Read CHAPTER XIV of Buffalo Roost, free online book, by F. H. Cheley, on ReadCentral.com.

The Opened Door

It was nearly Thanksgiving time, and it seemed months to Willis since he had been to Buffalo Roost. Mrs. Thornton had almost decided to return to her father’s since the death of her sister, but Willis had objected seriously. He was determined to unravel the mine mystery before they left. They were still living at the Williams’s home, but they saw very little of the uncle. The death of his wife had been a severe blow to him, and he had been spending long periods of time in the mountains no one seemed to know just where.

During Thanksgiving vacation Mr. Allen was going to have a three days’ camp at the Roost, so Ham and Willis were planning on making a preliminary trip, to find out how deep the snow was and just what condition the canyon was in.

The circus was over, and had been a big success; enough money had been raised to pay all the debts and leave a nice amount for future improvements. Meanwhile Ham and Willis had become inseparable companions, so much so, that Willis had taken him into the mystery of his father’s mine. Very often they had talked it over together, but neither had yet arrived at any satisfactory conclusions. The day chosen for their trip turned out to be bitter cold; but the other fellows were depending on them, and they must not fail. They found it very difficult to climb the hogsback because of the snow, so when they reached the railroad they decided to follow it to Fairview rather than attempt the canyon trail. As they plodded on they grew very cold.

“There is a dandy little pile of pitch-pine shavings on the hearth,” said Ham; “it won’t take long to get a fire. We’ll play a joke on this cold snap yet, when we get inside the cabin.” The walking was not bad until they reached the crest, but here the trail lay on the south side and was completely filled with snow. Many of the drifts were shoulder-deep, so it took them nearly an hour to force their way from the ridge to the cabin. Ham, to his surprise, had great difficulty in opening the lock; it was evident that it had been tampered with. As they entered, he noticed that his little pile of shavings were gone from the hearth. Some one had been inside!

How much heat it seemed to take that night to warm that frigid air! They piled in the great logs until the fireplace was full, and still they had to sit close to keep warm. Slowly the cold was driven out, and the cabin became more comfortable. Willis took the water bucket and an ax and went out to the stream for water, but the ice was a foot thick and the water so cold that it froze in the bucket before he got it back to the cabin. As he set the bucket on the shelf, he noticed that the mirror which hung above the bucket was broken into a thousand pieces. No doubt a bullet had come in through the chinking. Was this a declaration of war? Or had some rowdy just been showing off? They examined things carefully, but found nothing missing but the chips, not even food. Ham could not imagine why the kindling had been removed from the hearth, for he was positive that no fire had been built in either the stove or the fireplace since they had last been there.

After they had warmed sufficiently, they began to think of supper. Ham selected a can of clam soup from the shelf and opened it, but it was frozen solid. He set it by the fire to thaw out and made a second selection. This time he chose a can of beans, but found them in the same condition. He looked in the bread box the rye-bread was as hard as a bullet. They pulled the table close up before the fire and made out a supper, the best thing on the menu being a pot of boiling-hot tea.

After supper they pulled down the blankets and carefully warmed them before the fire. Then the two boys sat and planned concerning the coming camp until they grew sleepy. After a great pine knot had been placed for the night log, the boys slipped into bed between at least a dozen blankets.

Just before going to bed, Willis prepared a few choice slivers so that a fire could be quickly started in the morning, and he left them in a little pile on the hearth. In the night he heard strange noises down on the floor, but, because it was so cold, he did not venture out to investigate, and in the morning every chip was gone. The mystery of the chips grew deeper.

They lay in bed late next morning, for the cabin was cold and dark and they were so comfortable. Time was nothing to them that day. As they lay, chatting, Ham suddenly squeezed Willis’s arm, then raised on his elbow to listen. He heard voices, and they were coming up the canyon. He crawled to where he could peep out of the window, but all he could see were the feet of two men and a dog. The cabin was very cold, so he slipped back between the blankets to warm and talk it over with Willis. About nine o’clock they got up, still wondering what could have brought men into that canyon on such a morning.

Surely there was no hunting, and why should men from the claim in the other gulch be coming up through Buffalo Park? The boys were bothered. They were just sitting down to a breakfast of steaming-hot cakes when from somewhere up in the timber came the clear sound of some one hammering on metal, heavy blow after blow. Ham paused, listened attentively, a forkful of hot cake raised half-way to his mouth. The sound came very clearly and at regular intervals.

“Sounds like some one pounding a stone drill; perhaps they are going to do some blasting!”

Willis rose from his seat, threw open the door, and looked up the snowy hillside. He was right the sound came from the direction of his father’s mine.

“What on earth would any one be blasting up there for?” he said, half to himself. He was thinking of what Ben had told him the last time he was at the Roost. Ham had also risen from the table and stood looking out over Willis’s shoulder. The bark of a dog came floating down the canyon.

Suddenly there was a sharp rattle in the corner of the cabin, followed by a heavy thud. Ham turned quickly, just in time to see the ax fall to the floor from its place in the corner. Willis felt a long, cold shiver creep up his back. The ax had been laid on top of the little stove in the corner, and something had caused it to fall.

“Spooks,” laughed Ham dryly.

“What made that ax fall?” questioned Willis in a voice which betrayed his feeling. They advanced cautiously toward the corner. There was a scamper of tiny feet, and a large gray rat bounded across the floor and dropped out of sight through a long opening between the floor and the wall. In a moment Willis was down on his hands and knees, investigating.

“Well, of all things,” he said, as he looked up laughingly at Ham; “we have located our mysterious robber. Here are all of our precious fire starters.” Ham stooped to see for himself, and there, under the stove in the corner, was a neat little pile of pine slivers.

“If that rat lived in the city,” observed Ham, “he’d be a shoplifter, sure. It’s strange he hasn’t stolen our food?”

“Ham, I’m going to the mine. Do you want to stay here or go along?” Ham thought a moment, then began to pull on his coat. As he passed the fireplace, he threw on another log, then the two boys stepped out into the morning air. Ham carefully locked the door behind them he always took that precaution.

“I’d like to know who tried to get into this house, Willis?” he said as they struck the trail following the footprints of the earlier party up the canyon. The sound of hammering still came occasionally from the hill.

“Perhaps it was the same men that passed this morning,” replied Willis. “I wonder why they didn’t stop and try the door; they must have seen that it was unlocked.”

“Perhaps they wanted to pass unnoticed.”

“No, that couldn’t be, for they were talking loudly as they passed.”

“Perhaps they didn’t notice the cabin door at all.”

“Perhaps not, but they must have noticed our trail over the bridge and your footprints to the stream.”

“O, I don’t know; it snowed in the night, and besides, you see they were on the upper trail. They evidently came for some special purpose, and were anxious to get at it. You know, I’ve been thinking they must have come from Bruin Inn this morning, because they couldn’t have gotten here so early if they had come all the way from the city.”

“By Jove, boy! I hadn’t thought of that, but since you speak of it, there certainly was something familiar in one of those voices, and that laugh! Why, of course, it was Old Ben, his dog, and some stranger.”

Progress was slow, for the snow was deep in places. At the old tumbled-down cabin the trail turned and ran up the mountain side. Willis felt a strange pounding at his heart. The noise on the mountain had stopped, but every now and then he heard the sound of voices from somewhere up in the timber. As they reached the last turn in the trail, the two figures came into view. Ham had been correct in his supposition one of the men was Old Ben, but the other was a stranger. Ben had, no doubt, seen the boys coming, for he stood looking down the trail toward them. When they were a little nearer he saluted them: “Howdy, young’uns. This is a tarnal cold morning for a pair o’ city fellers, ain’t it?”

“Not on your life,” cheerily answered Ham; “there’s nothing citified about us. Any one who could sleep in these hills a night like last night and not freeze is no tenderfoot. What brings you up here so early this morning?”

“Early, boys? You’re so tarnal lazy, you think dinner time is early. See anything o’ my dog round the cabin?”

“No, we haven’t seen him, except when you went by a while ago.”

Willis was interested in what the stranger was doing. He was bent over a big rock, filing a metal instrument. His back was turned. Willis was looking about to see what they could have been hammering, but could see no sign of their work.

“Prospecting a little?” queried Ham, as he picked up the light sledge that lay on the snow.

“Well, not jist exactly,” drawled Old Ben; “it’s too tarnal cold to do much prospectin’. We’re jist on an observin’ trip this time.”

“Observing the scenery, or what?” persisted Ham. “We heard you doing some mighty loud observing up here a few minutes ago. Come, now, no secrets. What are you up to? Do you know you are trespassing this very moment?”

“Trespassin’, eh? Well, I expect Old Ben knows when he’s trespassin’ an’ when he ain’t. This time he ain’t.” He turned to the stranger and continued: “I jist come along to give my friend here a little moral support. He’s so tarnal foolish about this old hole.”

“Not foolish, Ben,” answered the stranger, as he turned from his work, “not foolish, but why, good morning, lad!” He advanced with extended hand toward Willis.

Willis could hardly believe his own eyes. What was this man doing here?

“It seems like our paths cross often, doesn’t it?”

“Why, I ” exclaimed Willis.

“I know you are surprised,” continued the stranger, “but no more so than I, for I didn’t expect to find you here on such a morning as this.”

“But what are you doing here?” stammered Willis. “What is there about this mine that is of interest to you? This mine is my father’s property, and it’s locked the tunnel, I mean

“Yes, I know, lad,” he interrupted. “I know it does seem strange, but it isn’t half as strange to you as it is to me, and besides

“But, sir, how dare you tamper with locked property?”

“Lad,” and the stranger spoke in that same quiet, kindly voice that had attracted Willis the first time he had seen him, “do you remember that fall day when we last talked together? Up back of Daddy Wright’s on the Cheyenne trail?”

“Yes, sir, I do,” replied Willis, “and I remember every word you said, but

The stranger lifted his hand for silence, and then continued: “And do you remember you asked me if I had ever known a young engineer that used to be in these parts, and I said, ‘Yes;’ then you asked me if I knew a Tad Kieser that used to be a partner of his, and I told you I did?”

“Yes, yes, I remember all that,” interrupted Willis; “but what has that to do with this mine?”

“A very great deal, my boy. Listen! I know Tad Kieser better than any man alive, and of all the men I ever knew, Tad is the strangest. I believe he owns a half interest in this property, does he not? But he hasn’t been near it for half a dozen years, and to my knowledge he has never been inside of it since the day of the accident. What’s more, my boy, there’s just one thing in all the world that could ever induce him to enter it again

“What is the one thing?” questioned Ham.

“If it wasn’t for the advice of old Ben here, I would not be here to-day, either; but Ben and I have been friends these twenty years, and in that time I have learned to know that Ben’s opinions are expressed only after a very careful consideration of all the facts. I’m here because Old Ben insisted that I come.”

Willis turned and looked at Ben. He stood by, smiling and puffing away at his pipe. “But what has all that to do with Tad Kieser?” questioned Willis a little disappointedly. “Of all the men in the world I would like most to see, it’s Tad. Tell me where he is, if you know.”

“But why do you want to see him so badly, may I ask?” questioned the stranger.

“Because he is the only man in the world that can straighten out a tangle of things that I don’t understand. And I’m sure that if he knew I was here, he’d come to help me.”

Old Ben came to the rescue.

“Boy, Tad would do anything in the great, wide world fer ye. He’s talked about ye every tarnal day since he first seen ye, an’ they ain’t been nothin’ in his mind since, except yer welfare. Ye are a tarnal lucky feller to have such a friend.”

“Saw me?” questioned Willis. “Tad Kieser saw me?”

“Yes, boy, an’ is a lookin’ at ye now, an’ is out in this cold here fer ye this mornin’, a breakin’ of vows he made long ago. Tad, tell the boy all about it. This young feller an’ me is goin’ to look up that tarnal dog.” He took Ham by the arm and drew him away down the trail out of hearing. Tad and Willis were busy at the lock of the old tunnel. Old Ben explained the situation to Ham as they leisurely hunted the dog. At last Ham understood, and was happy for Willis.

“My, but you look pert, Tad. I ain’t seed ye look so pert in ten year. What’s up? Come, tell a feller. Has that young’un been stuffin’ ye while we was gone?” and Ben laughed a merry laugh.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were Tad the first day?” questioned Willis, his eyes shining with pleasure.

“I’ll tell you why some time,” replied the old miner, “but not now. I would never have consented to come up here this morning with Ben if I had not suspected that Mr. Williams intended to enter this tunnel very soon. Perhaps you know how he hates me. I caught him in a mighty crooked deal here once, and scared him badly. He and I have fought each other ever since the death of your father. He holds the keys to this lock, that’s why I’m cutting it off. We’re going to replace it with another. When your uncle comes he will find I have been ahead of him.”

“And you aren’t going into the tunnel?” questioned Willis in astonishment.

“No, lad, not to-day. I don’t know as I ever will.”

“Tell me all about the trouble between you and my uncle. How does it happen that he holds the key to this lock instead of you? Mother told me you had the key?” questioned Willis.

“I did once, but when I refused to let him enter, he came with a hacksaw and removed the lock, placing this great brass one in its stead. Your uncle was the only person with your father when he died, except the nurse, and he has always claimed that Bill turned all his mining property over to him. He offered to buy me out, but I refused to sell.

“Nearly a year after your father’s death, I learned from a nurse in the hospital that in his last moments your father called for me, but Williams told him that I was badly hurt. He told your uncle that the real gold vein had been uncovered by the fatal blast, and that I was to be sure to work it for your sake and your mother’s. Williams promised to tell me. I tried to get the nurse to go into court and swear to her statement, but she refused, and I found out afterward that Williams had bought her off. I went and looked at the tunnel; then he broke in, took samples, and, I believe, found them good. He locked the door with this lock, and since the day of the accident I have never seen inside. I have never wanted to. I don’t know, but I have always been determined that he should not plunder your father’s possessions. At the time of the accident he came into possession of all your father’s papers. He let the assessments run out on the Cheyenne claim, and then jumped it for his own. Only last month he sold that claim to Beverly H. Pembroke for a consideration of eight thousand dollars.

“He hates me, because he knows that one more move on his part and I’ll place the matter in the hands of the law. I believe that he once hired an outlaw to kill me, but was unsuccessful. I can’t prove it, but the facts look so. I have been afraid ever since I knew you were here that your mother, as the rightful heir to the property, would play into his hands. I feared he would offer to sell her share of this mine for her and, in reality, buy it himself. He could then, according to law, force me to sell my share or to buy his. If I refused to sell, he would ask a very large sum for his, and in that way force me to his bargain. His working the tunnel on the other side of the dyke this fall and winter is more to scare me into believing he will get the gold anyway, and that I may as well sell, than anything else. I have learned that they are having a great deal of trouble in their tunnel. It’s very shaly and keeps caving from above. If he spent as much time and money caring for his sick wife as he has on this mine, she might have gotten well.”

Willis had been listening with breathless interest.

“Go on,” he begged. “Tell me all about everything, from the very beginning.”

“Lad, it’s a long, long story. I’ll do that later. Let’s not talk any more about it now.”

“O, I must know about it. Don’t stop. Tad, you can’t possibly know what all this means to me.” Tad rose and snapped the new lock in place on the door, while Old Ben cursed under his breath.

“Of all the tarnal idiots,” he was saying; “I never seed a man so sot in his ways. Tad, ain’t ye even goin’ to peek inside?”

“No, Ben, not to-day. Perhaps some day,” returned the old prospector, “and perhaps never.”

Willis jumped to his feet. “Not to-day, Tad? Not to-day? Do you mean you aren’t going into the mine. Well, I am, even if you aren’t. I don’t leave this spot until I see the inside for myself. Give me the key. Ham and I will go in alone.”

“O, I wish you wouldn’t. It’s dangerous, and I am sure the story of the gold is only a notion. Your father was out of his mind when he died, and the gold he told about was just one of his dreams. I worked with him that day, and I saw no special signs of gold.”

“Yes, but that varmit, Williams, has seed signs,” muttered Ben. “He went in an’ brought out samples; he knows, an’ you only think you do.”

Willis held out his hand for the key, and Ben urged him on. Tad looked far away over the snowy hills, then up the quiet valley, so peaceful in its white robes, and at last down to the little cabin below. There his gaze rested.

“My, but it hardly seems fourteen years since I built that shanty,” he said. “How happy I was then! Fourteen years brings strange things into a man’s life. My boy, I hope you will never get the gold fever. Steer clear of it.”

“But Tad, I have it already,” replied Willis, “and I am following where it leads me.”

Tad looked at him, and a strange, sad expression came to his face.

“How much you talk like your father, and you’re so like him, too! I’m sorry.”

He reached deep into his trousers’ pocket, pulled out the key, then got slowly to his feet. Twice he changed his mind; but Willis persisted, and at last he yielded. The new lock opened easily, but not so the great log door. Its hinges were rusted from the storms of many seasons. As Willis pulled hard, the old hinges groaned, as if regretting that they were to be disturbed after so long a rest. As the door swung back, and the mouth of the tunnel was disclosed, Tad caught Willis by the arm and held him. “Wait, my boy,” he said, “you must let the old place air out. Remember, it has been bottled up a long time. I’ll wager a light won’t even burn in there just now.”

“Have you a candle?” asked Willis, his tone betraying his excitement.

“I’ll get some,” volunteered Ham, and off he started down the trail for the cabin.

The tunnel was a round, irregular hole a little higher than a man’s head, and in width it varied with the width of the dyke. The floor had been covered with rough-hewn planks to make the pushing of the loaded wheelbarrows easier. These old planks were black and wet, but still quite sound. As they stood, waiting for Ham to return, Tad told Willis something more of the early history of the mine:

“You see, the dyke seems to follow an ancient crevice in the granite, which runs straight in for a hundred and fifty feet, then turns abruptly to the west. Here it widens out, and just at that point the strata shifts and is folded. We found a small quantity of quartz just there. The day of the accident I was replacing some of the floor planks near the entrance and your father was preparing to make a series of blasts on the new strata. I was to help him shoot them when he was ready. He was very pleased at the new outcropping of quartz, and was very anxious to open up the vein before we quit work for the day. The farther in you go, the more shaly the black rock seems to get, and in some places we were forced to roof the drift with mine props in order to keep the ceiling up. I was bending over, chopping the end of a plank, when I was violently knocked down. In falling I struck my head against the rough wall, cutting myself badly over the left eye. I struggled to my feet dazedly, the blood streaming down over my face. I had mined long enough to know just what had happened. In some way your father had prematurely set off his blast. I started toward him, but the heavy powder smoke drove me back. I dropped to my knees to get the air it’s always best near the floor and in a moment a second explosion came. I snatched the jug of water and began crawling toward Bill on all fours. I called again and again, but no answer came. When I finally reached him I felt faint and sick. I found him nearly completely buried in a heap of stone. He was unconscious, and never spoke to me again. After two hours of tremendous effort, I was able to lift his poor, broken body in my arms and carry it out. I was thankful then that he was unconscious and could not feel the pain. By night I got him to the cabin, and at once set off for Ben’s. We came back by lantern light that night, and led the old horse. We spent the rest of the night building a crude litter of poles and blankets, and as soon as it was light we fastened one end of the stretcher to the horse, a pole on either side of him, and each one of us carried a pole at the other end. It took an hour for us to get down to the canyon road. In twelve hours your father died. He regained consciousness just long enough to talk with Williams briefly. What he said at that time I have never been able to find out.

“Then followed the awful years of lonesomeness for me, made worse by the always-present knowledge that I should have been the one to shoot those blasts and not your father. I wrote your mother fully concerning the accident, but never received a reply, so have had no word of you since that time. I’ve told you how your uncle tried to get possession of the mine. When I would not sell, he hounded my every step until at last I left the city and went to work for the D. & P.W. as fireman. I went through the city often, but very rarely stopped off. But it seems I came just often enough to keep your uncle too frightened to carry out his plan concerning the tunnel.”

Ham was returning up the trail now, and soon the candles were lighted. Tad took the lead, followed by Willis, Ham and Old Ben bringing up the rear. A little inside the entrance, and to one side, a small room had been cut in the solid granite for a store-room. Here were the tools of the mine two wheelbarrows, several shovels and picks, a large lantern, and several boxes of powder. What had once been a heavy coil of hemp rope was now a very comfortable rat’s nest. Several old stone drills had been driven into the crevices for hooks, and on them hung old burlap sacks, a coil of heavy wire, two old slouch hats, and a man’s coat.

Tad had bared his head as he entered. He slowly led the way down the narrow lane without a word. A little farther in they came to a very rusty ax, leaning against the wall, and Willis guessed that it had never been moved from where Tad had last used it. The large, blackened chips were scattered over the floor, and the great plank lay where he had last worked on it. Tad was very cautious now, trying the props overhead every few feet, to see if they were safe. Willis was walking as if in a dream; he was stepping very softly and his head was bowed. This was the very path his father had trod. He fancied he heard his cheery voice now, as he came and went with load after load of rock. He fancied how he must have felt as he worked day by day, ever surer of the fortune that was to be his. He found himself wondering how his life’s course might have been changed if that golden dream had come true. The tunnel turned abruptly to the west, and Tad moved more cautiously still. Presently Tad halted and pointed to a heap of rock on the floor, “It was there, lad,” he said very quietly, and that was all. Willis stooped and placed his hand on the place for a second. Tad noticed that his face was white and drawn and his eyes were very big. He let him stay for an instant, then took him gently by the arm and led him out.

Old Ben made a hasty examination of the rocks on the floor, then of the exposed vein. He handed the candle to Ham, and, drawing from his pocket a heavy cold chisel, he carefully knocked off some choice pieces of the ore and placed them in his pocket, muttering to himself all the while. When he had satisfied himself, he turned, took the candle, and started out, motioning Ham to precede him.

“Best gold quartz I’ve seed in many a year,” he said softly, “only Tad will never believe it.” Ham understood. Ahead of them, down the narrow black passage, they saw Tad’s light disappear.

“They have stepped into the tool-room, boy,” said Ben, “an’ every tarnal one o’ them implements is nearly sacred to Tad. Let’s not disturb ’em.” He blew out his light and leaned against the wall of the tunnel, pulling Ham back with him.

In a few minutes they were surprised to hear loud exclamations and the moving of the old iron wheelbarrows. Ahead they could see the light of the opening, so Old Ben started again toward the entrance.

“Guess that memorial service must be all over, from the racket they’re makin’ with them tarnal carts,” he said.

When they reached Willis, they found him carefully going through the pockets of the musty old coat hanging upon the wall. The cloth had fairly rotted in the moisture. Tad was holding the treasures as Willis removed them from the pockets. To Tad’s surprise, there was inside the coat an old vest. They were no doubt the clothes Mr. Thornton had worn the day of the accident. In one vest pocket was Bill’s gold watch, in another a musty pocketbook and a badly worn note-book that had mildewed in the moisture. There were three letters in the outside coat pocket. Willis took one, moist and rotten as it was, from the envelope and noticed they were from his mother, and were probably the last ones she had written. Willis’s hand shook violently and two great tears glistened in his eyes. In the other outside pocket was a strange tin tube, perhaps a foot in length, with a removable lid at either end. The tube was rusted red and the ends sealed tight with rust. Willis handed the tube to Tad, a question on his lips.

“Thank God,” Tad was saying to himself, “thank God, he didn’t do it. I’ve often thought I’d kill him if he had.”

“If who had what?” questioned Willis.

“Don’t ask me, lad, not now I’ll tell you some time, perhaps. Come, let’s go. This air is very bad, and I’m just a little sick.” He linked his arm through Willis’s, and together they walked out into the cold morning air. Ben and Ham followed. When they were outside, Tad swung the door shut and locked it. Then, with a note of triumph in his voice, he said:

“There, Williams can have the place for all I care,” and he held the queer tin tube in his hand before them.

“Open it,” urged Willis. Tad turned to him.

“My boy, there has never been a day in the past half-dozen years that I have not wondered what became of that tin tube. Many times, after hours of reasoning, I have decided that your uncle stole that tube from your father’s belongings. I have done the man an injustice. From my firm belief that he had taken the tube came my great dislike for him. You have never seen the contents of that can, lad, but your mother has. At one time they were very valuable, and I have no doubt that even now that can contains a small fortune for you

“But ” interrupted Willis. Tad paid no attention to him, and went on:

“The contents of that tube will place your father among the greatest of mining engineers and give his name the honor it has always been entitled to

“But Tad

“When your father conceived that idea it was impractical. He was too far ahead of the times. But to-day, lad, it means that every mine dump in the Cripple Creek region will be worked over again and the gold removed at a trifling expense, for in that tube are the blueprints of the greatest electrical ore-roasting machine in the world.” He took his knife from his pocket and slowly and carefully pried off the rusty lid. The blue roll slid out into his hand. The moisture had not penetrated the can, and the sketches were as good as the day they were made. Willis took them in his hand and proudly turned them over and over, then he placed them again in the can with the remark, “Tad, these things all belong to mother. I wonder what she’ll say?”

Tad broke into a pleased little laugh, and the old smile that had made him so many friends in the years gone by came back to his grizzled face.

“Lad, you’re rich to-day, and I am better satisfied. Those plans will bring you and your mother a goodly sum. It lifts a great burden from a poor, worthless prospector’s mind.” Willis did not know the true meaning of the words, but Old Ben did, and it was now his turn to talk.

“Tad, I’ve knowed ye for a tarnal lot o’ years, hain’t I? An’, Tad, they ain’t a soul on earth as would do fer ye as me. I’ve lived a life myself, Tad, an’ I ain’t so big a fool as ye are about some things.” Ben pulled a piece of the ore from his pocket and held it up for inspection. “Tad, there’s a twenty-inch vein of that rock in yonder, an’ finer gold quartz ye never seed in all yer days.” He turned to Willis: “Boy, ye’r tarnal lucky. Them plans may be valuable, but I have my doubts about it; but it’s certain that that mine is valuable. Jist how much gold they is there, I don’t know, but they is lots of it. Two or three more weeks an’ Williams would have struck it from the other side. Now listen, lad: sell out, do you hear me, sell out. It’ll bring a handsome price on assay; but sell now, or Williams ” and his voice dropped to a mysterious whisper and he looked suspiciously about him, “or Williams will get the best of ye yet.”

After more talk and discussion, the whole party went down to the cabin, and Ham prepared a special supper. After the meal was over, all sat and talked before the fireplace, and the entire story was gone over again in detail. Towards late afternoon they began the down trip through the canyon.

At the inn Tad promised to come the next day to the city to meet Mrs. Thornton. Together they would confer about the newly-discovered facts.

“Don’t wait too tarnal long to sell, boy, or something will happen. Tad’s unlucky. Sell if ye can, an’ I’d make that tarnal critter, Williams, buy the whole business, if I was you.”

Tad and Willis stood some time talking, Willis then took the plans and the other things that had been in his father’s coat, and started home. They walked in silence for some time, then Willis spoke:

“O, Ham, I’m so happy to-day, and still ” He paused and the smile faded from his face. “Still, why should I be happy? Do these plans and that gold mine up there give me back my dear old dad?”

“Not really,” replied Ham, “but perhaps those things he left you will make it possible for you to accomplish in this world the things he had hoped to do, and perhaps better things.” The little smile came back again to Willis’s face.

“Ham, you’re really a philosopher. I’ll do my very best, I’ll tell you that. Now, let’s hurry.”