It was clear that Jack did not care to answer definitely, and was disposed to give as little information as possible about himself.
It was yet early when the two travelers felt an inclination to sleep. They had had a hard day’s tramp, and wished to be stirring early the next day. As yet, however, they were uncertain whether they would be permitted to sleep in the cabin. Bradley resolved to put the question to the man.
“If you haven’t got room for us to sleep,” he said, “Ben and I will camp out, as we have done before.”
“The old woman’s makin’ up a bed for you,” said Jack. “We don’t keep a hotel, but we’ve got room for you two.”
“Wait here, and I’ll see if the bed’s ready.”
He entered the cabin, probably to consult with his wife.
“I don’t know why it is, Ben,” said Bradley, in a low voice, “but I mistrust that man.”
“Don’t you think it safe to sleep here?” asked Ben gravely.
“I think if we are prudent we shall keep a careful watch over our host and hostess; they may mean us harm.”
“What motive would they have for harming us, Jake?”
“To get possession of our money. There’s a gang of robbers hereabouts, who make their livin’ by stopping stages, and lyin’ in wait for solitary travelers, and I strongly suspect that this man is one of them.”
“Do you judge from his looks?”
“Not wholly, but I can’t think of any other motive he can have for livin’ in this out-of-the-way place. There are no mines near, and the huntin’ wouldn’t pay him. I may be mistaken, but that’s what I think.”
“What shall we do?” asked Ben, a little startled by his companion’s suggestion.
“That’s more than I can tell you, Ben.”
“We might camp out.”
“And be surprised in our sleep. No, we shall be as safe in the cabin as outside. Besides, I may be wrong. But, hush! here comes our agreeable friend.”
Jack Carter had in his hand a bottle and a tin mug.
“Strangers,” said he, “Jack Carter’s a poor man, but he’s not so poor that he can’t offer a glass of wine to a friend.”
As he spoke, he poured out a liberal mug of wine and
offered it to
Our friend Bradley was not a member of a temperance society, and he could not resist the temptation. His conscience smote him when he thought of the suspicions he had cherished, and there was a sudden revulsion.
“After all,” thought he, “Jack Carter is a good fellow. He don’t look it, to be sure, but a man can’t help his looks What is it the poet says, ‘A man may smile and be a villain still.’ Jack’s a rough customer, but he’s treatin’ Ben and me tiptop.”
“I drink your health, Jack,” he said cordially. “You’ve treated Ben and me like gentlemen, and we’re glad to know you. You’re the right sort.”
And he drained the mug.
Jack Carter filled it again, and passed it to Ben.