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The Highgrader By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 8323

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The morning after the seizing of the ore Verinder came to breakfast in a mood so jubilant that he could not long keep to himself the cause of his exultation. Kilmeny and Farquhar were away on a hunting trip, and none of the ladies except Moya was yet up. He was especially eager to tell his news to her, because she had always been such an open defender of the highgrader. She gave him his opening very promptly, for she was anxious to know what had occurred.

"Has some distant connection passed away and left you a fortune, Mr. Verinder? Or have you merely found a new gold mine since I saw you last?" she asked.

"By Jove, you're a good guesser, Miss Dwight. I found a gold mine last night. Wonder if you could think where."

Her heart beat faster. "You're so pleased about it I fancy the quartz must have been sacked up for you ready for the smelter," she said carelessly.

Verinder flashed a quick look at her. "Eh, what? How's that?"

Moya opened her lips to confess what she had done, but the arrival of a waiter delayed this. Before he had left, Lady Farquhar entered and the girl's chance was temporarily gone.

"I was just telling Miss Dwight that we've found another gold mine, Lady Farquhar-and of all places in the world located in the bed of a wagon."

"In the bed of a wagon! How could that be?"

"Fact, 'pon my word! High-grade ore too, we fancy; but we'll know more about that when we hear from the assayer."

The matron intercepted the look of triumph-it was almost a jeer-that the mine owner flung toward Miss Dwight. She did not understand what he was talking about, but she saw that Moya did.

"If you'd tell us just what happened we'd be able to congratulate you more intelligently," the latter suggested, masking her anxiety.

"Jove, I wish I could-like to tell you the whole story. We pulled off a ripping surprise on one of your friends. But-the deuce of it is I'm sworn to secrecy. We played the highgraders' game and stepped a bit outside the law for once. Let it go at this, that the fellow had to swallow a big dose of his own medicine."

Moya pushed one more question home. "Nobody hurt, I suppose?"

"Only his feelings and his pocketbook. But I fancy one highgrader has learned that Dobyans Verinder knows his way about a bit, you know."

The subject filled Moya's thoughts all day. Had Kilmeny after all failed to take advantage of her warning? Or had his opponents proved too shrewd for him? From what Verinder had told her she surmised that Jack had tried to reach the railroad with his ore and been intercepted. But why had he not changed his plans after her talk with him? Surely he was not the kind of man to walk like a lamb into a trap baited for him.

Late in the afternoon Moya, dressed in riding costume, was waiting on the hotel porch for India and her brother when she saw Verinder coming down the street. That he was in a sulky ill humor was apparent.

"Lord Farquhar and Captain Kilmeny came back a couple of hours ago," she said by way of engaging him in talk.

"Any luck?" he asked morosely and with obvious indifference.

"A deer apiece and a bear for the captain."

"That fellow Kilmeny outwitted us, after all," he broke out abruptly. "We've been had, by Jove! Must have been what Bleyer calls a plant."

"I don't understand."

"The rock we took from him was refuse stuff-not worth a dollar."

The girl's eyes gleamed. "Your gold mine was salted, then."

"Not even salted. He had gathered the stuff from some old dump."

"He must have profited by my warning, after all," Moya said quietly.

The little man's eyes narrowed. "Eh? How's that? Did you say your warning?"

In spite of herself she felt a sense of error at having played the traitor to her host. "Sorry. I didn't like to do it, but--"

"What is it you did?" he asked bluntly.

"I told Mr. Kilmeny that his plan was discovered."

"You-told him." He subdued his anger for the moment. "If it isn't asking too much-how did you know anything about it?"

She felt herself flushing with shame, but she answered lightly enough. "You shouldn't discuss secrets so near the breakfast-room, Mr. Verinder


"I see. You listened ... and then you ran to your friend, the highgrader, with the news. That was good of you, Miss Dwight. I appreciate it-under the circumstances."

She knew he referred to the fact that she was his guest. To hear him put into words his interpretation of the thing she had done, with implications of voice and manner that were hateful, moved her to a disgust that included both him and herself.

"Thank you, Mr. Verinder-for all the kind things you mean and can't say."

She turned on her heel and walked to the end of the veranda. After a moment's thought he followed her.

"Have I said a word too much, Miss Dwight? You did listen to a private conversation you weren't meant to hear, didn't you? And you ran to your friend with it? If I'm wrong, please correct me."

"I daresay you're right. We'll let it go at that, if you please."

Verinder was irritated. Clearly in the right, he had allowed her to put him in the wrong.

"I'll withdraw listened, Miss Dwight. Shall we substitute overheard?"

Her angry eyes flashed into his cold, hard ones. "What would you expect me to do? You know what he did for Joyce and me. And he is Captain Kilmeny's cousin. Could I let him go to prison without giving even a warning?"

"Evidently not. So you sacrifice me for him."

"You think I wasn't justified?"

"You'll have to settle that with your conscience," he said coldly. "Don't think I would have been justified in your place."

"You would have let him go to prison-the man who had fought for you against odds?"

"Does that alter the fact that he is a thief?" Verinder demanded angrily.

"It alters my relation to the fact-and it ought to alter yours. He did a great service to the woman you are engaged to marry. Does that mean nothing to you?"

"The fellow was playing off his own bat, wasn't he? I don't see I owe him anything," the mine owner sulkily answered. "Truth is, I'm about fed up with him. He's a bad lot. That's the long and short of him. I don't deny he's a well-plucked daredevil. What of it? This town is full of them. There was no question of his going to prison. I intended only to get back some of the ore he and his friends have stolen from me."

"I didn't know that."

"Would it have made any difference if you had?"

She considered. "I'm not sure."

Captain Kilmeny and India emerged from the hotel and bore down upon them.

"All ready, Moya," cried India.

"Ready here." Moya knew that it must be plain to both Captain Kilmeny and his sister that they had interrupted a disagreement of some sort. Characteristically, she took the bull by the horns. "Mr. Verinder and I are through quarreling. At least I'm through. Are you?" she asked the mine owner with a laugh.

"Didn't know I'd been quarreling, Miss Dwight," Verinder replied stiffly.

"You haven't. I've been doing it all." She turned lightly to her betrothed. "They didn't send up the pinto, Ned. Hope he hasn't really gone lame."

Verinder had been put out of the picture. He turned and walked into the lobby of the hotel, suddenly resolved to make a complaint to Lady Farquhar about the way Moya Dwight had interfered with his plans. He would show that young lady whether she could treat him so outrageously without getting the wigging she deserved.

Lady Farquhar listened with a contempt she was careful to veil. It was not according to the code that a man should run with the tale of his injuries to a young woman's chaperon. Yet she sympathized with him even while she defended Moya. No doubt if Captain Kilmeny had been at hand his fiancée would have taken the matter to him for decision. In his absence she had probably felt that it was incumbent on her to save his cousin from trouble.

The mine owner received Lady Farquhar's explanations in skeptical silence. In his opinion, Moya's interest in Jack Kilmeny had nothing to do with the relationship between that scamp and the captain. He would have liked to say so flatly, but he felt it safer to let his manner convey the innuendo. In her heart Lady Farquhar was of the same belief. She resolved to have a serious talk with Moya before night.

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