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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDo And Dare: A Brave Boy's Fight For Fortune - Chapter 26. A Council Of War
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Do And Dare: A Brave Boy's Fight For Fortune - Chapter 26. A Council Of War Post by :shoki Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :1347

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Do And Dare: A Brave Boy's Fight For Fortune - Chapter 26. A Council Of War

CHAPTER XXVI. A COUNCIL OF WAR

"Are you sure of what you say?" asked a passenger, turning with a puzzled look from George Melville, who, in the midst of the general excitement produced by his revelation, sat, not unmoved indeed, but comparatively calm. Courage and physical strength are by no means inseparable, and this frail young man, whose strength probably was not equal to Herbert's, was fearless in the face of peril which would daunt many a stalwart six-footer.

In reply to this very natural question, George Melville repeated the essential parts of the conversation which had taken place between Col. Warner and the landlord.

Col. Warner's countenance changed, and he inwardly execrated the imprudence that had made his secret plan known to one of the intended victims.

"Is this true, Col. Warner?" asked Parker.

"No, it's a lie!" returned the colonel, with an oath.

"Gentlemen!" said George Melville, calmly, "you can choose which you will believe. I will only suggest that this man managed very adroitly to find out where each one of us kept his money. You can also consider whether I have any cause to invent this story."

It was clear that the passengers were inclined to put faith in Melville's story.

"Gentlemen!" said the Colonel, angrily, "I never was so insulted in my life. I am a man of wealth, traveling on business; I am worth a quarter of a million at least. To associate me with road agents, whom I have as much reason to fear as you, is most ridiculous. This young man may be well-meaning, but he is under a most extraordinary hallucination. It is my belief that he dreamed the nonsense he has been retailing to you."

"Ask the driver to stop the stage," said Mr. Benson, a gentlman from Philadelphia. "If Mr. Melville's story is trustworthy, we may at any time reach the spot where the highwayman is lurking. We must have a general consultation, and decide what is to be done."

This proposal was approved, and the driver drew up the stage.

"I don't propose to remain in the company of men who so grossly misjudge me," said the Colonel, with dignity, as he made a motion to leave his fellow passengers.

"Stay here, sir!" said Mr. Benson, in a tone of authority. "We cannot spare you yet."

"Do you dare to detain me, sir?" exclaimed Warner, menacingly.

"Yes, we do," said the German. "Just stay where you are, Mr. Colonel, till we decide what to do."

As each one of the company had produced his revolver, the Colonel thought it prudent to obey.

"I am disgusted with this fooling," he said, "You're all a pack of cowards."

"Driver," said George Melville, "has this stage ever been robbed?"

"Several times," the driver admitted.

"When was the last time?"

"Two months since."

"Where did it happen?"

"About a mile further on."

"Did you ever see this gentleman before?" he asked, pointing to the colonel.

"Yes," answered the driver, reluctantly.

"When did he last ride with you?"

"On the day the stage was robbed," answered the driver.

The passengers exchanged glances, and then, as by a common impulse, all turned to Col. Warner, to see how he would take this damaging revelation. Disguise it as he might, he was clearly disconcerted.

"Is this true, colonel?" asked Benson.

"Yes, it is," answered Col. Warner, with some hesitation. "I was robbed, with the rest. I had four hundred dollars in my wallet, and the road agent made off with it."

"And yet you just now pooh-poohed the idea of a robbery, and said such things were gone by."

"I say so now," returned the colonel, sullenly. "I have a good deal of money with me, but I am willing to take my chances."

"Doubtless. Your money would be returned to you, in all probability, if, as we have reason to believe, you have a secret understanding with the thieves who infest this part of the country."

"Your words are insulting. Let go my arm, sir, or it will be the worse for you."

"Softly, softly, my good friend," said the German. "Have you any proposal to make, Mr. Melville?"

"Only this. Let us proceed on our journey, but let each man draw his revolver, and be ready to use it, if need be."

"What about the colonel?"

"He must go along with us. We cannot have him communicating with our enemies outside."

"Suppose I refuse, sir?"

"Then, my very good friend, I think we shall use a little force," said the German, carelessly pointing his weapon at the captive.

"I will go upon compulsion," said the colonel, "but I protest against this outrage. I am a wealthy capitalist from Chicago, who knows no more about road agents than you do. You have been deceived by this unsophisticated young man, who knows about as much of the world as a four-year-old child. It's a fine mare's nest he has found."

This sneer did not disturb the equanimity of George Melville.

"I should be glad to believe the colonel were as innocent as he claims," he said, "but his own words, overheard last night, contradict what he is now saying. When we have passed the spot indicated for the attack, we will release him, and give him the opportunity he seeks of leaving our company."

The passengers resumed their places in the stage, with the exception of Herbert, who again took his seat beside the driver. George Melville had not mentioned that it was Herbert, not himself, who had overheard the conversation between the colonel and the land lord, fearing to expose the boy to future risk.

Col. Warner sat sullenly between the German and Benson. He was evidently ill at ease and his restless glances showed that he was intent upon some plan of escape. Of this, however, such was the vigilance of his guards, there did not seem much chance.

The stage kept on its way till it entered a narrow roadway, lined on one side by a thick growth of trees.

Melville, watching the colonel narrowly, saw that, in spite of his attempt at calmness, his excitement was at fever heat.

The cause was very evident, for at this point a tall figure bounded from the underbrush, disguised by a black half mask, through which a pair of black eyes blazed fiercely.

"Stop the stage!" he thundered to the driver, "or I will put a bullet through your head."

The driver, as had been directed, instantly obeyed.

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