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There was a long consultation between the physicians and surgeons following a careful and thorough examination of their patient, before the rendering of their decision.
He had received various injuries of a serious character, but the injury to the head was far the most dangerous of all. There was a possibility that with the most careful nursing and the most skillful medical aid, he might live, but his recovery was exceedingly doubtful,––one chance out of a hundred.
“Do your best,” was Mr. Cameron’s reply to this decision, “do your best, regardless of cost; if you wish counsel, have it; send out another nurse, the best you can secure, to relieve this one, and I wish one or the other of you gentlemen to remain here constantly, we must not be left without a physician. I may as well inform you now,” Mr. Cameron added, with great dignity, in conclusion, “that your patient is my son.”
Astonishment was depicted upon the faces of the physicians, but Mr. Cameron continued:
“For some months my nephew has been out here incognito, engaged in unearthing the dishonest schemes and plots of the mining company who constituted our western agents, and I have just discovered that he was aided in this work by my son, who, unknown to me, was out here in disguise, working with the same end in view. You will, of course, understand, gentlemen, that money is no object; do everything within your power, and you shall be abundantly compensated.”
Thus it was arranged that one or two physicians were constantly at the house, and when these returned to Silver City for a few hours, others took their places.
A competent cook and housekeeper were also sent out from Silver City, as the excitement resulting from the terrible events of that day, together with her husband’s connection therewith, which had in some way become generally known, proved too much for the feeble strength of Mrs. Maverick, and she was prostrated by the shock.
Minty, terror-stricken by the results which she believed had followed her report to Haight, and by his fearful fate, in a fit of hysteria, confessed the share she had taken in the plot, and was summarily dismissed.
After the coming of Mr. Cameron with the surgeons and nurse, Lyle and Leslie had withdrawn from the sick-room, and busied themselves in caring for Mrs. Maverick, and in superintendence of the necessary work; Van Dorn, whose astonishment at the revelations of the last two days was beyond expression, keeping them informed of the condition of the sufferer. Lyle was pale with excitement, but calmly and bravely took her place as head of the strangely assorted household, her heart throbbing wildly as she anticipated the meeting with Mr. Cameron.
Within the sick-room the soft, gray twilight had deepened into darkness. At one side of the bed sat the nurse, his fingers upon the pulse of the patient, while he listened attentively to his breathing, now becoming irregular, and broken by low moans and occasional mutterings. On the other side sat Mr. Cameron, his head bowed upon his hands, his mind going back to the years of Guy’s childhood and youth. How vividly he recalled many little incidents, seemingly trivial when they occurred, but carefully treasured among the most precious memories in the long, sad years that followed! With the memory of his son, his heart’s pride and joy, came also that of the beautiful daughter, with her golden hair and starry eyes, the light of their home in those happy days.
Mr. Cameron seemed lost in thought, but in reality, while thus reviewing the past, his mind was keenly conscious of the present. In one corner sat the faithful Mike, while at his feet lay the equally faithful Rex, who could be neither coaxed nor driven from the room, but remained quietly watching his master’s face, an almost human love and sorrow looking out of his eyes, as he answered the occasional moans with a low, piteous whine.
In another corner Everard talked in low tones with the two physicians who were to remain that night, Mr. Cameron taking cognizance, in the midst of his own sorrowful thoughts, of every word.
At length some one called for a light, and a moment later, Mr. Cameron was conscious of a light step crossing the room, and of a lamp being placed on the table near the physicians, though none of its rays fell in the direction of the sufferer. Lifting his head, he saw the lamp with a screen so attached as to throw a shade over almost the entire room, leaving only a small portion lighted; but within that brightly illumined portion he had a glimpse, for an instant, of a face, which with its radiant eyes and its shining aureole of golden hair, was so nearly a counterpart of the one but just recalled so vividly to his mind, that it seemed a living reproduction of the same. Only a glimpse, for as he started, wondering if it could be a figment of his own imagination, the face suddenly vanished into the shadow, and the figure glided from the room. Still it haunted him; could there have been a real resemblance? or was it only a hallucination of his own?
About an hour later, Houston, who had observed his uncle’s involuntary start of surprise on seeing Lyle, and who was anxious that he should learn the truth as early as possible, slipping his arm within that of his uncle’s, led him out upon the porch, where they lighted their cigars, smoking for a few moments in silence, then talking together in low tones of the one so dear to each of them, while Houston related the details of his first meeting and early acquaintance with the miner, Jack.
“Even if Guy cannot recover,” said Mr. Cameron, in tremulous tones, when Houston had finished, “Yet if he lives long enough to see and recognize his mother and myself, and realize our feeling for him––even then, I shall be more than repaid for your coming out here,––though all else were lost.”
“Indeed you would,” responded Houston, “but I cannot help feeling that Guy’s life will be spared, that he will live to bless your future years. But my dear uncle,” he continued, very slowly, “although you are yet unaware of it, you have nearly as much, if not an equal cause for joy in another direction.”
“I do not understand you, Everard; you surely do not allude to the property?”
“No, very far from that; did you notice the young girl who came into Guy’s room to-night?”
“To bring the light?”
“Yes, and I intended to inquire of you concerning her. Her face impressed me strangely; I cannot tell whether it was a fact or my own imagination, but I had been thinking of the children,––Guy and his sister,––as they were years ago, and it seemed to me that her face, as I saw it for an instant, was almost an exact counterpart of my own Edna’s, as she used to look, even to the hair and eyes which were very peculiar.”
“It was no imagination on your part, the resemblance is very marked, not only in face, but in voice and manner as well.”
“How do you account for it?” asked Mr. Cameron quickly, “Who is she?”
“She is the one who, of all the world, would have the best right to resemble your daughter,” replied Houston; then, in answer to Mr. Cameron’s look of perplexed inquiry, he continued:
“Pardon me, uncle, for any painful allusion, but at the time of my cousin’s death, I believe you had no direct proof as to the fate of her child?”
“No absolute proof, of course,” replied Mr. Cameron, “only the testimony of those who identified the mother, that there was no child with her, and no child among any of those saved answering to the description given, from which we naturally supposed the little one to have been killed outright. Why, Everard,” he exclaimed, as a new thought occurred to him, “you certainly do not think this Edna’s child, do you?”
“Why might it not be possible?” inquired Houston, wishing to lead his uncle gradually up to the truth.
“Is this her home?” asked Mr. Cameron in turn.
“Yes,” said Houston, “this has been her home, I believe, for the last ten years.”
“If the supposition mentioned a moment ago were correct, how would she be here, amid such surroundings?”
“Do you know the man who runs this house?” Houston asked.
“A man by the name of Maverick had charge of it when I was out here years ago; I do not know whether he is still here.”
“He is; do you know him? Did you ever have any business with him personally?”
“Yes, I had him in my employ years ago, in the east, and was obliged to discharge him for dishonesty.”
“Thereby incurring his life-long hatred and enmity, so that years afterward, he sought to wreak his revenge upon you by stealing from the wrecked train, where your daughter lost her life, the little child who would otherwise have been your solace in that time of bereavement.”
“Everard!” exclaimed Mr. Cameron, “are you sure you are correct? What proof have you of this?”
“The proofs were not discovered until recently,” Houston replied, “although we knew that they existed, but now this girl has found a letter from Maverick’s wife confessing the whole crime, and stating that it was committed through a spirit of revenge; and she also has in her possession the articles of clothing she wore at the time she was stolen, together with a locket containing her mother’s picture and her own name,––Marjorie Lyle Washburn.”
“That is enough,” said Mr. Cameron briefly, “let me see her, Everard.”
Houston stepped within the house, reappearing a few moments later, with Lyle. Very beautiful she looked as she came forward in the soft radiance of the moonlight, a child-like confidence shining in the lovely eyes.
Mr. Cameron rose to meet her, and taking both her hands within his own, he stood for an instant, gazing into the beautiful face.
“My dear child, my own Edna!” he said in broken tones, folding her closely within his arms, “Thank God for another child restored to us from the dead!”
Houston returned to the sick-room, leaving Mr. Cameron and Lyle in their new-found joy. Lyle told him briefly the story of her life, his eyes growing stern with indignation as he listened to the wrongs she had endured, then luminous with tenderness, as she told of Jack’s affectionate care for her.
“Call me ‘papa’ my child, as you used to in the days of your babyhood,” he said, kissing her, as they rose to return to Guy’s room, “you never even then, would call Mrs. Cameron or myself anything but ‘mamma’ and ‘papa,’ and now you shall be as our own child!”
Together they watched beside the sick-bed until the morning sun touched the mountain peaks with glory, but there came no relief to the sufferer, now moaning and tossing in delirium.
Eastward, across the mountain ranges, Morton Rutherford was speeding swiftly, scarcely heeding in his sorrow and anxiety, the grandeur and beauty through which he was passing; while from Chicago, the sweet-faced mother was hastening westward, all unconscious that she was being swiftly and surely borne to the answer of her prayers,––that in that distant western country to which she was journeying, her son lay calling her in his fever and delirium.
She had started in response to a dispatch from Morton Rutherford, at Silver City:
“Mr. Cameron and Everard Houston safe and well, but wish you to come out immediately. Wire where I will meet you in St. Paul. Will explain when I see you.
The mining camp that morning, presented a strange scene of idleness and desolation. Many of the mines were in ruins, while the remainder were shut down.
They would remain shut down for an indefinite period, Houston told the men who had gathered about the house for information. The officers of the company, he further stated, had been arrested and their property would soon be seized, hence it would be impossible to state when the mines would be reopened. It was probable that with the next spring, an entirely new corporation would be organized, and the mining and milling plant rebuilt, and operated on a much more extensive scale than before; and should this be the case, he would then and there vouch that those of his men who had proven themselves trustworthy and honorable, would be certain of work, should they desire it, in the newly opened mines.
The men knew of Jack’s condition, and while not a sound was made that would disturb the sufferer, the better class swung their hats high in the air, in token of applause, and then walked silently away.
It was found in the succeeding days that several miners had lost their lives in the explosions of the Yankee Boy mine; a few were so far underground that their doom was inevitable, while others, whom Houston had warned, instead of following his instructions, had endeavored to escape through the shafts, and had discovered too late that they had only rushed on to certain death.
Maverick, the tool by which all this destruction had been wrought, after his deadly work was done, overcome by his wretched cowardice, remained concealed until a late hour; then creeping from his hiding place to gloat over the havoc and ruin he had wrought, he suddenly found his triumph was short. Under the shelter of a few boards, temporarily erected, he found the ghastly remains of his companion and director in crime. Shivering and trembling with fear, he crept up the road till within sight of the house, arriving just in time to see Houston,––whom he supposed crushed and buried within the mine,––presenting Lyle to Mr. Cameron. He lingered long enough to see her clasped in his arms, then skulked back into the shadow, retreating down the road, gnashing his teeth with rage and disappointment. The following day search was made for him, under instructions from Mr. Cameron and Houston, who offered a large reward for him, living or dead. His body was found in an old, abandoned shaft on the mountain side, riddled with bullets. The vengeance of the miners, desperate from the loss of homes and employment, had overtaken him first. He was buried hastily and with little ceremony, his two sons having already taken themselves to parts unknown, fearful lest the penalty of their father’s crimes might be inflicted upon them, and his fate become theirs also. A day or two later, Mrs. Maverick, who had been prostrated by the shock of the explosions and the succeeding events, died from a sudden paralysis, her feeble mind having first been cheered and soothed by the assurance from Mr. Cameron of his forgiveness for the small share which she had taken in the withholding Lyle from her true friends and home. She was given a decent burial in the miners’ little cemetery at the Y, and the house which for so many years had been called by their name, knew the Mavericks no more.
Kind hands laid little Bull-dog under the murmuring pines on the mountain side, near Morgan’s last resting place, but in the hearts, of Houston and his friends, his memory could never grow dim.
The small community of miners suddenly vanished, the deserted quarters, with their blackened ruins, seeming little like the busy camp of but a few days before, resounding with their songs and jests.
Only in the house nestling at the foot of the mountain there were no signs of desertion. It was crowded to overflowing, and within its walls, during those next succeeding days, what combats were waged, between hope and fear, joy and despair, life and death!
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