THE SECRET DECIPHERED

On the evening of the last day of August, a sort of reunion and
farewell dinner took place in Mr. Cook’s bungalow. Two guests were
particularly jovial. One of these, Sink Weston, had, as they say in the
far north, “cast up” from Abaja with his gang the day before leaving
the dry upper Montezuma choked with logs waiting for the winter rains.
Another was old Dan Doolin just in with food supplies and gasoline from
Dolores. The others were Roy Osborne and the host, Manager Cook.

Roy was to leave in the morning with Weston and Doolin on his homeward
trip. That afternoon, he had made final settlement with the company.

“I’m sorry to be payin’ you this,” said Mr. Cook, as he wrote out a
check for over seven hundred dollars, “because it means you’re goin’ to
leave us. But, aside from that, it’s the best earned money I ever saw
go out of this office.”

“And I’m sorry, too,” answered Roy. “I’m sorry to think I’ve got to
give up the _Parowan_, the mountains and the deserts. I’ve come to
love ’em all. And I’m sorry to think I’m goin’ to leave the bungalow
and you,” he added, holding out his hand to Mr. Cook. “I’ve seen some
hard things out here, but among the worst of ’em, I’ve always found at
least one man who stood for the fair and square, even if he didn’t talk
about it.”

The boy and the man shook hands.

Mr. Cook was an abstainer as to intoxicants, but he always saw that his
convivial guests were supplied with liquid refreshments. Both Doolin
and Weston celebrated the occasion by reaching the talkative stage.

“I’m proud o’ the kid, Colonel,” announced Sink, at last. “An’ you got
to give me credit fur bringin’ him to you. That right, Dan?”

“We shore did,” answered the grizzled teamster enthusiastically. “An’
I’m sorry to be takin’ him out. I reckon the boys out in the desert’ll
be sorry to see him go. They tell me,” the old man continued, “’at he’s
got a reg’lar mail route an’ took letters and papers leastways onct a
week to them mis’able prospectors.”

“He did, and more,” replied Mr. Cook. “He’s changed the whole plan of
doin’ things down here. In a year we’ll know more about this forsaken
country than we’d have known in ten without what he’s taught us.”

“Right,” interrupted Weston. “An’ I brung him in. Don’t fergit that. He
ain’t disappointed no one but me–”

Mr. Cook and Roy looked up.

“I kind o’ counted on him gettin’ to Parowan an’ findin’ out somepin
about my old High Mucky-Muck o’ the Lost Injuns.”

Mr. Cook laughed and Roy colored a little.

“Sink,” exclaimed the boy hastily, “the fact that I never had a chance
to get to Parowan is one of the reasons I hate to leave this country.
For a long time, I thought I’d get over there. But when the Aeroplane
Express got down to a regular schedule, it seemed as if every hour was
taken up with something. I just couldn’t work it in. And I’d liked to
have gone for my mother’s sake.”

“Oh, I accept yer apology,” muttered Weston good naturedly.

“But don’t git the idee I’ve give up. I got the location o’ that sink
hole comin’ to me yit.”

Mr. Cook laughed and laid his hand on Weston’s arm.

“Sink,” he said, “if you keep on you’ll get to believin’ that story
some day.”

Old Doolin looked at Roy and made a desperate effort to wink his heavy
eyelid. As he did so, Weston pulled himself up in his chair, hit the
table with his clenched fist until the dishes and glasses rattled, and
exclaimed, in a thick voice:

“Ye’ll acknowledge thet thar’s one feller ’at kem out hyar an’ showed
you all a few things ye didn’t know. Why? ’Cause he was a sight smarter
’an some wise ones I could name–”

“Or touch,” laughed Mr. Cook.

“An’ bein’ smart enough he knows a fack when he hears it. Mr. Osborne,”
went on the old plainsman, leaning toward Roy, “wuz they a sink hole,
an’ a white priest, an’ lost Injuns, an’ treasure to fill a freighter,
or wuz they not?”

Roy flushed again, looked at Mr. Cook in an embarrassed way, and then
said:

“I’ve felt there were. But, well, I know one thing. There isn’t any
doubt that there was a white man, and he was likely enough a priest.
His name was certainly Willard Banks, and I know this man was my great
uncle, a Mormon elder.”

“Thar you air,” shouted Weston, defiantly hanging the table again. “Did
I dream that? Answer, whar did I git the paper?”

Mr. Cook seemed amused. He had many times heard the wild tale of
Weston’s fabled sink hole, but the Parowan end of the story, the
knowledge that here old man Banks had lived, was unknown to him until
the day Roy named the aeroplane. Weston’s positive manner aroused his
interest anew in the story.

“I never saw your cipher or hieroglyphics, Sink,” he answered, ignoring
Weston’s question. “I’d like to have a look at it.”

Helping himself to another drink, Weston slowly produced his old
wallet, and, with much ceremony, finally laid the faded and much-worn
brown paper upon the table. Mr. Cook took a long look at it, and
then carried it to a wall light that he might better examine the dim
characters. Plainly he made nothing of it. Roy stepped to his side and
pointed out the dim name at the bottom–“Willard Banks.”

“I had a great uncle of that name out here in Utah. He lived in
Parowan. They drove him out of the Mormon Church for some reason. But
he was an elder in it once.”

Mr. Cook shook his head, and was, apparently, about to hand the sheet
back to its owner when he stopped, straightened up, made another close
survey of it and then said:

“Sink, let me have your mysterious paper to-night. I’d like to look it
over.”

“I ain’t objectin’ to yer lookin’ it over,” answered Weston, “so long
as ye keep yer hands on it. But, Colonel Cook, I wouldn’t part with
that dockymint fur the best oil well yur agoin’ to find in Utah.”

Old Doolin’s head was nodding.

“Well,” suggested the manager, in a low tone to Weston, “just to be
sure it ain’t mislaid, if you’re thinkin’ of escortin’ Dan to his bunk
now, come back in an hour and I’ll return it to you.”

This was as good as a command to Weston. A few minutes later, arousing
the well-dined teamster, the two men disappeared in the direction of
the “Crater.” The uncouth freighter dispensed with the formalities of
a good night to his host, but, as he followed his friend out into the
sandy street, he did not fail to mutter:

“The kid’s shore all right. An’ we brung him, didn’t we, Sink?”

Plainly enough, the tale of the Sink Hole was not on Old Dan’s mind.

“What is it?” exclaimed Roy, impetuously, as the two men disappeared.
He knew that Mr. Cook had an idea. Without answering at once, his host
walked to the bookcase, and returned with the little Mormon Bible that
had been taken from the hand of murdered “Utah” Banning.

“You’ve found something,” added Roy, almost catching his breath.

“This was the first Mormon Bible I ever saw,” said Mr. Cook, pushing
the supper things aside, and bringing a lamp to the dining table.
“Several times in your absence, I’ve amused myself looking it over. A
very curious religion,” he added, as he drew up a chair and motioned
Roy to do the same. “You saw the notes on the back flyleaf didn’t you?”
he asked, turning to Roy.

The boy flushed with chagrin. He had not. Nor had he looked at the book
since his first cursory examination of it.

Hanging over Mr. Cook’s shoulder, he watched the manager turn to the
back of the book and finally expose a yellow edged page. In ink that
had turned to a faint brown, the boy read, at the top of the page,
these words:

“Deseret Alphabet.”

Beneath it, in a fine, close hand, were two columns of characters.
Manifestly, it was the Mormon phonetic alphabet. After each odd
character, the sound was indicated with a syllable in English.

“That’s it,” shouted Roy, almost snatching the book from Mr. Cook’s
hand. “Those are the letters on Mr. Weston’s paper. Here, see,” he
added nervously catching up the paper and confirming his theory.
“They’re the same. We found it. Sink’s found his treasure.”

“One moment,” interrupted the less exuberant Mr. Cook. “Let’s see what
we can make of it.”

“We’ve got to make something,” insisted the boy, impulsively. “It has
to work out. The man who wrote on Mr. Weston’s paper was my great
uncle. He helped to make this alphabet. I know that. That’s what the
Banks’ history says.”

“Then I reckon we’ve got it,” answered Mr. Cook. He began to read off
the characters with their equivalents in English.

“Come on,” broke in Roy, “let’s see what we can find. Here, what’s
this?”

He pointed to a letter like a capital “O” with a little ridge in the
bottom. It was easily found.

“‘K,’” answered Mr. Cook. “Put it down.”

Chuckling and enthusiastic, the boy ran to Mr. Cook’s desk for a piece
of paper. With this before them, the boy and his hardly less interested
elder, began to work out the mystery. Both the flyleaf characters
and Mr. Weston’s scrap were dim with age, but, by finally applying a
reading glass to the Bible key, the first line of characters was turned
into this–two of the Mormon letters standing in English for sounds
instead of letters:

“K A I P U R O W I T T S”

“That’s easy,” announced Mr. Cook, when the interpretation was
complete. “Should have been ‘Kaiparowits’. But it’s close enough.
There’s a peak o’ that name at the north end of the Kaiparowits
Plateau.”

“Where’s that?” exclaimed Roy.

“The plateau’s northwest of where the San Juan hits the Colorado.”

“That’s it,” almost shouted the excited boy. “That’s where Weston got
out of the canyon.”

Mr. Cook was already busy on the next line. It resulted in this word:

“E L L S U R T H”

“Another mountain?” asked Roy.

“Probably means Ellsworth. There is such a peak east of Pine Alcove
River. Hi. Clark worked up that way this summer.”

“But they are a long ways apart,” exclaimed the boy. “How far?”

Mr. Cook consulted the large wall map.

“Nearly a hundred miles.”

The boy’s face fell.

“Anyway,” he said, “these mountains have something to do with each
other and the Sink Hole. Looks as if it might be between ’em, don’t it?”

“Let’s spell the other word,” suggested his companion. When this had
been done, the letters read:

“S K A L A E N T E”

Mr. Cook eyed it a long time and then shook his head. Finally, he went
to the map again, but apparently with no better success.

“Looks like Swedish,” suggested Roy.

Mr. Cook returned to the table, held the sheet at all angles before him
and then suddenly broke out into a laugh.

“Escalante!” he exclaimed. “Mustn’t forget the characters are phonetic.
That’s the Escalante River–first one south of Horse Creek. I guess
that’s it.”

Roy had hurried to the map. With his pencil he drew a line under Mr.
Cook’s direction, from Ellsworth mountain to Kaiparowits. Where it
crossed the river, he made a cross.

Then, his hand trembling, he wrote at the intersection, “Sink Hole of
the Lost Indians.”

“What do you think of Sink’s story now?” he broke out, boy fashion.

“All he has to do,” answered Mr. Cook, relieving his excitement by
lighting a cigar, “is to find something there. What he tells about,
he saw fifteen years ago. A good many people have been prowling about
there in fifteen years.”

“Anyway,” exclaimed Roy, “he can have another look at the place.”

“But,” said Mr. Cook, after a pause, “I never saw a sink hole on or
near a flowing river.”

Roy’s jaw fell. He was looking at Weston’s paper. Suddenly his face lit
up. Then he pointed to the arrow.

“That’s pointin’ south,” he exclaimed. “Now, we got it. Where a line
between the two mountains crosses the Escalante, turn south until you
come to the Sink Hole.”

“Not bad,” said Mr. Cook. “Very probable. That’s the trail I’d take.”

The excited boy wanted to rush out on a search for Weston, but Mr. Cook
stopped him.

“Leave that to me,” he said, after he and Roy had retired to the cool
porch. “When Weston comes, say nothing. Let me do the talking.”

They had not long to wait. In a short time, the veteran guide was with
them. As Mr. Cook handed Weston his precious paper and proffered him a
cigar, he said:

“Sink, that looks mighty interesting. Why don’t you find the Treasure
Cave?”

“Humph,” grunted Weston, as he lit his cigar. “Why don’t I? Read this
fur me an’ I will.”

“What’ll you give to have it read?”

“I’ll give you my livery stable, an’ my house–yes, sir,” he added with
a grim smile, “I’ll even throw in my real ’state office.”

“Would you give half of anything you might find in your underground
safety deposit vault?”

Weston looked up, without any trace of liquor now, and said:

“To the man ’at’ll take me to that pint, I’ll give ever’ other dish and
bowl we git. I reckon that’d be fair.”

“Well,” went on Mr. Cook, “here’s the man that can do it,” pointing to
Roy. “He knows where your cave is. Is it an even divide?”

Weston sprang up with a shout. At the same time, Roy stepped to Mr.
Cook’s side in protest. The only answer he got was:

“I’ve got to pay you for what you said when you gave me the ring, Kid.
This is my contract.”

Weston’s shout had died to a note of alarm.

“You ain’t kiddin’ me, Colonel? I’m sober.”

“Be sure you are in the same condition to-morrow morning at seven
o’clock, Sink,” exclaimed Mr. Cook. “Roy’s put off his return a day or
so. He’s goin’ to give you a little ride in the _Parowan_. And remember
our bargain.”