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   Chapter 12 THE OUTLAW'S ESCAPE.

The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8390

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The outlaw was left for several hours alone in the attic of the farmer's house. He felt far from comfortable, and he experienced great mortification at the thought that he had been captured by a Quaker.

"I might as well have been captured by a woman," he said to himself. "I shall never hold up my head again--that is," he added, after a pause, "unless I circumvent him and get away."

Fox dragged himself to the window and looked out.

"If only my brother knew where I was," he reflected, "he would soon turn the tables on those clodhoppers."

But, as he knew, his brother was twenty miles away, on a different expedition.

John Fox was a man of expedients. In his long career as an outlaw he had more than once been "in a hole," but he had never failed by some means or other to extricate himself. This was what he decided to do at present, if it were possible.

It was not for some time that he bethought himself of a knife that he had in his pocket. If he could get it out so as to use it, he would be able to cut the ropes that bound him and escape--that is, if he were not interfered with.

He looked out of the window again, and saw Luke Robbins and the farmer walking up the road.

"They think I am safe," soliloquized Fox, "but perhaps they may find themselves mistaken."

He reflected with satisfaction that there was no one in the house but Mrs. Mason and himself. She was a timid, nervous woman, who would wilt at a look from him. Yet as matters stood he was helpless even against her.

As it was uncertain how long his two jailers would be absent, it behooved him to escape as soon as possible. There was of course a difficulty in the way, as his hands were securely tied together at the wrists, and he could not, therefore, thrust them into his pocket and obtain the knife. But possibly by rolling over he might manage to make it slip out. It seemed the only possible way to accomplish his object, so he at once set to work. Rolling over and over, he at length found himself in such a position that the knife--a large jack-knife--slipped from the gaping mouth of the pocket.

"Ha, that is the first step towards success," he cried triumphantly.

Next he must pick up the knife and open it. This was easier than the first step. His hands were tied at the wrists, but his fingers were free to work. It seemed a simple thing to open the knife, but it took him some time. At last, however, he succeeded.

"That is the second step towards liberty," he said in a jubilant tone.

The next thing was to cut the cord that bound his wrists. That was difficult. In fact, it took him longer than both the first steps together. It chanced, unfortunately for him, that the knife had not been sharpened for a long time. Then the cord was stout and thick, and even had his hands been free, it would have taken him some time to cut it. As matters stood, he was placed at great disadvantage.

"If they should come back it would be maddening," he reflected, and as the thought came to him he looked out of the window. But nowhere were the two men visible. They had evidently no fear of his escape.

"They are fools! They don't know me!" said the outlaw to himself.

He resumed his efforts to cut the cord. It was slow work, but perseverance, even in a bad cause, is apt to be crowned with success, and this was the case here. After twenty minutes, the last strand parted, and, with a feeling of relief, John Fox stretched out his hands, free once more.

His feet were still tied, but with his hands at liberty, there was very little difficulty in cutting the rope that tied them.

In less that five minutes the outlaw rose to his feet a free man.

He smiled--a smile of exultation and triumph.

"My Quaker friend will be surprised to find me gone. He will understand John Fox a little better. He will have to wait a little longer for his thousand dollars."

John Fox was himself again, but for the first time in ten years, except when he was the temporary tenant of a jail, he was unarmed.

"What has that fellow done with my revolver?" he asked himself. "If it is any where in the house I won't go off without it."

Half an hour earlier and he would

have been content with his liberty. Now he wanted his revolver, and his thoughts recurred to the money which the farmer had drawn that morning from the bank. It was five hundred dollars, as Luke had rather incautiously let out.

John Fox was not without hopes of securing both. The coast was clear, and only Mrs. Mason was left in the house. He might terrify her, and so secure the articles he had set his heart upon. But, clearly, there was no time to be lost, as Luke and the farmer might return at any minute.

The outlaw went down stairs, stepping as lightly as he could.

On the lower floor Mrs. Mason was in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal. She had at first been reluctant to remain alone in the house with the outlaw, but Luke had reassured her by the statement that he was securely bound, and could not possibly get away. So, upon the whole, she was calm, and had no fear of being molested.

She turned from the stove at the sound of a footfall. There was the notorious outlaw standing in the doorway with an ironical smile upon his face.

The terrified woman sank back into a chair and regarded John Fox with a scared look.

"You here!" she exclaimed.

"Yes, Mrs. Mason, it is I."

"How did you get free? My husband told me that you were bound."

"So I was, and I will do your husband the justice to say that he understands his business. I had trouble to break loose."

"How ever could you have done it?" asked the amazed woman.

"I won't go into details, for there isn't time. Now listen to me and obey my commands. Your Quaker friend took my revolver away. I want you to get it and give it to me."

"I can't do it, sir, for I don't know where it is." Mrs. Mason's tone was a terrified one.

"That won't do," said John Fox, sternly. "It is somewhere in the house. Look for it."

"Indeed, sir, you are mistaken. I am sure that Mr.--the Quaker gentleman has taken it with him."

"I don't believe anything of the kind. He had no doubt a revolver of his own, and would not care to carry two."

"You may be right, sir, but I don't know where it is."

The outlaw felt that time was precious, and that it would not do to indulge in prolonged discussion with the woman.

"Is there any revolver in the house?" he demanded impatiently. "I should prefer my own, but I will take any."

"I will look, sir, if you wish me to."

"Wait a moment. There is something else I must have. Where is that five hundred dollars your husband drew from the bank this morning?"

"I don't know."

"Tell the truth, or it will be the worse for you."

"I am ready to tell the truth, but I don't know."

"Where does your husband usually keep any money he may have in the house?"

"In the desk in the next room."

"Probably he has put the money there. Is the desk locked?"

"Yes."

"Have you the key?"

"Here it is, sir," and Mrs. Mason meekly passed him a small-sized key.

"Good! I see you are growing sensible. Now come with me."

Together they entered the room, and Mrs. Mason pointed to the desk.

It was an ordinary upright desk. John Fox opened it with the key. He was at first afraid the woman had given him the wrong one, but she would not have dared to deceive him. The desk opened, the outlaw began at once to search eagerly for the money.

There was a multiplicity of small drawers which he opened eagerly, but he found no cash except four silver half-dollars and some smaller silver.

"It isn't here!" he said in a tone of sullen disappointment, turning a baffled look upon the farmer's wife.

"No, sir, I didn't think it was there."

"Where do you think it is? Do you think your husband has it with him?"

"No, sir."

"Where then can it be? Surely you must have some suspicion. Don't dare to trifle with me."

"Indeed I wouldn't, sir. I think the Quaker gentleman has it."

"Curse him!" exclaimed the outlaw angrily. "He's forever standing in my way. Have you any other money in the house?"

"No, sir."

"I have a great mind to kill you!" said Fox, with a look of ferocity. The terrified woman uttered a scream of dismay that excited the fierce outlaw still more. He sprang toward her and seized her by the throat.

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