Weeks looked at him reproachfully.
“You call a constable—an’ I’ll give you the nickel when you come back with him,” he said.
In spite of her deplorable situation, Bessie wanted to laugh. It was so like Farmer Weeks, the miser, to be unwilling to risk even five cents without being sure that he would get value for his money! The boy darted off, and Bessie heard half a dozen of the crowd make remarks applauding the good sense of her supposed victim.
“Ain’t it too bad?” said Weeks tolerantly to the crowd, as he waited for a policeman, still clutching Bessie’s hand tightly. “Who’d ever think a pretty young gal like her would try to rob an old man—hey?”
“Never can tell, Pop,” said a keen-eyed youth, who was standing near. His eyes darted nervously about from one face to another. “Them as you wouldn’t suspect naturally is the worst, as a rule—it’s so easy for them to make a get-away.”
Then the crowd gave way suddenly for a man in a blue uniform, but Bessie, still unable to say anything, saw at once it was not a policeman. But it was not until he was quite close to her that she recognized him with a little thrill of joy. And at the same moment he recognized her, too, as well as Farmer Weeks. It was Tom Norris, the friendly train conductor who had helped Zara and herself to escape to Pine Bridge, and out of the state in which Hedgeville was situated.
“Come, come; what’s this?” asked the train conductor sharply. “Let go of that girl’s arm, you Weeks!”
“What business is it of your’n!” asked Weeks, angrily.
“You let her go,” said Norris, with determination, “or I’ll pretty soon show you what business it is of mine—I’ll knock you down, white hair and all! You ought to be ashamed of yourself, pickin’ on the girl this way!”
He advanced, threateningly, and none of the crowd undertook to protect Weeks from his obvious anger. Norris was a big, strong man, and, for all his kindly ways, it was evident that he could fight well if he saw any reason for doing it. And now, it was plain, he thought the reason was excellent, and he was entirely ready to back up what he had to say with his sturdy fists. Weeks saw that plainly, and he had reason to fear the burly conductor. Quickly he released Bessie’s wrist, and a moment later Norris would have had her out of the crush had not the arrival of another man in uniform created a diversion. This time it really was a policeman, and he came at the heels of the newsboy who had run after him.
“Here’s yer cop, mister! Now gimme the nickel!” said the boy shrilly to the farmer.
“Run along! I never promised you no nickel,” said Farmer Weeks, looking nervously at Norris. But at that the crowd, which had been disposed to side with him, transferred its sympathies suddenly to the cheated newsboy, who was pouring out a stream of angry words, the while he clung to Weeks’ arm, demanding his money.