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CHAPTER XI CAPTURED AT LAST
“Let me up!” roared Rudolph, struggling vigorously with the cords that bound him.

Ben was terrified by his demonstration, and had half a mind to comply with his demand.

Don’t you do it, Mr. Hayden!” Tony exclaimed.

What, young jackanapes!” said the tramp, scowling fiercely. “You dare to give him this advice?”

“Yes, I do,” said Tony boldly. “He will be a fool if he releases you.”

“If he don’t I’ll kill him, and you, too.”

“What shall I do?” added Ben helplessly.

Do you know what he’ll do if you untie him?”

“What will I do?” demanded Rudolph.

You will steal this old man’s money. It was what you were about to do when you fell over backward.”

“He threw me over,” said the tramp.

“I’m very sorry,” stammered Ben.

If you’re very sorry untie them cords, and let me up.”

“I didn’t tie you.”

“Who did?”

“The—the boy.”

“You dared to do it!” exclaimed Rudolph.

Yes, I did,” said Tony calmly. “It was the only way to keep you out of mischief.”

“Insolent puppy; if I only had my hands free I would strangle you both.”

“You hear what he says?” said Tony, turning to old Ben. “Are you in favor of untying him now?”

“No, no!” exclaimed Ben, trembling. “He is a dreadful man. Oh, why did he come here?”

“I came for your gold, you fool, and I’ll have it.”

“What shall I do?” asked the old man, wringing his hands in the excess of his terror.

Let me up, and I won’t hurt you.”

“Just now you said you would strangle the both of us, Rudolph.”

“I’ll strangle you, you cub, but I will do no harm to the old man.”

“Don’t you trust him, Mr. Hayden,” said Tony. “He will promise anything to get free, but he will forget all about it when he is unbound.”

“I’d like to choke you!” muttered Rudolph.

I’ll go and call for help to arrest him,” said Tony.

And leave me alone with him?” asked Ben, terrified.

No, we will lock the door, and you shall go and stay outside till I come back.”

Tony’s proposal was distasteful to Rudolph. He had a wholesome dread of the law, and didn’t fancy the prospect of an arrest. He made a fresh and violent struggle which portended danger to his captors.

Come out quick,” said Tony hastily. “It is not safe for you to stay here any longer.”

The old man followed him nothing loath, and Tony locked the door on the outside.

Do you think he will get free?” asked Ben nervously.

He may, and if he does there is no safety for either of us till he is caught again.”

“Oh, my gold! my gold!” groaned Ben. “He may get it.”

“Yes, he may; our only hope is to secure him as soon as possible.”

“I’m so weak I can’t go fast.”

“You must conceal yourself and let me run on.”

“I don’t know of any place.”

“Here’s a place. You will be safe here till I come for you.”

Tony pointed to an old ruined shed.

Will you be sure and come for me?”

“Yes, don’t be alarmed. Only don’t show yourself till you hear my voice.”

Ben crept into the temporary shelter, glad that in his weakened condition he should not be obliged to go any further. He tormented himself with the thought that even now the desperate tramp might be robbing him of his treasures. Still he had great confidence in Tony and hope was mingled with his terror.

He’s a brave boy,” he murmured. “I am glad he was with me, though he does eat a sight.”

Tony hurried on to the village, where he lost no time in arousing a sufficient number to effect the capture of the burglar. He no longer felt any compunction in turning against his quondam guardian.

I owe him nothing,” thought Tony. “What has he ever done for me? He is not my father. Probably he kidnaped me from my real home, and has made me an outcast and a tramp like himself.”

Meanwhile Rudolph was not idle.

It may be thought strange that he should have so much difficulty in freeing himself from the cords with which Tony had bound him. But it must be remembered that the boy had done his work well.

After he had been locked in, Rudolph set to work energetically to obtain release. He succeeded in raising himself to his feet, but as his ankles were tied together, this did not do him much good. He tried to break the cords; but the only result was to chafe his wrists.

What a fool I am!” he exclaimed, at length. “The old man must have some table knives about somewhere. With these I can cut the cords.”

When found, they proved so dull that even if he had had free use of one of his hands, it would not have been found easy to make them of service. But when added to this was the embarrassment of his fettered hands, it will not excite surprise that it required a long time to sever the tough cords which bound him. But success came at length.

Now for revenge!” thought the tramp. “The boy shall rue this night’s task, or my name is not Rudolph.”

But, angry as he was, and thirsting as he did for vengeance, he did not forget the object which had drawn him thither. Whatever else he might do, he must secure the miser’s gold.

He removed the plank, and there, beneath him lay the much-coveted bags of golden treasure.

These,” he said to himself, “will carry me back to England, and provide for me like a gentleman, till I can get some more.”

He rose from the floor, and, with the bags in his hand, jumped out of the still open window.

But he was too late. Two strong men seized him, each by an arm, and said sternly:

“You are our prisoner!”




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