Chapter 36




IN DIFFICULTIES.

Jack looked at first surprised, then smiled with malicious joy as he recognized the boy who accosted him.

"Ha! my chicken, it's you, is it?" he said. "You remember me, don't you?"

"Yes, I remember you," said Jasper.

"I thought I'd get hold of you again some time," said Jack, "but hang me if I expected to find you out here. What brings you here?"

"I came here on business," said Jasper.

"So you are a man of business, are you?" sneered the burglar.

"I am in the employ of Herman Fitch, of St. Louis."

"The father of the boy that Dick kidnapped?"

"Yes."

"Did he send you out here?"

"Yes."

"What for?"

"On a little matter of business," said Jasper, with reserve.

"Oh, that's it. Well, you didn't expect the pleasure of seeing me, did you?"

"I don't consider it a pleasure," said Jasper, boldly.

"Ha! you are a bold boy."

"I speak the truth."

"Well, it isn't always best to speak the truth," said Jack, frowning.

"Shall I lie to you, then?"

"Don't be impudent."

"I shan't say I am glad to see you when I am not."

"Perhaps you are right, boy. You will have no reason to be glad to see me. Follow me."

"I would rather not."

"Follow me, or I will drive this knife into you!" said Jack, savagely, displaying a murderous-looking weapon which he carried in his girdle.

Resistance would have been unavailing and dangerous, and Jasper obeyed, resolved, however, to escape at the first opportunity.

Jack led the way into the woods, not far, however, and finally paused under a large tree.

"Sit down," he said, imperiously.

He threw himself down on the green sward, and Jasper, not very comfortable in mind, sat down near him.

"Now, young fellow," said Jack, "I've got some questions to ask you."

"I suppose he is going to ask me about my escape," thought Jasper, and he was right.

"How did you get away from that room where you were locked up?"

"I got out of the sliding-door," said Jasper.

"How did you get out of the house? Did the old man help you?"

"No," said Jasper.

"Did you go out through the front door?"

"No."

"Don't keep me asking questions," said Jack, harshly. "How did you get out, then?"

"Through the door in the roof. From there I got in through the window into a room in the next house."

"Ha!" said Jack. "I never thought of that. Did you have any trouble with the people there?"

"No; I got into the room of a German, who let me spend the night with him and take breakfast."

"So, that's the way you managed it?"

"Yes."

Jasper felt relieved that no question had been asked him as to Nancy's agency in effecting his release. He would not have betrayed her, at any rate, but his refusal to speak might have incensed Jack.

"Well," he said, "so much for that. Now, how much money have you got with you?"

This was a question which Jasper had expected and dreaded to hear, for nearly all the money in his possession belonged to his employer, and not to himself.

"Well, boy, I want an answer," said Jack, impatiently.

Jasper reluctantly drew out his pocket-book, containing, as we know, but a small portion of his money.

Jack took it, and, opening it, counted the money.

"Only twelve dollars!" he exclaimed, in disgust and disappointment.

"Don't take it," said Jasper, affecting to be very much disturbed.

"What business have you out here with such a paltry sum as twelve dollars?" demanded Jack, angrily.

"That's my business!" said Jasper.

"What do you mean, boy?"

"It certainly isn't your business how much money my employer gave me for expenses."

"Did he expect you to make the whole journey on this contemptible sum?"

"No."

"Where's the rest, then?"

"I am to collect some money before I return," answered Jasper, with a lucky thought.

Jack felt disappointed. The money Jasper was about to collect would do him no good, as, doubtless, the boy would take good care, if once released, not to be caught again.

"That's a miserable way of doing business," said Jack. "Suppose you shouldn't collect it?"

"Then I must write to the firm to send some money."

This gave Jack an idea, on which he afterward acted.

"But," continued Jasper, desirous of getting back some of the money in the pocket-book, "if you take away all my money I can't get to Plattville to make collections."

"Is that where you are to collect money?"

"Yes."

"Will you promise me the money after you have collected it?"

"No," answered Jasper.

"You won't, eh?"

"No; I have no right to. The money won't belong to me."

"That makes no difference."

"It makes a great deal of difference to me."

"Look here, boy," said Jack, frowning, "you evidently don't know the man you're talking to. You ain't going to bluff me off in that way," and he reinforced this declaration with an oath.

"I am trying to be faithful to my employer," said Jasper.

"You've got to be faithful to me."

"What claim have you on me?" asked Jasper.

"You're in my power—that's the claim I have. Do you understand that?"

"I understand what you mean," said Jasper.

"Then I've only to say that it'll be best for you to remember it."

"Tell me again what you want."

"What I did want was, that you should collect this money and bring it to me."

"I refuse."

"You needn't, for I don't intend to let you go out of my sight. I can't trust you. No; I have another plan in view."

Jasper did not ask what it was. He felt sure that it was nothing that he would be willing to do.

"What is the name of your employer?"

"Herman Fitch."

"Very good."

Jack drew from his pocket a small pocket-inkstand, a pen, and some paper.

"Now," said he, "I want you to write a letter."

"Write a letter! To whom?" inquired Jasper, in surprise.

"To this man Fitch, telling him that you have had your pocket picked and need some money. Tell him you will need at least seventy-five dollars, as you haven't been able to collect anything."

"I can't do it," said Jasper.

"Can't do it! What do you mean?"

"I mean that by such a letter I should deceive my employer and be obtaining money from him by false pretenses. I can't do it."

"Look here, boy," said Jack, sternly, "you don't know the man you are trifling with. I am a desperate man, and will stick at nothing. I have taken life before, and I am ready to do so again. Write this letter or I will kill you!"

Jasper listened with horror to this terrible confession and his equally terrible threat.

"Would you take my life for seventy-five dollars?" he said.

"Yes; your life is nothing to me, and I need the money. Quick, your answer!"

As he spoke he drew out a long, murderous-looking knife, and approached Jasper menacingly.

It was a terrible moment. Jack looked as if he fully intended to carry out his threat At any rate, there was danger of it. On the one side was death, on the other breach of trust.

Finally he decided.

"You may kill me if you will," he said at length, "but I won't write the letter."

Jack uttered an execration and raised the knife, but suddenly he uttered a stifled cry and fell to the ground, with blood spurting from a wound in his breast.

Jasper bounded to his feet in astonishment. He had shut his eyes, expecting death. His first glance was at the prostrate brigand. He saw that the wound was made by an arrow, which had penetrated the region of the heart. But who had sped the shaft? And was he also in danger? The question was soon answered.

Out from the underbrush emerged three figures. The foremost was the Indian maiden, Monima. Following her were two men of the same tribe. It was one of these who had shot at Jack.

"Is white boy hurt?" asked Monima, running to Jasper and surveying him anxiously.

"No," said Jasper. "Thank you, Monima."

"Monima is glad," said the Indian girl, joyfully.

Jack groaned, and Jasper came to his side and addressed him compassionately, though but a minute before Jack had been about to take his life. He saw that the blood was gushing forth from his wound.

"Is he badly wounded?" asked Jasper, turning to Monima.

She said something in her native language to the two men.

They spoke briefly, shaking their heads.

"White man will die," she said, interpreting to Jasper.

Our hero was shocked. It was the first time he had ever witnessed a violent death, and it struck him with horror.

He kneeled by Jack's side. Just then the wounded man opened his eyes.

"Who shot me?" he asked, with difficulty.

"The Indians."

Jack's glance fell upon the two men, and he tried to lift himself up, but the effort caused his wound to bleed more copiously. He burst into a volley of oaths, which in his state shocked Jasper.

"Don't swear," he said. "Would you go into the presence of God with an oath in your mouth?"

Jack's face grew livid with terror.

"Who says I am going to die?" he asked, wildly.

"The Indians say you cannot live," said Jasper, gravely.

"It's a lie!" exclaimed Jack, violently. "I'll live to kill you all!"

As he spoke he plucked the arrow from his breast; but this only hastened his death. He fell back exhausted, and in five minutes breathed his last.

Jasper looked so shocked that the Indian girl said, in a tone of surprise:

"Is white boy sorry?"

"Yes," said Jasper.

"What for? He try to kill white boy."

"Yes; but it seems awful to see him killed so suddenly. I wish he could have lived long enough to repent."

Monima could not understand this.

"He bad man!" she said, emphatically. "He try to kill white boy. Monima white boy's friend."

Jasper took the hand of Monima gratefully and said:

"You have saved me, Monima. But for you he would have killed me."

The Indian girl's eyes lighted up, but she only said:

"Monima is glad."

"How fortunate that I fell in with her," thought Jasper, "and that I made a friend of her!"

"Where white boy go to-night?" asked Monima.

"I don't know," said Jasper, doubtfully.

"Come to my father's lodge. In the morning Monima will show the way."

"Thank you, Monima," said our hero. "I will go."

He felt that he could not refuse such an offer from one who had rendered him such a service. Moreover, it relieved him from embarrassment, as he would not have known otherwise where to pass the night, which was now close at hand.



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