Wheeler of being a thief except Rodney and Mr. Pettigrew.
His action in starting a contribution for John O’Donnell helped
to make him popular. He was establishing a reputation quite new
to him, and it was this fact probably that made him less prudent
than he would otherwise have been.
As the loss had been made up, the boarders at the Miners’ Rest
ceased to talk of it. But Jefferson and his young assistant did
not forget it.
“I am sure Wheeler is the thief, but I don’t know how to bring
it home to him,” said Jefferson one day, when alone with Rodney.
“You might search him.”
“Yes, but what good would that do? It might be found that he
had money, but one gold coin is like another and it would be
impossible to identify it as the stolen property. If O’Donnell
had lost anything else except money it would be different.
I wish he would come to my chamber.”
“Perhaps he would if he thought you were a sound sleeper.”
“That is an idea. I think I can make use of it.”.
That evening when Wheeler was present Mr. Pettigrew managed to
turn the conversation to the subject of sleeping.
“I am a very sound sleeper,” he said. “I remember when I was at
home sleeping many a time through a severe thunder storm.”
“Don’t you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night?”
“Very seldom, if I am in good health.”
“Its different with me,” said another of the company. “A step on
the floor or the opening of the door will wake me up at any time.”
“I am glad I am not so easily roused.”
“If I had a fish horn,” said Rodney, laughing, “I should be tempted
to come up in the night and give it a blast before your door.”
“That might wake me up,” said Mr. Pettigrew. “I wouldn’t advise you
to try it or the other boarders might get up an indignation meeting.”
The same evening Jefferson Pettigrew took out a bag of gold and
carelessly displayed it.
“Are you not afraid of being robbed, Mr. Pettigrew?” asked Rodney.
“Oh no. I never was robbed in my life.”
“How much money have you there?”
“I don’t know exactly. Perhaps six hundred dollars,” said
Pettigrew in an indifferent tone.
Among those who listened to this conversation with interest was
Louis Wheeler. Rodney did not fail to see the covetous gleam of
his eyes when the gold was displayed.
The fact was, that Wheeler was getting short of cash and at the
time he took John O’Donnell’s money- for he was the thief- he
had but about twenty dollars left, and of this he contributed
five to the relief of the man he had robbed.
His theft realized him two hundred dollars, but this would
not last him long, as the expenses of living at the Miners’ Rest
were considerable. He was getting tired of Oreville, but wanted
to secure some additional money before he left it. The problem
was whom to make his second victim.
It would not have occurred to him to rob Jefferson Pettigrew, of
whom he stood in wholesome fear, but for the admission that he
was an unusually sound sleeper; even then he would have felt
uncertain whether it would pay. But the display of the bag of
money, and the statement that it contained six hundred dollars
in gold proved a tempting bait.
“If I can capture that bag of gold,” thought Wheeler, “I shall
have enough money to set me up in some new place. There won’t
be much risk about it, for Pettigrew sleeps like a top. I will
Jefferson Pettigrew’s chamber was on the same floor as his own.
It was the third room from No. 17 which Mr. Wheeler occupied.
As a general thing the occupants of the Miners’ Rest went to
bed early. Mining is a fatiguing business, and those who follow
it have little difficulty in dropping off to sleep. The only
persons who were not engaged in this business were Louis Wheeler
and Rodney Ropes. As a rule the hotel was closed at half past
ten and before this all were in bed and sleeping soundly.
When Wheeler went to bed he said to himself, “This will probably
be my last night in this tavern. I will go from here to Helena,
and if things turn out right I may be able to make my stay
there profitable. I shan’t dare to stay here long after relieving
Pettigrew of his bag of gold.”
Unlike Jefferson Pettigrew, Wheeler was a light sleeper. He had
done nothing to induce fatigue, and had no difficulty in keeping
awake till half past eleven. Then lighting a candle, he
examined his watch, and ascertained the time.
“It will be safe enough now,” he said to himself.
He rose from his bed, and drew on his trousers. Then in his
stocking feet he walked along the corridor till he stood in
front of Jefferson Pettigrew’s door. He was in doubt as to
whether he would not be obliged to pick the lock, but on trying
the door he found that it was not fastened. He opened it and
stood within the chamber.
Cautiously he glanced at the bed. Mr. Pettigrew appeared to be
“It’s all right” thought Louis Wheeler. “Now where is the bag
It was not in open view, but a little search showed that the
owner had put it under the bed.
“He isn’t very sharp,” thought Wheeler. “He is playing right
into my hands. Door unlocked, and bag of gold under the bed.
He certainly is a very unsuspicious man. However, that is all
the better for me. Really there isn’t much credit in stealing
where all is made easy for you.”
There seemed to be nothing to do but to take the gold from its
place of deposit and carry it back to his own room. While there
were a good many lodgers in the hotel, there seemed to be little
risk about this, as every one was asleep.
Of course should the bag be found in his room that would betray
him, but Mr. Wheeler proposed to empty the gold coins into his
gripsack, and throw the bag out of the window into the back yard.
“Well, here goes!” said Wheeler cheerfully, as he lifted the
bag, and prepared to leave the chamber. But at this critical
moment an unexpected sound struck terror into his soul. It was
the sound of a key being turned in the lock.
Nervously Wheeler hastened to the door and tried it. It would
not open. Evidently it had been locked from the outside.
What could it mean?
At the same time there was a series of knocks on the outside
of the door. It was the signal that had been agreed upon
between Mr. Pettigrew and Rodney. Jefferson had given his key
to Rodney, who had remained up and on the watch for Mr.
Wheeler’s expected visit. He, too, was in his stocking feet.
As soon as he saw Wheeler enter his friend’s chamber he stole up
and locked the door on the outide. Then when he heard the thief
trying to open the door he rained a shower of knocks on the panel.
Instantly Jefferson Pettigrew sprang out of bed and proceeded
“What are you doing here?” he demanded, seizing Wheeler in his
“Where am I?” asked Wheeler in a tone of apparent bewilderment.
“Oh, it’s you, Mr. Wheeler?” said Jefferson. “Don’t you know
where you are?”
“Oh, it is my friend, Mr. Pettigrew. Is it possible I am in
“It is very possible. Now tell me why you are here?”
“I am really ashamed to find myself in this strange position.
It is not the first time that I have got into trouble from
walking in my sleep.”
“Oh, you were walking in your sleep!”
“Yes, friend Petttigrew. It has been a habit of mine since I
was a boy. But it seems very strange that I should have been
led to your room. How could I get in? Wasn’t the door locked?”
“It is locked now?”
“It is strange! I don’t understand it,” said Wheeler, passing his
hand over his forehead.
“Perhaps you understand why you have that bag of gold in your hand.”
“Can it be possible?” ejaculated Wheeler in well
counterfeited surprise. “I don’t know how to account for it.”
“I think I can. Rodney, unlock the door and come in.”
The key was turned in the lock, and Rodney entered with a
lighted candle in his hand.
“You see, Rodney, that I have a late visitor. You will notice
also that my bag of gold seems to have had an attraction for him.”
“I am ashamed. I don’t really know how to explain it except in
this way. When you displayed the gold last night it drew my
attention and I must have dreamed of it. It was this which drew
me unconsciously to your door. It is certainly an interesting
fact in mental science.”
“It would have been a still more interesting fact if you had
carried off the gold.”
“I might even have done that in my unconsciousness, but of
course I should have discovered it tomorrow morning and would
have returned it to you.”
“I don’t feel by any means sure of that. Look here, Mr.
Wheeler, if that is your name, you can’t pull the wool over
my eyes. You are a thief, neither more nor less.”
“How can you misjudge me so, Mr. Pettigrew?”
“Because I know something of your past history. It is clear to
me now that you were the person that stole John O’Donnell’s money.”
“Indeed, Mr. Pettigrew.”
“It is useless to protest. How much of it have you left?”
Louis Wheeler was compelled to acknowledge the theft, and
returned one hundred dollars to Jefferson Pettigrew.
“Now,” said Jefferson, “I advise you to leave the hotel at once.
If the boys find out that you are a thief you will stand a
chance of being lynched. Get out!”
The next morning Jefferson Pettigrew told the other boarders that
Louis Wheeler had had a sudden call East, and it was not for a
week that he revealed to them the real reason of Wheeler’s departure.