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    Chapter 10

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    Chapter 11
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    DAVE AT HOME

    "I'm glad you washed your hands of Merwell, Nat," replied Dave, with warmth. "He is not the sort for any respectable fellow to associate with. But about that letter. Have you any idea what he was going to do?"

    "No. All he said was, 'If you will join with me we can pay Dave Porter off good and get him in the biggest kind of a hole.' I guess you had better keep your eyes open, Dave."

    "I am doing that already."

    "I--I made up my mind I'd tell you--when I got to Crumville," faltered the money-lender's son. "I didn't want you to suffer at his hands."

    "I've got my eyes open already," was Dave's reply. "Let me tell you something, Nat." And then he related the particulars of the affair at Lake Sargola, and told about the burning of the garage.

    "And to think Job Haskers is with him!" cried Nat. "Say, they'll make a team, won't they!"

    "Yes, for I'm thinking that Haskers is about as bad as Merwell," answered Dave.

    After that came a pause, neither youth knowing exactly what to say. Then Nat cleared his throat.

    "I--I'd like you to do me a favor," he stammered.

    "All right, Nat. What is it?" returned our hero, promptly.

    "If you get the chance will you tell Ben Basswood and the other fellows how I'm going to be--er--different after this? And will you tell your sister and Jessie, too? I don't want them to--to--think I'm wanting to do anything more that's mean. I want to be--be, well, friendly--if they'll let me," and Nat's face grew very red as he made the admission.

    "I'll tell them all--the first chance I get," promised Dave. "And I am sure they will be pleased. Why, Nat, I know you can turn over a new leaf, if you want to. Look at Gus Plum, how mean he used to be, and what a bully! And look at him now. He's a first-rate fellow. You can do it if Plum can, can't you?"

    "I'm going to try, anyway."

    "And I'll help you all I can--and there's my hand on it," answered Dave, and then the two lads shook hands.

    A talk lasting all the way to Crumville followed. As they rolled into the station Nat left rather hastily, going to the rear of the car, while Dave went forward. The money-lender's son knew Dave expected to meet his sister and friends and he did not, just then, wish to face the party.

    "There's Dave!" cried Jessie Wadsworth, as she caught sight of him through a car window.

    "Hello, everybody!" cried the youth, as he swung himself from the car steps. He gave Jessie's hand a tight squeeze and then kissed his sister. "How are you?"

    "Oh, fine!" came from both girls.

    "Hello, Davy!" cried a merry voice, and Dunston Porter, the lad's uncle, came striding forward from an automobile near by. "How did you leave Senator Morr and his family, and are you ready for that trip through Yellowstone Park?"

    "I left the senator and his family well," was the answer. "And I am ready for the trip--that is--part of the trip," Dave added, hastily.

    "Part of the trip?" cried Jessie. "Why, what do you mean?"

    "I'll tell you later. Oh, I've got lots and lots to tell," went on Dave, with a smile. He caught Laura and Jessie by the arms. "See Nat Poole over yonder?" he whispered. "Well, you want to be nice to Nat after this, for he is going to reform."

    "Reform?" queried his sister.

    "Really?" added Jessie.

    "That's what he told me. We had quite a talk on the train. I'll tell you about it later. And I've got a lot more to tell," Dave went on. "All about a lost gold mine that belongs to Mrs. Morr, Roger's mother."

    "A lost gold mine!" exclaimed Dunston Porter. "Is this a joke, Dave?"

    "No, sir, it's the truth. The strangest tale you ever heard. When we go out to Yellowstone Park we--that is, us boys--are going to look for the mine."

    "Of all things!" burst out Laura. "Say, Dave, will you ever settle down? Here I thought you were going to take a nice little personally-conducted tour with us, and you talk of going land knows where to look for a lost gold mine!"

    "Is it very far?" asked Jessie, and her face showed some disappointment.

    "Oh, it's not very far from Yellowstone Park," answered the youth. "It's in Montana, and you know a corner of the Park is in that State."

    All had walked toward the automobile, which Mr. Porter had been running. The girls got in the tonneau and Dave climbed into the front seat beside his uncle. Just as they were about to start, Nat Poole walked past, suit-case in hand, and tipped his hat politely. Both girls smiled and bowed and Mr. Porter nodded. Then the touring-car rolled off in the direction of the big Wadsworth mansion, where, as I have before stated, the Porters resided with the jeweler's family and old Caspar Potts.

    As they passed through the main street of Crumville--now built up a great deal more than when Dave had first known it--many persons bowed and smiled to all in the car. Everybody knew the Porters and liked them, and the fact that Dave had once been an inmate of the local poor-house was almost forgotten.

    To the youth himself the ride was full of interest. As he sat back in the comfortable seat of the automobile he could not help but think of the many changes that had taken place since he had been found wandering along the railroad tracks, alone and hungry. He had found a father, an uncle, and a sister, and he had made many warm friends, including Jessie Wadsworth, to him the dearest girl in all the world. Certainly he had much to be grateful for,--and he was grateful from the bottom of his heart.

    A few minutes of riding, after leaving the center of the town, brought them within sight of the Wadsworth residence, a fine mansion set back from the roadway, with beautiful trees and shrubbery surrounding it. Down at the great gateway stood Professor Potts, now white-haired and somewhat bent, but with a kindly smile of welcome on his face. Dave waved his hat and the old gentleman bowed with old-fashioned courtesy. Then the touring-car swept up to the broad front piazza and Mrs. Wadsworth showed herself.

    "Home again, are you, Dave," she said, pleasantly. "I am glad to see you." And then she allowed him to kiss her. There had been a time when Dave had been somewhat afraid of this stately lady of society, but that time was past now, and Mrs. Wadsworth looked on Dave almost as a son,--indeed, it had been this affection for the youth which had caused the two families to live under the same roof.

    Dave was soon up in his room, putting away his things and getting ready for dinner, which would be served in half an hour. He was almost ready to go below when he saw Caspar Potts pass through the hallway.

    "Well, Professor, how have you been?" he asked, pleasantly.

    "Very well, David, very well," was the somewhat slow reply. "It is a very pleasant life here, very pleasant!" And the eyes of the old college professor glistened.

    "Got the library in shape now, I suppose?" went on Dave, for he knew that was the old gentleman's hobby.

    "Yes, David, we have every book and pamphlet catalogued. And I am adding something new," continued the professor. "I am getting the autographs of many of the writers and pasting them on the fly-leaves. And where a writer dies and I get a printed obituary notice I paste that in the back of the book. I think it adds something to a volume to know about the writer and to have his or her autograph."

    "Fine, Professor!" cried Dave, and tapped him on the shoulder. "My, but it is nice here! Much better than the old farm, eh, and the poor-house that I came from!"

    The old gentleman nodded several times, and the tears stood in his eyes.

    "Yes! yes! It is very, very nice. I have found real friends, and I am thankful, very thankful!" And he continued on his way down the hall, wiping his eyes with his handkerchief.

    On the stairs Dave met Jessie. She was in a fresh dress of white, and had a rose in her hair.

    "How pretty you look!" he whispered, as he took her arm. "Just like a--a picture!" And then Jessie blushed and that made her look prettier than ever, if such a thing were possible.

    Dave's father and Mr. Wadsworth had come in, and both were glad to see the boy back. Soon dinner was announced, and all sat down to the long table, Dave between his sister and Jessie. It was old Professor Potts who asked grace; and then some rapid-fire conversation followed, the girls and the others demanding to know all about what had happened at Senator Morr's home, and about the lost mine.

    "It certainly sounds like a romance!" declared Dave's father, referring to the lost mine.

    "But I have heard of such things before," answered his brother. "I know of several valuable mines in South America that were lost through earthquakes. Landslides have not only buried mines, they have buried cities as well."

    "Oh, Dave, supposing you went to look for that mine and there was another landslide!" gasped Jessie, and turned pale.

    "That's a risk we'd have to run," was his answer. "But I'd be very careful as to where I went, Jessie."

    "I don't know about this," put in Mr. David Porter, with a grave shake of his head. "Better take the trip through Yellowstone Park, Dave, and let the Landslide Mine slide," and he smiled, faintly.

    "Oh, I promised Roger that I'd go with him,--and Phil is going, too!" pleaded Dave. "We'll be very careful."

    "I might go with you myself, only I think I ought to stay with the party to go through the Park," said Dunston Porter.

    "Yes, we want you with us!" cried Laura.

    "I don't like this at all!" pouted Jessie, and looked somewhat reproachfully at Dave.

    "Oh, you mustn't take it that way!" cried the youth. "Why, we'll be with you on the trip to the Park, and then we'll join you on the tour a little later. You are to stay at least four weeks, remember. Well, if we spent two or even three weeks looking for that mine we'd still have a week in the Park--and one can go through in six days, so the circular says."

    After that the talk became general, Dave learning more concerning the tour and who from Crumville and vicinity had signed to go, and the others asking for the details concerning the mine, and about the doings of Job Haskers and Link Merwell.

    "You steer clear of that rascally teacher and young Merwell," advised Dave's father. "They are a bad lot."

    "I'll steer clear if I can," answered Dave. "But if I catch them in any wrongdoing and I can manage it, I am going to have both of them arrested."

    "I'd not blame you for that."

    After the meal Dave spent a pleasant evening with Laura and Jessie. The three young folks went out on the porch and there, a little later, Ben Basswood joined them. All talked about the trip to Yellowstone Park, and about the Landslide Mine.

    "I'd like to go after that mine myself," said Ben. "But I know I can't do it, for I promised mother and my Aunt Kate that I'd stay with them all through the trip."

    "Then you'll have to stay with Laura and Jessie, too," returned Dave. "I'll leave them in your care while I am away."

    "Oh, Dave, as if Uncle Dunston wasn't going along!" cried his sister.

    "Well, you can't have too many protectors, in such a wild portion of our country," and Dave laughed, for he knew as well as did all of them that the trip through Yellowstone Park is a perfectly safe one.

    By and by Ben walked around the garden with Laura, while Dave took Jessie. It was moonlight and perhaps some sentimental things were said. Anyway, when Dave and Jessie came back he held her arm and both looked very contented. Then Ben had to go, and Dave walked down to the gateway with him and spoke about Nat Poole.

    "Well, if he reforms he's a good one," was all Ben said. He and Nat had been on the outs for a long while.

    "He'll do it," answered Dave. "At least, I hope so."
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