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Our hero's interview with Humpy gave him new courage. When he had felt surrounded by enemies the chances seemed against him. Now he had a friend in the house, who was interested in securing his escape. Not only this, but there was a fair chance of recovering the box for which he was seeking. On the whole, therefore, Rufus was in very good spirits.
About nine o'clock he heard a step on the stairs, which he recognized as that of his step-father. He had good reason to remember that step. Many a time while his mother was alive, and afterwards while they were living in Leonard Street, he had listened to it coming up the rickety staircase, and dreaded the entrance of the man whose presence was never welcome.
After some fumbling at the lock the door opened, and Martin entered. It was dark, and he could not at first see Rufus.
"Where are you, you young villain?" he inquired, with a hiccough.
Rufus did not see fit to answer when thus addressed.
"Where are you, I say?" repeated Martin.
"Here I am," answered Rufus.
"Why didn't you speak before? Didn't you hear me?" demanded his step-father, angrily.
"Yes, Mr. Martin, I heard you," said Rufus, composedly.
"Then why didn't you answer?"
"Because you called me a young villain."
"Well, you are one."
Rufus did not answer.
Martin locked the door and put the key in his pocket. He next struck a match, and lit the gas. Then seating himself in a rocking-chair, still with his hat on, he looked at Rufus with some curiosity, mingled with triumph.
"I hope you like your accommodations," he said.
"We don't charge you nothing for board, you see, and you haven't any work to do. That's what I call living like a gentleman."
"I believe you tried the same kind of life at Blackwell's Island," said Rufus.
"Look here," said Martin, roughly, "you'd better not insult me. I didn't come here to be insulted."
"What did you come for, then?" asked Rufus.
"I thought you'd like to know how Rose was," answered Martin.
"I don't believe you have seen her."
"Well, you needn't believe it. Perhaps I didn't meet her on the street, and follow her home. She begged me to tell her where you was; but I couldn't do it."
Rufus felt a temporary uneasiness when he heard this statement; but there was something in Martin's manner which convinced him that he had not been telling the truth. He decided to change the subject.
"Mr. Martin," he said, "have you made up your mind to give up that tin box?"
"No I haven't. I can't spare it."
"If you will give it up, I will see that you are not punished for taking it."
"I aint a-goin' to be punished for taking it."
"You certainly will be if you are caught."
"What do you know about it?"
"There was a man convicted of the same thing three months ago, and he got five years for it."
"I don't believe it," said Martin, uneasily.
"You needn't if you don't want to."
"I haven't got the box now, so I couldn't give it back. Smith's got it."
"Is that the man I saw this morning?"
"Then you'd better ask him to give it back to you."
"He wouldn't do it if I asked him."
"Then I'm sorry for you."
Martin was not very brave, and in spite of his assertions he felt uneasy at what Rufus was saying. Besides, he felt rather afraid of our hero. He knew that Rufus was a resolute, determined boy, and that he could not keep him confined forever. Some time he would get out, and Martin feared that he would set the officers on his track. The remark of Smith that he would make a good boy for their business occurred to him, and he determined to try him on a new tack. If he could get him compromised by a connection with their business, it would be for his interest also to keep clear of the police.
"Rufus," said Martin, edging his chair towards our hero, "I'm your friend."
Rufus was rather astonished at this sudden declaration.
"I'm glad to hear it," he said; "but I don't think you've treated me in a very friendly manner."
"About the tin box?"
"Yes, partly that. If you're my friend, you will return it, and not keep me locked up here."
"Never mind, Rufus, I've got a business proposal to make to you. You're a smart boy."
"I am glad you think so."
"And I can give you a chance to make a good living."
"I am making a good living now, or I was before you interfered with me."
"How much did you earn a week?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"Was it over ten dollars a week?"
"I know a business that will pay you fifteen dollars a week."
"What is it?"
"It is the one I'm in. I earn a hundred dollars a month."
"If you are earning as much as that, I shouldn't think you'd need to steal tin boxes."
"There wasn't much in it. Only a hundred dollars in money."
"You are not telling me the truth. There were four hundred dollars in it."
"What was that you said?" asked Martin, pricking up his ears.
"There were four hundred dollars in it."
"How do you know?"
"Mr. Turner told me so."
"Smith told me there were only a hundred. He opened it, and gave me half."
"Then he gave you fifty, and kept three hundred and fifty himself."
"If I thought that, I'd smash his head!" said Martin, angrily. "Make me run all the risk, and then cheat me out of my hard earnin's. Do you call that fair?"
"I think he's been cheating you," said Rufus, not sorry to see Martin's anger with his confederate.
"It's a mean trick," said Martin, indignantly. "I'd ought to have got two hundred. It was worth it."
"I wouldn't do what you did for a good deal more than two hundred dollars. You haven't told me what that business was that I could earn fifteen dollars a week at."
"No," said Martin, "I've changed my mind about it. If Smith's goin' to serve me such a mean trick, I won't work for him no longer. I'll speak to him about it to-morrow."
Martin relapsed into silence. Rufus had given him something to think about, which disturbed him considerably. Though he had been disappointed in the contents of the box, he had not for a moment doubted the good faith of his confederate, and he was proportionately incensed now that the latter had appropriated seven dollars to his one. Considering that he had done all the work, and incurred all the danger, it did seem rather hard.
There was one bed in the room, rather a narrow one.
"I'm goin' to bed," said Martin, at length. "I guess the bed'll be big enough for us both."
"Thank you," said Rufus, who did not fancy the idea of sleeping with his step-father. "If you'll give me one of the pillows, I'll sleep on the floor."
"Just as you say, but you'll find it rather hard sleepin'."
"I shan't mind."
This was the arrangement they adopted. Martin took off his coat and vest, and threw himself on the bed. He was soon asleep, as his heavy breathing clearly indicated. Rufus, stretched on the floor, lay awake longer. It occurred to him that he might easily take the key of the door from the pocket of Martin's vest, which lay on the chair at his bedside, and so let himself out of the room. But even then it would be uncertain whether he could get out of the house, and he would have to leave the tin box behind him. This he hoped to get hold of through Humpy's assistance. On the whole, therefore, it seemed best to wait a little longer.
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