The vagabond took his right to the road, as he had taken his other right to beg his dinner, until, half-way down to the landing, he was met by an opportunity to do a little more begging.
“Give a poor feller suthin’?” he impudently drawled, as he stared straight into the sweet fresh face of Annie Foster.
Annie had been out for only a short walk; but she happened to have her pocket-book with her, and she thoughtlessly drew it out, meaning to give the scamp a trifle, if only to get rid of him.
“Only a dime, miss?” whined the tramp, as he shut his dirty hand over Annie’s gift. “Come, now, make it a dollar, my beauty. I’ll call it all square for a dollar.”
The whine grew louder as he spoke; and the wheedling grin on his disgusting face changed into an expression so menacing that Annie drew back with a shudder, and was about returning her little portemonnaie to her pocket.
“No, you don’t, honey!”
The words were uttered in a hoarse and husky voice, and were accompanied by a sudden grip of poor Annie’s arm with one hand, while with the other he snatched greedily at the morocco case.
Did she scream?
How could she help it? Or what else could she have done, under the circumstances?
She screamed vigorously, whether she would or no, and at the same moment dropped her pocket-book in the grass beside the path, so that it momentarily escaped the vagabond’s clutches.
“Shut up, will you!”
Other angry and evil words, accompanied by more than one vicious threat, followed thick and fast, as Annie struggled to free herself, while her assailant peered hungrily around after the missing prize.
It is not at all likely he would have attempted any thing so bold as that, in broad daylight, if he had not been drinking too freely; and the very evil “spirit” which had prompted him to his rash rascality unfitted him for its immediate consequences.
These latter, in the shape of Dab Kinzer and the lower joint of a stout fishing-rod, had been bounding along up the road from the landing, at a tremendous rate, for nearly half a minute.
A boy of fifteen assailing a full-grown ruffian?
Why not? Age hardly counts in such a matter; and then it is not every boy of even his growth that could have brought muscles like those of Dab Kinzer to the swing he gave that four-foot length of seasoned ironwood.
Annie saw him coming; but her assailant did not until it was too late for him to do any thing but turn, and receive that first hit in front instead of behind. It would have knocked over almost anybody; and the tramp measured his length on the ground, while Dabney plied the rod on him with all the energy he was master of.
“Oh, don’t, Dabney, don’t!” pleaded Annie: “you’ll kill him!”
“I wouldn’t want to do that,” said Dab, as he suspended his pounding; but he added, to the tramp,—