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   Chapter 8 THE QUAKER DETECTIVE.

The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8193

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


At the Emmonsville bank they were on their guard. The expectation of a visit from the Fox brothers caused anxiety and apprehension. The evil reputation of these men, and their desperate character, made them formidable.

When Luke Robbins entered the place he was regarded with suspicion. His hunting-costume was not unlike that of a bandit. But the fact that he had a young companion tended to disarm suspicion. No one could suspect Ernest of complicity with outlaws, and the Fox brothers had never been known to carry a boy with them.

Luke was unused to banks. So far as he knew, he had never entered one before. He looked around him in uncertainty, and finally approached the window of the receiving teller.

"Are you the boss of this institution?" he asked.

The teller smiled.

"No," he said. "Perhaps you want to see the president?"

"I guess he's the man."

"If you will give me a hint of the nature of your business, I will speak to him."

"I hear you're expectin' a visit from the Fox brothers."

"Have you anything to do with them?" asked the teller with some suspicion.

"I want to have something to do with them," returned Luke.

"I don't understand you."

"Then I'll tell you what I mean. I hear there's a big reward out for their capture."

"A thousand dollars."

"I want that thousand dollars, and I want it bad."

"I shall be very glad if you become entitled to it. Any one who will rid the State of either of these notorious outlaws will richly deserve it."

"That's the business I came about. Now can I see the president, if that's what you call him?"

"Wait a minute and I will find out."

The teller went to an inner room, and returned with a stout, gray-headed man of about fifty.

He looked curiously at Luke through the window. Then, as if reassured, he smiled.

"I understand you want to see me," he said.

"Yes."

"About the Fox brothers?"

"You're right there, squire."

"Go to the last door and I will admit you."

Luke Robbins did as directed, and soon found himself in the office of the president of the bank.

"You are anxious to secure the reward offered for the capture of these outlaws, I believe."

"That's straight."

"Why do you come to me, then?"

"Because a man told me you expected a visit from them."

"That is not quite exact. I don't expect a visit, but I am afraid they may take it into their heads to call here."

"Suppose they do."

A shade of anxiety appeared upon the face of the president.

"We should try to foil their plans," he answered.

"Wouldn't you like to have me on hand when they come?"

The president looked over Luke Robbins carefully. He was impressed by his bold, resolute air, and muscular figure. Evidently he would be a dangerous man to meet.

"You are a strong, resolute fellow, I judge," he said thoughtfully.

"Try me and see."

"You would not be afraid to meet these villains single-handed?"

"I never saw the man yet that I was afraid to meet."

"So far, so good, but it is not so much strength that is needed as quickness. A weak man is more than a match for a strong one if he gets the drop on him."

"That's so, but I reckon it'll take a smart man to get the drop on me.

"What have you to propose? I suppose you have formed some plan."

"I would like to stay around the bank, and be on the watch for these fellows."

"Remain here and I will consult with the cashier."

Five minutes later the president rejoined his visitor.

"I have no objection to securing your services," he said, "if it can be done without exciting suspicion. In your present dress your mission would at once be guessed, and the outlaws would be on their guard. Have you any objection to changing your appearance?"

"Not a particle. All I want is to get a lick at them outlaws."

"Then I think we shall have to make you a little less formidable. Have you any objections to becoming a Quaker?"

Luke Robbins laughed.

"What! one of those broad-brimmed fellows?" he said.

"Yes."

"Will I look the character?"

"Dress will accomplish a good deal. I

will tell you what put the idea into my head. We used to employ as janitor an old Quaker--a good, honest, reliable man. He was about your build. A year since he died, but we have hanging up in my office the suit he was accustomed to wear. Put it on, and it will make a complete change in your appearance. Your face will hardly correspond to your dress, but those who see the garb won't look any further."

"That's all right, boss. I don't care how you dress me up. But what will I do?"

"I think it will be well for you to keep near the bank, watching carefully all who approach. You never saw the Fox brothers, I presume?"

"I never had that pleasure."

"Most people don't regard it as a pleasure. I will give you some description of them, which may help you to identify them. One is a tall man, very nearly as tall as yourself; the other is at least three inches shorter. Both have dark hair, which they wear long. They have a swaggering walk, and look their real characters."

"I don't think it'll be hard to spot them. They generally ride on horseback, don't they?"

"Generally, but not always. They rode into Lee's Falls and up to the bank entrance on horseback. Perhaps for that reason they may appear in different guise here."

"You haven't any pictures of them, have you?"

The president laughed.

"No one was ever bold enough to invite them into a photographer's to have their pictures taken," he said.

"I see. Well, I think I shall know them."

"Perhaps not. They often adopt disguises."

"They won't come as Quakers?"

"That is hardly likely. I can give you one help. However they may be dressed, their eyes will betray them. They have flashing black ones, and sharp, aquiline noses."

"I'll know them," said Luke confidently.

"I observe that you have a boy with you?

"Yes."

"Is it your son?"

"No; I wish he were. I'd be proud to have such a son as that."

"Perhaps we can use him. The bank messenger--a young man--is sick, and he can take his place temporarily."

"Is there any pay for such work?"

"Yes, but it is small. We will give him ten dollars a week. Of course he must be honest and trustworthy."

"I'll stake my life on that boy, boss," said Luke warmly.

"His appearance is in his favor. Will you call him?"

Ernest was waiting in the doorway. He was anxious to learn the result of Luke's interview with the president of the bank. He had thought it very doubtful whether his proposal would be looked upon favorably, but hoped some good might come of it.

"The boss wants to see you," announced Luke.

"All right; I will follow you. What luck are you meeting with, Luke?"

"Good. I've hired out to the bank as a Quaker detective."

Ernest stared at his companion in astonishment. He thought it was a joke.

When he came into the presence of the president the latter said, "I understand from your friend here that you would like employment?"

"I should," answered Ernest promptly.

"The post of bank messenger is temporarily vacant. Would you like it?"

"Yes, sir, if you think I can fill it."

"You are rather young for the place, but I think you will fill it satisfactorily. We will instruct you in the duties."

"Very well, sir; I accept it with thanks."

"Of course it is necessary that you should be honest and reliable. But upon those points I have no doubt. Your face speaks for you."

"Thank you, sir. When do you wish me to begin my duties?"

"To-morrow. I suppose you are not as yet provided with a boarding-place. You can get settled to-day, and report at the bank to-morrow morning at nine."

"Wait here a minute, Ernest," said Luke. "I will join you at once."

When Luke emerged from the president's room he was attired in the Quaker costume of his predecessor. Ernest stared at him for a moment, then burst into a loud laugh.

"Why does thee laugh?" asked Luke mildly.

This sent Ernest into a second convulsion.

"Do I look like a man of peace?" asked Luke.

"Yes; shall you live up to the character?"

"Until I see the Fox brothers. Then the lamb will become a lion."

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