“I am glad we were at hand,” said Philip.
“And now, my friend,” said the farmer, “I may as well say that you were quite mistaken in supposing I kept a large amount of money in this lonely house. I should be a fool to do it, and I am not such a fool as that.”
“Where do you keep your money, then?” growled the tramp.
“In different savings-banks. I am ready to tell you, for it will do you no good.”
“I wish I’d known it sooner. I came here on a fool’s errand.”
“I am glad you have found it out.”
“Now, what are you going to do with me!”
“Keep you here till I can deliver you into the hands of the law.”
“That won’t do you any good.”
“It will give you a home, where you cannot prey on the community.”
“I don’t mean to do so any more. I’m going to turn over a new leaf and become an honest man—that is, if you’ll let me go.”
“Your conversion is rather sudden. I haven’t any faith in it.”
“Listen to me,” said the man, “and then decide. Do you think I am a confirmed lawbreaker?”
“You look like it.”
“Yes, I do; but I am not. Never in my life have I been confined in any prison or penitentiary. I have never been arrested on any charge. I see you don’t believe me. Let me tell you how I came to be what I am: Two years since I was a mechanic, tolerably well-to-do, owning a house with a small mortgage upon it. It was burned to the ground one night. I built another, but failed to insure it. Six months since, that, too, burned down, and left me penniless and in debt. Under this last blow I lost all courage. I left the town where I had long lived, and began a wandering life. In other words, I became a tramp. Steadily I lost my self-respect till I was content to live on such help as the charitable chose to bestow on me. It was not until to-day that I formed the plan of stealing. I heard in the village that you kept a large sum of money in your house, and an evil temptation assailed me. I had become tired of wandering, and determined to raise a sum which would enable me to live at ease for a time, I should have succeeded but for these two boys.”
“And you are sorry you did not succeed?”
“I was, five minutes since, but I feel differently now. I have been saved from crime. Now, I have told you my story. Do with me as you will.”
The man’s appearance was rough, but there was something in his tone which led Mr. Lovett to think that he was speaking the truth.
“Boys,” he said, “you have heard what this man says. What do you think of it?”
“I believe him!” said Philip promptly.
“Thank you, boy,” said the tramp. “I am glad some one has confidence in me.”
“I believe you, too,” said Frank.
“I have not deceived you. Your words have done me more good than you think. It is my first attempt to steal, and it shall be my last.”