to him and whispering the words in his ear. “If you do, remember that
switch.”

“I am not at all afraid of your whipping me,” said Nat, wrenching his
arm out of Jonas’s grasp. “You have done that for the last time. You
had better make arrangements to do something with Mr. Nickerson’s
body, if you are going to.”

Jonas stood and looked at Nat as if he could scarcely believe his ears.
The rebellion, which he had been working up for so long, had come
suddenly and promptly, too, and the man was afraid of it. What was Nat
going to do? There was but one thing that came up in Jonas’ mind and
that was money. It dawned upon him that Mr. Nickerson had possibly
taken the boy into his confidence and Jonas saw that if such were the
case he must keep quiet in order to find out what it was.

“I don’t mean to harm you, Natty,” said he, but his looks certainly
belied him, “but you can see for yourself how the neighbors will talk
if they find out that the old man had been sleeping in my barn.”

“I understand all about that,” said Nat. “You need not fear of my
saying any thing. You had better shut up Caleb’s mouth if you want the
thing kept secret.”

Jonas evidently thought so too. He took Caleb off on one side and
held a very earnest conversation with him, and after this, with Mrs.
Keeler’s help, who came down to the barn as soon as she was fairly
dressed, they made out to carry the old man’s body up to the house
and lay it on Jonas’s bed. Nobody passed along the road while they
were doing it. When the neighbors came there they would think that Mr.
Nickerson had died in that room; they would not think of the barn at
all. When this much had been done Nat was sent off post haste on a mule
for the doctor, and Caleb was commanded to go around to those who lived
close by and tell them of the bereavement that had come upon the house
of Jonas Keeler during the night. After that Jonas seated himself upon
a chair in the cabin, folded his arms, dropped his chin upon his breast
and waited for the neighbors to come.

After that each one had his particular duties to perform, though the
neighbors did the most of it. Jonas was too weak and dispirited to do
any thing, even to doing the chores, and left it all to Caleb, who
went about wondering if the old man’s taking off was going to work
any change in his circumstances. Nat’s first care was to find the two
leaves that were pasted together and hide them where there was no
possibility of any body’s hunting them out. Then he settled down to
think about his future. Mr. Nickerson was gone, and what had he to keep
him longer under Jonas’s roof? He had seventy-five dollars in money,
he had kept a strict account of that, and what was there to hinder him
from going down to Manchester and making an effort to enrich himself?
It required long study, but by the time the funeral was over Nat had
decided upon his course.



CHAPTER VI.

_Nat Sees a Friend._


“There’s just this much about it,” said Nat, when Mr. Nickerson had
been laid away in a little grove of evergreens behind the barn, and the
neighbors had gone home one after the other and the family had returned
to the house, “it is going to be something of a job for me to go down
there and get that money. In the first place there is Jonas, who will
be furious when he finds that I have run away from home, especially if
he thinks I am going to make something by it. He will follow me night
and day, and I can’t make a move of any sort without he will see it.
Then he will bring me home and won’t I ketch it, though?”

This bothered Nat more than any thing else. He wanted some little time
to think seriously about the way to beat Jonas at his own game, and
went into the barn, drew a milk-stool to the threshold so that he could
see anybody that approached him from the house and sat down to go over
the points again.

“I have got to have help,” thought Nat, “and there is only one boy in
the settlement that I can trust; and when it comes to that, I can’t
trust him, either. He is a lazy, good-for-nothing fellow, and worse
than all, I dare not tell him what I am looking after. I must go it
alone if I can; but if I find that I can’t do it, I must see Peleg
Graves about it.”

Come to look at the matter Nat was in bad straits, and that was a fact.
Of course there were plenty of boys he could have got to assist him,
but the trouble was he did not know any of them. He and Caleb were much
alike in this respect. The families around them were a little better
off than they were, nobody liked Jonas on account of his shiftless
ways, and his boys, Nat and Caleb, had been brought up to follow very
much in his footsteps, and his bad example had a deteriorating effect
on their character--they were like dogs without a master. That was the
way Nat looked at it, and it was the source of infinite annoyance to
him.

“Whenever I go down town I can just go alone,” Nat had often said
to himself. “All the boys there have their friends who are glad to
see them. It is ‘Hello, Jim!’ or ‘Hello, Tom!’ here and there and
everywhere; but if any one looks at me he seems to say: ‘What you doing
here, Nat? You have not any business to come to town.’ And I have more
money to spend than any of them. But Peleg has never been that way. He
has always seemed glad to see me, but I think the candy I was eating
had something to do with it.”

After long reflection Nat finally made up his mind that he would call
upon Peleg and see what he had to say about it; but there was one thing
on which he was fully resolved: He would not let Peleg know what they
were searching for until they found the money. He was not going to
stay about Jonas’s house any longer--that was another thing that he
had decided upon; and something happened just then to make him adhere
to this decision. The door of the house opened at this point in his
meditations and Caleb came out. Of course he was very solemn, almost
any body would be if one had died so near him, but he came along toward
Nat as if he had something on his mind.

“Well, Nat, your friend has gone at last,” said he, by way of beginning
the conversation.

“That is a fact. He was the only friend I had about the house.”

“You will not have any more money to buy tobacco for him, will you?”
asked Caleb. “What are you going to do?”

“How did I get any money to buy any tobacco for him?” inquired Nat.
That was just what Nat had been doing for a number of years, but how
did Caleb find it out?

“Oh, you can’t fool me,” said Caleb, with a laugh. “I saw him go into
the fence corner the day before he died and take a plug of tobacco out
of there. I did not say any thing to pap about it, for I did not know
but it was some secret business that you and old man Nickerson had. I
did not want to go back on you--”

“If he found any tobacco there he must have got it himself,” said Nat,
for he did not care to listen any more to the falsehoods Caleb was
about to utter. “I don’t know any thing about it.”

“Aw, now, what is the use of fooling in that way? I would like to know
how Mr. Nickerson could have got any tobacco for himself. He has not
been to town in two years to my certain knowledge. You got it the last
time you were there and stowed it away where he could find it.”

Nat was amazed at this revelation. In spite of all his cunning Caleb
had succeeded in getting upon his secret at last. If the latter told
his father of it he would feel the switch sure enough; that is if he
stayed about the premises. Without making any reply he picked up his
stool, moved it back where it belonged and made ready to walk out of
the barn.

“You see I am on to those little tricks of yours,” said Caleb. “Don’t
go yet for I have something to say to you. Now I will tell you this to
begin with, Nat Wood: You know where Mr. Nickerson had the rest of that
money hidden.”

“What money?” asked Nat, innocently.

“The money he had hidden when he came here,” Caleb almost shouted,
doubling up his fists as though he had more than half a mind to strike
Nat for professing so much ignorance. “Pap says you know where it is
and he is going to have it out of you, too.”

“I will bet you he don’t,” said Nat to himself. “That money is mine and
if I don’t have it, it can stay there until it rots.”

“Now I will tell you what we will do, Nat,” continued Caleb, dropping
his threatening manner and laying his hand patronizingly on Nat’s
shoulder. “Me and you will keep this still from pap, and go down to
Manchester and dig up that money. Oh man alive, won’t we live high--”

“You seem to think it, if there is any of it at all, is in the ground,”
interrupted Nat.

“Where else should it be put? If it is in the ground no one can stumble
on it while he is roaming around through the woods. I will go with you
and will start now, if you say so.”

“Well, if you are going down to Manchester to look for that money,
which I don’t believe is there, you can go,” said Nat. “But I will stay
here. I am not going to dig around unless I can make something by it.”

“Oh, come on now, Nat,” said Caleb, coaxingly. “You know where it is
and I will bet on it.”

“If you do bet on it you will lose whatever you bet. But I have already
had my say. I won’t go down to Manchester with you.”

“If you don’t go I will tell pap,” said Caleb, growing angry again.

“You can run and tell him as soon as you please. If I could see the
money sticking up before me this minute I would not give you a cent of
it. It does not belong to you.”

“Then I bet you I am going to tell pap,” said Caleb, who was so nearly
beside himself that he walked up and down the barn swinging his hands
about his head. “You will get that switch over your shoulders before
you go to bed tonight. Whoop-pe! I would not have the licking you will
get for anything.”

Caleb marched away as if he were afraid he would forget his errand
before he got to the house, and Nat leaned against the door-post and
watched him. There was one good reason why Caleb would not tell his
father of the tobacco hidden in the fence corner, and that was the fear
that the switch would be used upon himself. Why had he not told his
father of it when he came from town? Jonas was in just the right mood
to use that switch then, and he would have beaten Nat most unmercifully
until he got at the full history of the tobacco money. But Caleb had
let it go for three days now, and perhaps Jonas felt differently
about it. Nat did not know this. He stood there in the door of the
barn waiting for Jonas to come, but he waited in vain. Nat was doing
some heavy thinking in the meantime, and he finally concluded that he
would go and see Peleg and have the matter settled before he went any
further. With a parting glance at the house he put the bushes that
lined the potato patch between them, broke into a run and in a quarter
of an hour he was at Peleg’s barn. Peleg was there. He was engaged in
getting some corn ready to go to the mill and he was husking it.

“Well, Nat, where are you going to find another friend like Mr.
Nickerson was to you?” was the way he greeted Nat when he came into the
barn.

“I don’t know,” was Nat’s reply. “I am left alone in the world. There
is nobody who cares a cent whether I live or die.”

When Peleg saw what humor Nat was in, how solemn he talked about the
loss of his friend, he faced about on his seat and looked at him. Any
boy who had been in Nat’s place would have been satisfied that Peleg
could not be trusted, and would have turned away from him to look
elsewhere for a friend. He was not a bad looking boy, but he had a kind
of sneaking, hang-dog way with him that did not go far toward making
his friends. But he had friends and that was the worst of it. It was a
sort of policy with Peleg to agree to every thing that any body said
to him. He did that with an object, and Nat always thought that he
listened with the intention of learning something. Perhaps if we follow
him closely we shall see how nearly he drew Nat on to tell him all
about the money and the plans he had laid for obtaining possession of
it.

“‘Shaw! I would not talk that way,” said Peleg, throwing an ear of corn
into the pile. “You have got friends enough here. There is Caleb and
Jonas--”

“I reckon you don’t know what sort of friends they are to me,” Nat
interposed.

“Well, between I and you, I have often thought that they might have
used you a little better,” said Peleg, sinking his voice almost to a
whisper. “Jonas uses that switch on you most too much.”

“Yes, and he has done that for the last time. I am not going to stand
it any longer.”

“What are you going to do--run away from home?”

“I am going to run away from Jonas. I don’t call that my home--I never
had one; but I want to get away and make my own living.”

“That’s right, my boy; that’s right. You will make a better living than
you do there. Look at the clothes you wear!”

“I will have better before long,” said Nat, crossing one leg over the
other when he saw that Peleg was looking steadily at the huge rent in
his overalls.

“Say,” whispered Peleg, getting upon his feet and approaching his face
close to Nat’s. “Did old Nickerson leave you any money? You need not be
afraid to talk to me about that,” he continued, seeing that Nat looked
down at the ground and hesitated. “They say that the old man was, or
had been, powerful rich, and if he was a friend to any body in that
house he ought to be to you.”

“I know he was my friend. He always had something kind to say to me.”

“I knew it; I knew it all the time. Say! Jonas has not used up all that
thousand dollars that the old man gave him?”

“What do you know about that?” asked Nat, in surprise. “Has Jonas been
talking about it?”

“I won’t say that he has or that he hasn’t,” said Peleg, with a knowing
shake of his head. “I don’t mind telling you, for I know it won’t go
any further, that I have heard something about it. You would not expect
me to say more without breaking my word, and that is something I never
do. But I tell you that he has got a heap of that thousand dollars
left.”

“That’s what I have often thought. Where has he got it hidden?”

“That’s another thing I must not tell you, but I know where, or at
least I can come within a thousand miles of it, where he hides it. You
see I know a heap of things that people don’t think I do. If you should
tell me that you know where that money is--”

“But I don’t,” said Nat. “I know where some of it is--that is the most
of his fortune is concealed.”

“Aha!” said Peleg while a smile, a very faint smile which nobody would
have noticed, overspread his face. He did not give utterance to this
expression but said it to himself, while Nat himself, always on the
lookout for some such signs, did not know how extremely delighted
he was by it. Peleg was in a fair way to learn all about it. “If
you should tell me where this money is hidden,” he went on after
controlling himself, “I would die before any one should find out from
me the exact spot. You see the way the thing works with me is this:
If a person tells you a secret, that is yours to keep. Don’t tell any
body of it; and in a very short time people will learn that you can be
trusted.”

“I don’t know just where this money is,” said Nat, and he hesitated a
long while before he said the next words. “I know where the papers are.”

“What papers!”

“The papers that tell where the money is hidden.”

“Where are they?”

“I have got them safe and I should like to see any body find them.”

“That’s right; keep them safe,” said Peleg, although he was much
disappointed because the papers were not instantly produced. “Don’t you
let a living soul into it unless you find some one to tell the secret
to.”

“I am going down to look those papers up now,” said Nat.

“Down where?”

“Down to Manchester,” replied Nat; whereupon that same smile came upon
Peleg’s face once more. He was thinking how he was going to work to get
a sight at those papers.

“It is going to be no easy task to go down there and find the papers
all by myself,” continued Nat, walking back and forth across the floor
and wondering how in the world he was going to propose the matter to
Peleg. “You see the minute I go away Jonas will suspect something, and
if there is any point he will go for it will be Manchester.”

“That’s a fact,” said Peleg, a bright idea striking him. “And if he
found you there your chance of digging up the papers would be up
stump. When do you want to go?”

“I would go now, this very night, if I had some one to go with me.
I would find the money, if there is any, and go away where I am not
known.”

“That is just what I would do,” replied Peleg, with sundry motions of
his head which he thought added emphasis to his words. “Then nobody can
ask you where you got so many stamps.”

“I don’t fear for that,” said Nat, hastily. “I want everybody to know
where I got them. I will get away and put them in the bank; then I
should like to see any body get hold of them.”

“That’s the idea. When you once get it into the bank it is safe. You
say you want somebody to help you. That shows you are wise. If there
is any body on top of this broad earth who will be up to tricks, it is
that Jonas Keeler.”

“There is Caleb,” suggested Nat. “He won’t come out where any body can
see him, but he will sneak around in the bushes. Jonas and Caleb will
go together.”

“Oh, Caleb,” said Peleg, contemptuously. “Caleb is a fellow to
be--Well, I reckon we would best look out for him too,” he added, for
it suddenly occurred to him that the more persons Nat had against him
the greater need he would have for somebody to protect him. “If there
is any body can get away with Caleb, I am the one. There ain’t any
scheme that boy is up to that I can’t see through. I will go halvers
with you on that money, or rather the papers that will tell where it is
hidden, when we get it.”

“Then you and I can’t hitch,” replied Nat, surprised at the
proposition. “I can not pay any such sum as that.”

“What for?” demanded Peleg. “You are going to make as much as three or
four thousand dollars by it.”

“I don’t know what I will make and I don’t care. It will be enough to
take me away from the house in which I now live, and that is all I
want. I might as well go home.”

“Well, what will you give? Maybe you think it is fun to go down there
and beat Jonas and Caleb when they are trying to get the money or the
papers away from you? I shall want good pay for doing that.”

“I will give you good pay; more than double what you can make here.
I will give you a dollar a day, payment to begin when we strike
Manchester.”

It was now Peleg’s turn to be astonished. He stared hard at Nat to see
if he was in earnest, and then went back to his seat and began husking
corn.



CHAPTER VII.

_Mr. Graves Is Astonished_.


There were two very badly disappointed boys in Peleg Graves’s barn that
day, and each one thought that he had good grounds for it.

“The little fule!” said Peleg, spitefully snatching up an ear of com
which happened to be nearest to him. “Here he is, almost rolling in
wealth, and he won’t go halvers with me on that money. A dollar a
day! Well, that is more than I could get for shucking corn or digging
potatoes these times, and now Peleg, I want to ask you a question: Did
you make a mistake there? I reckon you did. Suppose he makes a go of it
and finds the papers--‘Shaw! I can see through a ladder as plain as he
can. The papers are the money; that’s what’s the matter. And suppose
he finds it with my help, what is there to hinder me from getting up
some dark night and taking the money--Whoop-pee! Why did not I think of
that?”

“I reckon I may as well go home, and I am sorry that I ever came up
here,” said Nat to himself, as he walked listlessly about the barn
floor. “I have put Peleg on his guard now, and he will make another one
that I will have to fight in order to get that money. Peleg would go
halvers with me on that money! I will give him a dollar a day and that
is every cent I will give him.”

“Are you off, Nat?” inquired Peleg, facing around on his stool again.

“Yes, I might as well,” replied Nat, who had started for home. “You
want altogether too much for helping me.”

“Well, now, hold on. Don’t go yet. Maybe you and I can come to some
understanding. You don’t think it is worth while to watch Jonas and
Caleb, but I tell you--”

“Yes, I do. But supposing I don’t find the money? Then I can’t pay you
a thing.”

“That’s so,” said Peleg, for the thought was new to him. “I did not
think of that. Now see here; I will tell you how we will fix this
thing. You want me to stay with you until you find the money, don’t
you?”

“Of course I do,” said Nat.

“Well, you give me a dollar a day--But hold on. Have you got any money
at all? I had better know that before we start.”

“Oh, yes, I have as much as--as ten dollars, and I will give you your
pay every night.”

“Where did you get ten dollars?” asked Peleg, who was very much
surprised. “Why don’t you buy a new pair of overalls?”

“I have my reasons. They are good ones, too. Are you going with me
or ain’t you? We have some other little matters to decide, and it is
getting along toward dark.”

“If you say so we will go tonight,” replied Peleg, getting upon his
feet again.

“What will you say to your folks?”

“I will tell them that I am going out after the cows, or any thing else
that I think of. My folks won’t trouble us, I will bet on that. But we
have got to have something to eat.”

“I have thought of that, and I can buy everything we want in
Manchester--every thing except the meat. You have a gun--”

“Yes; but we must get some powder and shot for that. I am all out.”

“We can do that, too. Now I will tell you what I have decided upon.”

The two boys drew closer together and for fifteen minutes there was
some whispering done between them. At the end of that time it was all
over and the boys departed satisfied--at least one of them was.

“I am afraid I made a mistake in coming here at all,” was what Nat
said to himself. “I ought to have gone on and done the best I could
by myself. Peleg is up to something and he will bear watching. Do you
suppose he means to run down and tell Jonas about my running away?”

This thought created consternation in Nat’s mind and he faced about and
looked at the barn in which he had left Peleg. But if the truth must
be told, Peleg had no intention of going near Jonas. He was too sharp
to throw away the easy means he had of making a fortune by doing that.
When Nat went away he leaned against the hay-mow, or rather the place
where it would have been if there had been any hay there, and broke
into a silent but hearty fit of merriment.

“Peleg, the thing you have often wanted has come to you at last,” he
whispered, walking to the door and peeping slyly out to see if Nat had
really gone. “Your fortune has come to you at last. Now what be I going
to do; for I must get away from here as soon as it comes dark. In the
first place I will go in and tell pap about it.”

Peleg hurried to the house without taking pains to shut the barn door,
and broke into the living room where his father and mother were sitting
engaged in smoking. This was the way in which they always passed their
time when they could find nothing better to do, and that happened very
frequently.

“Have you got that corn all shucked?” inquired his father.

“Naw; and what’s more, I ain’t a-going to shuck no more to-night,”
replied Peleg.

“What’s to do now?”

“Well I will tell you,” said Peleg, drawing a chair without any back
close in front of the fire. “I have got a chance to make a fortune; but
if I tell you what it is you must go halvers with me, or I shan’t tell
you a thing.”

Mr. Graves and his wife were both amazed. They took their pipes from
their mouths, straightened up and looked hard at Peleg to see if he
were in earnest.

“You remember old man Nickerson, I reckon, don’t you?” continued Peleg.
“Well, he’s gone dead, you know, and he has willed a whole pile of
money, or papers and such things which shows where the money is, and
Nat wants me to go down to Manchester with him and help dig it up.”

“Who teld you about this?” demanded Mr. Graves.

“Nat was here not two minutes ago and he told me himself. He’s going
as soon as it comes dark.”

“Now the best thing you can do is to run over and tell Jonas about it,”
said Mr. Graves, knocking the ashes from his pipe and getting upon his
feet. “The idea of that little snipe having a whole pile of money--it
is not to be thought of.”

“Well, I just ain’t a-going to say a word to Jonas about it,” said
Peleg. “They isn’t any body knows about that money excepting you and
me. I am going to have it all.”

Mr. Graves looked hard at his son again and finally took his chair once
more. He saw in a moment what Peleg was up to, but he wanted to hear
the whole plan.

“What you going to do? How be I going to help you?”

It did not take Peleg many minutes to make his father understand
what he had decided to do, and in fact there was not much for him to
explain. He was going to get his gun and go over to Nat’s house and
wait until he was ready. When he came out he was going to join him,
and together they would go to Manchester and camp out until they found
the papers which would tell them where the money was concealed. After
that was done he would be ready to begin operations. Mr. Graves might
blacken up his face to resemble a negro, come up and overpower them and
take the money, or he might watch his opportunity and approach the camp
while the two boys were away buying provisions.

“Who told you about this?” said Mr. Graves, who was lost in admiration
of Peleg’s cunning. It sounded like some novel that he used to read in
his schoolboy days.

“Nobody didn’t tell me of it,” said Peleg. “I got it all up out of my
own head. Don’t you think it will work?”

“Of course it will. How long are you going to stay down to Manchester?”

“I didn’t ask him about that; probably not more’n three or four days.”

“But you have got to live while you are looking for the papers. Have
you got any thing cooked, S’manthy?”

“That’s taken care of, for Nat is going to support us. He has as much
as ten dollars that he is going--”

“Where did he get ten dollars? It looks to me as though that boy has
been stealing.”

“Couldn’t old man Nickerson have given him that sum while he was alive?
That boy has come honestly by his money, and, look here, pap, don’t you
fool yourself. If Nat has got ten dollars he has got twenty dollars;
and don’t you forget it.”

“Do you reckon that old man Nickerson gave him all that money?” said
Mr. Graves, who was profoundly astonished at Nat’s wealth.

“I don’t know where else he could have got it. Now I want some clothes
to take with me and my gun. What be you going to do, pap, when we find
that money?”

“You have got to find the papers first.”

“Now just listen at you,” said Peleg, with evident disgust. “There
ain’t no papers there. When we find the place where the thing is
hidden, it will be money, and nothing else. Nat ain’t got no papers.
You hear me?”

“Then I reckon I had best wait a while until I see you again,” said Mr.
Graves, reflectively. “If you find the money I want to take it all.”

“How much will that be, Peleg?” said the woman, who had been so
surprised at this conversation that she had taken no part in it. “It
will be as much as three or four hundred dollars, won’t it?”

“Three or four hundred fiddle-sticks!” said Peleg. “Old man Nickerson
was worth a power of money, and if he has got any hidden it all amounts
to three or four thousand dollars.”

“Good lands!” gasped Mrs. Graves, settling back in her chair. “I can
have some good clothes with that. Three or four thousand! I reckon I’d
best fill up for another smoke.”

Peleg began to stir about and in a short time he had collected his
wardrobe, which did not amount to much seeing that he carried the
whole of it in an old valise, and his gun that was going to furnish
them with game while they were looking for the money. It was about as
worthless a thing as ever was fashioned in wood and iron, but still
it managed to bring down a squirrel or rabbit every time Peleg went
hunting.

“Now if any body comes here and wants to know where I am, you can tell
him that you don’t know,” said Peleg, as he slung his bundle on his
single barrel and put the whole on his shoulder. “You had better come
down that way to-morrow, pap, but let me tell you one thing: You had
better keep out of sight. If Nat so much as suspects that there is
somebody watching us, he will quit the work right then and there, and
we shan’t find any money.”

Mr. Graves said that he would take abundant care of that, and Peleg
opened the door and went out. There was no “good-by” about it. As soon
as he was gone Mr. Graves proceeded to fill up for another smoke.

“That there is a powerful good boy who has just went out,” said he.
“What on earth should we do without him? I tell you, S’manthy, we are
going to be wonderful rich in a few days from now. I know of three or
four horses that I want--”

With this introduction Mr. Graves went on to enumerate the various
horses and cows and farming utensils he needed and must have to make
his calling as agriculturist successful, and when he got through his
wife took up the strain, and by the time that twelve o’clock came they
had not only three or four thousand dollars of Mr. Nickerson’s money
laid out, but they had some more thousands besides. It is hard to tell
what they did not provide for. They had a new house built up, the weeds
all cut down, an orchard in full bearing where the worthless brier
patch used to stand, and every thing fixed up in first-class shape. But
they got tired of this after a while, and went to bed.

“Pe-leg!” shouted Mr. Graves, when he awoke at daylight. “It is high
time you was up. Well, now, what am I calling him for? He is a long way
from here by this time, and, S’manthy, perhaps he has got onto that
money after all.”

“He could not have found it before he got where it was,” suggested Mrs.
Graves. “He must camp out some time, else why did he take his gun with
him?”

“That’s so,” said Mr. Graves, after thinking a moment. “I don’t feel
like myself at all this morning; do you, S’manthy? Now I have got to
get up and build the fire; but I don’t mind that. In a little while
we’ll have somebody to build it for us. Who’s that coming there?” added
Mr. Graves, who, as he drew on his trousers, went to the window and
glanced up and down the road. “If there ain’t Jonas I am a Dutchman. He
wants to see what has become of Nat.”

“You won’t tell him, of course?” said his wife.

“Mighty clear of me. I don’t know where he is and neither do you.”

The silence that followed on the inside of the cabin was broken at last
by the hasty crunch of earth and stones outside the door, and then
Jonas laid his heavy hand upon it.

“Who’s that?” shouted Mr. Graves.

“It is me; don’t you know Jonas?” answered a voice. “Get up here. I
want to ask you a question.”

“All right. I will soon be there. Now, old woman, you cover up and
don’t open your head while he is here.”

In a few minutes Mr. Graves opened the door and the two men greeted
each other cordially.

“Howdy, Jonas. What started you out so early? How’s all your family?”

“My family is all right, but I am just now hunting for that boy, Nat.
Ain’t seen anything of him, have you?”

“Nat? No; has he run away?” asked Mr. Graves, accidentally letting out
the very thing which he was afraid his wife would mention to Jonas if
she were allowed to talk. “I mean--you have been using that switch on
him lately,” he hastily added, after he had caught his breath.

“No, I hadn’t, but I wish I had,” declared Jonas, for the idea of Nat’s
running away was the very thing that was uppermost in his mind. “I
have used that boy altogether too well; and now that old man Nickerson
has gone, he has cleared out.”

“Well, now, what does the fule boy want to run away for?” said Mr.
Graves, looking down at the ground. “He will want some money, if he is
going to do that.”

“He has plenty of it, or thinks he has,” said Jonas, angrily. “You
ain’t seen Peleg around here lately, have you?”

“Peleg? No, he has gone out after the cows,” said Mr. Graves; and a
moment later, as if to show how very much mistaken he was, one of the
cows in the barnyard set up a prolonged lowing as if to inquire why
somebody did not come out and milk her. “I declare, there’s the cows
already,” added Mr. Graves, not at all abashed. “That boy is around
here somewhere. Pe-leg,” he shouted, looking around as though he
expected Peleg to appear.

“You needn’t call to him that way, pap, ‘cause he ain’t there,” said
Mrs. Graves under the bed clothes. “Didn’t you hear him say that he
was going fishing to-day?”

“That’s so; so I did. What do you want of Peleg, Jonas?”

“I just wanted to know if he could tell me where Nat was; but if he
ain’t here, of course he can’t tell me. You’re sure he ain’t gone to
Manchester along with Nat?”

“No,” said Mr. Graves, as if he were surprised to hear it. “What does
he want to go down to Manchester for? If he don’t come home pretty soon
I will go after him.”

“Nat has got an idea that there is some money down there, and he has
gone after it. If he only knew it, I have got all the money that was
there long ago.”

Mr. Graves was really surprised now.

“The old man did not have but a thousand dollars, and he gave that to
me to spend for him,” said Jonas. “When that boy gets through looking I
hope he will come back.”

The speaker went away without saying another word, and Mr. Graves
stood in his door and watched him go. If Jonas told the truth Peleg had
his journey for nothing.



CHAPTER VIII.

_The Storekeeper Speaks_.


Very different were Nat Wood’s feelings as he walked slowly toward the
place he called home. He was certain that during the last hour of his
life he had made a bad mistake in that he yielded to his first impulse
and took Peleg into his confidence. But the thing had been done, Peleg
knew that the money was there, or somewhere about Manchester, and now
he had to watch his corners very closely in order to succeed at all.

“There is one thing about it,” said Nat, as he went up behind the
bushes which stood between the potato patch and the house. “I will keep
a close watch of Peleg, and if I have any reason to suppose that he is
working for himself, I will lead him off the track and go somewhere
else. Peleg is a pretty sharp boy, but I don’t believe he can get ahead
of me.”

While Nat was thinking this matter over he drew up behind the bushes
and took a long and earnest survey of the house. There was no one
stirring around it. Having made sure that no one was watching him Nat
hurried to a fence corner, not the one that Mr. Nickerson went to in
order to get his plug of tobacco, but another one that lay further off,
and after a few minutes’ search arose to his feet with two articles
in his hand which he hastily crammed into his pocket. One was a roll
of money--he did not look it over for he knew how much there was in
it--and the other was the two leaves of “Baxters’ Saints’ Rest,” still
pasted together, which told him where the money was concealed. The
money was what he had left from the sum Mr. Nickerson had last given
him for the purchase of tobacco.

“I don’t see what is the need of my taking these two leaves with me,”
said Nat, as he pushed the remnants of the twigs and bushes back to the
place which they had occupied before. “Peleg might find it and then
know as much about the money as I do. I reckon I had best get that in
my head and then destroy the leaves.”

To think with Nat was to act. He produced the two leaves from his
pocket, seated himself upon the ground and tore them open. The stray
leaf, the one on which the diagram that showed where the money was
concealed, fell out; and although it was pretty dark so that he could
barely trace the lines, they were made with a heavy lead pencil, and
furthermore there were but two lines on the page. The first led from
a pile of rubbish--Nat did not know what else to call it; it probably
intended to represent the ruins of Mr. Nickerson’s house--to a second
pile of rubbish, which was doubtless intended to show the pile of
briers. The second line ran across a little wavering stream which was
intended to stand for the brook, up to another pile, and there it
stopped. If Nat could only find that pile, his fortune was secure.

It did not take Nat long to make himself master of this diagram, and
hastily putting the leaves back again, he buried them in the hole from
which he had taken them out, smoothing over the leaves so that no one
would suspect that anybody had been there.

“So far so good,” said Nat, with a long-drawn sigh of relief. “I don’t
believe that either Jonas or Caleb will find them there. Now the next
thing is something else.”

It was to separate ten dollars from his roll of bills so that he could
show them to Peleg when he came to pay for the various things at
Manchester. If he showed more than that amount something would be added
to Peleg’s suspicions, and no doubt it would lead to an open rupture.
The rest of the bills he stowed away in his hat, pressing them down
tightly between the outside and the lining, and holding them there by
means of a pin which he took from his sleeve. His work was all done
now, and he was ready to meet Peleg as soon as he put in an appearance.
But in order to make sure that he had not been watched Nat drew along
the fence corner into the bushes, until he came within sight of the
house again. There was no one there, and no one in the barn, either;
so he concluded that he had done this part of his work without being
seen.

“If I can get through with the rest without having some one to see me,
I shall be glad of it,” said Nat, going past the house and out to the
bars. “Good-by, old home, for it is the only home I have had since I
can remember. I hope some day to have a place that I can call my own.”

His soliloquy was interrupted by the appearance of a person on the
road who moved and acted in a way that showed him that the time for
operations had come. It was Peleg. He carried his single barrel over
his shoulder, supporting an old-fashioned valise which contained his
change of underwear.

“Well, I am all ready,” said Peleg, in a whisper.

“So am I,” said Nat.

“Why, you have not taken a thing with you,” said Peleg, when he looked
around to see Nat pick up something. “Are you going to come back here
after your clothes?”

“All the clothes I have in the world I have got upon my back,” said
Nat, holding up both hands and turning slowly around so that his
companion could see him. “I am ready to go if you are.”

“You must have a clean shirt if nothing more. What will you do when the
one you have on now is all soiled?”

“I will take it off and wash it.”

“_You_ will?” exclaimed Peleg, in unbounded astonishment. “Don’t you
have no women to do that sort of work? My mother always washes my
clothes.”

“Well, you are lucky to have a mother. I have had none since I can
remember. I have to do all such little things myself.”

“This beats me. What did you say to Jonas?”

“Not a thing. I have not seen him since I saw you.”

“Have you got your papers?” said Peleg, who was particularly anxious
on that score. “You had better give them to me; because when Jonas
overhauls us he will search all your clothes.”

“Let him search,” said Nat, turning upon Peleg and looking at him as
closely as he could in the dark. “I have got my papers, but they are
right in here,” he added, touching his forehead with his right hand.
“He won’t get them out of there.”

“_Well!_” said Peleg, looking down at the ground they were so rapidly
leaving behind. “That’s a pretty way to do business. You have got me to
help you in looking for that money, and you had ought to let me into
the whole of it.”

“In other words, I must tell you my secret, must I?” demanded Nat,
stopping in his headlong gait. “I did not agree to do that. You may go
back on me the first thing.”

“No, I won’t; I pledge you my word that I will stay by you. Now if you
don’t tell me all of it I won’t go.”

These were very pleasant words to Nat Wood. He had been wondering
all the time how he was to be rid of Peleg, and now he was going
to accomplish his object without half trying. Peleg stopped when he
uttered this threat, but Nat kept on as fast as ever.

“I tell you I won’t go if you don’t tell me just what you are going to
do and all about it,” said Peleg, taking his bundle off his shoulders.

“All right. Then stay where you are. I can get along without you.”

“You forget Jonas and Caleb,” said Peleg, raising his voice as to
reach the ears of Nat who was rapidly widening the distance between
them. “Who is going to watch them while you are doing the digging? The
little fule,” muttered Peleg, raising his bundle to his shoulder again
and hurrying after Nat. “What has come over him to make him so mighty
independent all at once? A little while ago he was just begging me to
go with him; but now he wants to shake me off altogether. Hold up, Nat.”

But Nat was past holding up for Peleg or anybody else. He kept on his
way without changing his pace, and when at last Peleg overtook him he
had passed a half a mile down the road.

“What’s the use of you being in such a hurry, Nat?” panted Peleg. “I
can’t keep up with you if you go so fast.”

“I’ve got to hurry in order to get to my camping grounds before
daylight,” replied Nat. “If you want to go with me, come on; if you
don’t, stay back.”

“But, Nat, it ain’t right for you to do all the work by yourself,” said
Peleg.

“I don’t intend to do it all. You must do some of it, if you go with
me. I won’t pay you a dollar a day for doing nothing.”

“Of course. I expect to do some of it; but how can I know what to work
at unless you tell me something.”

“I will tell you what I want as soon as we come to our camping ground,
and that ought to satisfy you,” said Nat, who plainly saw that he was
not going to get rid of Peleg so easily. “I may want you to watch for
Jonas while I work.”

“Well, if you do that, it will be right into my hand,” said Peleg, to
himself. “Only I would rather watch for pap. If I see him, I won’t let
you know a thing about it.”

Seeing that Nat was neither to be frightened nor coaxed into revealing
his secret, Peleg finally gave up the attempt in disgust, and hurried
along by Nat’s side toward Manchester. Nat had but little to say to him
for he was thinking over what was to be done when they once reached
their camping grounds. He must be rid of Peleg in some way, and the
more he thought about it the more he saw that his success depended
entirely upon his finding the money alone and unaided.

“If ever a boy deserves kicking I am the one,” Nat kept saying to
himself. “Why didn’t I leave Peleg alone husking his corn? He would
have been safe there, but now he has got onto my back and I can’t shake
him off. Can I get him to go back to the store after some provisions,
while I look for the money? That’s a plan worth thinking of.”

The way to Manchester seemed wonderfully long, it is always long if
one is anxious to reach a place, and it was after daylight when they
came within sight of it. Fortunately the stores were open and the boys
had no difficulty in buying what they wanted. The first thing was the
ammunition for Peleg’s shotgun; and when that had been purchased and
stowed away in the boy’s valise, the provisions came next, and they
found that they had more than they could carry.

“There are other things to come,” said Nat, pulling out his ten dollars
at which Peleg glanced with envious eyes. “I must get a spade and
pick-ax before I go any further.”

“Why, what do you want to do with them?” asked Peleg, in surprise.

“How am I going to do any digging without them?” asked Nat in reply.
“There is no telling how deep the money is in the ground.”

Peleg was obliged to be content with this explanation although he
was not satisfied with it. He could not bear to see any of Nat’s
money go for such useless things as a spade and pick-ax, because he
calculated at some future time to handle all that money himself. And
when they were purchased there was another thing that filled him with
astonishment.

“I wish you would set these implements away somewhere, together with
the provisions that we shall not be able to take with us, until Peleg
comes after them,” said Nat to the storekeeper. “He will be after them
bright and early to-morrow morning.”

“All right,” said the storekeeper. “I will set the whole thing right
here in this corner, and if my partner is in here you will know them
when you see them. Any thing else that I can show you?”

“Nothing else, thank you,” replied Nat “I have every thing I need.”

“What are you boys going to do up there in the woods?” asked the
storekeeper. “You are not going after rabbits with nothing but a single
barrel shotgun. You won’t get enough to pay you for your ammunition.”

“Oh, no; we are going up there to see about some timber that belongs to
us.”

“Well, don’t let the ghosts catch you,” said the man, with a laugh.

“Ghosts!” replied Peleg; and he let the butt of his single barrel
heavily down upon the floor.

“Yes; there is lots of them up there.”

“Why--why--whereabouts?” inquired Peleg; and it was all he could do to
pronounce the words so that the storekeeper could understand him.

“Well, I don’t know that they have any particular place, but the heft
of them appears up about old man Nickerson’s farm,” said the man; and
he drew a little on his imagination because he saw that Peleg was
frightened. “If anybody goes on that place he wants to look out. You
see,” here the storekeeper leaned his elbows on the counter and sank
his voice almost to a whisper. “They used to tell here before the war
that the old man was worth a power of money, and the rebels came here
to gobble it up.”

“Did they get any?” asked Peleg.

“Naw they didn’t. I was in that party and I know just what they got.
It was all in gold, too, but the old fellow had it hidden so that we
could not find it. We took him off and put him in the army, but he was
too old to be of any use there, and so we turned him loose. There’s
been a power of men up there looking for it, but they stay just one
night.”

“They see the ghosts, do they?” said Nat

“That’s what they do,” said the storekeeper, looking all around the
room as if he expected to see something advancing upon him. “And I tell
you they don’t wait until daylight comes. I have seen as many as two
or three on my porch waiting for me to open the store, and the tales
they told were just awful. They say--Whew! I’ll bet you don’t get me up
there for no five thousand dollars.”

“What do they say?” asked Nat. “Is old man Nickerson among the ghosts?”

“Yes, he is there, and he is the worst one in the lot; but the worst
of it is, he has been somewhere and got ten or a dozen other ghosts
to help him along, and the screeching they keep up is enough to drive
one crazy. But I reckon you boys ain’t going up as far as old man
Nickerson’s.”

“That is the place where we are going,” said Nat. “We shall not stop
until we get there.”

“Among all them ghosts?” exclaimed the storekeeper, and he staggered
back from the counter as if Nat had aimed a blow at him. “Well,
good-by. I shall never see you again,” added the man, as he
straightened up and thrust his hand out toward Nat. “You need not think
to be free of them for they come to see everybody that goes there.”

“But the others came back in safety and so can I,” said Nat.

“Yes; but the last time they appeared to a person they told him that
the next one who came there he would leave his bones for the vultures
to pick over,” said the man, and he tried to shiver when he uttered the
words. “I would not go up there, if I was you.”

“I want to see what a ghost looks like. Come on, Peleg. We have wasted
too much time already. You will have those things ready for Peleg
tomorrow?”

“Yes, provided he is able to come after them. And say, Peleg. I want
you to take particular notice of the way the ghosts look and what they
say and what they do, and all that--”

“You had better get somebody else to go up there, if that is what you
want to find out,” said Peleg. “If I see one of them, or hear him
coming through the bushes, I will start a running till you can’t see me
for the dust. If Nat isn’t afraid of the ghosts, I am.”

Nat had by this time taken as many of the provisions as he could carry
and had left the store, and Peleg, after some hesitation, prepared to
follow him. Nat did not believe in ghosts; and even if ghosts were
there and Mr. Nickerson was among them, he would not let the rest of
the spirits trouble him, for he had given him the money before his
death, and had told him just where it was concealed. But his nerves now
were not as firm as they were before he went into that store. He did
not know what he had to contend with up there in the woods, and the
woods were so far away from everybody that it was useless for him to
call for help in case he needed it.

“But I am going after that money,” said he, firmly, as he walked along
as if there were no such things as ghosts in the world. “It is up
there, there was not any ghosts around when it was hidden and I don’t
believe there are any ghosts now. At least I must see them before I
will give it up.”

At this moment Peleg overtook him. One glance at his face was enough to
show him what he thought about it.



CHAPTER IX.

_Peleg Sees Enough._


“Say, Nat,” said Peleg, catching his companion by the arm and speaking
almost in a whisper as if he were afraid that the ghosts might overhear
him, “don’t let’s go any further. Let us go back.”

“What will we do with all these provisions?” exclaimed Nat.

“Let’s take them home and eat them there. I am afraid to go to those
woods. Don’t you believe in ghosts?”

“I don’t know what to say,” said Nat, pulling his arm out of Peleg’s
grasp. “That storekeeper talked as though he meant all he said, did he
not? He would not try to scare us.”

“No, sir,” said Peleg, emphatically. “Let us go back. I don’t believe
there is any money hidden around here anyway.”

It was no part of Nat’s plan to make Peleg think differently. If he
thought they were on a wild goose chase, so much the better for Nat. He
would go on and prosecute the search, and if he succeeded, no one would
be the wiser for it.

“If pap were here,” continued Peleg, and then he suddenly stopped.

“Does your father believe in ghosts, too?” asked Nat.

“Of course he does. He has seen them.”

“Then of course he believes in them. I must see one before I will put
any faith in it.”

“But what will you do if you leave your bones up here for the vultures
to pick?” urged Peleg, with a shudder. “I reckon you will believe in
them then.”

“That will be my misfortune and not my fault. So, Mr. Graves believes
in ghosts, does he?” said Nat, to himself. “I wish to goodness that I
knew whether or not Jonas and Caleb believed in them, too. Somehow I
feel more afraid of those two men than I do of anything else.” Then
aloud he said: “If I believed as your father does I would not come up
here for anything; but I have not seen the ghosts yet, and until I do,
I am going to stick to my plan. You can carry the provisions up to Mr.
Nickerson’s house, can’t you, and then you can put them down and go
back if you want to.”

“And do you mean that you are really going on?” exclaimed Peleg, who
was really amazed at the boy’s courage.

“Yes, sir, I am going on; and no one will care whether I succeed or
not. Come on, Peleg. You must walk faster than that.”

There was no use of trying to get rid of Peleg; Nat saw that plainly
enough. He increased his pace and Peleg, as if afraid of being left
behind, increased his own and readily kept up with him. He did not have
any more to say about the ghosts until after they had covered the half
of a dozen miles that lay between them and Mr. Nickerson’s farm; and
then they turned off the road, climbed a fence and found themselves in
a thicket of bushes which enveloped them on all sides so that they
could not see two feet in advance of them. Then Peleg’s courage gave
away altogether.

“I believe I won’t go any further,” said he; and he made a move as if
he were going to put down the provisions he was carrying. “It is awful
dark in there, ain’t it?”

“Pretty dark,” whispered Nat, bending down and trying to see through
the bushes. “But this is nothing to what it will be when night comes.
If we are going to hear anything we will hear it then. Will you be
afraid to come down here to get the spade and pick-ax to-morrow?”

“You just bet I will,” answered Peleg, and Nat noticed that his face
was as white as it could get. “If you don’t get that spade and pick-ax
until I bring them up to you, you will wait a long while before you do
any digging.”

“Well, pick up the provisions and come along,” said Nat, who was
getting really impatient. “Stay right close behind me, and if I see any
ghosts I will shoo them off.”

Once more Nat started on and Peleg, not daring to remain behind,
gathered up his burden and kept along close on his heels. It was a
long way through the bushes to the back of Mr. Nickerson’s farm,
and with almost every step Peleg heard something that alarmed him;
a bird chirped in the thicket close beside him or a ground squirrel
vociferously scolded them as they drew near and hurried off to his
retreat, and several times he was on the point of throwing down the
provisions and taking to his heels. But there was the money that they
were after. That had a stronger attraction to him than his fear of the
ghosts, and when Nat threw aside the last branch and stepped out into
the open field, Peleg was right behind, although he was all out of
breath and sweating so, as he affirmed, that he could hear it rattling
on the leaves.

“When we go back let us go the other way,” panted Peleg, looking around
for a place to sit down. “I am just tired out. Now what are you going
to do? Here is the spot, and if you have not got them papers with you,
how do you know where to dig?”

“The papers are all in my head where no one will get them,” said Nat,
laying down his armful of provisions and looking around to see if there
was a path that led down the hill. “You stay here and rest, and I will
go on and see--”

“Not much I won’t stay here,” exclaimed Peleg, rising to his feet as
Nat started off. “I am going to stay close by you. I wish I had known
about the ghosts. I wouldn’t have come one peg.”

“So do I,” said Nat to himself. “If I can get up some way to scare you
to-night, I shall be happy.”

To have seen Nat go to work one would have supposed that he knew where
the money was hidden and all about it. He went as straight as he could
go to the corner of the ruins of Mr. Nickerson’s house, and there he
stopped and his lips moved as if he were holding a consultation with
himself.

“Six to one and a half dozen to the other,” he muttered, as if he were
not aware that Peleg was anywhere within reach of him. “That paper is
burned up here in the ruins, but I have got it in my head.”

“What are you trying to get through yourself, Nat?” said Peleg. “Talk
English so that I can understand you.”

Nat did not act as though he had heard him at all.

“The next is a beech tree on the right hand side,” continued Nat. “Now
let me see if that can be found.”

“What about the beech tree? There is one down there at the foot of the
hill.”

Nat had already started off toward the beech tree, and a little way
from it found a pile of briers; but did not look at them more than
once. He went around on the left hand side of the beech tree, and
throwing back his head gazed earnestly into the branches.

“Now whichever way that limb points, it points to the hiding-place of
the papers,” said Nat. “But there are not any limbs that point any
way. They all seem to point upward to the sky. If this is the tree I’ll
soon make the limb move. Here, watch that branch and see if it don’t
stir. Six of one and half a dozen of the other.”

“What do you keep saying those words for all the time?” inquired Peleg.
“Why don’t you talk so that I can understand it?”

“That is a secret that Mr. Nickerson used while he was engaged in
burying the papers,” said Nat, a bright idea striking him. “Come here
and I will tell you all about it,” he added, catching Peleg by the
arm and drawing his face close to his own. “You see these trees and
everything about here is in sympathy with Mr. Nickerson, because he is
dead, you know. I might come up here or you might come up here and look
for those papers, and if we did not have the secret that Mr. Nickerson
used while concealing them, why, we wouldn’t know any more about it
than we do now. I declare that branch moves; don’t you see it?”

Peleg looked earnestly into the tree but could see nothing. Nat even
got hold of him and pulled him around and twisted his head on one side
so that he could see the upper part of the tree, but the moving of the
limb was something that Peleg could not discern.

“It only moved a little bit so that I could see it,” said Nat, in
explanation. “You have got to be quick or you can’t see it. Now we will
go off this way and see if we can find something else.”

There was some little thing about this that was certainly
uncanny--something that did not look natural to Peleg. The idea of a
boy having some mysterious words at his command which made inanimate
nature obey him was a new thing to him, and he did not know what to
make of it; but Nat seemed to think it was all right and went ahead as
if he had been expecting it. He stepped across the brook and moved up
the hill, but before he had taken many steps he came back and put his
face close to Peleg’s again.

“I must tell you one thing so that you will not be frightened,” said
he, in a whisper. “When I get on the track of those papers you’ll hear
something.”

“What is it like?” said Peleg, in the same cautious whisper.

“I don’t know. It may be like the report of a cannon; or it may be like
something else you never heard of. You must keep your mind on those
papers while we are looking for them.”

Nat went on ahead and in a few moments more he stepped upon the very
stone which was buried half way in the earth and covered the hiding
place of his money. His heart bounded at the thought. If Peleg was away
and he had the pick-ax and spade at his command he would be a rich boy
in less than half an hour.

“I don’t see it,” said he, dolefully.

“Don’t see what?” said Peleg. “If you repeat your words once more
perhaps it will come to you.”

“Six of one and a half dozen of the other,” exclaimed Nat; and
instantly there came a response that he had not been expecting. A huge
dead poplar, which stood on the bank a hundred feet away, suddenly
aroused itself into life and action, took part in Nat’s invocation and
sent a thrill of terror through him and Peleg. A branch of the tree
about fifty feet from the ground, as large as any of the ordinary trees
that were standing around them, ceased its hold upon the parent trunk
and came with a stunning crash to the ground. Peleg was so startled
that he fairly jumped, while Nat stood perfectly thunderstruck.

This was nothing more than the boys had been accustomed to all their
lives. Such sounds were not new in the country in which they had been
brought up, and when any settler heard a sound like that coming from
the woods he said: “Now we are going to have falling weather.” An old
“deadening” is the best place to watch for omens of this kind. The
farmer, not having the time or force to clear his land, cuts away all
the underbrush and uses his axe to “circle” the trees so that he can
put in his crop. The trees stand there until they dry and rot, all the
vitality being taken away from them, and finally drop all their limbs
until the trunk stands bare. Nat, after he had taken time to think
twice, knew in a moment what had caused the poplar to shed its limbs,
and was aware that it was one of the incidents of his everyday life;
but Peleg, who had been warned that something was going to happen if
they found the trail of the papers, was frightened out of his wits.
After it struck the ground he remained motionless.

“What did I tell you?” whispered Nat. “Didn’t I tell you that you would
hear something drop?”

“Whew!” stammered Peleg. “I have seen enough of this place. I am going
home as quick as I can go.”

“Hold on, Peleg,” exclaimed Nat, who was overjoyed to hear him talk
this way. “We will hear something else pretty soon, and that will let
us know that we are close to the papers.”

“You can stay and look for them until you are blind,” said Peleg, who
was taking long strides toward the other side of the brook. “You will
never see them papers. I believe you are cahoots with the ‘Old Fellow’
himself.”

As Peleg said this he pointed with his finger toward the ground. He did
not care to mention who the “old fellow” was. When he was across the
brook he broke into a run and dashed up the hill. He did not even stop
to take with him his gun, ammunition or the provisions he had brought
up from Manchester. He kept clear of the bushes--you could not have
hired Peleg to go through them alone--and when he struck the open field
he increased his pace and was out of sight in a moment. Nat waited
until he was well under way and then followed him to the top of the
bank. He was just in time to see Peleg’s coat tails disappear over the
bars; and then he dug out at his best gait for home.

“There!” said Nat taking off his hat and feeling for the extra money he
had stowed away. “I am well rid of him, thank goodness. Now I will go
to work and make a camp, get something to eat, and to-morrow morning
I will go down and get the spade and pick-ax; that is, if the ghosts
leave anything of me. But I don’t believe there are any ghosts. The
storekeeper said that just to frighten him.”

But before Nat began his lean-to he wanted to see the stone that
covered his fortune. It seemed strange to him that all he had to do was
to pry the stone out of its place, dig for a few minutes and then he
would be worth more money than he ever saw.

“There is one thing that I forgot,” said he, after he had tested the
weight of the stone by trying his strength upon it. “But I will get
that to-morrow. I must cut a lever with which to handle this weight.”

For the first time in a long while Nat was happy. He would be so that
night--there would not anybody come near him after dark--but the next
morning he would come back to himself again--sly and cunning, and
afraid to make a move in any direction without carefully reconnoitering
the ground. Jonas and Caleb had got him in the way of living so.

“But I will soon be free from them,” said Nat, as he left the stone
walked across the brook and seated himself proceeded to find some of
the cheese and crackers which Peleg had brought up. “I am free from
them now; but if they come after me and catch me, why then I have got
my whole business to do over again. I hope Peleg will go safely home
and spread the story of the ghosts that are living here, for I don’t
think Jonas will care to face them.”

Nat thoroughly enjoyed his meal, for the walk of twenty miles along
that rough road was enough to give him an appetite, and all the while
he was looking about him and selecting the limbs with which he intended
to build his lean-to. He did not expect to be there a great while, not
longer than to-morrow at any rate, but he did not believe in sleeping
out while there was timber enough at hand to build him a shelter. The
lean-to was soon put up, and in a very short space of time all the
luggage he had was conveyed under it. A fire would come handy as soon
as it grew dark, and all the rest of the time he spent in collecting
fuel for it; so that when the sun went down and it began to grow gloomy
in the woods, he was as well sheltered as a boy in his circumstances
could expect.

“I am glad that Peleg is not here,” said Nat, as he looked all around
to make sure that he had not forgotten something, and began another
assault on the crackers and cheese. “I know that nothing will come
here to bother me, but Peleg would all the while be listening for one
of those ghosts to come down on him. There’s an owl now. His hooting
sounds awful lonely in the woods.”

While Nat was stretched out on his bed of boughs listening to the
mournful notes of the owl, his thoughts were exceedingly busy with sad
remembrances of the old man who had labored so hard to save his money
from the rebels, little dreaming that the amount would one day fall
into the hands of one who needed it as badly as Nat did.

“I really wish I had some one to enjoy it with me, but I have not got
any body,” Nat kept saying to himself. “The first thing I will do will
be to get an education; then I can tell what I am going to do.”

So saying Nat arose and replenished the fire, then lay down and fell
into a quiet sleep. He did not see a ghost nor did he dream of one the
whole night.



CHAPTER X.

_Peleg’s Ghost Story._


“Bless my lucky stars, Peleg Graves, you clear of Nat Wood at last.
Ever since I first met him there at home, when he didn’t have a single
thing to take with him except the clothes he had on his back, I have
been afraid of that fellow. He didn’t have but one shirt to bless
himself with, and when it got soiled, he would take it off and wash it.
The idea of him washing his clothes! I guess he thought that the Old
Fellow would wash them.” Here Peleg cast frightened glances toward the
bushes on each side of the road as if he was fearful that “the other
fellow” would suddenly come out at him. He fancied he could almost
see him with his flashing eyes, horns on his head and cloven feet all
ready to take the rush, but as he went on he began to gather courage.
“And then his having a secret, too, and he wouldn’t tell me what it
meant. ‘Here I am and there I am,’” whispered Peleg, who was so badly
frightened that he could not remember the words Nat had used. “Now what
did those words mean? I tell you there is somebody helping Nat; you
hear me?”

While Peleg was going over his soliloquy in this way he was making good
time down the road, and finally he became weary with his headlong pace
and slackened his gait to a walk; a fast walk it was, too, so that in a
very short while all Nat and his strange words were left behind.

It was twenty miles to the place where Peleg lived, and although faint
with hunger and so weary that he could scarcely drag one foot after the
other, he never stopped to ask one of the good-hearted settlers for a
bite to eat, and never thought of sitting down to rest his tired limbs.
He kept on, anxious to get his roof over his head and impatient to hear
what his father would have to say about Nat and his doings, until just
as the sun was rising he came within sight of the cabin door and saw
Mr. Graves standing there and taking a look at the weather. The man was
so surprised to see him that he was obliged to take two looks before he
could make up his mind that it was Peleg and nobody else.

“Is that you, Peleg?” he exclaimed, as the boy threw down one of the
bars and crawled through it “Where’s the money?”

“Oh, pap!” was all that Peleg could say in reply.

Mr. Graves began to look uneasy. Like all ignorant men he was very
superstitious, and he straightway believed that Peleg had seen
something that he could not understand.

“Say, Peleg,” he added in a lower tone, stepping off the porch and
taking the boy by the arm. “What did you see up there in the woods? You
have not been to Manchester and back, have you?”

“Yes, I have, too; and if you want to go down there and search for that
money, you can go; but I am going to stay here. I wish you would give
me a bite to eat and a drink of water. I am just about dead.”

Peleg had by this time reached the porch, and he threw himself down
upon it as if he had lost all strength, and rested his head upon his
hands. Mr. Graves began to believe that Peleg had seen something that
was rather more than his nerves could stand, and went around the house
after a drink of water, while his mother, who had been aroused by this
time, came to the door. She saw Peleg sitting there with his head
buried in his hands, and of course her mother’s heart went out to him.

“Oh, Peleg, what is the matter?” she exclaimed.

“Oh, mother, you just ought to hear the words that Nat uses to find out
whether or not he is on the trail of those papers,” said Peleg, lifting
a very haggard face and looking at her.

At that moment Mr. Graves came around the corner of the house with a
gourd full of drinking water. Peleg seized it as though he had not had
any for a month, and never let the gourd go until he had drunk the
whole of it.

“That makes me feel some better,” said he.

“You passed several streams on the way,” said Mr. Graves. “Why didn’t
you stop and get a drink?”

“Oh, pap, I dassent. I can hear those words ringing in my ears now, and
I wanted to get so far away that I couldn’t hear them. ‘Here I am and
there I am!’ Oh, my soul!”

“Why--what are you trying to get through yourself?” inquired Mr.
Graves; and if the truth must be told he drew a little closer to Peleg.

“Well, sir, I am telling you the truth when I say that that there Nat
has some dealings with that Fellow down there,” said Peleg, pointing
toward the ground. “He goes around looking for those papers--”

“Ah! Get out!” exclaimed Graves.

“It is a fact; and if you don’t believe it, you can just go down there
and watch him as I did. He says that everything, the trees and the
rocks and the leaves and the bushes, are in cahoots with him because
he took such good care of old man Nickerson when he was alive, buying
him tobacco and such, and that he told him what words to use while
looking for those papers. Why, the branches of the trees moved and
pointed out the way to him.”

Mr. Graves was completely amazed by this revelation, and seated himself
on the porch beside Peleg; while S’manthy gasped for breath and found
it impossible for her to say anything. She lifted her hands in awe
toward the rafters of the porch for a moment, closed her eyes, and then
her hands fell helplessly by her side. She shook her head but could not
utter a sound.

“It is a fact, I tell you; that isn’t all I have seen, either,” said
Peleg. “When we came to Manchester and Nat wanted to buy some grub and
things--pap, he has ten dollars; and he wouldn’t offer me a cent of it.”

“Where did he get ten dollars?” asked Mr. Graves, in surprise.

“I don’t know. I expect it must have been some he had left that the old
man gave him. He bought some grub and a pick-ax and a spade, and left
them there so that I could go and get them this morning; and that set
the storekeeper to going. He warned me not to let the ghosts catch me--”

“Oh, my soul!” exclaimed S’manthy, raising her hands toward the rafters
again. “Have they got ghosts up there?”

“You just bet they have,” answered Peleg, trembling all over. “But Nat
didn’t seem afraid of them at all.”

Mr. Graves leaned back against the post near which he was sitting,
stretched his legs out straight before him and looked fixedly at the
ground. He had never heard of ghosts being in the woods, and this made
him wonder if he would dare go after the cows when they failed to come
up.

“I don’t think you had better go back there any more, Peleg,” said he,
when he had taken time to think the matter over.

“You may just bet I won’t go back. I have not got use for a boy who
will talk to them in language I cannot understand. And worse than
that, he led the way to old man Nickerson’s farm by the back way,
through bushes that grew thicker’n the hair on a dog’s back, and he
wanted me to come back the same way. Mighty clear of me!”

“I reckon we had best go and let Jonas know about this,” said Mr.
Graves, after thinking once more upon the matter.

“Well, you can go and I will stay here and get something to eat,” said
Peleg. “He will find Nat within a few rods of the old man’s house.
Dog-gone such luck! Why couldn’t the old man have left his money out in
plain sight so that a fellow could get it?”

“Did you see any of the ghosts?” said his mother, in a low tone.

“No, I didn’t, and I kept a close watch for them, too. You see Nat says
they don’t come around until at night. I wonder if there is anything
left of that boy up there?”

“I hope to goodness that they have cleaned him out entirely,” said Mr.
Graves, angrily. “If we can’t have any of that money I don’t want him
to have it, either. Now you go in and take a bite, and I will make up
my mind what we are going to do.”

“Are you waiting for me to go up to Jonas’s house with you?”

“Yes, I reckon you had better. You have been up there and saw how the
matter stands, and you can tell him better than I can.”

“I am mighty glad he won’t ask me to go back to old man Nickerson’s
woods with him,” whispered Peleg, as he followed his mother into the
house. “I wouldn’t stir a peg to please anybody.”

“What do ghosts look like, Peleg?” asked S’manthy, as she brought out a
plate of cold bread and meat and set them on the table before the boy.
“I have often heard of them but I never saw them.”

“Don’t ask me. I looked everywhere for them, but they would not show
up. I’ll bet Nat can tell by this time how they look--that is if he
did not get scared at them like myself and run away.”

By the time that Peleg had satisfied his appetite Mr. Graves had
thought over the situation and determined upon his course. He would not
go near Mr. Nickerson’s farm--he was as close to it as he wanted to
be; but he would go up and tell Jonas what Peleg had seen. Jonas was
a good fellow, and perhaps he would do as much for him under the same
circumstances. If Jonas and Caleb thought enough of the money that was
hidden there to go up and face the ghosts, that was their lookout and
not his.

“You had your gun, Peleg,” said Mr. Graves, when the boy came out the
door and put on his hat “Why didn’t you depend upon that!”

“Course I had my gun; but it was not loaded. I declare, I never once
thought of that old single barrel.”

“If one of them had seen that gun in your hands--”

“Shaw! I ain’t thinking of that. I ran away so quick that I left it
behind. Maybe Nat used it last night.”

“But you say he ain’t afraid of them,” suggested his father. “What
should he want to use your gun for?”

“Of course he ain’t afraid of them in the day-time; but when it comes
down dark night in the woods, and you hear the bushes rattling and
something go g-g-r-r--”

“Oh, Peleg, stop!” ejaculated his mother, who was all in a tremble.

“Stop your noise, Peleg,” said Mr. Graves, who could not bear to hear
him imitate the ghosts in this way. “Maybe they don’t go that way at
all.”

“Well, if you want to find out, you had best go up there and stay all
night,” said Peleg, shaking his head in a wise manner. “And I will
tell you another thing that happened while I was up there. Nat told me
that I must not be frightened, for when he got onto the trail of those
papers again----”

“Did he lose the trail of them?” asked Mr. Graves.

“I reckon so; for he looked up into a tree and said: ‘Here I am and
there I am,’ and the tree showed him which way to go.”

“Aw! Get out,” exclaimed Mr. Graves. “Could a tree speak to him or
point with its branches to tell him when he was going wrong?”

“That tree did as sure as you live,” said Peleg confidently.

“Did you see it?”

“Yes sir, I did. That tree was standing like any other tree, with its
branches pointing upward, and when he said those words of his, one of
the limbs pointed out so,” said Peleg, indicating the movement with his
finger.

Mr. Graves looked rather hard at Peleg, as if he did not know whether
to believe the statement or not, and the boy met his gaze without
flinching. When Peleg told a lie he generally looked down at the ground.

“Well, go on. What did you see next?”

“Well, sir, when we got a little further he said I would hear
something pretty soon, and it would make me wish that I had never been
born. I tell you I did hear it, and--Oh, my soul! How can I ever tell
it!”

“What did it sound like, Peleg?” asked his mother.

“A dead tree was standing a short distance away and when Nat went on
with his words: ‘Here I am and there I am,’ one of the branches on that
tree let go all holds and came down to the ground with a crash and
broke all to pieces. I certainly thought I was going with it, too.”

For the first time that day Mr. Graves uttered an exclamation of
disgust, turned on his heel and went into the house for his rifle.

“You can hear those sounds right here on the place,” remarked his
mother. “That’s nothing new.”

“The little fule!” exclaimed Mr. Graves, who just then came out again
with his rifle. “You got so frightened with the ghosts that you don’t
know the signs of falling weather when you hear them. It is going to
rain very shortly.”

“Well, I just want you to go up there if you dare,” said Peleg,
somewhat taken aback by this explanation of the phenomenon which had
frightened him. “Here you are, making all sorts of fun at my ghost
stories, and you have gone and got your rifle to protect you. Leave
that at home if you are not afraid to go up to Jonas’s house without
it.”

“No, I reckon I will just take it along. What you have said about the
ghosts may be true; but I don’t believe in such things as the trees and
bushes telling him where to go. Come on now, and we’ll go up and see
Jonas.”

“And are you going to leave me here all alone?” inquired Mrs. Graves,
who went into the house for a shawl to throw over her head. “I’m going,
too.”

“Now, S’manthy,” began her husband.

“I know all about it; but I ain’t a going to stay here all by myself
after such talk as we have had,” said the woman, determinedly. “I have
some business with Jonas’s wife as much as you have with him.”

Mr. Graves said no more. He probably knew how an argument would come
out with his wife. He cast apprehensive glances at the bushes as he
walked along, and seemed to be much occupied with his own thoughts.
The money was there, there could be no mistake about that, and he had
intended to go up there that very day so as to be on hand in case Peleg
needed assistance; but the boy’s returning home with such a story had
put new ideas into his head. Taking into consideration the way he felt
now he would not have gone a step toward Mr. Nickerson’s woods if he
knew the foot of every tree in them had a gold mine buried beneath it
which he could have for the digging. He fully credited the tales about
the ghosts; the rest of it he did not put any faith in.

“That’s the end of my dreams,” he muttered, as he walked along. “I say
as Peleg did, dog-gone such luck! If the old man had left his money out
where we could find it, well and good; but, as it stands, I have got to
be a poor man all my life.”

In due time they arrived at Jonas’s house where they found his wife
engaged in getting breakfast while her husband, with Caleb to help him,
was engaged, down to the barn. Mrs. Graves stopped in the house, which
she speedily turned upside down with her stories, while Mr. Graves
kept on and found Jonas sitting on an inverted bucket, meditatively
chewing a piece of straw, and Caleb walking around with his hands in
his pockets. They had been discussing Nat’s absence, but they could not
come to any determination about it. Nat was gone, it was money took him
away and how were they going to work to cheat him out of it?

“Howdy,” said Jonas, who, upon looking up, discovered Mr. Graves
approaching. “Have you started out bright and early this morning to go
hunting?”

“Well--no,” replied Mr. Graves, taking his rifle from his shoulder. “I
did not know but I might see a squirrel or two bobbing around. Seen
anything of Nat lately?”

“No, I have not. Do you know what has become of him?”

“You’re right I do. He is up to old man Nickerson’s woods.”

“There now. We always allowed that he had gone up there. Has he got
onto the trail of any money?”

“He has, but that’s all the good it will do him. Peleg has been up
there with him.”

Jonas simply nodded his head as if to say that he knew as much long
ago. He learned it when he went to Mr. Graves’ house to inquire about
Nat.

“But it won’t do him any good, getting on the trail of that money
won’t,” continued Mr. Graves. “There are ghosts up in those woods.”

“Ghosts!” exclaimed Jonas and Caleb in a breath. They looked hard at
Mr. Graves and then they looked at Peleg. The boy simply nodded to show
that his father was right.

“Did you see any of them?” asked Caleb, who was in a fair way of being
frightened.

“Naw; I didn’t see any of them nor hear them, I didn’t stay long
enough for that I took my foot in my hand and came home.”

“Peleg has & long story to tell, and I thought you would rather hear it
from him than anybody else, so I brought him along.”

As this was the introduction to Peleg’s story those who were standing
up found places to sit down, and waited impatiently for him to begin.



CHAPTER XL

_Nat’s Fortune_.


“Well, sir, I have slept all night in these woods alone and there has
no ghost been near to warn me that I had better quit my search and go
home,” said Nat, sitting up on his bed of boughs and rubbing his eyes.
“I reckon the ghosts all exist in that storekeeper’s imagination. Now I
must take a good look at that rock again, eat some crackers and cheese
and go down after that spade and pick-ax. By this time tomorrow I shall
be a rich man.”

Nat had often wondered how much there was of that money that was hidden
away, and he was always obliged to confess that he did not know. The
neighbors all insisted that old man Nickerson was “powerful rich,” and
acting upon this supposition he thought that about $5,000 would amply
repay him for all his trouble. That would get him a nice education, and
that was all that Nat asked for. He could then take care of himself.

Nat sprang off his bed, performed the hasty operation of washing his
hands and face in the brook, and not having any towel to wipe upon,
went up the bank toward the stone, shaking the water off his hands as
he went. The rock was all there; he was certain on that point. If he
had that spade and pick-ax in his hands he would soon know how much he
was worth. The only trouble with him now was, to dig it up, reach St.
Louis with it in some way or other and put it in the bank. Once there
he would like to see Jonas and Caleb get their hands upon it.

The next thing was breakfast, and that was very soon dispatched, and
then he tried to make himself a little more respectable to the persons
who met him on the way by brushing off his clothes and bringing some
pins into play to hide his rents. Then he stood up and looked at
himself.

“They will show anyway, I don’t care how I pin them,” said Nat, at
length. “Well, what’s the odds? Everyone knows how I lived there under
that man’s roof, and I can’t be expected to look any better. Maybe I
will look as well as the best of them one of these days.”

Nat’s first care was to hide Peleg’s gun and ammunition for fear
that some one might come along and appropriate them to his own use.
The whole thing was not worth two dollars, but still that would be
something for Peleg to lose. He would go frantic if he found that the
gun had been stolen. This done he was ready to leave his camp and he
took the near way through the bushes; and when they had closed up
behind him he could not help thinking how frightened Peleg was when he
came through there. He neither saw nor heard anything alarming, and
in a short time he climbed the fence and was out in the road. As luck
would have it a team was going by, and the man pulled up his horses and
offered him a ride.

“Going fur?” said he. “Well jump in.”

“Thank you,” said Nat “It’s about six miles to Manchester, and I
believe it is cheaper riding than walking.”

“What are you doing down there in old man Nickerson’s?” asked the man.
“Ain’t you the boy that lives with old man Keeler! I hear that old man
Nickerson is dead.”

“Yes sir. He just died a few days ago.”

“Well, how much did he leave old man Jonas’s wife! I hear he was
powerful rich.”

“I don’t know how much he was worth, but I don’t believe he left
anything.”

“Now that is mighty mean of him. He has some money somewhere, and the
man what finds it is rich as Julius Caesar.”

“I thought he must be worth $5,000 dollars,” said Nat.

“Oh, my! Say $15,000 or $20,000, and you will just about hit it. You
see some fellows living around here think that the rebels got it, but
the old man was too sharp for them. Then they got mad and burned his
house and left him out in the cold; and then Jonas took him in. Did he
leave Jonas anything!”

“No, I am quite sure he did not. Are there any ghosts down here in the
woods!”

“Naw. There are some fellows who have been up here a time or two, and
when they came back they told wonderful stories of what they had seen
back there in the timber. But there is nothing to it.”

Nat became silent after this and so did the man He began to be real
uneasy now, for there was a difference in the sum the old man had left
behind him. He drew a long breath every time he thought of the wide
gulf there was between $5,000 and $15,000 or $20,000, so much so that
the driver looked at him in surprise; but he had nothing to say for
which Nat was very thankful. In due time they arrived at Manchester,
and Nat, after thanking the man once more for his kindness, sprang from
the wagon and went into the store.

“Well, sir, I declare, if one of them boys hasn’t come back,” said the
storekeeper, hurrying forward to shake hands with Nat. “Did you see
any of them ghosts and what did they say to you!”

“I did not see one,” said Nat, with a smile. “I guess last night was
not their night to come out. Have you got my things handy?”

“Yes sir. They are right up here where I put them. But what has become
of your pardner?”

“You scared him out.”

“Do you mean that he has run away? Well, I am sorry for that,” said the
storekeeper, on receiving an affirmative nod from Nat.

“I am not sorry for it,” said Nat to himself. “It gave me just the
chance I was waiting for--to dig without his knowing it.”

Without waiting for the man to ask him any more questions Nat picked
up the things he had left behind, including the pick-ax and spade,
and turned to go out when the storekeeper evidently wanted some other
matters settled.

“You said yesterday that you were going up to them woods to look for
timber,” said he. “Now what do you want to do with those things!” he
went on, pointing to the spade and pick-ax.

“There are some other things we wanted to fix,” said Nat, without an
instant’s hesitation. “We are going to put in some crops there, and we
want to repair the old man’s fence which has become torn down during
the war.”

“Oh!” said the man, staring rather hard at Nat. “You will need an ax,
then.”

“That reminds me. I came pretty near forgetting it.”

Nat laid down his bundles again and the man turned to get the implement
he had spoken of, and while he was getting it down he kept his eyes
fastened on Nat’s face. But he said nothing more and saw him take his
purchases and leave the store.

“Now maybe that story will do and maybe it won’t,” said the man, as
he came out from behind the counter and watched Nat going along the
street. “There is something else that you want to dig for. I wonder if
it is the old man’s money?”

“They say that he had sights and gobs of it when he buried it to keep
it out of the hands of the rebels,” said a man who was seated in the
back part of the store, and who now came up to listen to what the
storekeeper had to say. “But the rebels didn’t get none of it. He hid
it where they couldn’t find it.”

“They say he is living up to Jonas Keeler’s,” said the first.

“Old man Nickerson is dead. He has been dead two or three days. It is a
wonder you had not heard of it.”

“Well, sir, that boy is going to dig for the money,” said the
storekeeper, doubling up his huge fist and bringing it down upon the
counter. “Now what be we going to do about it!”

“I don’t know of any other way than for me and you to go up there and
watch him while he digs for it,” said the customer, in a whisper. “When
he gets it dug up, we’ll just take it.”

“And what will the boy do?” asked the storekeeper.

“Oh, we can easy fool him. Let us play ghosts.”

That was something new to the storekeeper. He drew nearer to his
customer and the two whispered long and earnestly. At length they
seemed to agree upon a plan, for the customer went out and the
storekeeper went back to his place behind the counter.

“I let that fellow talk too much,” said Nat, as he walked hurriedly
away with his bundles in his arms. “He knows that I want to dig in the
ground, or else I wouldn’t have called for these things. I must get
back to my camp and go to work as soon as possible, or else I shall
have some one else on my back.”

Nat was now harassed by another fear and to save his life he could not
shake it off. That storekeeper at Manchester knew there was no such
thing as ghosts in the woods, he knew that Peleg had been frightened
away by the bare mention of such objects as might be around in the
event of their search proving successful, and how did he know but that
the storekeeper and some one like him, might take it into their heads
to come up and look into the matter. He was now more afraid of those
men than he was of Jonas and Caleb.

“I tell you it all depends upon getting my work done quick,” said Nat,
turning about and looking at the store. “That storekeeper will come up
there for fifteen or twenty--By gracious! I wish I had that money dug
up now.”

The longer Nat dwelt upon the matter the greater haste seemed necessary
and the longer the distance was to the Nickerson woods. He broke into a
dog trot before he was fairly out of sight of the city, and by the time
he climbed the fence that threaded the bushes he was nearly exhausted.
Everything there was just as he left it; but so out of breath was Nat
that he threw himself on his bed of boughs and heartily wished he
possessed the strength of a dozen men. At length he sprang up and went
to work. He must do something or else see his fortune slip through his
grasp. He cut the lever with which to move the rock, trimmed it off
neatly and catching up his pick-ax and spade he jumped across the brook
and made his way up the hill. Hastily clearing away the bushes that had
grown up around the rock he thrust his lever under one side of it, got
under the other end, and to his surprise the rock moved with scarcely
an effort on his part.

“Hail Columbia happy land!” gasped Nat, as he eased up for a moment on
the lever and surged upon it to obtain a new hold upon the rock. “The
thing moves, and that proves that it has been pried out of its bed
before. Come out here and let us see what’s under you.”

The rock was heavier than Nat thought it was, but by dint of sheer hard
work he finally succeeded in getting it out of its bed and moved away
so that he could use his spade. To have seen him go about his work one
would have thought he had an all day’s job before him and that he was
to ask for his pay when his work was done. Although his face was very
white and his hands trembled, he took a spadeful of earth before he
threw it out, and once, when he saw the perspiration gathering upon
him, he stopped, took off his hat and wiped his forehead ere he set in
again.

“I just know there is something here, but I will take it easy and
by the time I strike the money--but perhaps it isn’t money at all,”
murmured Nat, pausing in his exertions to see how much he had
accomplished. “Whatever there is, it has got to come out.”

Before Nat got down as far as he wanted to go he came to the conclusion
that Mr. Nickerson must have thought that he had plenty of time at his
disposal, for he dug down at least two feet before he struck anything.
But the earth was soft, in all these years it had not become packed at
all, and that showed that there had been somebody there before him.
At length his spade hit something hard--something which he could not
remove. He dug down by the side of it and then found that it was a
board which completely filled up the space. To get the dirt off of the
rest of the board was comparatively easy, and then Nat threw out his
spade, stepped to one side and placed his hands under it. The sight
that met his gaze was enough to deprive him of the little strength he
had left. The space below him was literally filled up with bags--small
bags, to be sure, but one of them was so heavy that when Nat came to
lift it from its place and put it out of the hole so that he could
examine it, he found that handling it was quite as much as he wanted to
do.

“Hail Columbia happy land!” said Nat again. “I am in luck for once in
my life. There is more than $5,000 in that bag.”

Nat followed the bag out of the hole, carefully untied the string with
which it was closed and he was astonished at what he saw. The bag was
filled with gold pieces, twenties and tens and fives down to ones. That
one bag alone must have contained almost the sum he had named.

“Now everything depends upon my quickness,” said Nat, seating himself
beside the bag and looking thoughtfully at the others. “What shall I
do with them now that I have got them? I must put them somewhere else.”

Nat went about this work as though he could see into the future and
knew what was going to happen there in his camp in less than ten
minutes. He sprang into the hole again and as fast as he could raise
the bags they came out on the earth he had shoveled up. Then he came
out and running into his camp seized Peleg’s valise and emptied the
contents upon the ground. It was better than nothing, although it would
not hold more than two bags. The other one he carried under his arm
and then began looking around for some place to hide them. It did not
matter much where he put them so long as they could effectually hide
the spot from curious eyes. At last he stopped before a huge log which
had a quantity of leaves piled against it. To scrape those leaves away
with his hands was an easy matter, and his bags were hastily put in,
and yet there was enough for three others. They were quickly stowed
away in the new place, and with the spade Nat made everything look as
natural as it did before.

The next thing was to fill up the hole and restore the rock to its
bed. It seemed to him that this was a task beyond his powers but
perseverance conquers all obstacles, and when it was done he threw
some leaves over the earth that was scattered around, put the branches
back in their place and then he was tired enough to sit down; but
there was still one thing that remained to be done. The contents of
Peleg’s valise had to be returned, and when this was done, without any
reference being made to the order in which his underwear was placed,
and his spade and pick-ax had been brought under the lean-to and the ax
hidden away in the bushes, Nat was ready to sit down and draw a long
breath of relief.

“Hail Columbia, happy land!” said he to himself. “It is better to be
born lucky than rich. There must be as much as thirty or forty thousand
dollars in those bags. It is mine, Mr. Nickerson told me that he had no
kith or kin to leave it to, and I will die before I will give it up. I
am quite willing that anybody should come in here and go all over the
woods, and if he did not see me hide the money he will have his trouble
for his pains.”

While this thought was passing through his mind he heard a sudden
rattling in the bushes behind him, and before he could start to
his feet to see who it was, the branches parted and Jonas Keeler’s
forbidding face came through. The face, half hidden by thick, bushy
whiskers, did not look much as it did when Nat last saw him. There was
an eager expression upon it, and his hands trembled so that he could
scarcely take his rifle down from his shoulder.

“Well, sir, we have found you at last,” said Jonas, with a grin.

“Yes sir, you have found me at last,” repeated Nat, sinking back upon
his bed of boughs again.

Just at that moment the bushes parted again and Caleb came out. He
seemed more eager than his father was. He looked all around to make
sure that there was no one else present, and then walked into the camp
as though he had a right to.

“Thank goodness here’s a gun,” said he, and the tenderness with which
he picked up his single barrel and looked it carefully over, would have
led one to believe that it was worth money. “Did you see anything to
shoot with it?”

“No,” replied Nat. “The woods were perfectly quiet last night.”

“Now, Nat, let us come to business at once,” said Jonas setting his
rifle down by the side of a tree and pushing back his sleeve. “Where is
the money that you have come here to dig up?”



CHAPTER XII.

_Two Brave Hunters._


“Ghosts,” said Jonas Keeler, leaning his back against the side of the
barn and crossing his legs. “I didn’t know that there was any around
here, although we used to hear and see plenty of them down in Pike
County where I lived when I was a boy.”

“Where did you go to find them, pap?” asked Caleb, who seemed to be
deeply interested in what his father had to say.

“We didn’t go anywhere to see them. They generally came to us, and they
came, too, just when we didn’t want to see them. We used to find them
in grave-yards; and now and then they would come into our barns and
houses. What did they do to you, Peleg? You need not be afraid to speak
of them here, because there ain’t no ghosts about.”

“They didn’t do anything to me,” answered Peleg, “cause why, I got
afraid and dug out.”

Peleg had been looking for a place to sit down, and when nothing else
offered he sat down on the floor of the barn and drew his feet under
him. His story was a long one and immensely thrilling. He said that he
and Nat did not hear anything out of the ordinary until they came to
Manchester, and then the storekeeper put them on their guard. He told
about the queer things he had heard while going through the bushes, and
then he came to the strange words Nat had used--“Here I am and there
I am” until Jonas began to look wild. But when he came to the tree on
the hillside which dropped its boughs when Nat called upon him, Jonas’s
face, which had thus far betrayed the deepest interest, suddenly gave
away to a smile, and he finally threw his head back against the barn
and broke out into a violent laugh.

“Now I will tell you what’s the fact; it is the truth and nothing
else,” stammered Peleg, who was lost in wonder. “I saw it with my own
eyes.”

“No doubt you did,” said Jonas, wiping his eyes to get rid of the
tears that held to them. “But don’t you know that that was the sign of
falling weather? If you don’t, you have lived in this country a good
while for nothing.”

“That’s what I tell him,” said Mr. Graves. “He has got so interested in
the ghosts that he is willing to believe he sees ghosts in everything.”

“Well, all I have to say is, let them that think differently go down
there and stay all night,” said Peleg. “I won’t do it for no man’s
money.”

“Did Nat feel afraid when you spoke of the ghosts?” asked Jonas.

“Naw. That boy ain’t afraid of anything. He even called after me when I
started for home to come back again, but I didn’t go.”

“Caleb, have you got them cows milked?” asked Jonas, getting upon his
feet. “Then you had better stir your stumps and we will go in and get
some breakfast. It is after grub time now, and I begin to feel hungry.”

“Well, Jonas, what are you going to do?” inquired Mr. Graves, who
somehow took this as a gentle hint that he had got through with their
conversation. “Are you going down there to see about that money?”

“Naw,” said Jonas; whereupon Caleb, who had gathered up a milk-bucket,
turned and looked at him with mouth and eyes wide open. “There ain’t no
money there. When Nat gets tired of looking for it he will come back.”

Mr. Graves acted as though he wanted to say something else, but Jonas
picked up a fork and began tossing about the fodder and paid no further
attention to him. He waited a minute or two, then motioned to Peleg,
put his rifle on his shoulder and went out. Jonas continued tossing
about the fodder until they were well on their way to the house, and
then stood the fork up where it belonged and called to Caleb in a
whisper:

“Say; do you believe all that boy said about ghosts?” said he.

“Yes. Don’t you?” said Caleb in surprise.

“No, I don’t. There may be some down there--I ain’t disputing that; but
Nat never used words to help him look for that money. Say, I am going
down there.”

“Oh, pap!” was all Caleb could say in reply.

“I am, and if there is money there, I will bet you he has found it.”

“But, pap, you said there wasn’t any there.”

“Don’t you see I said that just to keep old man Graves and his boy at
home? Hurry up and milk them cows and I will hitch up the horse.”

“Are you going with the wagon?”

“Course. It is easier to ride than it is to walk, and the first thing
we know--”

“Must I go with you?” said Caleb, almost ready to drop.

“Of course you are. I can’t go alone; and think of the money we will
have when we come back!”

“Well, pap, you can go and I’ll stay here. It ain’t safe to go. Peleg
has been down there and he said he would not go again for no man’s
money. I’ve got a heap of work to do--”

“Now, Caleb, you just shut up about the work you’ve got to do,” said
Jonas angrily. “You will have to go with me and that is all about it.
If Nat is not afraid of the ghosts, why should you be?”

“Yes; but you know how good Nat was to the old man when he was alive.
If I had been that way, I could have gone, too.”

Jonas evidently did not hear this last remark of Caleb’s, for he seized
the harness and went in to fix up the horse which did not look able to
travel twenty miles to save his life. But then that was the way that
Jonas’s stock all looked. In a few minutes he had the harness on and
led him out of the barn to hitch him to the wagon. It was just at this
time that Mr. Graves and his party were going outside the bars and his
wife was coming down the walk to meet him. She was coming with long
strides, too, as if she had something on her mind.

“Say, Jonas,” said she, as soon as she was near enough to make him hear.

“Well, say it yourself,” retorted Jonas. “I know all about it. I am
going down to old man Nickerson’s woods, me and Caleb are, and we are
going to have that money. Have you anything to say against it?”

“Oh, Jonas, don’t you know that there are ghosts down there?” said Mrs.
Keeler, almost ready to believe that the man had taken leave of his
senses to propose such a thing.

“Then that’s what his wife stopped in the house for,” said Jonas, and
he shouted out the words so that Mr. Graves could hear them. “What does
she know about ghosts? Now I heard all Peleg’s story, and I listened to
it as though I believed it; but if Nat is down there and can stay there
all night without the ghosts troubling him, why can’t other people do
it, too? There ain’t no ghosts there.”

“Do you really think so, Jonas?”

“I know it. You see by going with the horse we’ll get there in the
daytime, and everybody knows that ghosts can’t hurt you then. I will
make him get that money and then me and you will have good times.”

“But maybe Nat won’t do it. He would be a fule to tell you where that
money is hidden.”

Jonas was by this time engaged in hitching one of the traces to the
whiffletree of the wagon. He stopped in his work, leaned against his
horse which did not seem able to bear any weight but his own, and put
his hands into his pockets.

“That boy is a plumb dunce if he is going down there to find that
money and then give it up to you, who didn’t do the first thing toward
helping him,” continued Mrs. Keeler.

“What’s the reason Nat won’t give up the money to me?” demanded Jonas.

“Because you won’t have your switch handy.”

“I have my knife in my pocket, and I tell you that switches are as
handy down there in the woods as they be up here,” said Jonas, once
more turning to his work. “What did that old woman Graves have to say
to you?”

“Oh, she told the awfulest stories of what Peleg had seen,” said Mrs.
Keeler, moving up to be a little closer to her husband. “She told about
the heads and horns coming out of the bushes--”

“She made that all up out of her own head,” interrupted Jonas, who
became angry again. “Peleg did not see anything, because if he had, Nat
would have become frightened, too. Now is breakfast ready? I am just
crazy to be on my way to them woods. When you see us coming back, you
can just take them old caliker gowns of yours and bundle them into the
fire. You won’t have any more use for them.”

Mrs. Keeler tried to look pleased at this, but somehow or other she
could not help thinking of the work Jonas would have to do before she
could take those “caliker gowns” and tumble them into the fire. But
she did not say any more for she knew it would be useless. She led the
way toward the house to get breakfast ready, and Jonas followed with
the wagon. Caleb came along presently with the milk, and he was the
most sober one in the lot. He knew better than to refuse to go with his
father, for there was that switch down in the barn. It had not been
brought into use since his father threatened to apply it to Nat for
saying that he would not give up the shoes he had purchased, and Caleb
did not want to see it brought out for his benefit.

Jonas was evidently not at ease during breakfast, for he talked
incessantly about the money which he knew was there, and the way he was
going to induce Nat to show it to him.

“Just let me touch that switch to him once and see how quick he will
run to that place where the money is hidden,” said Jonas, with an
approving wink at his son. “He will go so fast that you can’t see him
for the dust. If he don’t do it, I have another thing that will get
next to him. I’ll tie him up and leave him there in the woods without a
bite to eat or a drop to drink, and see how long he will be in coming
to his senses.”

The breakfast being over there was nothing to detain them. Caleb got
up and took down his father’s rifle which he closely examined. With
that in his hands he was pretty sure that he could fight his way with
any ghost that came in his path.

“Put a double charge of powder in there and two bullets,” said Jonas.
“That’s the way I come it over a deer, and I will bet you if one of
them ghosts gets those balls in his head--Well, he will be a dead
ghost, that’s all.”

“You will let me carry the rifle, won’t you?” said Caleb.

“No, I reckon I had best carry it myself and you do the driving,” said
Jonas, stretching out his hand for the weapon. “You can drive that old
horse a heap faster than I can, and if I see one of those horns stuck
out from the bushes--”

“Now, Jonas, don’t talk that way,” whined Mrs. Keeler, casting uneasy
glances about the room. “There may be one of them here now.”

“Naw, there ain’t. There ain’t no ghosts in the world. If you are ready
Caleb, jump in. You will see us somewhere about sun-down.”

Jonas went ahead to lower the bars so that the wagon could drive
through, and then, paying no further attention to his wife, he climbed
to his seat, and Caleb cracked the whip and drove off.

“Hit the old fellow and make him go faster,” said Jonas. “We must get
there by sun up, and have plenty of time to do the work besides. If we
don’t, we have got to come home in the dark.”

This was all the encouragement that Caleb needed to make him keep up a
tremendous beating of the horse all the way to Manchester. The horse
suffered and did his best, but he did not seem to carry them over the
miles very rapidly; but at length, to Caleb’s immense relief, the
village appeared in sight. Of course the travelers were hungry and the
horse needed watering, and so they drew up before the store at which
Nat had purchased his things. Of course, too, the storekeeper knew
them; he knew everybody within a circle of twenty miles around, and
greeted them very cordially.

“Well, if there ain’t Jonas,” said he, briskly. “Are you going up to
the woods to see how Nat is getting on? He was in here an hour or so
ago, but I don’t see what he got those things for. He told me that he
was going to look at some timber, and he bought a pick-ax and spade.
Now what is he going to do with them?”

This was the same man who had waited on Nat when he was in the store,
and he was determined to find out what those digging implements were to
be used for. The customer whom he had consulted, was outside attending
to some necessary business and getting a team ready to go up to Mr.
Nickerson’s woods and find out, but he looked upon Jonas’s coming as a
most fortunate thing, and he hoped that by some adroit questioning he
could learn something; but he soon gave it up as a bad job.

“Now the boy doesn’t want a pick-ax and spade to find timber with, does
he?” continued the storekeeper. “He must be going to dig in the ground
with them, and I would like to know what he is after. He said he was
going to repair some fences; but I did not believe it.”

“Give me ten cents’ worth of crackers and ten cents’ worth of cheese,”
said Jonas, who wanted to get a little time to think about this matter.
“I believe we are going to have falling weather before long.”

“It looks like it now,” said the man, hurrying to fulfill Jonas’s
order. “We need rain badly. What did you say Nat wanted that spade and
pick-ax for?”

“Oh yes; he is going to fix some fences, and of course he needs a
spade to get the blocks in right,” said Jonas, who had been doing some
tremendous thinking while the storekeeper was getting out his crackers
and cheese. “I am going up to look at him and see that he does his work
right Yes, the old man is dead,” said he, in reply to a question. “And
if I can pay the tax rates on this place I shall have it.”

“Did he leave you anything?” asked the storekeeper. “I suppose that is
what you are looking out for.”

“I don’t know why I should look for that more’n anything else,” said
Jonas, in a tone of voice that showed the storekeeper that he did not
care to answer any more questions on this point. “The money was his
own, and he left it to whom he pleased.”

Having secured his crackers and cheese and the horse having drunk all
he could, Jonas and Caleb climbed into the wagon again and continued on
their way. At this moment the customer drove up with a team.

“It is no go, Eph,” said the storekeeper. “That’s Jonas in that wagon.
He did not say anything about money, but I will tell you what I think:
If the old man has left any money, he has got it hidden up there in the
woods. Let us wait until the boy comes down here and then go for him.”

“It beats the world how everybody seems to think that the old man had
left us some money,” said Jonas, as plainly as a mouthful of cracker
would permit. “Everyone seems to think that the old man had money, and
I believe he had, too. And it all rests with Nat. If he’s found it I
am going to know where it is. Hit him hard, Caleb, and make him go
faster.”

The six miles that lay between them and the village seemed to have
lengthened out wonderfully, but the old horse finally covered the
distance at last and drew up at the place where the boys had crossed
the fence to enter the bushes. There had been somebody through there,
that was plain; but Caleb’s eyes grew wild when he looked at the dark
masses of brush that lay before him; and even Jonas was not quite so
lively as he had been.

“I tell you it is mighty dark in there,” said the elder, getting his
rifle into shape for instant shooting. “Go ahead, Caleb.”

“Now I won’t do it,” said Caleb, seizing his father’s arm and trying to
push him toward the fence. “Give me the gun and I’ll go.”

But that gun was something that Jonas did not want to part with. He
felt safe when he had that weapon, and that was more than could be said
if Caleb had charge of it.

“Well, stay right close behind me and then nobody can hurt you,” said
Jonas, speaking two words for himself and one for Caleb. “Don’t run
away. The best way to fight these ghosts is to--”

“But, pap, you say there isn’t any,” Caleb reminded him.

“Now I don’t believe there is; but it is well to be on the safe side.
Come on, now.”

It was hard work for Jonas to screw up his courage to cross the fence,
but he finally did it at last. As soon as he was safe in the bushes
Caleb scrambled after him.



CHAPTER XIII.

_The Rabbit’s Foot._


Jonas and Caleb found it a hard task to work their way through those
thick bushes toward the back end of Mr. Nickerson’s dooryard. There had
been a path in former times, but it had been used so very seldom of
late that the briers and branches had grown over it until it was pretty
nearly obstructed. Caleb listened for the queer sounds that Peleg had
heard while going through there, but nothing attracted his attention
and he began to believe that there was nothing unusual in there. Jonas
worked his way ahead without saying anything, and finally pushed the
last bush aside and sprang out in full view of Nat’s camp. He cast
his eager eyes around to see if any of the money had been dug up, but
he could see nothing of it. Nat looked just like a hunter who was
enjoying a rest after a long day in the woods.

“Well, sir, we have found you at last,” were the first words Jonas
uttered. “Now where is the money that you have come to dig up?”

“What money?” inquired Nat, slowly rising to his feet.

“Aw! What money?” shouted Jonas, going under the lean-to, catching up
Peleg’s valise and shaking it to be sure that there was no money in it.
“I mean that money you have come here to dig up--the money that old man
Nickerson hid here during the war; the money that you have been drawing
on to buy him tobacco? Where is it?”

“You have the camp and you see everything that is to be seen,” said
Nat. “Where the money is I don’t know. Yes, I do know,” he added to
himself. “But I am going to keep it to myself.”

“Whoo-pee!” said Jonas again. “Did you come down here for nothing? I
know you didn’t; and I must know where that money is and all about it,
or there will be the worst whipped boy here in these woods that you
ever heard tell of. Once more and for the last time, I ask you where it
is.”

“You can just look around and find it for yourself,” replied Nat, who,
by gradually working his way around, had succeeded in getting between
Jonas and the bushes. “If Mr. Nickerson left any money I don’t know
where it is. He would not leave it up here in the woods for it to rot
all away and do nobody any good.”

“No, I don’t think he would do that. He thought too much of a dollar to
waste it in that way; but he could leave it up here in the woods and
tell you where to find it when he was through with it. Now, Nat, where
is it? Tell me, honor bright, and I will give you half of it; I will,
so sure as I stand here.”

“You must look around and find it, for I don’t know where it is,”
replied Nat; and the expression on his face showed that he was in
earnest in his decision to keep the hiding place of the money all to
himself. “If you find it you can have it all.”

“I’ll bet you I do, and you will go without shoes and clothes this
winter,” said Jonas, slipping his hand into his pocket and looking
around at the trees as if he were searching for a switch. “I made you
an offer and you won’t take it, and now I will look for myself; but
first you are going to have something to remember that offer by. What
do you find there, Caleb?”

“There ain’t nothing in Peleg’s valise because I have looked all
through it,” replied Caleb. “But here is something I can’t see into.”

As he spoke he passed the spade over to his father, running his fingers
through some dirt that still adhered to it.

“That spade has been used since it came up here, and if it could speak
it would tell you something about the money,” continued Caleb. “He has
dug it up and hid it away in another place.”

“Caleb, you are right” said Jonas, examining the spade. “Now where is
it? Caleb, you just keep an eye on him while I cut a switch. I will bet
you that he will tell all about it in less’n five minutes.”

“I can’t tell you about a thing that I don’t know,” said Nat.

“No; but you only think you have forgotten. A switch has a big means
of starting one’s intellect, and when you see that swinging over your
head, you will think faster than you do now.”

“Pap, I believe we are onto the track of the money at last,” said
Caleb, who seemed to have forgotten all about the ghosts. “Lay it onto
him good fashion, and we’ll go back home--by gracious! I wouldn’t take
ten dollars for my chance.”

The words seemed to encourage Jonas, who presently pulled down a big
bough and began to cut it loose. It was a large limb, larger than the
one he would have taken to beat his horse with, and while he used his
knife upon it, Caleb slipped around until he got on the outside of Nat,
that is between him and the bushes, and stood regarding him with a
smile of intense satisfaction.

“Don’t hit me with that thing,” said Nat, suddenly straightening up
until he seemed to grow larger and stronger than Caleb had ever seen
him look before. “If you do you will at ways regret it.”

“Oh, no, I won’t hit you with it,” said Jonas, with a sort of laugh
that sounded more like the growl of an enraged animal. “I’ll just wear
you out with it unless you tell me what has been going on here and all
about it. You know where that money is, and I am going to find out
before I let you go. You hear me?”

There was something about Nat that did not look exactly right to Caleb.
He thought that his father had undertaken a bigger job than he could
accomplish by endeavoring to force the boy to tell where his money was
hidden, and if he could work it some way so as to get “upon Nat’s blind
side” and coax him to tell what he wanted to know, why the way would be
so much the easier for them. He resolved to try it, but he did not have
time to try it all.

“Come now, Nat, you see how pap is going to lick you, don’t you?” said
he. “Now tell me where the money is and you will get off scott free.
Come now, Nat. Me and you has always been the best of friends--”

What else Caleb was going to say he did not have time to say it, that
is while he was standing erect. The place on which Nat was standing
was suddenly vacant, Caleb’s left arm received a wrench and his foot
a trip, and both of them sent him headlong into the bushes. A moment
afterward Nat dashed into the bushes and was out of sight in an instant.

“By gum!” said Caleb, slowly raising himself upon his elbow and gazing
in the direction Nat had taken. “Pap, he has got away.”

“_Well!_” exclaimed Jonas, who being concealed from view of the boys
had not seen Nat when he made his bold dash for freedom. “Has he run
away?”

“Yes, sir, he has run away; and he throwed me--”

Jonas came around the tree and found that Nat was not there. He glanced
all around in every direction but the boy he had hoped to try the
switch upon was somewhere else. Caleb was just crawling to his feet.

“And did you stand there and let him go?” demanded Jonas, and he half
raised the switch as if he had a mind to lay it over Caleb’s shoulders.
“Why didn’t you stop him?”

“You might as well try to stop a hurricane as to stop that fellow,”
said Caleb, holding one hand to his elbow. “I never saw a boy go so
before.”

“Well, now, catch him; catch him,” shouted Jonas. “Which way did he go?”

“Out there among the bushes; and pap, I just ain’t a-going in there
after him. Maybe he’ll get those ghosts on his side.”

Jonas, who had been on the point of rushing into the bushes in pursuit
of Nat, stopped when he heard those words and pulled off his hat and
dashed it upon the ground at his feet. Then Caleb saw that his father
was afraid of ghosts as he was himself. It was only his desire to
possess the money that had induced him to come there. Caleb stood
holding fast to his elbow and waiting to see what he was going to do
about it.

“Dog-gone such luck!” said Jonas.

“That’s just what I say,” replied Caleb. “Why did not the old man leave
his money to you or mam like he had oughter do? Now nobody won’t get
it.”

“Nobody except that miserable Nat,” sputtered Jonas. “I have a good
notion to use the switch on you for letting him go.”

“Well, pap, you would not make anything by that. I was talking to him
like a Dutch uncle, and the first thing I knew I was flat on my back,
and he was just going out of sight. I did not hear anything of him from
the time he struck the bushes. Do you hear him now?”

Jonas listened but all the sound he heard was the chirping of birds and
the faint sough of the wind as the breeze swept through the bushes.
Everything was as still as a graveyard; it seemed too still for the
woods. Jonas listened for a moment and then gathered up his hat and put
it on his head.

“Let’s go home,” whispered Caleb. “This ain’t no place for us.”

“That’s just what I was thinking of,” said Jonas, in the same cautious
whisper. “Let’s take everything he has got in his lean-to and dig out.
We shall have to hurry because it will be dark before we reach home.”

“I don’t believe in taking Peleg’s valise and gun back to him,”
observed Caleb. “He brought them out here and he can take them back.”

“Well, that is so,” said Jonas, who was busy picking up the spade and
pick-ax and such provisions as he could find. “But in the present
opportunity we want Peleg and his pap to believe that we were here. We
have got a fearful story to tell when we go back, and we want them to
believe us.”

“That is so, too; but, pap, we won’t go back through the bushes, will
we?”

“Not much we won’t,” exclaimed Jonas, as if he were surprised at the
mere mention of such a thing. “Nat’s in there, and who knows but what
he has got some of the ghosts to help him along?”

“I’ll bet you that is just what he did,” said Caleb, dropping the
armful of things which he had gathered up. “I did not hear hide nor
hair of him after he got into the bushes.”

Father and son were not long in picking up the things that were
scattered about the lean-to (they did not find the ax because that
was concealed in the bushes), and with them in their hands they beat
a hasty retreat from the camp, following the course that Peleg had
pursued when he was there on a former occasion. They reached the bars,
stopping now and then to cast furtive glances behind them, and when
they got fairly into the road their courage began to return to them.

“I will tell you just what is the matter with us,” said Jonas. “We have
not got a rabbit’s foot between us.”

“I do think in my soul that that’s what’s the matter,” said Caleb,
stopping short and looking at his father. “Do you reckon that Nat has
one of them?”

Now a rabbit’s foot is something that is held in high esteem by the
negroes at the South, and by some of the white people, too. Whenever
you kill a rabbit, take one of the feet off and put it into your
pocket; or, if you are already provided for in that respect, take the
foot and give it to some one who has not got any. Thus equipped you are
free from every danger. Ghosts can not disturb you, and if you have to
pass a graveyard or a house that is haunted after dark, it will see you
safely through. Beyond a doubt this was what was the matter with Jonas
and his son. They had thought of their rabbit’s feet when it was too
late to be of service to them. They were kept at home on the mantle
piece, snugly stowed away so that they could be seized at a moment’s
warning, and they had come away and never thought a word about them.

“Now did anybody ever hear of such luck?” said Jonas, in disgust. “I
have a rabbit’s foot and so have you; and by leaving them at home is
what has beaten us. We will go down there to-morrow or next day and see
what luck we shall have.”

“Do you reckon that Nat has one of them!” repeated Caleb, who was
greatly relieved to know what it was that had brought them such ill
luck. “Of course he had, or he never could have called upon them ghosts
to help him.”

“Dog-gone such luck,” repeated Jonas, who kept turning this matter over
in his mind. “He wouldn’t go away and leave his rabbit’s foot behind
when he was engaged in such business, would he? I tell you I am going
to keep it in my pocket wherever I go. It ain’t safe to be without it.”

It was a long way by the road to the place where they had left their
horse, and every step of the way they looked at the bushes fearful that
Nat would come out at them accompanied by one or more of the ghosts.
When they reached the wagon Jonas climbed in without any words, leaving
Caleb to turn the horse around, and to take care of his rifle which he
hastily handed to him.

“I think I will drive going back,” said he, “He is going toward home
now, and perhaps I can make him step pearter than you did.”

Caleb saw through his father’s little trick, but he gave in to it
without saying a word. He was going to have the handling of the rifle
now, and he breathed a good deal easier as he clutched the weapon and
seated himself on the seat beside Jonas. He did not care if Nat had
three or four ghosts to back him up. He was a sure shot with a gun, and
he was certain that there would be one ghost less in the country should
one show himself.

The old horse stepped out wonderfully under the new driver, and it was
not long before Jonas’s courage all came back to him and he could talk
about what happened there in Mr. Nickerson’s dooryard without shouting
himself hoarse.

“That there is what’s the matter with us, Caleb,” said he, turning on
his seat and greeting him with an approving wink. “It beats the world,
as long as I have lived in this country, that I did not think of that
rabbit’s foot before I left home. But we will try them again some
day--”

“It has got to be pretty soon too, pap,” interrupted Caleb. “Nat has
seen that money already. He has got it hidden somewhere else.”

“I believe you are right,” said Jonas, “or else how come that dirt
on his spade? And to think we had to give it up just on account of
not having that rabbit’s foot! These little things sometimes make big
changes in our affairs, Caleb?”

Caleb must have thought of this matter all the way home, but he
breathed a little easier when the ancestral roof came in sight. His
mother was there and she came down to the bars to lower them. As the
tired old horse entered the yard she looked at Jonas, but the latter
shook his head in a most discouraging manner.

“I just knew how it would be,” said she.

“And just on account of leaving that rabbit’s foot behind,” said Caleb.

“I noticed them, and I had a good notion to holler at you and tell you
to take them with you,” said Mrs. Keeler. “But I supposed that you
knew what you were doing.”

None of the family said anything more until they had got to the barn
and turned the horse out, and fed him with a handful of grass, and then
Jonas seated himself on a bucket, which he turned upside down, and
gave his wife a full history of the events that had happened to them
since they went away in the morning; that is he had the groundwork of
truth for its foundation, but there was many a little item which he
put in that occurred to him as he went along. Whenever he touched upon
anything which his wife found it hard to believe, he always appealed to
Caleb, and the latter never failed to corroborate all he said.

“And do you think that he got those spirits to help him when he went
into the bushes?” asked Mrs. Keeler.

“He did; else why didn’t he make some noise while he was going through
them?” asked Jonas, in reply. “He went along as still as a bird on the
wing. It was of no use for anybody to try to follow him. Well, that
is once we failed, but the next time we will fight him with his own
weapons. Caleb, don’t you forget those two rabbits’ feet the next time
we go.”

“You bet I won’t,” replied Caleb.



CHAPTER XIV.

_The Storekeeper in Action._


Nat’s heart was in his month because he did not believe he could escape
from Jonas, and Caleb so easily. The noise he necessarily made in
running through the bushes would naturally guide them in the pursuit,
and Jonas was noted for his lightness of foot, and Caleb also, for that
matter. But it was now or never. The switch was being prepared for him,
and in a few minutes more he would feel the full weight of Jonas’s arm;
and that it would fall by all his strength, Nat did not doubt in the
least.

“Here goes,” said Nat, to himself. “If I fail they can’t any more than
whip me, and if I get away--”

Nat did not wait to finish all the sentence that was in his mind. He
bounded from his place as if he had been set upon springs, a short
skirmish with Caleb who was overturned as easily as a child, and he was
safe in the bushes which closed up behind him, and the twigs in his
path seemed to give away before him on their own accord. He ran down
the path with all the speed he could command, jumped as far to the left
as he could and stretched himself out flat on the ground and waited to
see what was going to happen. By the merest accident he lay down not
ten feet from his camp, and consequently he was within full hearing of
their voices while they remained there.

“By gum!” said Caleb, slowly, as he picked himself up from the bushes
into which he had been thrown. “Pap, he has got away.”

He heard Jonas when he came around the trees and knew when he raised
the switch intending to use it on Caleb for not keeping guard over Nat.
He listened in the hope that Caleb would feel the full force of that
switch, for he had a long account against him and he did not think that
any blow he could have received would have been amiss.

“He has got my shoes,” said Nat to himself, and it was all that he
could do to refrain from speaking the words outright. “Give him a few
good licks to pay him for that.”

But we know that Jonas did not use the switch upon Caleb, but talked
with him about other matters. He knew when they examined the spade
again to find the dirt upon it, but all thoughts that they would pursue
him were turned into another channel by Caleb’s request: “Let us go
home. This is no place for us.” But there was another fear that came
over him just then. They were going home, but they intended to remove
everything there was in his camp, provisions and all, and leave Nat to
get along as best he could.

“Never mind; I’ve got my money in my hat,” said Nat, pulling off the
article in question and feeling of his roll of bills. “And even if he
robs me, what harm will it do? I have some more money stowed away, and
it is where nobody can find it.”

Nat lay there in his concealment and waited patiently for Jonas and
Caleb to get through with picking up the articles they wanted to take
with them and leave the camp. He knew they would not come back through
the bushes, but would go across the field and so steer clear of them.
He drew a long breath of relief, and finally raised himself upon his
knees as they passed out of the ravine, but still he did not think it
wise to show himself until the creaking of wheels, loudly proclaiming
their need of wagon grease, was heard, slowly at first, then increasing
in volume as the horse responded to the whip, and when it had died
away entirely he got upon his feet and made his way back to the camp.
Everything that could have been of use to him had disappeared.

“Now the next thing will be something else and what shall it be?” said
Nat, throwing himself upon his bed of boughs and turning the matter
over in his mind. “I can’t live without something to eat--that is plain
enough to be seen; and I don’t know about going down to Manchester for
more grub. Of course somebody there saw Jonas when he came through, and
what kind of an excuse will I make for coming back there after more
provisions! I have told so many lies lately that I want to keep out of
it now, if I can.”

For ten minutes Nat laid there trying to make up his mind what to do,
and then got up prepared for action. He wanted to see where he had
left his money, and then he would go on to Manchester and be governed
by circumstances. If Jonas had not stopped there to converse upon his
object of going to old man Nickerson’s fields, well and good. He would
purchase some new clothes, the first he had ever owned, enough crackers
and cheese to last him on his way to St Louis, come back to his camp
after dark, secure his money, and then the place which had known him so
long would know him no more forever. When be was away among strangers
and nobody knew who he was, he would be ready to begin his life over
again.

“That is what I will do,” said Nat, wending his way up the hill. “My
first thing must be to get some new clothes, or when I come to put that
money in the bank they will think right away that I have stolen it,
and there will be more trouble for me. I should not dare to send for
anyone here to prove who I am, for they would turn me out the biggest
rascal upon earth, so that they could get the money; so what should I
do? By George! I am not out of trouble yet.”

In a few minutes Nat arrived beside the log under which he had buried
Mr. Nickerson’s money, or rather he called it his own money now, and
everything looked just as it did when he left there. No one had been
near it. He threw some more bushes over the place, kicked some leaves
around it and then set out for Manchester. He felt his responsibility
and it is not right to say that he carried a light heart beneath his
jacket, for he did not. He began to see that there was a big difference
in wishing for money and having it. He found that it was some trouble
to take care of his treasure.

He shortly reached the road near the spot where Jonas and Caleb had
left their horse, but there was no one in sight. He climbed over the
fence and kept on his way, looking neither to the right hand nor the
left, so impatient was he to reach his journey’s end, and finally he
stood in the store where he had been several times before; but he did
not know what those two men in the back part of the store were talking
about. They looked up as Nat entered, and instantly a smile overspread
their faces and one of them hastened forward to greet him.

“Well, if here ain’t that smart looking boy again I don’t want a cent,”
said he, and he was so pleased to see Nat that he laughed all over.
“Say, Jonas and Caleb have just been here, and I would like to know
what made them leave in such a hurry. They did not see any ghosts, did
they!”

“No,” said Nat, in disgust. “Have you been treating them to some
stories, too? They left some work to do back at home, and went there to
attend to it. You scared one fellow out but you can’t scare me out.”

“I never was so sorry for anything in my life,” said the man. “I saw
that Peleg could be easily frightened, and so I started that ghost
story on him.”

“Have you got anything to eat in the store?” asked Nat, who did not
want to talk about the ghosts any more. “They took away all the
provisions I had.”

“Of course we have,” said the man briskly. “What do you want? Say. Did
you find that money you were looking for?”

“What money?” asked Nat, in surprise.

“Oh, come Nat, there is no use of your trying to play off on us in that
style,” said the storekeeper; and there was just a shade that darkened
his brow as if he were getting angry. “You went up there to dig up some
money, didn’t you, now?”

“I wish you would give me those provisions and let me go along back,”
said Nat, who did not much like the way the man eyed him. “I don’t know
anything about any money.”

“See here, Nat,” whispered the man, putting his face close to the boy’s
ear and holding his arm, “if you will tell me where that money is--”

“I tell you I don’t know anything about it,” declared Nat, pulling away
from the man’s grasp. “If you don’t want to sell me some grub, I will
go elsewhere.”

“Come with me; I want to see you,” whispered the storekeeper, retaining
his hold upon Nat’s arm and drawing him toward a side door.

“Say what you have got to say right here,” said Nat. “There is no
secret about it. I dug up no money while I was there, and I don’t care
who knows it.”

“But I don’t want that everybody should know what I am going to say to
you,” urged the man; and as if to add emphasis to his words he seized
the boy with both hands, fairly lifted him from the floor, carried him
through the side door which closed behind him. “Now will you listen to
what I have to say to you?” he added, with a wicked glitter in his eye.
“I have got you now, and here you are going to stay as long as I want
you.”

At this moment the door opened and the customer came in. He, too, was
in the plot if such it could be called, for he evinced no surprise at
what he saw.

“Is the way all clear?” asked the storekeeper.

“Yes; there is no one on the streets,” replied the customer. “Now what
be you going to do with him?”

“We’ll take him back in the storeroom and shut him up there,” was the
answer. “What do you think of that, my boy? There you will wait until
you are ready to reply to such questions as I ask you, with a big
bull dog to keep an eye on you. If you try to get out there won’t be
anything left of you in the morning.”

While the man was talking in this way he was dragging rather than
leading Nat toward the back part of the store, and at last halted in
front of a door where he released him, and began searching in his
pockets to find the key. It was dark in there, owing to the fact that
there were no windows to let in light upon the scene, and when he found
the key and inserted it into the lock, a growl followed by a deep-toned
bark came from the inside. The animal that uttered it must have been
fierce; that was easy enough to be seen.

“Now you see what you’ll get if you try to get away,” said the
storekeeper, throwing open the door. “I reckon you will think twice
before you come any of your tricks on Benny; hey, old dog.”

Nat’s heart seemed to stop beating. If there was anything in the
world that he was afraid of it was a savage dog. He looked at Benny,
and rightly concluded that “he would not come any of his tricks” on
that beast. He was the worst looking dog that Nat had ever seen. He
was small, but he had an immense head, and his under jaw stuck out so
that his teeth could be plainly seen. He was yellow all over except
his head, which was as black as if he had been painted, and he was
bob-tailed. He did not appear to be gratified by this intrusion at all.
He would hardly get out of his way when the man pushed him aside and
pointed to a box and told Nat to sit down there.

“I tell you I don’t know anything about that money,” said Nat, who was
quite alarmed at the idea of being shut in that room over night with
such a dog for a companion. “I will go up there with you and help you
dig for it; that is if you think it is in the ground.”

“Of course we know it is in the ground or else you wouldn’t need a
spade and pick-ax to throw it out with,” answered the storekeeper. “You
tell us where it is, and let us go up and dig for it.”

“I can’t tell you for I don’t know;” said Nat.

“Very well; then you can stay here until you find out,” said the man,
fiercely. “When you get so hungry and thirsty that you can’t stand it
any longer, you just yell and I will be around. Will you tell us?”

“I have already answered your question until I am tired of it,” said
Nat, seating himself on the box, with a determined look on his face.
“If I stay here until I die you won’t get anything else out of me.”

“Well, good-by,” said the man, moving toward the door. “We are going up
right now to look for it, and when we come back, perhaps we will tell
you how much we have made. Watch him, Benny. Keep an eye on him, and if
he goes near that window, just take him down and serve him the way you
did that burglar that got into the store last week.”

With this parting advice to his dog the storekeeper went out followed
by his customer, and Nat heard the key as it grated harshly in the
lock. He sat perfectly still, he was afraid to do otherwise, for, now
that his eyes became somewhat accustomed to the darkness, he could
see that the dog kept his position beside the door, and seemed to be
awaiting some move on his part. Once or twice he licked his huge jaw as
if he were tired of waiting.

“Well, sir, I am in for it now,” said Nat, running his eye along the
wall as if he were looking for that window of which the storekeeper
had spoken. “I would not be safer if I were shut up in jail. That
dog--Whew! I don’t want anything to do with him.”

The dog evidently knew what opinion Nat cherished toward him, for after
waiting in vain for him to make some advances, he came over to Nat and
laid his chin upon his knee. Nat could hardly keep from yelling when
he saw the dog advancing toward him, but when he reached the boy and
worked his nose as if he were trying to place his hand upon his head,
his heart gave a thrill of delight.

“Well, by gum!” said Nat, unconsciously making use of the same
expression that Caleb had used when Nat threw him headlong into the
bushes. “I believe the dog is friendly;” and he raised his hand and
placed it on the dog’s head.

Nat had never been more astonished in his life. The dog’s appearance
was against him; but that was as far as it went. He was a good, honest
dog in reality, and seemed to sympathize with Nat in his trouble.

“Benny, good Benny; I believe you are a good dog yet,” said Nat,
reaching down and patting the animal on the side. Benny not only
submitted to it, but when he saw that Nat was about to stop he worked
his nose again as if he meant him to continue. “I believe now that I
will try that window,” said Nat, a bright idea striking him. “Since
Benny is all right if I sit here, he will be all right if I move
around.”

Nat had by this time located the window, and he arose from his box and
moved toward it as though he had a perfect right there. Benny moved
with him, and did not raise any objections when Nat seized the staple
with which the window was fastened and exerted his strength to open
it. It was a heavy window, and was doubtless used for passing in and
out bulky goods that would take up too much room in the store; but it
yielded to Nat’s muscle at last, and by pushing it open a little way he
let a flood of light into his prison and could also see what there was
outside. He found that the opening gave entrance into a kind of stable
yard, bounded by a shed on one side, and by pushing it open a little
more, he saw that on the other side it ran down to the street. His
escape was now only the question of a few minutes had he cared to leave
at this time.

“Glory!” whispered Nat, closing and fastening the shutter and stooping
down to caress Benny. “I dare not try it now, for fear that that
storekeeper may be on the watch; but when it comes dark, we won’t stay
in this house any longer. Hail! Columbia happy land!”

Nat now felt at ease. He pulled off his hat, felt of his roll of
bills and then began to pat the dog and talk to him. He had certainly
determined on one thing and that was to take the dog with him. He had
some money, how much he did not know, and it would be the source of
immense relief to him to know that he had someone whose looks would
help him through.

“I will bet that there won’t be anybody pitch into me to see what I
have got with me, if he only takes one look at you,” said Nat, stroking
the dog’s head. “I never had a dog take up with me this way before. I
tell you, Benny, you came in just right.”

It must have been two o’clock by the time Nat was shut up in that
room, so he had six or seven hours of waiting to go through before the
storekeeper would come around again to see how he felt over telling him
where he had left that money. There was one thing about it: He would
not tell him; he would die first He kept repeating this resolution over
and over again until the sun went down, and it began to grow so dark in
his prison that he could not see his hand before him. An hour passed,
and then a key rattled in the lock, the dog gave one of his tremendous
barks and took his stand in front of the door, which presently opened
admitting somebody, it was so dark that he could not see a single
feature on him. But it was the storekeeper. He knew him as soon as he
spoke.



CHAPTER XV.

_Nat Wood, Gentleman._


“Hi there!” exclaimed the storekeeper, as he threw open the door and
stepped over threshold. “Keeping watch over him yet, ain’t you, Benny?
I told you it wouldn’t be safe for you to try to get away. Yes, here’s
some supper for you, Benny. Nat can’t have any until he gets ready to
talk to me. How do you come on, Nat?”

“About as comfortably as I can, kept here in the dark and with a savage
dog for a companion,” said Nat. “I wish you would take me out where it
is a little lighter.”

“I could not possibly think of it,” said the man, with a laugh. “You
think you are smart, don’t you! We know where that money was hidden,
and we have been up there and got it.”

It was lucky for Nat that the storekeeper had come in there without a
light, for the way these words were spoken fairly took his breath away.
This was something that he had not bargained for. He settled back on
his box trying to find something to lean against, and could not say
anything to save his life.

“What do you say to that, my boy?” asked the man. “You did not know
that we could find that money without asking you, did you?”

“Where--where did you find it?” stammered Nat, suppressing his
excitement, and it was all he could do to utter the words.

“Oh, we found it under a tree where the old man had left it,” said the
storekeeper, carelessly. “I tell you he must have gone down deep, for
we dug a trench there that was as deep as we were.”

Nat straightened up again and drew a long breath. If the storekeeper
told the truth, he had not yet found the money. He had not dug in the
place where it was concealed in the first instance, because he did not
say anything about the stone which needed a lever to pry it out of its
bed.

“Well, you have done more than I could do,” said he, after thinking a
moment. “You have the money--How much did you get?”

“Oh, about fifteen or twenty thousand dollars,” replied the man. “We
were in such a hurry that we didn’t stop to count it. But we have
enough to keep us without work as long as we live.”

“Now what is to hinder you from turning me loose?” asked Nat “I can’t
do you any more good by staying here.”

“I forgot to speak about that to my pardner,” said the man, who was
taken all aback by this proposition. “And he has gone away and I shan’t
see him for a week.”

“And are you going to keep me here all that time?”

“We might as well. You see we don’t want you to go up and tell Jonas
and Caleb about this thing, for they might make us trouble.”

“I’ll promise you that I shall not go near Jonas and Caleb. I want to
get as far away from Manchester as I can. You might give me something
to eat, any way.”

“Well, I will see what my pardner says about it. If you keep still--”

“Why, your partner has gone away,” said Nat.

“I mean when he comes back. It won’t take you long to stay here a week.
Now if you keep still--”

“Are you going to keep me a whole week without anything to eat?” asked
Nat, in surprise. “I can’t possibly live as long as that.”

“Maybe my pardner has not gone yet, and I can speak to him. Now if you
keep still, that dog would not pester you; but if you get up and go to
roaming around, he’ll pin you. Then you won’t tell me where the money
is--humph!”

This was another evidence that the man had not been near the place
where the money was supposed to be hidden. He came pretty near letting
the cat out of the bag that time. Nat did not say a word in reply. He
wanted the man to believe that he put faith in his story.

“Well, good-by. I shall not be in here before to-morrow morning; and if
you have anything to say to me--”

“What have I got to say? You have found the money, and what more do you
want?”

The man muttered something under his breath that sounded a good deal
like an oath by the time it got to Nat’s ears, turned on his heel and
walked out, slamming the door after him. Nat waited until the sound of
his footsteps had died away, then threw himself back on his box and
laughed silently to himself.

“If everybody is as big a fraud as that man, my money is safe,” said
he, rubbing his hands together. “He has found the money, and yet he
wanted me to tell him where it was. Now, Benny,” placing his hand upon
the dog, which just then came up and put his head upon his knee. “We
will wait until twelve o’clock, and then we will start for Pond Post
Office. I know it is a small place but I reckon I can get some clothes
there, and a couple of big valises that I can carry my money in.”

The time now seemed longer to Nat than it did before. He felt at his
ease, and he longed to be up and doing. Every minute that he lingered
in his prison-pen was just so much taken away from the enjoyment of
his money; and he fretted and chafed over it. He wanted to get up and
pace the room in order to make the time pass more rapidly away, but was
checked by the thought that the storekeeper might come back there and
listen at the door to see what he was doing, and thus put it out of his
power to escape by the window.

“If he hears me walking about he will know that Benny and me are all
right,” said Nat, “and that will arouse his suspicions so that he will
put me somewhere else. I reckon I had best sit down here on my box and
wait for the hours to go by.”

A short time afterward, perhaps it was two or three hours, he heard a
faint rustling outside the door, whereupon the dog left him and took
up his stand directly in front of it to see what was going to happen.
If it was the storekeeper and he wanted to know what was going on in
the room, he had his trouble for his pains. Whatever it was that made
the noise outside it finally ceased altogether and then everything was
quiet.

This happened two or three times, and on each occasion Nat was sure
that he was being watched; but every time the watcher went away without
hearing or seeing anything suspicious. At last Nat heard some sounds
coming from the store which indicated that the proprietor was going to
shut up for the night; and then his heart began to beat more rapidly.
The time for action was fast approaching. He heard the banging of
shutters, the goods which had been outside for inspection during the
day, were brought in and stood up beside the counter, and finally the
storekeeper’s tread was heard outside the door. He tried the lock and
found that it was safe.

“Are you all right in there?” Nat heard him inquire.

“As tight as you please,” answered Nat; “but in half an hour more I
will be down the road,” he added, to himself.

“You don’t know anything about that money yet, I suppose?” said the man.

“How can I know anything about it when you have got it?” asked Nat.
“You have hidden it away somewhere. The best thing you can do is to
take it up and clear yourself before I get out.”

“You are going to make trouble for me, are you?” said the voice,
angrily. “Well, if you get tired of waiting for grub just let me know.
Good-by.”

“Good-by. And it will be a long time before you see me again,” said Nat
mentally.

Nat knew when the storekeeper went out and locked the door behind him,
and then he heard him go down the street. He knew that he did not sleep
in the building but his house lay at some distance from the store, so
the coast was clear at last. He resolved to make the attempt at once,
being satisfied if he were well on the street it would take a better
man than the storekeeper to overhaul him. It was but the work of a few
seconds to go to the window and remove the hasp with which it was
confined. As the shutter swung loose he found that the moon was shining
brightly and that the ten miles that lay between him and Pond Post
Office could be made easily as it could by broad daylight.

“Come along, Benny,” said Nat placing both hands upon the sill and
springing up so that all he had to do was to drop his legs outside.
“But maybe you don’t want to go.”

While Nat was talking about it he was free; and he afterward said that
he never felt anything so good as he did when he found the solid earth
under his feet once more. The dog made three attempts to follow him,
but the window was rather high and all he could do was to get his fore
feet upon the sill and each time he fell back making more noise than
was agreeable to Nat. The next time he tried it Nat seized him by the
thin skin on the back of his neck, and in a moment more he was standing
by Nat’s side on the ground. We say he was standing by Nat’s side; but
if the truth must be told, he was prancing around all over the ground
as if he were overjoyed at finding himself at liberty once more.

“I will tell you what’s the matter with you,” said Nat, after he had
looked carefully around him and had drawn a bee-line for the bars that
led him out into the street. “You have been shut up and deprived of
your freedom so long that you don’t know what to do with yourself when
you are let out. Well, you stick to me and I will see that you are not
shut up any more.”

Nat’s first impulse, when he found himself outside the bars, was to
strike up a whistle; but before the first note had fairly left his
lips he caught his breath and looked all around to see if there was
anybody within hearing. The street was silent and deserted; but that
was no sign that there was not somebody stirring in the houses by which
he passed so rapidly. He felt of his roll of bills to make sure that
he had it, and settled down into a good fast walk, turning his head
occasionally to be certain that he was not followed. There was one
thing that Nat kept saying to himself: “I have had a struggle for this
fortune, and now that it is fairly within my grasp, nobody need think
that I am going to give it up. If I don’t enjoy it, the money can stay
there until it rots.”

The next thing that Nat had to decide upon was, as he expressed it,
something else. He was free but his money was not free. The way to
get his fortune to St. Louis was what troubled him; and he thought
about it until he arrived within sight of Pond Post Office. He began
to feel sleepy, too. It was then about two o’clock, so that he had to
wait for five long hours before the single store of which the village
could boast would be open and ready for business. So he climbed the
fence, followed by the dog, found himself a comfortable place under
the protection of a beech tree and stretched himself out and prepared
to go into the land of dreams. That would have been considered a hard
couch by some lads who are raised in the city, but Nat had so long been
accustomed to hard things that he did not mind it. He slept until the
sun was well up, and his dog kept watch over him.

“Now the next thing will be something to eat, Benny,” said Nat,
pausing for a while in his operations of smoothing down his hair to pat
the dog on the head. “I think you could eat a good breakfast, don’t
you? I tell you what we will do: If they don’t have anything at the
store worth eating, we will go to someone’s house and ask for a meal.
I’ve got money to pay for it.”

Nat’s next duty was to take out his roll of bills and select enough
to pay for his clothes and have a little left over for a bite to eat.
When this had been done he put the balance of the roll back again, and
the rest into his pocket where it would come handy. Then he climbed
the fence and started for Pond Post Office again. He found very few
people stirring there but the groceryman was up, and to him Nat at once
addressed himself.

“You look as though you had something to eat here,” said he.

“Well, yes; that’s our business,” said the man, smiling upon Nat.
“Gracious! What a horrid looking dog. Will he bite?”

“Not while I am around,” said Nat. “Have you got a suit of clothes!
You see I need one badly enough.”

“Well, I should say you did. I was looking at your clothes when you
came up. How big a priced one do you want! We have some for $5.00 and
some as high as $20.00.”

“Let me see a sorter of betwixt and between,” said Nat, as he followed
the man into the store. “Something that will do to wear between here
and St. Louis.”

“Are you going as far as St Louis?” asked the man, in amazement. “Then
you want something pretty nice. Now there’s a suit that will jest suit
you.”

Nat had never bought any clothes before, and consequently he was rather
awkward about it. As far as he could see the clothes were well made
(the man took his measure around the chest and of the length of his
leg to make sure that they would fit him) the price suited him and he
took them on the spot. Then he needed a couple of shirts, two pairs of
stockings and a pair of shoes and a hat; all of which he took upon the
man’s recommendation, and so his trading was quickly done.

“Now I wish to get a couple of valises to put them into,” said Nat,
looking around the store and trying to select the articles in question.

“One’s going to be enough for you,” said the man. “Now here is a
valise--”

“That is not the kind I want,” said Nat. “I want some old-fashioned
carpet things, with a mouth like a catfish. You see I have lots of
things to carry with me.”

“Are you going to walk?” asked the storekeeper, still more amazed.
“Why, it must be as much as one hundred and fifty miles.”

“I don’t care how far it is, I have got to go there, unless I can find
some person who is kind enough to give me a lift.”

“You can do that, of course; but I was just thinking that your legs
will ache before you get there. Now you hold on a minute. I have two
old carpet sacks in my garret that are doing no good to anybody, and if
you will wait a minute I will bring them down to you.”

The man went to his drawer, put away the money that Nat had given him
and went out, leaving him for the next ten minutes there alone in the
store. What a chance it would have been for Nat to steal something; but
the thought never came into his head. He was leaning back against the
counter when the man left, and that was the way he was standing when he
came back.

“Those are just the things,” said he, taking the carpet sacks and
turning them over to see that there were no holes in them. “How much
apiece for them?”

“Oh, a quarter; or, as you were raised in this country, two bits,” said
the storekeeper, smiling at Nat. “How do I know that you were raised in
this country? I know it by your looks. I was raised in New York. Now
do you want something to eat? Well, come here. I don’t know whether I
have anything that dog will eat or not. Where did you get that fellow?
He would be just the one to guard a fellow’s melon patch, wouldn’t he?
There, take your pick. It’s my treat.”

Nat knew enough about the ways of the country to know that the
storekeeper was going to give him his provisions for nothing because of
the dry goods he had purchased. The only things he could find were some
crackers and cheese. He took enough of them as he thought to last him
to Manchester and back, and then the groceryman excused himself once
more and went into the back room with a huge knife in his hand. When he
returned he brought with him a piece of fresh meat which he handed to
the dog.

“I did some butchering yesterday, and I think that if that dog won’t
eat anything else, he will eat fresh meat,” said he. “See him take it
down.”

The dog did “take it down” and devoured his meal as if he were almost
starved. It was no wonder that he wanted Nat for a master when he was
going to get such good living as this. He put all the things he had
purchased into one of his valises, bade the proprietor good-by and
took his way back toward Manchester, feeling much lighter hearted than
he did when he came down. But he did not go very far before he began
looking up and down the road to see if anyone was watching him; and
having satisfied his mind on this score he once more climbed the fence
into the woods, and when he was safe from everybody’s view he stopped,
and lowered his bundles to the ground.

“Now when I put these things down I am Nat, the tramp; and when I put
on my other clothes, I am something else,” said he, taking his suit out
and unfolding it before him. “Let us see how it looks to be dressed up
as a white man.”

This was Nat’s object in getting so far away from the road so that he
could make a change in his appearance. To take off the clothes he then
had on did not require a second’s time, but it took more time than it
did to put on the others. In fifteen minutes he was all dressed, and
then he wished he had a looking glass to view himself. He certainly
did look like a different person; and it is doubtful if any one who
was acquainted with him had met him on the road, if he would have
recognized him. His first care was to put what remained of his roll of
bills safe in his vest pocket. There were no holes in the vest for the
bills to work out, and when Nat tucked them away he felt that he was
somebody.

“Now I am Nat Wood, gentleman,” said he, as he surveyed himself as
well as he could by turning first one leg and then the other to make
an estimate of himself. “I tell you it makes a fellow feel grand to
be dressed up as I am. Supposing Caleb should see me now? Whoo-pe! He
would not rest easy until he got these things on his own back.”

Having put away his old clothing in one of the valises--it is true
the clothes were old but they might be of some assistance to him some
day--he took a carpet sack in each hand and kept on his way toward
Manchester. The dog did not know hardly what to make of it. He looked
at Nat closely; for several minutes before he would follow him, and
then he seemed to think it was all right and ran on as freely as he did
before.

Nat did not go through Manchester; he knew too much for that. He went
ahead until he saw the roofs of the houses, and then turned out into
the fields and took a round-about course to bring him to the woods back
of Mr. Nickerson’s yard. He was very still about it, halting every few
feet to listen, and finally he stopped in a ravine where he threw his
bundles off again. He was now within reach of the place where he had
hidden his money. He wanted to be sure that his fortune was safe before
he had anything to eat.

“Come this way, Benny; it is right out here,” said Nat. “If that is
gone I am gone; but I don’t think there has anybody discovered it.”

Nat presently stood beside the log which concealed his treasure, but
this time he was not satisfied with what he saw on the outside. The
leaves and twigs were there as he had left them, but that did not suit
him. He looked sharply through the woods in all directions, then
kneeled down beside the log and with a few sweeps cleared away all the
_debris_ which he had placed there. The bags were where he had left
them. He ran his hand over them and could distinctly feel the “yellow
boys” with which they were filled.

“Thank goodness, it is all mine, and no one else has a right to lay a
claim to any of it,” said Nat, as he pushed the twigs and branches back
to their place. “Mr. Nickerson gave it to me before he died, he has
neither kith nor kin to say that he owns it, and now if I can find some
honest lawyer in St Louis to stand up for me, I am all right.”

This was a matter that created considerable confusion in Nat’s mind. He
did not know where to go to find an honest lawyer, but he supposed that
there must be some people who would look out for him if he only knew
whom to speak to. As he had done a hundred times before he dismissed
this matter with the thought that it would be time enough to attend to
that when he reached St. Louis; and he turned to go back to the ravine
where to solace himself with a handful of crackers and cheese.



CHAPTER XVI.

_Benny, the Tramp._


That was a long night to Nat Wood for, if the truth must be told, he
did not once close his eyes in sleep. He had an opportunity to judge of
the watchfulness of his new friend, for Benny seemed to be wide awake
and never once forgot that everything depended on Nat’s vigilance. He
lay close beside Nat on the leaves, and once or twice he raised his
head and growled at something, but nothing came near to disturb them.
At the first peep of day Nat arose from his couch, he and the dog
finished what was left of the crackers and cheese and then the boy went
to the place where he had left his treasure and filled up his carpet
sacks; and when he had them loaded he was surprised at their weight.
It did not seem possible that he could carry that gold one hundred and
fifty miles.

“But I may strike a railroad before I have gone far,” said Nat, drawing
in a long breath and picking up a valise in each hand. “I will go as
straight South as I can go, and when I become tired of my burden I can
put it down and rest. I will reach St. Louis or die in the attempt.”

Nat took good care to keep clear of the road until he had passed
Manchester for fear that some one would see him and recognize him in
spite of his new suit, and when at last he climbed the fence into the
highway, he drew another long breath and went ahead with new zeal. He
did not fail to look back occasionally to see if he were followed, but
every time there was no one in sight, and he was more than once tempted
to believe that his struggles were over; that the money was his own,
and all he had to do was to hurry down to St. Louis and deposit it in
the bank. But it would be a week at least, and perhaps two, before that
would happen, and in the meantime he was resolved that he would go
hungry and sleepless, too, but that his treasure should be safe.

Nat wanted to buy some more crackers and cheese and feed his dog before
he left the country where he was known, and with this object in view he
approached the store at which he had purchased his new suit. The man
was busy sweeping out, but he knew Nat in spite of the wonderful change
in his appearance.

“Well, sir, you got your things, didn’t you?” said he, with the smile
which Nat had noticed on his face the day before. “You are off now, I
suppose? But you must not try to walk all that distance. It is too far.”

“I am off now,” replied Nat. “But I should like to have some more
crackers and cheese and a bite of fresh meat for Benny, if it is not
too much trouble for you to get it.”

“Of course I can. I was thinking about you yesterday after you had been
in here, and there is no need that you should walk all that distance.
Follow this road about twenty miles and you will strike a little
village called Bridgeport. There you will hit the Alton road, and all
you have to do is to pay your fare and get on board. You have money
enough for that, I suppose?”

Nat selected a couple of crackers and a liberal piece of cheese from
the amount the grocer weighed out to him, saw his dog devour a huge
piece of beef which had also been furnished to him, leaned against the
counter to rest his tired limbs and pondered upon a thought that had
just then occurred to him. He had never ridden on a railroad, he did
not know what to do when he got there, but what would be done with
Benny!

“But there is one thing about it,” said the man, giving utterance to
the thought that was in Nat’s mind. “You can’t take your dog with you
on a passenger train.”

“I have been thinking about that, and the best thing I can do is to go
on foot all the way,” said Nat. “I can’t think of leaving Benny behind.”

“Of course I don’t know what rules they have with their freight
trains,” said the man. “Perhaps they will let you take him with you,
and perhaps they won’t. You can tell when you get to Bridgeport.
Good-by. I hope you will get safe through.”

Nat picked up his valises again and left the store. It seemed now that
Benny was a hindrance to him rather than a success, and for a minute or
two he did not know but he would prefer to give him up than keep him.
It did not seem possible that he could walk all the way to St Louis and
carry his treasure besides, and he looked down at Benny who gazed back
at him, and wagged his tail in a forlorn sort of way as if the man had
given him a bad reputation.

“No, I won’t do it Benny,” said Nat, putting one of his valises on the
ground long enough to pat the dog on the head. “I’ll keep you with me
until the time comes for you to show what you are made of; then if you
fail me, I will know what to do with you.”

Perhaps, when Nat came to think about it, it was better after all to
keep the dog and trust to luck. There were plenty of persons who met
him on the road who would have been glad to snatch his valises and
make off with them, if they only knew how much was in them; and with
Benny there to protect him he did not think they would attempt it. So
Benny was accepted on sufferance.

Nat had not proceeded very far on his road before he heard the sound
of wheels behind him, and in a few minutes a man drove by in a lumber
wagon. The man looked down at Nat and then pulled up his team.

“Soger, would you work?” said he, with a laugh. “You have a heavy load
there. Are you going fur?”

“I am going down to Bridgeport,” said Nat. “If you have a place for me
I shall be glad to get in.”

“You are as welcome as the flowers in May,” said the man. “Climb in.
Gosh! What an ugly looking dog you have. Will he bite?”

“He has never bitten anybody since I had him,” said Nat, lifting his
carpet sacks one after the other and putting them into the wagon with
a good deal of trouble. “He won’t bite if he is let alone.”

“Well, you just bet your bottom dollar that I won’t interfere with him.
What you got in there? It seems mighty heavy.”

“Yes. It is some tools that I work with. Do you know anybody in
Bridgeport?”

This question got the man off on a new subject, and during the ride
to Bridgeport, and he went all the way so that Nat had his arms well
rested by the time they got there, he never referred to the contents
of the valises again. Benny ran along the wagon in front of him, and
every time the man saw him he would remark on his savage appearance,
and say that he did not see what a man could be thinking of to have
such an ill-looking brute hanging around him. The man had been in the
Confederate army, too, and during the ride he kept Nat interested in
his exploits, until Nat was really surprised when he pointed to the
roofs of some houses in the distance and said:

“We are near our journey’s end at last. There is Bridgeport Did you
say that you wanted to get out at the depot? Well, I am going right
there.”

After a few cracks with the whip and turning several corners the man
drew up at a long, low building, and Nat, after thanking him for his
kindness, took his valises and got out. Presently he was standing in
front of an open window, on the other side of which, on a high stool,
was perched a clerk who was busy smoking a cigar.

“Well, my friend, what can I do for you on this fine morning?” was the
way he greeted Nat.

“I want to know what is the fare to St Louis,” said Nat.

“Eight seventy-five,” said the clerk, laying down his cigar and
reaching for a ticket “Do you want to go there?”

“Yes, sir; but I want to know in the first place whether or not you
will take my dog on a passenger train,” said Nat.

“Where’s the dog?”

“He is right here.”

“Hold him up so that I can see him.”

“I can’t. He is too heavy.”

The clerk reached for his cigar again, got down from his stool and
unlocked the door leading into his room. He came out of it, but He went
back in less time than it takes to tell it.

“Good Lord! Do you want to take that beast on the train?” said he. He
vanished in his room on the instant and closed the door, all except a
little opening through which he talked to Nat. “No, _sir_. There is not
a baggage-smasher on the road who will take charge of that dog between
here and St. Louis. You must be crazy.”

“Well, would they take him on a freight train?”

“_Cer_-tainly not. We want to have some men to handle the freight train
when they get to St. Louis, don’t we?”

“I suppose you do; but what is the reason you can’t have them any way?”

“Why, that dog will eat the train men all up, if he once gets in
action. No, sir. You can’t take that beast on any train on this road.”

“Then I don’t see any way but for me to go on foot,” said Nat, who was
very much disappointed.

“That’s the only way that I know of, unless you will kill the dog.”

“I won’t do that, you bet. Does this road go straight to St. Louis?”

“As straight as a die, and that’s the way,” said the clerk, pointing
out the direction. “I don’t see what you want with that thing. The best
thing you can do is to kill him.”

Nat picked up his valises, walked slowly out of the other side of the
depot and looked down the track. For miles it was perfectly straight,
and there was not another house within sight. His arms ached awfully
when he thought of the many miles of such track he would have to face
during his tramp, but he never once was guilty of a traitorous thought
to Benny. They were in for it, and the sooner they started in on it,
the sooner it would be done.

“Now the first thing to be done, Benny, is to lay in a lot of
provisions,” said Nat, as if the dog could understand every word he
said. “And the next thing is to start on our way. Let us go down this
way and see what we can find.”

Nat had set out with the intention of finding a grocery store and a
butcher shop at which to purchase his provisions, but he had not made
many steps before he found one much sooner than he had expected; or
rather, some thing who kept guard over it saw him coming down the
street and sprang to meet him half way. It was the big dog which kept
watch over the butcher stand. He saw Benny, he did not like the looks
of him and proceeded to let him know it in language that anybody could
understand. He came at full speed down the road, seize Benny by the
neck and rolled him over in the gutter. They were both fair sized dogs,
and those who saw the movement were pretty certain that they were about
to witness a good fight; but it was all over in less than two seconds,
Benny seemed surprised to find himself in the gutter, turned his head
to see who it was that had dared to molest him and went to work in
earnest to put a stop to it. He seized his assailant by the foreleg,
but before he had taken a fairly good hold the butcher’s dog set up a
fearful howl, slunk out of the fight as quickly as he could and limping
on three legs, howling at every jump, he went back to his place in the
butcher’s shop. A moment later the butcher appeared. Nat knew that it
was the butcher, for his coat was off, he had his apron on and his
sleeves were rolled up.

“Now, Benny, you have got me into a terrible scrape,” said Nat,
reaching down to give the dog a reassuring pat. “He will want to kill
you, but he will have to kill me first.”

The butcher seemed to be surprised to find that his favorite had been
whipped, but still he did not show it. He examined his dog and then
looked up to see what had caused it; and when he saw Nat approaching he
grinned all over.

“Young man, is that your dog?” said he.

Nat replied that it was.

“Well, sir, he is a nobby fellow,” said the butcher; and giving no heed
to Benny’s savage looks he caught him by the upper jaw and raised his
lips so that he could see his teeth. Then he released his hold upon
him and patted him on the side so loudly that you could have heard it
across the street. “I have said that I would give twenty-five dollars
for any dog that could whip Barney, and this dog has done it with just
one grip. You will take that for him, won’t you?”

“No, sir,” replied Nat. “The dog is not for sale.”

“Then I will give you twenty plus ten, which makes thirty when I went
to school. Come in and get it.”

“That is more than the dog is worth, but he is not for sale at any
price. I need the dog more than you do. But I will tell you what I
would like to have. He wants a piece of meat.”

“Well, if you won’t sell the dog, come in and fill him up on meat You
wouldn’t look at forty dollars for that dog, would you?”

No, Nat thought that he would not sell the dog, and he went into the
butcher shop and got a piece of meat that fairly made him open his
eyes. He was not charged a cent for it, either. While the butcher was
examining the dog and complimenting him, Nat managed to unclose one of
his valises and crowd the meat into it, and no one was the wiser for
what he had done.

Of course the victory that Benny had won brought him into notice along
the street, and when he went into another store to buy his crackers
and cheese, he had plenty of friends to admire him. But Nat got away
as soon as he could, and felt much easier when he was walking down the
track toward St. Louis.

“That’s a good name for you, Benny, and you will keep it as long as I
have anything to do with you. Benny, the tramp. That’s what you are,
Benny, and you must always come when I call you.”

Nat’s first care was to find a place where he could sit down and
satisfy his appetite without having some one to talk to him about
Benny. A mile further on he found it, and there he and Benny made away
with enough meat and crackers and cheese to last them until night.
While there a passenger train went along, and it went swiftly, too, as
if the distance that lay between it and St. Louis was just nothing at
all for it to accomplish. Nat sighed but he looked at Benny, and got up
and followed after the train.

We might make this portion of our story still more interesting by
telling of the wonderful scrapes that Nat and his money got into from
the rough looking tramps who met him along the way and who wanted to
know what was in his carpet-sacks, which he never allowed out of his
grasp; but unfortunately Nat did not meet with any such adventures. It
is true that one or two tramps--Nat was sure they were tramps although
he had never seen one before--made some inquiries in regard to the
contents of his valises, but the sight of the dog, which growled and
showed his teeth every time one of them came up, induced them to be
satisfied with what Nat had to say about it--that he had some tools
which would be necessary to carry on his business when he got to St.
Louis. He bought his food from farm houses which were scattered at
intervals along the railroad, slept beside the fence or in deserted
barns every time he got the chance, and finally, when he was thinking
about taking one of his gold pieces to buy him another pair of shoes,
for his bills, although he had held on to them “until the eagle
hollered,” were all gone, he discovered, one night when the sun was
about two hours high, some buildings in the distance, which were larger
than any he had seen yet. By cautious inquiries at the next house at
which he stopped to buy food, he learned that he was at his journey’s
end. How his heart thrilled with the thought! He had been more than two
weeks on the way, and to say that he was tired would be hardly saying
enough. In a few days his money would be safe, and then he could lie
down and sleep.

“But our labor is not over yet,” said Nat, as he separated the meat
from the sandwiches that he had purchased and handed it to the dog.
“Now is the time to look out for every person we meet. There is not one
of them who would not knock me on the head to gain this money. And yet
I am to find a good, honest lawyer in all this crowd of people!”

Nat did not know how he was going to succeed, whether or not he could
find what he wanted in all that crowd, but he resolved to try it at
the first opportunity. Arriving at a place where a road ran across the
track he turned into it, making out with much difficulty some of the
signs that graced the front ends of buildings as he walked along, and
finally stopped at the front of a more pretentious building than the
rest, for there was a sign that struck his eye; “Lodgings 50 cents.”

Nat pushed the door open and he and Benny walked in. He did not like
the appearance of the room in which he found himself, but then he
supposed that all hotels in the city looked like that. There was a bar
in one corner of it, behind which stood a man that reminded him of
Jonas Keeler as far as his appearance was concerned. On the other side
of the room were tables in front of which were men playing cards, and
others with men sprawling out upon them with their heads pillowed upon
their arms as if fast asleep. He thought of backing out and trying it
again at another place; but the man behind the bar discovered him and
came out.

“Ah! Here you are. You want a supper and some lodging, I suppose? Are
you traveling far? Hello? Where did you get that dog? Will he bite?”

“He has been with me a long time, and I never saw him bite anybody yet.
He always sleeps with me and he won’t let any one harm me. I want a bed
but I don’t want any supper.”

“Heavens and earth! What’s in your grip?” said the man lifting one from
the floor where Nat had placed it.

“They are tools I work with; hammers and the like.”

“Oh. You are a machinist, are you? Well, come along and I will show you
to your room. I hope that dog won’t nail me until I get down.”

The man stepped behind the bar to obtain a key to Nat’s room, and
carrying the carpet-sack in one hand while Nat followed with the
other, they went through the room and up the stairs to Nat’s apartment.

“There, sir, you can lock yourself in and be safe until morning.
Good-night.”

Nat was too tired to look around his room and see what sort of a place
it was. He turned down the quilts with the remark that the sheets might
have been cleaner, pulled off his clothes, and tumbled into bed; and he
had hardly struck the pillow before he was sound asleep.



CHAPTER XVII.

_Conclusion._


There was one little thing that troubled Nat, and it came to him the
first thing when he opened his eyes in the morning. His bills were all
gone, and he must unlock one of his valises, undo one of his bags and
take out gold enough to pay the proprietor for his lodgings. There was
not anything so very wrong in that, but suppose the proprietor should
become suspicious and ask to see the rest of his valise; and suppose,
too, that he should take it away from him?

“It has got to be done, and I might as well have it over with,” said
Nat, throwing aside the quilts and jumping out on the floor. “You will
stand by me, Benny, won’t you?”

Nat went to his valise and opened it, and was surprised to find that
one of the bags was decayed and its contents had ran out. But the
carpet sack had caught them and there was none of them missing. He took
up a ten dollar gold piece and put it in his pocket; and then went on
with his dressing with all possible speed. It was early yet and he
hoped to find no one in the bar except the proprietor. He did not want
any breakfast, either. It would be time enough to think about that
after he had seen his money safe. The proprietor was alone in the room,
engaged in washing up, but he greeted Nat with a hearty good morning.

“I want to pay for my lodging,” said Nat. “My bills are all gone and so
I will have to hand you that.”

“W-h-e-w!” exclaimed the man, as Nat laid his piece on the counter.
“You must have been living with some rich people since you were here.”

The man took up the ten dollar gold piece, jingled it upon the counter
to see if it was all right, then turned to his drawer to get the money
that he was to give Nat in change.

“Breakfast will be ready in a little while, lad, you had better wait,”
said he, at length.

Nat made some excuse, he hardly knew what, took up both his valises
and left the room to run into the arms of a policeman before he got to
the sidewalk. He knew it was a policeman, because he had a badge on
his breast, was dressed in uniform and was swinging his club along as
if waiting for a chance to use it on somebody. The police were always
ready to assist a friendless person, and Nat was certain that this one
would assist him. He walked up to him and put his valises down by his
side.

“Well, sir, what have you got there?” said he; and Nat was delighted to
see him smile in a friendly sort of way.

“It is money,” said Nat, sinking his voice.

“Money?” said the officer, more than half inclined to believe that the
boy was crazy. “What are you going to do with it?”

“I want to get it into the bank where it will be safe,” said Nat. “You
don’t believe it, do you? Well, step here and I will show you.”

Nat drew off on one side and the policeman, placing his club behind
him, strolled slowly after him. He saw Nat unlock the valise with a
smile, but when the contents of it were shown to him the smile gave
away to a look of profound astonishment.

“Where did you get all this?” he asked.

“In the ground. Have you got a hotel or any place you stop at when you
are asleep?”

“Hotel? No. We have a police court, if that is what you mean.”

“Well, have you got any lawyers there?”

“Oh, yes; there are plenty of them there.”

“I want to find a good, honest lawyer who will take charge of this
money and tell me what to do with it. You see I am a stranger here.”

“Yes; I saw that.”

“Now can I find such a one up there?”

“Yes, of course you can, and it is the very place for you to go. I will
show you where it is. I will carry one of your carpet sacks and you
can carry the other.”

There were more people stirring now than there were when Nat came out
of his hotel, and nearly all who passed him on the street turned too
look at him with astonishment and others with amusement. They thought
that Nat was being arrested for something he had done; but those
who looked at his innocent face as he walked along talking to the
policeman, knew better than that.

“I am so glad to be where I can tell the truth regarding this money,”
said Nat; and the long-drawn sigh that he uttered gave evidence to his
words.

“What did you tell folks you had?” asked the officer.

“I told them that I had tools which I needed to work with when I
reached St Louis,” said Nat. “And they thought I was a machinist, and
did not ask any more questions. But I will tell you what is a fact: The
presence of that dog has saved me from being robbed more than once.”

The policeman said he was sure of that, and at last turned to the right
and led Nat up a flight of stone steps and into the court room. There
were plenty of police officers standing around, but they all made room
for them to pass and looked at Nat with some curiosity. The room in
which the trials were held was arranged with benches and chairs, and
around the outside were more chairs and to these he conducted Nat and
set him down in front of a window.

“Now you keep still right here, and when the judge comes you can talk
to him,” said he.

“But I don’t know the judge when I see him,” said Nat.

“I will speak to one of those policemen there and he will tell him. I
must go now.”

“Why can’t you stay with me?”

“Because I must go on my beat. If anybody talks to you about your
money, you can say what you please. There’s men enough here to protect
you. So long.”

There was a good deal of this talk that Nat could not understand, but
he asked no questions. Everybody could see that he was a stranger
there and to the city besides, and all he wanted to know now was where
to go to place his money so that it would be safe. He looked at the
policemen, but they did not seem to have anything to do but just to
stand around and wait for somebody. They were tall, broad-shouldered
fellows, and he was certain that Jonas, if he could have found his way
into that court room, would think twice before laying claim to any of
Nat’s money. When he grew tired of looking at them he turned and looked
out of the window. The people seemed to have increased in numbers,
and it was a mystery where they all came from. He thought he would
never get weary of looking at them, and when he turned to look at the
policemen again, he found that the court room was filled; but no one
paid any attention to him. A few looked at the dog, others cast glances
toward the carpet-sacks, and Nat finally wondered what had become of
the police justice all this time; but while he was turning the matter
over in his mind the crowd in front of the door gave way, and two
gentlemen who seemed to have a right there, came in. They exchanged
greetings with those they met, and presently one of them was stopped by
a policeman, who seemed to be communicating something to him. Nat was
certain that one of them was talking about him, for they nodded their
heads in his direction, and finally the two men came toward the corner
where he was sitting.

“Do you want to see me, young man?” one of them inquired.

“I want to see the judge when he comes,” replied Nat. “I want to find a
good, honest lawyer to tell me what to do.”

“Humph!” exclaimed the man. “You want to find a good, _honest_ lawyer,
do you? Well, you have come to a bad shop to find him. How do you think
Judge Daniels will suit you?”

“I don’t know the man, for I am a stranger in a strange place; but I
will talk to any man whom you recommend.”

“Daniels, I guess you are in for it,” said the man, turning to his
companion. “This is Judge Daniels, and you may tell him what you want.”

The speaker turned away and Nat proceeded to give the man who had been
called Judge Daniels a good looking over. All he saw was the man’s
face. It was a benevolent looking face, and more than all there was a
smile upon it which instantly won Nat’s heart.

“What do you want to say to me?” was the way in which he began the
conversation.

“I have a long story to tell, and you will have to sit down beside me
while I tell it,” said Nat. “In the first place, you will not steal
every thing I have got will you?”

“No, I don’t think I shall do that,” said the man, as he seated himself
in one of the chairs alongside of Nat. “There is no necessity for it.”

“Well, sir, it is money that I have in these two carpet-sacks,” said
Nat, sinking his voice to a whisper. “I have dug it out of the ground,
and carried it all the way from Bridgeport on foot.”

The man continued to regard him with a smile until Nat unlocked his
valise; and then he looked surprised. He listened while Nat told his
story never once interrupting him, but he kept his eyes fastened upon
the boy as if he meant to look him through.

“You want in the first place, to put that money in the bank where it
will be safe,” said he, at length. “Then are you willing to go back
with me to Bridgeport so that I can collect evidence that your story is
true?”

“Yes, sir; I will go with you anywhere,” said Nat.

This was all that Judge Daniels wanted. He had been doing a heap of
thinking while Nat was telling his story, and when he had seen Nat
close his valise he got up and walked over to where the police justice
sat in his chair. The court was just about ready to begin. He was
evidently astonished at what the judge had to tell him, and when he
came back he was full of business.

“I will carry one valise, you can carry the other, and we will go down,
get a carriage and take them to the bank,” said he. “That will be the
first job done. I hope the dog will not bite me?”

Nat hastened to assure him that the dog would not, and together they
left the court room and in a few moments more were seated in a hack,
with Benny for company, and were being whirled away toward the bank in
the lower end of the city. At every turn Nat found something to wonder
at. The streets were crowded with all sorts of vehicles and Nat more
than once held his breath for fear that their driver would run into
some of them.

Pedestrians crossed and recrossed before them until Nat was certain
that somebody would be run down; but he did not have time to take it
all in. Judge Daniels had a good many questions to ask, and while Nat
was trying to make everything clear to him, they drew up in front of
the bank.

Judge Daniels was so well known there that he was invited at once
into the private office where there was no one to see them but the
president. At his request Nat related his story once more, the judge
watching it closely to detect any flaws in it, and when the money was
poured out on the table before the president, the latter could scarcely
restrain his astonishment. Several clerks were summoned to count the
money, and Nat strange as it may seem, did not bother his head whether
they counted it right or not. The money was out of his hands, it had
been surrendered to those whose duty it was to look after it, and he
was satisfied. Finally one of the clerks presented a paper to the
president, who looked at it and said:

“Do you know how much money you have here, Bub?”

Nat replied that he did not. He took the money as he found it without
stopping to count it.

“I don’t think you could have counted all this money in a hurry,” said
the president, with a smile. “You have here $40,000 lacking $10. Now
what are you going to do with it?”

Nat was obliged to confess that he did not know. Judge Daniels and the
president exchanged a few words in a lower tone, and then the latter
arose and picked up his hat.

“We’ll let it lay here until we go up to that place of yours,” said he.
“Now, Nat, you want some good clothes. Look at your shoes. They are all
giving out.”

How different this was from what Jonas said to him the last time he
referred to Nat’s shoes! He readily surrendered himself to Judge
Daniels’ guidance, and in half an hour more came out of the tailor shop
with a wonderful change in his appearance. The clothes he had taken off
would do very well for the country but they would hardly do for the
city. It was not possible that anybody who had known him in Manchester
could have recognized him. Then after he had been to a barber shop and
had his hair neatly trimmed, the transformation was complete.

The next thing was to go to Judge Daniels’ home and get dinner; and
here Nat’s admiration and surprise knew no bounds. It did not seem that
those chairs were made to sit on, or that the carpet was made to walk
on; or that the lady who came to see him, would not take wings and fly
up out of his sight. It was the judge’s wife. She seated herself beside
him on the sofa, listening in unbounded astonishment to Nat’s story,
the Judge watching it all the time to see if there were any flaws in
it, and when it was over she reached down and patted the dog, and Benny
never raised any objections to it.

During the afternoon they went down to the Judge’s office where there
was another consultation held between him and his partner. The latter
was amazed, but he thought that the best thing the Judge could do would
be to accompany Nat to his home and get all the evidence there was to
be had; so the next morning, Benny being left with the hostler, they
took the cars for Bridgeport. This was the first time that Nat had
been on a railroad train, and sometimes, when he looked out at the
window and saw how fast they were going, he could not help clutching
the seat for fear that the train was going to leave the track. Arriving
at Bridgeport they went to a hotel for the rest of the night, and the
next morning they hired a carriage to take them to Pond Post Office.
We can scarcely imagine what Nat’s feelings were when he gazed upon
the scenes which were so familiar to him; and when at last he got out
of the carriage and opened the bars so that it could be driven through
to where Jonas was standing in the door waiting for them, he felt like
yelling. On the contrary he controlled himself and said quietly:

“How do you do, Mr. Keeler?”

“Well, I will be dog-gone!” was all Jonas had to say in reply.

Getting the evidence he was in search of was not difficult. Jonas saw
in a moment “which side of his bread had the butter onto it,” and
answered all his questions readily; while the antics which Caleb went
through were enough to make Nat fairly burst with merriment. They
were all sincere, too. He said “dog-gone the luck” several times in a
whisper, felt of Nat’s clothing with his fingers, and could not bring
himself to believe that the thing was true. But it was to Mrs. Keeler
that Nat devoted the most of his attention. The woman seemed really
glad of his good luck, and Nat assured her that at some future time
there was a thousand dollars awaiting for her out of Mr. Nickerson’s
money.

It was a happy moment for Nat when they seated themselves in the
carriage bound for Bridgeport, and Judge Daniels declared that, as far
as he could see, Nat’s story was all true, and that the money which he
had struggled so hard to obtain was all his. All that remained to do
now was to have a guardian appointed and get ready to go to school.

“It will not take me five minutes to select a guardian,” said Nat.
“Will you take it Judge Daniels?”

The judge said he would and so the matter was settled.

Years have passed away since the events that are recorded in this
story took place, and if you go to a certain law firm and ask to see
Nathaniel Wood, you would be fairly surprised to see in that tall,
well-dressed man who is coming toward you the ragged, dirty-faced boy
who was wont to do the chores about Jonas Keeler’s place. Jonas thinks
the world of him, although to tell the truth, he does not do any work
to speak of as long as his remittance from St. Louis lasts.

“Do you know Nat Wood, that little snipe who used to work on my farm?”
he would say to some listener. “Well, he has got to be a big lawyer in
the city. If he ever runs for President, I am going to vote for him.”

Benny is dead; he served his day and generation faithfully. He soon
grew to be a regular favorite around the Judge’s house, and although a
tramp would have passed by on the other side, people who came there
on business were readily admitted, and no questions asked. Nat is the
same fellow he always was. He was an honest boy and he grew up to be
an honest man. He is always ready to live over old times; but those he
likes best to talk about are those that attended his Struggle for a
Fortune.



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      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.





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