WHAT THE LETTER CONTAINED

Carden had not the least suspicion that he was observed. The Tarbox
farm-house stood rather aloof from the village, and the barn, as we
have already stated, was at some distance from the house. He worked
away calmly, feeling that there was no danger of his being interfered
with.

At last he reached the box, and stooping lifted it complacently.

Mr. Tarbox became very much agitated when he saw his hoard in the
possession of the burglar.

“Can’t we get at him?” he asked of Anak in an agitated whisper.

“No,” whispered Anak. “Our best plan is to wait for him, and seize him
as he leaves the barn.”

“But he will have my money.”

“Of course he will. We will catch him with the stolen property in his
possession.”

“But it isn’t safe for him to have it.”

“It won’t be safe for him, I’m thinking,” said Anak, dryly. “Don’t you
see if we reveal ourselves now he will blow out the candle and remain
where he is, and we can’t catch him in the dark. Ten to one he’ll get
off with the money.”

Tarbox saw that the giant was right. In spite of his agitation, he
couldn’t help remarking that Anak spoke English with remarkable
ease—for a Norwegian, and he said so.

Anak laughed.

“Oh well,” he said, “it’s a good while since I was in Norway.”

“Don’t speak so loud, you two,” said Charlie Davis, whose eye was glued
to the crevice. “He’ll hear you.”

“The boy is right,” said Anak.

“Is he coming this way yet?” asked Tarbox, eagerly.

“Not yet; he is sitting down, counting the money.”

Tarbox groaned.

“I—I’d like to choke him—the thief!” he muttered.

“Can’t you find a better savings bank, friend Tarbox?” said Anak.

“I’m afraid of savings banks. They break sometimes,” answered the
farmer.

“At any rate the money would be safer there than here, and you would
get interest for it besides. But for us, or rather for Charlie here,
who watched that rascal this afternoon, you’d have had to bid a long
good-by to your money.”

“He’s got through counting it,” said Charlie, who was still watching,
“and he’s putting it in his pocket.”

“I shall never see it again!” murmured Tarbox, sadly.

“Oh, yes you will—we’ve got the man as secure as a rat in a rat-trap.
He’ll have to come out this way, won’t he?”

“Yes, he’ll have to come up through the trap-door.”

“If he hadn’t the money, it would be well to fasten down the trap-door,
and keep him locked up there for the night. As it is, we shall have to
secure him, and carry him to the station-house ourselves.”

“We might put him back under the barn after we’ve taken the money from
him,” suggested Charlie Davis.

“He may have matches with him,” said Anak, “and in that case he might
set the barn on fire out of revenge. He’s an ugly customer, that
Carden, and is capable of anything.”

“No, no, let him go!” said Tarbox, alarmed at the suggestion of losing
his barn by fire. “Take the money from him and send him off.”

“No, no; we won’t let him off so easy,” said Anak. “There’s another
matter we must inquire into. We must find out whether he is the man
that threw the rock at Robert’s horse to-night. If so, he must be
punished for that.”

Meanwhile, and this conversation took a much briefer time than may
be imagined, Carden had ascended the ladder, emerged through the
trap-door, which he had left open when he went down, and, with his
ill-gotten booty stowed away in his pockets, had reached the small door
by which he entered. He came out quite unconscious of danger, when he
felt a strong hand at his collar, and his startled look fell upon the
giant and his two companions.

“What’s all this?” he asked, in affected bravado. “Let go of me, Anak.”

“You villain!” exclaimed the farmer, furiously; “give me back my
money.”

“Your money, old potato digger!” returned Carden. “Who’s got your
money?”

“You have.”

“It’s a lie. How could I get hold of your money?”

“What have you been doing in the barn?” asked Anak.

“Lying down on the hay, if you must know,” returned Carden. “I got
turned out of my boarding-place because I couldn’t pay my board, and I
thought Old Turnip-Top here wouldn’t mind my getting a free bed lying
on his hay.”

“That’s a lie,” said Tarbox, in excitement; “you’ve got my money in
your pocket—three or four hundred dollars.”

“Where did I get hold of it? Do you keep money in your barn?” sneered
the canvas man.

“Carden, it’s no use pretending ignorance; you found out that our
friend here had money concealed under the barn floor—Charlie saw you
spying this afternoon—and you thought to-night would be a good chance
to secure it.”

“So that boy blabbed about me, did he?” said Carden, with an evil
glance at Charlie. “He’d best look out, or I’ll serve him as I did—”

Here he stopped short; but Charlie finished his sentence for him.

“As you did Rob to-night,” he added; “that’s what you mean.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said the canvas man, finding he had said
too much.

“You know well enough!” said Anak, sternly, for he liked Robert, and
was incensed against the man who had tried to do him such grievous
harm. “You know well enough what the boy means; you were seen in the
tent this evening, and it was you who threw the rock at Robert Rudd’s
horse.”

“You can’t prove it, and it’s a lie!” said Carden, defiantly.

“Make him give up the money,” said the farmer, impatiently, for he
cared nothing for Carden’s attempt to injure our hero.

“I’ll give it up if you’ll let me go,” said the canvas man.

“You’re not in a position to make terms,” said Anak. “We promise
nothing.”

“Then you won’t get it,” he returned, doggedly.

“We won’t, eh?”

Anak, for he was the speaker, threw him down, and held his hands and
feet as in a vise, while Tarbox, at his invitation, thrust his hands
into the thief’s pocket and drew out the gold and silver coins by
handfuls.

Carden ground his teeth, but he felt that resistance was vain. He was a
strong man, but Anak had the strength of three ordinary men, and he was
disposed to exert his strength to the utmost on this occasion, not only
because he was opposed to dishonesty, but because he had in his grasp
the man who had assaulted Robert.

“Have you got it all, Mr. Tarbox?” asked Anak.

“Wait and I will count it,” answered the farmer.

“Some of the money was mine,” growled Carden.

“Was it? How much?”

“Ten dollars,” answered the canvas man, after a moment’s thought.

“That’s too thin, Carden, and doesn’t tally with your first story. You
said you laid down on the hay in the barn because you had no money and
were turned out of your boarding-house.”

“Oh, you’re too smart,” muttered the baffled thief.

“I think we shall prove too smart for you to-night. Well, Mr. Tarbox,
how about the money?”

“It’s twenty-five cents short,” said Tarbox, disturbed.

“Oh, well, if you have come as near it as that you are lucky. Now let
us be going.”

“But I don’t want to leave it here; some one may find it.”

“You would be ruined if you didn’t find it,” said Anak, contemptuously.

“Will you let me up now?” asked Carden.

“Yes, I will let you up, but I won’t let you go.”

“Then I will lie here.”

“If you can.”

Despite his resistance Anak lifted him on his shoulders and bore him
off as easily as an ordinary man would carry a boy three years old.

“What are you going to do with me?” asked the canvas man.

“Deliver you over to the authorities,” answered Anak; and this he did,
despite the alternate prayers and menaces of his captive.

My young readers will be pleased to hear that Carden passed the night
in the station-house and was arraigned for trial the next day before
the court, which was then in session.

“I’m much obleeged to you,” Tarbox had the grace to say as they parted.

“And you won’t have me arrested for trespass and assault, Mr. Tarbox?”
said Anak, laughing.

“No; you’ve done me a good service to-night.”

“Take my advice and put your money in the bank to-morrow,” said Anak.

Tarbox did so; not only the money which had so narrowly escaped being
stolen, but his other hoards were collected and carried to the nearest
savings bank, which was undoubtedly a wise act on the part of the
farmer.

A week passed, and Robert Rudd was still the guest of Dr. Grey. The
circus had left town, and so the boy-rider was separated from his
professional companions. Though he was not as much attached to circus
life as some, it was his means of making a livelihood, and had been
for some years, and yielded him a considerably larger income than a
boy of his age was likely to earn in any other way. Now, it imparts a
pleasant feeling of independence to earn one’s living, and the pleasure
is heightened when not only a living is earned, but there is a chance
to lay up money besides.

When Robert was apprised of the approaching departure of the circus he
went to Dr. Grey.

“Dr. Grey,” he said, “don’t you think it will be safe for me to go back
to the circus?”

“Yes; it will be safe to go back to it, but not to ride.”

“How soon can I ride, do you think?”

“Your ankle will be weak for some time to come; not too weak for
ordinary exercise, but not strong enough for bareback riding.”

“In that case,” said Robert, with some feeling of disappointment,
“there would be no advantage in going back this season. I suppose I
could ride next season.”

“Undoubtedly, if you desire it,” said the doctor, pointedly.

“Do you intend to travel with the circus when you are a man?” asked
Sidney.

“Not if I can find some other employment at which I can make a fair
living,” answered Robert. “I don t care much for it, but at present it
pays me better than anything else.”

“That is not the most important consideration, my lad,” said the doctor.

“No; but at present I cannot afford to leave it.”

“Why can’t you stay with me all winter?” asked Sidney, eagerly. “I
should like your company very much.”

“Thank you, Sidney; you are a true friend.”

“I second my boy’s invitation,” said the doctor, cordially.

“Thank you, also,” said Robert, gratefully. “I feel your kindness the
more because I have no claims upon you.”

“Then you will stay?” said Sidney, eagerly.

“What would Ronald Percy say if you adopted me as a companion?” asked
Robert, with a smile.

“I don’t care what. I would ten times rather have you for a friend than
he.”

“Thank you, Sidney. You are not prejudiced against me because I am a
circus boy.”

“Why should I be? If you were rough and coarse, I shouldn’t fancy you,
whether you were a circus boy or not, but I consider you much more of a
gentleman than Ronald Percy,” said Sidney, warmly.

“I appreciate your good opinion, Sidney, but as to remaining here all
winter, though I should enjoy it on many accounts, I would not like to
be dependent even upon so good friends while I am able to earn my own
living. If there were anything your father had for me to do it would
make a difference.”

“I must see if I can think of anything,” said Dr. Grey. “I am afraid I
couldn’t delegate any of my medical duties to you. I fear my patients
would not repose confidence in so young a doctor.”

So the circus kept on its way, and Robert remained for a time at
the house of the physician. Those who know the characteristics of
society in a country village will not be surprised to learn that the
introduction of a circus boy into his family led many to wonder at and
criticise Dr. Grey. Prominent among the critics was Ronald Percy and
his family.

“Really,” said Mrs. Percy, a shallow woman, who made large pretensions
to fashion and position, “I can’t understand what Dr. Grey can be
thinking of, to admit a low circus boy into his house. We don’t know
what associates the boy has had in the past, but he must be coarse and
ill-bred, and surely he is not a fit companion for Sidney Grey. I hope
my Ronald won’t get intimate with him.”

“You may be sure I won’t, ma,” said Ronald. “I wouldn’t demean myself
by taking notice of him. When Sidney wanted to invite him to join in
our games I opposed it.”

“You, Ronald, can always be relied upon to feel like a gentleman,” said
his mother, complacently. “Thank heaven! he hasn’t any liking for low
company.”

“I am told the boy is very gentlemanly,” said Mrs. Frost, a woman very
different from Mrs. Percy.

Mrs. Percy shrugged her shoulders.

“That is absurd, of course,” she answered. “Gentlemanly behavior isn’t
picked up in circuses. I told the doctor so, but he is very eccentric,
and he wouldn’t listen to anything against his new favorite.”

“That must be rather awkward for you, as Ronald and Sidney are so much
together.”

“I have requested Ronald not to go to the doctor’s so much while that
boy is staying there. I feel that it is due to our position not to
allow him to form such intimacies.”

Nevertheless, when Sidney Grey got up a little party in honor of his
guest, and invited Ronald among others, the young aristocrat did not
decline, but presented himself promptly, notwithstanding his mother’s
objection to the company of the young circus rider.

Among the twenty boys and girls who assembled in the drawing-room of
Dr. Grey there was not one more quiet in manner or gentlemanly in
bearing than Robert Rudd.

“I wonder where the boy has picked up his high-bred manner?” thought
the doctor. “It must be natural to him.”

This was the case. Robert had not been placed in circumstances
favorable to the formation of a polished manner, but it was innate and
instinctive.

At a pause during the evening Sidney said, “Robert, can’t you do
something to entertain the company?”

“Would you like to see a little juggling?” asked Robert.

“Oh, yes!” cried several. Even Ronald Percy looked interested. Still he
could not help sneering a little.

“Did you do that at the circus?” he asked.

“No,” answered Robert, quietly. “I am not a professional magician, but
we had a professor of magic with us at one time, who took the trouble
to show me a few simple tricks, and these I am ready to perform at the
request of Sidney.”

“You couldn’t please me or the company better,” said Sidney, eagerly.

“I shall have to ask you for a few articles,” said Robert.

“Anything in the house is at your service, Rob.”

So for half an hour Robert amused the company with a few tricks, which
he did exceedingly well, for it was a characteristic of our young
hero to be thorough in all he did. It is unnecessary to enumerate his
tricks, or to describe the interest which the young company manifested.
It is enough to say that when he had finished he had established
himself in the good graces of every one present except Ronald, who,
though as much interested as the rest, was unwilling to admit it.

“We are very much obliged to you, Robert,” said Sidney, warmly. “You
are a capital magician.”

“I would advise you to go into that business,” said Ronald, with his
usual sneer. “I am told it pays very well, and it isn’t as low as the
circus.”

“I shall confine myself to performing for the gratification of my
friends,” said Robert, coolly, ignoring the impertinence of Ronald.

“Can’t you do anything more for us, Robert?” asked Sidney. “Do you
sing?”

“A little,” was the unexpected reply; “that is, I can sing some of the
popular melodies.”

“Pray do.”

“If any one will play the accompaniment.”

A young girl was found to do this, and Robert sang in a clear, musical
voice several popular favorites, which appeared to please no less than
his magical efforts.

“Really, Robert,” said Mrs. Grey, “you are remarkably well fitted to
please a company of young people. We are very much obliged to you.”

“I am glad to have it in my power to do something in return for your
kindness, Mrs. Grey.”

“The boy may belong to the circus,” thought Mrs. Grey, “but I should be
glad if my son were as accomplished, while I could not desire him to be
any more refined.”

Ronald was secretly surprised, and not over well pleased at Robert’s
popularity. He found himself in a minority of one in his sneering
attempts to decry him.

At the end of a week, when Robert was beginning to consider seriously
what employment he should follow in place of the one he had been
compelled to abandon, he received a letter through the mail which
equally surprised and pleased him.

The letter, which was directed in a bold hand to Robert Rudd, care of
Dr. Grey, ran thus:

“ROBERT RUDD: I understand that you have left the circus on
account of the accident you met with recently, and I presume that
you have not yet found anything else to do. I chanced to be at
Crampton and saw you perform, and was favorably impressed by your
appearance. I am about to make a journey to the West, and need the
services of a boy or young man to assist me in writing and serve
me in other ways, and I feel disposed to employ you, if you would
like to accept the engagement. I cannot offer you as high pay as
you probably received at the circus, but am ready to pay your
travelling expenses and pay you five dollars per week.

“Be kind enough to let me know at once whether you will accept my
offer, or rather, if you are favorably disposed, come at once to
New York and call upon me at the St. Nicholas Hotel. You will find
me in room No. 35. I would suggest that the sooner you can come to
me the better.

“Yours truly,
“JOHN FITZGERALD.”

Robert read this letter with mingled surprise and gratification. It
was pleasant to think he would soon be employed and earning his own
livelihood, and he could have thought of no engagement more likely to
suit him.

“What is your letter about, Robert?” asked Sidney.

“Read it for yourself, Sidney,” said Robert, passing it to him. “What
do you think of it?” he asked, later.

“I think it is a splendid chance. I wouldn’t mind having such an offer
myself.”

“I think I am in luck,” said Robert, complacently.

“Then you mean to accept it?”

“Certainly; I should be very foolish if I did not. I have been
wondering what I could get to do, and this comes just in the nick of
time.”

“I am almost sorry the offer has come to you, Robert. I had been
expecting you would stay with me a considerable time.”

“I should be sure to enjoy it if I was willing to be idle, but I have
an independent spirit, and I prefer to earn my own living. I will come
back and visit you some time if you will let me.”

“Let you! I shall quarrel with you if you don’t. Perhaps, however, you
would prefer to visit Ronald Percy.”

“I will wait at any rate till I receive an invitation,” answered
Robert, smiling, for he did not feel in the least sensitive about the
malicious contempt which Ronald professed to feel for him.

“When will you start, Robert?”

“To-morrow morning. Mr. Fitzgerald seems to be in a hurry, and there is
no good reason for delay. My foot is well enough for all ordinary use,
though it would give out if I should attempt riding.”

When Dr. Grey was shown the letter Robert had received, he looked
puzzled.

“Certainly the chance seems to be a good one,” he said, “and doubtless
it will be well to accept it. It is certainly a remarkable piece of
luck.”

“So I consider it,” said Robert.

“I mean, that it is like the events in a story that you should have
such a chance offer from an absolute stranger, just as you stand in
need of it. I should like to see this Mr. Fitzgerald,” he continued,
thoughtfully.

“I think I heard that there was a man of that name staying at the hotel
about a week since,” said Sidney.

“He says he was present when Robert met with his accident.”

“Then it is probably the same one. Then you have decided to accept, my
boy?”

“Yes, sir; I shall go to New York to-morrow.”

“It may be as well. But one thing I want to say: if the engagement
doesn’t prove satisfactory, or you are ever again thrown upon your own
resources, come back to us and you will have a cordial welcome.”

“Yes, Rob, you may be sure of that,” said Sidney, eagerly.

“You are both very kind to me,” returned Robert, gratefully, “and I
will take you at your word. By the way, Dr. Grey, I want to ask you a
favor.”

“It is granted as soon as asked, my boy.”

“It is only to keep the two hundred dollars I have saved up for the
present. It will be safer in your hands than mine, and I shan’t need
it, as all my expenses are to be paid by my new employer, and five
dollars a week besides.”

“I will keep it for you if you desire.”

“Thank you; if I had it I might have it stolen from me, and besides it
would make me uncomfortable to feel that I had so much money about me.”

“I see you are prudent. I have one good reason for keeping it, as you
will one day come back and reclaim it.”

The next morning Robert started for New York.