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While Dodger had no discomfort to complain of, it occurred to him that Florence would be alarmed by his long absence, for now it seemed certain that he would have to remain overnight.
If only he could escape he would take care not to fall into such a trap again.
He went to the window and looked out, but the distance to the ground was so great—for the room was on the third floor—that he did not dare to imperil his life by attempting a descent.
If there had been a rope at hand he would not have felt afraid to make the attempt.
He examined the bed to see if it rested upon cords, but there were slats instead.
As has already been said, there were no houses near by.
That part of the city had not been much settled, and it was as solitary as it is in the outskirts of a country village.
If he could only reveal his position to some person outside, so as to insure interference, he might yet obtain his freedom.
With this thought he tore a blank leaf from one of the books in the room, and hastily penciled the following lines:
“I am kept a prisoner in this house. I was induced to come here by a trick. Please get some one to join you, and come and demand my release.”
Some weeks before Dodger could not have written so creditable a note, but he had greatly improved since he had been under the influence and instruction of Florence.
Dodger now posted himself at the window and waited anxiously for some one to pass, so that he might attract his attention and throw down the paper.
He had to wait for fifteen minutes. Then he saw approaching a young man, not far from twenty-one, who looked like a young mechanic, returning from his daily work.
Now was Dodger’s opportunity. He put his head out of the window and called out:
The young man looked and saw him at the window.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“Catch this paper, and read what there is on it.” He threw down the leaf, which, after fluttering in the gentle evening breeze, found its way to the ground and was picked up.
After reading it, the young man looked up and said: “I’ll go around to the door and inquire.”
He was as good as his word. He went to the outer door and rang the bell.
Julius came to the door.
“What’s wanted, boss?” he said.
“You’ve got a boy locked up in a room.”
“Who told you, boss?”
“He threw down a paper to me, telling me he was kept a prisoner.”
“What did he say?” asked Julius.
The young man read the note aloud.
“What have to say to that, you black imp?” he demanded, sternly.
The ready wit of Julius served him in this emergency.
“Dat boy is crazy as a loon, boss!” he answered, readily. “We have to keep him shut up for fear he’ll kill some of us.”
“You don’t say!” ejaculated the young mechanic. “He don’t look like it.”
“No, he don’t; dat’s a fact, boss. Fact is, dat boy is the artfullest lunytick you ever seed. He tried to kill his mother last week.”
“Is that true?”
“Dat’s so, boss. And all de while he looks as innocent as a baby. If I was to let him out he’d kill somebody, sure.”
“I never would have believed it,” said the young man.
“If you want to take the risk, boss, you might go up and see him. I believe he’s got a carvin’-knife about him, but I don’t dare to go up and get it away. It would be as much as this niggah’s life is worth.”
“No,” answered the young man, hastily. “I don’t want to see him. I never did like crazy folks. I’m sorry I gave you the trouble to come to the door.”
“Oh, no trouble, boss.”
“I guess I’ve fixed dat boy!” chuckled Julius. “Ho, ho! he can’t get ahead of old Julius! Crazy as a loon, ho, ho!”
Dodger waited anxiously for the young man to get through his interview. He hoped that he would force his way up to the third floor, draw the bolt, and release him from his imprisonment.
He kept watch at the window, and when the young man reappeared, he looked at him eagerly. “Did you ask them to let me out?” he shouted. The other looked up at him with an odd expression of suspicion and repulsion.
“You’re better off where you are,” he said, rather impatiently.
“But they have locked me up here.”
“And reason enough, too!”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because you’re crazy as a loon.”
“Did the black man say that?” inquired Dodger, indignantly.
“Yes, he did—said you tried to kill your mother, and had a carving-knife hidden in the room.”
“It’s a lie—an outrageous lie!” exclaimed Dodger, his eyes flashing.
“Don’t go into one of your tantrums,” said the man, rather alarmed; “it won’t do any good.”
“But I want you to understand that I am no more crazy than you are.”
“Sho? I know better. Where’s your carving-knife?”
“I haven’t got any; I never had any. That negro has been telling you lies. Just go to the door again, and insist on seeing me.”
“I wouldn’t dast to. You’d stab me,” said the man, fearfully.
“Listen to me!” said Dodger, getting out of patience. “I’m not crazy. I’m a newsboy and baggage-smasher. An old man got me to bring his valise here, and then locked me up. Won’t you go around to the station-house and send a policeman here?”
“I’ll see about it,” said the young man, who did not believe a word that Dodger had said to him.
“He won’t do it!” said Dodger to himself, in a tone of discouragement. “That miserable nigger has made him believe I am a lunatic. I’ll have him up, anyway.”
Forthwith he began to pound and kick so forcibly, that Julius came upstairs on a run, half inclined to believe that Dodger had really become insane.
“What do you want, boy?” he inquired from outside the door.
“I want you to unbolt the door and let me out.”
“I couldn’t do it, nohow,” said Julius. “It would be as much as my place is worth.”
“I will give you a dollar—five dollars—if you will only let me out. The man who brought me here is a bad man, who is trying to cheat his cousin—a young lady—out of a fortune.”
“Don’t know nothin’ ’bout that,” said Julius.
“He has no right to keep me here.”
“Don’t know nothin’ ’bout that, either. I’m actin’ accordin’ to orders.”
“Look here,” said Dodger, bethinking himself of what had just happened. “Did you tell that young man who called here just now that I was crazy?”
Julius burst into a loud guffaw.
“I expect I did,” he laughed. “Said you’d got a long carvin’-knife hid in de room.”
“What made you lie so?” demanded Dodger, sternly.
“Couldn’t get rid of him no other way. Oh, how scared he looked when I told him you tried to kill your mother.”
And the negro burst into another hearty laugh which exasperated Dodger exceedingly.
“How long is Mr. Waring going to keep me here? Did he tell you?” Dodger asked, after a pause.
“No; he didn’t say.”
“When is he coming here again?”
“Said he’d come to-morrow most likely.”
“Will you bring me a light?”
“Couldn’t do it. You’d set the house on fire.”
It seemed useless to prolong the conversation.
Dodger threw himself on the bed at an early hour, but he did not undress, thinking there might possibly be a chance to escape during the night.
But the morning came and found him still a prisoner, but not in the solitary dwelling.
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