“See here, is it anything connected with that Burson property—has that matter come to a head at last?” demanded Tom, as a light dawned upon him.
“Nothing less,” assented the other gloomily. “The issue has been suddenly forced, and may be settled any day. If I’m not there, according to the eccentric will of my uncle, Joshua Adams Kinkaid, that property will fall into the hands of my cousin, Randolph Carringford, who, as we both know, is just at present over here acting in a confidential capacity to some Government official.”
“Yes, I’ve seen him,” said Tom, frowning. “And to tell the honest truth his face didn’t impress me strongly. In fact, I didn’t like your cousin. What’s the use? All Virginia knows that Randolph Carringford is a black sheep—that no decent man or woman will acknowledge him for a friend. Wonder what Joshua Kinkaid meant, anyhow, by ringing him in. But are the lands worth as much as it was believed, Jack?”
“I learn in this letter from our lawyer that the richest kind of coal veins have been located on the Burson property in West Virginia; and that they promise to be valued at possibly a million dollars. Think of what that would mean to the Parmly family! For we are far from being rich. Father lost his grip on business you know, Tom, when he volunteered, and went into the Spanish war, and when he died did not leave very much.”
“Do you suppose your cousin knows anything about this new development?” continued Tom sympathetically.
“He is too greedy not to have looked after every possible chance,” came Jack’s despondent reply. “And now that this thing’s come up I can begin to understand why he kept smiling in that way all the time he chatted with me a week ago when we chanced to meet. I think he had had a tip even then that this thing was coming off, and was laying his plans. Though how he could known, I can’t imagine.”
“Then you suspect he may already be on his way across, and will arrive before you can get there to put in your claim?” asked Tom.
“Even allowing that he had no news until this mail got in, Tom, he’d get off a whole lot easier that I’ll ever be able to, and so could catch a boat, while I kept untwisting the army red tape. It’s a bad job all around, I’m afraid, and bound to make me feel blue.”
“There’s only one thing for you to do, Jack.” remarked the energetic chum promptly, and his confidence gave the other considerable satisfaction.
“What is that?”
“Apply for leave at once. And include me at the same time, because I’ll go with you, of course, Jack. We’ll try to get back in time to join in the grand march to the Rhine. Promise me to do this before we sleep to-night!”
“I will, Tom, and here’s my hand on it!”
THE REST BILLET
“Here’s a pretty kettle of fish, Jack!” Tom Raymond remarked several hours later, as he came into the dingy dugout where his chum was sitting.