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"Dick! Oh, how glad I am that you have come!"
Mrs. Randolph Rover rushed out to the porch to greet the boy as he came bounding up the steps, two at a time.
"I came as soon as I received the telegram," he answered, as he embraced his aunt. "And how are father and Uncle Randolph?"
"Your father is not seriously hurt, -- only a twist of his left ankle, where the burglar kicked him. But your Uncle Randolph --"
Mrs. Rover stopped and shook her head bitterly.
"Not dangerously hurt, I hope," cried Dick, his heart leaping into his mouth, for as we already know, his eccentric old uncle was very dear to him.
"Yes, he is seriously hurt, Dick. He was struck in the head, and a fever has set in."
"Can I see him?"
"Not yet. The doctor says he must be kept very quiet."
"But he will recover, aunt?"
"I -- I hope so, Dick. Oh, it was dreadful!" And the tears rolled down the woman's pale face.
"I'm so sorry for you!" he exclaimed, brushing the tears away with his handkerchief. "So sorry. Where is father?"
"Up in the bedroom in the wing of the house."
"I can see him, can't I?"
Dick waited to hear no more, but ran up the stairs quickly, yet making no noise, for fear of disturbing his uncle, who was in a front room on the same floor.
"Father, can I come in?" he asked in a low voice.
"Yes, Dick," was the reply, and he went into the room, to find his father in a rocking chair, with his left foot resting on a stool. Mr. Anderson Rover's face showed plainly that he had suffered considerable pain.
"Father, I am so glad it is no worse," he said, as he took his parent's hand. "Aunt Martha tells me Uncle Randolph is seriously hurt."
"Yes, he got the worst of it," returned Anderson Rover. "The blow was meant for me, but your uncle leaped in and caught its full force."
"And do you know who the robber was?"
"No; he had his face well covered."
"I think I can tell you."
"You, Dick? Ah, you are thinking of that Dan Baxter. It was a man, not a boy; I am sure of that much."
"Yes, it was a man, father. It was Arnold Baxter."
"Arnold Baxter! You must be dreaming. He is in jail"
"No, he has escaped; he escaped about a week ago."
"Escaped?" Anderson Rover raised himself up, and would have leaped to his feet hid not his sprained ankle prevented him. "You are certain of this?"
"Yes," and Dick related the particulars.
"You must be right. The man did look like Baxter, but I thought it impossible that it could be the same." The elder Rover gave a groan. "Then the fat is in the fire for a certainty. And after all my work and trouble!"
"What are you talking about now, father?"
"That mining claim in Colorado -- the Eclipse Mine, as Roderick Kennedy christened it."
"But I don't understand?"
"It's a long story, Dick. You have beard parts of it, but not the whole, and to go into the details would do you small good."
"But I would like to know something, father."
"You shall know something, Dick." Mr. Rover drew up his injured foot. "Oh, if only I could go after Arnold Baxter without delay!"
"It's too bad you are hurt. Does it pain you very much?"
"When I try to stand on it the pain is terrible. The doctor says I must not use the foot for a month or six weeks."
"That will make tedious waiting for you."
"Yes, and in the meantime Baxter will try to cheat me out of that mining property, if he can."
"But he won't dare to show himself."
"He will do the work through some other party -- probably the man who helped him to escape from prison."
"Did he get anything of value -- papers, for instance?"
"Yes, he got most of the papers, although I still retain one small map, a duplicate of one which was stolen. You see, Dick, years ago Roderick Kennedy and myself were partners out in Colorado, owning half a dozen claims."
"Yes; I've heard that before."
"Well, one day Kennedy went off prospecting and located a very rich find, which he christened the Eclipse Mine. The claim was never worked, but he made a map of the locality, which he kept a secret. As his partner I was entitled to half of all of his discoveries, just as he was entitled to half of my discoveries.
"At that time Arnold Baxter worked for both of us. He was thick with Kennedy, and I soon saw that he was trying to break up the partnership, so that he could form a new deal with Kennedy. But Kennedy was true to me, and in the end we caught Baxter stealing from us, and gave him twenty-four hours' notice to quit camp.
"Baxter was enraged at this, and went off vowing to get square. About a month after that happened Kennedy tumbled off a cliff, and died of his injuries. In his will he left me all of his mining properties, including the Eclipse claim, which I have never yet seen.
"After Kennedy was buried Arnold Baxter came forward and claimed part of the property, and produced papers to substantiate his claims. But the papers were proved by a dozen miners to be of no value, and in the end he was again drummed out of camp.
"I was making money fast just then, and for the time being paid no attention to Baxter. But he continued to annoy me, and I am pretty certain that on one or two occasions be tried to take my life. But at last he disappeared, and I heard no more of him until you boys brought me back from Africa, and told me that you had had trouble with both him and his good-for-nothing son. He seems bound to shadow me wherever I go."
"But the Eclipse Mine --" broke in Dick.
"I am getting to that. Kennedy had left his interest in it to me, but Baxter claimed the whole discovery as his own, saying he was out on his own hook when the mine was located, which was a falsehood. But though Baxter claimed the mine he could not locate it, nor could I do so. It was along a creek which a certain Jack Wumble had called Bumble Bee, but we could not locate this creek, and Jack Wumble had departed for fresh fields. But I have located the old miner, and he has told me that Bumble Bee Creek was in reality one of the south branches of the Gunnison River, and is now called the Larkspur. You must remember that in those, early days matters were very unsettled in Colorado, and names changed almost weekly."
"So this Eclipse Mine is on Larkspur Creek?"
"Yes, at a point three hundred yards above a white cliff which the old miners used to call Rooney's Ghost, because a miner named Rooney once committed suicide there."
"And what about Baxter, father? If he has those papers, do you think he or his confederate will go up the Larkspur to locate the Eclipse Mine?"
"Undoubtedly -- under another name -- that is, if it proves as valuable as my old partner anticipated."
"But if we can get there before him and locate for ourselves?"
"Ah, if I could do that, Dick, then I would not fear Baxter or anybody else. But if he gets in ahead of me -- well, you know, 'possession is nine points of the law,' and he can at least make me a lot of trouble."
Dick sprang from the seat into which he had dropped.
"He shan't do it, father!" he exclaimed.
"But how are you going to help it, my son? I cannot go West with this sprained ankle."
"I'll go West myself and locate that claim in spite of what Arnold Baxter has done."
"You go West?"
"Without me? That would be, a -- well --"
"Remember, father, I went to Africa to find you."
"I shall never forget it, Dick. But you had others with you -- your Uncle Randolph, and Tom, and Sam, and Aleck."
"Well, I can take Tom and Sam with me again, if it comes to that."
"It is a wild country out there among the mining camps of the mountains."
"It's no wilder than in the heart of Africa."
Mr. Anderson Rover shook his head doubtfully. "And then if Baxter found out what you were trying to do he would --" He could not finish, but Dick understood.
"I shall be on my guard, father. I know what a scoundrel he is, and will give him no chance to get at me."
At that point the conversation was interrupted by the hired girl, who came to call Dick to a late supper. The lad was hungry, so he did not refuse. By the time he had finished, Mr. Rover had gone to bed, so his son also retired, without probing the Eclipse Mine affair any further. But it was a long time before Dick got to sleep, so full was his head of the suddenly proposed trip to the West.
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