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   Chapter 31 THE ADVERTISEMENT.

The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8141

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


If there was any one of whom Tom Burns stood in fear it was Luke Robbins. When he found himself in the grasp of his dreaded enemy he grew weak with terror.

It was no longer a question of successful robbery. It was a matter of personal safety.

"Well, what have you to say for yourself?" demanded Luke, tightening his grasp.

"Have mercy on me, Mr. Robbins! Don't kill me!" ejaculated Burns, half choked.

"What did you come here for?"

"I--I had no money, and--"

"You thought you could get some here. That is the explanation."

"Ye-es," faltered Burns.

"You thought you would be more than a match for the boy. Well, you have no boy to deal with."

"I know that very well," confessed Burns.

"How long have you been in Oreville?"

"I only came this morning."

"You have improved your time," said Luke, dryly. "You have stolen a gold watch, besides making this attempt at robbery."

Tom Burns could not deny it, though he was surprised at Luke's knowledge. He did not reply.

"Hand over that watch!" said Luke, in a tone of authority.

"Will you let me go if I do?"

"I will make no conditions with you. Hand over that watch!"

Burns drew it from his inside pocket and handed it over.

"Humph! So far so good. Now how about that dollar you took to buy eggs?"

"It is the only money I have, except a few pennies. Please let me keep it."

"If I tell the miners what you have done you won't need any more money," said Luke, grimly.

"Why not?" asked Burns, trembling.

"Why not?" repeated Luke. "Because they will hang you to the nearest tree. You won't need to trouble about money matters after that."

"You won't give me up, Mr. Robbins," pleaded Burns in an agony of terror. "I--I am not fit to die. Besides, I am a young man. I am not yet forty. I will turn over a new leaf. I will, truly."

"It's high time you did. It is a long time since you earned an honest living."

"I know it, Mr. Robbins. I have been a bad man, but it is not too late to reform. If you'll let me go I will leave Oreville to-night, and I will never trouble you again."

"It isn't me you have troubled. It is the boy. You robbed him, or tried to do it, at Oak Forks, and now you have turned up here."

"I didn't know he was here. Truly I didn't."

"You didn't know I was here, or I think you would have given the place a wide berth."

"I am very sorry for what I did, and if you'll only spare my life I'll promise to reform."

"I haven't much faith in your promises, but I'll leave it to the boy. Ernest, what shall I do with this man?"

Ernest had come forward, and was standing but a few feet from Luke and his captive.

"If he promises to reform," said Ernest, "you'd better give him another chance, Luke."

"I am not sure that I ought to, but it is you to whom he has done the most harm. If you give him over to the miners we shall never be troubled by him again."

Tom Burns turned pale, for he knew that life and death were in the balance, and that those two--Luke and the boy--were to decide his fate.

Ernest could not help pitying the trembling wretch. He was naturally kind hearted, and at that moment he felt that he could forgive Burns all that he had done.

"Since you have left it to me, Luke," he said, "let him go."

"It shall be as you say, Ernest."

As he spoke he released his hold, and Tom Burns stood erect. He breathed a deep sigh of relief.

"May I go?" he asked submissively.

"Yes."

Before leaving he turned to Ernest.

"You are a good-hearted boy," he said, "and I shall not forget that you have saved my life. If I am ever able to do anything for you, I will do it. You will find that Tom Burns, bad as he has been, knows how to be grateful."

"I think you mean what you say," returned Ernest. "I hope you will keep your promise and will turn over a new leaf. Is it true that you are penniless?"

"Not quite. This is all I have."

Burns drew from his pocket a handful of small change--less than a dollar in all--and held it out for inspection.

"Then I will help you along."

Ernest took from his pocket a five-dollar gold piece, and offered it to the tramp.

"That is more than I would do for him," said Luke.

"It is more than I deserve," replied Burns, "but you won't be sorry for your kindness. If ever you see me again, I shall be a different man."

He passed out of the window, and they saw him no more.

Luke and Ernest said very little of their night's adventure, but the gold watch and the Mexican dollar were returned to the man from whom they had been taken.

Six months passed. Oreville had doubled its population, the mines had yielded a large sum in gold dust, and the store presided over by Ernest was considerably enlarged.

His services had been so satisfactory that Horace Ames, whose time was taken up elsewhere, had raised his share of the profits to one half.

At the end of six months, besides defraying his expenses, Ernest found himself possessed of a thousand dollars.

"Luke, I feel rich," said he, when his faithful friend came round for a chat.

"You've done better than I have," rejoined Luke. "The most I have been able to scrape together is four hundred dollars."

"I will give you a part of my money, so that we may be even."

"No, you won t, Ernest. What do you take me for? I should be ashamed to touch any of your hard earnings."

"They are not hard earnings, Luke. Mr. Ames has been very liberal, and that is why I have got so much. I don't feel that I ought to have so much more than you."

"Don't bother about me, lad; I feel rich with four hundred dollars. I never was worth so much before, though I'm almost three times your age. And I wouldn't have that but for you."

"How do you make that out, Luke?"

"Because I never had any ambition till I met you. I never thought of saving money; as long as I got enough to eat I cared for nothing else. I should have died without enough to bury me if you had not set me the example of putting something by for a rainy day."

"I am glad if I have done you any good, Luke, for you have been a kind friend to me."

A. week later Luke came into the store holding a letter in his hand.

"Here is a letter for you, Ernest," he said. "I was passing the post-office just now when I was hailed by the postmaster, who asked me if I would take the letter to you. I didn't know that you had any correspondents."

"Nor I, Luke. I think it is the first letter I ever received. Whom can it be from?"

"From some one who knows you are here. It is postmarked St. Louis."

"Well, I can easily discover who wrote it," said Ernest, as he cut open the envelope with his penknife.

He turned at once to the signature, and exclaimed, in great surprise, "Why, it's from Tom Burns."

"The man who tried to rob the store?"

"Yes."

"He has probably written to ask you for some money."

"No, Luke, you are mistaken. I will read it to you."

The letter started thus:

ERNEST RAY:

You will probably be surprised to hear from me. Let me begin by saying that I have kept the promise I made to you and Mr. Robbins when you let me off six months ago. I have turned over a new leaf, and have been strictly honest ever since, as I promised you I would be.

I won't trouble you with an account of my struggles to get along. I will only say that I am employed at present as a waiter at the Planters Hotel, and though I can't save up much money, I am able to live comfortable. But you will wonder why I am writing to you. It is because I have seen your name mentioned in an advertisement in one of the St. Louis daily papers. I inclose the advertisement, and hope it is something to your advantage. I have taken the liberty to write to Mr. Bolton, telling him where you were six months since, and now I write to you so that you may communicate with him also.

Yours respectfully, TOM BURNS.

The advertisement appended ran thus:

INFORMATION WANTED.--Should this meet the eye of Ernest Ray, some time residing at Oak Forks, Iowa, he is requested to communicate with Benjamin Bolton, Attorney-at-Law, 182 Nassau Street, New York City.

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