His last chance, or, Uncle Dick's fortune


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His last chance, or, Uncle Dick's fortune

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Title:
His last chance, or, Uncle Dick's fortune
Series Title:
Pluck and luck
Creator:
Draper, Allyn
Place of Publication:
New York, New York
Publisher:
Frank Tousey
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Language:
English
Physical Description:
29 pages ; 28 cm

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Dime novels ( lcsh )
Adventure stories ( lcsh )
Sea stories ( lcsh )
Treasure troves -- Fiction ( lcsh )
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serial ( sobekcm )

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University of South Florida
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
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The University of South Florida Libraries believes that the Item is in the Public Domain under the laws of the United States, but a determination was not made as to its copyright status under the copyright laws of other countries. The Item may not be in the Public Domain under the laws of other countries.
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033192680 ( ALEPH )
902813393 ( OCLC )
P28-00032 ( USFLDC DOI )
p28.32 ( USFLDC Handle )

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No. 1507 NEW YORI{, APRIL 20, 1927 Ae the stricken man eras.bed down upon hie face, they saw the half-wit dart forward, drag the wolf off.the fallen stranger. and hold him off by a heavy collar that the fierce animal wore about bis neck. Price 8 Cents

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PLUCK A N D LUC' K Issued Weekly-Subscription price, :\'4.00 per year; Canadian, $4.50; Foreign, $5.00. Copyright, 1927, l>J' Westbury Publishing Co., Inc., J40 Cedar ::>treet, N ew York. N. Y Entered as Second Class Vee. 8, 1911, at the Post-OtHce at New Yo rk, N. Y., under the Act of March 3, l!!'l!J No. 1507 NEW YORK, APRIL 20, 1927 Price 8 Cents. HIS LAST CHANCE OR1 UNCLE DICK' S FORTUN-.:: By ALLYN DRAPER CHAPTER 1.-The Two Boy Travelers. "I can' t say that I like the looks of the country hereabou ts, and I wo nder why Uncle Dick came to settle down in this remote neighborho od," said Ralph Dean, in disappointed tones, as he aud his cousin, Jack Hardy, came to a halt at the summit of a hill to which the rugged country road which they had been following on foot all the afternoon ascended. 4'0f course, I know no more than you do about Uncle Dick's motive in settling in this part of the country," answered Jack Hardy. "But I suppose we need not trouble ourselves about that. The main thing to remember is that our old uncle left us his farm as a legacy, and that according to his will we are not to sell it, but must live on it and work it. \Ve are equal owners and are to share the profits of the place accordingly." "Profits!" exclaimed Ralph, incredulously. "From the appearance of the few farms in the clearings that we have passed since we left the nearest railway station at midday, I should Ray the profits are not likely to trouble us much." "Well, we shall see," said Jack. "Surely, Black Dale, as uncle called his place, cannot be far off now." "Well, I've rested long" enough, and if you are ready, suppose we trudge along. Those black clouds over yonder threaten a thunderstorm, and I hope we may reach Black Dale before it comes," replied Ralph. Jack assented and each took up a valise which he had carried and began to walk down the hill at a brisk pace. The comdns were of about the sa)lle age-about eighteen years-but they did not look at all alike. Jack Hardy was tall for his age and well built. He had clear-cut features and. dark eyes and hair. Any one would have called him a good-looking and manly appearing lad. Ralph Dean was shorter and more thick-set, and he l1ad light hair and gray eyes. Until they received notice of the death of their Uncle Dick, otherwise Richard Warren, they had made their home with a distant relative in a little town in Michigan, and now they were on their way to take possession of their inheritance-the farm called Black Dale, as already indicated. Jack was possessed of a happy disposition, and it was his way to try always to make the best of things as he found them, and he was ambitious to get along. Ralph had a good of ener,{y and he was always very enthusiastic over every new project, but he lacked perseverance, and to say the truth, he had never been fond of work o f any kind. In the country town from which the lads came Ralph was known as a rather reckless, shiftless youth, but nobody could say there was anything really bad about him. I begin to feel quite like a landed proprietora country gentleman, you know," said he, as they walked along. "We'll pitch in and work hard and make our. farm pay. We'll buy more land as we can afford it and become riCh farmers yet." Jack smiled as he assented. But he knew Ralph so well that he was afraid his enthusiasm w ould not last. While thev continued to walk fast, as the clouds darkened above their heads and the rumbling scund of distant thunder told of the ap proach of the storm, silence fell between them and each was occupied with his own thoughts. Pro bably curiosity concerning their inheritane was dominant in their minds. But suddenly they were startled from their reflections, whatever they may have been, by a loud clap of thunder preceded by a vivid flash of lightning, and,then the rain began to fall. Looking forward eagerly for some place of shelter, Jack saw a long, low, weather-beaten house a little further on. 'The buildinl!.' stood close by the roadside, and there was no fence to shut it in from the 'highway. Hung in a frame at the top of a post in front of the house was an oldfashioned "tavern sign." "Hello!" cried Jack. "Yonder is an inn! We are in luck! Come along, let's get under cover before we are wet through!" He broke into a run as he spoke, and Ralph fol lowed. In that fashion they raced up to the lonely inn and they S!!.:W as they drew near to it that the old sign that creaked as it swung in the wind bore this inscription in faded letters: "The Dog and Gun. By Isaac Krugg." A dilapidated porch ran along the entire front of the old l1ostelry, and the two young travelers 'hastened under it. As theiJ; footsteps sounded on the rickety boards a door opened and a burly, thick-set, red-faced man, with a closely cropped gray beard and bristling mustache, appeared.

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2 HIS LAST CHANCE Over OJ)e eye-his left-he wore a black leather patC'h, but the other eye, a small, keen, gray orb, wa$ fixetl upon the two lads with a look of curious i;crutiny. eh?" said he, taking a short, black pipe from between his teeth. "Strangers an' travelers, I. make bold to say, s ?ein' yer travelin'bags. If sc to the 'Dog and Gun' I bid ye welcome. Come inside. You'll find the old inn mighty comfortable an' Isaac Krugg entirely at yer service.'' "We're goin' to have a heavy storm; it's set in to make a night of it. It's about six now, an' so I suppose, young gents, you'll have supper an' a beci for the night,'' said the landlord, as he followed the boy s "We'll have sup11er certainly, but as we are bound for Black Dale farm, if it's not too far off, w c 'il push on there o-night," replied Jack. The landlord gave a auick start as the lad m en tioned the name o f hi s Uncle D'ck's farm, and his single eye opened very wide a s he stared at his ycung guestf;. "You ain't them. be vou? You ain't them two boys what old Sheath. the caretaker o' Black Dale farm, was tellin' me was left the farm?" he ex claimed. "We are Ri ehard 'Varren's nephews, and it is true that he left his iarm to us,'' replied Jack, smilingly. "Well, I want to know. And two likely younp: chaps you arc, too,'' said Mr. Krugg, who looked the lads over in an admiring manner. "I say. landlord, why is it that you and every one else we have met in this neighborhood acts SQ queerly when we mention the name of Uncle Dick'.> farm?" Ralph asked, frankly. "Good gracious, don't you know?" exclaimed Mr. Krugg, in evident 1:urprie. "Didn't yer uncle :pever tell yer nothing?" Ralph shook his head. "Well, that's the fact is, they say Captain Midnight's gho$t haunts Black Dale farm." the landlord continued. "Which statement dces not enlighten us much. Who was Captain Midnight, and why does his ghost make Black Dale his special haunt? I should think any right-minded ghost would seek a n1Gre lively neighborhood," fgan Ralph, and then as he saw Jack stealing toward the door at the rear of the apartment he understood what he meant and, walking heavily across the room, he reached the window and began to -talk about the weather; while Jack put _his ear to the door and listened. Watching him, Ralph .saw him start as if he had overheard something unexpected and then seem to listen with absorbed interest. In a few moments Jack stole away from the door and, noiselessiy crossing the floor, joined his cousin at the window. "Well, what dirl you overhear? You acted as if you heard something,'' said Ralph, in a low voice. "I heard a man speaking with the landlord. Their voices were scarcely above a whi!>per, but I heard the man whom we have not seen say, 'The youngsters are bright-looking chaps, and likely to make difficulties for us at Black Dale. I'm afraid we :;:hall have to get rid of them in some way.' Then the landlord answered, 'I won't have anything to do with that sort of work. Bagger.' The other replied, fiercely, 'You foo.l, I don't mean what you think-at least, not now. It's my idea to get rid of them all fair and square, if they are reasonable. If not it's their look 'out.' That's all I heard. They went out of the next room then,'' ::;aid Jack. CHAPTER 11.-At the "Dog and Gun.'' Before Ralph could make any comment upon what Jack had told him the landlord re-entered the public room. "Supper will be ready for you soon, gents," said he, with an attempt to seem genial, and quite'

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HIS LAST CHANCE 8 at his ease, but the lads .saw that such was far from being his real state of mind, "We seem to be your only guests. just now," said Ralph, with a meaning glance at Jack. ''Why, sartin, in course. Hain't had ng one stoppin' yere fer more than a week. Me an' the ole woman and my niece git mighty tired waitin' fer strangers, an' that's a fact. Why, there hasn't a 'ceptin' you an' us three what lives set foot in the house all day. Uncommon dull, it are, an' that's a fact." Presently the rear door opened once more and in it appeared a young girl whose age was apparently about sixteen or seventeen. She w_as dressed in a neat calico gown and spotless white apron and her graceful, girlish figure and sweetly face made her a most agreeable object for the eye to dwell upon. . "This is Mattie, my niece, Mattie Meredith, gents. My gal, these here are the young gents what's fell heir ter Black Dale-,'' said Krugg, and the girl bowed gracefully, brushed a bit and lookC'd shyly at the two lads. "Ralph Dean and Jack Hardy, at your service, miss. The latter being myself," said Jack. The landlord's pretty niece smiled and bowed again as she said: ,, .-1 came to say that supper is ready. "All right. This way, gents. Step right out. You won't find no fancy eatin' at the 'Dog and Gun' jist good and plenty o' plain food. Good an' pienty an' plain, an' what more kin a healthy gent want?" remarked the landlord, ushering the lads into the next room. Having seen them seated at the dining-table ne withdrew, leaving Mattie to serve them. She moved about softly, and gracefully placed the plain substantial food, whose praises Krugg had sung; before -them. Plain the me.al certainly was. Whether good or not Jack hardly knew. Suffice to say pretty Mattie was attractive enough to make an; youth forget what the food with which she served him was like. At length she paused at Jack's elbow and said, in a whisper: "I am .sorry you are going to live at Black Dale, because I am afraid you will be in danger. Don't answer out loud, for I don't want Uncle Isaac to know that I said anything to you about Black Dale." "ln danger, eh? Why do you awaits us there?" Jack answered, m a whisper, while his eyes searched the sweet face of the maid of the inn. "I don't know. I can only suspect. There are two men here whose presence at the inn uncle seeks to keep a secret from everyone. I have overheard them talking about Black Dale," she re.plied. "Tell me what they said, please," he She hesitated and glanced toward a wmdow which was screened by a half curtain. Instantly Jack caught the sound of footsteps without. Mattie put her finger to her lips and glided swiftly across the room and drew the curtain aside. Then, through the gl'ass, Jack saw a tall, stoop-shouldered man going toward the stable; He saw that the man was clad in black and t,rnt he wore a wide, soft black hat, but only a re!lr view-did not see his face. Mattie dropped tne curtain and came back to the table. "That man is one of the strangers. Uncle Isaac calls him Mr. Bagger. The other -he calls Mr. Hanson. I am sure they are in hiding here f4'r some evil purpo')e, which concerns Black Dale, but I don't know what it is." Leaving the. table, for by this time thev had pretty well satisfied their appetites, the two lads passed out into the public room. There they saw a tall, lean old man, clad in the rough garb of a countryman, and the landlord hastened to say, jerking his stump hand at the new arrival, who stood looking at the boys with a pair of singularly keen black eyes, set beneath bushy, overhanging gray brows: 'This here are Mr. Sneath, young gents. 'Old Sneath,' we call him familiar an' friendly like, you know." The boys shook hands with the old fellow, ob serving that he wore a full, bushy beard that was well frosted with the white qf age. "So you are Jack and you are Ralph, eh? Glad to know you, lads: right glad, indeed, and mighty sorry I didn't git to the depot fer you. The fact is, old Dobbin, yer uncle's boss, strayed outen the field, an' I didn't find him in time," said Sneath, in kindly tones. "That's all right. We have fared verv well, deed, here at the hands of our worthv landlord It isn't raining very hard just now, so I think we had better get on to Glack Dale," answered Jack. Sneath assented, and presently the trio were in a covered spring wagon and o1d Sneath was urg ing a stout farm horse that drew the vehicle away in the direction of the lads' heretofore of them unknown-inheritance. The rain pattered upon the roof of the wagon and old Sneath devoted himself to the horse. It was rather an op pressive silence that foll between the trio and, to say the truth, the boys began to feel a little mel ancholy. Qncr in a while they exchanged voiced remarks, and at length old Sneath into a shaded lane and Presently, in the fading light..Pf the spring day they saw an ola. rambling, somewhat dilapidaterl wooden house standing in the midst of neglected grounds, in which thete grew a number of tall hemlocks and spruce pifi:e trees. Beyond thev observed the outbuildings and they had decided that they were at Black Dale even before old Sneath pulled up beside tlw unattractive dwelling and announced eheerfull;it: "Well, here we are at Black Dale at last. 'Tain't so mournful-looking in bright sunlight, an' you'll like it better in the morning." The last comment was eviently called forth by his observance of an expression of disappointment and down-heartedness which was plainly visible in the young faces beside hirn. "Hello, Job!" he called, as the boys sprang -to the ground. Directly a huge, shambling figure came out of the shadows of a little porch beside the door, and the new arrivals saw that while the -personage called Job had the form of. a huge man, his face was .that of a boy. He had long, yellow hair and great, vacant blue eyes and indeed looked like a man with the face of a child. Job laughed in a strange eerie way that somewhat made the lads feel uncomfortable, and as he shambled off, leading the horse toward the stahle, they heard him mutter: "So they have come. I hope they'll drive away the shadows that are always creepin' and crawlin' about o' nights. I feel 'em near now."

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4 HIS LAST CHANCE CHAPTER III.-The "Shadows" of Black Dale. The room into which old Sneath led the boys was enveloped in semi-gloom, but presently a match flashed among the shadows and the light of a lamp which old Sneath set the flame to, flickered up and they were able to survey _the surroundings. The apartment was of medium size and scantily furnished. As soon as the lamp-light fairly illuminat.ed it, Sneath pointed at a crayon portrait of a middle-aged man that hung above the mantel, and said, in what struck the boys as being a strangely anxious tone: "I suppose you don't know that picture, seeing as how I believe you never saw your Uncle Richard in life." "No we never saw Uncle Richard. ls that his portrait?" replied Jack, looking at the pictured face. "Yes. That's him," answered Sneath, watch-lng the faces of the two lads covertly. J -"Well," said Ralph, "I must say Uncle Rich ard hasn't the slightest resemblance to any of the Jther members of the Warren family." "No, I've heard him say that. But now sit down and make yourselves at home. In the morning I'll show you all over the house and farm, an' I'm obliged to say neither are much to brag of. By the way, at the start I want to tell you how I happened to be in charge with Job. You see, when your uncle took sick here he had only Job with him. Job was here when yer uncle bought the place and he didn't want to leave. Job are a poor, half-witted boy, with the strength of a giant an' n;ind of a child He was here with Captam Midmght all any one knows about him. Well, seeing he was going to be sick your uncle packed off to a hospital in a distant town and left Job here alone. When, at the hospital, he got-worse he sent for me. We were old friends, you know and knowing I was pretty well down m the he sent me here to look after the place. Afore he died he wrote me, asking me to stay right on here with you and help you run the farm, and I want to ask you to let poor _Job stay, too." Old Sneath paused, and Jack said: "Certainly, we shall be glad to have you and Job stay with us." . "That is, if we can afford 1t," put m Ralph. "You see Mr. Sneath, we haven't any money to speak of 'and we have got to make our living off the farm. I'm afraid you and Job will have to wait a long time fop your wages." "That's all right. All Job an' me asks is our grub an' the shelter of the house. There are six cows an' a lot of poultry on the farm. We have started a vegetable garden an' put in a crop of corn oats and rye. We shall have enough to eat, l:ttld 'the horse old Dobbin and his mate, are a good enough team to work the place an' draw the nroduce to market in the town, twelve miles north." "Farming is slavish v:ork, anyway, a:r:d I'm not used to it. I'm afraid I can't stand it very long. I don't see why Dick didn't. keep his money and leave us that mstead of this old farm. T .hey say he was rich once out in Cal_i fornia. Why couldn't he have held on to ;t:us wealth. Then he might have left us somethmg worth while," remarked Ralph, in a discontented, fault-finding tone. "Quite right, you are, young sir. Certainly your uncle ought to have kept his money for you. It was foolish for him to think young chaps like you would want to work his old farm. Veryright you are." "And then the place has a bad name. The landlord told u s about Captain Midnight, the train robber, who lived here under a false name, and who was mysteriously muidered in this house. Mr. Krugg says the place is haunted by the ghost of Captain Midnight. It's enough to sink one's spirits down to his boots to think of living in such a place," said Ralph. "Oh, the ghost story ain't true, though it's a fact that Captain Midnight lived here alone with Job, and that the former was murdered here. There was and is a mystery about that time. And Job knows nothing about it, he claims. He was away the night Midnight was killed, he says. Don't worry about that matter. Only take hold 1-ike men and try to make the best of all your uncle had to leave you and maybe things will turn out better than you 'think," answered Sneath; Just then Job entered the room and, coming up to Jack, stood still and stared into his. face, with his great vacant eyes for a full mmute. Then he put out his hand, saying: "Job will like you." Then Job went and stood before Ralph, sub jecting him to the same fixed, blank stare. "Your eyes ain't quite true. I don't know about you," he said, turning away. Ralph flushed, but he forced a laugh and said, in a voice that was not very pleasant: "I hope you'll like me when we get better acquainted." "Maybe," answered "Ha!" _he exclaimed, abruptly, cockmg his head on one side and seeming to listen. "They are around again -the shadows-they have been coming every night of late. Oh, it's like when Captain Mid night was alive." Old Sneath got upon his feet and put his hand upon the shoulder of the gi11nt boy softly. "Don't mind them, Job. It's only the moanmg of the wind. Come, you'd better go to bed; that's a good lad." As if he spoke unconsciously, the boys heard old Sneath mutter: "If they do come they'll find Job ready for I'll swear!" But the old man gently led the excited youth, who offered no resistance, out of the room,_ and when he presently came back alone, he said: "I suppose you're tired with your long journey. and so I'll show you to yer room, if you please." The lads assented and they presently found themselves in a comfortable chamber that was_ provided with two neat cot beds. Sneath put down the lamp, bade them good-night and then withdrew. His heavy footsteps had died away along the passage when Jack said: "There surely is a mystery here, and old Sneath knows there is something in Job's fears of what he calls the shadows." "Yes,'' assented Ralph. "I wonder if we ought to tell the old man of the warning p1etty Mat-, tie Meredeth gave us-acquaint him with the news that two strange men are in hiding at the

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HIS LAS'I' CHANCE 5 inn and that they meditate some evil project con cerning Black Dale, she suspects." "We must not ris k getting the girl into trouble. The landlord and Sneath s eemed very friendly. The latter might tell Krugg W e 'll wait until we make Sneath's acquaintance better before we tell him of the two strangers," replied Jack. The lads talked for some little time, but finally both laid down without undressing, oppressed by a vague sense of danger. Ere long, de spite the undefined apprehension in their minds, they fell asleep. The storm continued and in a little room on the ground floor, which wais his s leeping cham ber, Job. sat on his couch, alone in the darkness, save for an animal that crouched at his feet. This creature wa s not a dog, but it somewhat re sembled one . In his hand Job clutched a great knife and kept his lonely vigil, always listening intently, and the fierce eyes .of his animal com panion gleamed up at him through the darkness, And so the hours wore on, and while Jack and Ralph slept, the strange lad never once closed his eyes. The hour of midnight had come and passed when the two lads were suddenly awakened at the time by a terrible cry of human agony which echoed through the silent house. They sprang up and immediately heard some one in the passage. A rap sounded on the door and a voice said, hoarsely: "It's Sneath. For heaven's sake let me in, lads!" Jack sprang across the room and opened the p9rtal. Instantly a blinding light flashed in his eyes and two men, closely masked, das hed into tlie room. One carried a dark-lantern and both held revolvers in their hands Those weapons were pointed at the two boys and one of. the intruders said sternly: "We're going to bind and gag you and if you niake any fuss about it we'll do for you offhand. We're desperate and we won't stand any non sense, I warn you!" CHAPTER IV.-Desperate Men at Black Dale. "What do you mean to do here?" Jack found voice to demand as he and Ralph started back before the presented weapons in the hands of the two strangers with hidden faces. "Never you mind. Shut up, now, and take it easy. And thank your lucky stars that as yet you are strangers to the secrets of Black Dale,'' ieplied one of the men. And Jack, whose wits were beginning to be come somewhat collected, ob served that the speaker was tall and clad in black. In fact, the lad jumped to the almo s t positi v e conclusion that he was the man of whom he had obtained a rear view as he glanced tlirough the window from w.hich Mattie Meredeth had drawn the curtain at the inn. Realizing the evident futility, not to say danger, of attempting any resistance, the lads per mitted themse lv e s to be bound and gagged by the strangers When they had fettered the hands and feet of the lads and secured the gags between their jaws, the two men regarded them attentively for a mo. ment a s they lay helpless upon the floor, and, of course wh olly unable to utter a s ound, much less make any outcry for assistance. "I'm sorry you young chaps came here, and as_ there's no use scaring you needless, since you know nothing about the--! mean as you haven't taken side s against u s yet, we don t mean to harm you; just merely keep you quiet, that's all. But if you value your lives you'll just quit Black Dale in the morning and never come back. There's danger here and you can't stay long without being in peril of your lives,'' said the man whom Jack took to be the personage of whom he had obtained a glimpse at the inn, and whom Mattie called Bagger. With that, the speaker took up the lantern which he had placed upon the floor and strode from the room, followed by his companion, who was a small, wiry-looking man, clad in worn garments. The door closed behind the two men and the boys, whose first night at this new home was one of unpleasant and perilous incident, were left to their reflections alone and helpless in the darkness. Though they were unable to speak, their minds were active, and as he seemed to hear the terrible cry which suddenly awakened him stili echoing through the lone house of evil repute, Jack experienced the fear that some terrible deed of viqlence had once more been committed under that ill-omened roof. What have those men come here for?" Jack asked himself, but his mind suggested no satisfactory answer to the question. He thought that old Sneath must know and he mentally resolved to ask the old man an explanation at the earliest opportunity, if he had not been clain. It was his opinion that Job would have a good fight below stairs when the intruders gained an entrance there, and he could not understand why he had heard nothing to indicate that the half-witted giant offered any sistance. The truth regarding the entrance of the two m e n to the hou s e was this:' They had noisele ssly pried open a window of the kitchen and entered that room ftrst, as subsequent in the lads. Then they stole to ?obs room, with .weapons drawn and acting as if they were previously informed that the cham ber was occupied. But although Job had been on watch in that room a little earlier, when the opened the door he was not there. The giant boy and his animal companion had van ished. A few moments later the two men sur _old Sneath in his chamber. He sprang from hi s couc n and m a de for his revolver whic ,, lay on a stand a few feet away. But before h e coul1 it the strangers were upon him, beatmg him over the head with their clubbed weapons Then, just before he fell to the floor st.ricken s ensele s s, he uttered the cry that awak: ened .the sleeping boys. Having bound the old the strangers hastened up to the lads room with scarce ly a. moment's As they d e scended the sta1rs, after securmg Jack and his cqusin, the tall man in s omber garb said to his companion: "What troubles me most ju-st now is to make out what's become of Job, the hal..'.-wit. That strange boy is mighty cunning, for all V1at he's off, in the upper story. He is dangerov.s too, for he s powerful, and that queer pet of bis is a fierce creature,,perfectly devoted to .his maste.r." "Job used to wander o' nights in C11p-

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6 HIS LAST CHANCE tain Midnight's time. Maybe he's gone off somewhere with his wolf, not knowing that we were around. That's my idea, anyhow, Bagger," answered the man addressed. "Job never roamed about at night while Captain Midnight was here when it was r>ot moonlight. I'm afraid he's up to some cunning plan against us. I shouldn't like to tackle him alone, Hans on. We must be on the alert for him." "Yes, for him and the wolf. The pair could make a hard fight. With the big knife he carries arfd the wolf s teeth and claws we might have our hands full." "And we don't want to shoot Job down." "Certainly not, Bagger, for you know we have always strongly believed he knows the sec'ret, since he lived here with Midnight, who trusted him as he did no one else.''. '"That's so. But h ere we are at old Sneath's room. We've determined to-night to make a final test to find out whether he knows the secret or not. I think he has discovered it.'' They had paused' at the door of Sneath's room as the last words were spoken, and Bagger immediately swung the portal open. They passed in and saw Sneath upon the :floor just as they had left him. But the old man had rega ined his sense s and as :flashed the light of his dark-lantern upon h'.im he tu.rned a drawn and frightened face to the strangers. "Old man," said Bagger, in threatening tones, "you know well enough what we are here for, and we're going to. have it out with you to-!light. We are going tq make you tell the secret of Black Dale-Captain Midnight's secret, which you got from Job, the half-wit. No lies will go down with us, understand tJ.:iat to begin with.'' CHAPTER V.-Job Outwits the "Shadows." While Jack and Ralph remained helpless, and some little time after failure to release themselves, despite the desperate efforts they had put forth to that end, convinced them that they were merely wasting strength, they suddenly became aware of a sound at the window. In a moment the sash was raised without noise and soft footsteps came across the floor toward them. In the darkness they cov.ld not see the person who had stealthily entered through the window, but in a moment he was at Jack's side, and the voice of Job whis pered: ''I'll set y0ou free. Job has outwltted the shadows." He made use of his great knife to such good purpose that Jack was s o on liberated from the cords that had secured his hands and feet and the gag was removed from his mouth. As Jack got upon his feet the strange, demented lad glided to Ralph and quickly performed a like service for him. The freed boys were delighted at this unanticipated turn of events in their favor, of course, and they wondered how Job had managed to elude the men who had broken into the house and how he happened to come to their rescue. The explanation was not then made by their deliverer, but the fact of the matter was that as he maintained his solitary vigil that night Job heard the men who had come to Black Dale stealthily prowling about the house. His sense of hearing was amazingly keen and he was assisted in the djscovery of the presence of the strangers without by the scent or instinct of his animal companion, which was really a huge black wolf. The wolf manifested certain signs of uneasiness that the lad comprehended. "Ah!" he muttered, under his breath, "the shadows are about again. Nick hears 'em. Quiet, boys, and you and I will track the shadows. If the y go to Job's house of gold he'll fall upon them with his knife and you'll help, Nick; you'll help Job. They shall not take away the shining yellow beauties. No! no! Not until they kill us, eh, Nick? Not until they kill us! Job will never tell of the house of g old-never let any one take away the shining beauties that are heaped there. If he did, Captain Midnight's ghost would strangle poor Job while he slept. The captain swore it, swore it with awful oaths, and then, too, Job the yellow beauties of his house of gold. Come, Nick, now, through the window we go, silent and still." With this strange and mysterious monologue the demented boy softly opened and crept through the window, followed in equal silence by his dumb c ompanion, with whom he seemed to have established a remarkable understanding. Alighting outside the window, Job crouched down in the darkness with the tame wolf and listened. He heard the men at work at the kitchen window and then, as his eyes bcame ac customed to peering through the night, he made out their shadowy forms. "Two of the shadows there. Are there more? Job feels the presence of others. Are they on the way to .the place of the shining yellow beauties that make Job-poor Job-feel he is a king, for with them he can buy the whole wcrld when he wants to," he pondered. Then he glided away with the wolf at his heels and made a circle around the house. The result was that he discovered that the two men at the kitchen door were not alone. Stationed, one on each side of the house, he discovered four men. "Ah, the shadows are thick to-night. There are more than Job has ever seen about before. Two have followed him many a time, but he' pretended not to see," he said to himself. "They thought Job was a fool. They thought he would lead them to the bright, yellow beauties, but he didn't." He chuckled at the memory of his own shrewdness, and then suddenly moved swiftly away toward the north. He was not gone long, and when he returned he carried a short ladder. Avoiding the sentinel who guarded the side of the house to which he approached, he placed the ladder against the wall and, leaving the wolf at the foot of it, ascended and entered the chamber by tht' two boy heroes of Black Dale as recounted. A light in old Sneath's room had given Job the information that the housebrbeakers were there, and as soon as he had severed the cords that bound Jack and Ralph, as we have seen, he whispered: "Job knows bad men in old Sneath's room. Maybe they mean to hurt him. You help Job drive them out Four more men outside. Oh, Job thinks we shall have a big fight." "Of course we'll help old Sneath. But if what you say is true the house is besieged. With two men inside and four outside that makes six in all

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HIS LAST CHANCE 7 against us. Pretty big odds, Job. Have you any firearms in the house?" asked Jack. "Yes, guns and pistols. Old Sneath brought 'em here when he came back. He! he! he! Old Sneath thought he could fool Job, but he couldn't and so he gave it up. But Job promised the old man he'd never tell, and he won't." "Come along, Walk still, like the shadows," whispered Job, as he softly strode out of the room. The boys followed. He led them below, by the way of a rear flight, of which the housebrPakers had not availed themselves, and so they came into a small apartment, evidently used as a storeroom. Job drew a heavy curtain across the single window and then lighted a candle, which he found on a shelf'under which stood a closed chest. This the strange lad opened and. handed out three rifles and a pair of six-shooters. All th1; weapons were fully loaded, as the lads quickly assured. themselves, and they were gratified that the rifles were repeating Remingtons . "Quite an arsenal!" said Jack, as he put one of the revolvers in his pocket and took one of the rifles in his hands. Job took the other revolver and handed a rifle to Ralph. Then, with the revolver in one hand and a gun in the other the demented lad led the way out of the store room. The others fol.I. owed. The room which they entered was the knchen. Job put out the candle and shot an extra bolt on the outer door of that room and noiselessly closed the window, which the intruders had left open. "Now for old Sneath's room," he whispered, when this was done. "Job, we must surprise the men who are in Sneath's room," whispered Jack, as thev stealthily approached the door of that apartment. CHAPTER VI.-The Old Caretaker's Ruse The door was clo se d, but Job noi se lessly opened it on a crack and, peering in, he and his two companions saw Sneath and the men who had made the old man a prisoner. There was a small fireplace in one s ide of the room. In this the strangers had found fuel ready to be ignited, and now, when the lads s tealthil:v look e d into the room they saw that the fire was burning brightly. Upon the floor, before the fir e -place, lay the old caretaker still bound hand and foot. The man whose idc:m tity as the one whom he had see n outside the inn Jack had decided upon was standing upon the hearth engaged in the suggestive occupation of heating an iron poker in the glowing fire. Old Sneath had leaped from his bed, clad only in a night-robe and his bare feet, with heavy cords bound about the ankles, were turned to the fire. The old caretaker's eyes evinced horror as he watched the iron in the fire as it gradually grew hotter and hotter and its grimy darkness commenced to glow red among the blazing coals. "I tell ye I don't know the secret. I tell ye if Job knows it he has neve r given me even a hint. Stop and think of the matter, you devils. If I knew where the great 1.rea sure was hidden do you suppose I would let it alone and not profit by it? No! ncl! N aturally, now, wouldn't I have taken it and made off long ago? Do you suppose for a moment that I would remain here when I had a great fortune at my command? No! no! Judge for yourselves if I wouldn't go to some fine city and procure all the luxuries and pleasures that such wealth could buy instead of remaining here," said Sneath. Bagger turned the iron in-the fire again as he said, sullenly: "We're goin' to tes t yer truth. What you say sounds reasonable enough, but it's an easy matter to talk like that. You'll sing a different son g when you feel the red-hot iron eating into the soles of your feet. There is a bare possibility that you don't know, I admit. But I'm certain that, even if_:vou ha"'.eri't foupd out the secret, you are here trymg to discover 1t, and so you are op posed to us-the men who have the best right to the gold-all said and done." As Bagger and his comrade turned their backs to the door, Jack whispered in Job's ear. The demented lad nodded approvingly as he whispered back: "Yes, that's it! We'll push the door wide open and level our guns at the bad men and make them go or shoot them." He was about to fling wide the do@r when, as Sneath began to speak again, Jack laid a restraining hand upon his arm and whispered: "Wait a moment." Job dropped his hand from the door-knob and the caretaker said, with seeming reluctance and like one who spoke against his will: "I weaken. J can't stand red-hot iron. Promise me that I shall not be harmed when you've got it and I'll show yuu where the treasure is hidden. Job told me. I meant to get away with it all ere long." "Good! Now you're beginning to be reason abie." "Release me and let me get into my clothes and I'll guide you to Captain Midnight's gold cache at once," continued Sneath. "All right," assented Bagger, and in a moment the caretaker was free from the cords with which he had been secured and he got upon his feet and began to dress rapidly. "I believe Job is right-that' the old man is try mg a ruse and that he means to give the villail)s the slip," Jack breathed in Ralp.H.'s ear. The other nodded assent and at a s ignal from Job all three s tole awav fr
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s HIS LAST CHANCE do what they say and help old Sneath if he needs h ,, im. Then, follawed by his tame wolf, the demented boy glided away into the darkness in a course at right angles to that which the caretaker and his escort were following. "What mad freak has taken hold of him now, I wonder?" whispered Ralph, impatiEmtly. "No matter. Our duty is plainly indicated," replied Jack, in like tones. "We must continue to follow Sneath and be ready to assist him when he makes a dash to escape, as I think he will do pres ently." But Sneath strode onward in a straight course and he had not as yet made any attempt to break away from his escort when, as the two lads were still following him, while the rain ceased and the night grew steadily brighter, a man suddenly stepped out from behind a tree, leveling a rifle at them, and they saw that he was about to shout an alarm to Bagger and his comrade . CHAPTER VII.-A Night Chase at the Black Dale. Meanwhile, Job had not proceeded far in the eourse which he had taken when he glided away from Jack and his cousin, when he abruptly changed the direction of his advance and proceed1 ed in precisely the same course that Sneath was taking, in his rear, which was the way Job had gone when he previously left the house, as if to assure himself of the safety of his "yello:w beau ties" in "the house of gold." The half-wit had a confirmed habit of muttering his thoughts and he was apparently unconscious of the utterance when he began to talk to himself in whispers as he took the new direction. Presently Job stopped and, dropping upon the earth, .while the wolf licked his face like an affectionate dog, he listened eagerly, attentively. He got upon his feet in a moment, muttering: "Good! Old Sneath is going away from the yellow beauties now. I can hear his footsteps. the night voices were wrong .for once. No, he does not know where the house of gold is. He is fooling the shadows, as Job thought at first." Then as almost at the same instant he discovered man who stepped out from behind the tree bef1re the two lads, he put his hand on wolf's head, pointed at the stranger and whis-pered: ,, "Take him, Nick! Down with him, boy! The well-brcken beast darted over the thick, soft turf like a flying shade of the night, then made a tremendous leap, and alighted on stranger's back, hurlinghim to the earth with such force that the breath was well-nigh out of his body, stifling the cry that had to hi.; lips before he could utter it. Job then up the fellow's gun, and as he sat look.mg dazed and confused, the strange lad said to him : "Keep still. Here, Nick, watch him. If he moves or speaks, kill him! Watch, boy! Watch!" But just then when it seemed that Job was about to leave the wolf to guard the confederate of Bagger and Hanson, an enraged shout pealed out in the voice of the former, and old who had at that moment broken away. from his captors, came rushing toward his boy fnends. But Jie was pursued by the .two men_. who shouted at him, threatenmg to shoot if he did not halt. The old caretaker was vigorous and active, despite his years, and he reached Jack and his companions while his pursuers were yet at a little distance in the rear. The shouts uttered by the latter were answered by voices that emanated from the direction of the house, and it was evident to the lads that, even if they wished to seek shelter there they could not do so. "Confederates of l :he villains who are after you are about 'the house and we cannot go there," said Jack, as Sneath came up, panting with violent exertion, but evidently s11rprised and delighted at meeting friends. "Follow Job and he'll hide you where the shad-ows can't find you!" cried the half-wit. Then, to the wolf: "Come, Nick. It's no good to watch r.im now." With that, as the wolf bounded after him, the lad raced away and thev had some difficulty in keeping pace wtih him. Shouting to call the men from the house to .ioin in the chase, Bagger and Hanson pursued the fugitives. Soon Job was leading them along the edge of a deep pond, whose banks were overgrown by drooping willows. Laughing to himself, the boy giant presently signaled his comrades to go straight on. They did so, for there was no time to ask the lad for an explanation of what he meditated. On came Bagger and Hanson and from their rear emanated sounds that indicated the men who had been stationed about the house were coming after them. Looking back, Jack and Ralph saw Job suddenly spring up out of the shelter of the willows as Bagger passed and, seizing the ruffian, the boyish giant hurled him headlong over the bank into the water. As Hanson stopped to nelp his confederate out of the pond, Sneath and his companions immediately distanced them, and presently Job led them into a dense woods, whose confines they reached a few moments later. Job then proceeded in advance of the otr.ers, as if he had in mind some definite destination. At no great distance further on they came out into a clearing of small extent in which there was a rude log cabin and an open shed. A great litter of chips and shavings before the shed told where the preceding winter the lumbermen had labored making shingles and chopping ties, to be used on the railway, miles distant. Af ter they entered the abandoned dwelling, when half an hour had elapsed and nothing occurred to indicate the approach of their pursuers, they began to hope that they had seen the last of them, at least, for the night. Jack and Ralph were now consumed with curiosity to hear the full explanation of the cause of the stirring events of the night. Presently old Sneath remarked: "We have left the old house at Black Dale at the mercy of the robbers but I don't think they'll destrny it-burn it, you know, for they cannot be certain that the treasure is not hidden somewhere in it." "Oh!" said Jack, "now you are coming to what I want to ask you about-so there really is a treasure hidden at Black Dale farm, eh?" "That's w'bat the rascals seem sure of," replied Sneath. '"I wish you would tell us all about it. As the farm belongs to us now and we are likely to have further trouble with the lawless men who are seeking for the treasure, I think we ought to have

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HIS LAST CHANCE 9 all the information you can give us," continued Jack. "We must find the treasure. It will make us rich. We'll dig the whole place over if necessary," said Ralph. CHAPTER VIII.-Sneath's Story of the Old Miner. Ralph's eyes gleamed with the light of cupidity, and it seemed that the passion of avarir& was aroused in his heart. Old Sneath regarded him with a searching look, in which Jack thought he eould discern disapproval and something of disappointment. While they still heard the regular footsteps of Job outside th door, where the demented lad yet maintaineJ his self-appointed guard, and the rising of wind which had increased in violence since the subsidence of the rain, swept through the woods and around the cabin, Ralph raising his voice a little because of the noise of the wind among the trees, went on to say. "I can now understand what perplexed me not a little-why Uncle Dick bought this remote and neglected farm of Black Dale, and why he chose to live here alone with Job. Yes, I see it all now, and very sh1ewd the old chap was. I begin to have a new respect for him." After some further conversation Sneath started to his feet, exclaiming: "Hark!' What was that?" -"A faint shout uttered in a man's voice," a.n swered Ralph. "Yes, and it sounded as if it was carried from a distance on the wind," assented Jack. Just then the shout they l1ad previously heard sounded again. But this time it was faint, and evidently the person who uttered it was going from the clearing. "Now for the story you have to tell us," said Ralph. "Well, you must know," began Sneath, "I was at the hospital where your Uncle Dick lay sick for a while, and during my stay there, as a companion for your uncle, I got acquainted with a man who had been a gold miner in California. He was poor and disheartened then, but he had once been rich. He told me that he made a lucky strike on a placer claim he owned and took out two hundred thousand dollars' worth of gold. That snug fortune he .converted into coin, which :he ship.pad by express to the East, but the train that carrie d his t reasure was held up by the notorious robber, Captain Midnight, and his desperate band of outlaws, and all the money of the California miner was stolen. He l earned later en, through the a ssistance of the railway detectives and sheriff's officers, that Midnight deserted his band secretly immediately after the robbery and fled with all the proceeds of it withput giving his men any share, as he had agreed. This came out through the confession of one of the gang, who was very bitter against Midnight. That outlaw said the other members of the gang had sworn to hunt Midnight down and slay him for his treachery and take fron_ him the plunder of which they claimed their share." Sifeath paused and Jack said, excitedly: "This is just like a romance. It must be that the treasure Captain Midnight concealed at Black Dale is the money that belongs to the unfortun-ate miner." "I have no doubt of that," Sneath replied. "The poor fellow we will call Dix. And he told me that the loss of his hard-earned gold almost drove him crazy for a time, but that he had set out to hunt for Captain Midnight on his own ac count, when he was taken sick. I was quite moved by the story he told me of his wanderings in quest of the fugitive train-robber. He said he had intended that the gold h had .mined in California should provide for th:! wants of his declining years, and that he had meant o appropriate a goodly share of the fortune for the good of others. He had two sisters, w:ho had died leav ing children in poverty, and he said he had in tended that his wealth should help those poor orphans to make their way in the world, which his own experiences had taught him was a hard and cruel place for the poor and friendless. His most bitter regret seemed to be that, because of the loss of his stolen fortune, he could not do anything for the poor children for whom he had meant to provide. Sneath paused and Jack said, earnestly: "I am glad that you have told us all thh; and now I pledge you my word of honor that if we find the old miner's stolen fortune they shall have every cent of it. I would rather die than keep the money of that old man and deprive the poor orphans of what he so nobly 1neant to give them." CHAPTER IX.-Ralph Is Shown In an Unfavorable Light. '.'Yo arE> mighty sentimental about it, I thiI.1k,'' said Ralph, when a moment of silence had en sued. "But perhaps Dix, the miner, died at the hospital. How was that, Sneath?" "Dix did not die, as I happen to know, and if it should be our good fortune to find his money hidden at Black Dale, I know where to communicate with him," replied the caretaker. "And would you do so?" demanded Ralph. "Certainly I should." "Then you're a fool!"' Sneath looked a trifle indignant, but his weather-beaten face showed more sorrow than any other sentiment. "I am sorry .to see that you are so avaricious. D<,> you not s ee that it would bet a most dishonor able and contemptible act to keep the old mine r's fortune?" he said, chillingly. "You can keep your opinion of me to yourself. I own one-half of Black Dale farm and I've got just as much right as Jack has to say what shall be done with the money we may find on the place," Ralph blurted out, in angry tones. "I am ashamed of you, Ralph," said Jack. 11A shamed and surprised at your spirit of avarice. I did not think you would show such cupidity. I supposed you had a better conscience and that you wer'i! honest at heart." "Well, lads," said the old "take an old man's advice and do not allow the matter of the hiaden fortune to make hard feelings between you, now. It will be time enough to decide w:hat you do with the money when you have discovered it. You may never find it. It is my conviction that the men who broke into the house

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10 HIS LAST CHANCE at Black Dale tonight are really members of Captain Midnight's old bc::1d of train robbers, and that they will never give up trying to find the hidde n money until they are convinced it i s beyond their reach." "Your words hold out a pleasant prospect. Are we to stay n. Hi<'!"!" a le ?nr\ > keep the outlaws from getting the treasure for nothing?" demanded Ralph, sarcastically. "My lad," responded Sneath, gravely, "have. ;you never heard that good deeds u sually bring their own reward? I am an old man now, and I have had much experience of the world. You can b elie ve me whe n I say that I am convinced that anything we may do to restore the stolen mo11ey to its rightful owner will not be wasted labor." After that, conversatio n flagged and the h ours wore on until the dawn came. Job then propo s ed that they should return t o the farmhouse. "The shadpws are gone now. They flee when the sun' comes. Job knows we shall not meet them," said the strange lad, in tone s of assurance. Just as the party was leaving the cabin a company of half a do ze n lumbermen, who were on the way to the scene of their daily toil at a portable sawmill some miles away in the wood s came into fhp cl e ar'mr S-n'l. t h knew men anri he called to them. When they came np he related the attack u po n Black Dale farmhous e by the strangers, but -he did not say anything about his b elief regarding the motive which actuated t4e rascals-gave no hint that he they were after Captain Midnight's hidc:en treasure. Nneath proposed that the lumbermen should alarm the farms of the neighborhood and the township constable so that search might be made for the desperadoes. The lumbermen promised to do this, and they set out in different directions to visit the isolated farms and carry the news to the. market town. The caretaker and the lads made their way to Black Dale, and they reached the farmhouse without seeing anything of the strangers. Along about noon a party of mounted men rode up to the farmhouse, and they proved to be a couple of lo,.a l c o11'lt a bles and some farmers who had joined the officers in a quest for the hosebreakers . They informed Sneath that they had ridden all about the adjacent c ountry, but had failed to find any trace of the robbers. CHAPTER X.-The Maid of the Inn at Black Dale. "I think because the outlaws know that the hue and cry has been raised for them that they have withdrawn from the neighborhood for the time. But I am also confident that we have not by any means seen the last of them," said Sneath the next day. Jack and Ralph agreed with him, and they discussed how to make their position more secure. Job was present with his huge tame wolf. The party occupied the shaded porch, and Nick, the wolf, seemed to understand that the young heirs of Black Dal e belonged there, ancc announced that he was sufficiently rested and tha t he meant to set to work. Ralph followed when his cousin went out to the field s with the caretake r and Job, and in a half-hearted way he set to work with the ethers, hoeing corn. But the sun was hot and the labor L:id not please Ralph in the least. Presently he threw down his hoe and sauntered away into the shade of a nearby grove through 'l"hich the Jane ran. No one remonstrated with Ralph, but Sneath, who was working near Jack and showing him how to cultivate. corn, said: "I'm afraid your cousin is inclined to be a drone in the hive." Jack did not reply, but glancing in the di rection of the grove, he observed that Job, who had been at work at the edge of the field nearest the trees, had disappeared. After that Jack and Sneath worked in silence for some time, but half a n hrur elape<>d and neither Ralph or Job returned to the field. "Strange that Job should neglect his work so long. This isn't like him," then said Sneath. ''Perhaps the object which he set ou t to catch has led him a long chase." sugested Jack. "As for. Ralph, I presume we shall not see him in the field again today." Sne'.lth cast a gla:-icC; toward the grove m which Job had disappeared, but said no more then. And somehow Jack found himself thinking more about Mattie. the maid af the inn. than anything else. He wondered if she led a pleasant life there, with the rascally innkeeper and his wife; and he feared that her lot was not altoge.her a pleasant one. Anon he caught himself building castles in the air, and pretty Mattie was the central figure in every one of those imaginary structures. Meanwhile, Ralph had thrown himself down in the shade of a great tree that grew beside a thick hedge near the lane. "I don't like this. Farm work is only fit for ignorant laborers who know nothing better. I'd much rather employ myself in searching for the hidden money-yes, I'll do that, and I only hope I may find it when I am alone, that's all. In that case it shall all be mine. I'll not let Sneath or Jack know, but find a way to leave with the as soon as I can." Not long after that he caught the sound of voices, and creeping up to the hedge, as he recognized Job's tones, he raised himself cautiously and peered ove1 the leafy barrier. Just a few

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HIS LAST CHANCE 11 moments previously a slender, girlis h figure had appeared in the lane, coming toward the corn field. She had proceeded until she was near Ralph's resting-place, when Job, followed by his tame wolf, leaped the hedge directly in her pathw y Matti e u tererl a ... gntf'ned ('v c lamation, but she kne w Job well, for he had often come to the inn, and as soon as she saw who it was that so abruptly confronted her, all trace.; of fright fled from her sweet face. Job had a butterfly-catcher's net in one hand and a bunch of wild violets in the other. As Nick frisked about the young girl in friendly recognition, Job tendered her the violets. "Thank you, Job," said she, as she took them. "I saw you coming, pretty Mattie, and so I gathered them for you. Oh, Mattie, Job always likes to see you. You are like the violets, sweet and pretty. Job likes you and so does Nick. Do you like Job?" said the half-witted boy. vv ny, 0 1 c o u1:;e, saJCl 1Vlattie coioring under the devoted gaze of the strange lad's great blue eyes. "But where are the others: I'v:e been to the house. I want to see one of the strange lads. The one ca1led Jack." "Sneath and the others are in the cornfield. But what do you want o f the strange boy'! Do you like him b etter than Job? Why didn't you come to see Job?" answered the dem ented lad, with a jealous frown. "I have something to say to the boy called Jack. Will you tell him I am here? You and I are old friends and shall always be, I hope." Ralph had heard this conversation, ar,d he said to hims elf, grinning: "By George.! the half-wit is in love with her. This is rich! She's an awfully pretty girl. Can't say that I blame Master Job very much." Then he vaulted over the hedge, raised his hat and said to Mattie, who drew back at his approach: "I beg your pardon, but I couldn't help overhearing what you said. Won't I do as well as Jack?" Mattie bit her r e d lips and looked as if she was not very well pleased, but she said: "Well, then, there is a man at the inn who came by the stage to-day whom I believe is one of the gang that raided Black Dale, and I want to warn you that he has some object of an evil character regarding Black Dale in mind," said Mattie. CHAPTER XI.-"How Shall We Find the Treasure?" Ralph manifested the greatest interest as he listened to .Mattie, and whe n she had he said: "I think I had better call Jack and old Sneath. They will want to hear all about this from your own lips." The young girl assented, and Ralph ran down the lane, leaped the hedge and, going tc the edge of the cornfield, called out to the two who were yet at work the re. "The girl from the inn i!l here and she wants to see you!" Ralph shouted. "Tell her we'll come at once!" answered Jack, in 81ll'prised tones, and, dropping his hoe, he ha.,tened across the field, followed by Sneath. They joined Ralph, who awaited their approach, and he led them to the lane in which they found Mattie and Job where Ralph had left them. Jack greeted Mattie pleasantly and the old caretaker addresse d some kind words to her. Then she repeate d what she had already told Ralph. "You say the stranger came by the stage today? Are we to infer that he came to the inn openly? Have you seen him there before, and why do you think he means harm for us?" said Jack. "The stranger alighted at the inn before all the i;ither passengers, like any trave1er who -had nothrng to conceal. I have never seen him before but when the stage had gone I overbeard talking with my uncle," Mattie replied. ::what did he S 8 .y?" asked Jack, anxiously. He handed my uncle a note, saying: "This will tell I am sent by your friend, Bagger, and it will tell you that I am here on account of the Black Dale business.' "Did you hear anything more?" was Jack's next eager inquiry. "Yes, Uncle Isaac read the note which the stranger had given him and then he said: 'Good! Bagger is a clever dog. This plan may work. It's worth trying, anyhow, and I like it better than high-handed and violent attempts' To say the truth, I'm afraid of getting into trour ble pY _Bagger and his comrades, and l won t do it agarn. But as you come like any other traveler and don't want to hide, it's.all right. I needed money or I wouldn't have let Bagger and his friend stay in hiding here.' Again Mattie paused. Then she added: "But now I must go.'' As she turned awa y, Jack walked with her up the lane, and Job followed the young couple with jealous eyes llind an angry; expression came upon his features as he looked. ,. "Ha!" he muttered, so indistinctly that his words were not overheard. "Both of the strange lads but she belongs to Job. Let them hke her if they will She shall not like them. No, no! She will like Job the best fo'r he can give her the yellow beauties of his house of gold that will buy all the pretty things in the world," and the half-witted boy chuckled as if he were sure that he could buy the love of the maid of the inn with the mysterious treasures of which he spoke so fancifully. ; Jack and Mattie conversed as they/ walked along the shady lane that beautiful spring day and it came to the lad that the pretty girl at his side was the fairest and sweetest maid that he had ever known. When she came to her horse Jack assi s ted her to mount, and, waving her hand in parting salutation, she cantered away. Jack walked down the in a reflective mood and fully convinced that Mattie was dearer to him than all the hidden treasure in the worli:!. He soon found that all his companions had returned to the cornfield and he joined them there. Evening came at length and yet no one save the maid of the inn had come to Black Dale. After supper Jack and his compan ions fell to talking as they sat on the shaded porch. "Job," said Jack, earnestly, "you were here wi.th when he hid the treasure. Try and th!pk if you cannot remember anything about it.'' Job never saw the treasure. Job never saw

PAGE 13

12 HIS LAST CHANCE him hide it. Who says Job knows? Job don't know. Job can't think,'' the half-wit replied. CHAPTER XIl.-Ralph Follows ob by Moonlight. All saw that evidently they could not hope to obtain any assist::nce from Job. Job sat with his head in his hands and he seemed t obe reflecting profoundly while the tame wolf sat at his feet and watched him closely with its bright eyes. "I think the only thing we can do is to act upon your suggestion. Let us do so. Hereafter let us devote a part of each day to our search,'' said Sneath. "Yes, we will begin on the morrow," assented Jack, and Ralps signified his approval. -Just then Job 1aised his head. There was a cunning and exultant look in his usually vacant eyes as he said: "Job is beginning to remember thir.gs about Captain Midnight. Yes, Job's wits at work. Midnight used 1.o go to the old well slyly like when Job was asleep. Many times he went there at night. Job wondered wpy." Ralph sprang to his feet, exclaiming,
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