ON THE TRAIL OF GOLD

KEEN on the scent of anything likely to turn to his own advantage, Lyman
Taylor arranged the very next day to make a second visit to Pocasset,
and find out definitely, if possible, whether his uncle had saved any of
the large sum which his claim had yielded him.

He hardly knew what to think. Anthony was not the man to waste money on
extravagant living, but then he might have made poor investments, and
reduced himself to a pittance. Cases of that kind were common enough in
California, as Lyman knew well enough.

He preferred, however, to think that his uncle had turned miser, and was
still the possessor of a handsome fortune. In that case, as the only
near relative, it ought to come to him some day.

“Let me see,” he mused, “how old is Uncle Anthony! Fifty-nine!” he
resumed, after a mental calculation. “That isn’t very old, but he looks
a good deal older. He is about played out—a physical wreck,” he
reflected, complacently, “and may not live a year.

“In that damp cabin it could not be expected. Of course it’s his own
lookout. If he chooses to live there, I don’t see that it’s any of my
business. I ought to come to a friendly understanding with him, and get
him to recognize me as his heir. I dare say he’s got his money hidden
away in some out-of-the-way place. It would be a sorry joke if he should
die, and it shouldn’t be found.”

Lyman shuddered uneasily, as he thought of this contingency.

“He ought to place his money in charge of some competent manager,” he
resumed. “I’d take care of it myself, and save him all business cares,
if he’d let me.”

Lyman did not appreciate the absurdity of this plan. Few persons think
themselves unfit to be trusted with money. What he thought of his own
honesty can only be conjectured. Probably he did not regard himself with
the eyes of those who knew him.

Such thoughts were passing through the mind of the hermit’s nephew, as
he was traveling from New York to Pocasset. Arrived at the depot, he set
out for the village at a brisk pace.

Presently he espied in advance of him a couple of boys, whose figures
looked familiar. It did not take him long to recall the two boys he had
met in the pasture on his former visit. Of course they were James and
Tom.

“Just the ones I want to see,” he said to himself. “I may get some news
from them.”

He quickened his pace, and soon overtook them.

“Good morning, young gentlemen!” he said, urbanely. “I believe we have
met before.”

The boys turned around. They, too, recognized him.

“Yes, sir,” answered James. “You are old Anthony’s nephew.”

“The same! I am glad you remember me. Have you seen or heard of my uncle
lately?”

“Yes; we saw him yesterday in the wood.”

“Has he recovered from his rheumatic attack?”

“I guess so,” said Tom. “He is looking pretty well now.”

“I came down to inquire his condition. I am his only relative, and
though he is prejudiced against me, I can’t help feeling anxious about
his health. Can you tell me anything about him?”

“He has that boy, Mark Manning, about him all the time.”

“What can be the boy’s object in keeping company with a poor old man,
who has no way of rewarding him?”

“I am not so sure about that,” said James.

“About what?” asked Lyman, quickly.

“About his being poor.”

“Have you any reason to think my uncle has money?” asked Lyman, eagerly,
fixing a sharp glance of inquiry on the speaker.

James looked at Tom, as if to consult him about the propriety of telling
what he knew.

“As I am his nephew and only relation, and—heir,” continued Lyman, “you
can freely tell me anything you have found out.”

“Would you?” asked James, turning to his companion.

“I don’t see why not,” returned Tom.

“Then,” said James, who rather enjoyed the prospect of telling the
story, “I’ll tell you what I saw the other day—that is, Tom and I.”

“Yes, yes, what did you see?” interrupted Lyman, eagerly.

“We were out in the woods about a quarter of a mile from the hermit’s
cabin, when we all at once heard voices. Slipping behind a tree we saw
old Anthony and Mark coming along. Mark had a spade over his shoulder.
We wondered what it all meant, and so kept hidden. Well, the two came up
to a big tree, and then measured with a tape measure to a place about a
rod distant. Then old Anthony took the spade and began to dig. But I
guess he got tired, for pretty soon he gave the spade to Mark, and got
him to dig.”

“Well?” ejaculated Lyman, who was listening with intense interest.

“Pretty soon he struck something hard. It turned out to be an earthen
pot with a cover.”

“Did they take it up?”

“No; but Mark took off the cover, and then took out, oh, such a lot of
gold pieces.”

“Just what I thought!” exclaimed Lyman, in excitement. “I was sure my
uncle kept his money hidden in the ground somewhere. Do you know how
much money he took out of the jar?”

“There must have been hundreds of dollars—maybe a thousand.”

“And what then?”

“The cover was put on again, and then Mark filled up the hole, and
covered it with leaves, so that nobody would think the ground had been
disturbed, then they went away.”

“That shows there must be more money there, don’t you think so?”

“Of course, or they wouldn’t have taken so much trouble to cover it up
again,” answered James, readily.

“You are right. I see you are sharp. What a fine detective you would
make!”

James looked pleased at this compliment, and it inclined him in favor of
the appreciative stranger.

“Do you think,” asked Lyman, after a pause, “you could find the spot
again?”

“Yes, I guess so. Why?”

“I should like to go there.”

“But,” objected James, cautiously, “what would you do if you found it?”




“I would dig down and find the jar.”

“But you would have no right to do that; the money belongs to old
Anthony.”

“Who is my uncle. But you are mistaken. I don’t want to take it. I want
to see if the gold is still there.”

“Why shouldn’t it be?”

“Because,” answered Lyman, with a lucky thought, “the boy knows where it
is. What is to prevent his going there by himself and carrying off all
there is. My uncle would have no proof that it was he.”

“I never thought of that,” said James, quickly. “It would be just like
Mark.”

“Do you think he is honest?”

“I wouldn’t answer for him. He is a poor boy.”

“Exactly, and the gold would be a great temptation. As the legal heir of
Uncle Anthony, I think I ought to look into the matter. Suppose my uncle
should die, wouldn’t this Mark get the money, even if he hasn’t done it
already, and no one would be the wiser?”

“Of course!” James readily assented. “What do you want us to do?”

“Lead me to the place, and let me see for myself if the money is still
there.”

“Shall we, Tom?”

“I think it would be only fair.”

“Then come along. I’ll get a spade from the house as we pass.”

The spade was obtained, and the three set out for the wood.