Chapter 37




A STARTLING SUMMONS.

The Indian encampment was only half a mile away. There were assembled about fifty persons, men, women, and children, lying on the grass about the tents. Monima's favor was sufficient to insure a cordial reception to Jasper, who was pressed to partake of supper, an offer he was glad to accept, for it was now seven hours since he had eaten food. After the repast a pipe was offered him, but this he declined, explaining that he never had learned to smoke. On the whole, he enjoyed the adventure, except that he could not help thinking from time to time of his late companion, cut off so suddenly. He learned from Monima that her two attendants had remained behind and buried Jack under the tree where he had been killed.

At night he slept on skins in one of the tents, and in the morning he was guided on his way by Monima as far as the road.

The Indian maiden looked sad when they were about to part.

"When will white boy come back?" she said.

"I don't know, Monima. I hope to see you again, some time, but perhaps you won't remember me."

"Monima never forgets," she answered.

"And I shall not forget."

Attached to his watch was a silver chain which he had bought in St. Louis three months before. He had noticed Momma's look of admiration directed toward it, and he determined to give it to her. Detaching his watch from it, he held it out to the Indian girl.

"Take it, Monima," he said. "It is a gift of friendship."

She uttered a cry of pleasure.

"You give it to Monima?" she said, half incredulous.

"Yes," he said.

"And I have nothing to give white boy," she said, sadly.

"You have given me my life. Is that nothing, Monima? Keep the chain, and whenever you look at it remember Jasper."

So they parted, and Jasper pursued his journey to Plattville. He reached the town without further adventure, and conducted satisfactorily the business with which he was intrusted. He succeeded in obtaining half the money due his employer, and in making arrangements for the speedy payment of the rest. So it was with a mind well satisfied that he returned to St. Louis.

When he told Mr. Fitch the particulars of his encounter with Jack, and his escape, the latter said, earnestly:

"Jasper, you are the bravest boy I know."

"I am afraid you overrate my services," said Jasper, modestly.

"And you really refused to write the letter, though you knew your life was in danger?"

"I was not willing to betray my trust."

"I honor your courage and fidelity, but you carried them too far. We would far rather have lost ten times seventy-five dollars than risked your life."

"I didn't think of that, I only thought it would be wrong to defraud you."

"We shall not forget your fidelity. You may consider your wages raised to twenty dollars a week."

"Thank you, sir," said Jasper, gratified.

"It is not merely on account of your courage and fidelity, but partly because of the business ability you have shown in carrying on this affair."

Again Jasper thanked his employer, and went about his duties with fresh courage, feeling that his services were appreciated.

"I am glad I came to St. Louis," he thought. "How much better I am situated than I should have been at home, tyrannized over by a step-mother by whom I was disliked."

Three months more passed, when one day a boy entered the store.

"Is Jasper Kent here?" he asked.

"Yes," said Jasper, coming forward, "that is my name."

"I have a telegram for you," said the boy. Jasper tore it open, and read these words:

"Come home at once. Your step-mother is dying.

"Otis Miller."

Shocked at this startling intelligence, Jasper at once sought his employer, obtained leave of absence, and took the next train bound east.

We must precede him and explain what had happened, and what occasioned Mrs. Kent's critical condition.



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