Brandt’s seemingly careless and transitory glance rested on a little shanty and noted that it was separated from others of its class by a considerable interval.
“Bute, you say, is on the day-shift.”
“Yes, he won’t be up till six o’clock.”
“I’ll manage to see him then without his knowing it.”
“Be careful. I take my risk on the ground of your good faith and prudence.”
Brandt maintained his disguise admirably. His presence caused little comment, and he was spoken of as a visiting stockholder of the mine. During his walk with Mr. Alford he appeared interested only in machinery, ores, etc., but his trained eyes made a topographical map of surroundings, and everything centred about Bute’s shanty. In the evening, he amply returned his host’s hospitality by comic and tragic stories of criminal life. The next day he began to lay his plans carefully, and disappeared soon after breakfast with the ostensible purpose of climbing a height at some distance for the sake of the prospect. He soon doubled round, noting every covert approach to Bute’s lodgings. His eye and ear were as quick as an Indian’s; but he still maintained, in case he was observed, the manner of an elderly stranger strolling about to view the region.
By noon he felt that he had the immediate locality by heart. His afternoon task was to explore the possibilities of a stream that crossed the mine road something over a mile away, and for this purpose he mounted his horse. He soon reached the shallow ford, and saw that the water was backed up for a considerable distance, and that the shallows certainly extended around a high, jutting rock which hid the stream from that point and beyond from the road. The bed appeared smooth, firm, and sandy, and he waded his horse up the gentle current until he was concealed from the highway. A place, however, was soon reached where the water came tumbling down over impassable rocks; and he was compelled to ascend the wooded shore. This he did on the side nearest to the mine house, and found that with care he could lead his horse to a point that could not be, he thought, over half a mile from the superintendent’s cottage. Here there was a little dell around which the pines grew so darkly and thickly that he determined to make it his covert should he fail in his first attempt. His object now was to see if his estimate of proximity to the mine was correct; and leaving his horse, he pushed up the mountain-side. At last he reached a precipitous ledge. Skirting this a short distance, he found a place of comparatively easy ascent, and soon learned with much satisfaction that he was not over two hundred yards from the thicket opposite Mr. Alford’s quarters. These discoveries all favored possible future operations; and he retraced his steps, marking his returning path by bits of white paper, held in place by stones against the high prevailing winds. Near the spot where he had left his horse he found a nook among the rocks in which a fire would be well hidden. Having marked the place carefully with his eye and obtained his bearings, he led his horse back to the stream and reached the unfrequented road again without being observed.