Chapter XXXII. The Mountain Cabin.

At length they reached the entrance to the cabin. It was a rough structure, built of logs, containing but one apartment. On a blanket in one corner of the hut lay a young man, looking pale and emaciated. His face was turned to the wall, so that, though he heard steps, he did not see who crossed the threshold.

"Is that you, Ki Sing?" he asked, in a low voice. "But why need I ask? There is not likely to be any one else in this lonely spot."

"That's where you're mistaken, my friend," said Bradley. "I met that Chinaman of yours half a mile away, and he brought me here. You're sick, I reckon?"

The invalid started in surprise and evident joy when he heard Bradley's voice.

"Thank Heaven!" he said, "for the sound of a countryman's voice," and he turned to look at his visitor.

Now it was Bradley's turn to start and manifest surprise.

"Why, it's Dick Dewey!" he exclaimed.

"You know me?" said the sick man eagerly.

"Of course I do. Didn't we work together at Murphy's, almost side by side?"

"Jake Bradley!" exclaimed Dewey, recognizing him at last.

"The same old coon! Now, Dewey, what's the matter with you?"

"Nothing serious, but enough to lay me up for a time. A week since I slipped from a rock and sprained my ankle severely-so much so that I can't use it safely. I've often heard that a sprain is worse than a break, but I never realized it till now."

"Has the Chinaman taken care of you?" inquired Bradley.

"Yes; I don't know what I should have done without Ki Sing," said Dewey, with a grateful glance at the Chinaman.

"Was he with you when the accident hapened?"

"No; I lay helpless on the hillside for two hours, when, providentially, as I shall always consider it, my friend Ki Sing came along."

The Chinaman usually impassive face seemed to light up with pleasure when Richard Dewey spoke of him as his friend.

"I tell you what, Ki Sing," said Bradley, turning to the representative of China, "I never thought much of your people before, but I cheerfully admit that you're a brick."

"A blick!" repeated the Mongolian, appearing more puzzled than complimented.

"Yes, a brick-a real good fellow, and no mistake! Give us your hand! You're a gentleman!"

Ki Sing readily yielded his hand to the grasp of the miner. He saw that Bradley meant to be friendly, though he did not altogether understand him.

"Had you ever met Ki Sing, Dick?" asked Bradley.

"Yes; on one occasion I had a chance to be of service to him, and he had not forgotten it. He has taken the best care of me, and supplied me with food, which I was unable to procure for myself. I think I should have starved but for him."

"Ki Sing, I want to shake hands with you again," said Bradley, who seemed a good deal impressed by conduct which his prejudices would not have allowed him to expect from a heathen.

Ki Sing winced beneath the strong pressure of the miner's grasp, and examined his long, slender fingers with some anxiety when he rescued them from the cordial, but rather uncomfortable pressure.

"Melican man shakee too much!" he protested.

Bradley did not hear him, for he had again resumed conversation with Dewey.

"Is that your boy, Bradley?" asked the invalid, glaring at Ben, who modestly kept in the background.

"No, it's a young friend of mine that I came across in 'Frisco. His name is Ben Stanton. I don't believe you can guess what brought us up here among the mountains."

"Probably you came, like me, in search of gold."

"That's where you're wrong. Leastways, that wasn't the principal object of our coming."

"You're not traveling for pleasure, I should think," said Dewey, smiling.

"Not much. Since our hosses have been stole, there's mighty little pleasure in clamberin' round on these hills. The fact is, we've been lookin' for you."

"Looking for me!" exclaimed Dewey, in great surprise.

"Yes, and no mistake. Isn't it so, Ben?"

Ben nodded assent.

"But what possible motive can you have in looking for me?"

"I say, Dewey," proceeded Bradley, "did you ever hear of a young lady by the name of Florence Douglas?"

The effect of the name was electric. Dewey sprang up in bed, and inquired eagerly.

"Yes, yes, but what of her? Can you tell me anything of her?"

"I can tell you as much as this: she is in 'Frisco, and has sent out Ben and me to hunt you up, and let you know where she is."

"Is this true? How came she here? Is her guardian with her?" asked Dewey rapidly.

"One question at a time, Dick. The fact is, she's given her guardian the slip, and came out to Californy in charge of my young friend, Ben. I hope you won't be jealous of him."

"If she trusts him, I will also," said Dewey. "Tell me the whole story, my lad. If you have been her friend, you may depend on my gratitude."

Ben told the story clearly and intelligibly, replying also to such questions as Richard Dewey was impelled to ask him, and his straightforwardness produced a very favorable impression on his new acquaintance.

"I begin to see, that, young as you are, Florence didn't make a bad selection when she chose you as her escort."

"Now, Dewey," said Bradley, "I've got some advice to give you. Get well as soon as you can, and go to 'Frisco yourself. I surmise Miss Douglas won't need Ben any longer when you are with her."

"You forget this confounded sprain," said Dewey, looking ruefully at his ankle. "If I go you'll have to carry me."

"Then get well as soon as you can. We'll stay with you till you're ready. If there was only a claim round here that Ben and I could work while we are waitin', it would make the time pass pleasanter."

"There is," said Dewey. "A month since I made a very valuable discovery, and had got out nearly a thousand dollars' worth of gold, when I was taken down. You two are welcome to work it, for as soon as I am in condition, I shall go back to San Francisco."

"We'll give you a share of what we find, Dick."

"No, you won't. The news you have brought me is worth the claim many times over. I shall give Ki Sing half of what I have in the cabin here as a recompense for his faithful service."

Ki Sing looked well content, as he heard this promise, and his smile became even more "childlike and bland" than usual, as he bustled about to prepare the evening meal.

"I'll tell you what, Ben," said Bradley, "we'll pay Ki Sing something besides, and he shall be our cook and steward, and see that we have three square meals a day."

"I agree to that," said Ben.

When Ki Sing was made to comprehend the proposal, he, too, agreed, and the little household was organized. The next day Ben and Bradley went to work at Dewey's claim, which they found unexpectedly rich, while the Chinaman undertook the duties assigned him. Four weeks elapsed before Richard Dewey was in a condition to leave the cabin for San Francisco. Then he and Ben returned, Ki Sing accompanying them as a servant, while Bradley remained behind to guard Dewey's claim and work it during Ben's absence.