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   Chapter 13 THE OUTLAW'S MISTAKE.

The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7883

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


John Fox had been so occupied with his terrified victim that he quite forgot the possibility of his two captors returning.

It so happened that both were approaching the house when they heard Mrs. Mason's cry of terror.

"What's that?" exclaimed the farmer in alarm.

"I believe that scoundrel has got loose," answered Luke.

He quickened his pace and entered the house just in time to become a witness of the outlaw's brutality.

It was no time to hesitate or parley. He sprang upon the robber, dashed him to the ground, and put his foot upon his breast.

"What deviltry are you up to, you miserable man?" he demanded. Then turning to Mrs. Mason, he asked, "Why did he attack you?"

"He wanted my husband's money--and a revolver," answered the trembling woman.

"I have a great mind to give him the contents of the revolver," said Luke, sternly.

John Fox was not a coward--on the contrary, he was a man of boldness and courage, but as he looked up at the stern face of the Quaker detective he quailed, almost for the first time in his life. He tried to rise, but the heavy foot of Luke Robbins was on his breast.

"Let me up!" he growled.

"You don't deserve to get up. You should lie there forever, for your cowardice in attacking a woman."

"I would rather it had been you!" said John Fox, bitterly.

"You are safe in attacking a woman," said the detective in scornful sarcasm.

The outlaw was stung by his assailant's scorn.

"I have attacked many better men than you," he replied, "and some have not lived to tell the tale."

"So you own up to being a murderer? I am ready to believe you. I have a great mind to shoot you where you lie," and Luke pointed his revolver at the prostrate outlaw.

"That would be the act of a coward," said John Fox, hastily, his cheek turning pale, for he felt that death might be close at hand.

"Not exactly that, for I have mastered you in a fair fight, but there is one thing that holds back my hand. Do you know what it is?"

"Well?"

"I should cheat the gallows of its due. Here, farmer!"

Ezekiel Mason, pale and trembling, was standing on the threshold.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Go and get another rope."

The farmer left the house, and going to an out-house, returned with a stout clothes line.

"Tie him again while I hold him," was Luke's command. "Tie him as securely as before--more so, if possible. How did you get loose?"

"Find out for yourself," said the outlaw sullenly.

"I mean to, and I don't intend that you shall escape the second time."

Meanwhile John Fox was execrating his folly in not escaping when he had the chance. If he had not waited for the revolver and money, he might by this time have been out of danger.

Yet he was not without hope. What he had done once he might do again. He still had the knife in his pocket. It was ready for use, and he meant to use it.

No doubt he would be taken back to the attic, and probably pass the night there. If Luke Robbins should be his companion, all the better. After cutting his bonds, the knife could be put to another use, and might end the life of the man who had inflicted such humiliation upon him.

He did not speak, but his eyes betrayed him. There was such a revengeful gleam in them that Luke read their meaning without trouble.

"If I am ever at the mercy of that ruffian," he thought, "I wouldn't give much for my chance of keeping a whole skin."

When the outlaw lay securely bound, Luke summoned the farmer.

"Watch him for five minutes, Mr. Mason," he said. "I am going to the attic to learn, if I can, how he got loose."

Ezekiel Mason looked uncomfortable, but did not object. He was half afraid of John Fox even in his helpless condition.

"Have you a revolver?"

"Yes."

"Then take it out, and if he makes an effort to escape, shoot him without a moment's hesitation."

It gratified the outlaw to see how much afraid of him the farme

r was, even in his helpless condition. But he could not flatter himself that he had inspired any terror in Luke Robbins. Against his will he was compelled to pay tribute to the resolute courage of the Quaker detective. As he met the gaze of the farmer he smiled to himself sardonic ally.

"You've got the advantage of me," he said.

"I am bound and helpless, while you are free and are armed. Still you are afraid of me."

"Why should I be?" asked Mason, but his tone was not firm.

"Yes, why should you be? I'll tell you. If ever I have you where I am now, I'll give you fifteen minutes to say your prayers."

"Oh, what a terrible man!" said Mrs. Mason, with a shudder.

"You wouldn't kill him?" she ejaculated.

"Yes, I would. But there is one way of escape."

"What is that?"

"Loose these bonds and let me go before your Quaker friend comes down stairs, and your life will be safe, and your wife's."

Ezekiel Mason shook his head feebly.

"I don't dare to do it," he said.

"Do as you please, but the time will come when you will be sorry that you refused. What are you afraid of? You are armed, while I have no weapon."

"I am afraid of Luke."

"You needn't be. He would find fault with you, but that would be all."

Ezekiel Mason was weak, but not weak enough to yield to the persuasions of his prisoner. Besides, he knew that Luke would come down from the attic directly.

In fact he was already close at hand. He brought in his hand the cut fragments of the cord with which the outlaw had originally been bound.

"This tells the story," he said, holding up the rope so that the farmer and his wife could see it. "This rope has been cut. The man has a knife."

John Fox darted a malignant look at him, but said nothing.

"You are smart, John Fox," Luke went on, "smarter than I thought. It must have cost you considerable trouble to cut the rope. Where is your knife?"

John Fox did not reply.

Luke Robbins knelt down and thrust his hand unceremoniously into the outlaw's pocket.

He drew out the knife which had done Fox so much service.

"This will be safer with me than with you," he said.

"Would you rob me?" demanded the outlaw.

"Yes, of anything it is not proper for you to have."

To John Fox the disappointment was bitter. He was, if anything, more securely tied than before, and it would be quite impossible to loosen the rope or free himself without the help of the knife. His hope of getting loose during the night and killing Luke was at an end.

For the first time he felt hopeless, and once more he execrated his folly in not making good his escape as soon as he came down stairs.

"Did he say anything while I was up stairs?" asked Luke.

"Yes."

"What was it?"

"He wanted me to set him free."

"Did he offer you money?"

"No, but he threatened that he would some time take my life."

"He is a terrible man!" said Mrs. Mason, shuddering. "I shall not feel safe to-night with him in the house."

"I don't propose to let him stay in the house all night."

The prisoner, the farmer and his wife looked at Luke inquiringly.

"I think, farmer," said Luke, "you'd better harness up, and we will take our friend here to the jail in Crampton."

"What, to-night?"

"Yes, the sooner he is safely disposed of the better at any rate, we will have shifted the responsibility to the authorities."

"Yes, it will be better," said Mrs. Mason.

The buggy was made ready, and the outlaw, very much against his will, was packed in the back part of it. Towards nightfall the warden of the prison at Crampton was startled by the arrival of the farmer and Luke, bringing with them the notorious outlaw whose name was in every mouth--John Fox. He hardly knew whether to be sorry or glad, for no prison yet had been secure enough to hold him any length of time.

"I will leave my name," said Luke, "and I shall hereafter claim the reward for his capture."

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