Chapter XIII. Preliminary Arrangements.
 

At nine o'clock on the following morning Ben found Jake Bradley at the appointed rendezvous.

"You're on time, my lad," said Jake. "I didn't know as you'd think it worth while to look me up."

"I promised," said Ben.

"And you've kept your promise. That's more'n many a man would do."

"How did you pass the night?" asked Ben.

"I stretched out on the soft side of a board. It isn't the first time. I slept like a top."

"Have you had breakfast?"

"Well, there! you've got me," said Jake. "I reckoned on findin' an old friend that keeps a saloon on Montgomery Street, but he's sold out to another man, and I hadn't the face to ask him for a bite. What a consarned fool I was to throw away all my pile."

"Where is the saloon?" said Ben. "We will go there, and while you are eating we can arrange our business."

"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!"

"Jake, then. I am only acting as the agent of Miss Sinclair."

"The gal you spoke of?"

Ben nodded.

"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."

"Yes, miss."

"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?"

"No, miss."

"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."

If Jake Bradley had sought to commend himself to Ida Sinclair, he could not have found a better or more effectual way than by praising her lover. She became more cordial at once, and better satisfied with the arrangement she had formed to send off the ex-miner in Ben's company in search of her lover.

The arrangements were speedily made. The two were to start out, equipped at Miss Sinclair's expense, on an exploring-tour, the main object being to find Richard Dewey, and apprise him of her arrival in California. They were permitted, however, to work at mining, wherever there was a favorable opportunity, but never to lose sight of the great object of their expedition. From time to time, as they had opportunity, they were to communicate with Miss Sinclair, imparting any information they might have gathered.

"I shall have to leave much to your discretion," said Ida, addressing them both. "I know absolutely nothing of the country, and you, Mr. Bradley, are tolerably familiar with it. I have only to add that should you become unfortunate, and require more money, you have only to let me know. In any event, I shall take care to recompense you for all your efforts in my behalf."

"We don't want to bear too heavy on your purse, miss," said Jake Bradley. "Once we get to the mines, we kin take care of ourselves. Can't we, Ben?"

"I hope so, Mr. Bradley."

Bradley eyed Ben reproachfully, and our hero at once smilingly corrected himself. "I mean Jake."

"That suits me better. I s'pose the young lady wouldn't like to call me Jake?"

"I think not," said Ida, smiling.

"I ain't used to bein' called mister. The boys always called me Jake."

"But I am not one of the boys, Mr. Bradley," said Miss Sinclair.

"Right you are, miss, and I reckon Richard Dewey would rather have you as you are."

Ida laughed merrily. To her the miner was a new character, unlike any she had ever met, and though rough and unconventional, she was disposed to like him.

"Find him for me, and you can ask him the question if you like. Tell him from me-but you must first know me by my real name."

Ben looked surprised. He had forgotten that Ida Sinclair was only assumed to elude the vigilance of her guardian.

"My real name is Florence Douglas. I am of Scotch descent, as you will judge. Can you remember the name?"

"I can, Cousin Ida-I mean Cousin Florence," said Ben.

"Then let Ida Sinclair be forgotten. Richard--Mr. Dewey-would not know me by that name."

"I tell you, Ben, that gal's a trump!" said Jake Bradley enthusiastically, when they were by themselves; "and so I'll tell Dick Dewey when I see him."

"She's been a kind friend to me, Jake. I hope we can find Mr. Dewey for her."

"We'll find him if he's in California," answered Jake.