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CHAPTER V IN A TRAP
Unsuspicious of danger, Rudolph took a position on the doorstep. He was incensed with Tony for having given him so much unnecessary trouble, and he was resolved to give the boy a lesson.

It was quite dark in the shadow of the house, and when the door opened, Rudolph, supposing, of course, it was Tony who had opened it, seized the person, whom he saw but dimly, by the arm, exclaiming, venomously, as he tried to shake him:

“I’ll teach you to keep me waiting, you young rascal!”

He was not long in finding out his mistake.

Abner was considerably larger and more muscular than the tramp, and he returned the compliment by shaking off Rudolph’s grasp and seizing him in his own viselike grip.

You’ll teach me, will you, you villain!” retorted Abner. “I’ll teach you to come here like a thief!”

“Let go!” exclaimed the tramp, as he felt himself shaken roughly.

Not till I’ve given you a good drubbing,” returned Abner, and he began to use his cudgel with effect on the back and shoulders of the tramp. “You’ve come to the wrong house, you have.”

Rudolph ground his teeth with ineffectual rage. He lamented that he had not a knife or pistol with him, but he had made so sure of easy entrance into the house, and no resistance, that he had not prepared himself. As to brute force, he was no match for Abner.

The boy betrayed me!” he shrieked. “I’ll have his life!”

“Not much,” said Abner. “You’ll be lucky to get away with your own. It isn’t the boy. I was awake and heard you ask him to let you in. Now take yourself off.”

As he said this he gave a powerful push, and Rudolph reeled a moment and sank upon the ground, striking his head with violence.

He won’t try it again,” said Abner, as he shut the door and bolted it. “I guess he’s got enough for once.”

Tony stood by, ashamed and mortified. He was afraid Abner would class him with the tramp who had just been ignominiously expelled from the house. He was afraid he, too, would be thrust out of doors, in which case he would be exposed to brutal treatment from Rudolph. But he did not need to fear this. Abner had seen and heard enough to feel convinced that Tony was all right in the matter, and he did not mean to make the innocent suffer for the guilty.

Now let us go to bed, Tony,” he said, in a friendly manner. “You don’t want to go with him, do you?”

“No,” said Tony. “I never want to see him again.”

“I shouldn’t think you would. He’s a rascal and a thief.”

“I hope you don’t think I wanted to rob the house,” said Tony.

No; I don’t believe you’re a bit like him. What makes you go with him?”

“I won’t any more.”

“He isn’t your father?”

“No; I don’t know who my father is.”

“That’s strange,” said Abner, who had seen but little of the world. Everyone that he knew had a father, and knew who that father was. He could not realize that anyone could have an experience like Tony’s.

I wish I did know my father,” said Tony, thoughtfully. “I’m alone in the world now.”

“What do you mean to do?”

“I’ll go off by myself to-morrow, away from Rudolph. I never want to see him again.”

“Have you got any money?”

They had now got back into the chamber, and were taking off their clothes.

I’ve got five cents,” answered Tony.

Is that all?”

“Yes, but I don’t mind. I’ll get along somehow.”

Tony had always got along somehow. He had never—at least not for long at a time—known what it was to have a settled home or a permanent shelter. Whether the world owed him a living or not, he had always got one, such as it was, and though he had often been cold and hungry, here he was at fourteen, well and strong, and with plenty of pluck and courage to carry with him into the life struggle that was opening before him. Abner’s training had been different, and he wondered at the coolness with which Tony contemplated the future. But he was too sleepy to wonder long at anything, and, with a yawn, he lapsed into slumber.

Tony did not go to sleep immediately. He had need to be thoughtful. He had made up his mind to be his own master henceforth, but Rudolph he knew would have a word to say on that point. In getting away the next morning he must manage to give the tramp a wide berth. It would be better for him to go to some distant place, where, free from interference, he could make his own living.

There was another thought that came to him. Somewhere in the world he might come across a father or mother, or more distant relative—one of whom he would not be ashamed, as he was of the companion who tried to draw him into crime. This was the last thought in his mind, as he sank into a sound sleep from which he did not awaken till he was called for breakfast.

To say that Rudolph was angry when he recovered from the temporary insensibility occasioned by his fall would be a very mild expression. He had not only been thwarted in his designs, but suffered violence and humiliation in the presence of the boy of whom he regarded himself as the guardian. He thirsted for revenge, if not on Abner, then on Tony, whom it would be safer to maltreat and abuse.

Anger is unreasonable, and poor Tony would have fared badly if he had fallen into Rudolph’s clutches just then. It made no difference that Abner had exonerated Tony from any share in the unpleasant surprise he had met. He determined to give him a severe beating, nevertheless.

There is an old proverb: “You must catch your hare before you cook it.” This did not occur to the tramp. He never supposed Tony would have the hardihood or courage to give him the slip.

The remainder of the night spent by Tony in sleeping was less pleasantly spent by Rudolph in the barn.

He meant to be up early, as he knew he was liable to arrest on account of his last night’s attempt, and lie in wait for Tony, who, he supposed, would wait for breakfast.

He was right there. Tony did remain for breakfast. The farmer—Mr. Coleman—had already been informed of Rudolph’s attempted burglary, and he did Tony the justice to exonerate him from any share in it.

What are you going to do, my boy?” he asked, at the breakfast table.

I am going to set up for myself,” answered Tony, cheerfully.

“That’s right. Have nothing more to do with that man. He can only do you harm. Have you got any money?”

“I’ve got five cents.”

“That isn’t enough to buy a farm.”

“Not a very large one,” said Tony, smiling.

Abner nearly choked with laughter. This was a joke which he could appreciate.

I don’t think I’ll go to farming,” continued Tony.

You can stay here a week or two,” said the farmer, hospitably, “till you get time to look around.”

“Thank you,” said Tony. “You are very kind, but I don’t think it will be safe. Rudolph will be on the watch for me.”

“The man you came with?”

“Yes.”

“Guess he won’t touch you while I’m round,” said Abner.

I don’t think he’ll want to tackle you again,” said Tony.

Didn’t I lay him out, though?” said Abner, with a grin. “He thought it was you, ho! ho!”

“He didn’t think so long,” said Tony. “I haven’t got such an arm as you.”

Abner was pleased with this compliment to his prowess, and wouldn’t have minded another tussle with the tramp.

Where do you think that chap you call Rudolph is?” he asked.

He’s searching for me, I expect,” said Tony. “If I’m not careful he’ll get hold of me.”

Just then a neighbor’s boy, named Joe, came to the house on an errand. He was almost Tony’s size. He waited about, not seeming in any hurry to be gone.

Abner,” said the farmer, “if you’ve got nothing else to do, you may load up the wagon with hay and carry it to Castleton. We shall have more than we want.”

“All right,” said Abner.

“May I go, too? May I ride on the hay?” asked Joe eagerly.

Will your father let you?” asked the farmer.

Oh, yes; he won’t mind.”

“Then you may go,” was the reply. “Do you want to go, too, Tony?”

Tony was about to say yes, when an idea seized him.

If the other boy goes, Rudolph will think it is I, and he will follow the wagon. That will give me a chance of getting off in another direction.”

“So it will,” said Abner. “What a headpiece you’ve got,” he added admiringly. “I wouldn’t have thought of that.”

Abner’s headpiece was nothing to boast of. He had strength of body, but to equalize matters his mind was not equally endowed.

The plan was disclosed to Joe, who willingly agreed to enter into it. This was the more feasible because he was of about Tony’s size, and wore a hat just like his.

The hay was loaded, and the wagon started off with Abner walking alongside. Joe was perched on top, nearly buried in the hay, but with his hat rising from the mass. This was about all that could be seen of him.


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