“I hope you will let me go,” Charlie said. “My friends in Warsaw will pay a ransom for me, if you will let me return there.”
“No, no, young fellow. You would of course put down this Jew’s death to our doing, and we have weight enough on our backs already. He is a man of great influence, and all his tribe would be pressing on the government to hunt us down. You shall go with us, and the purse you took from Ben Soloman will pay your footing.”
Charlie saw that it would be useless to try and alter the man’s decision, especially as he knew so little of the language. He therefore shrugged his shoulders, and said that he was ready to go with them, if it must be so.
The Jew’s body was now thoroughly searched. Various papers were found upon him, but, as these proved useless to the brigands, they were torn up.
“Shall we take the horse with us?” one of the men asked the leader.
“No, it would be worse than useless in the forest. Leave it standing here. It will find its way back in time. Then there will be a search, and there will be rejoicing in many a mansion throughout the country, when it is known that Ben Soloman is dead. They say he has mortgages on a score of estates, and, though I suppose these will pass to others of his tribe, they can hardly be as hard and mercenary as this man was.
“I wonder what he was doing in this forest alone? Let us follow the path, and see where he is going.
“Honred, you have a smattering of several languages, try then if you can make our new comrade understand.”
The man tried in Russian without success, then he spoke in Swedish, in which language Charlie at once replied.
“Where does this pathway lead to?”
“To a hut where a charcoal burner lives. I have been imprisoned there for the last fortnight. It was all the Jew’s doing. It was through him that I got this knock here;” and he pointed to the unhealed wound at the back of his head.
“Well, we may as well pay them a visit,” the chief said, when this was translated to him. “We are short of flour, and they may have some there, and maybe something else that will be useful.”
The man who had spoken to Charlie drew the long knife from the back of the Jew, wiped it on the grass, and handed it to him.
“That ought to be your property,” he said. “It has done you good service.”
Not sorry to have a weapon in addition to his cudgel, Charlie placed it in his belt, and then started with the bandits. He would not have cared to face the charcoal burner alone; but now that the band regarded him as enrolled among their number, he felt no uneasiness respecting him.
When they issued from the trees, the Jew was seen standing at the door of the hut. He at once ran in on seeing them, and came out again, accompanied by the charcoal burner, who carried his axe on his shoulder. The Jew started, on catching sight of Charlie among the ranks of the brigands, and said a word or two to his companion.