Dick Hamilton's Fortune/23
AT THE MINES
"Hold on!" cried Dick, jumping up Stop the train!"
The cars were rapidly acquiring speed, and Dick ran toward the door with the evident intention of getting off.
"Don't jump, Dick!" called Walter Mead. "We're going too fast!"
"Dat's right," chimed in Tim. "It's too late!"
"Yes, I guess it is," assented Dick. "But, Tim, how do you know that was Vanderhoof? To me he didn't look a bit like him. Besides, how did you know he had a scar under his moustache?"
"I've seen him wid his whiskers an' moustache off before," replied the newsboy. "I used to run errands for de sleuths at police headquarters, an' I seen lots of criminals."
"But are you sure you saw this man there?"
"Cert. He was brought in lots of times fer some kind of crooked game, but most times he was let go, 'cause they couldn't prove anyt'ing agin him. Sometimes he'd have a white beard an' agin a black moustache, but dem fly cops, dem gum-shoe sleuths, dey knowed him every time. I'll stake me reputation dat was him on de platform."
"But what can he be doing here?" asked Dick, "and why should he make a bee-line for the telegraph office when he saw me? I'm positive he knew who I was."
"Course he did," replied Tim. "He's probably sendin' a telegram to some of his friends in Yazoo City t' be on de lookout for youse."
"Do you think so? But how would he know I had started for there?"
"Say," inquired Tim, in drawling tones, "don't de hull town where you live know dat Millionaire Hamilton's son is goin' off on a journey in a palace car, an' takin' some friends, includin' Tim Muldoon, wid him? In course dey does. An' youse can bet your bottom dollar dat everybody in Hamilton Corners is talkin' about it. Vanderhoof, or Bond Broker Bill, knowed it as soon as anybody, an' if he's been puttin' up a crooked deal he's gittin' ready t' fix t'ings on de other end—at Yazoo City, I mean."
"Then, if he has warned his confederates out West," went on Dick, "there's not much use in my going there to make an investigation. They'd be sure to have things fixed up to deceive me. I depended on finding out about the mines before those in charge knew who I was."
"You can do dat yet," said Tim.
"Why, lay low, dat's how. Don't go out dere wid de idea of handin' your visitin' card t' every guy you meet. Drift int' town easy like an' look about on de quiet fer a few days. Den youse kin see how de land lays an' git a line on de fakers. After dat youse can go up to de villian like de hero does in de play an' say: 'Now den, Red-Handed Mike, I have caught youse at last! You shall give me dose paper-r-r-r-s er I'll shoot you down like a dog!'" and Tim laughed with the others at his imitation of the methods of the actors on the stage when a cheap melodrama is being performed.
"I don't know but your advice is good," agreed Dick. "I can't catch Vanderhoof now, but perhaps we can spoil his plans. Let's have a consultation and decide what's best to do."
The boys had the parlor car pretty much to themselves, and their talk was not likely to be overheard by the other passengers who were in the farther end.
The journey was a pleasant one, and the boys enjoyed every hour of it. The country through which they passed presented, almost constantly, something new in the way of scenery, and as they proceeded farther and farther west the boys were wild with delight at the beautiful prospect, the wild stretches of country and the glimpses of the free life on the plains.
Sleeping in the berths, eating in the dining-car and looking out of the windows of the big man were keen delights to Dick's companions, none of whom had ever traveled in such a fashion before, though to the millionaire's son it was more or less familiar.
When they reached the last stage of their journey and were within a few hours' ride of Yazoo City the five boys, at Tim's suggestion, changed from the parlor car to an ordinary one.
"It'll look better t' climb down out of a poor man's car dan from de coach wid de velvet curtains at de windows," he said. "Students ain't supposed t' be lookin' fer places t' t'row money away." For they had agreed to pass themselves off as students, come West to look at mines in general.
Thus it was that no unusual comments were made by the crowd at the station in Yazoo City when the five boys and a few other passengers alighted from the train.
It was a typical Western town, rather larger than an ordinary one, for it was the centre for a prosperous mining section. Across from the station were two hotels, one called the Imperial Inn and the other the Royal Hotel.
"Doesn't seem to be much choice," observed Frank Bender. "Neither one looks as if royalty was in the habit of stopping at it."
"We'll go to the Royal," decided Dick. "The lawyer, whom dad wrote to about the mine, stops there, and I want to see him."
Accordingly the five boys walked across the street and entered the lobby of the hotel. It was even less pretentious on the inside than viewed from without, but it looked clean. Dick led the way up to the desk, to engage rooms for himself and friends.
"Glad t' see you, strangers," greeted the man behind the desk with easy familiarity. "What might yo' uns be, if I might make so bold as to ask? Travelin' show or capitalists lookin' fer a good payin' mine?"
"We're studying mining conditions," replied Dick. "Traveling for information."
"Ah, I see," interrupted the hotel proprietor, who also acted as clerk. "We've had some of you college boys out here before. Welcome to Yazoo City," and Dick and his companions were glad that the man had put his own interpretation on their object in coming West. He swung the book around to them and Dick signed first. The pen was poor and the ink worse, so it was no wonder that his name, when he had scratched it down, looked like anything but Dick Hamilton. Nor did the others do any better.
They were shown to their rooms, and, as it was late afternoon, they decided to defer beginning their investigations until the next day. The supper was good but plain, though the boys were more interested in watching the men about them, and hearing them talk, than they were in eating, hungry as they were.
They slept soundly, though Dick was awakened once or twice by revolver shots and loud yelling. He thought someone had been hurt, but on inquiring from a porter, passing through the hall, learned that he need have no cause for alarm.
"Land love yo', son!" said the porter, a burly Westerner. "Them's only th' boys gittin' rid of some of their animal spirits. Don't worry none. They seldom shoots this way, an' if they does they aims high, so they only busts the top window lights. Yo' ain't got nothin' t' be askeered of."
But though Dick was not exactly easy in his mind his rest was not disturbed by any bullets coming through his window, though there was considerable shooting all night.
"I think we'll take a trip out to the mines right after breakfast," decided Dick, when the boys had gathered in his room after dressing. "I'll hire a big carriage and we can all go. I inquired about them, and I learned that the Dolphin and Hop Toad mines are close together, a few miles outside of town."
"I think I'll stay around here," decided Tim.
"Why?" asked Dick.
"Because I want to see if anyt'ing happens. Youse kin go out to de holes in de ground. I'll see 'em later if dere worth lookin' at. But I t'ink I'll mosey around de hotel a while."
"Well, maybe it will be a good plan," agreed Dick. "We can't tell what sort of a game Vanderhoof is up to. Now, come on down to breakfast, boys."
After the meal Dick hired a large three-seated buckboard, and he and his chums were driven off toward the mines. The news had quickly gone around that they were young college students, who had come West to get practical illustrations bearing on their studies.
Tim stood on the hotel steps looking after Dick and his chums. As the carriage disappeared around a turn in the road someone came up to the newsboy and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned quickly and saw, standing beside him, a well-dressed lad about his own age. The youth wore a showy watch chain and assumed a confident air that was not at all in keeping with his years.
"How's my friend, Dick Hamilton?" he asked, nodding in the direction of the carriage.
"Dick Hamilton," spoken Tim, in a sort of daze.
"Yes, Dick Hamilton, of Hamilton Corners. I suppose he came out here to see about the mines he and his millionaire father invested in."
"Mines," repeated Tim, somewhat surprised to thus learn that Dick's object was already discovered.
"Yes, mines," went on the other youth. "Oh, I know all about it. Dick thought he was cute, pretending to come here with a bunch of college lads. But I'm on to him, and so are the others."
"Who are you?" asked Tim, boldly.
"Just tell Dick that Simon Scardale was asking for him," replied the flashily-dressed youth, as he moved away. "I'll not give him my address, because I don't believe he'd like to call on me, but just tell him Simon Scardale was asking for him," and, with a mocking bow, Simon jumped on a pony and galloped off down the street.