Chapter 27




AN UNEXPECTED FRIEND.

Three days and nights passed, and Jasper was still in confinement. Three times a day Nathan came to bring him his meals. Each time he asked our hero:

"Are you ready to join our friends?"

And each time Jasper answered:

"No!"

"You must like staying here," said the old man.

"I am very tired of it," said Jasper, with a sigh.

"You can come out any time," said Nathan.

"Let me out now, then."

"Oh, no, my dear young friend," said Nathan, shaking his head, "not until you accept Jack's offer."

"Good heavens!" thought Jasper, "can it be possible that in the middle of a great city I can be imprisoned like this, with hundreds passing the house every hour? I wish I could be heard outside."

But this was impossible, owing to the peculiar situation of the room. The prospects of our young hero were certainly gloomy enough. But there's an old saying that the darkest hour is just before the dawn, and deliverance was nearer than Jasper supposed.

On the fourth day, at noon, Jasper heard steps ascending the stairs. He supposed it to be the old man, with his dinner, and he looked up listlessly as the sliding-door was opened. But instead of the wrinkled face of Nathan he beheld the fresh face of a young girl, apparently about sixteen years of age. She regarded the prisoner with curiosity and surprise.

"Here's your dinner," she said.

"Thank you," said Jasper. "Where is the old man that generally comes up?"

"Uncle Nathan? Oh, he's gone out for a little while."

"He's your uncle, then?"

"Yes."

"Do you live here?"

"I've only just come. He sent for me. What do they keep you here for?" she asked, her face expressing curiosity. "Are you sick?"

"I'm sick of being cooped up here."

"Then why do you stay?"

"Because I have to. Your uncle won't let me out."

"Why not?"

"Hasn't he told you?"

"No. He only told me to bring up your dinner. I thought it was a man. I didn't know it was a boy."

"You want to know why I am confined here?"

"Yes, if you'll tell me."

"It is because your uncle is afraid I'll inform the police against him and the men who come here."

"I don't know much about them. Are they bad people, then?"

"I am afraid they are. They do things that make them liable to be arrested."

"What! my uncle, too?" asked the girl, who appeared to be startled.

"I am not sure about him, but I feel sure about two men who come here. Their names are Jack and Bill."

"I know. I have seen them both. One is a young man, the other must be near fifty. He's stout."

"Yes."

"How long do you think they will keep you here?"

"Until I agree to join them in breaking the laws."

"That's too bad," said the girl, compassionately. "Isn't it awful to be shut up there?"

"Yes, it is. I've been here three or four days, and it seems as many weeks. Don't you think you could help me to escape?" asked Jasper, in a lower tone.

The girl looked frightened.

"I wouldn't dare to," she said.

"Wouldn't you, if you were sure your uncle wouldn't find out?"

"Yes, I would," she answered, heartily.

"Don't you think you could manage it?" asked Jasper, eagerly.

"I don't know. I wish I could," she answered, with evident sincerity.

"Nancy!" called the old man's voice from below, sharply, "hasn't that boy got through yet?"

"Coming, uncle," she answered.

"I'll speak with you again when I bring up your supper," she said, as she hurried down stairs.

She left Jasper eager and excited. At last he had made a friend in the camp of his enemies, and there was hope ahead.



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