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   Chapter 8 A MOMENT OF DANGER.

Andy Grant's Pluck By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8103

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


Andy did not examine the check till he reached the bank in Benton. Then, glancing at it before he presented it to the paying-teller, he found that it was for one hundred and twenty-five dollars.

"How will you have it?" asked the teller.

"Twenty-five dollars in small bills; the rest in fives and tens," answered Andy, as instructed by Mr. Gale.

The bills were counted out and placed in his hands. To Andy they seemed a large sum of money, and, indeed, the roll was big enough to convey that impression.

As he left the bank he saw the familiar but not welcome face of the tramp who had stopped him glued against the pane. He had attended to some errands before going to the bank, which allowed the fellow time to reach it in season to watch him.

"I wonder if he saw me putting away the bills?" thought Andy.

However, in a town like Benton, there was little chance of robbery.

The tramp looked at him with evil significance as he left the bank.

"Give me a dollar," he said.

"I can't," answered Andy.

"I saw you with a big roll of bills."

"They are not mine."

"Give me enough to buy a dinner, then," growled the tramp.

"Why should I give you anything? You threw a stone at me on the road."

The tramp turned away muttering, and the glance with which he eyed Andy was far from friendly.

As directed, Andy went over to the hotel and got dinner. He took the opportunity to dispose of the bills, putting all the large ones in his inside vest pocket. The small bills he distributed among his other pockets.

Andy started for home at two o'clock. He felt some responsibility, remembering that he had a considerable sum of money with him.

This made him anxious, and he felt that he should be glad to get home safe and deliver his funds to Mr. Gale. Probably he would not have thought of danger if he had not met the tramp on his way over.

The road for the most part was clear and open, but there was one portion, perhaps a third of a mile in length, bordered by trees and underbrush. It was so short, however, that it would be soon passed over.

But about the middle of it a man sprang from the side of the road and seized the horse by the bridle. It did not require a second look to satisfy Andy that it was the tramp.

The crisis had come! Andy's heart was in his mouth. He was a brave boy, but it might well make even an older person nervous to be stopped by an ill-looking tramp, who was without doubt a criminal.

"Let go that bridle!" called Andy in a tone which, in spite of his nervousness, was clear and resolute.

"So I will when I have got what I want," answered the tramp.

"What do you want?"

"Look at me and you can tell what I want."

"I presume you want money, but I have none to give you."

"You are lying. You have plenty of money about your clothes."

"I said I had no money to give you."

"Didn't I see you get a roll of bills at the bank?"

"Very likely you did, but what about that?"

"I want some of them. I won't take all, but I am a poor man, and I need them more than the man you are taking them to."

"Whom do you think I am taking them to?"

"Squire Carter. He is the only man in Arden that keeps no much money in the bank."

"You are mistaken; the money is not his."

"Whose, then?"

"I don't feel called upon to tell you."

"Well, that's neither here nor there. I want some of it. I'll be content with half, whoever owns it."

"You won't get any. Let go the horse, or I'll run you down."

"You're a smart kid, but you are no match for me. I don't scare worth a cent."

"Listen to me," said Andy; "if you should succeed in robbing me, you would be caught and sent to jail. How will that suit you?"

"It wouldn't be the first time I've been in jail. I'd just as soon be there as to tramp around without a cent of money."

Andy was not surprised to hear that he had to deal with an ex-convict. He understood that this man was a desperate character. He saw that he was a strong, powerful man, in the full vigor of life.

Any contest be

tween them would be most unequal. He was but sixteen and the tramp was near forty. What could he do?

"I'll tell you what I'll do," he said, willing to try an experiment. "I've got two dollars of my own. I'll give you that if you'll let go my horse's bridle and give me no more trouble."

The tramp laughed mockingly.

"Do you take me for a fool?" he asked.

"Why?"

"Do you think I will be satisfied with two dollars, when you have a hundred in your pocket? Two dollars wouldn't last me a day."

"I have nothing to do with that. It is all I mean to give you."

"Then I shall have to help myself."

His cool impudence made Andy angry, and he brought down the whip forcibly on the horse's back.

Naturally the animal started, and nearly tore himself from the grasp of the tramp.

"So that is your game," said the fellow between his closed teeth. "If you try that again I'll pull you out of the buggy and give you such a beating as you never had before."

Andy remained cool and self-possessed. To carry out his threat the tramp would have to let go of the bridle, and in that case Andy determined to put his horse to his paces.

The tramp relaxed his hold and the horse stood stock-still, finding his attempt to get away futile.

"Well," said the tramp, "you didn't make much by that move, did you?"

"Did you make any more?"

"By Jove! you're a cool kid. But, after all, you're only a kid. Now, do as I tell you."

"What is that?"

"Put your hand in your pocket and take out fifty dollars. You've got as much, haven't you?"

"Yes."

"That's right. Speak the truth. You may have more, but fifty'll do me."

"Do you expect me to give you fifty dollars?"

"Yes, I do."

"I don't mean to do it."

Andy had satisfied himself that the tramp had no weapon, and this encouraged him. He could not hold the horse and attack him at one and the same time, but with a revolver he would have been at his mercy.

Besides, Andy's ears were keen, and he thought he heard the sound of wheels behind him. The tramp's attention was too much occupied, and perhaps his hearing was too dull to catch the sounds, as yet faint.

Thus it was that the other team was almost upon them before the tramp was aware of it. The newcomer was Saul Wheelock, a blacksmith, a strong, powerful man, fully six feet in height, and with muscles of steel.

He had seen the buggy standing still on the highway, and he could not understand the cause until he got near enough to see the tramp at the horse's head.

He sprang from the wagon he was driving, and before the vagabond was fully sensible of his danger he had him by the coat collar.

"What are you about?" he demanded, giving him a rough shake.

The tramp, turning, found he was in the hands of a man whom he was compelled to respect. He cared nothing for rank or learning, but physical force held him in awe.

He stood mute, unprepared, with an excuse.

"Why, it's you, Andy!" said the blacksmith. "Why did this rascal stop you?"

"He wants me to give him money. I've just been to the bank in Benton to draw out some for Mr. Gale at the hotel."

"Why, you scoundrel!" exclaimed the indignant blacksmith, shaking the tramp till his teeth chattered. "So you're a thief, are you?"

"Let me go!" whined the tramp. "I haven't taken anything. I'm a poor, unfortunate man. If I could get any work to do I wouldn't have been driven to this."

"No doubt you're a church member," said the blacksmith, in a sarcastic tone.

"Let me go! I'll promise to lead a good life. This young man says he'll give me two dollars. I'll take it and go."

"Don't give him a cent, Andy. You can go, but I'll give you something to remember me by."

He gave the tramp a vigorous kick that nearly prostrated him, and then, getting into his wagon, said:

"I'll keep along with you, Andy. I don't think you'll have any more trouble."

The tramp slunk into the woods, baffled and disappointed. If looks could have annihilated the sturdy blacksmith, his span of life would have been brief.

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