“I think so too. Could you make out anything of his appearance?”
“I could only see the outlines of his figure. He was a tall man. He must have taken the money from under my bed.”
“Did any one know that you had money concealed there?”
“I don’t think I ever mentioned it.”
“It seems we have a thief among us,” said Jefferson, and almost unconsciously his glance rested on Louis Wheeler who was seated near John O’Donnell, “what do you think, Mr. Wheeler?”
“I think you are right, Mr. Pettigrew.”
“Have you any suggestion to make?” asked Jefferson. “Have you by chance lost anything?”
“Not that I am aware of.”
“Is there any one else here who has been robbed?”
No one spoke.
“You asked me if I had any suggestions to make, Mr. Pettigrew,” said Louis Wheeler after a pause. “I have.
“Our worthy friend Mr. O’Donnell has met with a serious loss. I move that we who are his friends make it up to him. Here is my contribution,” and he laid a five dollar bill on the table.
It was a happy suggestion and proved popular. Every one present came forward, and tendered his contributions including Jefferson, who put down twenty five dollars.
Mr. Wheeler gathered up the notes and gold and sweeping them to his hat went forward and tendered them to John O’Donnell.
“Take this money, Mr. O’Donnell,” he said. “It is the free will offering of your friends. I am sure I may say for them, as for myself, that it gives us all pleasure to help a comrade in trouble.”
Louis Wheeler could have done nothing that would have so lifted him in the estimation of the miners.
“And now,” he said, “as our friend is out of his trouble I will play you a few tunes on my violin, and will end the day happily.”
“I can’t make out that fellow, Rodney,” said Jefferson when they were alone. “I believe he is the thief, but he has an immense amount of nerve.”
MR. WHEELER EXPLAINS.
Probably there was no one at the hotel who suspected Louis Wheeler of being a thief except Rodney and Mr. Pettigrew. His action in starting a contribution for John O’Donnell helped to make him popular. He was establishing a reputation quite new to him, and it was this fact probably that made him less prudent than he would otherwise have been.
As the loss had been made up, the boarders at the Miners’ Rest ceased to talk of it. But Jefferson and his young assistant did not forget it.
“I am sure Wheeler is the thief, but I don’t know how to bring it home to him,” said Jefferson one day, when alone with Rodney.
“You might search him.”
“Yes, but what good would that do? It might be found that he had money, but one gold coin is like another and it would be impossible to identify it as the stolen property. If O’Donnell had lost anything else except money it would be different. I wish he would come to my chamber.”