“Thank you, boy. I ain’t above acceptin’ a favor of you, and I allow that I’m empty, and need fillin’ up.”
“You needn’t thank me, Mr. Bradley-”
“Jake, then. I am only acting as the agent of Miss Sinclair.”
“The gal you spoke of?”
“Then you can thank her. If there’s anything I kin do for her, jest let me know.”
“I mean to. That is the business I want to speak to you about.”
After a hearty breakfast the two turned their steps to the private boarding-house where Miss Sinclair was eagerly awaiting them. Though Jake referred to her as “the gal,” in his conversation with Ben, he was entirely respectful when brought face to face with the young lady.
“I want to thank you for my breakfast, miss, first of all,” said the miner. “If I hadn’t been such a thunderin’ fool, I needn’t have been beholden to any one, but-”
“You are entirely welcome, Mr. Bradley,” said the young lady. “Ben tells me that you know something of Richard Dewey.”
“He is a valued friend of mine, and I am anxious to hear all that you can tell me of him. You don’t know where he is now?”
“When did you see him?”
“Nigh on to a year ago.”
“That is a long time. You have heard nothing of him since?”
“No, miss. I should say yes,” he added, with sudden recollection. “One of our boys saw him some months later, and reported that he was well and prosperin’. I disremember where he was, but somewhere at the mines.”
“That is something. Do you think you could find him?”
“I could try, miss,”
“I am going to send out Ben, but he is only a boy. I should like to have you go with him. You know the country, and he does not. Besides, you have seen Mr. Dewey.”
“Yes, I should know him ag’in if I met him.”
“How did he seem when you knew him?” asked Ida, hesitating, because conscious that the question was vaguely expressed and might not be understood.
“He was a quiet, sober chap, workin’ early and late,” answered Jake, who, rough as he was, comprehended the drift of her questions. “He wasn’t exactly pop’lar with the boys, because he wouldn’t drink with ’em, and that made them think he was proud, or grudged the expense.”
“They were very greatly mistaken,” said Ida hastily.
“We found that out,” said the miner. “A young chap fell sick; he was a newcomer and had neither friends nor money, and was pretty bad off. Dewey sat up with him night after night, and gave him fifty dollars when he got well to help him back to ’Frisco. You see, his sickness made him tired of the mines.”
“That was like Richard,” said Ida softly. “He was always kind-hearted.”
“After that,” continued Jake, “none of us had a word to say agin’ him. We knowed him better, and we liked him for his kindness to that young chap.”