“Arny! Bart! Git yer arses up here!”
Franklin heard a whoop echo up the interior of the mountain and before long a mid sized hound came bounding up to Earl’s feet followed by two human shapes shuffling their way into the main room.
“Earl are we ever glad to see ya back so soon.”
The voice was raw and gravelly, as if the speaker had worked for years in a coal mine before being recruited to this place. The dog came over and sniffed at Franklin and Martha’s heels. Franklin gave it a sharp kick and it hopped back growling softly.
“Ya have no idea the tribulations we’ve been through since y’all left.”
“Besty she was -”
Earl slapped the shorter of the two miners in the face, promptly shutting him up.
“Bart, where is the silver? The chest’s as empty as it was when we left.”
Bart rubbed his jaw with one hand while pointing the direction he had come with the other.
“Why it’s jist down the corridor here, jist around the corner.”
“Well to hide it of course.”
“Ya’ve got a perfectly serviceable, lockable chest. Why on earth would ya be hiding it? Quit making excuses and tell me what ya’ve been doing all this time.”
“Well that’s jist it sir. The perfectly lockable chest … she’s locked.”
“Which is why we left ya with the spare keys, so ya could – ”
Earl caught his breath and then grabbed Bart by the whiskers and pulled him up to the light.
“Ya lost the keys.”
“Well that’s what I was tellin when ya smacked me in the face now isn’t it? Besty she was makin an awful racket in the night so Arny, me and Sniffly we went out to see what was the matter.”
“What was she doing out in the night? I told ya to keep her in here with ya’ll when I left.”
“Aw Earl, ya know ya can’t house train a goat.”