The Boy Land Boomer/Chapter 10
MR. ARBUCKLE'S STORY.
"Father! father! speak to me! Tell me that you are not dead!"
Over and over again did poor Dick repeat these words as he sat by the side of that wet and motionless form on the muddy river bank. The boy's heart seemed to be breaking.
But suddenly there came a change. He saw one of his father's arms quiver. Then came a faint twitching of an eyelid.
"He is alive!" gasped Dick. The joy of the discovery nearly paralyzed him. "Father! father!"
No answer came back, indeed, it was not to be expected. Kneeling over his parent, Dick set to work to resuscitate the almost drowned man.
Fortunately the youth had, during his school days in New York, heard a lecture on what was best to do in just such a case, so he did not labor in ignorance. His treatment was as skillful as memory and his love for his parent could make it, and in less than half an hour he had the satisfaction of seeing his father give a gasp and open his eyes.
"Father, don't you know me?"
"Dick!" came the almost inaudible reply. "Where—where am I?"
"You are safe, father. You fell into the river and came near to drowning."
"Is that so? I did not know there was a river near here."
Mr. Arbuckle was silent for several minutes, during which Dick continued his work and made him as comfortable as possible by wrapping his parent in his own dry coat.
"Where is that rascal?"
"What rascal, father?"
"The man with the red mask—the fellow who struck me down?"
"I do not know. So you were struck down? Where?"
"Just outside of the boomers' camp. Somebody brought me word that Pawnee Brown wanted to see me privately. I went, and a rascal rushed on me and demanded my private papers. I resisted and he struck me down. I know no more than that," and Mr. Arbuckle gave another gasp. His eyes were open, but in them was that uncertain look which Dick had seen before, and which the lad so much dreaded.
"Why, you were struck down last night, father, and several miles from here. You must have come down to the river at a spot above here. Don't you remember that?"
Mortimer Arbuckle tried to think, then shook his head sadly.
"It's all a blur, Dick. You know my head is not as strong as it might be."
"Yes, yes; and you must not try to think too far. So he got your private papers?"
"The ones referring to that silver mine in Colorado?"
"Yes, and all of the others."
At this Dick could not help but groan. The papers were gone—those precious documents by which he and his father had hoped some day to be come rich.
The history of the deeds to the silver mine was a curious one. Two years before Mortimer Arbuckle had paid a visit to Creede, Colorado, on business connected with a mining company then forming under the laws of the State of New York.
While in Creede the man had materially assisted an old miner named Burch, who was falling into the hands of a set of swindlers headed by a rascal called Captain Mull.
Mortimer Arbuckle had never met Captain Mull, but he had saved Burch's claim for him, for which the old miner was extremely grateful.
Over a year later Burch had died and left with another old miner the deeds to a new mine of great promise, deeds which had not yet been recorded.
The old miner had forwarded these papers, along with others of importance concerning the exact location of the claim, to Mortimer Arbuckle, and the gentleman had then begun preparations to go to the West and see if the claim was really as valuable as old Burch had imagined.
Dick was just out of school, and would not think of remaining behind, so it was arranged that father and son should go together.
A spell of sickness had detained the father several months. Before this, however, he had hired Jack Rasco to go to Creede with him and assist in locating the new claim.
As Mortimer Arbuckle failed to come West, Jack Rasco returned to the companionship of Pawnee Brown, for, as already stated, he considered himself the great boomer's right-hand man.
At last Mortimer Arbuckle had come on with Dick, to find Rasco had given his word to Pawnee Brown to stick with the boomers until the desired entrance into Oklahoma was effected.
"Yer will hev ter wait, Mr. Arbuckle," Jack had said. "I'm sorry, but I hev given my word ter Pawnee an' I wouldn't break it fer a cool million, thet's me."
"Let us go with the boomers!" Dick had returned enthusiastically. "It will be lots of fun, father, and it will give you a chance to get back your health before you tie yourself down to those silver mine schemes."
And rather against his wishes Mortimer Arbuckle had consented. Dick saw his father was in no mental condition to locate claims, form a new mining company, and do other labor of this sort, and trusted that the days to be spent with the boomers would make him much stronger in both body and mind.
"Do you think the robber thought of the deeds when he robbed you?" went on Dick, after a pause.
"I—I—don't know, Dick. It runs in my mind he spoke of the deeds, but I can't remember for certain."
"He took your money?"
"Every cent." Mortimer Arbuckle gave a groan. "We are now out here penniless, my son."
"No we are not, father. I asked Pawnee Brown for the loan of ten dollars and he gave me twenty, and said I could have more if I needed it."
"A good man as generous as he is brave," murmured Mortimer Arbuckle. "Would the world had more of such fellows."
"Pawnee Brown and Jack Rasco are the best fellows in the world!" answered the youth "But, come, let me carry you to yonder house, where you can get dry and also get something to eat."
He assisted his parent to his feet, then lifted the man to his back and started off. A backwoodsman saw him coming, and ran to meet him. Soon Mortimer Arbuckle was in the house and lying tucked in on a warm couch.
A relapse followed, coming almost immediately after father and son had exchanged stories and detail. In alarm Dick sent off the backwoodsman for a doctor. The medical man was half an hour in coming. After a thorough examination he looked grave.
"The man must be kept absolutely quiet," he said. "If you have been talking to him it has done him more harm than good. You had better go away and leave him among strangers."
In a further conversation Dick learned that the backwoodsman, Peter Day, and his wife were ready to take charge of the invalid for fair pay, and could be trusted to do their best, and it was arranged to leave Mr. Arbuckle at the house, while Dick returned to camp, hunted up Pawnee Brown and Jack Rasco and tried to get on the track of the man of the red mask.
"And if I ever get hold of him I'll—I'll—mash him," said Dick, and the look on his youthful but stern face told that he meant just what he said. The western idea of shooting had not yet entered his mind, but woe to Louis Vorlange if his villainy was once unmasked.
"Do not worry about me, father," said Dick taking his departure. "I will take care of myself, and I am sure that either Pawnee Brown, Jack Rasco or myself can get on the track of the rascal who robbed and struck you down."
"Be cautious, Dick," murmured the sick man. "Be cautious—for you are all the world to me!" and he kissed his son affectionately.
"Who could have attacked father?" he murmured, half aloud. "It was a dastardly thing to do. I must find out, even if I have to remain in the city. But who knows but what it was one of the boomers? Perhaps the man saw father had money and only asked about his papers to put him off the track. As a rule, the boomers are as honest as men can be, but there are several hang-dog faces among them."
Dick had covered a distance of half a mile and was within sight of the spot where he had been rescued by Pawnee Brown from a watery grave, when a murmur of voices broke upon his ear, coming from a thicket down by the river bank. The murmur grew louder and he paused to listen.
Suddenly two pistol shots rang out, followed by a cry of pain and rage. There was a brief silence, then came the words which made Dick's heart almost stop beating:
"Now I'll fix you for helping to run me out of town, Jack Rasco! I never forget my enemies!"