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- Walter Sherwood's Probation - 30/38 -


"No; it seems he did not take much notice of him."

"Was that all the boy wanted to know?"

"Yes."

"He didn't say what the man's object was in seeking this information?"

"No. Probably he didn't know."

Walter and his new friend, whom we will call Manning, went upstairs.

"What does it all mean, Mr. Manning?" asked Walter.

"It probably means that our old friend proposes to make a call upon you during the night."

"Do you really think so?" asked Walter, naturally startled at the suggestion.

"Yes. You still have his revolver, you know."

"I think he will find me ready for him," said Walter, resolutely.

"He will find us ready, you mean," corrected Manning. "You know I am going to be your roommate."

"I am glad of that, under the circumstances."

"So am I. I should like to recover the money the fellow robbed me of. I should like to know his name."

"I can tell you that. I was examining the revolver this afternoon, when I saw a name engraved upon it in very small letters."

"What name?"

"R. Ranney."

"Then," said Manning, in excitement, "he is the famous Dick Ranney, formerly with Jesse James."

"I never heard of him."

"He is well known in this Western country. Why, there is a reward of a thousand dollars offered for his apprehension."

"I should like to earn that money," said Walter.

"You shall; and this very night, if I can bring it about."

"Half of the reward should be yours."

"I am rich enough without It. As to the money the fellow robbed me of, I shall try to recover that, though the loss won't in the least embarrass me."

"How do you think Ranney will try to get into the room?"

"Through the window. The casements are loose, and nothing could be easier."

Walter went to the window and found that there was no way of fastening it.

"I think we could fasten it with a knife."

"I don't want it fastened," said Manning.

"Why not?"

"I want Mr. Ranney to get into the room. Once in, we must secure him. If we are smart, our enterprising visitor will find himself in a trap."

CHAPTER XXVI

THE EVENTS OF A NIGHT

In the country it may safely be assumed that by twelve o'clock at night every sound and healthy person will be asleep. Dick Ranney gave an extra margin of half an hour, and thirty minutes after midnight made his appearance in the hotel yard. Thanks to the information given by his young messenger, Oren Trott, who, of course, did not know that in this way he was assisting a dishonest scheme, he was able to fix at once upon the windows of the rooms occupied by Walter and the professor.

He decided to enter Walter's chamber first, partly because he wanted his revolver, which would be of service to him in case he were attacked. Then, again, he wanted the satisfaction of triumphing over the boy who had had the audacity to defy him--a full-grown man, and one whose name had carried terror to many a traveler.

There was a long ladder leaning against the stable. Dick Ranney could not call this providential without insinuating that Providence was fighting on the side of the transgressor, but he called it, appropriately, a "stroke of luck," as indeed it seemed at the time.

He secured the ladder and put it up against the window of Walter's room. The window, as he could see, was partly open, it being a summer night.

Dick Ranney observed this with a grim smile of satisfaction.

"He's making things easy for me," he said to himself.

As softly and cautiously as a cat he ascended the ladder, but not softly enough to escape the vigilant ear of Manning, who was expecting him.

Manning at the sound stepped from the bed--he had thrown himself on the outside, without undressing--and stepped into a closet, as he did not wish Ranney to learn that there were two persons in the chamber. Walter was awake, but he lay in bed motionless and with his eyes closed. The revolver was in Manning's hands, but he had placed his clothing temptingly over a chair between the bed and the window, but in such a position that his companion on coming out of the closet would be between the window and the burglar. Dick Ranney stood on the ladder and looked in.

What he saw reassured him. Walter was in bed, and seemed to be fast asleep.

"The coast is clear," he murmured softly. "Now, where is the revolver?"

He could not see it, but this did not trouble him. Probably the boy had it under his pillow, and in that case he could obtain it without trouble. Meanwhile, it would be well to secure the boy's pocketbook. Though he underrated Walter's wealth, he thought he might have twenty dollars, and this would be worth taking.

He lifted the window softly and entered the room. In order to deaden the sound of his steps he had taken off his shoes and placed them on the ground beside the foot of the ladder.

Having entered the room, he strode softly to the chair over which Walter had thrown his clothes and began to feel in the pockets of his pantaloons. There was a purse in one of the pockets which contained a few small silver coins, but it is needless to say that Walter had disposed of his stock of bank bills elsewhere. He felt that prevention of robbery was better than the recovery of the goods stolen.

Meanwhile, Manning, whose hearing was keen, was made aware through it that the burglar had entered the room. He opened the door of the closet and, walking into the center of the apartment, placed himself, revolver in hand, in front of the window.

Though his motions were gentle, the outlaw's ears were quick. He turned swiftly, and with a look of dismay realized that he had walked into a trap. He had not felt afraid to encounter a boy of eighteen, but here was a resolute man, who had the advantage of being armed, and well armed.

Dick Ranney surveyed him for a minute in silence, but was very busily thinking what were his chances of escape.

"Well," said Manning, "we meet again!" "Again?" repeated Ranney, in a questioning tone.

"Yes. When we last met, you had the drop on me and relieved me of my wallet. To-night I have the drop on you."

Dick Ranney paused for reflection.

"That's so," he said. "Do you want your wallet back?"

"Yes."

"Then we'll make a bargain. Give me that revolver, promise not to raise the house, and I will give you back your wallet."

"With all the money inside?"

"Yes."

"I don't think I will," said Manning, after a pause.

"Don't be a fool! Come, be quick, or the boy will wake up."

"He is awake already," said Walter, raising his head from the pillow.

"Were you awake when I entered the room?" asked Dick Ranney, quickly.

"Yes."

"Fooled again!" exclaimed Ranney, bitterly. "Boy, I believe you are my evil genius. Till I met you, I thought myself a match for any one."

"You were more than a match for me," said Manning, "but he wins best who wins last."

"Well, what do you mean to do?" asked Ranney, doggedly.

"To capture you, Dick Ranney, and hand you over to the law which you


Walter Sherwood's Probation - 30/38

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