HENDON TO THE RESCUE
T HE old man glided away, stooping, stealthily, catlike, and brought the low bench. He seated himself upon it, half his body in the dim and flickering light, and the other half in shadow; and so, with his craving eyes bent upon the slumbering boy, he kept his patient vigil there, heedless of the drift of time, and softly whetted his knife, and mumbled and chuckled; and in aspect and attitude he resembled nothing so much as a grizzly, monstrous spider, gloating over some hapless insect that lay bound and helpless in his web.
After a long while, the old man, who was still gazing--yet not seeing, his mind having settled into a dreamy abstraction--observed on a sudden that the boy's eyes were open--wide open and staring!--staring up in frozen horror at the knife. The smile of a gratified devil crept over the old man's face, and he said, without changing his attitude or occupation:
"Son of Henry the Eighth, hast thou prayed?"
The boy struggled helplessly in his bonds; and at the same time forced a smothered sound through his closed jaws, which the hermit chose to interpret as an affirmative answer to his question.