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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 16
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    AT ABE BLOWER'S HOME

    The boys saw at once that something was wrong. Mrs. Carmody was completely bewildered, and being old, had no easy time of it to collect her wits.

    "Do you feel faint?" asked Dave, kindly. "Can I get you a glass of water?"

    "No, I'll be all right in a minute. But this beats all, it sure does!" replied the old lady. "Abe wrote that he was going off with a Roger Morr to look for a lost mine, and here you are lookin' for Abe. It sure is a puzzle."

    "He wrote that he was going off with me?" ejaculated the senator's son.

    "He said Roger Morr. If that's your handle----"

    "It certainly is."

    "This must be Link Merwell's work!" cried Dave. "Perhaps he met Blower----"

    "And impersonated Roger," finished Phil.

    "Would he do that?" questioned the senator's son. "Would he dare?"

    "He would, if he thought he could get away with the trick," replied Dave. He turned to Mrs. Carmody. "Would you mind letting us see the letter Mr. Blower sent you?"

    "Sure. I'll get it. I left it on the table," was the answer, and, getting up, the old lady went into the house. "Come in," she invited. In her younger days she had been used to the rough life of a pioneer and she did not stand on ceremony.

    The boys went in, and presently Mrs. Carmody brought forth a letter written in lead pencil on a half-sheet of note paper. It ran as follows:

    "DEAR KATE:

    "You remember I tole you about Maurice Harrisons sister, who was married to a seanatour of the government. Well, his son, Roger Morr has come on to look for that lost mine--wants for me to go on a hunt with him to onse--so as it is good money I am going--start to nite in a hour--you git Nell Davis to stay with you her an Ben I wont be gone morn a weak or to. ABE."

    "That's the letter Abe sent me yesterday," announced Mrs. Carmody. "You see he says Roger Morr, the son of the senator. If that's you, what does it mean?" and she looked at Roger.

    "I'll tell you what it means," answered Dave. "It means that somebody else has pretended he is Roger here--an enemy who wants to locate the lost mine first, if he can."

    "O dear! Did you ever hear the like! Who was it, do you suppose?"

    "We've got a pretty good idea," said Roger. "Nobody you know. But tell me, where did this letter come from?"

    "You mean who brought it?"

    "Yes."

    "Billy Lane."

    "Who is he?"

    "Oh, a feller around town, who does all sort o' odd jobs."

    "Then you don't know where Mr. Blower was when he sent it?"

    "No, I don't. But I guess he wasn't very near, otherwise he would have come here hisself, instead o' writin'--for writin' comes hard to Abe--he never had no chanct for much education. And he would want some o' his clothes."

    The boys read the letter a second time. All were convinced that Link Merwell had gotten ahead of them and had perpetrated the fraud by impersonating Roger.

    "It was certainly a bold stroke," was Phil's comment.

    "Yes, and a clever one too, in a way," replied Dave. "From our talk in the summer-house Link must have learned that Blower and the late Mr. Harrison were warm friends, and, that being so, Blower would be willing to do almost anything for Mr. Harrison's nephew. And Link rushed Blower away in a hurry, so that we wouldn't get at him."

    "I wonder if Haskers is with him?" mused Roger.

    "I shouldn't wonder. If the mine is found, Link can't claim it, for he would be arrested on sight. But he could let Haskers claim it, and then turn it over to somebody else and thus mix it up, so that you would be out of it," answered Dave.

    "What do you think I had best do next?" asked the senator's son. The unexpected turn of affairs had bewildered him almost as much as it had bewildered Mrs. Carmody.

    "I don't see what you can do, Roger, excepting to start on a hunt for the Landslide Mine without Blower."

    "Yes, let us do that!" cried Phil. "Who knows but that we'll run across Blower and Merwell? And if we do, we can easily prove that Link is a fraud."

    "Well, we'll have to get some sort of a guide," answered Roger. "It would be utterly useless for us to start out alone in such a country as this."

    "We might ask Mr. Dillon to recommend somebody," said Dave. "He appeared to be a reliable man."

    The boys talked to Mrs. Carmody for a few minutes longer. They were on the point of leaving the house when there came a loud rap on the front door.

    "Perhaps Blower has come back!" cried Phil.

    "I don't think he'd knock," answered Dave.

    "No, it isn't Abe," said Mrs. Carmody. "I'll go and see who it is."

    She went to the door and opened it,--to find herself confronted by a tall, leathery-looking individual whose breath smelt strongly of liquor.

    "Is Abe Blower home?" demanded the man, in a thick voice.

    "No, he isn't," replied Mrs. Carmody, stiffly. She did not like the appearance of the visitor.

    "When will he be home?" went on the man, and tried to force his way into the house.

    "I don't know. You can't come in here, Sol Blugg!" And Mrs. Carmody tried to shut the door in the man's face.

    "I am a-comin' in," stormed the newcomer. "I'm a-comin' in to wait fer Abe Blower, an' when I meet him--well, we'll have an account to settle," and the man lurched heavily against the door-frame.

    "It's one of the fellows we met on the train!" whispered Phil. "The fellow called Sol Blugg!"

    "Yes, and that other man, Larry Jaley, is waiting on the sidewalk for him," announced Dave, after a glance through a window. "And neither of them seem to be very sober."

    "You get right out of here, Sol Blugg!" cried Mrs. Carmody, with sudden energy. "Abe ain't home, an' I won't have you hangin' around. You get right out!" And she caught up her broom, which chanced to be behind the door.

    "Drop the broom, old woman!" snarled Sol Blugg, and it was plain to see that he was befuddled by liquor. "I'm a-comin' in, and you sha'n't stop me!"

    He made a sudden grab and caught Mrs. Carmody by the arm. But as he did this, Dave leaped into the little hallway and shoved him back.

    "Let go of this lady!" he said, sternly. "Let go, or I'll knock you down!"

    Surprised and bewildered, Sol Blugg dropped his hold on Mrs. Carmody's arm and glared uncertainly at our hero.

    "Who--who are you?" he faltered.

    "Never mind who I am," replied Dave. "You let this lady alone and go about your business."

    "I wanter see Abe Blower."

    "He has gone away."

    "Say, where have I seen you?" demanded the leathery-looking man, suddenly. "Oh, I remember now, on the train, comin' from the land sale. Say, was you there?"

    "No."

    "I know better! I saw you on the train--you an' them other fellers, too!" And Sol Blugg pointed unsteadily at Phil and Roger. "I know how it is," he went on, ramblingly. "You went there in place o' Abe--queered the hull thing fer us, you did! I know! You're in with Abe, an' Abe's in with you! Thought you'd do us out o' our little game, eh? Say, Larry!" he called to the man on the sidewalk. "Look at these three fellers--same ones was on the train last night. They are in with Abe--and they queered us--put a crimp in the hull game. Now they say Abe ain't here. Wot are we going to do, tell me that now, what are we goin' to do?"

    "Them fellers!" exclaimed Larry Jaley, catching sight of the boys. "I remember 'em. Say, maybe they heard us talkin'!"

    "Sure--they must have," mumbled Sol Blugg.

    "Do you know these men?" asked Mrs. Carmody.

    "We saw them on the train last night, that is all," answered Roger. "They said something about Mr. Blower queering a land deal for them."

    "Yes, he told me about that, too. They were going to swindle some folks, and Abe heard about it and gave the thing away. Abe won't stand for anything that ain't strictly honest."

    "Say, I want you to know----" commenced Sol Blugg, and tried to catch hold of Mrs. Carmody again. But this time Dave was too quick for him. He pushed the man back, turned him around, and sent him flying down the steps to the street.

    "Now, you go on!" he cried. "If you don't, you'll get into trouble!"

    "That's what!" said Roger.

    "Perhaps you'd like to be arrested," added Phil.

    "Come on!" said Larry Jaley, in a low voice. "Come on, Sol. I told you it wouldn't do any good to come here."

    "I didn't expect to see them young fellers," growled the leathery-looking man. "But I'm a-goin' to git square with Abe Blower, jest wait an' see," he added, thickly; and then he and his companion started up the street and around the first corner.

    "The beasts!" murmured Mrs. Carmody, as she gazed after them. "I do wish I had used the broom over Sol Blugg's head! Maybe it would have done him good!"

    "You know these men, then?" asked Dave.

    "Oh, yes, and Abe knows 'em, too! It seems that, years ago, before I came here, Abe used to train with those men, in the mining camps. But they were a hard crowd, used to drinkin' and gamblin', and Abe gave 'em up and went with men like Mr. Harrison, and Tom Dillon. That made Sol Blugg and his crowd sore, and they often tried to do Abe harm. Now that Abe queered that land swindle for 'em I suppose they are more sore than ever. But I don't think they would have come here, only they have been drinkin'."

    "You had better keep on the lookout--they may come back," said Dave.

    "I'll keep on guard, don't fear. I've got one of Abe's pistols in the house, and a club, too. And I'll get that neighbor Abe spoke about to stay with me," returned Mrs. Carmody. "But, say," she added, suddenly. "You better keep on guard, too. 'Tain't no nice thing to run up against that bunch, I can tell you that!"

    "Yes, we'll have to be on the watch from the very moment we leave this house," said Roger.

    The boys talked for a few minutes longer with the old lady, getting what information they could, and then hurried back to their hotel. On the way they kept a sharp lookout for the leathery-looking man and his cronies, but they did not show themselves.

    It was an easy matter for them to find old Mr. Dillon, who was reading a mining journal in the smoking-room. He listened with much interest to what they had to tell. As they felt they could trust such a man, they withheld nothing from him.

    "It certainly is some game--this trying to locate that lost Landslide Mine," said the old miner. "I've been thinkin' it over again since you told me about it, and it interests me mightily. So you want somebody to go with you, and help you find the right trail, and find Abe Blower? Well, if you don't think I'm too old, I'll go myself!" And he smiled broadly at the boys.
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