Chapter XXXII. An Awful Moment
 

"Bring out the hoss thief! Lynch him! Lynch him!"

"What's up?" asked the tramp drowsily, opening his eyes.

"Bring out the hoss thief!" cried a dozen rough voices, as the battering at the door was repeated.

"They want you, young feller!" he continued, as he caught the meaning of the cry.

"What shall we do?" asked Walter helplessly.

"They don't want me," returned the tramp complacently. "It's you they want!"

"You will stand by me?" implored Walter, eager for any help.

"Won't do no good! There's a crowd of them. You're in a bad box, young feller!"

"Have you got a pistol?"

"No."

Then it flashed upon Walter that he still had the revolver which belonged to Dick Ranney.

"I will sell my life dearly!" thought Walter, "They shan't kill me without some resistance."

"Open the door, or it'll be wuss for ye!" cried a rough voice.

The door was strong, but it did not long withstand the fierce attacks made upon it. Walter, by the light that came in through a crevice, saw it sway and gradually yield to the impetuous attacks of the mob.

"Here's the hoss thief!" exclaimed the leader, throwing the light into the cell occupied by the inebriate.

The tramp was alarmed and completely sobered by the terrible suggestion.

"I ain't the man!" he said. "It's that young feller yonder."

The man with the lantern turned in the direction of the other cell.

"He's only a kid!" he said doubtfully.

"All the same, he's the hoss thief!" said the tramp earnestly.

"Is he telling the truth?" asked the leader, turning to the men who were just behind him.

"He looks most like the hoss thief!" said Dan Muggins. "The other's a milk-and-water chap, just out of boardin'-school."

"You're right! Smash in the cage!"