This was not a pleasant thought, nor one calculated to soothe Ben to sleep. He was only a boy, and to find himself in a robber’s den was certainly rather a startling discovery. If he had been able to consult with his companion, it would have been a relief; but Bradley was in a profound sleep.
Ben nudged him, but without the slightest effect. He was insensible as a log. Finding more vigorous measures necessary, the boy shook him, but succeeded only in eliciting a few muttered words.
“I can’t wake him,” thought Ben, more and more disturbed in mind. “I am sure it must be the wine which makes him sleep so heavily. What can I do?”
This question was more easily asked than answered. Ben was quite aware that single-handed he could not cope with a powerful man like Carter. With Bradley’s help he would have felt secure; but no assistance could now be expected from his companion. So far as he could see, he must submit to be robbed, and to see his companion robbed. Of course, there was a chance that he might be mistaken. It was possible that Bradley’s might be a natural sleep, induced by excessive fatigue, and there might be nothing sinister in the intentions of their host.
Ben, however, found it difficult to convince himself of this, much as he desired to do so. The existence of a gang of robbers in the vicinity, referred to by Bradley, was not calculated to reassure him. If Carter did not belong to this gang, his personal appearance was certainly calculated to foster the suspicion of his connection with them, and the suspicion was strengthened by the fact of his living in this lonely place without any apparent inducement.
For the first time, perhaps, since he had left the East, he wished himself in the security of home. As Deacon Pitkin’s hired boy, living on frugal diet, he would have been better off than here at the mercy of a mountain bandit.
But Ben was a boy of spirit, and not inclined to submit in a cowardly manner without first considering if in any possible manner he could guard against the danger which menaced him. Fatigued as he was by the day’s ride, he would, under ordinary circumstances, have fallen asleep quickly; but now anxiety and apprehension kept him broad awake.
“If I could only rouse Bradley,” he said to himself, “I should feel more comfortable. I don’t like the responsibility of deciding what is best to be done.”
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of low voices below. Evidently Carter and his wife were conversing, and probably about them. Anxious to hear what was said, as this might give him a clue to their plans, Ben rose softly from his low couch, and drew near the edge of the opening through which he had mounted into the loft. In this position he was able to hear what was said.
“They must have money,” said Carter. “They would need it to get them out to the mines. Whatever it is, I am bound to have it.”