Tom felt his heart sink. Had he made a mistake? He did not know what to do.
Through the darkness a shape loomed up near him. He started back, and then came a dazzling flash of light. It shone in his face—one of those portable electric torches. By the reflected glare Tom saw that it was held and focused on him by a ragged man—by a man who seemed to be a tramp—a man with a broad, livid scar running from his eye down his cheek nearly to his mouth!
They stood staring at each other—Tom Fairfield and the ragged man, the latter holding the electric torch so that it was focused on our hero. And yet this did not prevent some of the rays from glinting back and revealing himself. He seemed too surprised to make any move, and, as for Tom himself, he remained motionless, not knowing what to do. He had come out in the storm expecting to meet a certain person, and a totally different one had appeared, and yet one whom he much desired to meet.
“Well,” finally growled the ragged man. “What is it, young feller? Was you lookin’ for me?”
“Not exactly,” replied Tom with a half smile, “and yet I’m glad to see you.”
“Oh, you are, eh? Well, I don’t know as I can say the same. What do you want, anyhow?”
“A few words with you.”
“And s’posin’ I don’t want any words with you?”
“I fancy it will be to your advantage to talk to me,” said Tom coolly. He was glad of a chance to stand still, for his ankle was paining him very much, and even though the rain was coming down in torrents, and it was cold and dreary, he did not mind, for he felt that at last he was at the end of the trail that meant the clearing of his name.
“Nice time for a talk,” sneered the tramp. “If you have anything to say, out with it. I’m not going to stand here all night.”
“I don’t fancy the job myself,” remarked Tom easily. “In the first place, you came here to meet the same person I did, I think.”
“What makes you think so?” asked the tramp uneasily, and he lowered his light so that it no longer pointed in Tom’s face.
“Well, I have reasons. Assuming that you did come here to meet a certain Ray Blake, what do you want of him?”
“I’m not going to tell you—how did you know I wanted to see Ray?” stammered the ragged man, hastily correcting himself.
“He told me so,” replied Tom frankly. “Now I want you to let him alone after this. You’ve done him harm enough, and you have done much to ruin his life. I want you to promise not to make any more attempts to force him to lead the kind of a life you’re leading.”
“S’posin’ I won’t?”
“Then I’ll make you!”
“You’ll make me? Come, that’s pretty good! That’s rich, that is! Ha! You’ll make me, young feller? Why it’ll take more’n you to make me do what I don’t want to do.”