THE HERMIT’S BANK

MARK was considerably surprised by the order he had received. What was
he do with a spade? They were in the woods, and there was no arable land
near. However, Mark was sensible enough to understand that it was his
duty to obey, not to question.

“All right, sir!” he said, but there was a wonder in his look which old
Anthony noticed with a smile. However, he did not immediately throw any
light on the mystery.

They walked possibly a quarter of a mile till they reached a
comparatively open space near the center of which stood a tall tree.

“We will stop here,” said Anthony.

Mark lowered the spade, which he had been carrying on his shoulder, and
waited further instructions.

Old Anthony produced a compass to make sure of his bearings, and a tape
measure. One end of this he gave to Mark, saying: “Stand by the tree.”

Mark, wondering as much as ever, took his position beside the tree.

“A little more on that side!” was the next direction.

When Mark was placed to suit him, Anthony took the other end of the tape
measure, and measured due east sixteen feet.

“Yes,” he said musingly, “this must be the spot.”

Marking the spot with a stone, he said:

“Bring the spade to me, Mark.”

Mark did so.

“I suppose you wonder what I am going to do?” said the hermit with a
smile.

“Yes, sir,” Mark admitted.

“This is my bank,” explained Anthony.

Mark wondered whether the hermit was in his right mind. He stood by
curious and attentive, while Anthony began to disturb the soil, throwing
up one spadeful of dirt after another.

He continued at his task for ten minutes, and then desisted.

“I get fatigued easily,” he said; “here, Mark, take your turn.”

Mark took the spade, and continued the excavation. He was young and
strong, and bore the fatigue better than his employer. At length he felt
the spade striking something hard.

“I have struck something,” he said.

“Very well, now proceed more carefully, so as not to break the vessel.
Uncover it, and then I will tell you what to do——”

The hole was now about eighteen inches deep. Mark cleared away some of
the dirt, and disclosed an earthen pot which appeared to be provided
with a cover.

“What shall I do now?” he asked.

“Stoop down, and remove the cover, and take out what you find inside.”

Mark got down on his knees, and bending over, accomplished what was
asked of him. To his surprise he saw that the bottom of the pot was
covered with gold pieces.

“Take them out, and hand them to me,” said old Anthony.

“All of them, sir?”

“Yes, I may as well remove them to another place. Besides the balance
must be small.”

The hermit counted the gold pieces, as they were placed in his hands.

“There are but three hundred and fifty dollars left!” he said.

To Mark this seemed considerable, though it was evident the pot would
have contained, if full, many times as much.

“What shall I do with the pot?” asked Mark.

“You can leave it where it is. Anyone is welcome to it, now that it is
empty. Put the cover on, and some one will one day stumble upon
treasure.”

Mark filled up the hole, and disposed leaves over it so as to conceal
the work that had been done.

“Very well done, Mark! The last time I did all the work myself, but that
was before I had the rheumatism. It has stiffened my joints, and
weakened me as I find. Now let us go back.”

Mark once more shouldered the spade, and the two walked back side by
side.

“I may as well explain how I came to deposit my money there,” said old
Anthony. “I was sensible that it would be dangerous to leave a large sum
in my cabin, and it was not convenient or agreeable for me to make
visits to the city from time to time to draw money from my agent. I was
in the habit of going but once in a year or two, and then bringing with
me enough to last me for a considerable period. I could, of course, have
hidden my money under the flooring of my cabin, but that is the very
place where burglars would have searched, had they done me the honor to
look upon me as a miser, hiding concealed treasures. It was for this
reason that I selected a hiding-place so far away from my dwelling.
Fearing that I might forget the exact place, I chose a particular tree
as a guide, and then measured a distance of sixteen feet due east. Of
course there would be no danger of my mistaking the place then.”

“Somebody might have seen you digging there, sir.”

“True; I used to go early in the morning when no one was likely to be in
the wood. Besides, I carefully looked about me before beginning to dig,
to make all secure.”

“We didn’t look about us this afternoon.”

“No, it was not necessary. There is no money left, and as for the
earthen pot, any one is welcome to it, who will take the trouble to dig
for it. I fancy it would hardly repay the labor.”

“There is still considerable gold; are you not afraid of being robbed?”

“There is a chance of it. I shall therefore give you half of it to keep
for me.”

“I am glad you have so much confidence in my honesty, Mr. Taylor. But I
hope that no one will suspect that I have so much money, or I might be
attacked.”

“Better give the greater part to your mother to lock up in a trunk or
bureau drawer.”

“I think I will, sir. It seems odd to have you choose me as a banker,
Mr. Taylor.”

“I don’t think I shall have any cause to repent it, Mark.”

“Nor I, so far as honesty goes, but I might be robbed.”

“We will take our chance of that.”

——-

Mark and his employer supposed themselves alone when they were engaged
in disinterring the golden treasure, but they were mistaken. Two pairs
of very curious eyes watched them from behind a clump of bushes. These
eyes belonged to James Collins and Tom Wyman.

They were in the wood with their guns, looking for squirrels, when they
saw the approach of Mark and the hermit.

“I wonder what they are going to do,” said James. “Mark has got a
spade.”

“I don’t know. Suppose we hide, and then we’ll find out.”

This proposal struck James favorably, and they concealed themselves
behind a clump of low trees, as already described. With eager eyes they
watched the preliminary measurement, and the subsequent excavation.

“The old man’s a miser,” whispered James. “He’s got gold hidden there.”




“Just what I think,” responded Tom, also in a whisper.

“I wonder if there’s much.”

“Hush! We’ll soon see.”

They were not near enough to hear what passed between Mark and Anthony,
but they saw the gold coins which the boy passed to his employer. Then
they saw the dirt replaced, and the spot made to look as before.

When Mark and Anthony had gone, they emerged from their hiding-place,
eager and excited.

“Well,” said James, drawing a long breath, “we’ve found the hermit’s
secret. He must be a miser. I wonder how much more gold there is in the
hole.”

“Thousands of dollars, very likely,” said Tom, who had a vivid
imagination. “You know it doesn’t take a very big pile of gold to make a
thousand dollars.”

“Mark Manning is pretty thick with old Anthony. He trusts him more than
I would.”

“Mark’ll rob him someday. See if he don’t.”

“I shouldn’t wonder. I say, Tom, don’t you tell a living soul of what
we’ve seen this afternoon. If Mark steals the money, we can expose him.
He little thinks we know his secret.”

Tom agreed to this, and the two boys went home. When they next saw Mark,
they regarded him with a knowing look that puzzled him.