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    Chapter 9

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    Chapter 10
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    WHAT NAT POOLE HAD TO TELL

    "You saw two fellows sneaking around our place last evening?" cried Roger, with interest.

    "I certainly did."

    "What did they look like?" asked Dave.

    "I see 'em plainly an' I was wonderin' what they was up to," said the driver of the milk wagon, and then he described the two persons quite minutely.

    "Haskers and Merwell, beyond a doubt!" exclaimed Phil. "Now what do you know about that!"

    "It certainly is the limit!" murmured Luke.

    "Wonder if they are still around?" came from Shadow. "Say, this puts me in mind of a sto----But never mind, I'll tell it another time," he broke off, hastily, as he saw a look of disgust on the others' faces.

    "I don't believe they are around," said Dave. "They probably boarded the first train that went over the bridge."

    "Just what I think," returned the senator's son.

    "Think them fellers set the fire?" asked Mr. Platt, curiously.

    "We feel certain of it," replied Roger. "They are old school enemies of ours," he added. "It's only one more score we've got to settle with them," he continued, to his chums, and shut his teeth with a snap.

    Nothing further could be learned concerning the mysterious visitors, and finally the boys went back to the Morr mansion, to get ready for the evening celebration. This came off as scheduled and proved a big success. Fully a hundred town folk were present, besides some from the lake and elsewhere. There were rockets and Roman candles and wheels galore, as well as several set pieces. Some fire balloons were also liberated. Senator Morr had engaged a local band of eight pieces, and if the music was not of a high order it was certainly patriotic, and that counted for a good deal.

    Of course the other boys had to hear all about the proposed trip West and, incidentally, about the lost Landslide Mine. From his father and mother Roger got some more details concerning the missing property. A map was produced, and also some papers, and the son was advised to hunt up an old miner and prospector named Abe Blower.

    "Abe Blower knew your Uncle Maurice well," said Mrs. Morr, to her son. "They were friends for years. I am sure if you can find Mr. Blower he will do all he can for you, and for me, too."

    "Then I'll do what I can to find him, first of all," answered Roger.

    At last came the time when Dave must leave the Morr home and return to Crumville. He was going alone, but he promised to keep in constant communication with the others.

    "I wish I was going on that western trip," said Shadow, wistfully. "You'll have barrels of fun, and if you do locate that Landslide Mine--well, it will be a big feather in your cap."

    "I'd like to go, too," said Buster.

    "I reckon we'd all like to go," cried the others, in concert.

    "Well, there is just this much about it," returned Dave. "Anybody who has the price can go on that personally-conducted tour to Yellowstone Park, and, so far as I am concerned, you can go from there into the mountains and look for the mine."

    "Why, of course!" burst out Roger. "If any of you want to go, just say the word."

    This brought on a discussion lasting nearly an hour. In the end several of the lads said they would see what they could do, and would write about it later, or telegraph.

    "Say, but wouldn't it be grand if we could locate that lost mine!" cried Phil, enthusiastically.

    "Well, we'll have a try at it," returned Dave.

    At last came the time for Dave to leave. Some of the others had already gone. Roger drove his chum down to the railroad station in the runabout. The two were alone. Dave noticed that the senator's son seemed unusually thoughtful.

    "What's up, Roger?" he asked, at last. "You don't seem quite like yourself."

    "Oh, I don't know that I ought to say anything, Dave," was the hesitating answer.

    "If there is anything I can do----"

    "No, it isn't that." Roger gave a deep sigh. "I wish we could locate that mine!" he murmured.

    "So you were thinking about that? Well, we may have luck. Let us hope so," and Dave smiled.

    "I might as well tell you how it is," continued Roger, as he drove up to the little railroad station. He looked around, to make sure that no outsiders were listening. "You know father comes up for re-election this fall."

    "Oh, does his term as senator run out?"

    "Yes. Well, there is a movement on foot to put somebody else in his place. If they do that--well, he'll be out, that's all."

    "What will he do then?"

    "That's just it. I don't know what he can do. He used to be in an office business, but he gave that up to go into politics. Now, if he gets out, he will have to start all over again."

    "Hasn't he anything at all--I mean any business?"

    "Not anything regular. He dabbles a little in real estate."

    "Then I hope they don't put him out, Roger."

    "And--er--that isn't all, Dave. I wouldn't tell anybody but you--and maybe Phil. He has spent a lot of money while in politics--it costs a good deal to live in Washington. I heard him tell mother about it. If he goes out, it will go hard with him. Now, if we had that mine, and it was as valuable as they think it is----"

    "I see, Roger. We'll have to do our level best to find the mine."

    "If mother had the mine she could let dad use the money in any way he pleased. But if we haven't got the mine to fall back on, and dad gets out of politics--well, it is going to make hard sledding for us."

    "Roger, if it gets too bad, don't you hesitate to come to us!" cried Dave, quickly. "I am sure my father, and my Uncle Dunston, would be only too glad to help you out."

    "Thank you, Dave; but I don't think it will get to be as bad as that," answered the senator's son. And then the train came along and Dave had to bid his chum good-by.

    The car was only half filled with people, so Dave had a double seat to himself. He placed his suit-case in the rack overhead and then sank down by the window, to gaze at the swiftly moving panorama and give himself up to thought.

    "Hello, Dave!"

    The youth looked up, to see, standing beside him, Nat Poole, the son of the money-lender of Crumville--a tall, awkward youth with a face that was inclined to scowl more than to smile. In the past Nat had played Dave many a mean trick, and had usually gotten the worst of it. Nat had been in the class with our hero, but had failed to pass for graduation, much to his chagrin.

    "Hello, Nat!" cried Dave. He put as much warmth as possible in the salutation, for he felt sorry for the boy who had failed. "Bound for home?"

    "Yes." The money-lender's son hesitated for a moment. "Want me to sit with you?"

    "Certainly, if you like," and Dave shoved over to make room.

    "Been visiting an old aunt of mine," explained Nat as he sat down. "Had a slow time of it, too, over the Fourth. Where have you been?"

    Dave told him. "We had a dandy time, too," he added.

    "It must have been fine." Nat gave a sigh. "I wish I had been--but what's the use? You fellows wouldn't care for me."

    "What were you going to say, Nat?"

    "I might have been there myself, if I hadn't--well, if I hadn't made a big fool of myself!" burst out the money-lender's son. "Yes, that's what I did, made a fool of myself! Uncle Tom told me the plain truth."

    "I thought you said you'd been visiting an aunt."

    "So I have, but she's married again,--married a man named Tom Allen, a merchant. He knows father, and he flocked it into the old man in great shape," and Nat actually chuckled. "Told me just what kind of a man dad was--hard-fisted and miserly--somebody nobody loved or wanted to associate with. And he warned me not to grow up the same way--not to think money was everything, and all that. He said a boy ought to be known for his real worth, not his dollars and his clothes."

    "He's right there, Nat."

    "Yes, he opened my eyes. And when he asked me about Oak Hall, and you fellows, and how I had missed passing, he told me the truth about myself. I--well, I resented it at first, but by and by I got to thinking he must be right, and the more I thought of it, the more I made up my mind that I had been a big fool. And then I made a resolve----" Nat stopped and gave a gulp.

    "A resolve?"

    "Yes. I resolved that, the first time I met you, Dave, and the others, I was going to eat humble pie and tell you just what I thought of myself." The son of the money-lender was in a perspiration now and mopped his face with his handkerchief.

    Dave hardly knew how to reply. Here was Nat Poole in certainly an entirely new role.

    "I am glad to know you are going to turn over a new leaf," he returned. "I hope you make a success of it."

    "Do you really, Dave?" There was an eager note in Nat's voice.

    "Sure I do, Nat. You'd be all right, if--if----"

    "Go ahead, give it to me straight, just as Uncle Tom did."

    "Well, if you wouldn't be quite so conceited and stuck-up, and if you'd buckle down a bit more to studying."

    "That's what I am going to do--buckle down to study next fall. And if I show any conceit in the future, well, I want you and Ben Basswood, and Roger and Phil, and all the others, to knock it right out of me," went on the money-lender's son, earnestly. "My eyes are open and I'm going ahead, and I don't want to slip backwards."

    "I'll help you all I can, Nat," and Dave held out his hand, which the other grasped vigorously.

    "This talk with Uncle Tom woke me up," went on Nat, a moment later. "When I get home, I am going to try to wake dad up, too. It's going to be no easy task, but I'll do it. I know ma will be on my side--she was never after the money like dad was. I am going to prove to him that he has got to do something else besides get money."

    "I wish you luck, Nat," replied Dave. He could not help but smile when he thought of the hard-fisted money-lender, and what he might say when his son went at the task of making him more kind and benevolent.

    "And, by the way, Dave, now I am going to turn over a new leaf, I want to tell you about a letter I received some time ago," went on Nat, after a pause, during which the train stopped at a station to take on some passengers.

    "A letter?"

    "Yes. You'd never guess who it was from."

    "Gus Plum?"

    "No, Link Merwell."

    "Link Merwell!" exclaimed our hero, in surprise. "What did he write to you about, Nat? Not that diamond robbery?"

    "Oh, no, he had precious little to say about that, for he must know I knew he and Jasniff were guilty. He wrote about you. It was a long letter--nearly eight pages--and he spoke about what you had done to get him and me into trouble."

    "I never tried to get you into trouble, Nat."

    "I know it. But I used to think you were trying to do it. Well, Link wrote about it, and he wanted to know if I would help him in a scheme to pay you back. He said he had a dandy scheme to pay you off."

    "Oh, he did?" said Dave, with interest. "What was the scheme?"

    "He didn't say."

    "What did you answer?"

    "I didn't answer the letter. I kept it to think about. Then, yesterday, after my last talk with Uncle Tom, I made up my mind to wash my hands of Link Merwell, and I burned the letter up."
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