“Take a drink, boy,” he said. “It will make you feel good.”
“No, thank you,” said Ben politely.
“What’s the matter?” asked Jack, frowning. “Why won’t you drink?”
“I never drink,” answered Ben. “I promised my father I wouldn’t, and I can’t break my word.”
“This wine is weak. It wouldn’t hurt a baby.”
“I would rather not drink,” said Ben.
“Ain’t you goin’ a little too fur, Ben?” remonstrated Bradley. “Your father meant rum and whisky and sich. He wouldn’t mind wine.”
“Yes, he would,” said Ben, resolutely. “I had an uncle who died a drunkard, and it was that that made my father so particular. I promised him faithfully, and now that he’s dead, I can’t break my work to him.”
“The boy’s right, Jack,” said Bradley. “It won’t hurt you and me, but if he don’t want to drink, we won’t press him.”
“It’s blasted nonsense!” exclaimed Jack angrily. “The boy’s puttin’ on airs, that’s what’s the matter.”
“He’s a good boy,” said Bradley. “You don’t know him as well as I do.”
“Jest as you say,” muttered Jack, in a dissatisfied tone. “If you want to go to bed now, you can.”
“I’m ready, for one,” said Bradley, rising with, alacrity. “I’m powerful sleepy.” “Come in, then.” They followed their host into the cabin.
A tight place.
The lower part of the cabin was divided into two rooms, over which was a loft. There was no staircase; but there was a short ladder by which the ascent was made.
“You’re to sleep up there,” said Jack, pointing to the loft. “Me and the old woman sleep below.”
“All right,” said Bradley, gaping. “I can sleep anywhere to-night. I’m powerful sleepy.”
He ascended the ladder first, and Ben followed. There was no bedstead, but a straw pallet was stretched in one corner, with a blanket in place of a quilt.
“I sha’n’t undress, Ben,” said Bradley, throwing himself down on the rude bed. “I can’t keep my eyes open long enough. I think I never felt so sleepy in the whole course of my life.”
“I am tired, but not sleepy,” returned Ben.
“I won’t undress, either. I can sleep just as well in my clothes.”
Scarcely a minute had passed when Bradley was breathing in the unconsciousness of slumber.
As Ben lay down beside him, he could not help feeling surprised at his companion’s yielding so suddenly to the power of sleep. That he should be tired was not surprising; but when seated outside he had not seemed unusually drowsy, that is, up to the time of his drinking the wine. A quick suspicion flashed upon Ben’s mind. Had the wine anything to do with this sudden drowsiness?
Ben had not much experience of life; but he had heard of liquors being drugged, and it seemed possible that the wine which had been offered to Bradley might have been tampered with. If so, it was only too evident what was the object of their host. It was natural to suppose that the two travelers were provided with money, and it was undoubtedly the intention of Jack Carter to rob them in their sleep.