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   Chapter 23 GIVEN IN TRUST.

The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8602

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Well, lad, have you had enough of Emmonsville?"

The speaker was Luke Robbins, and the time was two days after the series of exciting incidents recorded in the last few chapters.

"Why do you ask, Luke?" replied Ernest. "Are you tired of it?"

"Yes, lad, I want to move on. There is nothing more for us here."

"But what about the reward you are entitled to for the capture of John Fox?"

"The cashier thinks I will only receive a part of it, as Fox has escaped and is now at large."

"That is unlucky. You will have to wait until the matter is decided, won't you?"

"No. He has offered me an advance of a hundred dollars, and is authorized to collect whatever prize-money may be awarded to me. You have some money left?"

"Yes, about seventy-five dollars."

"Then we both have enough to start on. I propose to go to California by cars, getting there as soon as possible. When we reach there we will see what we can do to increase our pile."

"I like that plan. When shall we go?"

"It is now Thursday. We will start on Monday."

Before they departed there was some sensational news. Peter Longman, one of the Fox band, taking offence at some slight put upon him by James Fox, went to the authorities and revealed the existence and location of the cave, with other information of a like nature. The result was that a strong police force was sent to surprise and capture the notorious outlaws. The visit was made at night, and under guidance of Peter himself. Wholly unsuspicious of treachery, the outlaws were captured in their beds, and the valuable articles contained in trunks and boxes in the store-room were confiscated.

James Fox was reclining on the sofa when the officers entered.

"Is your name Fox?" asked the leader of the invading party.

"Yes," answered the outlaw, proudly.

"Then you are my prisoner."

"Who has betrayed me?" demanded Fox, quickly.

There was no answer, but just behind the invading party the outlaw caught sight of Peter Longman, apparently trying to screen himself from observation.

"I need not ask," he said. "There is the treacherous hound. He shall not live to profit by his baseness."

Before any one could interfere, James Fox leveled his revolver at Longman, and a sharp scream showed that his aim was true. His treacherous follower fell to the ground mortally wounded.

James Fox looked at him disdainfully, then threw the revolver upon the floor of the cave, and held out his hands. "Now bind me if you will," he said; "I am your captive."

Little Frank was a terrified witness of this scene.

"What are they doing to you, papa?" he asked. "They are bad men."

In spite of his fortitude the outlaw showed traces of emotion. "That is my little son," he said to the lieutenant commanding. "Don't let him suffer for the sins of his father."

"He shall be taken care of. Do not be anxious about him."

"There is an old colored woman here--Juba," went on the outlaw. "The boy is used to her. If possible, let them be together."

Under a strong guard the famous robbers were carried to jail, and the cave which had been for years their meeting-place was dismantled and was never again used for a criminal resort.

When Ernest read the story his feelings were mixed. He rejoiced that the outlaws were taken, but he felt a sympathy for little Frank, and understood what a shock it must be to the father and son to be separated, and to have their home so suddenly and violently broken up.

He learned where Frank was, and called upon him. He had been taken to his own home by the police commander, and it was there that Ernest found him.

When he entered the room where Frank sat disconsolately at the window, the little fellow uttered a cry of joy.

"Is it you, Ernest?" he said, running forward. "I thought I should never see you again."

Ernest stooped over and kissed the little boy.

"You see I am here," he said.

"What made you go away? Why didn't you tell me you were going?"

"I will tell you some time, Frank. I hope you are feeling well."

"Why did those bad men take papa away?"

"I do not think you would understand. Where is Juba?"

"She is now in the kitchen. I will call her."

Juba came in, and seemed pleased to see Ernest.

"I have got a letter for you, honey," she

said, fumbling in her pocket.

She brought out a yellow envelope. It was directed to Ernest.

The contents ran thus:

Now that misfortune has come upon me, my chief thought is for my boy. Whatever befalls me, I want him cared for. You are scarcely more than a stranger to me, but when you were in the cave you seemed to love Frank. Poor boy, he will stand in need of some friend who loves him. So far as you can, will you be his friend and guardian? He has some property--a few thousand dollars--which you will hold in trust for him. It is not stolen property. It was left him by his mother.

Call upon Mr. Samuel Hardy, a lawyer in Lee's Falls, and he will make over to you the custody of the money, and look upon you as the authorized guardian of Frank. You know my wish that he should be sent to a good school and properly educated. Will you carry out my wishes in that respect? I do not wish to tie you down, but wherever you may go, keep up an active interest in my boy, and from time to time write to him.

I do not know what my fate may be. I am not a coward, and shall not complain or beg for mercy.

When you speak of me to Frank in after years, always paint me at my best, and let him understand that at least I loved him.

JAMES FOX.

P.S. Should Frank die before maturity, I desire that his property should go to you.

Ernest read the foregoing with mingled feelings. He knew that the writer was an outlaw, deeply stained with crime; but this letter showed him at his best. Paternal love softened the harsh outlines of his character, and spoke of a nature that might have made him a blessing instead of a curse to his kind.

Ernest lost no time in communicating with Mr. Hardy.

The lawyer read the letter in some surprise.

"Mr. Fox seems to have appointed a young guardian for his son," he remarked.

"Yes, sir; but he appeared to have no choice. It would have been better had he appointed you."

"No; I do not care to assume that responsibility. I am ready to assist you, however."

"I will depend upon you, then, for I shall start for California as soon as possible. Can you recommend a satisfactory boarding-school?"

"I have a son at school in Lincoln. The school is under the charge of a clergyman, who is an efficient teacher, yet is popular with his pupils."

"Can you arrange to enter Frank at his school?"

"I will do so, if you authorize me."

"I don't think we can do any better. Were you aware that Mr. Fox was the notorious outlaw?" asked Ernest, after a pause.

"I did not know, but latterly I have suspected it. You may be surprised that under the circumstances I should have consented to serve him. But I felt that I might be of assistance to the boy, and that my refusal would occasion him embarrassment. Your letter is satisfactory, as showing that the fortune of your ward is not made up of ill-gotten gains. Were it otherwise, he would hardly be allowed to keep it. Does Frank know his father's character and reputation?"

"I don't think so."

"It had best be kept from him. I will see that it does not become known at school. It would wound the boy to be twitted with it by his schoolmates."

Thanks to Mr. Hardy, Ernest found that the new charge imposed upon him would not materially interfere with his plans. A week later than he had originally intended he and Luke Robbins left Emmonsville by a Western-bound train.

As they rushed rapidly over the prairies, Luke Robbins turned to his young companion and said, "Our journey thus far has been adventurous. I wonder what lies before us?"

"We won't trouble ourselves on that score, Luke. I feel hopeful."

"So do I; and yet we have less than two hundred dollars between us."

"That's true."

"Still, I have captured an outlaw, and you, at the age of sixteen, are the guardian of an outlaw's son."

"I don't think we shall meet with anything stranger than that."

Two days later, in a newspaper bought at an important station, there was an article that deeply interested both travellers. It related to the Fox brothers, recounting their daring attempt to escape from the jail where they were confined. John Fox got away, but James was shot dead by one of the prison guards.

So Frank was an orphan, and Ernest felt that his responsibility was increased.

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