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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 9. Cleaned Out
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The Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 9. Cleaned Out Post by :kevinf Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :767

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The Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 9. Cleaned Out

CHAPTER IX. CLEANED OUT

John Miles slept long, and awoke feeling refreshed and cheerful. He had a healthy organization, and never failed to eat and sleep well. Like Crane, he had no toilet to make, but sprang to his feet already dressed.

His first thought was naturally of his treasure. His heart gave a quick bound when he failed to discover it in the place where he remembered to have put it. In dismay he instituted a search, which, of course, proved unavailing.

"Who could have taken it?" thought Miles, large drops of perspiration gathering upon his forehead.

All about him was loneliness. He could see no signs of life. Yet the bag could not have gone away of itself. There was certainly human agency in the matter.

Miles confessed to himself with sadness that he had been imprudent to leave the bag where it would naturally excite the cupidity of any passing adventurer. That it must have been taken by such a one seemed evident. In that case, the chance of recovering it seemed slender enough. Nevertheless, John Miles decided to make an effort, hopeless as it was, to discover the whereabouts of his lost property.

"If it had been mine, I wouldn't have cared so much," he said to himself, with a sigh; "but poor Tom's money is gone too. I will make it up to him if I live, but I am afraid his father will be inconvenienced by the delay."

Miles made preparations for his departure, and strode away, looking searchingly to the right and left in search of something that might throw light upon his loss. Presently he espied the two Chinamen. Could they have taken it? He would at any rate speak to them.

"Good-morning, John," he said, when he came within hearing distance.

Ah Sin bobbed his head, and repeated "Good-morning, John."

"Do you live here?"

"Yes, we washee-washee for gold."

"Does anyone else live near by?"

The two inclined their heads, and answered in the negative.

"Have you seen anyone pass last night or this morning?"

"Yes," answered Ah Sin. "'Melican man stay all nightee--over there. Chinaman give him a cup of tea this morning."

"How long ago?" asked Miles, eagerly.

"Two hours," answered Ah Jim.

"In what direction did he go?"

The two Chinamen readily told him.

Miles decided to tell them of the loss of his bag of gold-dust. Possibly they could throw some light upon his loss.

"Some one stole a small bag of dust from me last night," he said. "I suspect it was the man you describe. Did he appear to have any such article with him?"

"Yes," answered Ah Sin, who, with natural cunning, saw that this information would divert suspicion from them. "It was so large," indicating the size with his hands.

Of course his description was accurate, for he had very good reason to know the size of the bag.

"He must have been the thief," said Miles, eagerly. "In what direction did you say he went?"

Ah Sin pointed to the west.

"I will follow him. It is on my way. If I catch the villain, it will be the worse for him."

"He velly bad man," said Ah Sin, sympathizingly.

"That's where you are right, my heathen friend. Well, good-morning, John. I am much obliged to you for your information."

"Velly welcome, John."

As John Miles rode away, Ah Sin turned to his friend Ah Jim, and remarked,--

"S'pose he catch him, he kill him."

"All lightee!" returned Ah Jim. "He velly bad man, he thief."

The two Chinamen exchanged glances. If they had been white men, there would have been a smile or a wink, but these children of Confucius looked so serenely virtuous, so innocent of guile, that the most experienced detective would have seen nothing in their faces indicating any guilty knowledge of the lost treasure. But, guileless as they seemed, they had proved more than a match for Bill Crane and his victim.

* * * * *

John Miles rode away with a faint hope that he might overtake the man, whoever he might be, who had stolen his precious bag. In due time he reached the spot where Crane had examined the bag, and on discovering its worthless contents, had thrown it away. The thief had not taken the trouble to empty it.

When Miles saw it he hurried to it, hoping he might find some of the treasure inside. Of course he was disappointed, and at the same time bewildered.

"This is certainly my bag," he said to himself. "Here are my initials, J. M. Then there are other marks well known to me. I could swear to it anywhere. But how does it happen that it is full of sand, and why has the thief thrown it away? That beats me!"

Miles decided that for some reason unknown the thief had transferred its contents to some other bag--perhaps his own--and then had discarded the original one, in wanton humor filling it instead with sand.

"He may have been afraid it would be found on him," thought Miles. "The marks on the bag would have been evidence enough to condemn him. By throwing away my bag he thinks himself safe."

His solution of the puzzle was ingenious, but as we know he erred in two respects. Bill Crane had not filled the bag with sand and thrown it away from prudential considerations, nor had he profited by the theft he had committed. He had been as badly outwitted as his victim, and the profit had gone to the bland and obliging Chinamen, who had thus far escaped suspicion.

John Miles slackened his rein, and thought seriously and sadly of the position to which he was reduced. What was he to do? He was, in the expressive language of the country, "cleaned out," and brought to a pass where he must begin life over again, with the disadvantage of being seventy-five dollars in debt, for he was resolved that Tom's loss should be paid back to the uttermost penny.

Presently philosophy came to his aid.

"It might have been worse," he reflected. "Two hundred dollars is too large a sum to lose, but it wont take long to make up if I have any sort of luck. I wish I were in San Francisco. It may trouble me to get there without means."

When misfortune comes it is always best to look it manfully in the face, and not to shrink from or over estimate it. John Miles had a strong, healthy nature, with a good deal of confidence in his own resources, and in an hour or two he was again looking hopefully forward to the future. Not that he cherished a hope of recovering his lost money. There seemed to be no way of identifying it, even if he should track the thief. One ounce of gold-dust looks like another, and there is no way of distinguishing individual property in that form.

John Miles pushed on slowly. About noon he found himself threading a narrow canon, shaded by gigantic redwood tress, with steep, almost perpendicular sides, with here and there a narrow streamlet descending in a cascade, and lighting up the darkened scene with its silvery reflections.

"This is a pretty spot, but it would be lonely to live here," thought Miles. "Yet," shading his eyes, "there seems to be a cabin of some sort. Is it possible that anybody lives in this canon?"

Ten minutes' ride brought him to a rude cabin, with a gigantic tree spreading at a great height protecting branches over it. That it was inhabited was clear, for in front of it stood a strongly built, robust woman, who seemed to be nearing forty.

She bent a searching look upon the intruder, who bent his head courteously.

"Good-morning, ma'am," said Miles.

"Good-morning, stranger," was the reply. "Where might you be going?"

"I am on my way to the city. Am I on the right track?"

"I reckon so."

"Do you live here--alone?" asked John Miles, in some curiosity.

"It looks like it, doesn't it?" returned the woman. "I've been alone since my man pegged out."

"Is that long?"

"A matter of three weeks."

"I sympathize with you," said Miles. "You must be very lonely."

"Yes," said the widow. "Jim was good company, and I feel kind of lonesome without him, you better believe."

"There isn't much sentiment there," thought Miles. "She doesn't appear to be heart-broken. Do you mean to stay here alone?" he inquired. "Are you not afraid?"

"What's there to be afraid of?"

"Some tramp or adventurer might attack and injure, or at least rob you."

"Look here, stranger! do you see that?" and the woman produced a revolver. "Do you see that shooting-iron?"

"It looks as if it might be a good one," said Miles, who began to think the woman better able to take care of herself than he had at first supposed.

"You bet it is! I know how to use it, too. If one of them tramps gets in front of it, and sasses me, he'd better say his prayers mighty quick, for he'll need 'em. He needn't reckon much on my being a woman. I can shoot jest as true as my man could when he was alive."

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