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   Chapter 21 JASPER IS INTRUSTED WITH A DELICATE COMMISSION.

Frank and Fearless; or, The Fortunes of Jasper Kent By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7280

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Look here, boy," said Dick, "do you want a job?"

"Yes," said Jasper, "if it's honest."

"No fear of that. I want you to take that boy home to his father."

"I'll do it," said Jasper, eagerly.

"How much pay do you want?"

"None at all, except money to pay my fare in the cars."

"You're the right sort," said Dick, with satisfaction. "But there's another matter I've got to think about. How do I know but you will betray me?"

"How?"

"Put the police on my track."

"If you hadn't given up the boy I might," said Jasper, frankly.

Dick regarded him attentively.

"You're bold," he said. "Then you won't betray me now."

"No."

"Promise it."

"I promise-that is, if you send the boy home by me."

"All right; that's understood. Now for another matter. Read that letter."

Jasper read the letter of Herman Fitch, already quoted.

"You see this man, the boy's father, agrees to pay one hundred and fifty dollars when he is given up."

"I see that."

"He will give you that money-that is, if he means fair-and you will bring it to me. Do you understand?"

"I do."

"Do you promise that?"

"I promise that, too. Where am I to find you? Here?"

"No; I'll give you an address in St. Louis."

"Does the father live in St. Louis?"

"He lives a little out of the city. His name is in the directory, so you won't have any trouble in finding it."

"How glad he will be to see the little boy again!"

"He ought to be. You don't think he'll back out from his agreement?" said Dick, suspiciously.

"No; he'll be so glad to see the child, he will care nothing for the money."

"That's what I hope. When I get that money I'm going East."

"You'll take me with you, Dick?" asked his wife.

"What good'll you be?" growled Dick. "It'll cost more."

"What can I do alone, here?"

"I'll leave money for your board."

"But I'll be so lonely, Dick," she persisted.

"Oh, I'll come back! It's business I'm going for, old woman. If I can't come back I'll send money to bring you."

"Do let me go with you, Dick."

"Oh, hush up! I can't have you always in my way. What, blubbering? Plague take all the women, I say!"

"When do you want me to go?" said Jasper.

"There's a train this afternoon; take that, for the sooner matters are arranged the better. Here's five dollars. It'll be more than enough to pay your fare, but you'd better have it in case anything happens."

Jasper felt some repugnance in taking money acquired in such a way, but it seemed necessary, and he thrust the note into his vest-pocket.

"You'll be able to carry the boy back to-night," said Dick. "To-morrow at twelve bring the money to this address."

He handed him a greasy-looking card with the name "Mark Mortimer, No. 132 S-- Street," scrawled on it in pencil.

"Am I to ask for Mark Mortimer?" asked Jasper.

"Yes, that's me-that is, it's one of my names. Don't fail."

"I won't."

"If you should play me false, you'd better never have been born," said the kidnapper, menacingly.

"I'll come, not on account of your threats, but because I have promised," said Jasper, quietly.

"You're a plucky boy. You ain't one of the milk-and-water sort," said Dick, with respect for the boy's courage.

"Thank you," said Jasper, laughing. "I am not often afraid."

"By Jove! you've got more pluck than half the men. You'd make a fine lad for my business."

"I don't think I'd like your business, so far as I know what it is," said Jasper.

"Well, there's some I'd like better myself. If my sister does the right thing by me I'll become a model citizen-run for Congress, may be. Eh, old woman?"

"I wish you would reform, Dick," said his wife.

"Let the world give me a chance, then. Now, boy, you must be starting."

"Harry," said Jasper to the little boy, whose name he had learned, "do you want to go with me?"

The little boy confidingly put his arms round our hero's neck.

"Will you take me to my mamma?" he asked.

"Yes, I will take you to her."

The little boy uttered a cry of delight.

"Me all ready!" he said, eagerly.

"Do you think he can walk to the depot?" asked Jasper.

"Yes; it is only a mile or so."

"Then I will start."

Part of the way he carried the little boy in his arms. They could make but slow progress, but luckily there was plenty of time, and they reached the depot a quarter of an hour before the train started.

The station-master looked at the two with curiosity.

"Is that boy yours?"

"He isn't my son, if that's what you mean," said Jasper, amused.

"Brother, then?"

"No; he's a friend of mine that I'm taking home to his father and mother."

"Been makin' a visit around here?" asked the station-master.

"Yes," replied Jasper, briefly.

The arrival of two passengers, who wanted tickets, relieved him from the questions of the curious station-master. He might have asked questions which it would have been inconvenient to answer.

"Did you ever ride in the cars, Harry?" asked Jasper.

"I did ride in the cars when the ugly man took me from my mamma."

"Was that the only time?"

The little boy could remember no other.

Jasper led him a little away, to avoid questioning, but was back in time to enter the cars when the train arrived. He found a vacant seat, and gave the little boy the place next the window. There were many admiring glances directed toward the little fellow, who was remarkably handsome. Jasper was apprehensive lest the boy should be recognized by some one who knew him. This would have brought suspicion upon him, and placed him in a very embarrassing position. Fortunately, though the child's appearance was much admired, no such recognition took place.

Two hours later they rolled into the central depot at St. Louis.

"Now," thought Jasper, "I must find out as soon as possible where Mr. Fitch lives."

Jasper had not been much of a traveller, as we know. Finding himself now in a strange city, he felt at first a little bewildered-the more so, that he had a young child under his charge. He did not know in which direction the boy's father lived, but the natural thought occurred to him that he could find his name in the directory. He went into a lager-beer saloon near-by and asked:

"Will you let me see your directory?"

"I got no directory," answered the burly Dutchman, who presided over the saloon. "I can give you lager."

"Not at present," said Jasper, laughing. "We don't drink."

It occurred to him that it might be as well to get into the central part of the city. He accordingly hailed a passing car, and got aboard with Harry.

After awhile he judged from the appearance of the buildings that he had reached one of the principal streets. He descended from the car, lifting Harry carefully down and carrying him in his arms to the sidewalk. There was a large and imposing store situated at the corner of the street.

"They must have a directory in there," thought Jasper.

He entered, holding the little boy by the hand. What was his surprise when a richly-dressed lady, turning and catching sight of the child, sprang to him, seized him in her arms, and began to cry and laugh alternately. But the mystery was explained when he heard Harry say:

"Oh, mamma, I am so glad to see you!"

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