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   Chapter 33 A SUDDEN TRAGEDY.

Andy Grant's Pluck By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8352

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03

The driver pulled up short. The passengers realized that something had happened, and the nervous man put his head out of the window.

Instantly a change came over his face.

"We are all dead men!" he groaned. "It is the highwayman!"

Andy felt startled in spite of his pluck, and so did the other passengers.

"I would jump out and confront the scoundrel," said a determined-looking man, "but there is no room. We are on the verge of a precipice."

"What will happen?" exclaimed the cadaverous-looking man in an agony of terror.

"I suppose we shall be robbed. That will be better than tumbling over the precipice."

"Oh, why did I ever leave home?"

"I don't know. Ask me something easier," said the resolute man, in disgust. "Such a man as you ought never to stir from his own fireside."

"Stop the coach and pass over your watches and pocketbooks!" cried Dick

Hawley, in a commanding tone.

By way of exciting alarm and enforcing his order he fired one charge of his revolver. The consequences he did not anticipate.

The terrified stage horses, alarmed by the report, got beyond control of the driver and dashed forward impetuously. The highwayman had hardly time to realize his danger when his horse was overthrown and pushed over the precipice along with its rider, while the stage dashed on. The last that the passengers saw of Dick Hawley was a panic-stricken face looking upward as he fell rapidly down toward the rocks at the bottom.

"He's gone! We are saved!" exclaimed the cadaverous-looking man, joyfully.

"That is, if the coach doesn't tumble after him."

But the coach was saved. Had the horses swerved in their course all would have been killed. As it was, the dangerous place was safely crossed and the stage emerged upon a broad plateau.

The driver stopped the horses, and, dismounting from the box, came around to the coach door.

"I congratulate you, gentlemen," he said. "We had a close shave, but we are out of danger. Dick Hawley will rob no more stages."

"Driver, you are a brave man-you have saved us," said one of the passengers.

"It was not I; it was the horses."

"Then you did not start them up?"

"No; I should not have dared to do it. They were frightened by the revolver and took the matter into their own hands."

"Dick Hawley was foolhardy. Had he ever stopped a stage at this point before?"

"Yes, he did so last year."

"And succeeded?"

"Yes; he made a big haul. This time he has met his deserts."

There were no further incidents that deserve recording in Andy's journey. It is needless to say that he enjoyed it. The scenes through which he passed were new and strange to him. It was a country he had never expected to see, and for this reason, perhaps, he enjoyed it the more.

At last he reached Tacoma. It was irregularly built on a hillside. There were no buildings of any pretensions. All its importance was to come.

He put up at the Tacoma House, a hotel of moderate size, and after dinner he went out to see the town. He sought out the plot of lots owned jointly by Mr. Crawford and himself, and found that they were located not far from the center of the business portion of the town.

It took no sagacity to foresee that the land would rise in value rapidly, especially after the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed.

In the afternoon, feeling tired, he sat in his room and read a book he had picked up at a periodical store-a book treating of the great Northwest. The partitions were thin, and noises in the adjoining room were easily audible.

His attention was drawn to a sound of coughing, and a groan indicating pain. It was evident that the next apartment was occupied by a sick man.

Andy's sympathies were excited. It seemed to be a forlorn position to be sick and without attention in this remote quarter. After a moment's hesitation he left his own room and knocked at the other door.

"Come in!" was the reply, in a hollow voice.

Andy opened the door and entered.

On the bed lay a man, advanced in years, with hollow cheeks and every appearance of serious illness.

"I am afraid you are very sick," said Andy, gently.

"Yes; I hav

e an attack of grip. I am afraid I will have to pass in my checks."

"Oh, it isn't as bad as that," said Andy, in a reassuring tone. "Have you no one to take care of you?"

"No; everybody here is occupied with schemes for money-making. I can't get any one to look after me for love or money."

"Then you have no near friend or relative in Tacoma?"

"No; nor, I may say, anywhere else. I have a niece, however, in Syracuse. She is at school. She is the only tie, the only one on whom I have any claim."

"If you need money-" began Andy, feeling a little delicate about offering pecuniary assistance.

"No, I have no need of that kind. I suppose I look poor, for I never cared about my personal appearance, but I am one of the largest owners of real estate in Tacoma, besides having some thousands of dollars in a San Francisco bank. But what good will it all do me? Here I am, sick, and perhaps near death."

"I will do what I can for you," said Andy. "I am myself a visitor in Tacoma. I came on business for a New York gentleman. I am authorized to buy lots in Tacoma. When you are better, I will make you an offer for your land, if you care to sell."

"Help me to get well, and you shall have it on your own terms."

"You will need some one besides myself. Do you authorize me to hire an attendant?"

"Yes, I shall be glad to have you do so. I begin to hope for recovery, through your assistance. I had given myself up for lost."

"Then I will go out and see what I can do. Do you authorize me to pay liberally for the service of a nurse?"

"Pay anything-fifty dollars a week, if necessary; I can afford it."

"I will go out at once. I will see if I can buy some oranges."

Andy left the hotel and walked toward the steamboat wharf. It was deserted, except by two persons.

A young man of thirty, bronzed by exposure to the weather, who looked like a farmer, stood beside a plain, cheap trunk, on which sat a woman somewhat younger, who had a weary and anxious look.

The young man-her husband, doubtless-seemed troubled.

"Good-afternoon," said Andy, pleasantly. "Are you in any trouble? Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Well, my boy, I'm in a tight place. I came here from Iowa, with my wife, expecting to meet a cousin who had promised to get me employment. I find he has left Tacoma. So here I am, with less than five dollars in my pocket and no prospect of work. I'm not a coward, but I don't mind saying I'm afraid to think of what will become of us."

An idea came to Andy.

Here was a chance to secure a nurse.

"Is your wife used to sickness?" he asked. "Could she take care of a sick man?"

The woman brightened up.

"I took care of my father for a year," she answered. "I'm a middlin' good nurse."

"She's the best nurse I know of," put in her husband.

"All right! Then I can find you employment. An acquaintance of mine, an old man-as old, probably, as your father-is sick with grip at the Tacoma House. He will pay you liberally. Can you come with me at once?"

"Yes, and be glad to."

"Come, then. You will be paid twenty-five dollars a week."

"Why that's a fortune!" said the woman, amazed.

"Come with me at once, and your husband can follow at his leisure."

"Maria, that's what I call a streak of good luck," said her husband, overjoyed. "Go along with this young man, and I'll get a cheap room somewhere in town. I'll take the trunk along with me."

He shouldered the small trunk, and his wife went off with Andy.

In a few minutes she was installed in the sick chamber, and soon showed that she understood her business. A doctor was sent for, and Seth Johnson, for this was the sick man's name, was soon made comfortable.

He ratified Andy's bargain, and paid, besides, for Mrs. Graham's board at the hotel. He did not gain rapidly, for his strength was at a low ebb, but he improved steadily.

The husband found employment in a couple of days, and their temporary despondency gave place to hope and courage.

"You've done better for me than my cousin would have done, Andy," said Graham, a few days later. "You've set me on my feet, and I'm not afraid now but I'll get along."

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