Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XXXIV
There was a good reason for Rodney's excitement. The walls of the subterranean passage revealed distinct and rich indications of gold. There was a time, and that not long before, when they would have revealed nothing to Rodney, but since his residence at Oreville he had more than once visited the mines and made himself familiar with surface indications of mineral deposit.
He stopped short and scanned attentively the walls of the passage.
"If I am not mistaken," he said to himself, "this will make one of the richest mines in Montana. But after all what good will it do me? Here am I a prisoner, unable to leave the cave, or communicate with my friends. If Mr. Pettigrew knew what I do he would feel justified in paying the ransom these men want."
Rodney wondered how these rich deposits had failed to attract the attention of his captors, but he soon settled upon the conclusion that they had no knowledge of mines or mining, and were ignorant of the riches that were almost in their grasp.
"Shall I enlighten them?" he asked himself.
It was a question which he could not immediately answer. He resolved to be guided by circumstances.
In order not to excite suspicion he retraced his steps to the apartment used by his captors as a common sitting room--carefully fixing in his mind the location of the gold ore.
We must now follow the messenger who had gone to Oreville with a letter from Rodney's captors.
As instructed, he left his horse, or rather Rodney's, tethered at some distance from the settlement and proceeded on foot to the Miners' Rest. His strange appearance excited attention and curiosity. Both these feelings would have been magnified had it been known on what errand he came.
"Where can I find Mr. Jefferson Pettigrew?" he asked of a man whom he saw on the veranda.
"At the Griffin Mine," answered the other, removing the pipe from his mouth.
"Where is that?"
"Over yonder. Are you a miner?"
"No. I know nothing about mines."
"Then why do you want to see Jefferson? I thought you might want a chance to work in the mine."
"No; I have other business with him--business of importance," added the black dwarf emphatically.
"If that is the case I'll take you to him. I am always glad to be of service to Jefferson."
"Thank you. He will thank you, too."
The man walked along with a long, swinging gait which made it difficult for Caesar to keep up with him.
"So you have business with Jefferson?" said the man with the pipe, whose curiosity had been excited.
"Of what sort?"
"I will tell him," answered Caesar shortly.
"So its private, is it?"
"Yes. If he wants to tell you he will."
"That's fair. Well, come along! Am I walking too fast for you?"
"Your legs are much longer than mine."
"That's so. You are a little shrimp. I declare."
A walk of twenty minutes brought them to the Griffin Mine. Jefferson Pettigrew was standing near, giving directions to a party of miners.
"Jefferson," said the man with the pipe, "here's a chap that wants to see you on business of importance. That is, he says it is."
Jefferson Pettigrew wheeled round and looked at Caesar.
"Well," he said, "what is it?"
"I have a letter for you, massa."
"Give it to me."
Jefferson took the letter and cast his eye over it. As he read it his countenance changed and became stern and severe.
"Do you know what is in this letter?" he asked.
"Come with me."
He led Caesar to a place out of earshot.
"What fiend's game is this?" he demanded sternly.
"I can't tell you, massa; I'm not in it."
"Who are those men that have written to me?"
"I don't know their right names. I calls 'em Massa John and Massa Dick."
"It seems they have trapped a boy friend of mine, Rodney Ropes. Did you see him?"
"Yes; I gave him a good dinner."
"That is well. If they should harm a hair of his head I wouldn't rest till I had called them to account. Where have they got the boy concealed?"
"I couldn't tell you, massa."
"You mean, you won't tell me."
"Yes. It would be as much as my life is worth."
"Humph, well! I suppose you must be faithful to your employer. Do you know that these men want me to pay five thousand dollars for the return of the boy?"
"Yes, I heard them talking about it."
"That is a new kind of rascality. Do they expect you to bring back an answer?"
"I must think. What will they do to the boy if I don't give them the money?"
"They might kill him."
"If they do--but I must have time to think the matter over. Are you expected to go back this afternoon?"
"Can you get back? It must be a good distance."
"I can get back."
"Stay here. I will consult some of my friends and see if I can raise the money."
"Very well, massa." One of those whom Jefferson called into consultation was the person who had guided Caesar to the Griffin Mine.
Quickly the proprietor of the Miners' Rest unfolded the situation.
"Now," he said, "I want two of you to follow this misshapen dwarf, and find out where he comes from. I want to get hold of the scoundrels who sent him to me."
"I will be one," said the man with the pipe.
"Very well, Fred."
"And I will go with Fred," said a long limbed fellow who had been a Kansas cowboy.
"I accept you, Otto. Go armed, and don't lose sight of him."
"Shall you send the money?"
"Not I. I will send a letter that will encourage them to hope for it. I want to gain time."
"Any instructions, Jefferson?"
"Only this, if you see these men, capture or kill them."