A TIMELY RESCUE

MARK MANNING left the cabin and made his way as quickly as possible to
the edge of the wood. He hadn’t got over his wonder at the hermit’s
commission and singular confidence in him.

“It seems strange,” he said to himself, “to have so much money in my
pocket. Nearly thirty dollars! I wonder whether I shall ever have as
much of my own?”

In truth, thirty dollars seemed a much larger sum to our hero, brought
up in a hand to hand struggle with poverty, than it would have appeared
if he had been ten years older.

“He must have more money,” thought Mark, “or he would not care so little
for this sum as to trust it all to me. How does he know that I will
prove honest?”

Nevertheless it was a satisfaction to Mark to reflect that old Anthony
was justified in his confidence. Had the sum been ten times as large, he
would not have been tempted to retain any of it for his own use.

He kept on his way to the drug store, and asked for the medicines
already referred to.

“Is your mother sick?” asked the druggist, who was very well acquainted
with Mark and his family.

“No, sir,” answered Mark.

“Oh, then it is you who are rheumatic,” said the druggist jokingly.

“Wrong again,” answered Mark. “I am buying the medicines for old
Anthony.”

“Then he is sick? That accounts for his not having appeared in the
village for several days.”

Thereupon Mark described his chance visit to the cabin, and the
condition in which he had found the hermit.

“These remedies will do him good,” said the druggist, “if he is
otherwise kept comfortable. A strange man is old Anthony!” he continued
musingly.

Mark produced a gold piece, from which he requested the druggist to take
pay for the articles purchased.

“Did the hermit give you this?” asked the druggist.

Mark answered in the affirmative.

“Then it is evident he is not without means. However, I might have known
that. During the years that he has lived in the wood, he has always been
prompt in his payments for all articles purchased in the village. His
expenditures are small, to be sure, but in five years they have amounted
to considerable.”

“What could have induced him to settle in such a lonely spot?”

“That is more than any one hereabouts can tell. He is very secretive,
and never says anything about himself.”

By this time Mark was ready to return. He went to the grocery store,
where he obtained the milk and loaf of bread, which he had also been
commissioned to procure. Then he set out for old Anthony’s lonely cabin.

Before doing so, he heard something from the grocer that aroused his
curiosity.

“There was a man in here only twenty minutes since,” said the
storekeeper, “who was asking after Anthony.”

“Was it a stranger?”

“Yes. It was a man I never saw before. He was a stout, broad-shouldered
man with a bronzed face, who looked as if he might be a sailor.”

“Did he say who he was?”

“Only that Anthony was a relation of his, and that he had not seen him
for years.”

“Did he say he meant to call upon him?” asked Mark.

“He did not say so, but as he inquired particularly for the location of
the cabin, I took it for granted that this was his intention.”

“Then probably I shall see him, as I am going directly back to the
wood.”

“He will probably be there unless he loses his way.”

Leaving Mark to return by the same way he came, we will precede him, and
make acquaintance with the man who had excited the grocer’s curiosity by
inquiring for the old hermit.

Old Anthony lay on his pallet waiting for the return of Mark.

“I like the boy,” he said to himself. “He has an honest face. He looks
manly and straightforward. He has never joined the other village boys in
jeering. If my nephew had been like him he might have been a comfort to
me.”

The old man sighed. What thoughts passed through his mind were known
only to him; but that they were sad ones seemed clear from the
expression of his face.

Time passed as he lay quiet. Then he heard a noise at the door and the
step of one entering the cabin.

“Is that you, Mark?” he inquired.

There was a pause. Then a harsh voice answered: “No; it isn’t Mark,
whoever he may be. It is some one who ought to be nearer to you than
he.”

Old Anthony started in evident excitement, and by an effort managed to
turn round his head so as to see the intruder.

His eyes rested on a man rather above the middle height, shabbily clad,
with a dark face and threatening expression.

“Lyman Taylor!” he exclaimed.

“Yes, Lyman Taylor,” returned the other, mockingly. “Are you glad to see
your nephew?”

“Heaven knows I am not!” said old Anthony bitterly.

“So I judged from your expression. Yet they say blood is thicker than
water.”

“That there is any tie of blood between us I regret deeply. A man more
utterly unworthy I have never known.”

“Come, Uncle Anthony, isn’t that a little strong. I am no angel——”

“You are a worthless scoundrel,” said the hermit bitterly.

“Look here, old man,” said his nephew fiercely, “I didn’t come here to
be insulted and called bad names. Considering that you are alone and in
my power, it is a little impertinent in you to talk in that way. I might
kill you.”

“You are quite capable of it,” said Anthony. “Do so, if you choose. Life
is not a possession that I greatly prize.”

“I have a great mind to take you at your word,” said Taylor coolly, “but
it wouldn’t suit my purpose. Your death would do me no good unless you
have made me your heir. I am desperately in need of money.”

“Work for it, then!”

“Thank you! You are very kind; but employers are rather shy of me. I
have no recommendations to offer. I don’t mind telling you that I have
spent the last four years in prison.”

“A very suitable place for you,” said the old man in a caustic tone.

“Thank you again! You are complimentary.”

“This is the reason why you have not found me out before?”

“Precisely. You don’t suppose I would otherwise have kept away from you
so long, my most affectionate uncle!”

“Do you recall the circumstances of our last parting? I awoke in
California to find myself robbed of the large sum of money I had with
me. Of course, you took it.”

“I don’t mind owning that I did. But I haven’t a cent of it left.”

“That I can easily believe. Why have you sought me out?”

“I want more money.”

“So I supposed. You can judge from my way of living whether I am likely
to have any for you.”

“You don’t appear to be living in luxury. However, it costs something to
keep body and soul together even in this den. Of course, you have some
money. However little it is, I want it.”

“Then you will be disappointed.”

“Where do you keep your money?” demanded Lyman Taylor, roughly.

“Even if I had any. I wouldn’t tell you!” said the brave old man.

“Look here, old man, no trifling! Either you will find some money for
me, or I will choke you?”

He got down on one knee and stooped menacingly over the hermit.




At that moment Mark Manning, who had returned from his errand, reached
the doorway, and stood a surprised and indignant witness of this
exciting scene.

Old Anthony struggled, but ineffectually in the grasp of the ruffian who
had attacked him. Even if he had not been disabled by disease he would
not have been a match for Lyman Taylor, who was at least twenty-five
years younger.

“Don’t touch me, you scoundrel!” said Anthony, whose spirit exceeded his
bodily strength.

“Then tell me where you keep your money!”

“That I will not do!”

“Then I’ll see if I can’t find a way to make you.”

As he spoke the young man grabbed the hermit by the throat. He concluded
too hastily that old Anthony was in his power. He was destined to a
surprise.

“Let the old man alone!” cried Mark, indignantly.

Lyman Taylor looked up in surprise and some alarm. But when he saw that
the words proceeded from a boy, he laughed derisively.

[Illustration: Mark dropped his bundles, and taking the musket pointed
it at the ruffian, saying: “Let go, or I will shoot.”]

“Mind your own business, you young bantam, or I’ll wring your neck!” he
said contemptuously. “Now, let me know where you keep your money,” he
said, turning once more to the old man, and preparing to choke him into
an avowal of his secret.

“Let go, instantly, or I will shoot!” exclaimed Mark, now thoroughly
aroused.

Once more the ruffian turned, and this time his countenance changed, for
Mark, boyish but resolute, had dropped his bundles, and had the musket
pointed directly at him.

Taylor rose to his feet suddenly.

“Take care, there!” he said, nervously. “Put down that gun!”

“Then leave old Anthony alone!” returned Mark, resolutely.

“Are you my uncle’s guardian?” demanded Lyman, with a sneer.

“If he is your uncle, the more shame to you to treat him brutally!”

“I didn’t come here to be lectured by a boy,” said Taylor, angrily. “Put
down that gun!”