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   Chapter 15 A NEW ACQUAINTANCE.

The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7138

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


While Ernest's clothes were drying the Indian woman was bustling about the stove. The boy did not suspect her object till she placed on the table a plate of Indian cakes hot from the oven, and he was invited to partake.

It was the first time he had ever been a guest in an Indian family, and he hesitated, but saw that his refusal to partake might hurt the feelings of his new friends. He seated himself at the table and found the cakes really very good.

When his clothes were dry he rose to go.

"Won't you stay all night?" asked Castro.

"Thank you. I cannot spare the time. I must push on."

"Where are you going?" asked the Indian.

"To Lee's Falls."

"I will go with you a short distance."

So they set out together.

At length John Castro stopped.

"That is your way," he said. "I wish you a pleasant journey. I will not forget what you have done for my little son. If ever you are in trouble, send for John Castro."

"I thank you."

The Indian shook hands with him gravely, and turned back towards his cabin.

All this had taken time. Ernest had no watch with him, but he estimated that the adventure had cost him two hours. However, he had saved a boy's life.

Again, he had made a friend. The friend was an Indian, but Ernest was wise enough to consider that no friend, however humble, is to be despised.

It was clear that he would reach his destination late, and he began to wish that some carriage would overtake him in which he might ask for a ride.

But he walked two miles farther without encountering any team. At last, however, he heard the rumble of wheels, and turning round to see whether there was room in the vehicle, he saw that it was a buggy driven by a tall, thin man with dark hair, swarthy face, and a long, aquiline nose.

The driver eyed Ernest sharply and brought the buggy to a standstill.

"Where are you going, boy?" he asked.

"To Lee's Falls."

"Where have you come from?"

"From Emmonsville."

"It is a long walk."

"Yes. Do you think you could give me a lift?"

"Perhaps so. Jump in."

Ernest lost no time in availing himself of the invitation. He was footsore and weary, and it was with a sensation of relief that he seated himself beside the driver.

The latter, who had been going at good speed, pulled his horse down to a walk and showed indications of becoming sociable.

"Where were you going in Lee's Falls?" he asked.

Ernest felt that it would be imprudent to mention that his destination was the bank, so he answered guardedly, "I am going to see the town. I may stop over night."

"At the hotel?"

"Yes."

"It is not much of a place to see," said the driver, watching his companion curiously.

"It is larger than Emmonsville, isn't it?"

"Yes. How long have you been in Emmonsville?"

"Not long."

"Where do you live there?"

"At Mrs. Larkins'."

"Do you go to school?"

"No."

Ernest began to think that his companion was decidedly inquisitive, and something told him that he would do well to be on his guard. Why should he ask so many questions of a boy with whom he had no acquaintance?

Meanwhile the horse was travelling very slowly, and it seemed to Ernest that he would go over the road quite as fast if he had continued to walk. However, it was easier riding, and this was a consideration. He began to think it was his turn to ask questions.

"Are you going all the way to Lee's Falls?" he asked.

"I may go nearly there."

"I am very much obliged to you for giving me a lift. I was quite tired."

The driver smiled.

"P

erhaps I have an object," he said.

Ernest looked an inquiry.

"The pleasure of your company," explained his companion, with a smile.

"Thank you," answered Ernest.

"Now I come to look at you, I think I have seen you before," continued the driver.

"Where?"

"In Emmonsville--at the bank."

Ernest became alarmed. There was a significance in his companion's tone which excited his alarm. But he did not dare show his feelings. He remained outwardly calm, though inwardly disturbed.

"Very probably," he said; "I have been there."

His companion laughed. He was playing with the boy as a cat plays with a captive mouse. Ernest began to consider whether he could not think of some pretext for getting out of the buggy.

Suddenly the buggy stopped.

"I will get out here," said Ernest, quickly.

"Not quite yet. I have not got through questioning you."

"I am in a hurry," said Ernest.

"You must wait till your hurry is over. Now tell me truly, are you not bound for the Lee's Falls bank?"

Ernest was startled.

"You see I know more about you than you suppose. You are the bank messenger."

It seemed useless to deny it. The important question now was, was his secret packet in danger?

"I have sometimes acted as bank messenger," he said warily.

"And you are acting in that capacity now. What are you taking to the Lee's Falls bank?"

Ernest turned pale. His worst fears were confirmed.

"Why do you ask?" he said.

"Because I want to know."

"What business can it be of yours?" demanded Ernest, boldly.

"Don't be impudent, boy! Hand me the package of money."

"I have no package of money."

"Then you have bonds."

Ernest remained silent.

"I see that I have hit it. Now hand over the bonds, if you value your life."

He spoke sternly, and looked so fierce that the boy messenger became more and more alarmed. He saw that he must give up the package, but determined to hold out in his resistance as long as possible.

"The package is not mine, and I have no right to surrender it," he said.

"I'll take the responsibility, boy. You can't be blamed, for you can't help your self."

As he spoke, he passed his hand over Ernest's vest, which he saw projected more than was usual, and discovered the hiding-place of the important package.

Instantly he had torn open the vest and drawn out the envelope.

"I thought I should find it," he said in a tone of triumph.

Ernest felt very much dejected. It was a mortification to lose the first large sum with which he had been intrusted.

"Will you tell me who you are?" he asked abruptly.

"First, let me know who you think I am."

As the driver spoke he eyed Ernest sharply. "Is your name Fox?" asked the young messenger.

His companion laughed.

"I know Mr. Fox," he answered.

"You are either Fox or a member of his band."

"You seem to be a sharp boy; I won't tell you whether you are right or not."

"I suppose I may go now."

"Where do you want to go?"

Ernest hesitated. This was a question which he could not at once answer. To go on to Lee's Falls without the packet would do little good. Yet the bank officers there ought to know that the bonds intended for them had been stolen. Besides, he was too far from Emmonsville to return that night.

"I will go to Lee's Falls," he said.

"Not at present; I have other views for you." As he spoke the robber turned his horse to the right. Wholly ignorant as to where he was to be carried, Ernest sank back in his seat and resigned himself as well as he could to the situation.

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