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CHAPTER VII A STRANGE HOTEL
From the upper window in the farmhouse, which was situated on elevated ground, Tony saw his old guardian follow Abner. Thus the way was opened for his escape.

Won’t you stay longer with us?” asked the farmer.

Thank you,” answered Tony, “but I wouldn’t dare to. Rudolph may be back for me, and I want to get away before he has a chance.”

“Are you going to walk?” asked the farmer’s wife.

Yes,” said Tony. “I’ve only got five cents in my pocket, and I can’t ride far on that.”

“I’m afraid you will be tired,” she said.

Oh, I’m used to tramping,” returned Tony lightly.

Can’t you put up some dinner for him, wife?” suggested the farmer. “It’ll make him hungry walking.”

“To be sure, I will,” she replied, and a large supply of eatables were put in a paper, sufficient to last Tony twenty-four hours at least.

The farmer deliberated whether he should not offer our hero half a dollar, but he was close, so far as money was concerned, and he decided in the negative.

So Tony set out, taking a course directly opposite to that pursued by Abner. In this way he thought he should best avoid the chance of meeting Rudolph.

About five o’clock he felt that it was about time to look about for a night’s rest. A hotel was, of course, out of the question, and he looked about for a farmhouse. The nearest dwelling was a small one, of four rooms, setting back from the road, down a lane.

Perhaps I can get in there,” thought Tony.

An old man, with a patriarchal beard, whose neglected and squalid dress seemed to indicate poverty, was sitting on the doorstep.

Good-evening,” said Tony.

Who are you?” demanded the old man suspiciously.

I am a poor traveler,” said Tony.

A tramp,” said the old man, in the same tone.

Yes, I suppose so,” said Tony.

Well, I’ve got nothing for you.”

“I don’t want anything except the chance to sleep.”

“Don’t you want any supper?”

“No; I’ve got my supper here,” returned our hero.

What have you got there?” asked the old man.

Some bread and butter, and cold meat.”

“It looks good,” said the other, with what Tony thought to be a longing look.

I’ll share it with you, if you’ll let me sleep here to-night,” said Tony.

The old man was a miser, as Tony suspected. He was able to live comfortably, but he deprived himself of the necessaries of life in order to hoard away money. His face revealed that to Tony. He had nearly starved himself, but he had not overcome his natural appetites, and the sight of Tony’s supper gave him a craving for it.

I don’t know,” he said doubtfully. “If I let you sleep here, you might get up in the night and rob me.”

“You don’t look as if you had anything worth stealing.”

“You’re quite right,” said old Ben Hayden. “I’ve only saved a little money—a very little—to pay my funeral expenses. You wouldn’t take that.”

“Oh, no,” said Tony. “I wouldn’t take it if you’d give it to me.”

“You wouldn’t? Why not?”

“Because you need it yourself. If you were a rich man it would be different.”

“So it would,” said old Hayden. “You’re a good boy—an excellent boy. I’ll trust you. You can stay.”

“Then let us eat supper,” said Tony.

He sat down on the doorstep and gave the old man half of his supply of food. He was interested to see the avidity with which he ate it.

Is it good?” he asked.

I haven’t eaten anything so good for a long time. I couldn’t afford to buy food.”

“I am sorry for you.”

“You haven’t got any left for breakfast.”

“Oh, somebody will give me breakfast,” said Tony.

Do you travel round all the time?”

“Yes; but I hope to get a chance to go to work soon. I’d rather live in one place.”

“You might live with me, if I were not so poor.”

“Thank you,” answered Tony politely, but it did not appear that it was such a home as he would choose.

Do you live alone?” he asked.

Yes.”

“I didn’t know but you might be married.”

“I was married but my wife died long ago.”

“Why don’t you marry again?” inquired Tony.

I couldn’t afford it,” answered Hayden, frightened at the suggestion. “Women have terrible appetites.”

“Have they?” returned Tony, amused.

And I can’t get enough for myself to eat.”

“Have you always lived here?”

“No; I lived in England when I was a young man.”

“What made you leave it?”

“Why do you ask me that?” demanded old Ben.

“Oh, if it’s a secret, don’t tell me,” said Tony.

Who said it was a secret?” said the old man irritably.

Nobody that I know of.”

“Then why do you ask me such questions?”

“Don’t answer anything you don’t want to,” said our hero. “I only asked for the sake of saying something.”

“I don’t mind telling,” said old Ben, more calmly. “It was because I was so poor. I thought I could do better in America.”

“Do you own this place?”

“Yes, but it’s a very poor place. It isn’t worth much.”

“I shouldn’t think it was,” said Tony.

You’re a good lad. You see how poor I am.”

“Of course I do, and I’m sorry for you. I would help you only I am very poor myself.”

“Have you got any money?” asked Ben, with interest.

I’ve got five cents,” answered Tony, laughing. “I hope you’ve got more than that.”

“A little more—a very little more,” said Ben.

The old miser began to consider whether he couldn’t charge Tony five cents for his lodging, but sighed at the recollection that Tony had already paid for it in advance by giving him a supper.

At eight o’clock the miser suggested going to bed.

I haven’t any lights,” he said; “candles cost so much. Besides, a body’s better off in bed.”

“I’m willing to go to bed,” said Tony. “I’ve walked a good deal to-day, and I’m tired.”

They went into the house. There was a heap of rags in the corner of the room when they entered.

That’s my bed,” said old Ben; “it’s all I have.”

“I can sleep on the floor,” said Tony.

He took off his jacket, rolled it up for a pillow, and stretched himself out on the bare floor. He had often slept so before.


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