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Tom Sloan made himself very much at home with the Fentons. The widow sent out for a steak, and this, with a cup of tea and some fresh rolls, furnished a plain but excellent repast.
"I haven't eaten so good a supper for a long time," said the miner. "It seems just like the suppers I used to get at home in Vermont."
"It was very plain," said Mrs. Fenton, "but probably you had a good appetite."
"You are right there, ma'am."
Mr. Sloan remained chatting for a couple of hours. He told his new friends that he had been away two years, spending the time in Nevada and California.
"I hope you have had good luck, Mr. Sloan," said Fred.
"Yes, I've made a few thousand dollars, but I'm going back again next month."
"No, to Colorado."
Fred and his mother exchanged looks.
"My father left us some land in Colorado," said the train boy—"a hundred and twenty-five acres—but we can't find out whether it has any value or not."
"Let me know where it is," said the miner, "and I'll find out and send you word."
"Thank you! It will be a great favor," said Mrs. Fenton warmly. "A cousin of my husband went out there three months since, and visited the land. He reports that it is of no value, but offers to buy it for twenty-five dollars. Fred thinks he wouldn't make the offer if it was not worth a good deal more."
"That's where Fred's head is level. Depend upon it your cousin is foxy and wants to take you in. I'll tell you just how the matter stands."
Mrs. Fenton produced her husband's papers, and Mr. Sloan made an entry of the location in a small note-book which he carried.
"Don't worry about it any more, ma'am,'" he said. "I'll do all I can for you, and I hope for your sake there's a gold mine on the land."
Mrs. Fenton smiled.
"I shall be satisfied with less than that," she answered.
"How long are you going to stay in New York?" asked Fred.
"I am going to Vermont to-morrow, and, likely as not I shan't come back this way, but go West from Boston. Anyway you'll hear from me occasionally. I ain't much of a writer, but I guess you can make out my pot-hooks."
"I'll take the risk, Mr. Sloan," said Fred, "I am no writing master myself, but my little brother Albert can draw nicely, and writes a handsome hand. Bertie, bring your last writing-book."
The little boy did so, and exhibited it to the miner.
"Why, the kid beats my old teacher all hollow," said Sloan. "I've a great mind to take him with me to Vermont, and have him start a writing school."
"I'm afraid Albert couldn't keep order among the big boys."
"Well, there might be some trouble that way. How much do you weigh, kid?"
"Ninety pounds," answered Albert.
"Well, that isn't exactly a heavy weight. But, Fred, I must be going out and finding a room somewhere. Do you know of any good place?"
"There's a hotel close by. I'll go with you."
"Good evening, ma'am," said the miner, as he rose to go. "I may not see you again just at present, but I'll look after that business of yourn. Come here, kid, you ought to get a prize for your writing. Here's something for you," and he handed the delighted boy a five-dollar gold piece.
"Oh, ma, now may I have a new suit?" asked Albert.
"If you want a new suit," said the miner, "I haven't given you enough. Here's another five to help along."
"You are very kind, sir," said Mrs. Fenton. "Albert is really in need of clothes, and this will buy him something more than a suit."
"All the better, ma'am. I'm glad to have the chance of doing a little good with my money."
"I wish all who have money were like you. I wish you health and good fortune, and a safe return to your friends."
"Those are three good things, ma'am. If I get there I won't kick."
"Do you ever kick?" asked Albert, puzzled.
"I see you don't understand me, kid. It's a slang term we miners use. I won't complain. That's a little better English, isn't it?"
Fred conducted Mr. Sloan to the hotel nearby and saw him secure a good room. Then he was about to retire.
"Hold on a minute!" said the miner. "Come up to my room. I want to talk a little to you on business."
"Certainly, Mr. Sloan."
Reaching the chamber, the miner unbuckled a belt that spanned his waist, and drew therefrom a large sum in gold pieces. He counted out five double eagles—a hundred dollars—and turning to Fred, said: "I want you to keep that money for me till I come back."
"But, Mr. Sloan," said Fred surprised, "why not leave it with your other money? I might lose it."
"I want you to put it in some savings bank in your own name, and, if you need it, to draw out any part of it. I don't want that mean scamp, the landlord, to get a chance to turn you out into the street."
"But I might not be able to pay it back, Mr. Sloan."
"I'll take the risk. I lend it to you without interest for a year, and if you have to use any of it I won't sue you."
"You are very kind! It will make me feel much more easy in mind. I wouldn't mind being turned into the street on my own account, but mother couldn't stand it."
"Just so, Fred. You've got a good mother, and you must look out for her."
"I don't often meet a good friend like you, Mr. Sloan."
"Oh, pshaw! you mustn't make too much of a little thing," said the miner modestly. "I'm only giving you the interest on a hundred dollars."
Fred walked slowly homeward, feeling very cheerful. He hoped he should not need to use any of Mr. Sloan's kind loan, but it gave him a feeling of relief to know that he had a fund to draw from in case of need.
On his way home, in passing a drinking saloon, Fred's attention was drawn to two men who came out, arm in arm, both of whom appeared to be under the influence of liquor. Something in the dress and figure of one looked familiar. Coming closer Fred recognized his country friend, Joshua Bascom.
"What, Mr. Bascom! Is this you?"
"Why, it's Fred!" said Bascom stopping short and trying to stand erect.
"Oh, come along!" said his companion impatiently.
"No, I want to see the train boy. Good night, old fellow!"
The other angrily protested against being shaken off, but Joshua dropped his arm, and took Fred's instead.
"How came you with that man?" asked Fred.
"He's a jolly, sociable chap. Wanted to take me to a little card party, but I guess it's too late."
"Did he meet you in the saloon?"
"No; he took me in there, and treated me to three glasses of milk punch. I guess it's got into my head. Do you think I am—intoxicated, Fred?"
"It looks very much like it, Mr. Bascom."
"I hope they won't hear of it at home. Dad would get the minister to come and give me a talkin' to."
"I hope this stranger didn't get any of your money?"
"No; he wouldn't let me pay for a thing."
"He meant to get the money back. He was carrying you to some gambling house, where he would have won all your money."
"You don't say!" exclaimed Joshua, panic-stricken. "I thought he was a nice fellow."
"Be careful how you trust strangers, and don't go to any more drinking saloons!"
"I won't," said Mr. Bascom, fervently.
"I will take you to your room, and you had better take a good long sleep. If you want to go round, I'll call to-morrow evening, and go to some place of amusement with you."
"I think Mr. Bascom had better go back to his farm soon," thought Fred, as he returned from piloting Joshua home. "If he doesn't he is likely to get into trouble."
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