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Tom's Second Window








From: The Boys Of Crawford's Basin

Mrs. Appleby never did quite understand how her barrel of oil had been
recovered for her. All she knew for certain was that her good friend,
Mr. Connor, had somehow procured it from Yetmore, and that Yetmore was,
as Mr. Connor said, "agreeable."

As for myself, when Tom that morning, taking me aside, related with many
chuckles how he had occupied himself during the night, I must own that
my only feeling was one of satisfaction at the thought that Yetmore had
been made to restore the widow's property, and that the fear of ridicule
would probably keep him silent on the subject. Sharing with most boys
the love of fair play and the hatred of oppression, Tom's cleverness and
promptness of action seemed to me altogether commendable.

Nevertheless, I foresaw one consequence of the transaction which, I
thought, was pretty sure to follow, namely, that it would arouse in
Yetmore an angry resolve to "get even" with Tom by hook or by crook.
That he would resort to active reprisals if the opportunity presented
itself I felt certain, and so I warned our friend. But Tom, careless as
usual, refused to take any precautions, believing that Yetmore would not
venture as long as he--Tom--had, as he expressed it, two such damaging
shots in his magazine as the story of the lead boulder and the story of
the oil barrel; on both of which subjects he had, with rare discretion,
determined to keep silence unless circumstances should warrant their
disclosure.

It was not till I had reached home again and had jubilantly retailed the
story to my father, that I began to understand how there might be yet
another aspect to the matter. Instead of receiving it with a hearty
laugh and a "Good for Tom," as I had anticipated, he shook his head and
said:

"I'm sorry to hear it. Tom made a mistake that time. That Yetmore should
be made to give up the barrel of oil is proper enough; but what right
has Tom to appropriate to himself the duties of judge, jury and
executive officer? It is just such cases as this that earn for the
American people the reputation of a nation without respect for law. No.
Tom meant well, I know, but in my opinion he made a mistake all the
same."

"I never thought of it in that light," said I; "so it is just as well,
probably, that Tom didn't let me into the secret beforehand, because I'm
afraid I should have been only too ready to help if he had asked me."

"Yes, it is just as well you were not given the choice, I expect,"
replied my father, smiling. "I'm glad Tom had the sense to take the
whole responsibility on his own shoulders. Does he expect that Yetmore
will be content to let the matter rest where it is?"

"He seems to think so; though he is such a heedless fellow that it
wouldn't bother him much if he thought otherwise."

"Well, in my opinion he will do well to keep his eyes open. As I told
you before, I think Yetmore's natural caution would prompt him to keep
within the law, but it is not impossible now, Tom having set him the
example--for one such transgression of the law is apt to breed
another--that he will think himself justified in resorting to lawless
measures in his turn; especially as he will have that fellow, Long John,
jogging his elbow and whispering evil counsels in his ear all the
time."

How correct my father was in his presumption; how Long John did devise a
scheme of retaliation; and how Joe and I inadvertently got our fingers
into the pie, I shall have to relate in due course.

But though my father disapproved of Tom's action, that fact did not
lessen his desire to help his friend when I had related to him how Tom
had indeed spent all his savings on Mrs. Murphy and her family.

"What a good-hearted, harum-scarum fellow he is!" exclaimed my father.
"He knows--in fact, no one knows better--that there is a possible
fortune waiting for him somewhere up here on Lincoln; he saves up all
winter so that he may be free to go and hunt for it in the spring; yet
at the first note of distress, away he runs and tumbles all his savings
into Mrs. Murphy's lap, who, when all is said and done, has no real
claim upon him, thus taking the risk of being stranded in town while
Long John goes off and cuts him out. What are we going to do about it,
boys? What can you suggest?"

"It would certainly be a shame," said Joe, "if Tom, by his act of
charity, should put himself out of the running in the search for that
vein of galena. Yet he will surely do so if he can't raise that money.
And even if he should raise it, he might be late in getting it, in which
case Long John would get the start of him."

"That's the case in a nutshell," my father assented; "and, as I said
before: What are we going to do about it?"

"Why----" Joe began; and then he suddenly jumped up and coming across
the room he whispered something in my ear. I replied with a nod;
whereupon Joe returned to his chair, and addressing my father once more,
said:

"I'll tell you what we'll do, Mr. Crawford. Phil and I made forty
dollars last fall cutting timbers--it was Tom who got us our order,
too--and we have it still. We'll put that in--eh, Phil?--if it will be
any use."

"Yes," said I. "Gladly."

"Good!" exclaimed my father. "Then that settles it. Now, I'll tell you
what we'll do. I'll add sixty dollars to it--that is all I can afford
just now--and you two shall ride back to Sulphide this afternoon, give
Tom the money, and tell him he shall have fifty more in a couple of
months if he needs it. And tell him at the same time that he needn't go
mortgaging his little house. We don't want security from Tom Connor: we
know him too well. I'd rather have his word than some men's bond. You
shall ride up to see him this afternoon, and you needn't hurry back
to-day; for that rain of last night has made the ground too wet to
continue plowing; and, if I'm not mistaken, we're in for another storm
to-night, in which case the soil won't be in condition again for two or
three days."

I need hardly say that Joe and I were delighted to undertake this
mission, and about four o'clock we reached Mrs. Appleby's, where we put
up our ponies in her stable. Then, as Tom would not be quitting work for
another hour, instead of going direct to his house, we climbed up to the
Pelican, intending to catch him there and walk home with him.

Presently arriving at the great white dump of bleached porphyry to which
the citizens of Sulphide were accustomed to point with pride as an
indication of the immense amount of work it had taken to make the
Pelican the important mine it was, we scrambled up to the engine-house,
where for some minutes we stood watching the busy engine as it whirled
to the surface the buckets of waste. Then, stepping over to the mouth of
the shaft, we paused again to watch the top-men as they emptied the big
buckets into the car and trundled the car itself to the edge of the
dump, upset it, and trundled it back again for more.

As we stood there, a miner came up, and stepping out of the cage, nodded
to us in passing.

"Want anybody, boys?" he asked.

"We're waiting for Tom Connor," I replied. "He's down below, isn't he?"

"Yes, he's down in the fifth. I'll take you down there if you like. I'm
going back in a minute."

"What do you think, Joe?" I asked.

"Yes, let's go," my companion replied. "I've never been inside a mine,
and I should like to see one."

"All right," said the miner. "Come over here to the dressing-room and
I'll give you a lamp and a couple of slickers. It's a bit wet down
there."

Joe and I were soon provided with water-proof coats, and in company with
our new friend we stepped into the cage, when the miner, shutting the
door behind us, called out to the engineer, "Fifth level, McPherson,"
and instantly the floor of the cage seemed to drop from under us. After
a fall of several miles, as it appeared to us, the cage stopped, when,
peering through the wire lattice-work, we saw before us a dark passage,
upon one side of which hung a white board with a big "5" painted upon
it.

"Here you are," said the miner, stepping out of the cage and handing us
a lighted lamp. "Just walk straight along this drift about three hundred
feet--it's all plain sailing--and you'll find Tom Connor at work there.
I'm going on down to the seventh myself."

With that he stepped back into the cage, rang the bell, and vanished,
leaving us standing there eyeing each other a little dubiously at
finding ourselves left to our own guidance, four hundred feet below the
surface of the earth.

"I hadn't reckoned on that," said I. "I thought he was coming with us."

"So did I," replied Joe. "But it doesn't really matter. All we have to
do is to walk along this passage; so let's go ahead."

That our obliging friend had been right when he stated that it was "a
bit wet" down here was evident, for the drops of water from the roof of
the drift kept pattering upon our slickers, and presently, when we had
advanced something over half the distance, one of them fell plump upon
the flame of our lamp and put it out!

We stopped short, not knowing what pitfalls there might be ahead of us,
and each felt in all his pockets for a match. We had none! Never
anticipating any such contingency as this, we had ventured into this
black hole without a match in our possession.

I admit that we were scared--the darkness was so very dark and the
silence so very silent--but fortunately it was only for a moment.
Standing stock still, for, indeed, we dared not move, we shouted for
Tom, when, to our infinite relief, we heard his familiar voice call out:

"Hallo, there! That you, Patsy? I'm coming. Does the boss want me?"

The next moment a light appeared moving towards us, and as soon as we
could safely do so we advanced to meet it.

"How are you, Tom?" we both cried, simultaneously, assuming an off-hand
manner, as though we had not been scared a bit.

Tom stopped, not recognizing us for a moment, and then exclaimed:

"Hallo, boys! What are you doing down here? Who brought you down?"

We told him how we came to be there, and how our lamp had gone out; at
which Tom shook his head.

"Well, it was certainly a smart trick to send you down into this wet
hole and not even see that you had a match in your pocket. What would
you have done if I'd happened to have left the drift?"

The very idea gave me cold chills all down my back.

"We should have been badly scared, Tom, and that's a fact," I replied;
"but I hope we should have kept our heads. I believe we should have sat
down where we were and shouted till somebody came."

"Well, that would have been the best thing you could do, though you
might have had to shout a pretty long time, for there is nobody working
in this level just now but me, and, as a matter of fact, I should have
left it myself in another five minutes. But it's all right as it
happens; so now you can come along with me. I'm going out the other way
through Yetmore's ground."

"Yetmore's ground?" exclaimed Joe, inquiringly.

"Yes, Yetmore is working the old stopes of the Pelican on a lease--it is
one of his many ventures. In the early days of the camp mining was
conducted much more carelessly than it is now; freight and smelter
charges were a good bit higher, too, so that a considerable amount of
ore of too low grade to ship then was left standing in the stopes.
Yetmore is taking it out on shares. His ground lies this way. Come on."

So saying, Tom led the way to the end of the drift, where, going down
upon his hands and knees, he crawled through a man-hole, coming out into
a little shaft which he called a "winze." Ascending this by a short
ladder, we found ourselves in the old, abandoned workings, and still
following our guide, we presently walked out into the daylight--greatly
to our surprise.

"Why, where have we got to, Tom?" cried Joe, as we stared about us, not
recognizing our surroundings.

Tom laughed. "This is called Stony Gulch," he replied. "The mine used
to be worked through this tunnel where we just came out, but the tunnel
isn't used now except temporarily by Yetmore's men. He only runs a day
shift and at night he closes the place with that big door and locks it
up. The Pelican buildings are just over the hill here, and we may as
well go up at once: it will be quitting-time by the time we get there."

We climbed over the hill, therefore, and having restored our slickers,
went on with Tom down to his little cottage, which was only about a
quarter of a mile from the mine.

It was not until we were inside his house that we explained to Tom the
object of our visit, at the same time handing over to him my father's
check for one hundred dollars. The good fellow was quite touched by this
very simple token of good-will on our part; for, though he was ever
ready to help others, it seemed never to have occurred to him that
others might like sometimes to help him.

This little bit of business being settled, we all pitched in to assist
in getting supper ready, and presently we were seated round Tom's table
testing the result of our cookery. As we sat there, Joe, pointing to a
window-sash and some planed and fitted lumber which stood leaning
against the wall, asked:

"What are you going to do with that, Tom? Put in a second window?"

"Yes," replied our host. "And I was intending to do it this evening. You
can help me now you're here. The stuff is all ready; all we have to do
is to cut the hole in the wall and slap it in. It's just one sash, not
intended to open and shut, so it's a simple job enough."

"Where does it go?" asked Joe.

"There, on the right-hand side of the door. Old man Snyder, in the next
house west, put one in some time ago, and it's such an improvement that
I decided to do the same. We'll step out presently and look at Snyder's,
and then you'll see. Hallo! Come in!"

This shout was occasioned by a tapping at the door, and in response to
Tom's call there stepped in a tall miner, whom I recognized as George
Simpson, one of the Pelican men.

"Come in, George," cried our host. "Come in and have some supper. What's
new?"

"No, I won't take any supper, thank ye," replied the miner. "I must get
along home. I just dropped in to speak to you. You know Arty
Burns?--works on the night shift? Well, Arty's sick. When he came up to
the mine to-night he was too sick to stand, so I packed him off home
again and told him to go to bed where he belonged and I'd see to it that
somebody went on in his place, so that he shouldn't lose his job. I'm
proposing to work half his shift for him myself, and I want to find
somebody----"

"All right, George," Connor cut in. "I'll take the other half. Which do
you want? First or second?"

"Second, if it's all the same to you, Tom. If I don't get home first my
old woman will think there's something the matter. So, if you don't
mind, you can go on first and I'll relieve you at half-time."

"All right, George, then I'll get out at once. You boys can wash up, if
you will; and you'll find a mattress and plenty of blankets in the back
room. I'll be back soon after eleven."

With that, carrying a lantern in his hand, for it was getting dark, away
he went; while the miner hurried off across lots for town; neither of
them, apparently, thinking it anything out of the way to do a full day's
work and then, instead of taking his well-earned rest, to go off and do
another half-day's work in order to "hold the job" for a third man, to
whom neither of them was under any obligation.

Nor was it anything out of the way; for the silver-miners of Colorado,
whatever their faults, did in those days, and probably do still,
exercise towards their fellows a practical charity which might well be
counted to cover a multitude of sins.

"Look here, Phil!" exclaimed my companion, after we had washed and put
away the dishes. "I'll tell you what we'll do. Let's pitch in and put in
Tom's second window for him!"

"Good idea!" I cried. "We'll do it! Let's go out first, though, Joe, and
take a look at old Snyder's house, so that we may see what effect Tom
expects to get."

"Come on, then!"

The row of six little houses, of which Tom's was the third, counting
from the west, had been one of Yetmore's speculations. They were
situated on the southern outskirts of town, and were mostly occupied by
miners working on the Pelican. Each house was an exact counterpart of
every other, they having been built by contract all on one pattern.
Each had a room in front and a room behind; one little brick chimney; a
front door with two steps; and a window on the right-hand side of the
door as you faced the house. All were painted the same color.

Yetmore having secured the land, had laid it out as "Yetmore's Addition"
to the town of Sulphide; had marked out streets and alleys, and had
built the six houses as a starter, hoping thereby to draw people out
there. But as yet his building-lots were a drug in the market: they were
too far out; there being a vacant space of a quarter of a mile or
thereabouts between them and the next nearest houses in town. The
streets themselves were undistinguishable from the rest of the country,
being merely marked out with stakes and having had no work whatever
expended upon them.

The six houses, built about three hundred feet apart, all faced
north--towards the town--and being so far apart and all so precisely
alike, it was absolutely impossible for any one coming from town on a
dark night to tell which house was which. Not even the tenants
themselves, coming across the vacant lots after nightfall, could tell
their own houses from those of their neighbors; and consequently it was
a common event for one of the sleepy inmates, stirred out of bed by a
knock at the door, to find a belated citizen outside inquiring whether
this was his house or somebody else's. Not infrequently they neglected
to knock first, and walking straight in, found themselves, to their
great embarrassment, in the wrong house.

Old man Snyder, a somewhat irritable old gentleman, having been thus
disturbed two nights in succession, determined that he would no longer
subject himself to the nuisance. He bought a single sash and inserted a
second window on the other side of his door; a device which not only
saved him from intrusion, but served as a guide to his neighbors in
finding their own houses. It was also a very obvious improvement, and we
did not wonder that Tom Connor had determined to follow his neighbor's
example.

Old Snyder's house was the second from the western end of the street,
Tom Connor's, three hundred feet distant, came next, while next to
Tom's, another three hundred feet away, was a house which still
belonged to Yetmore and was at that moment standing empty.

You will wonder, very likely, why I should go into all these details,
but you will cease to wonder, I think, when you see presently of what
transcendent importance to Joe and me was the situation of these three
houses.

Joe and I, laying hands on our host's kit of tools, at once went to work
on the window. As Tom had said, it was a simple job, and though it was
something of a handicap to work by lamplight, we went at it so
vigorously that by nine o'clock we had completed our task--very much to
our satisfaction.

Stepping outside to observe the effect, we saw that old Snyder's windows
were lighted up also; but we had hardly noted that fact when his light
went out.

"The old fellow goes to bed early, Joe," said I.

"Yes," Joe replied; and then, with a sudden laugh, added: "My wig, Phil!
I hope there won't be anybody coming out from town to-night. If they do,
there'll be complications. They will surely be taking our two windows
for old Snyder's, for, now that his light is out, you can't see his
house at all."

"That's a fact," said I. "If Snyder's right-hand neighbor should come
out across the flats to-night he would see our two windows, and,
supposing them to be Snyder's windows, he would be almost sure to go
blundering into the old fellow's house. My! How mad he would be!"

"Wouldn't he! And any one coming out to visit Tom would pretty certainly
go and pound on the door of the empty house to the left."

"Well, let us hope that nobody does come out," said I. "Come on, now,
Joe. Let's get back. It's going to rain pretty soon."

"Yes; your father was right when he predicted more rain. It's going to
be a biggish one, I should think. How dark it is! I don't wonder people
find a difficulty in telling which house is which when all the lights
are out. Here it comes now. Step out, Phil."

As he spoke, a blast of wind from the mountains struck us, and a few
needles of cold rain beat against our right cheeks.

We were soon inside again, when, having shut our door, we sat down to a
game of checkers, in which we became so absorbed that we failed to note
the lapse of time until Tom's dollar clock, hanging on the wall, banged
out the hour of ten.

"To bed, Joe!" I cried, springing out of my chair. "Why, we haven't been
up so late for weeks."

Stepping into the back room, we soon had mattress and blankets spread
upon the floor, when, quickly undressing, I crept into bed, while Joe,
returning to the front room, blew out the light.

Five minutes later we were both asleep, with a comfortable consciousness
that we had done a good evening's work; though we little suspected how
good an evening's work it really was. For it is hardly too much to say
that had we not put in Tom's second window that night we might both
have been dead before morning.





Next: Tom Connor's Scare

Previous: How Tom Connor Went Boring For Oil



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