Under this change of circumstances, what was Ben to do?
This was the question which he anxiously asked himself.
Now there would be no difficulty in escaping, if he saw fit. But here there was a difficulty. Jake could not be roused, and, if he could, it would not be very agreeable to lose a night’s sleep, for Ben, as well as his host, felt very sleepy. Yet if he allowed himself to remain in the loft, the danger of robbery would recur in the morning, for Jack would be sure to wake earlier than Bradley, who had been drugged, as Ben was convinced.
Sometimes, in the midst of perplexity, a way of relief is suddenly opened. A lucky suggestion, sent, perhaps, by an overruling Providence, provides a path of escape from some menacing evil. This happened in the present instance.
“Why,” thought Ben, “can’t I take our money, steal downstairs and out of the cabin, and hide it in some secure place where we can find it in the morning? Then I can sleep in security for the remainder of the night, and my thievish friend will be disappointed.”
No sooner did the idea occur to Ben than he prepared to carry it out.
As has already been said, Bradley had about a hundred dollars in gold pieces, and Ben as much more. This would have made a very good haul for Jack, who did not anticipate obtaining so much. It was more than our young hero felt willing to lose, and he was prepared to run a large risk in the effort to save it.
The risk, of course, was that he might wake Jack or his wife in coming downstairs. There would be no difficulty in opening the door, for it was not fastened in any way. As to the danger of rousing his entertainers, Ben was not much afraid of waking Jack, for he was evidently in a sound sleep. His wife was more likely to be disturbed, and, in that case, Ben was provided with an excuse. He would say that he was thirsty, and in search of some water, which would have been true enough, though this was not the main object of his expedition.
Ben had not taken off his shoes and stockings, and began to descend the ladder with his shoes on, but it occurred to him that his steps might be audible, and he quietly removed both shoes and stockings. He had previously taken Bradley’s money, with the exception of a few dollars, without in the least arousing his sleepy comrade, who, in consequence of the potion he had unsuspiciously taken, was still wrapped in unconscious slumber.
“Now,” thought Ben, “I must do my work as quickly as I can.”
He was not insensible to the risk he ran, and it was not without a thrill of excitement that he set foot on the floor of the cabin, and looked at the sleeping faces of Jack Carter and his wife. But there was no time to waste. He stepped softly to the door and opened it.
Just then the woman stirred in her sleep, and uttered something unintelligible. Ben was alarmed lest she were about to wake up, and stood stock-still, with his fingers on the latch. But there was no further sound. The woman partially turned over, and soon her quiet, regular breathing notified Ben that sleep had resumed its power over her. Probably she had stirred in consequence of some uneasy dream.