## Doing his level best, or, Working his way up

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Title:
Doing his level best, or, Working his way up
Series Title:
Fame and fortune weekly : stories of boys who make money
Creator:
A self-made man (J. Perkins Tracy)
Place of Publication:
New York
Publisher:
Frank Tousey
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
1 online resource (28 pages)

## Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Dime novels -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Wealth ( lcsh )
Entrepreneurship -- Fiction ( lcsh )
Boys ( lcsh )
Genre:
serial ( sobekcm )

## Record Information

Source Institution:
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.
Resource Identifier:
F18-00007 ( USFLDC DOI )
f18.7 ( USFLDC Handle )
031125599 ( ALEPH )
244440909 ( OCLC )

## USFLDC Membership

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University of South Florida
Dime Novel Collection
Fame and Fortune Weekly

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serial

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AND Just when the wobbling house seemed on the point of turning completely over into the rushing waters help suddenly appeared at the open window. The crippled woman, perched on the brave boy' s shoulder, and the little girl, uttered a glad cry.

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Fame and Fortune Weekly STORIES OF BOYS WHO MAKE MONEY I H vecJ Weeklt1-Bt1 Subscripti= 1 2 .50 per 11ear. Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 190tl. in the otrtce of the Lwrarian of Congreu, Wuhington, D. C., b11 Frank Touse11, Publisher, 24 Union Square, New York. No. 47. NEW YORK, AUGUST 24, 1906. Price 5 Cents Doing His Level Best OR, Working His Up By A SELF-nADE nAN CHAPTER I. THE MAN FROM THE WEST. "Hello, sonny!" It was a blustering, o vercast day in the first wee]< in April, and Will Melville, a strong-looking boy of fifteen, his frank, open countenance flushed from recent exercise, was securing a dilapidated sailboat to a small wooden platform extending a few feet out into a narrow creek that branched off of Maple River, when he was hailed as above. The boy looked up and saw a stalwart, bearded man, with a deeply bronzed countenance, standing upon the top of the bank behind him. "No, sir." "What's your name?" "Will Melville The stranger whistled softly and seemed to look upon the boy with a new interest. "Haven't any father or mother, I s'pose ?" "No, sir." "Mr. Skinner supports you, doesn't he?" "I work for Mr. Skinner. He boards me and gives me $7 a month wages." "Is 'Mr. Skinner a farmer?" "He is." "Well off, I s'pose ?" "People say he is." The stranger gave a grunt of satisfaction. "Where does he live?" That he was a stranger in that l ocality Will guessed "In that white house yonder." instinctively, for the lad knew about everybody for miles "Got a wife, hasn't he?" around in the valley. "Yes, sir," replied Will, wondering how many more "Well, sir," replied Will, judging the man was in quest questions the inquisitive stranger was going to ask of some information "Any children?" "You live around here, I s'pose ?" said the stranger, "One son, Simon Skinner." inte rrogatively. The stranger looked at Will reflectively. "I do," answered Will. "I once knew a man by the nam e of George Melville, "Know a man by the name of Amos Skinner?" out in Cripple Creek. He said h e came from these parts." "That's the man I live with." was my father, sir," said Will, eagerly. "You don't say, and the stranger looked sharply at t h e I 'l'he stranger did not appear to be very much surprise d hoy. "Any relation of his?" at the boy's admission. - PAGE 3 DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. "George Melville told me that he had a wife and son in Maywood, at the head of Arlington Valley." "'!'hat's right," said Will. "Father was a carpenter in Maywood before he went out West. That was many years ago, and I was only a l ittle boy at the time he left to make his fortune, as he said, in the Cripple Creek diggings, where gold had just been discover ed in great quantities. Mr Skinner, who was a friend of father's-in those days he was not so well off as he is now, but worked a small farm on shares-went with him. After a few months father wrote that he and Mr. Skinner had got hold of a claim which had turned out to be very rich. He expected to make enough money in a few months to be able to return home very well off. Snough, be said, to build a fine hol1se in the village and live the rest of his life witho u t the necessity of returning to his trade." "Well," said the stranger, "didn't he?" "No, sir That was the last word mother ever received from him." "How was that?" asked the stranger, with a curious look in his eyes. "Because --" The boy choked up a little, and tears glistened in bis eyes. "Because he died out in the dig gings "Oh, he did!" exclaimed the stranger, in a peculiar tone "You are sure that he died?" "Yes, sir. A few weeks after mother received father's last letter Mr Skinner returned to Maywood. He called at our home and told mother that he was the bearer of sad tiding s He said that he and father were partners in a claim which proved to be a ri c h one That they bad sold out the claim to a syndicate that was buying up all the property around in that section. Father and be had each received$20,000 in gold coin. They had arranged to return together to Maywood. Two days before they were to start he said father sudd"enly disappeared. Mr. Skinner said that he and three other men had searched the district to try and find out what became of him For a week they failed to discover th.e slightest clue:-> Then they found the body of a man at the foot of a certain precipice. The body was much battered and the face wholly unrecognizable. But Mr. Skinner said he was certain that it was bis friend George Melville, for he identified the clothes and a jack knife found in one of the pockets. He felt quite sure that father had been enticed to that spot by some of the des peradoes of the district who had h ear d of his good fortune, and murdered for his money, which he had changed into bills and carried about his person in a money belt." "That was the story Mr. Skinner told your mother, was it?" "Yes, sir. As Mr. Skinn er had not posi lively identified th e dead man, though he said he had little doubt on the subject, mother refused to believe for a long time that father was actually dead She wrote to persons in Cripple Creek who had known father, but could only get a con13.rmation of Mr Skinner's story Finally, after many lfad passed without any favorable tidings, mother at last gave up all hope She had to take in sewing to support herself and me, as we had no money, until at last she took sick and died." "But Mr. Skinner came home well off, didn't he?" "I believe so. "And didn't he do a n ything to help your mother?" "No, sir 1 "Kind of mean, wasn't it, when you say he had been your father's friend?" "Well, he's a close man "Oh, he is?" Will thought he detected a grin on the stranger's face. "Yes, sir." "And how did it happen you came to work for Mr Skinner?" "After mother died he offered me a job on his new farnT; and I have now been with him two years." "Does he treat you well?" "I'd rather not say, sir, whether he does or not," replied Will, evasively gives you seven dollars a month and your keep, you say?" "Yes, sir; but he charges me with everything I break. And he doesn't pay me anything in winter and early spring when I attend school, though I have to do all the chores and many other things before and after school time." "At that rate you haven't saved much money," sai d the st ranger, with a twinkle in his eye. "No, sir. I haven't any money at all." "Why not?" "Mr. Skinner says a boy like me doesn't need money, so h e is saving what I have earned so that I will not squand e r it." "Very kind of him to do so," remarked the stranger, sarcastically. "He says he's acting as my guardian till I come of age." "But he isn't really your guardian, is he?" "No, sir." "Very likely he is keeping back your money so you won't run away." Will was silent. "Did you ever feel like running away?" continued the inqui sitive s tranger. "You n eedn' t be afraid to tell me, for I shan't give you away." Will wouldn't admit whether he had ever felt that way or not. His manner, however, gave his questioner the impres sion that he had. Suddenly the boy looked up and said: "You said you knew my father out at Cripple Creek. Did you know Mr. Skinner there, too?" "Why do you ask that question?" asked the stranger, sharply. "Because you have been inquiring for him." "Yes," replied the man, guardedly. "I knew him slight ly." .. I

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PAGE 5

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I DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. and regarded his visitor with a look of terror, as though a ghost of the past had suddenly risen before his startled . eyes. CHAPTER III. THE PRIOE OF SII.ENOE. "I see you know me all right," said Jacob L-:ickstone, reaching forward and helping himself to a cigar out of a box that Mr. Skinner kept for his private consumption. He bit off the end, picked a matchbox off the desk, lit the weed, and then settled back in the armchair to enjoy a good smoke, evidently a luxury to him. "I heard that you was dead," said Mr. Skinner at last, with a little shiver. "I came mighty near turning up my toes soon after you left the diggings. I had a run-in with a chap-an onery cuss. He got the drop oTJ. me and I went to the hospital for repairs. When I pulled through I took the five thou. you kindly presented me with and went to Mexico, where I stayed until I was finally cleaned out three months ago. Being reduced to my uppers I thought of you." "Why of me?" asked the farmer, in shaky tones. "I thought you promised to cut me out of your mind when I paid you $5,000 seven years ago for your silence as to a certain matter which I do not care to recall." "Precisely!" replied his visitor "I did promise; but when a fellow is on his last legs he kind of forgets such things as promises." Mr. Skinner wiped the perspiration from his forehead. "Then I suppose your object in coming East is to extort blackmail from me?" he said, with a ghastly look. "You can call it by whatever name you chuse," replied Luckstone, carelessly. "I want to get on my feet again. I can't do that without money. There's no one to give it to me but you; that's why I called on you." "But I haven't--" began Mr. Skinner. "Yes, you have," retorted Luckstone, calmly puffing at his cigar. "You've got money all right You're well off, and won't miss a thousand or two." Mr. Skinner uttered a dismal groan. He could not bear the idea of parting with any of his darling dollars. "What are you kicking about?" asked Luckstone, con temptuously. "Besides the$20,000 you got for your share of the Rainbow claim, you made a good thing out of George-" "Hush!" cried the farmer, imploringly. "Don't men .. tion his name. I was mad when I--" "Murdered--" "No, no! I didn't murder him! I drugged him in order to---/' "Rob him of his money belt. Precisely. But he never recovered from the dose you gave him, so I have only got your word that you didn't intend to do him up for quits. However, that was your lookout. Then you robbed him of his $20,000, and I was lucky enough to catch Y?U doing it. It was my duty to hand you over to the authorities. Had I done so your neck would have been stretched in short order. Fortunately for you I was open to reason in the shape of a bribe. We compromised on$5,000, and you promised on your part to do something for Melville's wife and child when you got back home. Have you kept your word, Skinner?" "Yes, yes; of course I did," replied the farmer, hur riedly "Well, let's hear what you did for them?" asked the visitor sharply. "Why do you wish to know? It can't interest you in the least." "But it does interest me, Mr. Skinner." "Well, I helped them along from time to time, and when Mrs Melville died, two years ago, I took the boy to educate and bring up at my own expense "I suppose you treat young Melville the same as you L1o your own son?" said Luckstone, sarcastically. "Ahem Not quite. You could hardly expect that. He attends school in the late fall, winter and early spring, and the rest of the time-" "He works on your farm, same as any laborer, I s'pose." "Well, yes; but I pay him for his time "You mean you have promised to pay him-when he I gets to be twenty-one?" "Why, why; what do you--" "Look here, Skinner, you can't fool me. I met young Will Melville clown by the creek not an hour ago, and we had quite a talk together." "You met that boy!" exclaimed Mr. Skinner, growing pale again "Why, how did you know.him?" "I didn't know him till he told me his name." "How came you to talk to him?" "I saw the boy coming up the creek in a sailboat. I wanted to learn where you lived, so I waited till he landed and then I asked him if he knew you. He said he did, that he lived with you. Then he pointed this house out to me. Something about the boy caused me to question him, and I learned a few things about you. He told me the story you brought from the West and repeated to his mother. He also told me that you never helped them to the extent of a single dollar, but that his mother had to fake in sewing to support herself and bim. When she died you took him to work on the farm at a small wage, which you are keeping back until he comes of age. That.ls the way you put it, but your idea is to prevent him from leaving you until you can get everything out of him you can. Isn't that it, Skinner?" "No, no; I mean to deal fairly by him," said the farmer, hastily. "I don't believe it," replied Jacob Luckstone, bluntly. "I don't believe you are to be trusted You said you would take care of George Melville's wife and son, and it's evident you haven't done so." T J

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DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. '---------. l'that the present demand would probably be the final one. "His father?" grinned Luckstone, as ft'e noted the anxHe groaned at the Tery thought of such a thing. 10us look on his companion's face. "No, not a thing. If His money, which he loved better even than l1is own I did what was right I would." soul, would melt away under this rascal 's s ub sequent de"No, you must not. I'll--" mands, for who could say if he would ever put a limit to "Well, go on. Spit it out," said the visitor as the them while he lived. farmer abruptly. "I'll give you a couple of hundred dollars if you'll ise to go away and never bother me again," said Mr. Skinner with manifest reluctance "A couple of hundred dollars exclaimed Luckstone, contemptuously. "What's a couple of hundred dollars to me?" "It's a lot of money," the farmer, in a tone that showed he regarded it as. sucp. "Look here, Skinner," said Luckstone in a decided way, as he chucked the butt of his cigar into the spittoon. "Let's get right down to business. I want to go back to Mexico. I've got a good thing waiting for me there; but I've got to have $2,000 to develop it. Give me$2,500, and the chances are you'll never see me again." Twenty-five hundred dollars!" gasped Mr. Skinner. "Do you want to ruin me?" His visitor laughed "I'd venture to take my oath that $2,500 is a mere fleebite to you. Why, ma:valive, you brought$35,000 back with you from -Cripple Creek, at l east half of which rightfully belonged to George Melville's heirs. That was seven years ago. You ought to be worth all of $50,000 to-day_" Mr. Skinner held up his hands protestingly. "I say you are!" almost roared his visitor, his eyes twinkling angrily. "However, I don't care a picayune what you're worth. All I want of you is$2,500. That I must and will have, or you can guess what'll happ en. You this document, don't you?" and Luck.stone pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and exhibited it to Mr Skinner, who shrank from it as though it were a venomous snake. "Suppose I placed that in young Mel ville's hands, what would happ en, do you think? It would be worth twice $2,500-aye, more, to him to learn the truth about his father's fate. This paper in his hands would not only strip you of more than half your wealth, l!iut land you behind the bars to boot, with something worse in prospect. I think I am letting you off easily. I ought to ask$5,000 at least Mr. Skinner 's face grew Jivid as he listened to Jacob Luckstone. knew the Westerner had him in his p
PAGE 8

DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. 7 amounting to $200 which he very reluctantly handed over to his visitor J'acob Luckstone shoved the money into a pocket of his vest and rose to go. "Why, it's raining, isn't it? How far is it to the village hot el?" ".About two miles," replied Mr. Skinner. "I don t mind a wetting much," said his visitor, with a sh or l a u gh, "for I'm used to roughing it; but I'd rather not present myself at the hotel looking like a drowned rai. l\fy c lothes aren t much to brag of at the best. If I look any worse they might refuse to take me in." "You can remain here awhile until the rain lets up. I'll fetch you some supper. I'd invite you to the table, but I don't think my wife would like it. / "I don't look highfaluting enough to suit her, eh?" grinned Luckstone. "Well, don't worry yourself about me. Bring me a bite of any old thing you have to spare and we'll let it go at that." It was now growing dark, and Mr Skinner lighted the lamp. Presently the supper bell rang and he excused himself. is visitor walked up and down the room thinking of the future after the farmer had withdrawn. Occasionally he stopped before one of the windows and gazed out upon the darkening landscape The prospect was not particularly pleasant The rain seemed to have come to stay, for it was pour ing c1own in as if the floodgates of heaven had bee n opened. Everything looked dreary and soaked without. "If i t doesn't let up I'll have to ask Skinner to let me sleep in his barn with the horses to-night," soliloquized the W este rn e r. Half an hour passed away and then the farmer appeared with a tray, followed by Simo:p., carrying a jug of milk. He set the tray down on a table, motioned his son to witliClraw, which he did with some reluctance, and then be told Lucksto ne to help himself. The Westerner was pretty sharp set by this time, as he had eaten noi.hing s ince morning, so he accepted the invi tation with alacrity and attacked the eatables forthwith. Thei:e was nothing left but the dirty dishes and empty milk pitcher when, with a sigh of satisfaction, he pushed his cbair bark from the desk, grabbed another cigar and began to puff away at it with evident relish The rain continued to pour down unceasingly as if it neve r m eant to let up. Mr. Skinner walked nervously about the room, for he was anxious get rid of his disreputable visitor At last Jacob Luckstone spoke: "It doesn't look as if I could reach the village in this downpour. Wliat's the matter with letting me bunk in your barn to-night?" Mr. Skinner stopped in his restless walk and regarded his unde s irable visitor in silence. To let Jacob sleep in his barn was out of the question because Will Melville slept in a little room in the loft of the building which had been built for bis accommo dation, and the farmer did not want these two persons to have any further communication with each other lest re sults unpleasant to himself might come of it, for he placed no dependence whatever in the Westerner It was equally impossible that. the man should sleep in the house, for not only would Mrs. Skinner object strenu ously to any such arrangement, but the farmer himself did not at all relish having Luckstone on his premises throughout the night. Where, then, could he put him, for as the case stood the man could not very well get to the village before morning unless Mr. Skinner hitched up a covered rig and took him there, which he had no idea of doing?" While he was in this state of indecision he. suddenly saw his way out of the difficulty. There was a small disused two-story barn down near the river. There was a considerable quantity of hay in the lo1't, and this would make a comfortable bed for a rough-and ready person like Jacob Luckstone, who more times than he could remember had slept in far worse quarters Accordingly, Mr. Skinner told his visitor where he had decided to put him for the night. This arrangement was satisfactory to the Western man, so the farmer got an umbrella and escorted Luckstone to the old barn and left him to turn in. When Mr. Skinner returned to the hou.se he found Simon in the library with a cigarette in his mouth and bis heels on one of the wi:r;idow sills smoking away to beat the band. This was a liberty that Simon had never been known to take before, and his father was so amazed at the sight that for a moment he was tongue-bound. "Simon," he exclaimed, in an angry tone, "what docs this mean? How dare you s moke cigarettes in my library? Take your feet from that window sill instantly." "I'm very comfortable as I am, dad," replied the boy, in a tone that showed little respect for his father. "And I think this is as good a place to smoke as anywhere else." Mr. Skinner was dumfounded at the words and attitude of his only son. The boy had never acted towards nor spoken to him that way before. "Simon Skinner, have you taken leave of your senses?" he demanded, more angry than ever. "I shall certainly chastise you severely for your disrespectful conduct." "Ob, forget it. After this I'm going to be my own boss," said the boy flippantly. Mr. Skinner turned fairly white with rage at these words. "I'll teach you to know your place, you ungrateful--" he began, reaching out his arm to seize his son by the collar. "Hold hard, dad," interrupted Simon, jumping te nis PAGE 9 DOING HIS LEVEL BEST feet backing out of the way. "Don't touch me, or I'll tc:l mother something you won't like her to know." "\Yhat do you mean?" cried his father, regarding him with angry surprise "I mean that I have found out what brought that man, whose name is Jacob Luckstone, here this afternoon. I now know why he was so easy to me and so cock-sure you'd see him as soon as you heard he was outside. I know why Will Melville's father never--" "Simon!" almost screamed Mr. Skinner. "Oh, you can't shut my mouth, dad," his son, inde ::'E'nc1ently. "I heard you admit that you drugged George Melville and _then robbed him of his money belt contain ing$20,000." :Jir. Skinner regarded his son with a livid face, but Simon took no notice of his emotion. "Jacob Luckstone caught you at the trick and you had to give him $5,000 to buy him off. Now he's back after more, and you've agreed to give him$2,500. You seem to be in a nice pickle, blessed if you aren't." "How-did-you-learn-all-that?" gasped out Mr. Skinner. "How did I learn it?" snickered Simon. "Why, I was hidden under that window yonder, and I took in every word that passed between you two." The farmer covered his face with his hands and sank into his chair at the desk with a heartbroken moan. His cup of bitterness was indeed full, for he was dis graced and humiliated before his own son. CHAPTER V. THE TURNING POINT OF A. LIFE. Simon Skinner seemed to enjoy the advantage he had obtained over his father. He had a mean, narrow nature that rejoiced in the dis comfiture of another-even though that other was his parent. His father's distress did not seem to make much im pression on him. He l eaned carelessly against the window sill and finished his ciga r ette. Finally Mr. Skinner took his hands from his face regarded the boy with a look of mute supplication. "Simon," he said, in a broken tone, "promise me you'll never breathe a word of what you heard this after noon Promise me that. You wouldn't ruin your father, would you?" "Oh, I won't say a word," replied the boy, with a ''But you mustn't boss me about any more. That's a fair deal, isn't it?" "Simon, you are: taking an unfair advantage of your father. I have sinned, it is true, but it was for your sake as much as anything else." .. "For my sake!" exclaimed the youth. "What do you mean by that, dad?" "I committed that crime order that one day you might be rich, Simon. I did not intend to cause George Melville's death. But I hated to think that Melville should return to Maywood as well off as myself. That his son would on a par with you. When I saw that he had changed his gold into bills and carried them on his person instead of placing them in the bank, as I did with mine, the temptation to hold of that money by some means, no matter how, impelled me to put up a job on him. He was an easy victim because he trusted me. If it hadn't been that I was caught in the act of taking the belt off his unconscious body by Jacob Luckstone, all would have bee'n well." "It's a wonder you didn't try to do him up, too, when you found he had you in his p,ower,'' said Simon, in a crafty tone. "I'd have done it if I'd been in your shoes." "No, no, my sori; you wouldn't have added a real mur der to an accidental one," said his father, feverishly. "How do you know I wouldn't?" replied the boy, with a s neer. "I don't believe in letting anybody hold the bulge on me. Five thousand dollars was a lot of money to give up to a straijger. I think you was pretty easy for cou ghing up so readily. I don't wonder he came back after more : It's $2,500 this time. How much will it be next time? I tell you, dad, you're a regular easy mark." "I can't help myself. If he exposed me I should be arrested, the crime would be investigated, and in the end I might be lrnnged, for that man would swear I committed a deliberate murder to obtain Melville's money." "How do you know anything could be proved against you after seven years?" "Luckstone could do it. He took charge of Melville's body and disposed of it. He also compelled me to give him a written acknowledgment that I had administered a dose of chloral to my friend for the purpose of robbing him." "That was foolish,'' said Simon, bluntly "Do you s up pose he has that paper yet?" "I know he has. He showed it to me in this room." "Look here, dad," said Simon, sudden ly, his little eyes twinkling with a strange light. "Why don't you rid your s elf entire ly of this man now that you have the chance to do it?" "vVhat c1o you mean, Simon?" asked Mr. Skinner, in a lone of some surprise. "What should I mean ? You've got this fellow in your power, haven't you?" "In what way?" "You're very dense,'' replied his heir, contemptuously. "Didn't you take him down to the old barn by the riv er a little while ago?" "I did." "What did you take JYm there for?" "He wanted a place to sleep, as it's too stormy for him to walk to the village." l \ b: S< fi t PAGE 10 DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. "He's probably tired out with a day's tramp and asleep by this time, don t you think?" "Very likely," replied the farmer, wondering what his son was driving at. "Well, do you know what I would do if I was in your :fix?" said the boy, significantly. "What would you do?" "I'd run him into a lunatic asylum and then I'd have that barn catch fire accidentally before morning. The wood inside is as dry as tinder, and there's a lot of straw OIL the lower floor, as well as a ton or two of hay in the loft. It would make a fine blaze." "Do you mean to Ray that you would deliberately burn--" "The barn up? I would as sure as I'm standing here. People would imagine he died in the fire. If he was as dangerous to me as he is to you, I'd put him where he could do me no harm." "But t iat would be criminal," said Mr. Skinner, in a hushed tone. "Self-preservation is the first law of natur PAGE 11 10 DOING HIS LEVEL BE::ST. e n ough. I must make sure of my boat. If I shou l d lose that I wouldn't be able to get its mate in a hurry, and about all the pleasure I have in life I get out of it." So Will jumped out of bed again, hurriedly dressed himself, and, taking the rubber horse cloth from its peg on the wall, ran lightly downstairs. caught the gleam of a shaft of light through a cra c k in the door He stopped short and gazed in wonder at the building What could it mean? Had a tramp or two taken shelter from the storm inside? Wrapping the waterproof as snugly about his person as It must be so, for no one had any business in there at he could, he sallied forth into the night and storm through thnt hour a small rear door of the barn "I'll take a squint and see who is in there anyway. If He expected to be back in a very short time, just as soon as he had hauled his boat up to the head of tb' e creek, ar:d secured her to a stout tree standing near the edge of the bank. Fate, however, decreed that it would be many a day before Will Melville saw the Skinner barn again In fact, as the boy stepped out of the building he had, all unknown to himself, reached a turning point in his young life, and from that hour a new career awaited him whic h would set its mark on all his after existence. CHAPTER VI. SAVED BY A HAIR. it is a tramp, and he is smoking, I'll have to warn him against the danger of setting fire to the old Will therefore marched up to the door and peered through a knothole which furnished an uninterrupted vie w of the ground floor In the midd l e of the floor stood a lighted lantern wl1ile some person, whom the boy did not immediately r e cognize, was piling up the dry straw thickly about the foot of the rough ladder which l ed to the loft. Great wads of straw had also been heapPd upon e a('h step of the stairs. "WJeat in thunder is the man doing?" exclaimed Will to himself. "Surely he can't mean to set the barn on fire, and yet that is what he seems to be bent upon doing. Is this person an escaped lunatic, or what is he?" As the man inside turned to gather another huge arm ful of the straw from a pile in one end of the place, the The short cut Will took to reach the creek carried him light of the lantern flashed full upon his ghastly countepast the old disused barn where Jacob Luckstone had for some hours been sleeping as peacefully as a child. There was no thought of any danger threatening him that night on the Westerner's mind. If the idea had occurred to him he would have laughed it down contemptuously. It would have seemed too ridiculous that after carrying 11is life in his hands for a score of years in the woolly West, and later in the fastnes ses of the Mexican frontier among the most reckless class of Grea ser desperadoes, death should flap its sable wings above him here in this peaceful valley of the civilized East. nance. Will etarted back in consternation. The face he saw was the face of Amos Skinner "Great Scott!" cried Will. "Why is he about to destroy this old barn on such a night and at such an hour? There are a couple of tons of good hay in the loft, too It isn't at all like Mr Skinner to sacrifice even a small bit of his property Why, I've known him to go wild when a short afternoon rain slightly damaged the top of a single haymow. I can't understand this at all. It can't be that he's walking in bis sleep and doesn t realize what he is PAGE 12 g. 1 :it [f m : d le e, : h 11 e, [s l ie k t-if il e e DOING HIS LEVEL BEST.11 Skinner by the arm, and called attention to the pres ence of that man whom he would have recognized as the person who had spoken to him down by the creek that Will, however, forgot all about the object which had called him from his bed at that late hour in the interest tbat Mr. Skinner's ominous preparations had excited in bis mind. f there was going to be a bonfire he wanted to see it, too, JlOW that he was on the scene. He didn't care, though, that the farmer should find +i.im watching him. i:,. Skinne-r wasn't in the habit of treating him any too well, and it was more than likely that if he caught him out of the big barn he would handle him without gloves, and the boy wasn't anxious for a run-in with his employer. His curiosi ty held him to the spot, but he was well on his guard. Mr. Skinner scattered the balance of the straw about fhe floor and then took up his lantern. He opened the slide and took out the candle. Wil wondered at the ghastly look which rested on the farmer's features. He wondered still more when he saw Mr. Skinner look up at the opening in the loft and shake his clenched fist iR a hreatening way at it. It was hardly the a c t of a sane man, and a suspicion that the farmer had suddenly gone mad, and his intention to fire his own property see med some evidence of that sup position, flashed across Will's mind. Then Mr. Skinner applied the candle flame to the straw in different places. It took fire instantly, and the flames spread with great rapidity, curling up the ladder in red tongues which ignited the batches of straw further up. His last act was to thrust the lighted candle under the straw at tl;te base of the ladder and leave it there. Then he sta rted for the door. Will thought it was time for him to get out of range, and he hurriedly jumped behind a big oak tree which threw one of its great branches above the old doomed barn. Mr. Skinner came rushing out as though the fire-fiend ims elf was at hi s heels, and he threw the door wide open in order to create a huge draft. He stood for a moment in the broadening glow of the furnace his hand had called into being, and again shook his cJenched fist at the loft. "Now, Jacob Luckstone, we'll see who is the winner you or I? In a few minutes the earth and myself will both be well rid of you forever-forever, do you hear?" he screamed "It is a thousand pities you have$200 of my goo money in your clothes at this moment. It has got to go, but at l east I have the satisfaction of knowing that you will go with it. May you wake up in perdition, blast you!" For the third time Mr. Skinner shook bis hand at the loft and then he melted away in the direction of his house. Will had heard every word he uttered, and they seemed incomprehensible to him. "One would think there was some enemy in that build ing he was trying to de s troy," breathed the boy. "What could he mean by saying, 'Now, Jacob Luckstone, we'll see who is the winner?' thought Will, watching the sea of fire which now had full swing in the lower floor. "\V!lo is Jacob Luck stone? There's no such person in this neigh borhood, I'll swear." Hardly were :the words out of his mouth before he heard a terrible cry for help-and the cry surely came from the loft of the doomed barn. "Great heaven 1" cried Will. "That was a human cry. It sounded from in there, too. What can it mean?" The cry was repeated with greater intensity than before. Will rushed to the door and looked in. The whole interior was now on fire from end to end. Great tongues of flame were reaching up through the open trap into the loft. "Help, h e lp, for the love of heaven!" came in tones of strong anguish through the opening. "My goodness There is some one up there. His only chance to escape is to burst open that closed wooden shut ter above. Why doesn't he do it?" The screams 6f the imprisoned man now grew agoniz ing. He pounded frantically on the walls and on the closed window shutter, but h e did not seem to know how to open the latte r from within. "Help! Help:! I am burning to death! Help in heaven's name!" "I must help him some how," cried Will, casting the rubber covering from him. "It mu s t be some tramp who went up there to s l eep ; but I cannot see even a tramp perish without l ending him a helping hand. How shall I reach him? Ah, the tree!" In a moment Will was shinning up the thick trunk of Uf e great oak. Never before had he climbed a tree with greater speed and energy. But now he lia:d reason for speed, for a human life was in dire peril. He swung himself out on the limb which extended above the roof of the barn. Dropping down on the wet and slippery roof, he crawled up until he was above the closed shutter of the loft. Letting himself down till his feet were in a suitable position, he began to kick away vigorously at the shutter. The man inside heard him and ru s hing up to it cried: "Save me! For h eaven's sake, save me! The fire has reach ed the loft. I am nearly suffoc ated." "Open the window," cr i ed Will. "How can I?" "Turn the bar that holds it, and push it open." Luckstone fumbl e d about through the smoke which was choking him, grasped the wooden bar and tried to turn it. It was stiff, how:ever, from dis use and resisted l1is efforts.

PAGE 13

PAGE 14

DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. 13 "Yes." "Do you regard Mr Skinner as a friend?" "W elll hardly that," chuckled Luckstone. "Have you any reason to suspect that he would want to injure you?" "Why do you ask that question, Melville?" the West erner asked, clearly startled. "For the best of reasons, Mr. Luckstone," replied Will, gra"\'ely. "What are your reasons?" "If you will answer my question I will tell you." "Well, I haven t the least fear that "Skinner would try to injure me-he's too much of a coward for that; but I'll t e ll you frankly that I believe he would hail the news of my death with a g reat deal of satisfaction." '"I'm afraid, Mr. Luckstone, that you underestimate Mr. Skinner's courage, for it was he who set that barn on fire to-night, and I saw him do it." "You saw Skinner set :fire to that barn? You actually saw him do that?" asked Luckstone, hardly believing the evidence of his ear s "I did. Listen and I will tell you the whole story." Will then told Luckstone what he had seen Of Mr. Skin ner's actions in the old barn which culminated in his set ting :fire to the building. The man from the West uttered an angry oath when the boy haa finished his story "The sneaky scoundrel!" he ejaculated. "So he meant to do me up for good I won't do a thing to him for this Thought he'd save that $2,300 balance, did he? Well, I'll have no mercy on him now. I'll ruin the villain and send him to prison if there's law and justice in this land. Even if it costs me my own freedom to do it. Will Melville, you saved me from becoming a victim to that rascal's per fidy. I mean to show my gratitude by seeing that you get your rights." "Ge t my rights! What do you mean?" asked the sur prised boy. "You shall know to-morrow. You shall hear the whole truth." "The whole truth about what?" "About the wrong that ma:;i did your father out in Cripple Creek." Will uttered a gasp of surprise 1 "Explain what you mean, Mr. Luckstone," criad the boy, grasping the man eagerly by the arm. "What do you know about my father?" "I won't tell you now. All I will say at present is that your father's death lies directly at Amos Skinner's door, and that much of that man's prosperity was built upon the money that rightfully belonged to your mother and yourself. Skinner has deeply wronged you, boy, and I am sorry to say that I abetted in the transaction for the sake of the money I gained by so doing. But that wrong must now be righted. Skinner shall be made to disgorge. He shall be brought to book for your father's death, and for his attempt on my life to-night. You are my witness for the latter, I will be your witness for the former. Between us, my lad, we will put the villain through." "Do you really mean that Mr. Skinner was responsible for my father's death?" "I do." "And yet I always understood he was my father's friend." "He was a false, treacherous friend. Your father trust-ed him and was betrayed." "I can hardly realize that what you accuse Mr. Skinner of is the truth," saicl Will, in a troubled voice. "Haven't your own eyes shown you to-night what Amos Skinner is capable of? Did you not see him go to work with the utmost deliberation to murder me?" "Yes," admitted the boy. "I am the only witness who can bring him to book for the crime against your father. I am a dangerous man to hi s interests. I have him hard and fast under my thumb. For these reasons he naturally wanted to sweep me from his path. He has failed, thanks to you. It was a lucky thing f.or both of us that you happened to be on hand to defeat his purpose. From this hour I will sink my own intere s ts in yours I will no longer use my power over that rascal for my own gain, but I will exert all my efforts to see that your father is avenged, and that you shall receive what is jus tly yours." "Do you mean to assert that Mr. Skinner defrauded my father of his money, too?" "I mean to say in the of words that he delib erately robbed your father of his share of the money re ceived from the sale of the Rainbow Claim, the sum of$20,000." "Twenty thousand dollars!" "Ah, $20,000 !" "How do you know this?" "Because I caught him in the act of doing it." "You did. And you never--" "Brought him to account for it? No, I now regret to say that I did not. Instead of doing that I accepted$5,000 of that money as the price of my silence." "You did?" "I did." Will regarded Jacob Luckstone with a look of aversion. "H all you say is true, you are almost as guilty as Mr. Skinner." "I .do not deny it; but your father was almost a stranger to me, and I did not have any part in the plot against him." "Have I your word for this?" "You have." "Do you know how my father met his death? Was he pushed over a precipice?" "No. Skinner drugged him with a dose of chloral. He asserted that he did not actually mean to kill him-merely intended to stupefy his victim so he could rob him of his money with safety. But I have only his word for'this." "Mother told me that my father was found mangled ap

PAGE 15

DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. the foot of a precipice. Mr. Skinner told her that in his opinion some desperadoe s must have l earned that my father carried his money around hi s person in a belt; that he believed they lured him to that lonesome spot, attacked and robbed him, and then threw his body the moun. tain to get rid of it. He identified my father's corpse by 11is clothes." "A man resembling your father in build and dress was found as you have described and buried in hi s name after Skinner's evidence was taken; but it may not have been your father just the same." "May not! Then you have no idea what became of my father after he was--" "Drugged by Skinner!" Luckstone regarded the boy with a curious expression for a moment. "Boy, you shall know the truth. Listen! I took your father in his unconscious condition to my cabin. He was apparently all but dead, and I agreed to bury him secretly as soon as the breath had left his body. Your father, however, did not die." "Did not die!" exclaimed Will, in a tense tone. "No. He came to himself on the following day, but his mind was gone from the effects of the overdose of poison he had received. How long he would remain in rthat condition I could not tell, but that he would not die seemed certain. This placed me in a quandary. His ulti mate recovery would spoil IIlJ' future plans with r ega rd to Skinner, whom I meant to bleed if I should ever need money. Yet I could not bring myself to complete that rascal's villainy. I had already decided to go to Mexico with my $5,000. I went, but I took your father with me, for he was as docile as a child." "You took my father to Mexico!" "I did. He recovered his health, though his mind re mained a complete blank as to the past." "And where is my father to-day?" cried Will, with feverish eagerness. "Is he still--" "Alive? Yes, and in excellent health. But Skinner must never know the truth. He must be made to-" At that moment a terrible roar sounded up the valley. The dam had given away at last 1 CHAPTER VIII. THE FLOOD. "What's that?" excla'imed Jacob Luckstone, pausing in hi s last speech and gripping Will by the arm. The storm was still at its height, while the fire had so far subsided that the rain was beating the last of it into a mass of blackening embers. The boy held his breath and listened. He was afraid to say what he was thinking. He could hear a mile or more away what seemed to his excited fancy the onward rush of a great body of water. If this was the truth then the big dam had given away and Arliugton Valley would soon be flooded from end to end "The dam," he said in a hoarse whisper at last. "What dam? What are you talking about?" asked the Weste rner impatiently. "The dam above the village I fear has given "Well, s'pose it has? We're not in any dang er, are we?" "We should be -swept off our feet by the flood ana probably drowned." "Then let's get somewhere else." "We'll go to my boat in the creek. I want to attend to it. anyway." "I'm with you," said Luckstone. They set out at once for the creek, only a short distance away. Will found his sailboat all right, though the creek risen more than a foot-since he was there that afternoon. "Get into the cuddy," he said to his companion. "I'll follow you as soon as I hitch the boat higher up." Will released the boat's painter and pulled the little craft up to the head of the creek, where he fastened the line to a stout tree close to the edge of the bank, now scarce ly foot above the water line. Then he jumped on board and hastened under cover. It was but the work of a few moments to feel for matches, which he always kept in a certain place and light the lantern at the forward end of the cuddy. This gave a bright illumination to the interior. From under one of the lockers he produced a red papiermache bucket and placed it in the center of the floor. Taking off his jacket he began to squeeze the super fluous moisture into it, and advisea his companion to do the same. "This isn't a bad place to spend the balance of the night," remarked Luckstone, looking about the cosy cuddy. "Whose boat i s it, Skinner' s? "No, it's mine," replied Will, as he hung his jacket up to dry. "Not much. to brag of I ll admit, but still it's all mine-the only thing I ever owned." As the boy spoke the sailboat, which had been riding uneasily at her moorings, rose up suddenly, as if pro pelled into the air from undern eath. Then she shot backward, as far as her painter would let her go, and fetched up with a jerk that sent both Will and Luckstone sprawling in a heap on the floor. The shock caused the line to snap short off close aboard, and when the boy and his companion picked themselves up both realized that the boat was adrift. Will rushed to the slide, or cuddy door which he had almost shut to keep out the rain, shoved it open and looked out. PAGE 16 s y 0 d td to ce '11 lle he )W [or rnd the 1er do the l dy. up all ling )rOlet and ard, ; up had and DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. 15 Clearly the little craft was moving along upon the sur-j "\\. e'rc anchored m a tree," he said his companion face of a body of water at a smart pace. o ver hi:,; shoulder. Will unshipped the lantern and raised it at arm's length "Will it hold the boat against the tide?" asked Luck-outs ide the cuddy. stone. B y its glow the boy could see an agitated mass of water on b oth sides. H e was now sure that the dam had given away, for nothing but a heavy onrush of water from above the vil l a g e coulc1 have overflowed the cre e k and torn the sailboat from h e r anc horage, sending her drifting down the valley at the m e r c y of the stream. The rain was still coming down in torrent s driven hithe r an d thithe r by the bla s t anc1 the night was so dark that Will had no idea of the e xt ent of the flood. 1 It w as useless for him to think of taking mea sures to g ui de t11e craft, a s h e could not se e a yard on e way or the other. "That is rather doubtful." "Have you a rope aboard to make fast to the trunk?" "Yes, I've a spare line," replied Will. "I'll make the boat secure if I can." "I'll help you," said the Westerner. Between them they succeeded in securing the sailboat tc tl1e trunk of the tree, so that if the flood swung her loos e from the bran c hes, as it was very likely to do in time, they would still swing at anchor. "This i s safe r than being swept along at the mercy of t h e w ater, s a i d the boy after the job had been completed. "We shan' t run into anything now and be upset." "But som ething ma y run into us, just as we ran inb i h e t r ee, and s end us to the bottom." "We' ll have to take our chanc e s of fet c hing up against "That's true," a n s wer e d will; "but in that case we c a n an y obstru c tion that happens to g e t in our way," he s aid c l imb into tl1e tre e,,whi c h is pretty solid, I guess." to Luc k s tone a s he returned the lantern to its hook. "It R e movin g th e ir s oak e d g arments anu wrapping thcmis s impl y a m atter of blind luck with us now. I can't t e ll . 7 h tl th t th' t selves rn a blank e t api ece which'' ill had m a locker, the y w e 1er we re on e river a is momen or are movm g 1 1 d tl ft h h th b d f tl 11 If th f rec m e upon 1 e oor near eac ot er. over e o y o ie va ey. e armer, we re com. . t 1 f f th 1 tt 1 bl t t The r am sti ll beat d o wn on the top of the little cabm para 1 v e y s a e; i e a er, we re ia e a any momen . . t b tt t b 'ld' 1 d t w ith una b a t e d v1gor, the drivmg blast whistl e d through o u u p a"am s a ui mg or some nn or a ree, or . d d f t fa tl d ,, t h e hmb s of the tree and the light boat bobbe up an rn a c a n y o. 1mg in our roa "' tl t t tl t 't h down on the une asy surface of the water. "-' rom ie way you pu 1 1e prospec isn over c eer. . f l ,, a L 1 t As the excit e m ent of the ir sibrnbon somewhat sub s ided, '\.1 s a 1 u c rn on e Will was eage r to talk about his father in far-away M ex" No, i t i s n 't," replied Will. T h e n that dam you s poke p ieces? ico, but Lucksto n e s a i d h e was tire d and wanted to get a about really gone to little more r est if h e c o uld. "There i s n t much doubt about it." The boy was gre atly di s appointed but as th e m 111 w ouldn t talk h e h a d to s ubm i t for the pre s e nt. E v e r happen before?" I t J b f L I t d d ir t I t w as n o n g e or e uc rn one roppe ou o s "Many times." and thou g h Will, consc ious of the danger of their positi::in, "Why d o n t the y make the dam strong enough to hold trie d t o k ee p i is eyes o p e n, h e too, yielded to the influba c k the water? e n c e of the drow s y god. "They' v e be e n strengthenin g it for years, but somehow Fortuna t e l y nothin g happened to imperil the sailboat the w a t e r manages to get the better of the situation. This, ( lurin g the r e maining hours of darkness, and the sleepers however i s the fir s t break in three years. It has been the 1 \YCre n o t d i s turbed. g e neral opinion this spring that there wouldn't be ;;ny m o re flood s-that the valley was safe at last; but just th e s ame we' r e up again s t 'it a g ain. Lots of damage will be done b efore the waters subside." "Tha t i s g e nerally the case with floods. If we don't meet with an y--" Obstruction, he was going to say, but just at that mo men t the r a n into some floating object, and the words were c hok e d back down his throat. No dama g e was done, howeYe r. For awhile the boat floated on down the submerged valle y as before, then with a slight shock she came to a stop. CH APTER IX. A H E S CU E A KD A WRECK. :Morning brok e at last over the Arlington Valley. What a change had taken place there since the preced ing day. The narrow :Maple R i ver, which wound down from the north ern to the southern end of the valley, had expanded into an inland sea, covering every bit of the low ground in sight. Will went to the cuddy door again and looked out. The same old scenes of ruin and chaos which had acAt fir s t he could s e e nothing but the opaque darkness' companied the former floods were repeated. all around, th e n he made out the shivering branches of al The ground floors of a score or more of farmhouses big tre e in which the mast had caught. were more or less submerged, while the smaller outbuild- PAGE 17 16 DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. ings, not so securely fixeu to the earth, had become dis lodged and floated away with the current Barns rose out of the water here and there, like Noahs Arks aground, and s mall orchards showed only their bare branches above the surface. The v illage of Maywood, being largely built on higher ground, escaped the worst features of the flood, the cellars only being flooded and the streets awash. The storm had partially subs ided when Will woke up and went to the door of the cuddy to look out. It was still raining hard, and the wind was swaying the branches of the tree to which the sailboat was tied. Dark and sullen clouds hung low in the heavens, and He headed the boat across thQ stretch of intervening water. "That building looks as if it was just about to go afloat," said Luckstone. "That's what it does. .And that's just what it will do very soon," answered Will. "It's lucky for them that we are close at hand." The boy ran the sailboat as close as he could to the window, which was not more than a foot above the water, and, handing helm over to Luckstone, he grabbed the dow sill with both hands and drew the craft close against the house. "Now step in, madam," he said to the woma.n. the prospect of the weather changing for the better was "I can't," she replied. "I am crippled. You will have not encouraging. to assist me." Still the light of day had banished the greater terror of "All right," replied Will. "I'll take the little girl and uncertainty which had tortured the inhabifirst." tant s of the valley since the flood first came upon them He put out one leg to straddle the sill when a sudden like a thief in the night . u rl 1 1 lf d d 1 h kl h g ust of wmd tore down on the house, wrenched the boat vv i got mto us rn -ne c ot es as qmc y as e ' d from under him and left him up to his waist in the :!loo could, and by that time Jacob Luckstone woke up and Proceeded to do likewise. "How 's things this morning?" "Pretty fierce," replied Will. "The valley is almost wholl y flooded. I don't think it was ever worse." "Whew! What a change in a night!" exclaimed the Westerner when he look ed out on the l andscape himself. "The village, as near as I can make out, seems to be all right." "Yes. It is on high ground." "A lucky thing for the inhabitants. The river has risen to their doors, however. Can you see Skinner's place from here?" "No. It's arnund yonder line of trees." "I s'pose he's flooded out with the rest." "The fie lds are under water to some extent, and bis cellar is full up, I guess; but he will suffer less than the majority, owing to the lay of his land." "What are we going to do?" "Get up sail and make for Maywood.'' "All right. I'll help you all I can We seem to be in for another ducking, for it's still raining good and hard." 'iVill led the way outside, and Luckstone helped him take the stops off the sail. After that they cut loose from the tree and raised the sail with a couple of reefs in it. Hardly had they got underway before Will caught sight oI a woman waving a handkerchief at them from one of the lower windows of a partially submerged house. He could also see a child's face peeping out above the window sill. The building was about a quarter of a mile away, and seemed in imminent danger of collapsing, for it rocked visibly every time the wind swooped down upon it. "My gracious! Look yonder," said Will, calling his compani o n's attention to the house and its two occupants. "We'll have to go to their rescue." clinging to the window. "Look out," he cried to the woman. "I've got to scramble in." He performed this maneuver with the agility of a. monkey and straddled the window sill. Then he looked around for the boat and perceived it a dozen yards off, sweeping away on the tide. He shouted to Luckstone to starboard the helm, but the man from the West was all at sea in a sailboat. He didn't know the first thing about managing one and seemed to be as helpless in the craft as an infant. "Your boat is leaving us,'' exclaimed the woman, in anxious tones. "I'm afraid my companion doesn't understand how to handle her," he said "My gracious! She's over!" he cried, in some excitement. Another blast had pounced upon the sailboat and cap s ized her, throwing Luckstone into the water. He caught hold of the boom, however, and the la s t seen of him and the boat, as they were swept far down the stream, showed him to be in the same position, holding on for dear life. "Oh, what shall we do?" cried the woman, in a paroxism of fear. "This house may tumble over any moment, and we sha ll all be drowned." "I hope not, ma'am," Will tried to reassure her. "It rocks some, but I think the storm is blowing over/' The room was a complete wreck. The lighter portions of the furniture were overturned and almost entirely covered by the water. The plaster on the walls was cracked in a dozen spots, and in one place a couple of square feet of it had fallen out altogether The pictures still hung from their nails, but they were a n askew. Although the boy tried to make the situation look as \ PAGE 18 DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. 17 cheerful as he could, yet in his oWn. heart he feared the [ How long he could have managed to do this, impeded building was going to collapse very soon. as he was by his clothes, is a question, but fortunately he He went to one of the other windows and looked out was not put to the test, for a log came within hi s reacli to see if there was the ghost of a chance of escape in that pretty soon and he seized hold of it. direction, but he couldn't see any, This buoyed him up and he allowed things to take their From certain well-defined indications the water seemed course, as he could not very well do otherwise. to be over his head. He was swept down the valley with the other debris on Suddenly he saw two men in a rowbqat a short distance the stream. away. He saw several boats rowing to different houses, but he They were pulling down toward a big house half a mile was too far off to attract their attention. distant. The rain beat down on his face and the wind buffeted Will threw up the window and shouted to them until at the log, but through it all the boy clung to it desperately length he attracted their attention. as his only salvation. They immediately altered their course and stood for the Mile after mile he was carried along in this fashion, house. until he became sensible of a growing feeling of exhaus"There's a boat coming for us," said the boy, dashing tion. across the room to the spot where the woman and the child Once he tried to get astride of the log, but it rolled over sat on the top of a table. and dumped him off on the opposite side, nearly shaking They did not hear him, however, for at that moment a him from his hold. sweeping blast struck the building so violently that Will When he reached that stage that he feared he could felt the house lift up and shift its position. hold on no longer he made out the top of a imall shed It settled down again at an angle, as if a portion of the !:lwimming jus t ahead of him. foundation had given away, and there it rocked to and fro. Here was a chance not to be neglected. The woman and both screamed with affright. Summoning all his remaining energy, he abandoned the They seemed to think the building was about to sink Jog, swam to the shed and pulled himself on top of it. undei; the water. Quite exhausted, he stretched himself upon it, and, Will grabbed the woman's crutch and placing his arm he edless of rain and wind, he lay there for fifteen minutes under her told her to cling to his neck. without s tirring. Then he caught the little girl by the hand, bade her At last he sat up and looked around. jump into the water, and thus encumbered started for the He was now miles down the valley from the neighboropposite window as the building reeled once more under hood of Maywood. another blast. On every side there were evidences of the severity of The crippled woman clung to Will in a state of abject the flood. terror. He saw a raft at a di s tance with a whole family and a Just when the wobbling house seemed on the point of part of their household belongings heaped upon it. turning completely over into the rushing waters help sudOne rowboat he saw also loaded with women and makdenly appeared at the open window. ing for the nearest shore. The cripp led woman, perched on the brave boy's shoulThe storm seemed to be up, for the wind der and the little girl uttered a glad cry. wasn't quite so s trong as before, and it had ceased raining. One of the men in the boat stood up, seized the window The sky, however, looked :is threatening as ever. jamb s and steadie d the craft, while the other endeavored For an hour longer the s hed held on its course in the to overcome the sweep of the tide with the oars. middle of the stream, then as it approached the end of Will soon reached the window with the helpless woman the valley it drew close in to the s hore, at a point where and little girl. the Maple River itself turned a spur in the hills. He passed each in turn carefully through the window to "I might as well stick to this craft as long as it fl.oats, the man outside, who placed them in the center of the for I wouldn't know where to walk to if I landed down boat. here," said Will to himself. "Besides if I keep on I may Then Will leaped on the siil to follow, when the roaring eventually come up with Mr. Luckstone, if he was not wind once more came sweeping down on the house. drowned. The whole object of my life now is to reach As he grabbed the window to steady himself the house Mexico and meet my fath er. I am afraid I never will be went over on its side, throwing him into the water, and able to accomplish my purpose unless I can come across he was swept away like a cork. that Wes terner again. He seem5 to be friendly toward CHAPTER X. BOUND WEST. Will was a good swimmer and thus managed to keep himself afloat as soon as he came to tlie surface. me and disposed to work in my intere s t It is probable if we miss each other he will return to that country. In that case I must go there, too, and hunt around until I can find some trace of him." Will" had not a very clear idea how he would be able to PAGE 19 DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. rea ch Mexico, which was thousands of miles away; but he had confidence in the old adage that where there is a will the re is a way. After passing the bend in the stream the shed was carried out from shore again, and for hours kept on its course till it reached the main part of the Maple River. A few miles below Will was carried by a big manufacturing and railroad town. H e re he was discovered by a sloop bound down the river and rescued from his precarious situation. He was half-famished by this time, and glad to accept the rough hospitality offered by the skipper of this craft. He told the story of the flood in the Arlington Valley so far as he was acquainted with its details, and the captain promised to land him in the morning at Reedsburg, a good-sized city, whither the sloop was bound H e was advised to turn into a spare bunk in a dark hole forwa.rd, which was called the forecastle, and was g lad to ava il himself of the suggestion Next morning at ten o'clock he stepped ashore at Reeds burg, a strange r in a strange place, and without a penny in his pocket. He had now given up all hope of an immediate meeting with Luckstone. "The only thing I can do is to work my way to Mexico. It may take me some time to do that, but I'll get there all right," he muttered pluckily. "The first thing I must do is to capture a job of some kind. I've got to eat or sta rve, and I s'pose it's up to me to work for my victuals." It wasn't easy for a strange, ill-attired boy to pick up employment in a place where he was a total stranger Will tried hard that afternoon to get something to do, but was unsuccessfu l. Hungry and tired he stopped before a small eating house just as the shades of night were falling and looked wistfully in at the door at the people at the tables. Finally he mustered up the courage to strike the pro prietor for a sandwich "You want something to eat, do you?" asked the man, who was taking money behind a small counter. "Yes, sir." "Are you willing to work ior it?" "I am." "Well, I am short-handed and can give you a job wash ing dishes." "I'll take it," said Will, eagerly. The proprietor called up a waiter and told him to take the boy into the kitchen and turn him over to the cook as a h elper at the dish trough. Will worked pretty steeadily and satisfactor il y for two hours and a half and was then given his supper and twenty -fiv e cents. One of the waiters took him to a cheap lod ging-house where he put up himself, and Will spent fifteen cents for a bed Next morning after spending the remaining dime for a cup of coffee and a plate of rolls, Will started out to lrnstle for work again. He was not successful, and late in the afternoon found himself near the freight yards of a trunk railroad line. He struck up an acquaintance with a boy who was also hanging around the yard, and they had quite a talk to -gether. "So you want to get to Mexico, do you?" grinned the boy. "I do," replied Will "That's a long way off. It's a tough country, I've heard. Nobody lives there but Greasers." "Who are Greasers?" asked Will, innocently "That's a kind of nickname for the illexicans," replied hi,; companion. "Some of them are a low-uown :;et. I 1rnuldn't go there if I was you." "But I have a reason for wanting to go there," s:ei-d Will. "How are you going to get there without money?" "I've been looking for work to make some e"er :;ince I landed l1ere yesterday, but I l1aven't caught on to any thing yet." "Rad anything to eat to-day?" "Nothing but coffee and rolls this morning." "Well, come over to the house with me. My mother will give you something to eat. Then maybe I can put you on to something that'll help you on your way." Will, gl ad of a chance to get anyLhihg in the shape of food, accompanied bis new acquaintance to his home, whi c h was a sma ll cottage hard by the yards. The boy, whose father was employed in the freight :yard, introduced \\ill to his mother and stated why he had brought him there. She was a thoroughly hospitable Iris h woman, : :mu soon spread a substantial repast before the hungry boy. After will had eaten all he could, 8he put up a package of food for him at her son's request. "'Now we will go hack to the yard," said Will's new companion. They did so. "The quickest way you can get out West, for you ha rn to go West to reach Mexico, by rail, and the ch ea pest way Jio go by rail i s to beat your way," grinned the boy. "Beat my way? What do you mean?" "Don't you know what beating your way is?" "No," replied Will, shaking his head. "There are various ways of doing it. It's a favorite way of travel for tramps. It is rather unpleasant, and often rather dangerous; but I think I can fix you a ll right as far as Cincinnati, at any rate. You see that freight car yonder ?" "Yes. "It's an empty belonging to the C. H. & D. road, and goes back to Cincinnati on that train they've been making up this afternoon. The train pulls out of the yard at seven to-night. That car door isn't locked. All you've got to do is to get into that. car, close the door again, and then out a1 as fa1 out t too n "E objec "I back Yom W: an::ti4 tr air awa} of t1 desi ishE 0.] in l fair neJ I his in an) mu :ful th1 sa1 Ill do br te gi iv PAGE 20 DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. 19 o then you'll be. as snug as you please till you want to get The milkman continued on his route, and Will, feeling cut again. I tliink mother put up enough stuff to last you like a new boy, though he was still hungry enough to get G as far as the car goes. At any rate, I hope it won't. give away with a pretty big meal, started to walk down into the out too soon. It all depends on your appetite. Don't eat business section of the big city. o too much at a time, but try to make it last." He was fortunate enough to see a man in a commission "Bu I haven't any right to steal a ride on that car," house hanging out a sign marked "Boy Wanted," and he objected Will. immediately applied for the position. "Don' t y ou worry about that. The car has got to go The fact that. he was a s tranger in the city almost spoiled back anyway. What' s the difference if you go inside of it. his chances; but he put up such a strong plea that he was Your wei ght won t hurt the rails any," he chuckled. finally taken on trial. Will allowed himself to be persuaded, as he was very He went about his new duties in such a bright and an xi ous to g o Wes t a s s oon as he could, so when the freight earnest way that he produced a favorable impression in train pull ed out of the yard at "/ :10 our hero was dozing the store. awa y in the corn e r of freight car No. 999, in the middle There was only a dollar coming to him at the end of his of the long line of cars. first three days' services, as he had been compelled to draw something every day to support himself. The merchant, however, appreciating his situation, adCHAPTER XI. vanced him half of his next week's wages of$6, and that carried him through until the next pay-day. STRANDED IN MEXICO. After that it was plain sailing with him, and he began to save a little each week. It was a Jong and slow ride to Cincinnati on the freight, Although Will was extremely anxious to get to Mexico and though Will husbanded his food he finished the la s t in order to fina some trace of Jacob Luckstone, whom he mouthful nearly twenty-four hours before he reached the was pretty confident had not perished in the Arlington de s tin tion of car No. 999, consequently he was a famValley flood, still prudence told him not to sacrifice the ished boy when he finally left the freight yards of the pos ition he had obtained until he had at least accumulated G F.(. & D. road. 1 money e nough to help out the great object of his life. H e showe d the effects of his long fast in his face, and Therefore Will stuck to the commission house, doing his in the shaky condition of his limbs; in fact, he soon felt so level be s t to please his employer. faint and sick that he had to sit down on the steps of a In this he succeeded so well that in six months he was nearby hou se. promoted to a better situation in the store, and his pay It was q uite early in the morning, and a milkman going was rai sed to $8 a week. his rounds, noticing his appearance, stopped and asked him Four month s later another vacancy occurring he received if he was s ick. his second promotion, and a raise to$10. "No, I'm not sick, but I'm half starved. I haven't had During the fir s t six months he had not been able to save anythin g to eat or drink since yesterday morning, and not very much, as he had clothes and many other things to much to speak of then," replied Will, in a hollow voice. buy, which made a hole in his small surplus; but with his "Well, you look it," answered the milkman. first raise he began to do very much better, and now, when H e stepped back to his wagon and got a 'quart measure he was advanced to $10 his savings commenced to assume full of milk. a very appearance in his bankbook. "Drink it down," he said, handing the can to Will, and He was getting on very nicely, with the prospects of a the n he passed a round into the back yard of the house. further promotion in the house, when, through a heavy "I've a s andwic.h in the wagon I'll give you, too," he embezzlement on the part of the cashier, Will's employer said, when he came back. failed, and he was thrown out of work. He brought it to Will. With$230 in his pocket Will decided he would no longer "That ought to put new life in you for a while," he redelay his long-contemplated trip to Mexico. mark ed. It is true he realized that he was bound on something of The boy bit into it voraciou s ly, finishing it in half a a wild-goose chase, as he had only a vague notion of the dozen bites. mountainous district where he hoped to find Jac6b Luck"That tas t e d good, I can tell you," said Will, drawing a stone; but he had plenty of energy and courage, backed by breath of relief. "I'm awfully obliged to you. I fee l bet\an inward conviction that he would surely succeed in the ter already." end. "Of course you do. I only wish I had something more to Therefore, it was without the slightest misgivings that give you." h e purchased a ticket to EI Paso, and boarded a Santa Fe "You've done a lot for me as it is," replied Will, grate-train for the southwest. fully. When Will arrived at the Mexican border town he found

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28 DOING HIS LEVEL BEST. "And we-your father and I-have been searching the States for a trace of you, too. The Pinkertons have had the case in hand for nearly a year-in fact, ever since your father recovered his right senses." "What!" cried the boy joyfully, "is father all right again?" "He is-as good as he ever was." "Hurrah!" exclaimed Will, feeling like standing on his head through sheer delight. "Start back, boys," said Luckstone, waving the men to their horses. "The boy and I will follow on foot. Where the dickens did you disappear to after the boat carried me away that morning?" continued the man, turning again to Will. "I was going to ask you the same question," replied the boy. "Oh, I was driven ashore about five miles down the valley. From there I made my way along the foothills above the flood line to Maywood. I put up at the hotel and wait ed till the storm blew over, which it did about noon. Then I started out to hunt you up, but not a trace could I find of you. I waited around Maywood for a week, by which time the flood had greatly subsided. A fierce lot of damage had been done by the water, I can tell you. I had almost come to the conclusion that you had been drowned when I saw a paragraph in the local paper which stated that a boy, who gave his name as Will Melville, and said he lived near Maywood, had been picked off a floating shed by a sloop, way down the Maple river near Carrolton, and landed at Reedsburg. I hustled to that town, but could find no trace of you. Then I came back to Maywood and called on Amos Skinner. I accused him of trying to burn me up in the old barn. He denied it. I said I had a witness, however, and would produce him unless he came up with double the amount I had assessed him for that evening when I made my first call. The bluff worked, in connection with the hold I already had on him, and he gave me $5,000. With this in my pocket I came back here and purchased the Sierra Madre mines for the joint account of your father and myself. It wasn't long after that when your father recovered his memory. He was astonished to find himself in Mexico. I let him have the whole story of Skinner's crookedness, his wife's death, and your disappearance. It broke him all up, I can tell you. After a time he insisted he must return to the States, and see if he could get any trace of you. He went to Maywood and presented himseH before the panic-stricken Skinner. What occurred between them I'll leave for him to tell you by and by. At any rate, he made Skinner stump up his$20,000 with full interest, without any deductions for what I had squeezed That's about all I can tell you in a rough way. N'ow, my, lad, let me have your story." Will was glad to tell Luckstone of his adventures and endeavors to get ahead since that fateful morning when the flood parted them in the Arlington Valley, and had barely concluded his narrative when the party reached the Sierra Madre mines. The reunion of father and son was very touching, and the reader may well believe they had lots to say to each other. It was not till Will retired that that his thoughts recurred to the silver -str eaked stones he had in his pocket. The first thing he did next morning was to show them to his father. "Why, where did you pick up these specimens?" asked Mr. Melville, in some excitement. "It is purer silver ore than anything we have taken from the Sierra; Madre so far." Will told him. Luckstone was summoned to a consultation at once. When he heard the boy's story he became greatly excited, too. Horses were brought out, and the party of three visited the La Veta N egra. They had provided themselves with lanterns and sun dry small tools for inspecting the vein of silver they expected to find. Will's accidental discovery of silver ore in the Black Vein proved to be of the greatest value. Before it was made publicly known George Melville obtain.ed possession in his own name from the Mexican gov ernment of the La Veta N egra. When everything had been satisfactorily arranged a force of peons were put to work in the mine, and the ore that soon came to light astonished the country. All the profit, of course, went to Will, and to-day he is one of the richest young fellows in the State 0 G hihua hua, being worth several millions, with twice as much more in prospect. He lives with his father in a splendid modern hacienda on the suburbs of the village of Los Saucillo s, where it iii said that the prettiest of Senor Martinez's daughters will ere long rule as mistress. And so, wishing him every happiness, we leave him as !f boy who, rich though he is, is still Doing His Level Best THE END. Read "ALWAYS ON DECK; OR, THE BOY WHO MADE HIS MARK," which will be the next number (48) of "Fame and Fortune Weekly." him out of. That left the old rascal pretty flat. Then SPECIAL NOTICE: All back numbers of this weekly your father consulted the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and are always in print. If you cannot obtain them from any offered them a reward of \$5,000 to find you, which they are send the price in money or postage stamps by still tryihg to earn. Having nothing more to do he came mail to FRANK TOUSEY, PUBpSHER, 24 UNION back he:i:e, and has been here ever since, hopefully e"xpectSQUARE, YORK, and you will receive the copies ant that he would get word about you at any moment, you order by return mail.

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