CHAPTER I ON A LIVE WIRE
"Now, see here, Mr. Swift, you may think it all a sort of dream, and imagine that I don't know what I'm talking about; but I do! If you'll consent to finance this expedition to the extent of, say, ten thousand dollars, I'll practically guarantee to give you back five times that sum."
"I don't know, Alec, I don't know," slowly responded the aged inventor. "I've heard those stories before, and in my experience nothing ever came of them. Buried treasure, and lost vessels filled with gold, are all well and good, but hunting for an opal mine on some little-heard-of island goes them one better."
"Then you don't feel like backing me up in this matter, Mr. Swift?"
"No, Alec, I can't say I do. Why, just stop and think for a minute. You're asking me to put ten thousand dollars into a company, to fit out an expedition to go to this island-somewhere down near Panama, you say it is-and try to locate the lost mine from which, some centuries ago, opals and other precious stones came. It doesn't seem reasonable."
"But I'm sure I can find the mine, Mr. Swift!" persisted Alec Peterson, who was almost as elderly a man as the one he addressed. "I have the old documents that tell how rich the mine once was, how the old Mexican rulers used to get their opals from it, and how all trace of it was lost in the last century. I have all the landmarks down pat, and I'm sure I can find it. Come on now, take a chance. Put in this ten thousand dollars. I can manage the rest. You'll get back more than five times your investment."
"If you find the mine-yes."
"I tell you I will find it! Come now, Mr. Swift," and the visitor's voice was very pleading, "you and your son Tom have made a fortune for yourselves out of your different inventions. Be generous, and lend me this ten thousand dollars."
Mr. Swift shook his head.
"I've heard you talk the same way before, Alec," he replied. "None of your schemes ever amounted to anything. You've been a fortune-hunter all your life, nearly; and what have you gotten out of it? Just a bare living."
"That's right, Mr. Swift, but I've had bad luck. I did find the lost gold mine I went after some years ago, you remember."
"Yes, only to lose it because the missing heirs turned up, and took it away from you. You could have made more at straight mining in the time you spent on that scheme."
"Yes, I suppose I could; but this is going to be a success-I feel it in my bones."
"That's what you say, every time, Alec. No, I don't believe I want to go into this thing."
"Oh, come-do! For the sake of old times. Don't you recall how you and I used to prospect together out in the gold country; how we shared our failures and successes?"
"Yes, I remember that, Alec. Mighty few successes we had, though, in those days."
"But now you've struck it rich, pardner," went on the pleader. "Help me out in this scheme-do!"
"No, Alec. I'd rather give you three or four thousand dollars for yourself, if you'd settle down to some steady work, instead of chasing all over the country after visionary fortunes....
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