Under Sealed Orders by H. A. Cody
Chapter XII. Pyramid Rock
A good home, plenty of well-cooked food, and proper attention did much for old David. His strength, and health improved, and although he lost nothing of his interest in the falls, he was quite content to listen more to the sound drifting down the valley instead of visiting the place as often as formerly. The spot he liked best of all was the cosy corner on the verandah, just outside the window of his room. Here the vines clambered up over the sides, forming a shelter from the burning sun and a refuge from the wind when the days were cool.
Jasper was a frequent visitor at the Haven, and he was not slow to notice the change that had come over David. Hitherto the old man had been content to listen to the voice of the falls and utter brief and almost mystic words about what the water would do. But latterly he had given greater vent to his thoughts and enlarged upon the plans he had been revolving in his mind.
It was a beautiful evening not long after Jasper had been at the Sign of the Maple, that he was sitting with David and Betty in the accustomed place. The captain had retired, and Mrs. Peterson was busy in the kitchen. Jasper told of the progress that had been made at the falls and how the engineers had finished their preliminary work, and had declared the undertaking most feasible. The definite start of building would not begin until the next spring, though in the meantime necessary preparations would be made so that the work could be pushed forward then as rapidly as possible. Logs would be needed for building purposes, and many large poles suitable for carrying the wires to the city and throughout the country.
"I have been requested to undertake this work," Jasper told them, "and so will be busy all the fall and winter. In a few weeks I hope to have a number of men and teams at work in the woods. It will be a fine thing for Creekdale as it will put so much money in circulation by giving employment to all available men during the winter when as a rule little is going on, so I understand."
"Oh, won't that be nice," Betty exclaimed, while her eyes danced with animation. "My brother will be able to earn money right at home. Jimmy has been planning to go to the city next winter to earn some money to help pay off the mortgage on our place. Mother doesn't want him to go as he is only sixteen, but he thinks he should be earning something."
"You have some fine trees on your place, have you not?" Jasper asked in reply.
"Oh, yes, lots of them. You see, our farm is part of the old Dinsmore Manor, and no logs have been cut on it for years as they have not been worth much. My father said before he died that they would bring a lot of money some day, and they would make us rich. That's why mother has been holding on to the place and trying to pay off the mortgage. But she finds it hard work. Jimmy works for the neighbours, but Steve and Dora can't earn anything yet. I am helping all I can."
"Those trees are very valuable now," Jasper remarked.
"Have you seen them?" Betty asked, in surprise.
"Yes, I have been all over the place, and there are acres of the finest trees I have ever seen. We shall need many of them, that is, if your mother will sell."
"Won't that be great!" and the girl clapped her hands with delight. "I know she will sell if she can get a fair price for them."
"There should be no trouble about that, Betty. Logs are higher than they have been for years, and those who own them are fortunate. The company wants only the best and is willing to pay a good price, so I believe. But there is something I would advise your mother to do."
"What is that?"
"Keep a sharp look-out upon those trees. The city Light and Power Company, of which Mr. Sinclair is manager and principal owner, has land right next to yours. Most of the best trees have been cut there for poles, and it is only natural that envious eyes should be east upon your mother's valuable property. Mr. Sinclair does quite a lumbering business on his own account, so I understand."
"Oh, do you think that Mr. Sinclair would do anything like that?" Betty asked in surprise.
"I trust not," was the reply. "Nevertheless, it is just as well to be on guard in case something does happen. You might speak to your mother about it when you see her."
The next day David and Betty paid a visit to the falls. They had not been there for over a week, which was a most unusual thing. It was a beautiful afternoon, and a complete harmony seemed to reign everywhere. David was in excellent spirits and he talked much about the wonderful improvements which were to come to the country. He pointed out a number of the stakes the engineers had driven into the ground, and explained where the power house would be built.
"A year from now," he told her, "there will be wires running to the city and all through the country. The city people will have light for their houses and power for their machinery at cheap rates. The farmers will have electric lights right in their homes and barns; they will have power to saw their wood, churn their butter, thresh and grind their grain, besides doing so many other things. It will make a wonderful change in the lives of all. Young people will not want to leave the farms and go to the city. It will be a joy for them to remain, and so much of the drudgery will be taken away."
"Won't that be splendid!" Betty replied. "How did you ever think of all those things? Why, the people didn't know you were thinking so much about their welfare when you were living all alone, and when they said you were crazy."
"No, girl, they did not know," and the old man gazed thoughtfully off into space. "They believed that I was a fool, and perhaps they had reason for so thinking. You see, I was very poor and had no means of carrying out my plans. It has always been the way, and why should I have expected anything different from thousands of others who have tried to help their fellow men? But now things have changed, and they will soon learn that old David was not so crazy after all."
They were seated upon the bank of the stream as they thus talked. On a bough of a near-by tree a squirrel was scolding, and off in the distance several crows were lifting up their raucous voices. Betty picked up a stone and tossed it into the water below, and then watched with interest as it fell with a splash.
"I can throw farther than you, Mr. David," she bantered. "I can throw a stone to that big rock over there."
"I haven't thrown a stone in a long time, my child," was the reply.
"Well, try it then," was the command. "Here is a nice smooth one."
Rising to his feet, David took the stone and with a wide sweep of his long arm hurled it far down the stream almost to the base of the rock.
"You didn't do it," Betty shouted with delight. "I can beat that, see if I can't."
She half turned to pick up another stone when she suddenly paused as her eyes rested upon a man coming toward them. It was Peter Sinclair, and as he drew near and spoke to them, it seemed to Betty that the atmosphere had changed, and the day was not as fine as it had been but a few seconds before. She wanted to get away, for this man's presence seemed to weigh upon her in an ominous manner. The reason why she could not explain.
"Having a nice time here, eh?" Mr. Sinclair remarked, as he sat down upon the bank. "That walk has puffed me. Do you come up here often?" he asked, turning toward Betty.
"Whenever Mr. David takes the notion," was her reply. "I always come with him, and we have such a pleasant time."
"And do you always stop here and spend your time in throwing stones at that rock? Are you not wasting your time?"
"We might be doing worse, though," Betty replied, somewhat nettled at the man's words. "We might be throwing stones at you or somebody else."
"At me!" and Mr. Sinclair looked surprised.
"Yes, at you. But perhaps it's safer to throw them at that rock over there. It doesn't mind for it knows we're only in fun. It's a special friend of mine, and that's why I like to be near it. You would never believe that it saved half my father's farm several years ago."
"What, that rock?"
"It certainly did, and I shall never forget what it did for us."
"Tell me about it," and Mr. Sinclair sat down upon the ground. The mention of the Bean farm had suddenly aroused his interest, and made him willing to listen to this country girl's story.
"It was a long time ago," Betty began, "just after my father was married. He had bought a piece of land off of the Dinsmore Manor, about one hundred acres, I think it was. After he had paid for the place there was some trouble about the line between him and the man who had bought another piece of the manor next to him. They agreed to have the line run over again. I don't understand all about it, but, anyway, when the line was run it cut my father's place almost in two, and he was afraid he was going to lose all that land where those fine logs are now. It was a funny mistake, but it was soon settled."
"What had that rock to do with it?" Mr. Sinclair enquired.
"Oh," and the girl gave a slight laugh. "I forgot that part. You see, the surveyor was to start running the line from the big pyramid rock on this brook. It is called that because of its shape. Father happened to be away from home the day the line was run and the surveyor started from another rock farther down the brook, which looks something like that one over there. Wasn't it funny? So you see that is why I am so fond of that big rock and come here as often as I can to be near my good friend."
As Betty finished, a peculiar expression might have been detected in Peter Sinclair's eyes, and for a few seconds he gazed steadily at the rock before him. It seemed that the girl's story had greatly interested him and started him off on a new line of thought. Just what it was he kept to himself and with an apparent effort turned his attention once more to Betty.
"You will not come here as often, I suppose, when the company gets to work," he remarked. "Things will be much changed along this brook, and perhaps your old friend, the rock, may be disturbed."
"You are right, sir," David replied, speaking for the first time. "There will certainly be marvellous changes all over this country in a year or two. You will hardly know the place then."
"That is interesting. And can you tell me who will perform these wonders of which you speak so confidently?"
"The falls will do it," and David stretched out his right arm. "Light and power will come from there to transform city and country. Living will be made far more tolerable in both."
"But who are the men back of all this?" Mr. Sinclair asked. He felt sure now that he was on the verge of a new discovery.
"I am the man," and David stood proudly erect. "It was my plan which suggested the movement."
"I know all that," and Mr. Sinclair rose impatiently to his feet. "But where does the money come from? and, who are the men who form the company? That is what I want to know."
"That I cannot tell you, sir. And why should it matter? I am concerned about the improvements and not where the money comes from."
"H'm, that's a queer way to do business," was the disgusted reply. "Well, I must be off up the brook. I've wasted too much time already. Look out for your big rock, little girl, and see that no one disturbs it."
"Oh, I guess it'll stay there all right," Betty replied with a laugh. "My friends never leave me."
They stood and watched Mr. Sinclair until the tree hid him from view.
"I don't like that man," and Betty stamped her small foot upon the ground. "He makes me feel creepy all over just like I always do when I see a snake or a rat. Let's go home."
About an hour after they had left the place, Peter Sinclair drew near, and stood looking at the big rock across the brook. Then he walked along the bank until he came to the smaller rock of which Betty had spoken. He next turned his eyes northward and pointed with the forefinger of his right hand as if tracing an imaginary boundary line. As he did so a smile of satisfaction lighted his face, and when he left the brook and started homeward, his step was quicker and more elastic than it had been for many a day.