. . .
THE YOUNG OF HEART SERIES
ILL USTRA TED
1. Hero-Chums By Will Allen Dromgoole
2. The Pineboro Quartette By Willis Boyd Allen
3. One Thousand Men for a Christmas Present,
By Mary A. Sheldon
4. Daddy Darwin's Dovecote By Juliana H. Ewing
5. Rare Old Chums By Will Allen Dromgoole
6. The Drums of the Fore and Aft,
B) Rudyard Kipling
7. The Strange Adventures of Billy Trill,
By Harriet A. Cheever
8. A Boy's Battle By Will Allen Dromgoole
9. The Man Without a Country,
By Edward Everett Hale
10. Editha's Burglar By Frances Hodgson Burnett
11. Jess By J. M. Barrie
12. Little Rosebud By Beatrice Harraden
Special Cover Design on eack Volume
Each, Thin 12mo. Cloth. 50 Cents
DANA ESTES & CO., Publishers, Boston
"TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS."
WILL ALLEN DROMGOOLE
AUTHOR OF "THE HEART OF OLD HICKORY,"
THE VALLEY PATH," ETC.
DANA ESTES & COMPANY
BY ESTES AND LAURIAT
Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
Boston. U. S. A.
I. Two DEAR OLD FRIENDS
II. CONFIDENTIAL .
III. OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT
IV. A MILE-POST DINNER
V. THE OLD LODGE
VI. SECRETS .
VII. THE CHATTANOOGA BELLE
VIII. SAFE IN THE ARMS
IX. A HERO AFTER CHRIST
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
"Two DEAR OLD FRIENDS" Frontispiece
"'HELLO, LITTLE MAN, AREN'T YOU A SLIP OF LOST
"' IF YOU PLEASE, SIR, THE YOUNG MASTER SENT
You THIS'" 89
' LOOK, OH, LOOK, MR. BREWER '" 123
SHE WAVED THE TINY RAG TO SOME ONE UPON THE
TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS.
T HE village lay in a straight line with the river,
with something like a quarter of a mile stretch
of lowland between it and the stream. What stream ?
One of the most majestic, and having its very first
impetus somewhere among the old Virginian moun-
tains. Numberless rivulets, that leap from crag
to gorge, come dashing down, pell-mell, until with a
gurgling jubilance the noisy currents meet; kiss kin-
ship in one grand, majestic unity, which flows tran-
quilly enough for a time, then, plunging southward,
takes a sudden dip into Alabama, twisting itself into
the wonderful "Big Bend" which, in the beautiful
Indian vernacular, is the Tennessee.
It soon tires of Alabama, however, and turns north-
ward, through Western Tennessee; cutting, draining,
enriching as it goes, blending at last, and losing itself
with the Ohio.
The village lying back beyond the river doesn't
appear upon the map under its old name of Slipup.
The capitalists have taken hold upon it long ago,
attracted by the ironclad hills that surround it, and
have dignified it by a nobler name and more preten-
But our story has to do with Slipup, the noisy
little iron town on the west bank of the Tennessee.
It has always been a pretty village, despite the
name, the fog that sometimes comes up from the
river, the smoke from the furnaces, and the red dust
from the iron, and the ever-passing zebra stripes of the
prison gang, brought down from the neighboring
stockades when the work is heavy. It is a pretty
site; so nature gave the deed to its first attraction.
And then the capitalists built well. The row of cot-
tages, set back upon the rise above the stretch of low-
land, are English, and built with an eye to beauty,
when the cry of iron in the South first began to raise
commotion, and breed schemes, golden plans, in the
brains of shrewd speculators.
The company worked slowly, scarcely presuming,
in its modest beginning, to give itself a name. The
miners, however, knew it as the T. I. C.," mean-
ing the Tennessee Iron Company. It worked steadily,
however; ere long, it bought up the hills around, and
the valley between. It girdled the valley anon with
an iron track, after it had erected furnaces and leased
from the State her convicts, with whom they opened
up the mines, both coal and iron, and loaded the
boats, before the railroad came, with pig-iron for the
TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS.
distant markets. They retained the convicts until
the village was well settled up," and could furnish
its own hands," and the zebras were withdrawn at
the request" of the citizens occupying the long line
of English cottages, and the demand of the free min-
ers occupying the shacks in the lowland, on the oppo-
site bank of the river.
The river was the division line between the two
classes, this was not so much a matter of society
as a matter of choice, -in that each representation
wished a view of the river, the business thoroughfare
of the town in its early day. There were boats run-
ning from Chattanooga above, to the Muscle Shoals
below; and the miners' wives were as fond of see-
ing the little, vessels go by as were the wives of
the more fortunate Englishmen in the white cot-
tages on the other bank. It was the only reminder
they had, poor souls, of the great world stretching
away beyond the river and the hot, noisy furnace,
the clatter of the slag-carts, and the everlasting rush
of iron into the sand gullies. There was a restful
pleasure in the very sight of the easy-gliding vessels.
They clustered about the doors of their huts, their
children clinging to their skirts, their hands shading
their eyes from the sun, and forgot both smoke and
noise while the boats were passing. The boatmen sel-
dom looked their way, however,- the white cottages
on the other side took their eye. If a salute was
given, or a handkerchief waved, they knew it was not
for them, but for the English wives on the other side.
For the superintendent's wife, most probably, for there
was always some one upon the top stone step when
the boats went by, and a signal never failed to flutter
in the air, above a little golden head, when the boats
passed before the company's house" where the
, s superintendent lived, the very handsomest of Eng-
lish houses, with the very handsomest of mistresses.
The boatmen knew all about it; even the hands upon
the flatboats, the dusty folk upon the coal-barges,
never forgot. to look for the signal upon the top step,
and to wave back" to the owner of the golden head
when they passed before the company's house.
The miners' wives made it a matter for complaint
at first, when they saw the white linen, or the purple
velvet jacket, as the weather might demand, on the
superintendent's doorstep. And they spoke of the
child as the "little master" who was "too clean to
go among common folk," or too grand to run with
the children of the furnace hands."
But when at last they understood that the little
linen-clad limbs were supported by a tiny crutch, and
that the little feet would rejoice, oh, so gladly, to
run" with other little feet, their bitterness gave place
to sympathy, and they kissed their own strong, brown
babies, and bade them peep at the window and see if
"Master John" had heard the Rapidan's whistle.
And then they would wipe their eyes upon their
aprons, so that they also might see the golden head
like a ball of bright sunshine on the doorstep. He
waved to them, too, sometimes, with his handkerchief,
TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS.
or else with his cap when the boats had passed. They
liked him to wave the cap, because it left the yellow
curls bare and the ball of sunshine was more distinct.
He seldom got nearer the river, however, than the
low iron gate of the company's house, unless Old
Despair carried him down to the works," as he did
almost every Saturday afternoon, to see the flatboats
loading with pig-iron for the market. But it was the
steamboats he liked best; he was acquainted with
their captains and knew the several whistles before
he saw the vessels themselves. He would waken in
the night with a start, when a sharp, shrill note would
announce the approach of the river travellers, and call
to his father asleep in the big bed near his own white
cot, where Susan chucked him, and mother tucked
him in for the night.
Father, that's the Rapidan's toot, isn't it ?" he
would call. "Father? I say, isn't that the Rapidan's
Yes," the reply had as well come first as last,
"that is the Rapidan, I think. Go to sleep now,
All right, sir; as soon as the Red Cloud goes by.
She follows the Rapidan sometimes. I'll wait awhile
for her. But you needn't wait for me, father. I'll
come as soon as the Red goes by."
As if, indeed, sweet child heart, sleep were but a
care-free following one's dear ones into dreamland.
Slipup boasted but one street in those first days of
its existence, The little paths, back of the dwellings,
leading to the blacksmith's shop or the shoemaker's
shanty, were not regarded as streets any more than
was the big wagon-road running from the company's
office to the landing further down, where the boats
were loaded, and later, where the dump-carts dumped
the slag into the empty barges, which carried it off to
fill the beds of the railroads that were beginning
to cross into a kind of network about the little town
of Chattanooga, further up the Tennessee. The paths
to the miners' homes were walks;" the village ex-
isted, in the public mind, in the row of English houses
and the river. Even the schoolhouse which she voted
herself was a failure together with the school un-
til by a second vote it was removed to a site, if not so
elevated, one at all events commanding a view of the
river; the vox populi declaring "the children could
know nothing of the world with the schoolhouse set
back clean out of town."
So it was set nearer, too dangerously near the brown
bank, some thought, and soberly shook their heads.
These were miners for the most part, who had come
up from the mines to assist in moving the house, and
were well acquainted with the tricks and treachery of
the yellow current swashing its brown banks under
the windows of the jaunty little schoolhouse perched
like a white bird, just above the latest "high-water
But the Slipup folk were river folk, or thought they
were, and they laughed heartily at the idea of the
Tennessee taking any such aspiring leap.
TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS.
"And if it should," they argued, "the children
know the way home, and it is always daylight when
So the miners went back to their underground cells,
all but one; old Beverly Brewer, the ex-convict, still
hung around the schoolhouse with the village people,
who were still laughing at the warning against the
evil attendant upon running in the face of Provi-
He was not a man to talk," the mining people said
of Brewer. And they whispered to each other that he
was cracked," trouble-crazed, like old Nan, the
watcher," only, they said, "not quite so bad." He
had said a good deal more than was his habit against
the removal of the schoolhouse, and even after it was
done it seemed impossible for him to reconcile himself
to the change. His old face, deep-scarred with care
and with age, wore a troubled look. His form seemed
even more bent than usual, as if the weight of danger,
if danger there really was, rested upon him alone, and
was hard to bear. He walked around the building
again, sighted the current, glistening between its
banks like a silvery belt; sighted it between his _
half-closed fingers, as if to measure well the distances,
then shook his head solemnly, slowly; he knew the
old river, and had cause to shun it. Suddenly he
turned away from contemplating the stream, and
passed through the throng to where the tall form
of the superintendent rose above the little group of
The superintendent was about to move away when
he caught sight of the old miner. He had half a mind
to go on, but suddenly he remembered the little crutch
waiting on the top step."
"John would never forgive me," he told himself,
and, withdrawing from his friends, he advanced to meet
Good evening, Brewer," he called, pleasantly. "I
think John is waiting on the doorstep to hear of the
removal of the house."
The old miner touched his cap.
"They oughtn't to 'a' put it so nigh the water,
cap'n," said he, using the title common among
miners when addressing an official; "they oughtn't
to 'a' put her so nigh the Tennessee. She'll scoop her
in some day, sir; mind what I say."
The superintendent laughed.
You have been predicting evil too long," said he.
" Let me see, the first time I ever saw you, you were
foretelling our utter destruction when yon river should
rise and sweep the town away. And we are still here,
town, river, prophet, and all."
You have Providence to thank for that, sir," said
the old miner.
Well, then, we will still trust to Providence," said
And keep a boat handy, cap'n," chuckled the old
man. I heard the little one, Master John, sir, talk-
ing about a fellow, one of his heroes,' you know, sir,
that told his men to 'trust to Providence and keep
TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS.
their powder dry.' Good advice, sir, for Slipup,' says
I to Master John ; and the same I say to Master John's
father, sir.' Trust to Providence and keep a boat
handy. The old Tennessee is tricky. I knows her.
"She carried my wife away on her yellow bosom ten
years ago, and one of my boys is lying, sir, this ten
years, somewhere on her bed with the Belle of Chatta-
nooga and her gay young captain. She's got many a
secret, the old yellow she-tiger. She is the meanest
river in the world, the Tennessee is, meaner'n the old
Mis'sip' hitse'f. For the old Mis'sip' gives a warning'
- a hiss and a sputter, and a roar that may be heard
for days, tellin' you to 'git out o' the way !' But the
Tennessee lays low and sings, and rings, and sighs,
and gurgles, making' believe all's steady, while ever'
stream and gully in the mountains air filling' brimful,
until, like a bilin' pot, they bounds up and plunges into
the Tennessee, and like a flash o' lightning' she's up
and out on the warpath. Oh, I knows her, Cap'n
Weston. She'll find Slipup some day, fast asleep in
her green hills."
The superintendent did not smile this time. Few,
indeed, cared to smile when the old miner and ex-
convict began to tell about the ravages of the Tennes-
see. Mr. Weston knew the story of the old man's
losses, which, they said, had somewhat unsettled his
reason, and had given to him the name of Old De-
spair." He knew the story of the pretty little boat,
the Belle of Chattanooga, that had disappeared one
dark night when a storm swept the turbulent and
overfull river, and had never been heard of since,
neither the boat nor the owner, "the little captain,"
the miners called him, nor Brewer's son David, who
knew, as everybody else knew, that the captain had
money with him that night. Brewer's other son had
disappeared the same night, with money, also, the
Everybody refused to believe that two such similar
evils, occurring at one and the same time, were purely
accidental. Therefore the missing lads had been
branded as thieves, murderers, indeed, for the captain
was never heard of again.
The night recorded other misfortunes as well, as if
minded to set itself in black upon the minds and mem-
ories of men for ever.
The old Lodge mine had an explosion, and more
than one young life had gone out in the terrible fire-
damp supposed to have caused the accident. The
mine had never been opened again; the miners had
refused to work there. They held strange supersti-
tions concerning it.
They regarded it as a sepulchre; for although none
knew who had been caught by the accident, they knew
that although it occurred during the night more
than one had failed to come home next morning, al-
though there were wives and mothers waiting. Keep-
ing the breakfast until it was cold, "stone cold as
death," they said, not knowing how the lads were
cold, too; stone cold as death. So, although nobody
knew positively they were in the mine, they knew
TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS.
they did not come back, and that was knowledge
enough for misery.
But the night's evil fell heavily, most heavily upon
old Beverly Brewer. Along with the other misfor-
tunes it took his good name. The very next week he
was arrested; it was all a circumstantial tangle about
the lost boat, the Belle of Chattanooga, and the missing
owner. And when, five years later, he returned from
prison with some great heroism credited .to his ac-
count, and a pardon in his pocket, to take up his life
again where misfortune interrupted, he was an old
man, gray, weary, and broken-hearted, full of a great
He went back to the mines, and to a little soot-
blackened shack in the cedars behind the row of Eng-
lish houses; the only soul in the village who had no
wish to live in the view of the river.
The old neighbours shunned him, he appeared so
changed, so silent, and when he took up his solitary
abode away and apart from them, they did not under-
stand that sorrow had pressed too heavily upon the
poor old heart, so that it refused to return to the old
humour of gladder days, making all life sombre and
grim and distrustful under its own black shadow. To
them he was only a returned convict, a half-crazed
creature, "cracked in the brain," whose predictions of
evils made them shiver at times, at times laugh. They
spoke of him as "Old Despair," and when the wind
blew,would mockingly ask him "if it would blow a
cyclone." When it was hot they called it '' Old De-
spair's drought," and if it rained they would call to him
to know "if he was building his ark." Others would
tap their foreheads when he passed and say crazy,"
or else Old Despair," until the children caught the
words, and spoke of him in frightened whispers, or
ran away when they saw his bent figure coming down
All but one,- truly no man is so desolate he has
not one friend, and Old Despair had his. Between
him and this friend existed that strange, strong, and
rare affection which we sometimes have seen spring
up between youth and old age, and which exists no-
where else with such intensity and devotion. The
convict's friend was a child; the little fair-haired son
of the superintendent, who leaned upon his crutch to
signal the passing boats or lay awake at nights to lis-
ten for the Red Cloud and Rapidan.
Perhaps it was of the boy the superintendent was
thinking when he said, in a half conscious way, after
the man's outburst against the schoolhouse:
"Well, well, we have much besides our personal
safety for which to thank Providence, you and I."
The old man started angrily.
Yes," said he, "hain't I got a sight to be thankful
for ? A blamed sight. You forget, sir, that old Bev-
erly Brewer ain't a rich superintendent of a richer
mining company, with the prettiest home in the vil-
lage, and a wife and son to live in it. You forget,
sir, my boys are lost, lost, -above ground or under
it, all the same they are lost. And you forget the
TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS.
prison, and the long, black stain to my name. A
blamed sight to be thankful for Good day, sir; or
rather, good night, for the sun'll soon be goin.' And
would you please to fetch this to the little master, sir,
and to tell him the wheelbarrer him and me air making'
will be ready soon for me to come and fetch him over
to my shanty and to trundle him home in the new car-
riage, sir ? Please present my respects to Master
He placed in the superintendent's hand a boat, a
miniature toy of sweet red cedar curiously and exquis-
itely carved, with the name, The John Weston," in
bold relief upon the bow. A dainty and perfect piece
of work, betraying both the artistic eye and the skil-
The superintendent's cold eye took in the careful
workmanship at a single glance, and flashed a sudden
What an exquisite design," he said, touching with
his white, scholarly fingers the carving where the
knife had let in a white grain of the wood here and
there, among the rich, dark colours. "Why, Brewer,
you are an artist; this is worth "
"The little master will understand, sir," inter-
rupted the old man. He is looking' for his boat in
to-night, Master John is. And now good-bye, sir, and I
thank Providence for the privilege of saying it, seeing
as I can't for the life of me think of anything else for
which to thank."
He turned away, the hard look of despair again
clouding his face.
The superintendent placed his hand upon his arm
to detain him still a moment. The others had moved
off; they stood almost alone.
"Don't talk so; the words were almost pleading.
"You have something to be thankful for, unless you
esteem it as nothing. My boy," and the proud face
grew tender, loves you devotedly; next to his mother
and me, I verily believe, and a pure child's heart is
always worth thanking the Lord for, even if life be
otherwise barren. Remember that, and be grateful,
and I say again, thank Providence."
"I will thank him when the Belle of Chattanoogy
gits in, sir, with my lost character; until then "
Until then you must be Old Despair,' I suppose,"
said the superintendent, with a low laugh that showed
more vexation than mirth, as he turned away and
walked down the street, followed by Brewer, who
paused when he saw him ascend the stone steps
and open the little iron gate, then disappear in the
pretty cottage proudly denominated the "company's
The old despair left his face almost entirely while
he stood there watching the square pane of frosted
glass which made the panel of the superintendent's
front door. Indeed, a smile touched the corners of
his mouth, ever so faintly, and the faded old eyes
twinkled as jubilantly as if, defying bolt and panel, they
saw precisely what was going on within the pretty cot-
tage, and knew the identical moment when the little
red boat swung tantalisingly before a pair of earnest
~TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS.
blue eyes, with a command to "guess who sent it."
And the old ears caught, if the smile spoke truly, the
ringing and immediate response:
My chum; my old friend Brewer sent it, of
Then, if he really could see and hear what was go-
ing on in the company's house, he must have heard the
superintendent tell his wife that Old Despair was
on the prophet's stool again."
Then, too, he must have heard a commotion in the
room, the sound of a little crutch, muffled by soft car-
pets, the opening of a door carefully, the crutch again,
along the hall, muffled still by the carpet, then the
opening of the big front door, and then,- he truly
had a glimpse of Susan, the yellow nurse, who with-
drew the bolt, and then the little crutch clicked
upon the great stone steps, as a little figure in short,
white trousers, black stockings, and dainty slippers,
and the whitest of- linen waists, came carefully down
the steps as fast as the poor little left limb and the
twisted foot would allow. The golden curls fell
about the tiny shoulders under the little straw cap.
And the little form leaned heavily upon the tiny
crutch. But there was nothing but joy in the voice
that was calling to the old convict.
Oh, Mr. Brewer Wait for me, sir. It's me, sir,
your friend, John. Please wait. The crutch won't
- go faster."
As if the old fellow had not been standing stock,
still, waiting for that very figure and those identical
words since the moment the front door closed upon
With the appearance of the young faster the old
man's interest in the company's house evidently
ceased, for he busied his brain no longer with what
might be going on there. Had he done so, he might
have-guessed how the parents, hearing the door close,
glanced through the open window to see the white
linen run into the arms of the iron-digger. He might
have suspected the mother's sigh for the fresh linen,
and the smile on her lip, deriding the tear in her eye,
when the linen was swung up to the old miner's shoul-
der, as if she guessed the directions the little master
To a seat next your left ear, if you please."
Yes, the two in the cottage watched the young-old
friends, -the golden head bent to the grizzled, a tiny
arm clasping a neck that had felt a harder yoke, two
small hands held fast in a safe, strong palm, while the
wee crutch was carried in the other, as carefully and
as sacredly as the owner of the pathetic little support
But they could not hear the conversation; they
only guessed that it concerned the little cedar boat
left upon the centre-table while its owner went to
meet the boat-maker.
Are you glad to see me, dear old friend ?" said
John, when he was satisfactorily seated beside "the
Mighty glad, Master Johnny -"
TWO DEAR OLD FRIENDS.
John, if you please, sir, just plain John. I never
heard of a hero named Johnny. Although Mr. Mil-
ton, a poet, and Mr. Bunyan, and Mr. Adams, the
president, not the first man, were all called John.
Now trot away, old horsey; buckaty! buck! You
know what mother says: When the sun tips the rim
of Wallen's Ridge, you must come home, John.' And
it is tipping this very minute. So you had better trot
away, old horsey. Buckaty Buckaty! "
And the two at the window, not hearing one word,
but understanding thoroughly, smiled when the old
horsey" and its jaunty rider passed gaily down street
and out of sight.
The mother's eyes were full of tears when the su-
perintendent passed his arm around her and drew her
head upon his shoulder.
"Leave them alone, little mother," he said. "No
child's life has ever been in vain. And God, I think,
gives special sweetness to his crippled ones. At least
it has been so with ours, and I believe the little fellow
is destined to play a peculiar part in the life of that
old unfortunate. No two hearts were ever bound to-
gether like those two without God's hand somewhere
among the cords. Leave them alone and see what
God is doing."
The sun was ready to drop behind the mountain
when they heard the little crutch upon the step again.
They could hear his parting:
Good-bye, old chum. We are old friends, are we
not, Mr. Brewer?"
28 HERO- CHUMS.
And the reply:
The very oldest, Master John, and the very best."
They heard, but they did not understand all that
had transpired in the old miner's shack since the two
old friends had been gone.
THEY were odd, but strangely congenial friends,
the ex-convict and the rich superintendent's
One so old and care-burdened, and bearing his mis-
fortunes with such rebellious bitterness; fretting
against the yoke, railing at fate, and aweary of the
world itself. The other so young, so delicately fair,
so childishly gentle, and full of that exquisite faith
that has its habitation only in the heart of a child.
Bearing his misfortune, too, with a patience and sweet-
ness which made him inexpressibly dear to the hearts
of his worshipping parents. The grimmest old miner
turned to catch another glimpse of the curly head as
it passed down the iron-dusted street, just above
Brewer's grizzled locks. And the old wives, seeing
the two friends, smiled, and said:
There goes old soot-black and lily-white."
But the friends themselves were blissfully uncon-
scious of observation or of criticism. John was
anxiously watching the sun, creeping nearer and
nearer the ridge.
Hurry up," he said, "I am going home with you
to see the wheelbarrow you are making. I waited a
long time on the top step, you know, because I can
see plumb clear to the mine from there. Susan
says 'plumb clear,' and I think it is a nice word,
though I don't remember that any of the heroes said
it, unless it was Andrew Jackson. I don't quite say he
did, but I think he might have. He said some very
strong words, I know, and I think he said 'plumb
clear.' Anyhow, it was either him or Susan, I plumb
clear forget which. There I see the shack, and there's
smoke coming out of the funny little chimney. That
makes me think of roasted chestnuts, or potatoes
roasted with their jackets on. Do hurry! Oh, I do
just love a nice shack, with the smoke and the stick
chimney, and the creaky door, and the plank floor
that goes whackety-whack whenever you put your foot
down on it. And when I get to be a man, a rich
man, I am going to live in one, and roast potatoes and
be a hero like Napoleon and Henry Clay, and you, my
Umph!" said the old man; but the grunt was
lost in the whackety-whack of the planks as the
" old horsey" stepped upon the little platform before
the shack door and began to "nose around" under
the loose planks for his key.
Hurry up," said John, who had been safely depos-
ited upon the yellow poplar boards until the door
should be opened. Hurry up, sir; the sun is just
skipdaddling around to the tip mark. Here we are,
and if I don't smell baked apples sprinkled with brown
sugar, my name isn't John Weston, junior, chip off
the old block,' as Mr. Baldwyn says. Hand me my
crutch, my old friend. Thank you, sir, and oh,-"
He had skipped half-way across the room, with
that plaintive nimbleness that comes to those in whose
wee hands misfortune places the crutch early; a mo-
tion resembling more that of a crippled sparrow than
of a human being. He leaned upon his crutch with
both hands folded, a kind of ecstatic delight in the
very position, while his eyes danced joyously as he con-
templated the slow fire in the large, open fireplace,
and the juicy apples roasting upon the rude hearth.
For a moment neither spoke. The old man was
watching his young guest, while the child had forgot-
ten everything but the scene before him.
Suddenly he turned, and, with a gesture not unwor-
thy either of the great men whose names and deeds
he was so fond of quoting, said, in a voice of com-
"Bring out the mats," and when the order was
being executed, Now," he continued, we will be
He had been there so often before, was so entirely
at home with the lonely old man,-who added so
much to the little life hampered by affliction,.that his
parents did not have the heart to interfere with the
strange friendship, knowing that crippled feet are not
often like to go astray, whatever be the association, -
that he waited for his mat, a rude shuck seat made
for especial use, and then seating himself comfortably
upon it before the fire, his crutch lying beside him,
together with his cap, motioned to the old man to fol-
low his example. He no more thought of refusing an
order than did the soldiers an order of Napoleon's.
The child smiled, and brushed the bright curls
back from his face.
"Now, Mr. Brewer," he said, "this is confidential,
Confidential; that means close together, I guess.
I saw father talking confidential with Mr. Baldwyn,
the president of the coal and iron company, last night.
And they sat close together, very close, like we are
sitting,- only, father's hand was on Mr. Baldwyn's
knee. May I put my hand on your knee, Mr.
Brewer ? We're such old friends, you know. Thank
you, sir; it feels more confidential, and I have some-
thing to ask you, Mr. Brewer, that is confidential, too.
Father was reading from the hero books last night
and made me think of it. You know what the hero
books are, don't you, Mr. Brewer ?"
Can't say as I do, precisely, Master Johnny."
Just John, if you please, sir, plain John. Well, the
hero books, my old friend, are the books about An-
drew Jackson and Oliver Cromwell and Napoleon and
all those. Father reads about them to me every
night before mother sings Safe in the Arms.' And
then I choose my heroes. I have lots of heroes, Mr.
Brewer, oh, so many; most a world full. I'd like to
be a hero, too, some day, but I reckon I can't, because
of the crutch, though mother says I can; not a hero
like Napoleon, but a character hero. Napoleon was a
war hero. Father read out of the books last night,
and it made me think of something. So I asked
mother to keep back 'Safe in the Arms' a minute,
till I could think. And I thought- I reckon you
couldn't guess what I thought, could you ?"
The old man hesitated, tapped his forehead with
his finger, and said:
Let me see now, you didn't think about earth-
quakes, surely, I reckin, Master John ?"
"No, sir," said John. Guess again, Mr. Brewer."
"Battles, sir ? Could it have been about battles
and soldiers ?"
John shook his head.
"Try again, my old friend."
Surely, little master," said the old man in a tone
of great doubt, it couldn't, I'm p'intedly sure it
couldn't 'a' been o' me as you were a-thinkin'."
Oh, but it was," shouted John, his blue eyes
sparkling with delighted surprise. It was of your
very own self I was thinking while father read the
hero books. And it is about that very thing I want to
talk to you this very minute. But first, sir, I want
to ask you if we are not very, very confidential friends,
you and I ?"
Mighty close friends, sir."
The little white hand, with a slender golden circlet
upon one of the baby fingers, rested trustfully upon
the knee 'of the close" old friend. Now and then
the miner's hard palm passed tenderly over the
delicate fingers, every stroke a caress. For a mo-
ment both were silent. It was John who broke the
My friend," he said, "if my apple is done, and
I think it is, for the sizz has all run out on the
hearth, I'd like to eat it off your wife's blue china
saucer, the 'only one left,' you know. And I wish
you would crack the door a little, so that we can see
the sun, for I most know he is slipping up to the tip,
-he always does when I am here. But I forget
unless the door is open, and I can see the black old
It is a bit airish outside, little master, at sunset,
even in June-time," said the miner, "but I'll keep my
eye on the tip, sir, while we are talking."
"Get out the blue saucer then, sir," said John.
"We'll have to talk while we eat, for I want to hear
the story of the big storm that' black, black night,'
when the freshup took your house away, and 'the
Belle of Chattanoogy went down, down, down, to the
bottom,' like you said, with your son Dave and
the gay little captain. I like to hear about it, -it
truly sounds like stories of the big ships in the hero
books that Lord Nelson commanded. I told father
so, and he said it was only a little pleasure-boat; but
he said pleasure-boats could have their heroes as well
as ironclads. And coal-barges and flatboats, too, for
that matter. So if you will please to begin, my old
friend, for I am truly very un-un-easy about that sun.
Will you keep your eye on the tip mark? I promised
The old miner lifted the blue china saucer, the one
beloved relic of his. old home, from the tall mantel-
shelf, and placing the largest of the roasted apples
upon it, proceeded to wait upon his young guest, who
was sitting cross-legged, like a Turk, upon his shuck
mat. The second apple was set aside.
Keep it for my supper," the host explained;
"and while you are eatin' of yours I'll whole up
"That will be real nice," said John, "but first, if
you please, won't you punch up the gold dollars?
I do so enjoy hearing them go crackling up the black
chimney. There's the poker, sir, right under your
foot. Oh, but that's magnificent, sir! And there!
That's more magnificenter than ever."
The childish face shone with delight while the
long poker, in the strong hands of the coal-digger,
played among the bright logs, sending the fiery
sparks crackling up the chimney.
"That will do, and thank you, sir," said John.
"Now draw up your wheelbarrow work and take
a seat on your mat. We're going to converge about
the old Belle of Chattanoogy. Will it disturb you if
I put my hand on your knee sometimes while you're
talking ? I'll only put it between bites, and it will
mean to say I understand you, without incorrupting
you. Do you iind?"
"Not a bit, sir; not a bit. It will help to keep
the old man awake, sir. A fire makes a feller
tolerable sleepy sometimes."
"That it will, sir. Most every night, or nearly
most every night, when I'm lying on the white bear
- that's the rug listening to father read from the
hero books, just most knowing I'm going to stay
awake, anyhow till mother sings Safe in the Arms,'
and first thing I know I'm in my little brass bed,
with Susan waking me up to get up, and it's day and
father's finished reading; and then I just know the
fire did it. It's very odd, sir."
"Mighty quare," declared the old man, soberly;
" mighty quare. Anybody in the books do that way ?"
John dropped his chin, thoughtfully.
"I'm not quite certain," he said, "but there is
a picture of Sir Isaac Newton, a perlosopher hero,
sitting before his fire, and I think, I'm most sure
-father says we're never quite sure of anything
in this world, 'cepting taxes -but I'm most sure
Sir Isaac is nodding. Now, Mr. Brewer, before the
sun gets to the tip, please tell me about the boys.
I'm most fonder of them than anything, I expect;
unless it's father and mother, and the wheelbarrow,
and the heroes, and you, sir. Begin at the time when
' Dave was a rafterman and went with his friend,
Captain Morton, up to Bridgeport, on the poor little
Belle of Chattanoogy, and Dick worked in the old
Lodge mine as boss.' It's awful interesting' and -
sorryful; more sorryfuller every time I hear it, sir,"
The old miner's brow was knitted.
"Don't call that little water-devil the 'poor little
Belle,' said he. She was just full o' evil, fetched
bad luck every blessed time she set out on a trip.
But the boys loved her; Dave set a sight o' store by
the little concern."
The old face softened; he was fond of talking about
his brave young sons; talking about them seemed to
keep them near him, somehow, and this little child-
friend was the only listener he ever had. True, he
was entirely satisfactory; the old man, indeed, often
told himself that he had "talked to a sight worse
company," meaning the nights when, alone in the
shack, he had rehearsed the story of his wrongs to
himself, always consoling himself with the reflection
that the boys would never have left him to bear the
burden of their unexplained absence, except the earth
held them prisoners. They were surely dead; he felt
it. Yet he felt, too, that, dead or alive, they would
return at last, sometime, somehow, to set their old
father's name right before the world. He never ex-
pressed this hope, however, except to the child, and
upon him he always imposed a promise of strictest
Confidential, Master John," he began, as usual,
and, as usual, came the response:
Confidential, dear old chum."
The little hand with its wee gold ring slipped to
the old man's knee again, meaning confidence and
sympathy, and then the old story of man's misfortune
and fate's mysterious rulings was told again.
Well, Master John," said the ex-convict," we had
a cabin, Mary and me, up the river a piece towards
Inman. We had two boys, big, healthy boys, and as
good ones as ever lived. Five graves in the woods
back o' the cabin told where the other children were,
all of them, until a little gal baby come to stay; just
eighteen years after Dave. We-uns was pow'ful glad
to see her, Master John, pow'ful glad.
Dave was a river chap, took to the water like a
fish, just couldn't keep 'way from it, nohow. He
made rafts and kerried of 'em down to Alabamy till
Cap'n Morton bought the Eureky coal bank, and come
to live long o' we-uns till he could get a house ready
to fetch his young wife to. Him and Dave took to
one anotherr like twin brothers. Both was pow'ful
fond o' the river, too, and used to go off together on
it for days and days. They'd a'most died for one
another them two would. Dave tended the coal-
boats that run to Bridgeport, where the railroad took
charge o' the truck.
Then the cap'n he bought a little concern, a yacht
they called it, and it certainly wasn't fitten for such a
tricky old river, Master John, and Dave he was took
off'n the coal-boats, and put to tend the yacht.
They named her the Belle of Ohattanoogy, count o'
that bein' the cap'n's first home, and his wife's home,
and they both so fond o' it.
"She was surely built for bad luck, Master John;
she never set out but something' happened. Once a
coal bank caved in, and once the prisoners broke out
o' the stockade over at Inman, and once the miners
struck at the old Lodge mine, and once she sprung a
leak. Allus something The Belle of Chattanoogy
was just another name for bad luck.
"But the cap'n set a sight o' store by her. He
'lowed he could git up and go home any time he'd a
mind to, without waiting' for the regular boats or the
flats with the coal and iron.
So him and Dave kept the little water-devil,
and a'most lived in it, you might say.
Dick, my other boy, took to the mines; he was a
born miner, Dick was, and a natural underground en-
gineer. He worked for the cap'n at the Eureky coal
mines till the Lodge mine was opened here, and a
company took hold of it, and put out a sight o' money
for working it. For the ore was iron, and convenient
to the furnaces, and the Lodge had a good name for
the quality of her ore.
So Dick, he come up here and got a job, 'count o'
Luke Ford, Cap'n Morton's head boss. Him and Dick
couldn't agree, so Dick left, and got hisself made first
boss o' the Lodge mines instead. 'Twas an awfully
responsible place, for the Lodge was known to have
death-damp, and once a gallery collapsed without a
minute's warning, and this was why she had been
closed up. Dick knew the place by heart, and after
'while he was made inspector.
One night, a black, black night, and such a storm
a-ragin',-I rickollict that night, because all my nights
since have been of a shade like that one."
He paused to sigh, and to caress the little hand
that was laid again upon his knee.
"The cap'n got word," he continued after awhile,
still stroking the tiny fingers, that his wife was a
dyin'. Dyin', and the Tennessee kiverin' every foot o'
ground twixtt here and Bridgeport, where' the railroad
passed, and half the woods in the county float'n about
in the bed o' the river, it seemed to me. I was up at
the cabin with Mary and the little gal when the cap'n
got word o' his wife's sickness. The telegraph fetched
it. Him and Dave was working' down at the landin'
trying' to fasten the coal-barges to something' to keep
'em from float'n clear away, when the cap'n's news
come. And when I went back to help, the Belle of
Chattanoogy was gone. Up the river in the drift and
danger, with my boy and the young cap'n.
"Dick, he was off somers, too, to Bridgeport,
they 'lowed, I dunno. I ain't never knowed nothing'
o' them since. They went down inter the darkness
an' the silence o' that orful night. The cap'n an' his
little shell of a boat went, too, somers, nobody ever
knowed where. There was some as said my boys
fo'ged the note o' the cap'n's wife's sickness, an' that
way tolled him off an' robbed him of a bag o' gold he
allus kept about him the end o' the week, to pay off
the hands. But it was a lie. They-was my boys, an'
I reckin I ought to know what metal they was made
of. The man as told that word lied, an' he's dead,
too, I reckin, for he dropped out o' sight long o' the
balance. They 'lowed I killed him, and I spent five
years in the state prison for that allowing I didn't
do it, though; I'd like to 'a' done it, but I didn't.
An' I have sometimes thought as how if I ever got
the chance I'd do it yit."
Mr. Brewer,"-the little hand moved up and down
the coarse jeans, stopping now and then to pat, ever
so gently, the miner's knee; "I believe I wouldn't,
Mr. Brewer. I don't think the heroes in the books
ever did, except the war heroes, -they had to kill,
sometimes, Napoleon, and Alexander, and Lord
Nelson, and them. But mother says that true heroes
don't,-they forgive. And then you might be sent
off again, if you did, and your friends would miss you
so, your real old friends. Five years is a long time."
A right peart chunk out o' a feller's life," sighed
the old man. "There was a cave-in of the Lodge
mine soon after the storm I'm telling you about; jest
a day or so after that raskil, Luke Ford, started that
lie about my boys. Luke disappeared, an' the next
week I was arrested for killing' of him. That's all,
Master John, all we-uns knows o' the matter.
Maybe God an' the old Tennessee knows more, an'll
make it plain in their own good time."
There was a sigh, followed by a silence, while the
two "old friends" sat gazing into the red coals, each
busy with his own thoughts. The blue china saucer
had been set aside with the apple peel and core, which
the wee Chesterfield had been told it was vulgar"
to eat. His right elbow rested upon the little knee,
which the tiny pants failed to cover. The delicate
chin was supported by one hand, while the other
strayed caressingly over the miner's brown jeans a
moment more, then disappeared in the great brown
palm of the older "friend," and was held in a strong,
"They were nice boys," declared the younger
"friend." "Dave was a hero after I always
say after, when I mean like,--and Dave was a
hero after John Howard Payne. You know he went
off, too, Mr. Brewer, to Africa. And when he came
home he was dead; and everybody was sorry, and
went to see him buried. He had been dead thirty
years when they buried him at home. Dave makes
me think of him. I feel like he might come home,
too, sometime, to be buried, and everybody turn out
to the funeral to pay for that 'black, black night.'
The Tennessee has treated you outrageously. And it
took your house, too, Mr. Brewer ?"
Aye, an' wife an' little gal. I was off with a lot
o' men trying' to find the wreck o' the Chattanoogy
Belle. Everything was under water still, the Ten-
nessee was on a regular tear, an' still risin'. But
who'd ever thought o' it reaching' my cabin? We
was out all night, an' the next morning' at sunup
we started down to Muscle Shoals on the track o'
the Belle. We knowed she never could cross that
ole gov'mint stumblin'-block, nohow.
All at once one o' the men called to us to look at
something' coming' down the river. Lots o' things had
floated by the day before, chicken-coops, dog-ken-
nels, an' wagon-beds, showing' how the barns an' yards
had been flooded. But when the chairs and tables
begin to come, we knowed the Tennessee had riz into
the houses. Once we sighted a kurus little craft, that
turned out to be a cradle, with a little bald-headed
baby fast asleep in it. The cradle struck our raft,
and splashed the water in the little one's face, so as
it waked up an' laffed. We retched out to take it,
but afore we could tetch it, the thing tilted, an' the
baby dropped out o' sight. We heard it coo in its baby
way, as it disappeared,--went straight to God, with
that laff on its pretty lips.
But this time it wasn't a cradle; it was a house,
or a piece of one, and in a minit I see it was mine.
It lodged in a wild-haw thicket, where the water beat
it to pieces. When we-uns got to it there was nothing'
in it but a bed that was made into the side o' the
wall, an' layin' on it was my wife an' little gal. Both
were dead, an' on my wife's temples was a big black
bruise, where a falling' beam had struck her senseless,
as I 'lowed, an' the little gal had crep' close up into
her mammy's arms, with her feet drawed up, as if
they was trying' to get away from the water, when the
cold Tennessee tetched 'em. Both gone, all gone,
The old man spoke slowly, with his head dropped
forward on his breast, and his hand still clasping the
little warm fingers of his child-friend. A tear trem-
bled upon the boy's long lashes, which all his efforts
at heroism were powerless to stay.
"Dear old friend," he said, when he had somewhat
gained control of his emotions, I hope you will
excuse me for cryin'. I'm afraid it isn't manly. I
can't think of a hero who ever did; but, indeed, sir,
I saw, or thought I saw, that little baby laugh,
and when I went to laugh back at it, the Tennessee
seemed to slap me in the face, and make me blind.
And when I could see clear again, the little baby had
gone; disappeared in the cold water. I'm afraid that
I'm very much afraid of the water, sir. Do you think
it's cowardly to be afraid of the water ? I hope not,
sir. And, would you please not hold my hand quite
so tight? The ring hurts it a little. I am sure it
is the ring's fault. Thank you, sir; see what a red
mark it made."
He lifted his hand, to find it again clasped, loosely,
but tenderly, between the brown palms of his old
Why, what a bear's hug the ole paw did give it!"
said Brewer, stroking gently the child's hand. They
were such old friends Even a hero-worshipper could
receive tenderness from an old, old friend and com-
rade. The bit of flattery, too, was not objectionable,
coming from such a source. It's a nice hand,"-he
inspected it closely,--" a nice little ba- hero's
"Thank you, sir," said John. "I was a little
afraid you were going to call it a baby's hand. It
is a nice ring, too; don't you think so?"
"A mighty nice ring, sir. But don't it look a
leetle like a gal's ring? It couldn't be a gal's ring,
Master John ?"
"No, indeed!" shouted John. "It is a hero's
ring. I'm s'prised you'd think it a girl's ring when
it's a hero-ring. Not that I'm a hero, but it's just
a sign a thimble, I think mother said that I'm
growing to one all I can. Thimble isn't quite the
word, unless you lisp. I lisp a little sometimes, and
so I say thimble when I mean thimble. You under-
"I see," said the old man, "I see. It's a symbol
ring, then ?"
Prezactly! Mother gave it to me for having a
tooth pulled out with a pair of iron tweezers, and not
crying. None of my heroes cry. Yes, Alexander
the Great cried. It was a very foolish cry, though.
Just sat down and cried because he whipped the
whole world, and couldn't find anything else to whip.
Mother gave me the ring to remind me that I was
a hero. Not a grown-up one like Socrates and
Achilles, you know. But little heroes can grow up
to big ones if they keep on a-heroing; don't you
reckon they can?"
Most sure of it," declared the old man, if they
don't get a back-set to cramp their growth."
"I thank you, sir. I thought so, too. Wouldn't
you like to have a hero-ring, Mr. Brewer?"
More better than anything in this world, Master
"Then you shall have it," declared John. "I'll
ask mother about it this very night, and -oh! I
forgot the tip, I did forget it entirely. And the sun
has passed it, sir. I'm most sure it has. Do look,
sir, and see. I would be very sorry if I let the sun
pass the tip."
The old man arose and opened the door. As he
did so there was a hurried crackling of the rude
platform before the cabin, and in the pretty moun-
tain twilight a figure moved hastily away in the
uncertain light. The miner watched it narrowly;
there was a familiar dignity in the upright carriage
that belonged neither to the mines nor to the river
men. The mists were heavy already, for the little
valley town, shut in by the mountains and cut by the
big Tennessee, was, as the old miner said, airish
even in June-time," and the twilights there fall early.
The retreating figure was making the most of the
uncertain light, but, dim as it was, the convict recog-
nised him, and wondered what it meant.
Not eavesdroppin', surely," he muttered, yet
it do certainly p'int that away. Master John, the
tricky ole sun's got the drop on us this time, sure.
But the ole horse'll fetch you home in a twinklin'.
Up, sir, and mount. Ready ? The crutch belongs
to me, you know. All right, sir, and will you just
keep a firm holt till I can chuck the key under the
boards, sir ? Now, sir, and buckaty buckaty!"
And away they went, those two old friends, in the
wake of the figure that had disappeared in the mists.
And the child laughed and chatted in his artless way,
while the old man's heart hardened with new doubts
and suspicions of a fresh injustice. And when at
last he had deposited his charge safely upon the top
step" of the superintendent's house, and turned back
into the white mists towards his lonely shanty, his
lips found expression for the feelings burning in his
"Did he think I wouldn't do to trust?" he mut-
tered. Was he watching' and listening' to see if Old
Despair's talk and company was fitten for his son ?
If not, what was he skulkin' about my door for ?"
He paused and drew his hands into fists; his teeth
were set in his lips, like a wild beast's.
Oh, but men air mean," he hissed; all men air
He had cause to think so, perhaps, so is injustice
wont to breed doubt.
"All men air mean. It is only the little ones who
And thinking of the "little one," the child who
called himself his "dear old friend," the bruised old
heart softened, the fingers loosened; the lips fell
again into their patient quiet; aye, they smiled,
thinking, as he was, of the child.
A child; yet one destined to colour and reshape
the ruined life of the despairing old convict.
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT.
THE days passed quietly at Slipup, despite the
boats and the clatter of the furnace on the hill,
the rattle of the slag-carts, or the shouts of the miners
passing to and from the mines; the iron mines on one
side the town and the coal in the mountains upon the
Nature surely has never smiled more benignly upon
any spot than she has upon the little valley about
Slipup. First, the valley itself, green, summer or
winter, protected by the mountains, fed by the
river; and, as if still fearful lest her gifts had been
scant, the good mother of mankind has crammed the
mountain upon the one hand with iron, while into
that upon the other she has stocked her stores of coal.
Hard indeed is it to believe that despair can intrude
upon such bountiful prosperity.
It was high noon of a day in June, and Saturday.
The men were preparing to leave the mine, according
to their custom, Saturday afternoon.
Brewer had been promising John a peep at the old
sealed entrance to the Lodge, "come another good
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT.
One of the miners' wives, looking from her window
to see if the men were coming to their dinner,
Yonder goes Old Despair and the little master."
And her voice was a trifle more tender when she
turned to her own toddler that had vexed her sorely
all day, and bade him run to the pile for a handful
of chips." Unconsciously, she had emphasized the
command to run. Yet, at the moment, she felt no
resentment towards the rich lady in the superintend-
ent's house. She remembered that her son was a
cripple, and for the time she, the humbler mother of
the miner's child, could afford to pity. Perhaps she
would have reserved her pity could she have heard
the conversation of the lame boy, as old Brewer
trudged away with him past the long line of
"Mr. Brewer," he was saying, "wouldn't it be a
fine thing if the Tennessee could carry boats plumb
clear to the Ohio ?"
A mighty fine thing, Master John," said the old
man, "but I reckin as it ain't likely to be, so long as
the Muscle Shoals have got a say-so in it."
"Yes," said John, I heard father talking last
night to Mr. Baldwyn. He didn't know I was in the
room at first, for I always try to touch the floor easy
with my crutch, 'count o' mother. I think it hurts
mother, somehow, when my crutch goes heavy, for I
have seen the tears in her eyes. And one day I asked
her if the noise made her nervous, because the doctor
told father once she was very nervous. But she took
me on her lap and held me close up in her arms, and
cried on my curls. I know she did, because Susan
brushed them out and asked me if I had been out in
the rain. So I try to touch the floor easy, so's mother
won't be nervous. And last night, when I went in,
father and Mr. Baldwyn didn't hear me; and father
was saying,' It makes me think of some lives, so grand
and full, and capable of so much, but having one great
stop, just like the big shoals, to hinder and spoil their
beauty.' Then I knew they were talking about the
Tennessee. And Mr. Baldwyn said the government
was going to take hold of that old pile some day, and
blow an opening through it. But father didn't think
so. It's like the lives I spoke of,' he said; 'there
for a purpose.' Then he talked so low I couldn't hear,
but I heard Mr. Baldwyn say, He is a little hero.'
And I spoke up from my corner, where I was resting,
and said, 'Who? Who is a hero, Mr. Baldwyn?'
For I thought it was some new one. And father
laughed so queer that I peeped into his eyes, and they
were all full of tears. I don't think he could have
been crying about me. Do you think so ?"
No, sir; no, indeed, sir. Why should anybody cry
about Master John, indeed ?"
"That's what I say cried John, jubilantly. "I
thought for a minute it just might be about this crutch,
you know; but I reckon it couldn't. It must have
been because of the lives' he told about, -' so grand
and full and capable of so much,' but with the 'great
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT.
stop.' Do you think father could have been crying
for the lives,' Mr. Brewer ?"
Maybe, Master John," said the old man; maybe.
You can't always tell."
That's so," said John. It might have been just
the shoals, you know, made him cry; though I don't
quite think so. I wish you would carry me up to that
green bluff a minute; I want to look down the river.
I just do love to look down the old Tennessee. There
is always something there makes you feel like you
could put out your fingers and pull away a veil and
look right straight at God. Did you ever feel that
Yes, little master, many a time. But more often
it seems as if the good Lord was far, very far away,"
said the old friend, sadly.
Yes, that is when the sun shines," said John,
" and the veil is gold. Mother calls it a mist; and
when I told her how I felt about it, she said, It often
requires a mist to make us feel that God is near.'
Now, sir, here we are on the green bluff among the
mists. Ease me down, my friend, so I can feel the
green grass softing my feet."
He lifted the light weight from his shoulder, not re-
linquishing his hold entirely until the little twisted foot
was supported by the crutch. It was a favourite spot
with both, the green bluff overlooking the mist-mel-
lowed river and the valley nestled among the purple
distances. To the right of them the big furnaces
belching forth their smoke and flame as they made
run after run of pig-iron; the slag-carts clattering
down to the dump-pile; while off to the left the coal-
diggers were issuing from the dark mine's mouth,
laden with their tools and dinner-pails. Before them,
as they stood upon the bluff, the old, forsaken Lodge
mine told the story of the great disaster that had be-
fallen the village years before.
The old miner's face clouded as his gaze fell upon
the once flourishing but now ruined mine.
"It don't seem's anything's finished, hereabouts,"
he muttered. There's the river blockaded into
three pools, as you might say, so's the boats can
only paddle about for a few miles, like ducks in a
mill-pond, 'stid o' sailin' on to the Ohio, as they
might 'a' done if it wasn't for the shoals and the
mount'n obstruction' of the way. And then there's
the mines, -the long tunnels only half worked,
'count o' accidents and the fear o' accidents."
He had forgotten the presence of the child, and all
his old bitterness came bounding into life again, as it
always did when he allowed himself to reflect upon
those things which he considered had worked his
ruin. But John, from association with his elders
and the affliction which had thrown him upon books
for company and friends, had acquired that habit of
thinking which comes early and with strange power
to the afflicted. He had listened quietly to the old
man's complaints. Then he said:
"There are no such things as accidents. I heard
father say so. They are opportunities. Some people
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT.
called it an accident when the apple fell at Sir Isaac
Newton's feet; but it was only Sir Isaac's oppor-
tunity come to him. Everybody's opportunity comes
sometime. Mine will come some day, too, though
I do have to carry this."
He laughed as he touched the crutch. The words
and gesture made the old friend think of what he had
said about the river,-" It takes a mist to make us
feel that God is near." Perhaps this was his mist,
this little wooden crutch, -his opportunity," that
had come to him in such pitiful disguise. Who
"James Watt," continued John, learned from a
lobster-shell on his dinner-table how to carry pipes
under the Clyde River, which had a very bad bed
for pipes. And Mr. Baldwyn. himself told me that
electricity for the telegraph was found first in a
frog's leg. I asked him to tell me all about it, for
I wanted to know. He said Galvani, a electricityy
hero, saw a frog's leg jump when it touched certain
kinds of metals, and that he made it his opportunity
for great inventions. Oh, but there's lots of those
accident heroes! But I think that word ought to
be skipped plumb out of the dictionary."
"Umph!" said the old man. "Would you call
the cave-in of the old Lodge an opportunity, Master
John was silent a moment.
"Well," said he, "I can't say plumb clear, but it
surely must be, though I can't explain it. What are
HEB 0 CHUMS.
all those people doing over there at the mine ? They
don't look like the miners, and they haven't got any
dinner-buckets. And oh, look! They are going
straight to the old Lodge. What can it mean?"
He pointed excitedly towards a group that was
collecting about the blockaded tunnel that had once
been the mouth of the Lodge mine.
"They're going to fly into the face of Providence,
by digging a new tunnel," said the old man. "But
it'll be the death o' them as tries it, Master John.
The rats left the old hole long ago, and when the
rats leave a mine it's always unsafe. Any sort o'
miner'll tell you so. There's all kinds o' folks down
there,--diggers, and inspectors, and engineers, and
little fellers with hammers and eye-glasses as have
been huntin' fer ferns and fishes in the coal mine
over yander. Fools, I call 'em; expecting' to find
fishes and shells two hundred feet underground!"
But John was deaf to all complaints; enthusiasm
shone in every feature.
Oh," he cried, do let's go down! I know what
it is. Mr. Baldwyn told me about it; he does just
love it so. It's geology, or science. Science is its
grown-up name, he says. And it's about all sorts
of things away down, down, down, and nobody knows
how they got there, in the plumb bottom of the
earth. Do let's go down. Mr. Baldwyn will be so
glad to know the geologers have been here, when
he gets back. Lift me up to the left ear, sir.
There! And now, buckaty! Your arms have such
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT.
a good feel about them; just like when mother sings
'Safe in the Arms.' Just as if you most knew you
couldn't slip, 'count of the arms, you know."
The company had indeed decided to reopen the old
mine, but from a new point, on account of the supply
of rich ore-beds that had never been worked. The
former opening must not be tampered with, the en-
gineer said. As if they had not tried again and
again to force an entrance through the seemingly
solid mass which the great tragedy had heaped before
the first entrance. The workmen had arrived a few
days earlier than they were expected; but being
arrived, they were to remain; hence, there was no
need of haste on the part of the old friends. More-
over, the path was rather uncertain, and the "old
horsey" none too sure of foot. They descended
slowly, carefully. John took advantage of the
tedium to deliver himself concerning a matter that
had lain heavily upon his heart for some time.
There's something I want to tell you," he began.
" I went to the shack to tell you, but forgot it because
we talked about the Belle. Confidential, sir."
"Confidential, Master John."
Mr. Brewer, the people 'round here call you Old
Umph! Let 'em; it can't help nor hinder, as I
knows on," growled the old miner. "I ain't a-keerin'
for their say."
"I know," said John, "but it ain't p'lite, an' I
thought I'd 'vise you to put a stop to it."
There was a twinkle in the faded eyes which but
a moment before had flashed angrily.
"Not easy to do, Master John," declared the
miner; you know folks will talk."
"I know that, sir," cried John, "that's just what
mother says when old Mrs. Larkins has been paying
her a visit. But I was thinking you might put a stop
to the talk."
"How, sir, how?" exclaimed the old man, with
great good humour. Just tell me how to stop the
wag o' the human tongue, and I'll tell the gov'ment
how to open up the Muscle Shoals. Name your plan,
Master John, an' let's see if the stock's any good."
Oh, you're so funny," laughed John. "You're
just like father, for all the world. He always says,
'I'll take some stock in that,' or else, 'That stock's
no good.' My plan is this: You are to become a hero.
There, isn't that a fine plan ? You are to be a real,
"A hero; a man whom everybody loves an'
respect's, because he has done some great thing,
But I know I ain't done that, little master," said
the old man.
"But you have," cried John, with enthusiasm.
" Didn't you stay out in a flatboat all night once,
hclpin' to save people that were washed away by
the freshup? And didn't you lose your own wife
and sons ? And didn't you "
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT.
Oh, ho! Stop a bit, Master John. You mustn't
be tellin' about that 'round here. That's our secret,
our confidence,' betwixt us two only, to wit."
"I know, sir," said John; "I'm not going to tell.
But you see, I know it, and so I know that you are
a hero. So, why couldn't I just tell people so, with-
out going into retail,' as Mr. Baldwyn says."
Oh, yes, you may do that. Tell 'em I'm an old
'hero,' to be sure; but be sure not to tell how much
of an old hero, Master John. They'd be sure to come
serenadin' o' my door down some night, if you tell
"I'll be careful," said John; "but I'll tell them
you are a hero, and must not be called Old Despair'
any longer. Isn't that crazy Nan coming towards us,
sir ? And whatever can be the matter with her ? "
A figure, tattered and unkempt, with loose, gray
hair hanging about a face from which the light of
reason had long fled, was running towards them.
She beckoned and gesticulated with her long arms,
pointing first towards the old mine, where the men
were collected, then towards the river; then clapped
her hands gleefully, and called to the miner to
"hurry and come on."
They're goin' to rip op'n the old Lodge, Brewer!"
she said, when, breathless and panting, she stood at
his side and plucked his sleeve. "They're goin' to
rip it op'n. Oh Lord! They don't know what's down
there. You and me does, Brewer. We knows.
They're looking' for" she put her mouth to the
miner's ear, and whispered, as she walked on by his
side, fishes! Ha, ha, ha! Fishes in a mine!
Fools! Fishes stay in the river. They ought to
know, but don't you an' me tell 'em. Let 'em op'n
the mine; let 'em do it. We'll git our boys then.
Hush, don't let 'em hear. We'll git our boys then,
for decent buryin' ; I only wants my son for decent
buryin'. You won't tell 'em there ain't no fishes in
the mine, will you, Brewer ?"
Not I, Nan. Let 'em open the old mine if
they're aimin' to, an' find what they can," said the
old miner, who felt ill disposed to tell the old woman
that the opening was to be a new tunnel, and not an
entrance into the old one.
"We'll git our boys, Brewer," she talked on,
giggling and simpering, now and then dropping her
voice into a wail. "I got a good breakfast for
Tom," she said. "Kept it waiting' an' waiting' for a
hundred years; an' at last it got stone cold an'
had to be flung out to the dogs. An' he ain't come
yit, nor your Dick neither, nor the company's money
they said Dick stole. Never you min', Brewer, we'll
find it -we'll find it when they op'ns up the Lodge
after them fishes. Ha, ha, ha! "
So she rattled on, poor, crazy old Nan, whose boy
Tom had been among the missing that morning
after the collapse of the Lodge. She had waited
her breakfast all day, and roamed the river bank
in the storm all night, and when, the next morning,
ragged and bruised and torn, old Nan returned to
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT.
the cabin and the waiting breakfast, she was mad.
A harmless old creature who remembered nothing
save that awful night's calamities, and who roamed
the streets, begging always for the body of her son
for "decent buryin'."
As they approached the group of engineers, who
were beginning to place their instruments for sur-
veying, Nan's excitement became intense.
"Here's Brewer," she cried, to an old man who
had withdrawn himself somewhat apart from the
rest, and was intently examining some bits of coal
and slate that had been brought over from the
coal mine. "Here's Brewer; he knows what's in
the old Lodge. 'Tain't fishes. Oh Lord, fishes
in a coal mine! Why, it's folks -skeletons that
ain't never been "
"Wait there, Nan, you're about to tell! ". shouted
The man with the specimens laughed outright.
But the next moment his keen eyes rested upon
the dainty little figure hoisted upon the old man's
shoulder, and an expression of surprise, not unmixed
with admiration, came into them.
Ease me down, my old friend," John was saying.
The man ceased laughing, and placed his hand
upon the boy's head.
"Hello, little man," he said, "aren't you a slip
of lost sunshine that has strayed off down here in
this grimy little village ?"
Oh, no, sir! shouted John, amused indeed that
the man should think such a thing; I'm just John,
plain John, the superintendent's son. And this is my
hero. Everybody doesn't know he is a hero, so they
call him Old Despair.' And now, sir, wouldn't you
let me see the fishes and ferns that have been 'ryste-
riously embezzled in the earth so long as to baffle
science, the grown-up name of the geologers; and
are they rizacles like Mathuselah, and are they truly
older than auntie Luvins, and who is auntie Luvins,
anyhow, sir ?"
The strange man listened with amused attention
until John had ended his speech. Then he dropped
back against the rock and laughed aloud.
"Yes, John," he said, they are rizacles. All cre-
ation was a rizacle, for that matter, little man, which
only the hand of a God could have performed. And
aunty Luvins is an old Latin hag that stands for 'be-
fore the flood.' When anything happened before the
great deluge, people say it is ante de luvian. Under-
stand ? And now, what did you learn about those
Miracles so mysteriously embedded in the earth as
to baffle science?' That's a big lesson for a small
Mr. Baldwyn, sir," said John. He's a geologer,
too. I heard him telling father."
The strange man smiled again.
"Do you see this bit of coal, John, and these
rocks ?" he said, displaying several choice specimens
that he brought up from a bag swung upon his arm.
John was lifted to a seat beside his new friend,
"'HELLO, LITTLE MAN, AIN'T YOU A SLIP OF LOST SUNSHINEV'
I~ C ':76
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT.
beaming with anticipation. Mr. Brewer took a con-
venient stand near by. Crazy Nan, too, climbed upon
the rock and listened, or seemed to, quietly and not
without interest. The strange man displayed a small,
flat piece of slate, upon which were the fossilised out-
lines of a fern, delicately and exquisitely traced.
Oh !" cried John, how ever did it get there with
the mountains piled on top of it, if you please, sir ?"
Ah, my boy," and the face of the old geologist be-
came grave, the world would give a good deal, the
world of science, to be able to answer that question
to its own satisfaction. It has puzzled older heads
than yours and mine. But shall I tell you about those
little ferns and shells and tracks of curious insects we
prowlers find away down under the mountains and
mines and secret places ?"
"If you only would," said John. "Why, it would
be better, or most as better, than the hero books. But,
sir, can't Mr. Brewer sit here? He's my friend. We
are very old friends, indeed; old and confidential. And
he is a hero, though he isn't in the books yet."
To be sure; to be sure," said the geologist. "Have
a seat, Mr. Hero, and we'll begin."
And then the strange man settled himself back
against the crag and began that old, old riddle, which
never was, and never will be, understood, of the secrets
of the rocks and hills. He told it as patiently and as
carefully as if the listening ears were not a child's ears
that hungered for the strange, old story.
These are fossils," he said, fossils. This coun-
try -these mountains, I mean -is full of them.
The very finest specimens in the world," he said.
" But as to how they came there, we will have to go
away back. People used to think they were the ani-
mals and flowers that existed before the flood, and
that Noah's great deluge deposited them there. They
were first noticed by a great painter named Leonard
de Vinci, who saw them in the rocks dug from the
mountains of Verona to repair the city. That was
nearly four hundred years ago. He proved to the
people that no plastic, or moulding, force in nature
could have fastened stones into organic forms, and
that the deluge was inadequate to have collected the
marine fossils--these little fish are called fossils-
that form the solid strata of the earth. Strata, John,
is a bed of earth or rock, and sometimes you may
learn that it is often in layers. You know what lay-
ers mean ?"
Oh, yes. Mother makes layer cake; piles one
thin cake upon piles of others, you know, sir."
That's it, precisely," said the strange man.
"Well, people began to collect them, specimens,'
they called them, and knew no more about them
than you and I. At last a man named Palissy was
brave enough to offer a theory regarding them. Pa-
lissy thought these fossil remains were real animals,
marine, that is, from the sea. After awhile Laibnitz,
a great mathematician, offered a theory. He thought
that the earth had originally been a burning, luminous
mass, which, since its creation, has been gradually
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT.
cooling down, and as it cooled received the condensed
vapours which now form its crust. At one stage he
thought it covered with a great ocean, and from these
two elements, fire and water, Laibnitz thought he
traced two formations; one by refrigeration from
igneous fusion that is, cooling from its state of
melted heat. The other formation was by concretion
from aqueous solution -that is, the earth was hot
and it was covered with water. The cooling made
one formation, and the massing together of all matter
by the action of the water made another. It's a big
thing to ask a small boy to gulp down the geology of
the earth at one swallow, Master John, but there is
one thing you may understand and be sure of. The
same hand which put the fish in the sea put them
in the mountains as well; and that same great hand
set the parts of the great creation in their proper
form and place. 'In six days,' the book says, and it
says that a thousand years in his sight are as one
day, so that by our poor narrow little count we can-
not tell how long the Almighty was in creating the
earth, bringing order out of chaos, and laying the
magnificent strata that so delights the researches of
man. Yet the world has always quarrelled about
these little ferns and fishes and other mysteries, some
claiming as the cause the flood, and others the volcanic
eruptions that shook up the old earth centuries ago, -
turned it upside down, as it were. But, for me, I like
to call it the camera-obscura of the Almighty, upon
which, or with which, he has stamped the form and
image of the creation he is done with, and hidden
them away in the secret chambers of the earth."
The strange man ceased speaking. There was a
moment's silence before old Nan reached out her long,
bony hand and touched his sleeve.
"Did you say the A'mighty hid 'em there ?" she
asked, in a half whisper.
"Yes, my poor woman; hid them there until his
own good time for revealing them."
He hides a power o' things down there, under the
Yes, they are his mysteries. We cannot under-
stand them now, but some day the everlasting hills
will be ripped in sunder and made to reveal their
She bent towards him her face, old and seamed, and
afire with that wild glow men term insanity.
Sure ?" she asked.
She leaned still a trifle nearer, her face almost
touching his, her hand still clutching his arm.
"Well, don't tell Brewer I told you," she said,
"but down there, under the mount'ns, they've got
my boy, them rocks have. And some day What's
It was the click of a pick beyond the rocks upon
which they were sitting. Some one was pricking the
ribs of the old, forsaken Lodge. Nan listened a mo-
ment. Suddenly it dawned upon her poor mind what
they were doing, and with a wild shriek she bounded
OLD NAN AND A CONTRACT. 67
to her feet, from rock to rock, gesticulating, shouting,
The old Lodge! she cried; the old Lodge! God
is gpin' to rip it op'n. Come, everybody, and git your
dead. The A'mighty is about to give up the old
mine's secrets at last at last at last!"
And hearing her, how few dreamed that old Nan,
crazy Nan, spoke truly, and that at last the secret
horrors of the great chambers of the earth were to be
A MILE-POST DINNER.
T HE mists were enveloping mount and river when
Susan drew the window-shutters fast for the
night, making the little sitting-room of the superinten-
dent's home secure against the curious gaze of passers-
by. No sooner had the latch clicked into place than
a little white-robed figure emerged from the dressing-
"Now, father, bring out the hero books," said John.
"We will have to hurry, before the fire makes me nod
like Sir Isaac Newton. My chum says he most knows
it is the fire. Open your arms, mother. Oh, I do
hope I shall never be too big for your arms, mother
dear. Now, then, father, I'm all ready."
Mr. Weston was slowly turning the leaves of a well-
thumbed mythology. "Well, John, whom will you
have to-night," he asked, "Hercules, Apollo, or
A serious expression came into the honest eyes as
the boy replied:
"Neither, sir. I don't care for them any more.
Mr. Baldwyn says they are not real heroes at all, but
just lagination ones. That Hercules never killed
A MILE-POST DINNER.
any lion, and never strangled any snake, either, when
he was a baby in his cradle. And Apollo never drove
the sun across the sky in his life. And that Achilles's
mother never dipped him in any river by the heel, and
that if he had any heels, they were just like every-
body else's. And that the whole book, heroes and all,
is just a lagination book, that people used to not know
any better than to believe. 'A pretty story,' he called
it, that the Greeks and -"
Yes, father, the Romans, didn't know any better
than to believe, about the lagination heroes. But I
want sure-enough heroes; like the one who was
burned alive, and when the fire was lighted was told
he might take back and live; and instead of doing it,
he put out his right hand and let it burn off, because
that hand had been a traitor to principle He was a
hero. I like a man who isn't afraid to stand by his
principless ; don't you, father ?"
Decidedly, John. Now then, be quiet, and you
shall have the story of Cranmer, the -" He was
about to say "the fanatic ;" but a glance at the pure,
proud face of the little hero-worshipper caused him to
check the thoughtless word, and substitute martyr "
in its stead. Not for the wealth of the world would
he cast one stone at his boy's ideal. The story was
condensed and simplified to meet the childish com-
prehension. When the book was at last closed, he
glanced at the little perfect face nestled against
the mother's shoulder. He thought for a moment
the boy was asleep, for the lids were drooped over the
blue eyes. But in a moment he detected a slight
compression of the lips, a delicate contraction of the
brow, and when the earnest blue eyes were lifted to
his, they wore a perplexed expression.
"Father," he said, "was there ever a hero I
mean was there ever more than one ? I know there
is one, although he isn't in the books yet. Is there
one in the books, father, who ever suffered wrong, a
great deal of it, for something he never did do at all,
and just went on suffering without saying a word to
anybody, excepting, maybe, one very old friend ?"
Well," said Mr. Weston, "I don't recall such a
one at the moment; but if you will give me the name
of the hero whose deeds are still unwritten, it may
serve as a leader, or guide, to those in the books."
The boy answered with surprised alacrity:
"Mr. Brewer, sir, of course."
"Oh, yes, certainly. I forgot Mr. Brewer. Mother,
can't you help us find a case that fits Mr. Brewer's ? "
The mother pressed the smile from her lips in the
mass of golden curls upon her shoulder.
I don't recall one just now," she replied, unless
Napoleon will answer."
Mr. Weston shook his head.
"Below the ideal, I fancy; too much fight."
The curls were lifted a moment.
"What did Dante do? He's got a nice name,
A MILE-POST DINNER.
"Dante was a great poet, my son, who had a great
many trials, but who left a wonderful name behind
him. He was imprisoned and exiled from his native
city because of certain matters pertaining to the gov-
ernment of the city."
The curls slowly shook their owner's lack of satis-
I don't quite admire him. I hope my saying so
The master of the house replied, with hearty good
Not at all, my son. He has been dead too long
for our opinions to affect his biographers. Try again,
How would Milton or Bunyan do? Both were
imprisoned poets, you know."
I know all about them. I don't quite want writ-
ing heroes. I like doing ones better. One that just
did something great, and when people abused him
just sat still and took it. I s'pose Andrew Jackson
wouldn't have done that, would he, father ?"
The superintendent bit his under lip at the sugges-
tion of tame endurance forming a characteristic of
"I'm afraid not, John," he answered, soberly.
"Would Henry Clay.?"
Hardly !" The emphatic exclamation was quite
unexpected. John had cherished very fond hopes of
denominating his friend a hero after Clay," that
matchless master of heroism in the mind of every
American youth. The mother saw the disappoint-
ment in the child's face and hastened to his relief.
Never mind, dear," she said, we can't all be
Henry Clays; but we can all adopt as our motto the
immortal sentiment he left to the world: I would
rather be right than be President.' Now we will hunt
again for a hero for your old chum. Let's see. There
was Wellington, whose watchword was Duty.' And
there was Disraeli, a great man, too, who declared
that 'the youth who does not look up will look
down.' And then there was, to go back, Sir Walter
Raleigh, the great man, I suppose, who put his cloak
down for the queen to step upon. And then there
was Michael Angelo, the artist and sculptor, who suf-
fered imprisonment and poverty just as Milton, the
poet, and Bunyan, the preacher, did; and "
Mother mother cried the master of the house.
" Your catalogue of eminent jailbirds quite confounds
our hero hunter. Be merciful; try one more and stop."
Well, then, how is Galileo ?"
"What did he do?" The little face was losing
something of the perplexed expression the father had
Galileo was an Italian astronomer and philoso-
pher. He was the inventor of the thermometer and
the pendulum, and almost the inventor of the tele-
scope. He was imprisoned for declaring the earth
moved, and not the sun, as people had always be-
lieved. And long after he was dead it was found
that he had been right all the time."
A MILE-POST DINNER. 73
The golden head left the mother's shoulder with a
,4 That's it!" cried John. "I like him. Hoorah
for Mr. Galileo and his thermomoscope! He's my
hero. Read about Galileo, father."
Patiently and carefully, emphasising the best, gin-
gerly touching upon the faults, the superintendent
rehearsed the story of the great astronomer. When
it was ended, the boy said, with earnest emphasis:
"I like him. He's very like my chum, I think.
Father, don't you think my Mr. Brewer ought to
have a hero-ring ?"
The superintendent hesitated, somewhat surprised.
John saw it, and understood the hesitation perfectly.
"Indeed, sir, he is a hero. You don't know him
like I do, father; and really, he ought to have a ring.
And if mother doesn't mind I'd like to give him
mine. He would like it so much, coming from his
old friend. We have had some real confidential
talks, and he says he would like a hero-ring more
better than anything in this world. Could I give
it to him, mother dear? It is my very own, you
know; it was my own tooth that was pulled, and my
own ache, and all."
Mrs. Weston looked grave. She understood just
how much the little fellow prized that tiny golden
circlet, the first testimonial he had ever received of
that characteristic which his child-heart held above
all others- heroism. She understood the motive
which prompted the wish to bestow the treasure
upon the old man, from whose sorrows the unformed
judgment had never a garment of heroism. If an
illusion, it leaned to the side of virtue, and she was
loath to dispel it. Still, she would not have the
young intelligence dwarfed or wronged by a false
ideal. She glanced at her husband, who said, by a
motion of the hand:
You must decide the case for yourself."
And decide it she did. The boy was to act upon
his own judgment. The first time Mr. Brewer should
do anything really heroic, according to his ideas,
John was at liberty to bestow upon him the beloved
and honoured badge of a hero.
"Thank you, mother dear," he said, earnestly. "I
will be very careful about it, indeed I will. Now,
if you please, I'm ready for 'Safe in the Arms.'
Good night, father; pleasure dreams and sweet
repose. Good night, mother; pleasure dreams and
sweet repose. Good night, Susan, nodding in the
corner; pleasure dreams and sweet repose. And
good night," the voice was raised to a kind of jubi-
lant, good-comradeship kind of pitch, good night,
Mr. Galileo, with your tbhrmomoscope; pleasure
dreams and sweet repose. Sing a little louder,
mother dear; the fire is putting more winkers on
my eyes, so I can't keep them open."
Safe in the arms of Je-e-sus."
The little voice did try to follow the divine lullaby,
but the weary head dropped upon the mother's bosom,
A MILE-POST DINNER.
and the eyelids, weighted by the mysterious "wink-
ers," slowly closed, while the mother's voice followed
the old strain still, a prayer and a lullaby for the
Safe on his gentle breast,
There by his love o'ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest."
When at length the golden head rested upon its
pillow "in pleasure dreams," Mrs. Weston turned to
Bernard," she said," I am all at sea about John's
birthday dinner. He insists that his old chum is the
one he desires to be present. When I argued with
him, he silenced me by saying: Mother dear, on a
boy's mile-post day,' as he calls them, ought he not
to invite his very best friends to the dinner ? And
isn't Mr. Brewer my very dearest friend ?' I told him
that if Mr. Brewer was invited, he would have to give
up all other guests. Oh, thank you,' said he, I am
sure my old friend will be quite enough, and we will
have a real confidential celebration of my mile-post
day.' And there it ended. I had not the heart to
Then let it be yes," said the master of the house.
" Mother," and his face wore a thoughtful look, it is
a very odd and pathetic friendship that exists between
these two. I went last evening at your bidding to
bring John home from Brewer's. As I lifted my
hand to knock, I heard something which made me
stop, and look the other way, mother play the
eavesdropper. The old friends' were truly quite con-
fidential in their talk. Brewer was telling the story
of his life to that child. When he finished, I heard
John say,' That was a very pretty story, a beautiful
story, and very sorrowful. Won't you take my hand
a moment ? It means, you know, I told you what
it means. I understand, and am very sorry for you.'
I felt like a thief when the man opened the door; and
I crept away like one, too, I am afraid. I tell you,
wife, there is something good in the man, else the
child's heart would not go out to him with such trust-
ful affection. If his punishment was unjust, what
tongue can express what he must have suffered!
Yes, invite him to the birthday dinner. Somehow,
I feel disposed to follow my boy's leading. Perhaps
it may be as he says,' God and the old Tennessee will
make it all plain in their own good time.' Have him
at the birthday dinner, little mother."
And so the sixth mile-post day found Mr. Brewer
the only honoured guest of the superintendent's son.
John sat at the window, looking like a rare bit of deli-
cate wax-work, that had been daintily clothed in the
softest of velvet, a rich crimson in colour, that
brought out the bright gold of the pretty head, and
the faint colouring of the healthy complexion.
I hope he won't be late," the boy had said at least
a dozen times, as he sat watching the long street lead-
ing to the mines, beyond which stood a few of the
miners' shacks. At eleven o'clock he became restless
A MILE-POST DINNER.
and went down upon the top step," where he always
stood, just within the iron gate, to wait for his old
friend. But the wind blew a trifle cold, so that he
gave up his watch at the gate, and returned to the
"I wonder what makes him late," he said, with a
hint of impatience. The next moment a glad shout
rang through the room. "There he is! Open the.
door, Susan. Mother, can't Susan hurry to open the
door for my friend ? It will seem more homeful, I'm
quite sure, mother dear. Come on, dear old chum.
How slow he is. And if he isn't yes, I'm quite
confident he is pushing my new wheelbarrow P'r'aps
I'd better run out and meet him. Susan, where is
my cap ? It always will get away when I want it.
Hello! I am coming. Hello there, and good morn-
ing, sir. This is my birthday, my sixth mile-post,
sir. I'm very glad to see you, and the wheel-
barrow, too. I hope you are glad to see me. Are
you glad to see me?"
He was hurrying down the steps, past the gate and
down the village street, a dash of gold and crimson in
the sunlight, shouting as he went, right into the arms
of his dear old friend.
It was indeed a nice day," as John said. At the
boy's request, a table was set for two in the library,
and the friends had their dinner alone. At his re-
quest, also, the master of the house came in to say
grace for them, accompanied by his wife and the
president of the Slipup Iron Company, Mr. Baldwyn,
who had ruthlessly pulled old Hercules, Achilles, and
Apollo down from the hero's pedestal by declaring
them but creatures born in the imagination of the
old Greeks and Romans. The little master rose
when his parents entered with their own guest, and
extended his hand to Mr. Baldwyn.
"And how is Master Johnny on the mile-post
day ?" asked the president, with lively interest.
"Just John, if you please, sir, plain John; and he
is very well, I thank you, sir. And this is my old
friend, Mr.'Brewer, sir. Some call him Old Despair.'
And he has had a sight of trouble, sir, and he's been
to prison for nothing, sir, and he's a hero after Gal-
Whew! Wait, John, let me catch up exclaimed
the president. "You quite startled me with your
learning and news. I am all out of breath, I assure
He soon recovered himself, however, wished the old
man a "good day," and stood with proudly elevated
head while the superintendent besought a blessing on
the day and its provisions. A smile of keenest enjoy-
ment played about his usually stern lips--lips that
were more wont to scoff, indeed, than to smile--
while the ceremonies continued.
Sing, mother dear," cried John the moment his
head was lifted from the plate, where the golden curls
had been reverently bowed during the blessing. Sing
us one little verse before you go."
"I'm afraid I don't quite know any birthday songs,
A MILE-POST .DINNER.
John," smiled the mother, with a half timid glance at
the scoffer standing at the other side of the table.
"'Safe in the Arms' will do," declared John.
' And please let it be the verse about 'kroding care,'
I'd like my chum to hear that verse especial. Listen,
Mr. Brewer; it is a very nice verse."
Mrs. Weston glanced at her husband inquiringly;
he nodded, and with no further thought of the rich
unbeliever, but with heart full of pity for her humbler
guest, she sang the "nice verse" of the sweet old
hymn that has comforted its millions of care-bur-
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world's temptation,
Siu cannot harm us there.
Safe from the blight of sorrow,
Safe from my doubt and fears,
Only a few more trials,
Only a few more tears."
There were, indeed, tears in the mother's eyes, when
she reluctantly left the two dear old friends alone
with their dinner. Tears of sympathy for the un-
happy, ill-judged old man who had won the confidence
and affection of her boy. And through the child's
faith, her own was beginning to take root. Already
she was beginning to think of the old man as one
deeply and sorely wronged. She smiled through her
tears when she first realized it.
"John's belief in the man's heroism is about to
make us all fall down and worship," she said, with a
laugh, when she joined her husband and his guest a
The man hasn't a bad face," said Mr. Baldwyn,
" and they say he behaved very well in prison; made
some good time,' if I am not mistaken."
"Indeed," spoke up the ex-convict's new defender,
" he was pardoned by the governor of the State, for
brave and noble conduct on the occasion of a great
cave-in among the mines of the branch prison where
he was confined."
Mr. Baldwyn laughed. "Well, well," said he,
"perhaps I have not given the hero full credit. Un-
fortunately, we have no cave-ins convenient, with
which to test his courage, since the old Lodge mine
has settled. By the way, Weston, the boys went back
to work in the old shaft last week, I am told. Is it
perfectly safe, do you think ?"
The host's brow contracted.
"The inspector pronounced it safe," said he.
"Brewer, who knows a good deal about mines, in-
sisted that it was a death-trap, and was opposed to
meddling with the old cave,' as he calls it. We will
go down when the whistle calls the men back from
their dinner, and see what progress they are making.
I don't like the place. Indeed, I have always enter-
tained a kind of nervous, half-superstitious fear of the
old Lodge mine, and I am partly disposed to credit
the tales told by the first miners; that there is more
treasure buried in the Lodge than the red iron ore."
A MILE-POST DINNER.
Maybe, maybe," laughed the president. I will
possibly take stock in your treasure when the mine is
Only a cave-in will ever open her vaults again,"
.said Mr. Weston, soberly.
And in that event I forespeak the honour of
presenting Master John's hero-ring to our friend
Brewer," chuckled Mr. Baldwyn.
The speech was a light one, carelessly made, yet in
less than an hour it seemed almost a prophecy. Na-
ture, indeed, is incomprehensible in her moods, defy-
ing the wisdom of man, and often awaking in timid
breasts the old-time, dead-and-buried superstitions,
whose sepulchre has been dug by science and sealed
by knowledge long ago.
The words had scarcely left the president's lips,
when there was heard a low sound, half groan, half
hiss, followed instantly by a roar; and then a crash
which brought the listeners to their feet, with excla-
mations of frightened wonder. The house trembled
and rocked like a toy boat on the broad breast of the
ocean; the windows fell with a crash ; the vases upon
the mantel tottered and toppled to the hearth in a
hundred pieces. And while each stricken listener
stared at the white faces of the others in that instant
of terror, the door burst open, and Brewer, pale as
death, sprang into the room.
"The mine, sir !" he shouted: "The old Lodge!
For God's sake, come quick!"
THE OLD LODGE.
IN a short time the entire village had collected, full
of wonder not unmixed with fear, about the old
mine where, years before, the jealous earth had
closed its great mouth against its despoilers, locking
its secrets, together with its treasures, in its strong
depths, from whence all efforts of men and art had
been powerless to wrench them.
And now she had performed a second wonder; the
old mound had opened; the great mouth stood agape,
the old sepulchre and treasure-house stood wide again,
as if in mockery of the petty picks that had begun
the week before to pick her iron-girt sides.
Old and young, male and female, flocked to the
scene. They were awestruck, dumb, at first, with a
great superstition. Then they wrung their hands,
the women among them, and begged the men to come
away and leave the old pit alone.
"It's the A'mighty," they said. "His curse is on
the Lodge. Come away; let be, lest the A'mighty
curse you, too, along with the earth he created."
It was impossible to convince them that the open-
THE OLD LODGE.
ing of a new tunnel had caused the disturbance with
the old one, loosening its foundation, causing the
crash, and wrenching apart those old rock barriers
that had defied them for so long. The word which
passed from lip to lip was that the old Lodge was
open, and the dead miners were all there. Then fear
seemed to give place to wonder entirely.
Old women came hurrying down to claim their
dead, as if they had only said good-bye the day before,
and forgetting the years could have left them only
fleshless bones for the warm life that had gone down
into the unsuspected sepulchre. The earth and the
Almighty had relented and given them back their
lost ones at last.
Then came another message, a new fear awakened.
Some one must go down into the tunnel to ascertain
if any lives had been lost there. The crash had
barred the passage, and in the excitement and confu-
sion it was impossible to tell if any were missing.
Fortunately, for misfortune always has a better side,
the accident had taken place at noon, when the men
were at their dinners. So nobody had thought of a
new horror, until Jasper Crowe came panting into the
crowd, declaring that his sons had returned to work
half an hour before, together with half a dozen others.
Then it was decided that some one must go down
- make a way, if none could be found, to the im-
There was no time for parleying. What was done
must be done at once. There were still to be heard
mutterings and hissings of gas, together with an
occasional rumble of the loosened stones and sliding
earth. Nobody cared to risk his life in the old, super-
stition-haunted mine, it seemed; and the new captives
would have to take their chances, as had those other
victims ten years before.
"A volunteer, a volunteer," was called, when a
basket had been made ready, for the mine had not
opened at the side where the tunnel had been dug,
but had parted in a great seam higher up, where the
old dump-carts had been wont to bring the slag from
the furnace and dump it into the great gorge further
back towards the Tennessee.
A volunteer, a life, it might be, for a few stark
corpses. There is no one so afraid of the earth as
the miner. Familiarity does not take away any of
his terror; it only acquaints him the more thoroughly
with her treachery, her mystery of damp and gas and
slate. There was one, however, for whom the old
earth had no terrors; one whose all, save perhaps the
puny thing called life, was buried in her relentless
It was Old Despair -Mr. Brewer, the ex-convict.
He pressed through the throng to Mr. Weston and
Mr. Baldwyn to offer his services to go down into the
mine. The people, with that excitement common to
miners, were praying and shouting. When they
understood that he was about to make the descent
into the pit, they ceased to exclaim, but gathered in
groups and whispered his name, Old Despair, as if
THE OLD LODGE.
the sublimity of the undertaking had frozen their
The stillest one among them was old Nan. She
crawled up the steepest point of rock overlooking the
hole into which they were about to lower the brave
old miner. Her gray hair hung about her face, that
was old and wrinkled. She laughed now and then, a
low, chuckling kind of laugh, unheard by any of the
Suddenly, when the miner passed near the rock
upon which she stretched herself, she leaned far out
over the dangerous edge, and beckoned him with her
long, thin hand. Then.her crazy, cracked voice rang
out clearly and sharply:
"Brewer," she called, "Brewer! If you find my
Tommy down there, holler it back to me, won't you,
The words seemed to set the people wild, and to
remind others whose dear ones might be there with
old Nan's Tom. An old man, bent and feeble, laid
his hand upon the miner's sleeve, plucking it eagerly,
and said, in a low, trembling voice:
"An' if my Neddy's there, lemme know, neigh-
And then a woman's voice rang out above all other
I've got a boy down there, Brewer. He's got on
a gray suit o' clothes; you'll know him by that. He
went away down there ten year ago come nex' spring.
Look out for him, Brewer, do."
"Let the dead be, and look out for the livin',"
shouted Crowe, the man who had reported his sons
caught in the crash. "Let the dead be, and look to
the livin', Brewer."
The livin' is all up here, neighbour," replied the
woman. If your boys is down there, they're dead as
our'n now. An' our'n is alive as your'n, though
they've been gone ten year. Look out for our'n,
Brewer; we-uns have had the longest mourn." She
broke into a low wail, as if the opening of the old
mine had opened the old heart wound, along with the
earth's. For grief only slumbers; it never dies.
While the miners' wives were lamenting, the min-
ers themselves were busy preparing for the descent.
All were busy, Mr. Weston with the rest, so that
none noticed the little figure upon the hillside, off
from the crowd and danger from the mine. It was
John, the superintendent's son. There was no more
interested eye in the throng, as he stood there, lean-
ing upon his crutch, beside the wheel-chair, in which
he had been rolled to a point of observation.
He stood with one hand fast clasped in the hand of
the faithful Susan. It was upon this condition that
he had been permitted to go near the mine at all.
He could see the basket, and the men arranging the
ropes, while Mr. Brewer stood waiting, ready to de-
scend; but he could not understand in the least what
his old friend was about to do. Susan explained as
best she could, until Reuben, the superintendent's hired
boy, climbed the hill, and told them that it wasn't
THE OLD LODGE.
judgment day, as he had at first supposed, but a
cave-in, and that Old Despair was the only man in
Slipup brave enough to go down among the sulphur,
and gas, and skeletons. John's face fairly shone with
How I should like to shake hands with the brave
old fellow," he cried, "before he goes down to the
sulphur, and gas, and skeckeltons! Could he hear
me, Reuben, if I called, do you think ?''
"I'm afraid not, little master," said Reuben, "but
maybe he could hear me. Shall I holler for you, sir ? "
If you please would, Reuben, and quick. He is
getting in. What is father doing ? Oh, I'm so glad
father did, indeed he did, shake hands with him. And
did he lift his hat, Reuben? I'm most plumb sure
he did. And what is Mr. Baldwyn twisting his nose
in his handkerchief that way for? Please shout, Reu-
ben. Louder! Oh, do make it come louder, Reuben!
Can't you bring the holler right clear up from your
toes? Susan says she does. Ah! "
A prolonged shout from the bluff caused the people
to look up, where the little figure, still wearing its
holiday suit of gay velvet, stood watching with intense
interest the hurried proceedings below.
"Why, it is the little master," said one of the
women, "come to see his old friend, Despair, go to
The old man heard the words, and smiled. It
wasn't thinking of death, nor yet of heroism, made
his old face shine. He could not catch one word that
was said up there on the hill; but he saw a little
hand lifted, and then the velvet cap was snatched
from the golden curls, and swung triumphantly above
Triumphantly the old fellow knew instinctively
that his friend up there did not look upon the thing
he was about to do as going to his death." Or, if it
should prove so, it was a pilgrimage well worth the
making. Others were lamenting, calling him a fool;
but, to the child, he felt himself a hero.
"Mr. Brewer, oh, Mr. Brewer! Wait just a min-
ute before you go down to the skeckeltons. Wait!
Wa-it, my dear old friend."
The shout was entirely lost on the air; but the
sight of a boy running down to them was suffi-
cient to hold the crowd until Reuben, breathless
and excited, yet evidently fully alive to the enjoy-
ment of the duty imposed upon him, stood in their
First, he went over where Mr. Weston stood, and
whispered something in his ear. Instantly the tears
sprang to the eyes of the sensitive master.
Do whatever he bade you," he said to the hired
boy, "and do it precisely as he bade you." And
Reuben, lifting his hat, as his master had done,
stepped up to the old man about to descend into
the death-trap sprung for the second time, as they
believed, in the old Lodge mine. If you please,
sir," said the boy, the young master up there sent
you this, and he hopes you will be safe in the arms."
~P ~1] ~
S"'IF YOU PLEASE, SIR, THE YOUNG MASTER SENT YOU THIS.'"
THE OLD LODGE.
And the hired boy turned away his face to hide his
own tears as he extended his hand towards the old
man. In the palm of it lay a tiny golden circlet, the
beloved hero-ring. The old man understood the mes-
sage it bore. He slipped it into his bosom, near to
his bruised and broken old heart. The next moment
the basket began to descend, and the face of Old
Despair, still wearing that rapt, ecstatic smile, passed
out of sight into the old, forsaken sepulchre of the
There followed a silence, while those upon the out-
side waited for a signal agreed upon. One pull upon
the rope was to announce danger, and meant that
they were to haul him up at once. Two meant
that all was well, and that others wishing to make
the descent would be safe in doing so.
It seemed a long time in which they waited; but
the suspense was relieved somewhat by news from the
men whom Jasper Crowe had supposed buried in
the new disaster. They had not gone immediately
to the mine, as was thought, but merely had taken
a run down the river on an empty coal-barge to
inspect an old shaft, half a mile below, that was
about to be reopened. They were, at that time,
returning in time, as they supposed, for the whistle
that always called the men to work.
The people gave a shout for the living, and imme-
diately turned, with a sigh, to await the news from
the dead. They had not much longer to wait, till
there came a pull upon the rope, dangling in the
great hole at their feet. One! two! and a great
shout went up.
But the odour of gas, and a continuous, dust-like
cloud that issued from the opening, was sufficient to
deter many who might otherwise have wished to make
the descent. As it was, only four went down. These,
among whom were the inspector and the engineer
who had been superintending the opening of the new
tunnel, provided with lamps, were lowered to join
Brewer in the underground prison, with its darkness
and dangerous gases, perhaps the fatal death-trap
itself, ready to spring upon them from some unsus-
pected covert, and the misplaced and quivering boul-
ders ready to drop with the slightest motion.
They followed a circuitous route upon leaving the
basket, in and out among the treacherous rocks and
blockaded passages, led by the miner, who knew the
windings of the old tunnels in their first days. Sud-
denly they halted before a small opening, made,
evidently, by the recent crash that had effectually
blockaded all further passage save through that one
small, newly made aperture. The men hesitated.
Bits of earth dropped about their shoulders, while
overhead, the rocks seemed to quiver still with the
violence of the shock that had ripped them from their
SThey could see into the chamber beyond. Some of
the men recognized it as the old "vestibule room,"
so called because of its resemblance to a tiny cham-
ber, of perfect form, with a natural door-like entrance
THE OLD LODGE.
into the great tunnel beyond. It was here the miners
of the old Lodge used to congregate at noon, and eat
their dinners by the light of their tiny lamps. And
it was here a daring mountain stripling had hid-
den once, in the old days, when the Lodge had been
worked by the convicts, under the State lease; and
he had crouched with his ear to the wall, and over-
heard a plot worked among the convicts, to rush upon
the guard and make a break for freedom. The walls
were very thin, so thin, indeed, that the slightest
whisper could be heard on either side the frail par-
tition. So thin, the convicts heard the breathing of
the boy in the vestibule, and killed him for an eaves-
dropper and a spy. Then they made their break for
liberty, and more than a dozen obtained it. And
then the lessees refused prison labour to the com-
pany, and withdrew the convicts to Inman.
The men some of them "knew the old vestibule
by heart," as they said stood swinging their lan-
terns above their heads, none of them too anxious
to enter the haunted old hole, into which the light
flashed with startling brilliance.
Suddenly there was a crash, and the men fell back,
afraid, for a moment, to so much as look at the fresh
rent made in the partition.
For God's sake, don't tempt the old earth any
further. Let's go back," cried one. And then:
Look there shouted another. "Let's get out of
here before the door claps shut again."
"No, boys," said Brewer, who until then had
scarcely spoken, "we won't turn back till the old
Lodge sets straight some o' the wrong she's done.
Go on. Not a man turns back. Go on, I say!
unless you be a lot of cowards. Our dead air
here, only our dead, and the dead can't hurt you
none. Afeard? Be you afeard o' that?"
And he swung his lantern till it flashed upon some-
thing half lying, half crouching, close-pressed against
the shattering partition which separated the great
tunnel from the vestibule, a ghastly, grinning, hor-
rible something, before which the strongest of them
drew back in terror.
W HEN the leader swung his lantern above the
ghastly find," the men had drawn away
from it in superstitious terror. It was only a moment,
however, before they understood that it was a skele-
ton, bare and fleshless, and without other covering
than a few clinging, rotted rags that had once been
clothes. It lay within the vestibule chamber, the
head pressed fast against the sounding partition, in
the position in which death had found the eaves-
dropper,--listening! Decay had been powerless to
destroy the perfect impression. With clothes and
flesh upon the bleaching bones, they would have
been a man crouched to hear voices on the other
side of the partition.
"Come away!" shouted one of the men. "It is
the spirit of the boy the convicts killed." And there
was a break towards the basket.
But the inspector had become as deeply interested
as was Brewer. He was not a mountaineer, and did
not possess their superstitions. He ordered the men
to come back, and stood watching while Brewer
stooped to examine more closely the hideous bones.
When he arose, he touched the thing contemptu-
ously with his foot.
"Boys," he said, "this ain't no spirit. Hit's the
body o' Luke Ford, as disappeared the day the old
Lodge went in, and for which I served a term in
the State prison. Look at him; some o' you-uns'll
remember him. He had two front teeth missin',-
one up, and one below, and the thumb of his right
hand was gone. Look at that, and see if it ben't
The men crowded about -the skeleton, forgetting
everything but the strange discovery. The old man
set his lantern before the grinning face. There were
the cavities, truly, left by the missing teeth, and
from the right hand, sure enough, the thumb was
"It's Luke," declared one of the miners; "I
worked with him long enough to know him dead
or alive. Lord, Lord! Whoever would 'a' thought o'
Luke Ford bein' buried down here? Funny nobody
ever thunk o' that, now, wa'n't it ?"
"No, it wasn't a bit funny," said Brewer. Least-
wise, it was not much fun for me."
"Well, the old Lodge have gin its testimony at
last, neighbour, and it have cl'ared you. I'm proper
glad for you."
And I, Brewer," said the inspector. And since
this chamber has given up its secret, let us pass on to
the next one. Who knows what that one may have
They moved on, slowly and carefully, through the
crumbling ruins. Suddenly the inspector halted.
Hold your lantern a bit higher," he said, scan-
ning the wall before them. Higher yet; these little
lamps are no good in a hole like this. Wait, that's
it,-hello! What are the figures? Twenty-one.
What day was it the Lodge went in?"
October twenty-one," said Brewer; "or twenty,
if you'd rather call it so, for it happened afore
"Not before the inspector passed through. See,
there are his marks. He passed at three o'clock in
the morning, and that's when he scratched his mark.
At six, the men would have read this endorsement in
every gallery, doubtless, in which they worked. Then
the crash was from fire-damp. No sane inspector
would have been fooled into endorsing a mine, with
any other danger near. It was that slyest and surest
of all fiends, the deadly fire-damp. The inspector dis-
appeared that night, or rather, morning; therefore,
he must have been caught in the trap, while in the
very act of recording the mine safe. Move on.
Unless I am mistaken, we will give you back at
least one of your sons."
They passed on, following that pitiful twenty-one,
until they could pick a way into the great tunnel,
which lay just beyond the vestibule chamber. By
crawling upon their hands and knees they were able
to enter. Once in, and the light from the lantern
turned upon the scene, they uttered such an exclama-
tion of horror that the old rocks seemed to quake
from the very force of it.
The dead were there, verily; the untombed dead.
Back against their prison wall, for it had indeed
proved their prison, in an upright, sitting posture,
as if the deadly damp had taken them in the midst of
pleasant conversation, were three skeletons. At their
feet, prone upon the ground, lay two others. So per-
fectly preserved, so strangely lifelike were they, that
when, for an instant, the lantern was turned aside,
they might easily have been mistaken for a friendly
group of human beings, resting for a moment in the
tunnel before returning to their work.
"Great Scott!" exclaimed one of the miners.
"And to think we-uns runs risks like this every
day, every day. God, how few understands the
life of a miner! "
Brewer sighed as he set his lantern back against
the wall. The dampness had preserved both skele-
tons to the extent that they could even distinguish
bits of the gray clothes" he had been told to look
He pointed to one of the heaps of fleshless bones.
Both arms had fallen away, and the head had dropped
beside the trunk.
That," said he, is my boy Dick. There's a gold
fillin' in the front tooth of that head that I'd know
anywhere top-side o' this earth. 'Twas put there
by a Chatt'noogy chap, when Dick went up there
with Cap'n Morton once, on the little water-devil,
the Belle. The pile o' bones next to Dick belongs
to ole Nan's boy, unless I'm mistaken. The 'gray
clothes' one is Ned Links. Now, boys, look for
proofs; I don't need none, but you-uns might. That
one over there I can't make out. I reckin his folks
are all gone from hereabouts."
There was small necessity for proofs other than
those offered by Brewer. More than mere proof, how-
ever, was brought to light with the imperishable trin-
kets, such as knives, watches, and other things, found
among the skeletons. There was found a long, flat,
tin case, an inch in thickness and four by eight inches
in length and breadth. It belonged to Dick Brewer,
and lay beside his skeleton, with poor Dick's name
as he had scratched it with a penknife. It contained,
when they pried it open, the last report, ready to be
made to the company, by Dick. There were other
papers of importance which he, as acting superintend-
ent, had executed the very day before the mysterious
disappearance. And then, by no means least in
importance, there was a note from Dave, written that
same night, and marked "care of Tom Reeves," old
Nan's boy, whose skeleton lay in a heap beside that
of poor Dick Brewer.
The men crowded about Brewer, holding their
lanterns so that the light would fall strongest upon
the long-lost clue. But the old man's hands trembled
so that he could not see the words, and he passed the
paper over to the inspector, who read it aloud. It was
short, but long enough to clear up many mysteries:
DEAR DICK:- If you get back from Bridgeport to-night
you better go to the mine. I see dust coming from the
Lodge all day. And Silas Reeves say the rats are getting
away from it. I'm gone with the Cappen on the Belle. It's
an orful night. If we never come back, -tell father. It's
for the Cappen. DAVE.
Clear! Verily, the old Lodge had explained the
long mystery. Dick had been up at Bridgeport, con-
tracting for workmen, the superintendent being ill;
there was the contract in the old tin case. Coming
home after night, he had been met by Tom with the
note, and together they had gone to the mine, being
joined, doubtless, by the others whose skeletons were
there. They had been followed and spied upon by
Luke Ford, the eavesdropper and self-appointed de-
tective, whom death had taken at the very moment
when he stretched himself to listen to the conversa-
tion of the men on the other side of the partition.
They had found, as they believed, the mine all right,
and sat down to talk awhile and -evidently -to
wait for the storm to blow over. And while they
waited the crash had come.
There was also found the roll of money, untouched,
not a dollar missing, which had been entrusted to
Dick, the young inspector. It was carefully wrapped
in a wallet of strong leather, marked T. I. C.," -
Tennessee Iron Company. What a story the old
wallet told !
Clear There was but one thought in Mr. Brewer's
mind. Clear He forgot for the moment his wrongs,