MoboReader > Literature > Frank and Fearless; or, The Fortunes of Jasper Kent

   Chapter 17 THE DESERTED HOUSE.

Frank and Fearless; or, The Fortunes of Jasper Kent By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7178

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


To be without money is far from pleasant under any circumstances, but to be penniless a thousand miles from home, in the midst of strangers, is far worse. Jasper found himself in this position so unexpectedly that as he stood beside the little depot with his carpet-bag in his hand he felt utterly bewildered.

He looked around him.

Not a house was in sight. Why the railroad company should have established a depot there he could not understand. Probably there must be some village not far away.

No other passenger had got out with Jasper. There was no other person in sight but the station-master, a tall, sallow-faced man, in a slouched hat, who eyed our hero curiously.

Jasper approached him.

"What place is this?" he asked.

"Don't you know?" questioned the man.

"No."

"What made you stop here, then?"

Jasper hesitated. There seemed no use in taking this man into his confidence.

"I am going to take a look at the village. I suppose there is a village?"

"Well," drawled the man, "there's some houses back."

"What's the name of the place?"

"Croyden."

"How far back is the village?"

"A matter of two miles."

"Is it easy to find the way?"

"There's the road."

The station-master pointed out a road leading through woods.

"Thank you," said Jasper.

"You don't happen to have any 'baccy with you?" asked the station-master.

"No, I am sorry to say."

"I thought maybe you might. I'm most out."

Jasper took the road indicated by his informant and pressed on.

When he had walked half a mile along the lonely road he stopped suddenly and asked himself:

"What are my plans? What use is there in going to Croyden?"

It was a hard question to answer.

Still, he must go somewhere. He could not go to St. Louis without money, and there was a bare possibility that he might find something to do in Croyden. If he could earn a few dollars he could go on, and once in a large city there would be hope of permanent employment.

How different would have been his situation if he had not lost his money, and how unfortunate it was that he should have been set down at this dismal place!

He kept on, meeting no one.

Finally he came to a place where the road divided into two forks or branches, one leading to the right, the other to the left.

"Which shall I take?" he asked himself.

There seemed no choice so far as he could see. Neither was very promising, nor was there any sign-post to inform him of what he wished to know.

"I wish somebody would come along," thought Jasper.

But nobody did.

Forced to decide, he decided in favor of the left-hand road, and walked on.

After a while he began to suspect that he had made a wrong decision. The road became little more than a lane, and seemed unfrequented. But just as he was going to turn back he espied at some distance from the road a rude dwelling, which, from its weather-beaten appearance, seemed never to have been painted.

"I can find out something there, at any rate," thought Jasper, and he bent his steps toward it.

Brief time brought him in front of the house. It was certainly a quiet-looking place.

"It must be dismal to live here," thought Jasper.

He knocked with his fist at the door. On account of the smallness of the house the knock certainly must have been heard, but there was no response.

"The people must be deaf," thought Jasper.

He knocked again, this time considerably louder, and waited for some one to answer his summons.

He waited in vain.

"It must be a deserted house," thought our hero. "I have a gre

at mind to explore it-that is, if I can get in."

He tried the door, and, a little to his surprise, it yielded to his touch. The door being in the centre of the house, there was a room on each side. The door to the left; opened into a room which was quite bare of furniture. On the other side, however, was a room containing a table and three chairs. On the table was a dirty clay-pipe and a box of tobacco, and there was a dead odor of tobacco-smoke lingering in the closely-shut room.

"That looks as if there were somebody living here," thought Jasper.

"Halloo!" he shouted, raising his voice.

He felt that it would be better to make his presence known, as otherwise he might be suspected of entering the house with burglarious designs, though it would have puzzled a burglar to find anything worth purloining.

"There can't be anybody in the house or I should have been heard," thought our hero. "However, I'll call again."

This time there was a faint sound that came to his ears. It seemed like the voice of a child.

"Where did that come from?" Jasper considered.

And he waited to hear if it would be repeated.

It was repeated, and now he could make out that it came from above.

"I'll go up," he decided.

He climbed the rude staircase, and pushed open the door of the room above the one in which he had been standing a moment before. He gazed in wonder at the spectacle before him.

A boy, five years of age, who in spite of his frightened expression possessed great personal beauty, was lying on a bed in one corner of the room. He looked at Jasper in uncertainty at first, then with confidence, and said:

"Did you come for me?"

"Do you live here?" asked Jasper, in surprise, for this boy was not at all like the children usually to be found in such houses as this.

His complexion was of dazzling whiteness, his hair was a bright chestnut, and his clothing was such as wealthy parents can afford to give to their children.

"Do you live here?" repeated Jasper.

"No," said the child.

"How came you here, then?"

"Big man-big, ugly man brought me."

"When?"

"I don't know," said the child.

He was evidently too young to measure the lapse of time.

"Was it yesterday?"

"No; long ago."

"I suppose it seems long to him," thought Jasper.

"Is there nobody else in the house?" asked Jasper.

"There's a woman," said the little boy.

"Is she the wife of the man who took you away?"

But this question the little boy did not seem to comprehend.

"Have you got a mother?" asked Jasper.

"Take me to mamma," said the little fellow, stretching out his arms, and beginning to cry. "I want to see my mamma."

Jasper advanced to the bed.

He began to understand that the boy had been kidnapped, and he felt great compassion for him.

He tried to raise the boy from the bed and take him in his arms, when he made an unexpected discovery.

The boy's ankles were firmly tied by a rope, which connected with the bedpost, so that it was impossible for him to leave the bed.

"Who did this?" asked Jasper, indignantly. "Who tied you?"

"It was the man-the big, ugly man," answered the child.

"I will soon unfasten you," said Jasper, and he set to work untying the knot.

"Will you take me home?" asked the little boy.

"Yes," said Jasper, soothingly, "I'll take you home."

But just as he had completed his task he heard steps upon the stairs. What if it were the man of whom the child spoke!

Jasper threw one arm around the child, and with his teeth set hard fixed his eyes expectantly upon the door.

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