The Lost Cabin Mine

The Lost Cabin Mine

Frederick Niven
Frederick Niven

Author: Niven, Frederick, 1878-1944
Western stories
Adventure stories
Mines and mineral resources — Fiction
The Lost Cabin Mine






New York



title page







  1. Introduces “The Apache Kid” with whom Later I become Acquainted

  2. Mr. Laughlin Tells the Story up to Date

  3. Mr. Laughlin’s Prophecy is Fulfilled

  4. I Take my Life in my Hands

  5. I Agree to “Keep the Peace” in a New Sense

  6. Farewell to Baker City

  7. The Man with the Red Head

  8. What Befell at the Half-Way House

  9. First Blood

  10. In the Enemy’s Camp

  11. How it was Dark in the Sunlight

  12. I am Held as a Hostage

  13. In which Apache Kid Behaves in his Wonted Way

  14. Apache Kid Prophesies

  15. In which the Tables are Turned—at Some Cost

  16. Sounds in the Forest

  17. The Coming of Mike Canlan

  18. The Lost Cabin is Found

  19. Canlan Hears Voices

  20. Compensation

  21. Re-enter—The Sheriff of Baker City

  22. The Mud-Slide

  23. The Sheriff Changes his Opinion

  24. For Fear of Judge Lynch

  25. The Making of a Public Hero

  26. Apache Kid Makes a Speech

  27. The Beginning of the End

  28. Apache Kid Behaves Strangely at the Half-Way House to Kettle

  29. So-Long

  30. And Last

The Lost Cabin Mine


Introduces “The Apache Kid” with Whom Later

I Become Acquainted

he Lost Cabin Mine, as a name, is
familiar to many. But the true story
of that mine there is no man who
knows. Of that I am positive—because
“dead men tell no tales.”

It was on the sixth day of June, 1900, that I first
heard the unfinished story of the Lost Cabin, the
first half of the story I may call it, for the story is
all finished now, and in the second half I was destined
to play a part. Of the date I am certain because
I verified it only the other day when I came by
accident upon a pile of letters, tied with red silk ribbon
and bearing a tag “Letters from Francis.” These
were the letters I sent to my mother during my
Odyssey and one of them, bearing the date of the
day succeeding that I have named, contained an
account, toned down very considerably, as I had
thought necessary for her sensitive and retired heart,
of the previous day’s doings, with an outline of the
strange tale heard that day. That nothing was
mentioned in the epistle of the doings of that night, you
will be scarcely astonished when you read of them.

I was sitting alone on the rear verandah of the
Laughlin Hotel, Baker City, watching the cicadi
hopping about on the sun-scorched flats, now and
again raising my eyes to the great, confronting
mountain, the lower trees of which seemed as though
trembling, seen through the heat haze; while away above,
the white wedge of the glacier, near the summit,
glistened dry and clear like salt in the midst of the
high blue rocks.

The landlord, a thin, quick-moving man with a
furtive air, a straggling apology for a moustache, and
tiny eyes that seemed ever on the alert, came shuffling
out to the verandah, hanging up there, to a hook
in the projecting roof, a parrot’s cage which he

His coming awoke me from my reveries.

“Hullo,” he said: “still setting there, are you?


“You ain’t rustled a job for yourself yet?” he
inquired, touching the edge of the cage lightly with
his lean, bony fingers to stop its swaying.

I shook my head. I had indeed been sitting there
that very moment, despite the brightness of the day,
in a mood somewhat despondent, wondering if ever
I was to obtain that long-sought-for, long-wished-for

“Been up to the McNair Mine?” he asked.

I nodded.

“The Bonanza?”

I nodded again.

“The Poorman?”

“No good,” I replied.

“Well, did you try the Molly Magee?”


“And?” he inquired, elevating his brows.

“Same old story,” said I. “They all say they only
take on experienced men.”

He looked at me with a half-smile, half-sneer, and
the grey parrot hanging above him with his head
cocked on one side, just like his master’s, ejaculated:

“Well, if this don’t beat cock-fighting!”

Shakespeare says that “what the declined is he
will as soon read in the eyes of others as feel in his
own fall.” I was beginning to read in the eyes of
others, those who knew that I had been in this
roaring Baker City almost a fortnight and was still idle,
contempt for my incapacity. Really, I do not believe
now that any of them looked on me with contempt;
it was only my own inward self-reproach which I
imagined there, for men and women are kindlier than
we think them in our own dark days. But on that
and at that moment it seemed to me as though the
very parrot jeered at me.

“You don’t savvy this country,” said the landlord.
“You want always to say, when they ask you: ‘Do you
understand the work?’ ‘why sure! I’m experienced
all right; I never done nothing else in my life.’ You
want to say that, no matter what the job is you ‘re
offered. If you want ever to make enough money
to be able to get a pack-horse and a outfit and go
prospectin’ on your own, that’s what you want to say.”

“But that would be to tell a downright lie,” said I.

“Well,” drawled the landlord, lifting his soft hat
between his thumb and his first finger and scratching
his head on the little bald part of the crown with
the third finger, the little finger cocked in the air;
“well, now that you put it that way—well, I guess
it would. I never looked at it that way before. You
see, they all ask you first pop: ‘Did you ever do it
before?’ You says: ‘Yes, never did anything else
since I left the cradle.’ It’s just a form of words
when you strike a man for a job.”

I broke into a feeble laugh, which the parrot took
up with such a raucous voice that the landlord turned
and yelled to it: “Shut up!”

“I don’t have to!” shrieked the parrot, promptly,
and you could have thought that his little eyes sparkled
with real indignation. Just then the landlord’s wife
appeared at the door.

“See here,” cried Mr. Laughlin, turning to her,
“there ‘s that parrot o’ yourn, I told him to shut up
his row just now, and he rips back at me, ‘I don’t
have to!’ What you make o’ that? Are you goin’
to permit that? Everything connected with you
seems conspirin’ agin’ me to cheapen me—you and
your relations what come here and put up for months
on end, and your—your—your derned old grey

“Abraham Laughlin,” said the lady, her green
eyes flashing, “you bin drinkin’ ag’in, and ef you
ain’t sober to-morrow I go back east home to my

It gave me a new thought as to the longevity of the
human race to hear Mrs. Laughlin speak of her mother
back east. I hung my head and studied the planking
of the verandah, then looked upward and gazed at the
far-off glacier glittering under the blue sky, tried to
wear the appearance of a deaf man who had not heard
this altercation. Really I took the matter too
seriously. Had I only known it at the time, they were a
most devoted couple and would—not “kiss again
with tears” and seek forgiveness and reconciliation,
but—speak to each other most kindly, as though no
“words” had ever passed between them, half an hour
later. But at the time of the little altercation on the
verandah, when Mrs. Laughlin gave voice to her threat
and then, turning, stalked back into the hotel, Laughlin
wheeled about with his head thrust forward, showing
his lean neck craning out of his wide collar, and
opened his lips as though to discharge a pursuing
shot. But the parrot took the words out of his
mouth, so to speak, giving a shriek of laughter
and crying out: “Well, if this don’t beat cock-fighting!”

The landlord looked up quizzically at the bird and
then there was an awkward pause. I wondered what
to say to break this silence that followed upon the
exhibition of the break in the connubial bliss of my
landlord and his wife. Then I remembered
something that I decidedly did want to ask, so I was
actually more seeking information than striving to
put Mr. Laughlin at his ease again, when I said:

“By the way, what is all this talk I hear about the
Lost Cabin Mine? Everybody is speaking about it,
you know. What is the Lost Cabin Mine? What
is the story of it? People seem just to take it for
granted that everybody knows about it.”

“Gee-whiz!” said the landlord in astonishment,
wheeling round upon me. He stretched out a hand
to a chair, dragged it along the verandah, and sat
down beside me in the shadow. “You don’t know
that story? Why, then I ‘ll give you all there is to
it so far. And talking about the Lost Cabin, now
there’s what you might be doin’ if on’y you had the
price of an outfit—go out and find it, my bold buck,
and live happy ever after——”

He stopped abruptly, for a man had come out of
the hotel and now stood meditating on the verandah.
He was a lithe, sun-browned fellow, this, wearing a
loose jacket, wearing it open, disclosing a black shirt
with pearl buttons. Round his neck was a great,
cream-coloured kerchief that hung half down his
back in a V shape, as is the manner with cowboys
and not usual among miners. This little detail of the
kerchief was sufficient to mark him out in that city,
for the nearest cattle ranch was about two hundred
miles to the south-east and when the “boys” who
worked there sought the delights of civilisation it was
not to Baker City, but to one of the towns on the
railroad, such as Bogus City or Kettle River Gap,
that they journeyed. On his legs were blue dungaree
overalls, turned up at the bottom as though to let
the world see that he wore, beneath the overalls, a
very fine pair of trousers. On his head was a round,
soft hat, not broad of brim, but the brim in front was
bent down, shading his eyes. The cream-colour of
his kerchief set off his healthy brown skin and his
black, crisp hair. There were no spurs in his boots;
for all that he had the bearing of one more at home
on the plains than in the mountains. A picturesque
figure he was, one to observe casually and look at
again with interest, though he bore himself without
swagger or any apparent attempt at attracting attention,
except for one thing, and that was that in either
ear there glistened a tiny golden ear-ring. His brows
were puckered as in thought and from his nostrils
came two long gusts of smoke as he stood there
biting his cigar and glaring on the yellow sand and
the chirring cicadi. Then he raised his head,
glancing round on us, and his face brightened.

“Warmish,” he said.

“That’s what, right warmish,” the proprietor
replied affably, and now the man with the ear-rings,
having apparently come to the end of his meditations,
stepped lightly off into the loose sand and Laughlin
jogged me with his elbow and nodded to me, rolling
his eyes toward the departing man as though to say,
“Take a good look at him, and when he is out of
earshot I shall tell you of him.” This was precisely
the proprietor’s meaning.

“That’s Apache Kid,” he said softly at last, and
when Apache Kid had gone from sight he turned
again to me and remarked, with the air of a man
making an astounding disclosure:

“That’s Apache Kid, and he’s in this here story
of the Lost Cabin. Yap, that’s what they call him,
though he ain’t the real original, of course. The real
original was hanged down in Lincoln County, New
Mexico, about twenty-five year back. Hanged at the
age of twenty-one he was, and had killed twenty-one
men, which is an interesting fact to consider. That’s
the way with names. I know a fellow they call Texas
Jack yet, but the real original died long ago. I mind
the original. Omohundro was his correct name; as
quiet a man as you want to see, Jack B. Omohundro,
with eyes the colour of a knife-blade. But I ‘m driftin’
away. What you want to get posted up on is the
Lost Cabin Mine.”

He jerked his chair closer to me, tapped me on
the knee, and cleared his throat; but I seemed fated
not to hear the truth of that mystery yet, for
Mrs. Laughlin stood again on the verandah.

“Abraham,” she said in an aggrieved tone, “there
ain’t nobody in the bar.”

Up jumped Abraham, his whole bearing, from his
bowed head to his bent knees, apologetic.

“I was just tellin’ this gentleman a story,” he

“I ‘m astonished at you then,” she said. “An old
man like you a-telling your stories to a young lad like
that! You ‘d be doin’ better slippin’ into the bar and
takin’ a smell at that there barkeep’s breath.”

Mr. Laughlin turned to me.

“Come into the bar, sir; come into the bar. We ‘ve
got a new barkeep and the mistress suspects him o’
takin’ some more than even a barkeep is expected to
take. I hev to take a look to him once in a while.”

Mrs. Laughlin disappeared into her own sanctum,
satisfied; while the “pro-prietor” and I went into the

The “barkeep” was polishing up his glasses. In
one corner sat a grimy, bearded man in the prime of
life but with a dazed and lonely eye. He always sat
in that particular corner, as by ancient right,
morning, noon, and evening, playing an eternal solitary
game of cards, the whole deck of cards spread before
him on a table. He moved them about, changing
their positions, lifting here and replacing there, but,
though I had watched him several times, I could
never discover the system of his lonely game.

“Who is that man?” I quietly inquired. “He is
always playing there, always alone, never speaking to
a soul.”

“The boys call him ‘The Failure,'” Laughlin
explained. “You find a man like that in the corner
of most every ho-tel-bar you go into in this here
Western country—always a-playing that there lonesome
game, I ‘m always scared to ask ’em what the
rudiments o’ that game is for they ‘re always kind o’
rat-house,—of unsound mind, them men is. I heerd a
gentleman explain one day that it’s a great game for
steadyin’ the head. He gets a remittance from
England, they say. Anyhow, he stands up to the bar once
every two months and blows himself in for about
three-four days. Then he goes back to his table there and
sets down to his lonesome card game again and
frowns away over it for another couple o’ months. I
guess that gentleman was right in what he explained.
I guess he holds his brains together on that there

We found seats in a corner of the room and
Laughlin again cleared his throat. He had a name
for taking a real delight in imparting information and
spinning yarns, true, fictitious, and otherwise, to his
guests, and this time we were not interrupted. He
told me the story of the Lost Cabin Mine, or as much
of that story as was known by that time, ere his
smiling Chinese cook came to inform him “dinnah vely
good. Number A1 dinnah to-day, Misholaughlin,
ledy in half-oh.”


Mr. Laughlin Tells the Story up to Date

r. Laughlin’s suggestion that I
should go out and look for this Lost
Cabin and, finding it, “live happy
ever after,” made me but the more
anxious to hear all that was to be
told regarding it.

“Well, about this here Lost Cabin Mine,” he said.
“There’s a little, short, stubby fellow that you maybe
have noticed around here, with a pock-marked
face,—Mike Canlan, they call him. He was up to
Tremont putting in assessment on a claim he has in the
mountains there away, and he was comin’ along back
by the trail on the mountains that runs kind o’
parallel with the stage road, but away up on the hills,
and there he picks up a feller nigh dead,—starved
to death, pretty nigh. Mike gets him up on his
pack-horse and comes along slow down through the
mountain till he hits the waggon road from the
Poorman. There a team from the Poorman Mine makes
up on him. That there fellow, Apache Kid, was
drivin’ the team, and along with him was Larry
Donoghue, a partner o’ his, with another team.
They had been haulin’ up supplies for one of the
stores, and was comin’ down light. They offer to
help Canlan down with the dying man, seein’ as how
the hoss was gettin’ pretty jaded with all Canlan’s
outfit on its back, and this here man, too, tied on,
and wabbling about mighty weak.”

Laughlin broke off here to nod his head sagaciously.
“From what has transpired since, I guess
Canlan was kind o’ sorry h

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