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The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8327

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

When Burns left the store he walked to the outskirts of the mining settlement, not wishing to attract attention. He wished especially to avoid encountering Luke Robbins, with the strength of whose arm he was disagreeably familiar.

He proposed to keep out of sight until night, and then make a visit to the store. It would go hard with him if he did not make a raise there either in the shape of money or articles of value.

He came to a cabin standing by itself, at a considerable distance from the homes of the other miners. Sitting in front of it was a man with grizzled beard whose appearance indicated advanced age. There were lines upon his face that betrayed ill health.

"I wonder if anything can be got out of him," thought Tom Burns. "I'll see."

"Good day, sir," he said affably.

The old man looked up.

"Good day," he replied. "Who are you?"

"I'm an unfortunate man, in search of employment."

"When people are unfortunate there is generally a reason for it. Are you intemperate?"

"No, sir," answered Burns, as if horror-stricken. "I hate the taste of liquor."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"I belong to three temperance societies," continued Tom, by way of deepening the favorable impression he thought he had made.

"And still you are poor?"

"Yes," answered Burns. "Once I was prosperous, but I was ruined by signing notes for an unprincipled man who took advantage of my friendship. Do you think I can find work here?"

"I don't know. Probably you can get a chance to work on one of Mr. Ames claims."

"Is it Mr. Ames who owns the store?"


"I called there to buy some tobacco. Is the boy there his son?"

"No; he is a recent arrival in Oreville. He is a very smart boy."

"Is he? Mr. Ames trusts him, I suppose?"

"Yes. Why shouldn't he?"

"I--I would rather not answer that question."

"Have you ever met the boy before? Do you know him?"

"Yes; I met him at the East," answered Burns.

"Since you have said so much, you must say more. I am a cousin of Mr. Ames, and if you know anything unfavorable of the boy it is your duty to tell me."

"I have nothing against the boy, and would prefer not to speak."

"I insist upon your doing it."

"It is only this. When I knew him he was employed in a store. He was trusted, as he appears to be here. One night the store was robbed, that is some money disappeared, and the boy claimed it was broken into by thieves, who took the money, whereas he took it himself."

"That seems bad. Was it proved that he took the money?"

"Yes. That's why he was compelled to leave the place. That is why he is now in Oreville."

"Did you come here to expose him?"

"No; I didn't know he was here. I was very much taken by surprise when I saw him in the store."

"This is important, if true. Mr. Ames ought to be informed."

"Don't tell him while I am here. The boy is very revengeful, and he might try to do me an injury."

"Are you afraid of a boy?"

"I am a man of peace. I don't want to get into any difficulty."

"I suppose you wonder that I am sitting here while others are at work."

"Well, it did cross my mind."

"My spine is affected. I look well, but I cannot walk. I hope to be better after a while, but at present I am comparatively helpless."

"Can't I help you?"

"You may go into the cabin, and bring me a bottle of medicine which you will find in the cupboard."

Burns entered the cabin gladly. He thought that he might find something worth taking.

On the wall, hanging from a nail, was a gold watch. It was too good a chance to be lost. It might or it might not be valuable, but at any rate it was worth something.

So, while securing the bottle, Burns slyly possessed himself of the watch, which he slipped into his inside breast pocket.

"Here is the bottle, sir," he said, meekly.

"Thank you. Now bring a spoon, which you will find on the table."

Burns did so.

"Now pour out a teaspoonful, which I will take."

"I am glad to be of service to you. Don't you want a kind attendant, while you are sick, to take care of you?"

"There would not be enough for you to do. I have a son at work in the

mines who is here morning and night, and he gives me all the care I require."

"I am sorry to hear that," thought Burns. "The son may be dangerous."

"Then, sir, I will bid you good-by. I will pray for your recovery."

"Thank you. The prayers of the righteous avail much. Are you righteous?"

"It isn't for me to say, sir. I don't want to boast."

"That is creditable to you. By the way, are you hungry?"

"I haven't broken my fast since morning."

"You will find some cold meat and a loaf of bread in the cupboard. It is plain, but if you are hungry you will enjoy it."

"Thank you, sir. I will accept your kind invitation."

Tom Burns was really hungry, and he did justice to the food offered him.

When his lunch was over he came outside.

"Thank you," he said, "for your kindness. I am sure you will be rewarded."

"I don't want any reward. Out here we are always glad to give a meal of victuals to a stranger who needs it. Are you going to stay long in Oreville?"

"If I can get anything to do I may. You see I am a poor man, and stand in pressing need of employment."

"Keep up your courage! Something will turn up for you. I will ask my son if he cannot find something for you to do."

"Thank you, sir. I will bid you good-by, with thanks for your kindness."

"If you are not pressed for time, I will send you on an errand."

"All right, sir. I shall be glad to be of service to you."

"Here is a Mexican dollar. You may go to the store and bring me a dozen eggs. If there is any change you may keep it."

"Thank you, sir."

"A dollar in!" thought Burns, as he turned away from the cabin. "I think I can turn it to a better use than spending it in eggs. That was a profitable call. I made a gold watch and a dollar by it. The old man can't pursue me, that's one comfort, thanks to his spinal complaint."

"That is a very clever fellow," reflected the old man when Burns had started on his errand. "A bit too religious to suit my taste. Still he seemed grateful for the little I did for him. If he had a little more push and get-up-and-get about him he would succeed better. Why, he isn't more than forty, and he confesses himself a failure. Why, at forty I considered myself a young man, and was full of dash and enterprise. Now I am sixty and tied to my seat by this spinal trouble. However, I've got something laid by, and, old as I am, I feel independent, as far as money goes."

Half an hour--an hour--passed, and still the old man found himself alone. His messenger had not come back.

But there came up the path a tall, muscular figure, who greeted the old man in a bluff, off hand way.

"How are you, Luke?" said the old man. "I was feeling lonely. I am glad to see you."

"Have you been alone since morning?"

"Not quite all the time. I had quite a long call from a stranger."

"A stranger!" repeated Luke, suspiciously.

"What was his appearance?"

The old man described Burns, and Luke knew him at once.

"What did he say to you?"

"That reminds me--he said he knew the boy whom Horace has put in the store--young Ray."

"Did he?"

"Yes, and he doesn't speak well of him."

"What does he say about him?"

"I don't like to tell you, Luke, for I believe he is a protege of yours."

"Don't mind that. If there is anything to be said unfavorable of Ernest I ought to know it."

"He says the boy robbed a store in which he was employed, and then pretended it was entered by thieves. It was on that account, he says, that the boy was compelled to leave the town where he lived and come to California."

"Really, that is very interesting. To my own personal knowledge the boy was never before employed in a store, and he came out to California with me."

"Then what could the man mean?"

"I can't say. I can only tell you that he is a professional thief."

"Look quick, Luke, and see if my gold watch is hanging on a nail near the cupboard."

"No, it is not there."

"Then the rascal must have stolen it. I gave him, besides, a Mexican dollar to buy some eggs at the store."

"I don't think you will ever see it again, unless I catch the thief, as I may to-night."

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