“Too much has been said already, to my thinkin’,” growled Jack. “However, that’s over, and I expect you to help me if I need help.”
Ben heard every word that was said, and it confirmed his suspicions. There was no doubt that an attempt would be made to rob him and his companion before morning, and the prospect was not pleasant. By submitting quietly he would come to no harm, and the loss of the money would not be irreparable. He and Bradley had each started with a hundred dollars, supplied by Miss Doughlas, and thus far but little of this sum had been spent. Their employer would doubtless send them a further supply if they were robbed, but they would be reluctant to apply to her, since the loss would be partly the result of their imprudence.
Ben felt that he was in a tight place, and he was not quite certain what he should or could do.
An evening call.
To lie awake in momentary expectation of a hostile attack, from which there is apparently no escape, is by no means a comfortable position. The cabin was in the heart of the woods, with no other dwelling within twenty miles, so far as Ben knew. In fact, if it were true, as Jack had said, that there were no mines near at hand, there were probably no neighbors, except, possibly, of Jack’s kind.
The question recurred to Ben: Was he willing to surrender his money, and go forth penniless, or should he attempt to escape or resist?
“If Jake would only wake up!” he thought, surveying, with perplexity, the recumbent form at his side.
But Jake was as senseless as a log, and the attempt to rouse him would inevitably attract attention below and precipitate the attack, besides leaving them utterly penniless.
There was another idea which occurred to our hero: Could he secrete his own money and Jake’s, or the greater part of it, and thus save it from the clutches of his dishonest host?
If it had been in the form of bank-bills, there might have been some chance of doing this, but it was not so easy to conceal gold pieces. While considering this question, Ben rose softly and looked out of the window. Strictly speaking, there was no window, but a hole about fifteen inches square, screened by a curtain of coarse cotton cloth. This Ben moved aside, and looked out.
It was not a very dark night. In the half-light Ben was able to see a considerable distance. The height of the opening from the ground was probably not much over twelve feet, as well as the boy could estimate. There would have been no difficulty in his getting out and swinging to the ground, but to this move there were two objections: First, he would be sure to be heard by his enemy below; and, secondly, he was unwilling to leave Jake in the power of the enemy.
While he was standing at the window he heard the noise of some one moving below. The heavy step convinced him that it was Jack. He could not leave his place and lie down without being detected, and he hastily decided to remain where he was.