“Well, young man, I will tell you, for your satisfaction, that I have got you provided, for, for four long years to come.”
The speaker was Mr. Brigham. As he uttered these words he placed his hat and gloves on the table, and looked down at his son Lester, who had just entered the library in obedience to the summons he had received, and who sat on the edge of the sofa, twirling his cap in his hands. The boy looked frightened, while the expression on his father’s face told very plainly that he was angry about something.
“I have had quite enough of your nonsense,” continued Mr. Brigham, in very decided tones. “Since we came to Mississippi you have done nothing but roam about the woods and fields with your gun on your shoulder, and get yourself into trouble. You made yourself so very disagreeable that none of the decent boys in the settlement would have anything to do with you, and consequently you had to take up with such fellows as Bob Owens and Dan Evans. After setting fire to Don Gordon’s shooting-box, and being caught in the act of stealing David Evans’s quails, you had to go and mix yourself up in that mail robbery. Why, Lester, have you any idea where you will bring up if you do not at once begin to mend your ways?”
“Why, father, I had nothing to do with that,” exclaimed Lester, trying to look surprised and innocent; “nothing whatever. You know, as well as I do, that I was at home when those men who lived in that house-boat waylaid and robbed the mail-carrier.”
“I am aware that you took no active part in the work,” said his father. “If you had, you would now be confined in the calaboose. But you told Dan Evans about those checks for five thousand dollars that my agent sends me every month.”
“I didn’t,” interrupted Lester.
“Everything goes to prove that you did,” answered Mr. Brigham. “If you didn’t, how does it come that Dan knew all about those checks? He made a full confession to Don Gordon. The story is all over the country, and the people about here are very angry at you. Suppose that Dan had shot Don Gordon, as he tried to do? What do you suppose would become of you? I really believe you would have been mobbed before this time. I wonder if you have any idea of the excitement you have raised in the settlement?”
No; Lester had not the faintest conception of it, for the simple reason that he had held no conversation with anybody, save the members of his own family, since the afternoon on which Dan Evans was overpowered and robbed of his mail-bag. When the full particulars of the affair came to his ears, he was as frightened as a boy could be, and live. He knew that he was in a measure responsible for the robbery, that it would never have been committed if he had held his tongue regarding his father’s money, and the fear that he had rendered himself liable to punishment at the hands of the law, nearly drove him frantic. His terror was greatly increased by his father’s last words. There had not been so much excitement in the settlement since the war—not even when it became known that Clarence Gordon and Godfrey Evans had dug up a portion of the general’s potato patch, in the hope of unearthing eighty thousand dollars in gold and silver that were supposed to be buried there. Don Gordon had more friends than any other boy in the settlement, unless it was Bert, and the planters were enraged at the attempt that had been made upon his life. If Dan Evans’s bullet had found a lodgment in his body instead of going harmlessly through the roof, Dan and Lester Brigham, as well as the three flatboatmen who stole the mail, might have had a hard time of it.
Lester’s first care was to hide himself in the house, as he had done after he and Bob Owens burned Don’s old shooting-box. He earnestly hoped that the men would escape with their plunder; but when he learned that a strong party, led by General Gordon, had pursued them in Davis’s sailboat and captured them, he was ready to give up in despair. Judge Packard would have to look into the matter now through his judicial spectacles, and Lester did not want to be summoned to appear as a witness. Neither did Dan, who, disregarding the advice Don Gordon had given him, took to the woods and hid there, just as he did after he picked his father’s pocket of the hundred and sixty dollars that David had made by trapping quails.