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CHAPTER XII


GOLD MINE STOCK


Dick looked sharply at the stranger as he passed the man. Mr. Vanderhoof smiled, but when he did Dick thought the attempted pleasantry resembled the grin of a cat when it is about to pounce upon a helpless mouse. With a scarcely perceptible nod to Dick, Mr. Vanderhoof entered Mr. Hamilton's private office and closed the door.

"I've seen you before, I'm sure of it," mused Dick, as he left the bank. "I can't just think where, but there's something familiar about you. I don't like your looks, though I suppose you must be all right or dad wouldn't have much to do with you. I must ask him about you."

Dick found an opportunity a few evenings later. He saw his father looking over some papers in the library at home, and going in, inquired if Mr. Hamilton was busy.

"Not very," replied the millionaire. "I'm just looking over some new stock I bought to-day. Dick, I'm part owner in a gold mine, in addition to my many other lines of industry," and he laughed pleasantly.

"A gold mine, dad?"

"Yes, a gold mine in—let's see where is it now—oh, in Yazoo City, Nevada. Of course, I don't own the whole mine, I've only bought some stock in it. There it is. I own a thousand shares in the Hop Toad Mine, and I hope they do as toads do, and 'jump' in value."

"A gold mine," repeated Dick. "That would suit me. Why didn't I think of it before."

"How do you mean, Dick?"

"I mean, why didn't I invest in something like that."

"Well, it's not too late, I suppose."

"Do you mean I can get some shares, dad?"

"I don't know that you can in the Hop Toad Mine, as I understand they're all sold out, but I guess Mr. Vanderhoof has shares in other mines just as good."

"Oh, is that what Mr. Vanderhoof is—a mining man?"

"Well, not exactly a mining man. He sells stock in mines. He's what they call a promoter. Why, do you know him?"

"No, but somehow his face seemed familiar. I was sure that day I saw him in the bank that I had met him somewhere else, but when I tried to think I couldn't recall anyone with such a black moustache as he has."

"It is black," admitted Mr. Hamilton.

"And when he smiles he looks like—a cat," went on Dick.

"I can't say that I fancy his looks," agreed the millionaire, with a chuckle. "But I don't do business on looks. I go by facts."

"Is this mining stock good?"

"I think so. I wrote to some men in Yazoo City and I made other investigations, so that I think it as safe an investment as any are in these days. Of course, nothing is a sure thing in this world, but I believe this Hop Toad Mine has one of the richest veins of ore of any mine in that vicinity."

"Then I'm going to invest some of my money in a gold mine," decided Dick. "Where can I find Mr. Vanderhoof?"

"He'll be at the bank to-morrow and you can see him there. Remember, you are doing this on your own responsibility, and if it turns out a failure you've got to chalk it up against yourself."

"All right, dad."

"It will be an experience for the boy, anyhow," murmured the millionaire, as his son left the room. "He's got to learn, the same as I did. I think between his mother's will, his Uncle Ezra, and what I can show him, we'll make a fine man of him in spite of his wealth, which is a mighty handicap—a mighty handicap," and shaking his head doubtfully Mr. Hamilton proceeded to look over some business papers, which task he was at when Dick went to bed.

Dick received a letter the next morning which rather disquieted him. It was from the firm of whom he had purchased his milk stock, and informed him that owing to certain contingencies in the market they were obliged to ask for an assessment on his stock.

"What's an assessment on stock, dad?" he asked of his father, when he had called at the bank and shown the letter to Mr. Hamilton.

"It means that the company needs more money to run the business, and that you, being part of the company, have to put up your share. Let's see, they want a hundred dollars from you. Well, I guess you'll have to pay it."

"But that's a queer way to do business," grumbled Dick. "I thought I was going to make money, and, instead, I have to pay out more."

"Oh, well, new concerns frequently have to call for an assessment, instead of paying dividends," consoled his father. "The stock may pay well yet. Milk is something every family has to have, you know, and they have to have it every day. The company may be all right when it gets well started. I wouldn't worry now. I've had to pay assessments on many a stock that afterward turned out well."

"I'm glad I thought of that gold mine stock," said Dick. "I guess that will be the best thing yet. When will Mr. Vanderhoof be here?"

"Almost any minute now. Ah, there he comes," and, as Mr. Hamilton spoke, the man with the very black moustache came down the corridor that led to the private office and walked through the open doorway.

"Ah, two captains of industry," he remarked, with a nod at Dick and his father. "The young and the—ah—er—I was about to say old—I will change it to junior and senior," with a bow to Mr. Hamilton.

"Dick thinks he'd like to buy some gold mine stock," said the millionaire. "I telephoned you about it, you recall, and explained my son's position."

"I understand," remarked Mr. Vanderhoof. "He wants to make a good paying investment."

"That's it," put in Dick, as he thought of his Uncle Ezra and what would happen if he did not comply with the terms of his mother's will.

"Well, I think I can find him some good stock," went on the promoter. "It won't be in the same mine you're in, Mr. Hamilton. That stock was too valuable to last long. But I have some nearly as good. It is in the same neighborhood. In fact, it is in the next mine to the Hop Toad—the Dolphin. We think it very good. You can make the same inquiries that you did in regard to the other stock. It will bear the closest investigation."

"We'll take it, subject to a report from Yazoo City," said Mr. Hamilton, with a look at Dick, who nodded an assent, for he knew very little about buying stock.

"Then I suppose you'll pay enough to bind the bargain?" asked Mr. Vanderhoof.

"Of course," replied Dick, producing his check book. "How much?"

"Five hundred dollars will do as a starter. But about how much stock would you want?"

"Oh, I guess two thousand dollars' worth will do," replied Dick, with a look at his father, who, by a nod of his head, assented.

Mr. Vanderhoof smiled, looking, Dick thought, more than ever like a cat about to pounce on a mouse, and when the check was made out the promoter handed him a document, showing that he was entitled to a certain number of shares of stock in a gold mine bearing the name Dolphin.

"Well, Dick," remarked his father, when Mr. Vanderhoof had left, "you are certainly getting right into business. How do you like it?"

"Very much. I only hope some of my investments pan out."

"Well, you haven't made very many, but what you have gone into you have loaded up pretty well with. However, that may be a good way. Of course, if they fail, the money loss will not make much difference to you, but I don't want to see you lose. It would show a poor head for business if you did, and I hope you haven't got that."

"So do I," remarked his son. "Oh, I'm going to make a success some way or other," and once more the vision of his uncle's home, the gloomy house set in the midst of the dark fir trees, like some residence in a cemetery, came to him as the memory of a bad dream.

"Where are you going now?" asked his father, as Dick started to leave the private office.

"I thought I'd take a ride with some of the boys in my motor boat. I haven't been out for some time."

"All right, only be careful."

"I will, dad. Good-bye."

Dick stopped, on his way home, and called for Bricktop, Frank Bender and Walter Mead, inviting them to go for a ride in his trim little craft, which was in the boat house on Lake Dunkirk.

"Let's take our lunch and stay the rest of the day," suggested Bricktop. "It's too fine out doors to be around the house."

"Good idea," assented Dick. "I'll have our cook put us up a basket of stuff."

The eyes of the other boys glistened, for they knew from experience the good things that came from the Hamilton kitchen, and they had visions of cold chicken and turkey, fine cakes and big, thick, juicy pies.

As Dick and his friends entered the side yard, they saw, standing on the driveway, a rather dilapidated wagon, drawn by a very bony horse. In the wagon was something covered with a sheet, while on the seat sat a grizzled, dried-up sort of a man, with a little bunch of whiskers on his chin. Beside him was a woman in a calico dress, and she looked worried.

"Are you Mr. Richard Hamilton?" asked the man, looking at Bricktop.

"No; he is," was the answer, and Bricktop pointed at Dick.

"Hum! Well, I'm glad to meet you. I've been waitin' some time, an' the hired man, the one with his shirt front all showin', where his vest is wore out (for thus he described the butler's dress suit), said he didn't know when you'd come home. But I brought it along with me, jest as I said I would, an' I'll show ye how it works. Mandy, jest hold th' boss until I git th' machine out," and though the animal did not seem in need of any restraint the woman grasped the reins her husband gave her.

Then, before Dick could remonstrate, the man got down from the wagon, and began tugging at the object covered with a sheet. It seemed quite heavy.

"Would one of you young gentlemen mind givin' me a hand?" he asked, and Walter and Frank assisted him in lifting the object down to the ground.

"There ye be!" exclaimed the man, in an excited manner, while his eyes glittered in a strange way. "There she is. Now watch, everybody, when she gits goin'. Mandy, drive th' boss up towards th' stable; it might git frightened.

"Now," he went on, "ye're about t' witness one of th' wonders of th' age. Look out, everybody!" and, with a flourish, he pulled the sheet away.