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- Do and Dare - 10/40 -

The boat was readily loaned, and the two were soon on the river. Mr. Melville first took the oars, but he was quickly fatigued, and resigned them to Herbert, who was strong and muscular for his age. As his companion observed his strong and steady strokes, he said:

"Herbert, I am disposed to envy you your strength and endurance. I get tired very easily."

"Were you not strong when a boy?" asked Herbert.

"I never had much endurance. My mother had a feeble constitution and was consumptive, and I inherit something of her weakness."

"It is fortunate that you have money, Mr. Melville, so that you are not obliged to work."

"True; but I would give half my fortune to be strong and well."

Herbert noticed the hectic flush upon Mr. Melville's cheeks, and his white, transparent hands, and his sympathy was aroused.

"I see," he said, thoughtfully, "that I am more fortunate than I thought in my health and strength."

"They are blessings not to be overestimated, Herbert. However, my lot is, on the whole, a happy one, even though my life will probably be brief, and I have still many sources of satisfaction and enjoyment."

The river led away from the village, flowing between wooded banks, with here and there a cottage set in the midst of the fields. Lying back in the stern, Melville enjoyed their tranquil passage, when their attention was suddenly attracted by a boy who stood on the bank, frantically waving his hat. Melville was the first to see him.

"What can that boy want?" he asked.

Herbert immediately looked around, and exclaimed in surprise:

"It's Tom Tripp!"

"Row to shore, and see what he wants," said Melville, quickly.

They were already near, and in a brief space of time they touched the bank.

"What's the matter, Tom?"

"There's a tramp in the house, stealing all he can lay hands on," answered Tom, in excitement.

"What house?"

"Farmer Cole's."

Mr. Cole was the farmer for whom Tom Tripp was working.

Tom explained that the farmer was gone to the village, leaving his wife alone. A tramp had come to the door and asked for a meal. While Mrs. Cole was getting something for him, the visitor looked about him and, finding that there was no man about, boldly demanded money, after unceremoniously possessing himself of the silver spoons.

"Is he armed?" asked Melville.

"I don't know; I don't think so."

"Does he know that you have gone for help?"

"No; he did not see me. I came from the fields, and saw him through the window. Mrs. Cole thinks I am in the field and there is no help near."

Physical courage and physical strength do not always go together, and a weak man often excels a strong man in bravery. George Melville was thoroughly roused. For injustice or brutality he had a hearty contempt, and he was not one to stand by and see a ruffian triumph.

"Come, Herbert," he said; "let us go to the help of this poor woman."

"With all my heart," answered Herbert, his eyes flashing.

Before describing the appearance of Herbert and George Melville upon the scene, I will go back a few minutes and relate what happened at the farmhouse.

Mrs. Cole was engaged in ironing when she heard a knock at the door.

Answering the summons, she found herself confronted by an ill-looking fellow whose dusty and travel-soiled garments revealed the character of the wearer.

"What is it you wish?" asked the farmer's wife.

"I'm hungry!" said the tramp. "Can you give me something to eat?"

"Yes," answered Mrs. Cole, cheerfully, for the good woman could not find it in her heart to turn away a fellow creature suffering from hunger. "We have enough and to spare. Come in, and sit down at the table."

The visitor followed her into the kitchen and took a seat at the table, while the farmer's wife went to the pantry and brought out half a loaf of bread and a plate of cold meat.

The tramp was not long in attacking it, but after a few mouthfuls laid down his knife and fork.

"Where's the coffee?" he asked.

"I have no warm coffee," she answered.

"Don't you drink coffee in the morning?"

"Yes, but breakfast was over two or three hours since. Shall I get you a glass of water?"

"Haven't you any cider?"

"It seems to me you are particular," said Mrs. Cole, growing indignant.

"All the same I want some cider," said the tramp, impudently.

"I have no cider," answered Mrs. Cole, shortly.

"A pretty farmhouse this is, without cider," growled the tramp. "You can make me some coffee, then!"

"Who are you to order me round in my own house?" demanded Mrs. Cole, angrily. "One would think you took this for a hotel."

"I take it for what I please," said the tramp.

"If my husband were here you wouldn't dare to talk to me like this!"

It was an unguarded admission, made on the impulse of the moment, and Mrs. Cole felt its imprudence as soon as she had uttered the words, but it was too late to recall them.

"Where is your husband?" asked the tramp, his face lighting up with a gleam of exultation.

"Near by," answered Mrs. Cole, evasively; but her visitor saw that this was not correct.

"How much money have you in the house?" he demanded, abruptly.

"Money?" gasped the farmer's wife, turning pale.

"Yes, money! Didn't I speak plain enough?" asked the tramp, angrily.

"Are you a thief, then?"

"Don't you dare to call me a thief!" said the tramp, menacingly.

"Then, if you are an honest man, why do you ask that question?"

"Because I am going to borrow what money you have."


"Yes," said the man, with a grin. "I'll hand it back when I come around again."

Under ordinary circumstances there would not have been money enough in the farmhouse to be anxious about, but it so happened that Farmer Cole had sold a yoke of oxen, and the money received, a hundred dollars, was upstairs in a bureau drawer. The thought of this, though she didn't suppose the tramp to be aware of it, was enough to terrify Mrs. Cole, and she sank back in the chair in a panic. Of course the tramp inferred that there was a considerable sum in the house.

"Come, hurry up!" he said, roughly, "I can't wait here all day. Where do you keep the money?"

"It is my husband's," said Mrs. Cole, terrified out of all prudence.

"All right! I'll pay it back to him. While you're about it, you may collect all the spoons, too. I'm going to open a boarding house," he continued, with a chuckle, "and I shall need them."

"Oh, heavens! What shall I do?" ejaculated the frightened woman.



"You'd better go upstairs and get that money, or I will go up

Do and Dare - 10/40

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