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   Chapter 11 UNDER WATCH AND WARD.

The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8036

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The farm-house was built after the model of many similar houses in New England. It was of two stories, with the front door in the centre and a room on each side. Over the two stories was an unfurnished attic.

"Have you a secure place to keep our friend here?" asked Luke.

The farmer paused before he answered.

"I might put him in the attic," he said.

But here his wife interfered.

"I couldn't sleep if he were in the house," she said.

"Why not?" asked Luke. "You see he is securely bound, and will be as helpless as a child. Will you show me the attic?"

"Follow me," said the farmer.

They went up two flights of stairs, and found themselves in a long room, the whole width of the house. Through the centre rose the chimney. The sloping roof was not plastered. The only furniture consisted of a cot-bedstead and a chair.

"Is the attic occupied by any of the family?" asked Luke.

"Not generally. When I hire an extra hand at harvest-time he sleeps there."

"But at present there is no one occupying it?"

"No."

"Then I suggest that the bed will prove a good resting-place for our friend below. I have no doubt he has often found himself in lodgings less comfortable."

"But," said Mrs. Mason, nervously, "if he should get free during the night he might murder us all in our beds."

"There is little chance of that. When your husband bound him, he did a good job. I wouldn't undertake to get free myself, if I were bound as securely."

"That's so!" said the farmer, pleased with the compliment. "He can't get away nohow."

Over in the corner there were a couple of horse-blankets, which seemed to offer a comfortable resting-place. Luke Robbins eyed them thoughtfully.

"I have an idea," he said. "Let the outlaw lie there, and one of us can occupy the bed. Then he won't be able to try any of his tricks."

"I would rather not sleep there," observed the farmer nervously. "I couldn't sleep in the same room with one of the Fox brothers."

"Then if you couldn't sleep there you are just the man we want. You will always be on the watch, and can frustrate any attempt to escape."

"No, no," said Ezekiel Mason, hurriedly. "Kate could not close her eyes if she thought I were alone with John Fox."

"No," answered Mrs. Mason, with a shudder, "I won't let Ezekiel sleep in the same room with that bold, bad man."

"I wouldn't be afraid myself," said the farmer, trying to keep up his reputation for courage, "but I don't want my wife to be anxious."

Luke Robbins smiled, for he understood very well the timidity of his host. "Then," he said, "as I have no wife to be anxious about me, perhaps I had better sleep here."

"Yes, that will be much better," rejoined the relieved farmer. "You are a brave man. Mr. Fox won't get the better of you."

"Not if I can help it," said Luke. "Will that suit you, Mrs. Mason?"

"Why don't you take him on to the jail at once?" asked the woman. "I shall feel worried if he spends the night in this house."

"I hear that he has escaped from jail no less than three times. If he should do so to-night he would at once come here, and perhaps bring some of his band with him. He knows there is a good sum of money in the house."

"I shall be glad when it is paid out," said the farmer's wife.

"Don't worry, Mrs. Mason. I have promised your husband that no harm should come to him and that the money should be secure, and I will keep my word."

"So you did," said Ezekiel, brightening up, "and I will pay you what I agreed, if you keep your promise."

"Friend Mason," responded Luke, "I am playing for higher stakes than five dollars. All depends on my keeping this outlaw secure. I mean to do it."

Having settled matters, they went down stairs again, where they found their prisoner waiting impatiently for their reappearance.

"Well," he said, "have you decided to let me go?"

"I am sorry to disappoint you, my friend," answered Luke, "but I don't see my way clear to do so."

"I promised you a thousand d

ollars if you would release me."

"Yes, but I haven't any confidence in that promise."

"You need not fear. In three days I would bring or send the money to you here."

"Couldn't you oblige me with a check on the bank where you keep your money?" asked Luke, smiling.

"I keep my money in several banks," returned the outlaw.

"Where, for instance?"

"I had some in the bank at Lee's Falls, but I drew it out the other day."

"So I heard. Have you any money in the Emmonsville bank?"

"Yes, but I am not quite ready to take it yet. I can give you an order on the bank, if that will suit."

"Thank you; I doubt if the order would be honored."

"All this talk amounts to nothing," said Fox, impatiently. "I tell you that if you release me I will bring or send you the money."

"And how soon would you want it back again?"

"Whenever I saw my way clear to taking it," said the outlaw, boldly.

"I like that talk. It looks square. I'll think over your offer, friend Fox, and let you know in the morning what I decide to do."

The outlaw frowned. He evidently did not like the prospect of remaining in captivity over night.

"What are you going to do with me to-night?" he asked.

"We have a comfortable place provided," answered Luke. "Mr. Mason, if you will give your assistance, we will show our guest where we propose to put him."

"Unbind me, and I will save you the trouble."

"No doubt, but there are some objections to that."

The outlaw was lifted from the wagon and carried up stairs to the attic. His ankles as well as his wrists were securely tied, so that he was unable to walk.

"Friend Fox," said Luke, politely, "there is a bed, and there is a shake-down," pointing to the blankets on the floor. "You can take your choice. I hope you will like your hotel."

"I shall like it better if it provides refreshments," replied Fox. "I am simply famished."

"I am sure Mrs. Mason will furnish you with a meal. I will speak to her."

The outlaw seated himself on the bed, and the cord about his wrists was loosened so that he might be able to eat. This might have been regarded as dangerous, as affording him an opportunity to escape, but for two reasons.

In a chair opposite sat Luke Robbins, with a revolver in his hand, watching his prisoner sharply.

"If you make any attempt to escape," he said quietly, "I shall shoot. Now you understand, and will be guided accordingly."

In spite of his unpleasant situation, the outlaw could not help admiring the coolness and resolution of his guard.

"You would make a capital accession to my band," he remarked.

"If that is meant for a compliment," said Luke, dryly, "I thank you."

"You had better think it over. Join my band, and I will make it worth your while."

He fixed his eyes earnestly upon his captor, to see whether he had made any impression upon him.

"When I start on any road," he said, "I like to know where it is coming out."

"Well, this road will lead to wealth."

"I don't read it that way."

"How, then?"

"It will more likely lead to a violent death--or the gallows."

"I have been on that path for ten years, and I am alive, and--"

"A prisoner."

"Yes, at present; but I can tell you this, my Quaker friend, that the tree has not yet grown that will furnish a gallows for John Fox."

"Perhaps so, but I don't feel sure of it."

The outlaw's predicament did not appear to interfere with his appetite. He ate his dinner with evident relish, and left nothing on the plate. When he had completed his meal, Luke called the farmer and requested him to tie his wrists again.

"You can do it better than I," he said. "Besides, I shall need to stand guard."

I was well that he did so, for John Fox, if there had been the least chance of success, would have overpowered the farmer and effected his escape. But with the eye of Luke Robbins upon him, and the pistol in his hand ready to go off at an instant's notice, there was nothing to do but to submit to being rebound.

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