"Jack," said Herbert, "shall we invite Mr. Compton to visit our mine?"
"No," answered Jack Holden; "I am willing to keep it."
"Wouldn't you sell?"
"Yes, if I could get my price."
"What is your price?"
"Twenty-five thousand dollars for the whole mine!"
"That is twelve thousand five hundred for mine," said Herbert, his cheek flushing with the excitement he felt.
"You've figured it out right, my lad," said his partner.
"That would leave me twelve thousand after I have paid up Mr. Melville for the sum I paid in the beginning."
"Right again, my lad."
"Why, Jack!" exclaimed Herbert. "Do you know what that means? It means that I should be rich—that my mother could move into a nicer house, that we could live at ease for the rest of our lives."
"Would twelve thousand dollars do all that?"
"No; but it would give me a fund that would establish me in business, and relieve me of all anxiety. Jack, it's too bright to be real."
"We may not be able to sell the mine at that figure, Herbert. Don't let us count our chickens before they are hatched, or we may be disappointed. I'm as willin' to keep the mine as to sell it."
"Jack, here is Mr. Compton coming," said Herbert.
The capitalist paused, and addressing Herbert, said:
"Have you anything to do with the mine, my lad?"
"I am half owner," answered Herbert, promptly, and not without pride.
"Who is the other half owner?"
"Mr. Holden," answered Herbert, pointing out Jack.
"May I examine the mine?"
"You are quite welcome to, sir."
Possibly the fact that this mine alone had not been pressed upon him for purchase, predisposed Mr. Compton to regard it with favor. Every facility was offered him, and Jack Holden, who thoroughly understood his business, gave him the necessary explanations.
After an hour spent in the examination, Mr. Compton came to business.
"Is the mine for sale?" he asked.
"What is your price?"
"Twenty-five thousand dollars."
"Is that your lowest price?"
Jack Holden wasted no words in praising the mine, and this produced a favorable impression on the capitalist with whom he was dealing.
"I'll take it," he answered.
"Then it's a bargain."
Herbert found it difficult to realize that these few words had made him a rich boy. He remained silent, but in his heart he was deeply thankful, not so much for himself, as because he knew that he was now able to rejoice his mother's heart, and relieve her from all pecuniary cares or anxieties.
"You've made a good bargain, sir, if I do say it," said Jack Holden. "For my own part, I wasn't so particular about selling the mine, but my young partner here is differently placed, and the money will come handy to him."
"You are rather young for a mine owner," said Mr. Compton, regarding Herbert with some curiosity.
"Yes, sir; I believe I am the youngest mine owner here."
"Are you a resident of this State?"
"Only temporarily, sir. I came here with a friend whose lungs are weak."
"You expect to return to the East soon?"
"When you do, come to see me. I am a commission merchant in Boston. If it is your intention to follow a business life, I may be able to find you a place."
"Thank you, sir; I should like nothing better."
"To-morrow," said Mr. Compton, "I will come here and complete the purchase."
"Jack," said Herbert, when the new purchaser of the mine had left them, "there is no work for us here. Come with me, and let us together tell Mr. Melville the good news."
"A good thought, my lad!"
So the two mounted their horses, and left Deer Creek behind them. They little suspected how sorely they were needed.
CHAPTER XXXVII. TO THE RESCUE.
Herbert and his companion drew near the forest cabin, which had been the home of the former, without a suspicion that George Melville was in such dire peril. The boy was, indeed, thinking of him, but it was rather of the satisfaction his employer would feel at his good fortune.
"Somehow I feel in a great hurry to get there, Jack," said Herbert. "I shall enjoy telling Mr. Melville of my good luck."
"He's a fine chap, that Melville," said Jack Holden, meaning no disrespect by this unceremonious fashion of speech.
"That he is! He's the best friend I ever had, Jack," returned Herbert, warmly.
"It's a pity he's ailing."
"Oh, he's much stronger than he was when he came out here. All the unfavorable symptoms have disappeared."
"Maybe he'll outgrow it. I had an uncle that was given up to die of consumption, when he was about Melville's age, and he died only last year at the age of seventy-five."
"That must have been slow consumption, Jack," said Herbert, smiling. "If Mr. Melville can live as long as that, I think neither he nor his friends will have reason to complain."
"Is he so rich, lad?"
"I don't know how rich, but I know he has plenty of money. How much power a rich man has," said Herbert, musingly. "Now, Mr. Melville has changed my whole life for me. When I first met him I was working for three dollars a week. Now I am worth twelve thousand dollars!"
Herbert repeated this with a beaming face. The good news had not lost the freshness of novelty. There was so much that he could do now that he was comparatively rich. To do Herbert justice, it was not of himself principally that he thought. It was sweet to reflect that he could bring peace, and joy, and independence to his mother. After all, it is the happiness we confer that brings us the truest enjoyment. The selfish man who eats and drinks and lodges like a prince, but is unwilling to share his abundance with others, knows not what he loses. Even boys and girls may try the experiment for themselves, for one does not need to be rich to give pleasure to others.
"Come, Jack, let us ride faster; I am in a hurry," said Herbert, when they were perhaps a quarter of a mile distant from the cabin.
They emerged from the forest, and could now see the cottage and its surroundings. They saw something that almost paralyzed them.
George Melville, with a rope round his neck, stood beneath a tree. Col. Warner was up in the tree swinging the rope over a branch, while Brown, big, burly and brutal, pinioned the helpless young man in his strong arms.
"Good heavens! Do you see that?" exclaimed Herbert. "It is the road agents. Quick, or we shall be too late!"
Jack had seen. He had not only seen, but he had already acted. Quick as thought he raised his weapon, and covered Brown. There was a sharp report, and the burly ruffian fell, his heart pierced by the unerring bullet.
Herbert dashed forward, and, seizing the rope, released his friend.
"Thank Heaven, Herbert! You have saved my life!" murmured Melville, in tones of heartfelt gratitude.
"There's another of them!" exclaimed Jack Holden, looking up into the tree, and he raised his gun once more.
"Don't shoot!" exclaimed the man, whom we know best as Col. Warner; "I'll come down."
So he did, but not in the manner he expected. In his flurry, for he was not a brave man, outlaw though he was, he lost his hold and fell at the feet of Holden.
"What shall we do with him, Mr. Melville?" asked Jack. "He deserves to die."
"Don't kill him! Bind him, and give him up to the authorities."
"I hate to let him off so easy," said Jack, but he did as Melville wished. But the colonel had a short reprieve. On his way to jail, a bullet from some unknown assailant pierced his temple, and Jerry Lane, the notorious road agent, died, as he had lived, by violence.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. CONCLUSION.
It had been the intention of George Melville to remain in Colorado all winter, but his improved health, and the tragic event which I have just narrated, conspired to change his determination.
"Herbert," he said, when the business connected with the sale of the mine had been completed, "how would you like to go home?"
"Yes, you don't suppose I would remain here alone?"
"If you feel well enough, Mr. Melville, there is nothing I should like better."
"I do feel well enough. If I find any unfavorable symptoms coming back, I can travel again, but I am anxious to get away from this place, where I have come so near losing my life at the hands of the outlaws."
There was little need of delay. Their preparations were soon made. There was an embarrassment about the cottage, but that was soon removed.
"I'll buy it of you, Mr. Melville," said Jack Holden.
"I can't sell it to you, Mr. Holden."
"I will give you a fair price."
"You don't understand me," said George Melville, smiling. "I will not sell it, because I prefer to give it."
"Thank you, Mr Melville, but you know I am not exactly a poor man. The sale of the mine—-"
"Jack," said Melville, with emotion, "would you have me forget that it is to you and Herbert that I owe my rescue from a violent and ignominious death?"
"I want no pay for that, Mr. Melville."
"No, I am sure you don't. But you will accept the cabin, not as pay, but as a mark of my esteem."
Upon that ground Jack accepted the cottage with pleasure. Herbert tried to tempt him to make a visit to the East, but he was already in treaty for another mine, and would not go.
The two stayed a day in Chicago on their way to Boston.
"I wonder if Eben is still here?" thought Herbert.
He soon had his question answered. In passing through a suburban portion of the great city, he saw a young man sawing wood in front of a mean dwelling, while a stout negro was standing near, with his hands in his pockets, surveying the job. He was the proprietor of a colored restaurant, and Eben was working for him.
Alas, for Eben! The once spruce dry-goods clerk was now a miserable-looking tramp, so far as outward appearances went. His clothes were not only ragged, but soiled, and the spruce city acquaintances whom he once knew would have passed him without recognition.
Eben turned swiftly as he heard his name called, and a flush of shame overspread his face.
"Is it you, Herbert?" he asked, faintly.
"Yes, Eben. You don't seem very prosperous."
"I never thought I should sink so low," answered Eben, mournfully, "as to saw wood for a colored man."
"What are you talkin' about?" interrupted his boss, angrily. "Ain't I as good as a worfless white man that begged a meal of vittles of me, coz he was starvin'? You jest shut up your mouf, and go to work."
Eben sadly resumed his labor. Herbert pitied him, in spite of his folly and wickedness.
"Eben, do you owe this man anything?" he added.
"Yes, he does. He owes me for his dinner. Don't you go to interfere!" returned the colored man.
"How much was your dinner worth?" asked Herbert, putting his hand into his pocket.
"It was wuf a quarter."
"There is your money! Now, Eben, come with me."
"I've been very unfortunate," wailed Eben.
"Would you like to go back to Wayneboro?" asked Herbert.
"Yes, anywhere," answered Eben, eagerly. "I can't make a livin' here. I have almost starved sometimes."
"Eben, I'll make a bargain with you. If I will take you home, will you turn over a new leaf, and try to lead a regular and industrious life?"
"Yes, I'll do it," answered Eben.
"Then I'll take you with me to-morrow."
"I shouldn't like my old friends to see me in these rags," said Eben, glancing with shame at his tattered clothes.
"They shall not. Come with me, and I will rig you out anew."
"You're a good fellow, Herbert," said Eben, gratefully. "I'm sorry for the way I treated you."
"Then it's all right," said Herbert. Herbert kept his promise. He took Eben to a barber shop, where there were also baths, having previously purchased him a complete outfit, and Eben emerged looking once more like the spruce dry-goods salesman of yore.
One day not long afterwards Mrs. Carr was sitting in her little sitting room, sewing. She had plenty of leisure for this work now, for Mr. Graham had undertaken to attend to the post-office duties himself. It was natural that she should think of her absent boy, from whom she had not heard for a long time.
"When shall I see him again?" she thought, wearily.
There was a knock at the outer door.
She rose to open it, but, before she could reach it, it flew open, and her boy, taller and handsomer than ever, was in her arms.
It was all she could say, but the tone was full of joy.
"How I have missed you!"
"We will be together now, mother."
"I hope so, Herbert. Perhaps you can find something to do in Wayneboro, and even if it doesn't pay as well—"
"Mother," interrupted Herbert, laughing, "is that the way to speak to a rich boy like me?"
"Yes, mother, I bring home twelve thousand dollars."
Mrs. Carr could not believe it at first, but Herbert told his story, and she gave joyful credence at last.
Eben did not receive as warm a welcome, but finally his father was propitiated, and agreed to give his son employment in his own store. He's there yet. His hard experience in the West has subdued his pride, and he has really "turned over a new leaf," as he promised Herbert. His father will probably next year give him a quarter interest in the firm, and the firm's name will be
"EBENEZER GRAHAM & SON."
Herbert and his mother have moved to Boston. Our hero is learning business in the counting room of Mr. Compton. They live in a pleasant house at the South End, and Mr. Melville, restored to a very fair measure of health, is boarding, or, rather, has his home with them. He is devoting his time to literary pursuits, and I am told that he is the author of a brilliant paper in a recent number of the North American Review. Herbert finds some time for study, and, under the guidance of his friend and former employer, he has already become a very creditable scholar in French, German and English literature. He enjoys his present prosperity all the better for the hardships through which he passed before reaching it.