AS the clock on the Presbyterian church struck nine, Mark stood knocking
at the door of the little cottage hard by.
The door was opened by a comely woman of middle age, who, not
recognizing Mark, looked at him inquiringly.
“What can I do for you?” she asked.
“My name is Mark Manning,” said Mark, introducing himself. “I have been
directed to you as likely to give me some information about Mrs. Ransom,
“Yes, yes,” interrupted Mrs. Finn, not waiting for Mark to finish his
sentence. “Poor dear! I know all about her. Come in, do!”
She led the way into the neat sitting-room, where she invited Mark to be
seated. Then she changed parts with Mark and began to ask questions.
“Are you related to Mrs. Ransom?” she asked.
“No,” answered Mark, “but I come from one who is.”
“Alas, it is too late! The poor woman is dead.”
“I know that, but did she leave a child?”
“Yes, a little boy. She sat great store by little Jack.”
“And what has become of him?” asked Mark, eagerly.
“That is more than I can tell. A tall gentleman—I don’t rightly know his
name—appeared at the funeral, said he was a relation, and took off
little Jack to St. Louis, I think.”
“A tall gentleman—a relation!” repeated Mark, surprised. “What was his
Mark was destined to be surprised, for Mrs. Finn’s description tallied
exactly with the appearance of Lyman Taylor. This was a surprising
discovery. Mark was sharp enough to guess that Lyman’s object was to
remove from his path any rival claimant to his uncle’s property,
supposing him to possess any.
“I think I know who you mean,” he said, after a pause.
“Was it really a relation of Mrs. Ransom?”
“If it was the one I suppose, it was her cousin.”
“I am glad to hear it. Then poor Jack was taken care of.”
“I am not sure about that,” said Mark, gravely. “Though a relative, he
is a selfish, bad man, and I am afraid he meant the poor boy no good.”
“Good gracious!” exclaimed Mrs. Finn, startled, “you don’t think he
would murder the innocent child?”
“No, I don’t think that, but I think he wanted to put him where his
grandfather would never find him.”
“Is it his grandfather you come from, then?”
“Yes; he does not even know of his grandchild’s existence, but if I find
him, the boy will never need any other protector. Can you tell me
anything of Mrs. Ransom—of her husband?”
“Poor Mrs. Ransom was a sweet woman, who deserved a better fate. As for
her husband, he was a drunkard, and a loafer. Those are hard words, but
he deserved them both. They hadn’t much money, but what there was he
spent for liquor at the hotel yonder. More than once his poor wife and
little child wouldn’t have had any breakfast if I hadn’t taken some
And warm-hearted Mrs. Finn wiped away a tear.
“Did her husband treat her very badly? Did he beat her?”
“I am afraid he did when he was very far gone, but, poor thing! she
never complained. She always looked sad, though, and she didn’t enjoy
her life very much.”
“Did she ever speak of her father?”
“Once only. She told me she had ill-treated, him, and been a disobedient
daughter. I think it was in marrying Ransom.”
“Did she ever write to him?”
“She told me she did once, but never received an answer. ‘He won’t
forgive me,’ she said, with a sigh, and never wrote again.”
“I am sure he did not receive the letter, Mrs. Finn. If he had, he would
have noticed it.”
“I hope so; at any rate she was sadder than ever when no letter came to
her in return. Finally, her husband took sick with a fever. Bad as he
had been to her, she nursed him like a devoted wife as she was. But she
couldn’t save him. Hardly was he dead, when she, too, caught sick, and
in the end she died. While she was sick I took little Jack home, for
fear he would catch the fever too. I was thinking of adopting him after
his mother’s death, when the man I spoke of called and took away the
boy, saying he would provide for him.”
“And that was—how many years ago?”
“Nearly six, I think.”
“And I suppose you have neither seen nor heard of him since?”
Mrs. Finn shook her head.
“Where does little Jack’s grandfather live?” she asked.
“Near New York.”
“Is he a rich man?”
“Moderately rich. He is well able to take care of his grandson, if he
could find him.”
“I wish I could tell you more, I am sure,” said Mrs. Finn heartily. “If
the poor boy yet lives, Heaven knows what his condition may be. If you
could find the man that took him away——”
“I can,” answered Mark.
“Then why don’t you go to him, and ask him where to find the child?”
“Because it is against his interests to have him found. He and the
little boy are the only heirs to the grandfather’s property. His uncle
has good reason to dislike him, and if the boy is found, Lyman Taylor
will get nothing, I feel sure.”
“Well, well! What wickedness there is in the world!” ejaculated Mrs.
Finn. “What will you do?”
“I don’t know. I shall have to consider.”
“Did the grandfather send you out here?”
“Excuse my remarking that you are very young to undertake such a
“I think so myself, Mrs. Finn,” Mark answered, modestly. “But it so
happened that he hadn’t much choice. I shall do my best, and if I can’t
find him, I shall go home and report, and advise Mr. Taylor to send an
older and more competent person.”
Mrs. Finn shook her head.
“I am afraid not,” she said.
“You are sure the boy was carried to St. Louis?”
“I might go to St. Louis, but without any clue I am afraid I should
stand little chance of succeeding.”
“You might advertise.”
“That is true,” said Mark. “Indeed, it appears to be the only thing I
can do. How old would the boy be now?”
“About eight years old, I think.”
Mark took out a small memorandum book, and noted down the small amount
of information he had obtained.
It did not appear to be much, and yet it was of great importance. He had
ascertained that Mrs. Ransom had left a child, and moreover that Lyman
Taylor had been aware of the fact, and had conspired to keep its
existence from old Anthony.
“Does he know where it is now?” Mark asked himself.
Mark was inclined to think not. Shortly after the boy was carried away,
Lyman had gone East, got into trouble, and served a term of some years
in a prison.
During those years, probably the boy had drifted out of his knowledge.
Doubtless he could furnish a clue, but for obvious reasons, it would not
do to apply to him.
“I am very much obliged to you for your information,” said Mark, as he
rose to go.
“You are heartily welcome, sir. Would you mind writing me, if you find
out anything about poor Jack?”
“I will certainly do so, Mrs. Finn. I shall lose no time in going to St.
“Heaven speed you, and bring you success,” said Mrs. Finn, fervently.