Treading softly, Jack stepped to the side of Bradley. He thought it best to rid him first, for there was no danger of his waking up.
But he was destined to disappointment. The most thorough search brought to light only five dollars in gold.
“What has he done with his money?” muttered the thief, with a frown. “Of course, he must have more.”
The idea came to him that the bulk of the money might have been given to the boy, who was less likely to attract the notice of plunderers. This was a point easily settled, and Jack turned his attention to Ben.
Ben was asleep when the search commenced, but his sleep was not as profound as Bradley’s, and he woke up. But, luckily, recollection came with consciousness, and summoning all his self-command, he counterfeited sleep, not interfering with Jack or his designs. He was willing to lose the little he had in his pocket, and, besides, he was curious to hear what Jack would say when he found out how inconsiderable was the booty which he secured.
It must be admitted that Ben found it difficult to restrain himself from some movement which would have betrayed to the thief that he was awake. Jack, however, being fully convinced that Ben was asleep, did not fix his eyes upon the countenance of his young lodger, and so remained ignorant of his wakefulness.
The second search proved no more satisfactory than the first. The boy was no richer than the man.
In a low voice Jack indulged in an oath indicating his deep disgust.
“I didn’t think they were such poor tramps,” he said to himself, “or I wouldn’t have taken all this trouble. Only ten dollars between the two of them! Why, they’re little more than beggars?”
Stay! They might have concealed their money. There was no place in the loft, for it was wholly bare of furniture, but their luggage was thrown down carelessly. There were no lodes, and Jack was able to extend his search to their knapsacks; but he found nothing that repaid him. He was forced finally to the conclusion that they were as poor as they seemed.
Had Jack Carter been one of those generous highwaymen, of whom we sometimes read, he would have disdained to rob Ben and his friend of their little all. But indeed that was not his style.
He coolly pocketed the two gold pieces, which were all he had been able to find, and sullenly descended the ladder.
His wife looked at him inquiringly.
“Look at that!” he said grumblingly, as he displayed the two gold pieces.
“Was it all you could find?”
“They must be poor.”
“Poor! They are beggars.”
The woman, who was not as hard as she looked, was struck with compassion.
“Give it back to them, Jack,” she entreated. “It is little enough, and they will have need of it.”
“So do I have need of it,” growled her lord and master.