“Who is it?” asked Ben, with interest. “I know everybody there.”
“I dare say you know my relative, for I am given to understand that he is the great man of Hampton.”
“Yes, that is his name. He married a cousin of my mother, so the relationship is not very close. He is rich, isn’t he?”
“He is the richest man in Hampton.”
“I suppose he is aware of that fact,” said Hunter, laughing.
“If he isn’t, his son, Sam, is,” replied Ben. “Sam wanted to engage me as his servant before I came away. He wanted me to black his boots.”
“And you objected, I suppose?”
“I wouldn’t work for Sam Sturgis for a hundred dollars a month!” said Ben emphatically.
“Then you don’t like him?”
“He is very big-feeling,” said Ben, using a boy’s word, “and likes to boss all the rest of the boys. He thinks he is far above us all.”
“He ought to come out here. California takes the airs out of a man if he has any. We are all on an equality here, and the best man wins-I mean the man of the most pluck-for success doesn’t depend on moral excellence exactly. Well, old friend, are you going to settle down among us again?”
It was to Bradley this question was addressed.
“I don’t know. I’m here on a little matter of business, along of this boy. Is Richard Dewey here now?”
“Dewey? No. He had poor luck, and he dusted a month ago.”
Ben and his companion exchanged glances of disappointment.
“Where did he go?” asked Bradley, who was evidently getting discouraged.
“He was going to the mountains,” he said. “He had been studying up something about minerals, and he had an idea that he’d find a rich ledge among the Sierras that would pay better than this surface-mining.”
“Is there anybody that knows what direction he took?”
“My friend, the mayor, knows as well as any man. Dewey was his next neighbor, and often talked over his plans with him.”
“Then we will go and see the mayor.”
“No need of going, here he comes.”
Among the Sierras.
Ben had heard of mayors, and once he had seen one, a pompous-looking man who had once served in that capacity in an inland city of some twenty thousand inhabitants, and he supposed that all mayors were alike. He could hardly believe his eyes, therefore, when he saw before him a man of medium height, dressed in a ragged shirt and trousers, and wearing a hat once white, but now dirt-begrimed.
“Friends of yours, judge?” said the newcomer, speaking to Hunter, and indicating by a nod Ben and his companion.
“You ought to know one of them, mayor,” said Hunter.
“Why, it’s Bradley,” said the mayor, extending his hand cordially. “Glad to see you back again.”