Part 5 out of 5
"No doubt! What it is is what I want to find out."
There was another way in which Louis Wheeler made himself
popular among the miners of Oreville. He had a violin with him,
and in the evening he seated himself on the veranda and played
He had only a smattering in the way of musical training, but the
airs he played took better than classical music would have done.
Even Jefferson Pettigrew enjoyed listening to "Home, Sweet Home"
and "The Last Rose of Summer," while the miners were captivated
by merry dance tunes, which served to enliven them after a long
day's work at the mines.
One day there was a sensation. A man named John O'Donnell came
down stairs from his room looking pale and agitated.
"Boys," he said, "I have been robbed."
Instantly all eyes were turned upon him.
"Of what have you been robbed, O'Donnell?" asked Jefferson.
"Of two hundred dollars in gold. I was going to send it home to
my wife in Connecticut next week."
"When did you miss it?"
"Where did you keep it?"
"In a box under my bed."
"When do you think it was taken?"
"What makes you think so?"
"I am a sound sleeper, and last night you know was very dark.
I awoke with a start, and seemed to hear footsteps. I looked
towards the door, and saw a form gliding from the room."
"Why didn't you jump out of bed and seize the intruder whoever
"Because I was not sure but it was all a dream. I think now it
was some thief who had just robbed me."
"I think so too. Could you make out anything of his appearance?"
"I could only see the outlines of his figure. He was a
tall man. He must have taken the money from under my bed."
"Did any one know that you had money concealed there?"
"I don't think I ever mentioned it."
"It seems we have a thief among us," said Jefferson, and almost
unconsciously his glance rested on Louis Wheeler who was seated
near John O'Donnell, "what do you think, Mr. Wheeler?"
"I think you are right, Mr. Pettigrew."
"Have you any suggestion to make?" asked Jefferson. "Have you
by chance lost anything?"
"Not that I am aware of."
"Is there any one else here who has been robbed?"
No one spoke.
"You asked me if I had any suggestions to make, Mr. Pettigrew,"
said Louis Wheeler after a pause. "I have.
"Our worthy friend Mr. O'Donnell has met with a serious loss.
I move that we who are his friends make it up to him. Here is
my contribution," and he laid a five dollar bill on the table.
It was a happy suggestion and proved popular. Every one present
came forward, and tendered his contributions including
Jefferson, who put down twenty five dollars.
Mr. Wheeler gathered up the notes and gold and sweeping them to
his hat went forward and tendered them to John O'Donnell.
"Take this money, Mr. O'Donnell," he said. "It is the free will
offering of your friends. I am sure I may say for them, as for
myself, that it gives us all pleasure to help a comrade in trouble."
Louis Wheeler could have done nothing that would have so lifted
him in the estimation of the miners.
"And now," he said, "as our friend is out of his trouble I will
play you a few tunes on my violin, and will end the day happily."
"I can't make out that fellow, Rodney," said Jefferson when they
were alone. "I believe he is the thief, but he has an immense
amount of nerve."
MR. WHEELER EXPLAINS.
Probably there was no one at the hotel who suspected Louis
Wheeler of being a thief except Rodney and Mr. Pettigrew.
His action in starting a contribution for John O'Donnell helped
to make him popular. He was establishing a reputation quite new
to him, and it was this fact probably that made him less prudent
than he would otherwise have been.
As the loss had been made up, the boarders at the Miners' Rest
ceased to talk of it. But Jefferson and his young assistant did
not forget it.
"I am sure Wheeler is the thief, but I don't know how to bring
it home to him," said Jefferson one day, when alone with Rodney.
"You might search him."
"Yes, but what good would that do? It might be found that he
had money, but one gold coin is like another and it would be
impossible to identify it as the stolen property. If O'Donnell
had lost anything else except money it would be different.
I wish he would come to my chamber."
"Perhaps he would if he thought you were a sound sleeper."
"That is an idea. I think I can make use of it.".
That evening when Wheeler was present Mr. Pettigrew managed to
turn the conversation to the subject of sleeping.
"I am a very sound sleeper," he said. "I remember when I was at
home sleeping many a time through a severe thunder storm."
"Don't you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night?"
"Very seldom, if I am in good health."
"Its different with me," said another of the company. "A step on
the floor or the opening of the door will wake me up at any time."
"I am glad I am not so easily roused."
"If I had a fish horn," said Rodney, laughing, "I should be tempted
to come up in the night and give it a blast before your door."
"That might wake me up," said Mr. Pettigrew. "I wouldn't advise you
to try it or the other boarders might get up an indignation meeting."
The same evening Jefferson Pettigrew took out a bag of gold and
carelessly displayed it.
"Are you not afraid of being robbed, Mr. Pettigrew?" asked Rodney.
"Oh no. I never was robbed in my life."
"How much money have you there?"
"I don't know exactly. Perhaps six hundred dollars," said
Pettigrew in an indifferent tone.
Among those who listened to this conversation with interest was
Louis Wheeler. Rodney did not fail to see the covetous gleam of
his eyes when the gold was displayed.
The fact was, that Wheeler was getting short of cash and at the
time he took John O'Donnell's money--for he was the thief--he
had but about twenty dollars left, and of this he contributed
five to the relief of the man he had robbed.
His theft realized him two hundred dollars, but this would
not last him long, as the expenses of living at the Miners' Rest
were considerable. He was getting tired of Oreville, but wanted
to secure some additional money before he left it. The problem
was whom to make his second victim.
It would not have occurred to him to rob Jefferson Pettigrew, of
whom he stood in wholesome fear, but for the admission that he
was an unusually sound sleeper; even then he would have felt
uncertain whether it would pay. But the display of the bag of
money, and the statement that it contained six hundred dollars
in gold proved a tempting bait.
"If I can capture that bag of gold," thought Wheeler, "I shall
have enough money to set me up in some new place. There won't
be much risk about it, for Pettigrew sleeps like a top. I will
Jefferson Pettigrew's chamber was on the same floor as his own.
It was the third room from No. 17 which Mr. Wheeler occupied.
As a general thing the occupants of the Miners' Rest went to
bed early. Mining is a fatiguing business, and those who follow
it have little difficulty in dropping off to sleep. The only
persons who were not engaged in this business were Louis Wheeler
and Rodney Ropes. As a rule the hotel was closed at half past
ten and before this all were in bed and sleeping soundly.
When Wheeler went to bed he said to himself, "This will probably
be my last night in this tavern. I will go from here to Helena,
and if things turn out right I may be able to make my stay
there profitable. I shan't dare to stay here long after relieving
Pettigrew of his bag of gold."
Unlike Jefferson Pettigrew, Wheeler was a light sleeper. He had
done nothing to induce fatigue, and had no difficulty in keeping
awake till half past eleven. Then lighting a candle, he
examined his watch, and ascertained the time.
"It will be safe enough now," he said to himself.
He rose from his bed, and drew on his trousers. Then in his
stocking feet he walked along the corridor till he stood in
front of Jefferson Pettigrew's door. He was in doubt as to
whether he would not be obliged to pick the lock, but on trying
the door he found that it was not fastened. He opened it and
stood within the chamber.
Cautiously he glanced at the bed. Mr. Pettigrew appeared to be
"It's all right" thought Louis Wheeler. "Now where is the bag
It was not in open view, but a little search showed that the
owner had put it under the bed.
"He isn't very sharp," thought Wheeler. "He is playing right
into my hands. Door unlocked, and bag of gold under the bed.
He certainly is a very unsuspicious man. However, that is all
the better for me. Really there isn't much credit in stealing
where all is made easy for you."
There seemed to be nothing to do but to take the gold from its
place of deposit and carry it back to his own room. While there
were a good many lodgers in the hotel, there seemed to be little
risk about this, as every one was asleep.
Of course should the bag be found in his room that would betray
him, but Mr. Wheeler proposed to empty the gold coins into his
gripsack, and throw the bag out of the window into the back yard.
"Well, here goes!" said Wheeler cheerfully, as he lifted the
bag, and prepared to leave the chamber. But at this critical
moment an unexpected sound struck terror into his soul. It was
the sound of a key being turned in the lock.
Nervously Wheeler hastened to the door and tried it. It would
not open. Evidently it had been locked from the outside.
What could it mean?
At the same time there was a series of knocks on the outside
of the door. It was the signal that had been agreed upon
between Mr. Pettigrew and Rodney. Jefferson had given his key
to Rodney, who had remained up and on the watch for Mr.
Wheeler's expected visit. He, too, was in his stocking feet.
As soon as he saw Wheeler enter his friend's chamber he stole up
and locked the door on the outide. Then when he heard the thief
trying to open the door he rained a shower of knocks on the panel.
Instantly Jefferson Pettigrew sprang out of bed and proceeded
"What are you doing here?" he demanded, seizing Wheeler in his
"Where am I?" asked Wheeler in a tone of apparent bewilderment.
"Oh, it's you, Mr. Wheeler?" said Jefferson. "Don't you know
where you are?"
"Oh, it is my friend, Mr. Pettigrew. Is it possible I am in
"It is very possible. Now tell me why you are here?"
"I am really ashamed to find myself in this strange position.
It is not the first time that I have got into trouble from
walking in my sleep."
"Oh, you were walking in your sleep!"
"Yes, friend Petttigrew. It has been a habit of mine since I
was a boy. But it seems very strange that I should have been
led to your room. How could I get in? Wasn't the door locked?"
"It is locked now?"
"It is strange! I don't understand it," said Wheeler, passing his
hand over his forehead.
"Perhaps you understand why you have that bag of gold in your hand."
"Can it be possible?" ejaculated Wheeler in well
counterfeited surprise. "I don't know how to account for it."
"I think I can. Rodney, unlock the door and come in."
The key was turned in the lock, and Rodney entered with a
lighted candle in his hand.
"You see, Rodney, that I have a late visitor. You will notice
also that my bag of gold seems to have had an attraction for him."
"I am ashamed. I don't really know how to explain it except in
this way. When you displayed the gold last night it drew my
attention and I must have dreamed of it. It was this which drew
me unconsciously to your door. It is certainly an interesting
fact in mental science."
"It would have been a still more interesting fact if you had
carried off the gold."
"I might even have done that in my unconsciousness, but of
course I should have discovered it tomorrow morning and would
have returned it to you."
"I don't feel by any means sure of that. Look here, Mr.
Wheeler, if that is your name, you can't pull the wool over
my eyes. You are a thief, neither more nor less."
"How can you misjudge me so, Mr. Pettigrew?"
"Because I know something of your past history. It is clear to
me now that you were the person that stole John O'Donnell's money."
"Indeed, Mr. Pettigrew."
"It is useless to protest. How much of it have you left?"
Louis Wheeler was compelled to acknowledge the theft, and
returned one hundred dollars to Jefferson Pettigrew.
"Now," said Jefferson, "I advise you to leave the hotel at once.
If the boys find out that you are a thief you will stand a
chance of being lynched. Get out!"
The next morning Jefferson Pettigrew told the other boarders that
Louis Wheeler had had a sudden call East, and it was not for a
week that he revealed to them the real reason of Wheeler's departure.
RODNEY FALLS INTO A TRAP.
Rodney had reason to be satisfied with his position as landlord
of the Miners' Rest. His pay was large, and enabled him to put
away a good sum every month, but his hours were long and he was
too closely confined for a boy of his age. At the end of three
months he showed this in his appearance. His good friend
Pettigrew saw it and said one day, "Rodney, you are looking
fagged out. You need a change."
"Does that mean that you are going to discharge me?" asked
Rodney, with a smile.
"It means that I am going to give you a vacation."
"But what can I do if I take a vacation? I should not like
lounging around Oreville with nothing to do."
"Such a vacation would do you no good. I'll tell you the plan
I have for you. I own a small mine in Babcock, about fifty
miles north of Oreville. I will send you up to examine it, and
make a report to me. Can you ride on horseback?"
"That is well, for you will have to make your trip in that way.
There are no railroads in that direction, nor any other way of
travel except on foot or on horseback. A long ride like that
with hours daily in the open air, will do you good.
What do you say to it?"
"I should like nothing better," replied Rodney, with his
eyes sparkling. "Only, how will you get along without me?"
"I have a man in my employ at the mines who will do part of your
work, and I will have a general oversight of things. So you
need not borrow any trouble on that account. Do you think you
can find your way?"
"Give me the general direction, and I will guarantee to do so.
When shall I start?"
"Day after tomorrow. That will give me one day for making arrangements."
At nine the appointed morning Mr. Pettigrew's own horse stood
saddled at the door, and Rodney in traveling costume with a
small satchel in his hand, mounted and rode away, waving a
smiling farewell to his friend and employer.
Rodney did not hurry, and so consumed two days and a half in
reaching Babcock. Here he was cordially received by the
superintendent whom Jefferson Pettigrew had placed in charge of
the mine. Every facility was afforded him to examine into the
management of things and he found all satisfactory.
This part of his journey, therefore, may be passed over.
But his return trip was destined to be more exciting.
Riding at an easy jog Rodney had got within fifteen miles of
Oreville, when there was an unexpected interruption. Two men
started out from the roadside, or rather from one side of the
bridle path for there was no road, and advanced to meet him with
"Halt there!" one of them exclaimed in a commanding tone.
Rodney drew bridle, and gazed at the two men in surprise.
"What do you want of me?" he asked.
"Why should I? What right have you to interfere with my
"Might gives right," said one of the men sententiously. "It will
be best for you to do as we bid you without too much back talk."
"What are you--highwaymen?" asked Rodney.
"You'd better not talk too much. Get off that horse!"
Rodney saw that remonstrance was useless, and obeyed the order.
One of the men seized the horse by the bridle, and led him.
"Walk in front!" he said.
"Where are you going to take me?" asked Rodney.
"You will know in due time."
"I hope you will let me go," urged Rodney, beginning to be uneasy.
"I am expected home this evening, or at all event I want to get there."
"No doubt you do, but the Miners' Rest will have to get along
without you for a while."
"Do you know me then?"
"Yes; you are the boy clerk at the Miners' Rest."
"You both put up there about two weeks since," said Rodney,
examining closely the faces of the two men.
"Right you are, kid!"
"What can you possibly want of me?"
"Don't be too curious. You will know in good time."
Rodney remembered that the two men had remained at the hotel for
a day and night. They spent the day in wandering around Oreville.
He had supposed when they came that they were in search of
employment, but they had not applied for work and only seemed
actuated by curiosity. What could be their object in stopping
him now he could not understand.
It would have been natural to suppose they wanted money, but
they had not asked for any as yet. He had about fifty dollars
in his pocketbook and he would gladly have given them this if it
would have insured his release. But not a word had been said
They kept on their journey. Montana is a mountainous State, and
they were now in the hilly regions. They kept on for perhaps
half an hour, gradually getting upon higher ground, until they
reached a precipitous hill composed largely of rock.
Here the two men stopped as if they had reached their journey's end.
One of them advanced to the side of the hill and unlocked
a thick wooden door which at first had failed to attract
Rodney's attention. The door swung open, revealing a dark passage,
cut partly through stone and partly through earth. Inside on the
floor was a bell of good size.
One of the men lifted the bell and rang it loudly.
"What does that mean?" thought Rodney, who felt more curious
He soon learned.
A curious looking negro, stunted in growth, for he was no taller
than a boy of ten, came out from the interior and stood at the
entrance of the cave, if such it was. His face was large and
hideous, there was a hump on his back, and his legs were not a
match, one being shorter than the other, so that as he walked,
his motion was a curious one. He bent a scrutinizing glance
"Well, Caesar, is dinner ready?" asked one of the men.
"No, massa, not yet."
"Let it be ready then as soon as possible. But first lead
the way. We are coming in."
He started ahead, leading the horse, for the entrance was high
enough to admit the passage of the animal.
"Push on!" said the other, signing to Rodney to precede him.
Rodney did so, knowing remonstrance to be useless.
His curiosity was excited. He wondered how long the
passage was and whither it led.
The way was dark, but here and there in niches was a kerosene
lamp that faintly relieved the otherwise intense blackness.
"I have read about such places," thought Rodney, "but I never
expected to get into one. The wonder is, that they should bring
me here. I can't understand their object."
Rodney followed his guide for perhaps two hundred and fifty feet
when they emerged into a large chamber of irregular shape,
lighted by four large lamps set on a square wooden table.
There were two rude cots in one corner, and it was here apparently
that his guides made their home.
There was a large cooking stove in one part of the room, and an
appetizing odor showed that Caesar had the dinner under way.
Rodney looked about him in curiosity. He could not decide
whether the cave was natural or artificial. Probably it was a
natural cave which had been enlarged by the hand of man.
"Now hurry up the dinner, Caesar," said one of the guides.
"We are all hungry."
"Yes, massa," responded the obedient black.
Rodney felt hungry also, and hoped that he would have a share of
the dinner. Later he trusted to find out the object of his new
acquaintances in kidnaping him.
Dinner was soon ready. It was simple, but Rodney thoroughly
During the meal silence prevailed. After it his new
acquaintances produced pipes and began to smoke. They offered
Rodney a cigarette, but he declined it.
"I don't smoke," he said.
"Are you a Sunday school kid?" asked one in a sneering tone.
"Well, perhaps so."
"How long have you lived at Oreville?"
"About four months."
"Who is the head of the settlement there?"
"He is the moneyed man, is he?"
"Is he a friend of yours?"
"He is my best friend," answered Rodney warmly.
"He thinks a good deal of you, then?"
"I think he does."
"Where have you been--on a journey?"
"Yes, to the town of Babcock."
"Did he send you?"
"What interest has he there?"
"He is chief owner of a mine there."
"Humph! I suppose you would like to know why we brought you here."
"I would very much."
"We propose to hold you for ransom."
"But why should you? I am only a poor boy."
"You are the friend of Jefferson Pettigrew. He is a rich man.
If he wants you back he must pay a round sum."
It was all out now! These men were emulating a class of outlaws
to be found in large numbers in Italy and Sicily, and were
trading upon human sympathy and levying a tax upon human friendship.
Rodney realized his position. The alternative was not a
pleasant one. Either he must remain in the power of these men,
or cost his friend Mr. Pettigrew a large sum as ransom. There was
little hope of changing the determination of his captors, but he
resolved to try what he could do.
"Mr. Pettigrew is under no obligations to pay money out for me,"
he said. "I am not related to him, and have not yet known him
"That makes no difference. You are his friend, and he likes you."
"That is the very reason why I should not wish him to lose money
on my account."
"Oh, very well! It will be bad for you is he doesn't come to
"Why? What do you propose to do to me?" asked Rodney boldly.
"Better not ask!" was the significant reply.
"But I want to know. I want to realize my position."
"The least that will happen to you is imprisonment in this cave
for a term of years."
"I don't think I should like it but you would get tired of
standing guard over me."
"We might, and in that case there is the other thing."
"What other thing?"
"If we get tired of keeping you here, we shall make short work
"Would you murder me?" asked Rodney, horror struck, as he might
well be, for death seems terrible to a boy just on the threshold
"We might be obliged to do so."
Rodney looked in the faces of his captors, and he saw nothing to
encourage him. They looked like desperate men, who would stick
at nothing to carry out their designs.
"I don't see why you should get hold of me," he said. "If you
had captured Mr. Pettigrew himself you would stand a better
chance of making it pay."
"There is no chance of capturing Pettigrew. If there were we would
prefer him to you. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
"How much ransom do you propose to ask?"
This Rodney said, thinking that if it were a thousand dollars he
might be able to make it good to his friend Jefferson. But he
was destined to be disappointed.
"Five thousand dollars," answered the chief speaker.
"Five thousand dollars!" ejaculated Rodney in dismay.
"Five thousand dollars for a boy like me!"
"That is the sum we want."
"If it were one thousand I think you might get it."
"One thousand!" repeated the other scornfully. "That wouldn't
half pay us."
"Then suppose you call it two thousand?"
"It won't do."
"Then I suppose I must make up my mind to remain a prisoner."
"Five thousand dollars wouldn't be much to a rich man
like Pettigrew. We have inquired, and found out that he is
worth at least a hundred thousand dollars. Five thousand is
only a twentieth part of this sum."
"You can do as you please, but you had better ask a reasonable
amount if you expect to get it."
"We don't want advice. We shall manage things in our own way."
Convinced that further discussion would be unavailing, Rodney
relapsed into silence, but now his captors proceeded to unfold
One of them procured a bottle of ink, some paper and a pen, and
set them on the table.
"Come up here, boy, and write to Mr. Pettigrew," he said in a
tone of authority.
"What shall I write?"
"Tell him that you are a prisoner, and that you will not be
released unless he pays five thousand dollars."
"I don't want to write that. It will be the same as asking him
to pay it for me."
"That is what we mean him to understand."
"I won't write it."
Rodney knew his danger, but he looked resolutely into the eyes
of the men who held his life in their hands. His voice did not
waver, for he was a manly and courageous boy.
"The boy's got grit!" said one of the men to the other.
"Yes, but it won't save him. Boy, are you going to write what
I told you?"
"Are you not afraid that we will kill you?"
"You have power to do it."
"Don't you want to live?"
"Yes. Life is sweet to a boy of sixteen."
"Then why don't you write?"
"Because I think it would be taking a mean advantage of Mr. Pettigrew."
"You are a fool. Roderick, what shall we do with him?"
"Tell him simply to write that he is in our hands."
"Well thought of. Boy, will you do that?"
Rodney gave his consent for he was anxious that Mr. Pettigrew
should know what had prevented him from coming home when he
"Very well, write! You will know what to say."
Rodney drew the paper to him, and wrote as follows:
DEAR MR. PETTIGREW,
On my way home I was stopped by two men who have confined me in
a cave, and won't let me go unless a sum of money is paid for
my ransom. I don't know what to do. You will know better than I.
His chief captor took the note and read it aloud.
"That will do," he said. "Now he will believe us when we say
that you are in our hands."
He signed to Rodney to rise from the table and took his place.
Drawing a pile of paper to him, he penned the following note:
Rodney Ropes is in our hands. He wants his liberty and we
want money. Send us five thousand dollars, or arrange a
meeting at which it can be delivered to us, and he shall
go free. Otherwise his death be on your hands.
Rodney noticed that this missive was written in a handsome
"You write a handsome hand," he said.
"I ought to," was the reply. "I was once bookkeeper in a large
"And what--" here Rodney hesitated.
"What made me an outlaw you mean to ask?"
"My nature, I suppose. I wasn't cut out for sober, humdrum life."
"Don't you think you would have been happier?"
"No preaching, kid! I had enough of that when I used to go to
church in my old home in Missouri. Here, Caesar!"
"You know Oreville?"
"Go over there and take this letter with you. Ask for Jefferson
Pettigrew, and mind you don't tell him where we live. Only if
he asks about me and my pal say we are desperate men, have each
killed a round dozen of fellows that stood in our way and will
stick at nothing."
"All right, massa," said Caesar with an appreciative grin.
"How shall I go, massa?"
"You can take the kid's horse. Ride to within a mile of
Oreville, then tether the horse where he won't easily be found,
and walk over to the mines. Do you understand?"
"He won't probably give you any money, but he may give you
a letter. Bring it safely to me."
Caesar nodded and vanished.
For an hour the two men smoked their pipes and chatted.
Then they rose, and the elder said: "We are going out, kid,
for a couple of hours. Are you afraid to stay alone?"
"Why should I be?"
"That's the way to talk. I won't caution you not to escape, for
it would take a smarter lad then you to do it. If you are tired
you can lie down on the bed and rest."
"I am sorry we haven't got the morning paper for you to look
over," said his captor with a smile. "The carrier didn't leave
it this morning."
"I can get along without it. I don't feel much like reading."
"You needn't feel worried. You'll be out of this tomorrow if
Jefferson Pettigrew is as much your friend as you think he is."
"The only thing that troubles me is the big price you charge at
"Good! The kid has a good wit of his own. After all, we
wouldn't mind keeping you with us. It might pay you better than
working for Pettigrew."
"I hope you'll excuse my saying it, but I don't like the business."
"You may change your mind. At your age we wouldn't either of us
like the sort of life we are leading. Come, John."
The two men went out but did not allow Rodney to accompany them
to the place of exit.
Left to himself, Rodney could think soberly of his plight.
He could not foresee whether his captivity would be brief
After a time the spirit of curiosity seized him. He felt
tempted to explore the cavern in which he was confined. He took
a lamp, and followed in a direction opposite to that taken by
The cave he found was divided into several irregularly shaped chambers.
He walked slowly, holding up the lamp to examine the walls of
the cavern. In one passage he stopped short, for something
attracted his attention--something the sight of which made
his heart beat quicker and filled him with excitement.
There was a good reason for Rodney's excitement. The walls of
the subterranean passage revealed distinct and rich indications
of gold. There was a time, and that not long before, when they
would have revealed nothing to Rodney, but since his residence
at Oreville he had more than once visited the mines and made
himself familiar with surface indications of mineral deposit.
He stopped short and scanned attentively the walls of the passage.
"If I am not mistaken," he said to himself, "this will make one
of the richest mines in Montana. But after all what good will
it do me? Here am I a prisoner, unable to leave the cave, or
communicate with my friends. If Mr. Pettigrew knew what I do he
would feel justified in paying the ransom these men want."
Rodney wondered how these rich deposits had failed to attract
the attention of his captors, but he soon settled upon the
conclusion that they had no knowledge of mines or mining, and
were ignorant of the riches that were almost in their grasp.
"Shall I enlighten them?" he asked himself.
It was a question which he could not immediately answer.
He resolved to be guided by circumstances.
In order not to excite suspicion he retraced his steps to the
apartment used by his captors as a common sitting room--carefully
fixing in his mind the location of the gold ore.
We must now follow the messenger who had gone to Oreville with
a letter from Rodney's captors.
As instructed, he left his horse, or rather Rodney's, tethered
at some distance from the settlement and proceeded on foot to
the Miners' Rest. His strange appearance excited attention
and curiosity. Both these feelings would have been magnified
had it been known on what errand he came.
"Where can I find Mr. Jefferson Pettigrew?" he asked of a man
whom he saw on the veranda.
"At the Griffin Mine," answered the other, removing the pipe from
"Where is that?"
"Over yonder. Are you a miner?"
"No. I know nothing about mines."
"Then why do you want to see Jefferson? I thought you might
want a chance to work in the mine."
"No; I have other business with him--business of importance,"
added the black dwarf emphatically.
"If that is the case I'll take you to him. I am always glad to
be of service to Jefferson."
"Thank you. He will thank you, too."
The man walked along with a long, swinging gait which made it
difficult for Caesar to keep up with him.
"So you have business with Jefferson?" said the man with the
pipe, whose curiosity had been excited.
"Of what sort?"
"I will tell him," answered Caesar shortly.
"So its private, is it?"
"Yes. If he wants to tell you he will."
"That's fair. Well, come along! Am I walking too fast for you?"
"Your legs are much longer than mine."
"That's so. You are a little shrimp. I declare."
A walk of twenty minutes brought them to the Griffin Mine.
Jefferson Pettigrew was standing near, giving directions to a
party of miners.
"Jefferson," said the man with the pipe, "here's a chap that wants
to see you on business of importance. That is, he says it is."
Jefferson Pettigrew wheeled round and looked at Caesar.
"Well," he said, "what is it?"
"I have a letter for you, massa."
"Give it to me."
Jefferson took the letter and cast his eye over it. As he read
it his countenance changed and became stern and severe.
"Do you know what is in this letter?" he asked.
"Come with me."
He led Caesar to a place out of earshot.
"What fiend's game is this?" he demanded sternly.
"I can't tell you, massa; I'm not in it."
"Who are those men that have written to me?"
"I don't know their right names. I calls 'em Massa John and
"It seems they have trapped a boy friend of mine, Rodney Ropes.
Did you see him?"
"Yes; I gave him a good dinner."
"That is well. If they should harm a hair of his head I
wouldn't rest till I had called them to account. Where have
they got the boy concealed?"
"I couldn't tell you, massa."
"You mean, you won't tell me."
"Yes. It would be as much as my life is worth."
"Humph, well! I suppose you must be faithful to your employer.
Do you know that these men want me to pay five thousand dollars
for the return of the boy?"
"Yes, I heard them talking about it."
"That is a new kind of rascality. Do they expect you to bring
back an answer?"
"I must think. What will they do to the boy if I don't give
them the money?"
"They might kill him."
"If they do--but I must have time to think the matter over.
Are you expected to go back this afternoon?"
"Can you get back? It must be a good distance."
"I can get back."
"Stay here. I will consult some of my friends and see if I can
raise the money."
"Very well, massa." One of those whom Jefferson called into
consultation was the person who had guided Caesar to the Griffin Mine.
Quickly the proprietor of the Miners' Rest unfolded the situation.
"Now," he said, "I want two of you to follow this misshapen
dwarf, and find out where he comes from. I want to get hold of
the scoundrels who sent him to me."
"I will be one," said the man with the pipe.
"Very well, Fred."
"And I will go with Fred," said a long limbed fellow who had
been a Kansas cowboy.
"I accept you, Otto. Go armed, and don't lose sight of him."
"Shall you send the money?"
"Not I. I will send a letter that will encourage them to hope
for it. I want to gain time."
"Any instructions, Jefferson?"
"Only this, if you see these men, capture or kill them."
A BLOODY CONFLICT.
This was the letter that was handed to Caesar:
I have received your note. I must have time to think, and time
perhaps to get hold of the gold. Don't harm a hair of the
boy's head. If so, I will hunt you to death.
P.S.--Meet me tomorrow morning at the rocky gorge at the foot of
Black Mountain. Ten o'clock.
Caesar took the letter, and bent his steps in the direction of
the place where he had tethered his horse. He did not observe
that he was followed by two men, who carefully kept him in
sight, without attracting attention to themselves.
When Caesar reached the place where he had tethered the horse,
he was grievously disappointed at not finding him. One of the
miners in roaming about had come upon the animal, and knowing
him to be Jefferson Pettigrew's property, untied him and rode
him back to Oreville.
The dwarf threw up his hands in dismay.
"The horse is gone!" he said in his deep bass voice, "and now
I must walk back, ten long miles, and get a flogging at the end
for losing time. It's hard luck," he groaned.
The loss was fortunate for Fred and Otto who would otherwise
have found it hard to keep up with the dwarf.
Caesar breathed a deep sigh, and then started on his wearisome journey.
Had the ground been even it would have troubled him less,
but there was a steep upward grade, and his short legs
were soon weary. Not so with his pursuers, both of whom were
long limbed and athletic.
We will go back now to the cave and the captors of Rodney.
They waited long and impatiently for the return of their messenger.
Having no knowledge of the loss of the horse, they could not
understand what detained Caesar.
"Do you think the rascal has played us false?" said Roderick.
"He would be afraid to."
"This man Pettigrew might try to bribe him. It would be cheaper
than to pay five thousand dollars."
"He wouldn't dare. He knows what would happen to him," said
"Then why should he be so long?"
"That I can't tell."
"Suppose we go out to meet him. I begin to feel anxious lest we
have trusted him too far."
"I am with you!"
The two outlaws took the path which led to Oreville, and walked
two miles before they discovered Caesar coming towards them at
a slow and melancholy gait.
"There he is, and on foot! What does it mean?"
"He will tell us."
"Here now, you black imp! where is the horse?" demanded Roderick.
"I done lost him, massa."
"Lost him? You'll get a flogging for this, unless you bring
good news. Did you see Jefferson Pettigrew?"
"Did he give you any money?"
"No; he gave me this letter."
Roderick snatched it from his hand, and showed it to John.
"It seems satisfactory," he said. "Now how did you lose the horse?"
Caesar told him.
"You didn't fasten him tight."
"Beg your pardon, massa, but I took good care of that."
"Well, he's gone; was probably stolen. That is unfortunate;
however you may not have been to blame."
Luckily for Caesar the letter which he brought was considered
satisfactory, and this palliated his fault in losing the horse.
The country was so uneven that the two outlaws did not observe that
they were followed, until they came to the entrance of the cave.
Then, before opening the door, John looked round and caught
sight of Fred and Otto eying them from a little distance.
He instantly took alarm.
"Look," he said, "we are followed. Look behind you!"
His brother turned and came to the same conclusion.
"Caesar," said Roderick, "did you ever see those men before?"
"They must have followed you from Oreville. Hello, you two!" he
added striding towards the miners. "What do you want here?"
Fred and Otto had accomplished their object in ascertaining the
place where Rodney was confined, and no longer cared for concealment.
"None of your business!" retorted Fred independently. "The place
is as free to us as to you."
"Are you spies?"
"I don't intend to answer any of your questions."
"Clear out of here!" commanded Roderick in a tone of authority.
"Suppose we don't?"
Roderick was a man of quick temper, and had never been in the
habit of curbing it. He was provoked by the independent tone of
the speaker, and without pausing to think of the imprudence of
his actions, he raised his rifle and pointing at Fred shot him
in the left arm.
The two miners were both armed, and were not slow in accepting
the challenge. Simultaneously they raised their rifles and
fired at the two men. The result was that both fell seriously
wounded and Caesar set up a howl of dismay, not so much for his
masters as from alarm for himself.
Fred and Otto came forward, and stood looking down upon the
outlaws, who were in the agonies of death.
"It was our lives or theirs," said Fred coolly, for he had been
long enough in Montana to become used to scenes of bloodshed.
"Yes," answered Otto. "I think these two men are the notorious
Dixon brothers who are credited with a large number of murders.
The country will be well rid of them."
Roderick turned his glazing eyes upon the tall miner. "I wish
I had killed you," he muttered.
"No doubt you do. It wouldn't have been your first murder."
"Don't kill me, massa!" pleaded Caesar in tones of piteous entreaty.
"I don't know," answered Fred. "That depends on yourself. If you
obey us strictly we will spare you."
"Try me, massa!"
"You black hound!" said Roderick hoarsely. "If I were not
disabled I'd kill you myself."
Here was a new danger for poor Caesar, for he knew Roderick's
"Don't let him kill me!" he exclaimed, affrighted.
"He shall do you no harm. Will you obey me?"
"Tell me what you want, massa."
"Is the boy these men captured inside?"
"Open the cave, then. We want him."
"Don't do it," said Roderick, but Caesar saw at a glance that
his old master, of whom he stood in wholesome fear, was unable
to harm him, and he proceeded to unlock the door.
"Go and call the boy!" said Fred.
Caesar disappeared within the cavern, and soon emerged with
Rodney following him.
"Are you unhurt?" asked Fred anxiously.
"Yes, and overjoyed to see you. How came you here?"
"We followed the nigger from Oreville."
What happened afterwards Rodney did not need to inquire, for the
two outstretched figures, stiffening in death, revealed it to him.
"They are the Dixon brothers, are they not?" asked Fred, turning
"Then we are entitled to a thousand dollars each for their capture.
I have never before shed blood, but I don't regret ending the
career of these scoundrels."
Half an hour later the two outlaws were dead and Rodney and his
friends were on their way back to Oreville.
THE RODNEY MINE.
Rodney was received by Jefferson Pettigrew with open arms.
"Welcome home, boy!" he said. "I was very much worried about you."
"I was rather uneasy about myself," returned Rodney.
"Well, it's all over, and all's well that ends well. You are
free and there has been no money paid out. Fred and Otto have done
a good thing in ridding the world of the notorious Dixon brothers.
They will be well paid, for I understand there is a standing
reward of one thousand dollars for each of them dead or alive.
I don't know but you ought to have a share of this, for it was
through you that the outlaws were trapped."
"No, Mr. Pettigrew, they are welcome to the reward. If I am not
mistaken I shall make a good deal more out of it than they."
"What do you mean?"
Upon this Rodney told the story of what he had seen in the cavern.
"When I said I, I meant we, Mr. Pettigrew. I think if the gold
there is as plentiful as I think it is we shall do well to
commence working it."
"It is yours, Rodney, by right of first discovery."
"I prefer that you should share it with me."
"We will go over tomorrow and make an examination. Was there
any one else who seemed to have a claim to the cave except
"No. The negro, Caesar, will still be there, perhaps."
"We can easily get rid of him."
The next day the two friends went over to the cavern.
Caesar was still there, but he had an unsettled, restless look,
and seemed undecided what to do.
"What are you going to do, Caesar?" asked Pettigrew. "Are you
going to stay here?"
"I don't know, massa. I don't want to lib here. I'm afraid
I'll see the ghostes of my old massas. But I haven't got no money."
"If you had money where would you go?"
"I'd go to Chicago. I used to be a whitewasher, and I reckon
I'd get work at my old trade."
"That's where you are sensible, Caesar. This is no place for you.
Now I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll give you a hundred dollars,
and you can go where you like. But I shall want you to go away
"I'll go right off, massa," said Caesar, overjoyed. "I don't
want to come here no more."
"Have you got anything belonging to you in the cave?"
"No, massa, only a little kit of clothes."
"Take them and go."
In fifteen minutes Caesar had bidden farewell to his home, and
Rodney and Jefferson were left in sole possession of the cavern.
"Now, Mr. Pettigrew, come and let me show you what I saw.
I hope I have made no mistake."
Rodney led the way to the narrow passage already described.
By the light of a lantern Mr. Pettigrew examined the walls.
For five minutes not a word was said.
"Well, what do you think of it?" asked Rodney anxiously.
"Only this: that you have hit upon the richest gold deposits
in Montana. Here is a mining prospect that will make us both rich."
"I am glad I was not mistaken," said Rodney simply.
"Your capture by the Dixon brothers will prove to have been the
luckiest event in your life. I shall lose no time in taking
possession in our joint name."
There was great excitement when the discovery of the gold
deposit was made known. In connection with the killing of the
outlaws, it was noised far and wide. The consequence was that
there was an influx of mining men, and within a week Rodney and
Jefferson were offered a hundred thousand dollars for a half
interest in the mine by a Chicago syndicate.
"Say a hundred and fifty thousand, and we accept the offer,"
said Jefferson Pettigrew.
After a little haggling this offer was accepted, and Rodney
found himself the possessor of seventy five thousand dollars
"It was fortunate for me when I fell in with you, Mr.
Pettigrew," he said.
"And no less fortunate for me, Rodney. This mine will bring us
in a rich sum for our share, besides the cash we already have in hand."
"If you don't object, Mr. Pettigrew, I should like to go to New
York and continue my education. You can look after my interest
here, and I shall be willing to pay you anything you like for
"There won't be any trouble about that, Rodney. I don't blame
you for wanting to obtain an education. It isn't in my line.
You can come out once a year, and see what progress we are making.
The mine will be called the Rodney Mine after you."
The Miners' Rest was sold to the steward, as Mr. Pettigrew was too
busy to attend to it, and in a week Rodney was on his way to New York.
Otis Goodnow arrived at his place of business a little earlier
than usual, and set himself to looking over his mail.
Among other letters was one written on paper bearing the name of
the Fifth Avenue Hotel. He came to this after a time and read it.
It ran thus:
I was once in your employ, though you may not remember my name.
I was in the department of Mr. Redwood, and there I became
acquainted with Jasper Redwood, his nephew. I was discharged,
it is needless to recall why. I had saved nothing, and of
course I was greatly embarrassed. I could not readily obtain
another place, and in order to secure money to pay living
expenses I entered into an arrangement with Jasper Redwood to
sell me articles, putting in more than I paid for. These I was
enabled to sell at a profit to smaller stores. This was not as
profitable as it might have been to me, as I was obliged to pay
Jasper a commission for his agency. Well, after a time it was
ascertained that articles were missing, and search was made for
the thief. Through a cunningly devised scheme of Jasper's the
theft was ascribed to Rodney Ropes, a younger clerk, and he
was discharged. Ropes was a fine young fellow, and I have always
been sorry that he got into trouble through our agency, but
there seeemed no help for it. It must rest on him or us.
He protested his innocence, but was not believed. I wish to say
now that he was absolutely innocent, and only Jasper and myself
were to blame. If you doubt my statement I will call today, and
you may confront me with Jasper. I desire that justice should
"Call Mr. Redwood," said the merchant, summoning a boy.
In five minutes Mr. Redwood entered the office of his employer.
"You sent for me, sir?"
"Yes, Mr. Redwood; cast your eye over this letter."
James Redwood read the letter, and his face showed the agitation
"I don't know anything about this, Mr. Goodnow," he said at last.
"It ought to be inquired into."
"I agree with you. If my nephew is guilty I want to know it."
"We will wait till the writer of this letter calls. Do you
"Yes, sir; he was discharged for intemperance."
At twelve o'clock Philip Carton made his appearance, and asked
to be conducted to Mr. Goodnow's private office.
"You are the writer of this letter?" asked the merchant.
"And you stand by the statement it contains?"
"Why, at this late day, have you made a confession?"
"Because I wish to do justice to Rodney Ropes, who has been
unjustly accused, and also because I have been meanly
treated by Jasper Redwood, who has thrown me over now that he
has no further use for me."
"Are you willing to repeat your statement before him?"
"I wish to do so."
"Call Jasper Redwood, Sherman," said the merchant, addressing
himself to Sherman White, a boy recently taken into his employ.
Jasper entered the office, rather surprised at the summons.
When he saw his accomplice, he changed color, and looked confused.
"Jasper," said the merchant, "read this letter and tell me what
you have to say in reply."
Jasper ran his eye over the letter, while his color came and went.
"It's a lie," said Jasper hoarsely.
"Do you still insist that the articles taken from my stock were
taken by Rodney Ropes?"
"What do you say, Mr. Carton?"
"Not one was taken by Rodney Ropes. Jasper and I are
responsible for them all."
"What proof can you bring?"
"Mr. James Redwood will recall the purchase I made at the time
of the thefts. He will recall that I always purchased of Jasper."
"That is true," said Mr. Redwood in a troubled voice.
"Do you confess, Jasper Redwood?"
"If you will tell the truth, I will see that no harm comes to you.
I want to clear this matter up."
Jasper thought the matter over. He saw that the game was
up--and decided rapidly that confession was the best policy.
"Very well, sir, if I must I will do so, but that man put me up
"You did not need any putting up to it. I wish young Ropes were
here, that I might clear him."
As if in answer to the wish a bronzed and manly figure appeared
at the office door. It was Rodney, but taller and more robust
than when he left the store nearly a year before.
"Rodney Ropes!" ejaculated Jasper in great surprise.
"Yes, Jasper, I came here to see you, and beg you to free me
from the false charge which was brought against me when I was
discharged from this store. I didn't find you in your usual
places, and was directed here."
"Ropes," said Mr. Goodnow, "your innocence has been established.
This man," indicating Philip Carton, "has confessed that it was
he and Jasper who stole the missing articles."
"I am thankful that my character has been cleared."
"I am ready to take you back into my employ."
"Thank you, sir, but I have now no need of a position. I shall
be glad if you will retain Jasper."
"You are very generous to one who has done so much to injure you."
"Indirectly he put me in the way of making a fortune. If you
will retain him, Mr. Goodnow, I will guarantee to make up any
losses you may incur from him."
"How is this? Are you able to make this guarantee?"
"I am worth seventy five thousand dollars in money, besides
being owner of a large mining property in Montana."
"This is truly wonderful! And you have accumulated all this
since you left my store?"
"Rodney," said Jasper, going up to his old rival, and offering
his hand. "I am sorry I tried to injure you. It was to save
myself, but I see now how meanly I acted."
"That speech has saved you," said the merchant. "Go back to
your work. I will give you another chance."
"Will you take me back also, Mr. Goodnow?" asked Philip Carton.
The merchant hesitated.
"No, Mr. Carton," said Rodney. "I will look out for you.
I will send you to Montana with a letter to my partner.
You can do better there than here."
Tears came into the eyes of the ex-clerk.
"Thank you," he said gratefully. "I should prefer it. I will
promise to turn over a new leaf; and justify your recommendation."
"Come to see me this evening at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, and I
will arrange matters."
"Shall you stay in the city long, Ropes?" asked the merchant.
"About a week."
"Come and dine with me on Tuesday evening."
"Thank you, sir."
Later in the day Rodney sought out his old room mate Mike Flynn.
He found Mike in a bad case. He had a bad cold, but did not
dare to give up work, because he wouldn't be able to meet his bills.
He was still in the employ of the District Telegraph Company.
"Give the company notice, Mike," said Rodney. "Henceforth I
will take care of you. You can look upon me as your rich
uncle," he added with a smile.
"I will be your servant, Rodney."
"Not a bit of it. You will be my friend. But you must obey
me implicitly. I am going to send you to school, and give you
a chance to learn something. Next week I shall return to Dr.
Sampson's boarding school and you will go with me as my friend
and room mate."
"But, Rodney, you will be ashamed of me. I am awfully shabby."
"You won't be long. You shall be as well dressed as I am."
A week later the two boys reached the school. It would have
been hard for any of Mike's old friends to recognize him in the
handsomely dressed boy who accompanied Rodney.
"Really, Mike, you are quite good looking, now that you are well
dressed," said Rodney.
"Oh, go away with you, Rodney? It's fooling me you are!"
"Not a bit of it. Now I want you to improve your time and learn
as fast as you can."
"I will, Rodney."
A year later Rodney left school, but he kept Mike there two
years longer. There had been a great change in the telegraph
boy, who was quick to learn. He expects, when he leaves school,
to join Rodney in Montana.
I will not attempt to estimate Rodney's present wealth, but he
is already prominent in financial circles in his adopted State.
Philip Carton is prospering, and is respected by his new
friends, who know nothing of his earlier life.
As I write, Rodney has received a letter from his old guardian,
Benjamin Fielding. The letter came from Montreal.
"My dear Rodney," he wrote. "I have worked hard to redeem the
past, and restore to you your fortune. I have just succeeded,
and send you the amount with interest. It leaves me little or
nothing, but my mind is relieved. I hope you have not had to
suffer severely from my criminal carelessness, and that you will
live long to enjoy what rightfully belongs to you."
In reply Rodney wrote: "Please draw on me for fifty thousand dollars.
I do not need it, and you do. Five years from now, if you can
spare the money you may send it to me. Till then use it
without interest. I am worth much more than the sum my father
intrusted to you for me."
This offer was gratefully accepted, and Mr. Fielding is now in
New York, where he is likely to experience a return of his
As for Rodney, his trials are over. They made a man of him, and
proved a blessing in disguise.