“How far is Murphy’s from here?” he asked.
“Two hundred miles, I reckon.”
“Then I’d better go there first.”
“Not ef you want to find gold. There’s other places that’s better, and not so far away.”
“It may be so, but I care more to find Richard Dewey than to find gold in plenty.”
“You said he wasn’t a friend of yours?” said the miner, in some surprise.
“No; I don’t know him, but I am engaged by a friend of his to find him. That friend will pay; my expenses while I am on the road.”
“Has Dewey come into a fortin?” asked the miner. “Has a rich uncle died and left him all his pile?”
“Not that I know of,” answered Ben.
“Then there’s a woman in it?” said his new acquaintance, in a tone of conviction. “It’s his sweetheart that wants to find him. I’m right. Yes, I know it. But there’s one thing that I can’t see through.”
“What is that?”
“Why does the gal-if it is a gal-send a boy like you on the trail?”
“Suppose there was no one else to send,” suggested Ben.
“That makes it a little plainer. Where is the gal?”
“Ought I to confide in this man?” thought Ben. “I never met him before. I only know that he has lost all his money at the gambling-table. Yet he may help me, and I must confide in somebody. He is a rough customer, but he seems honest and sincere.”
“Here in San Francisco,” he answered. “I cannot tell you more until I have her permission.”
“That’s all right. Ef I can help you, I will, Ben. You said your name was Ben?”
“Mine is Bradley-Jake Bradley. I was raised in Kentucky, and I’ve got an old mother living there now, I hope. I haven’t heard anything from her for nigh a year. It makes me homesick when I think of it. Got a mother, Ben?”
“Neither father nor mother,” answered Ben sadly.
“That’s bad,” said the miner, with rough sympathy. “You’re a young chap to be left alone in the world.”
“Yes; I do feel very lonely sometimes, Mr. Bradley.”
“Don’t call me Mr. Bradley. I ain’t used to it. Call me Jake.”
“All right, I’ll remember it. Where can I meet you again, Jake?”
“Here will do as well as anywhere.”
“Will you be here to-morrow morning at nine o’clock?”
“Yes,” answered Bradley. “I’ll ask the porter to call me early,” he added, with rough humor.
Ben remembered that his new acquaintance had no money to pay for a night’s lodging, and would be forced to sleep out.
“Can’t I lend you enough money to pay for a lodging?” he asked.
“You kin, but you needn’t. Jake Bradley ain’t that delicate that it’ll hurt him to sleep out. No, Ben, save your money, and ef I actilly need it I’ll make bold to ask you for it; but I don’t throw away no money on a bed.”
“If you hadn’t lost your money in there,” said Ben, pointing to the building they had just left, “wouldn’t you have paid for a bed?”