The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success. Chapter 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42
THE PITKINS RETIRE IN DISGUST.
WHERE have you been, Philip?“ asked Mr. Carter, breaking the silence. ”We were getting anxious about you.“
”I have bad news for you, sir,“ returned Phil, saying what stood first in his mind. ”I have lost the two hundred dollars Mr. Pitkin paid me this morning.“
”So you lost it?“ observed Mr. Pitkin with a sneer, emphasizing the word ”lost“ to show his incredulity.
”Yes, sir, I lost it,“ answered Phil, looking him fearlessly in the eye; ”or, rather, it was stolen from me.“
”Oh! now it is stolen, is it?“ repeated Pitkin.
”Really, Uncle Oliver, this is getting interesting.“
”I believe I am the proper person to question Philip,“ said Mr. Carter coldly. ”It was my money, I take it.“
”Yes, it was yours. As I made the payment, I cannot, of course, be responsible for its not reaching you. You will pardon my saying that it would have been wiser to employ a different messenger.“
”Why?“ demanded Uncle Oliver, looking displeased.
”Why, really, Uncle Oliver,“ said Mr. Pitkin, ”I should think the result might convince you of that.“
”We had better let Philip tell his story,“ said Mr. Carter quietly. ”How did it happen, Philip?“
Thereupon Philip told the story already familiar to the reader.
”Upon my word, quite a romantic story!“ commented Mr. Pitkin, unable to repress a sneer. ”So you were tracked by a rascal, lured into a den of thieves, robbed of your money, or, rather, Mr. Carter’s, and only released by the house catching fire?“
”That is exactly what happened to me, sir,“ said Philip, coloring with indignation, for he saw that Mr. Pitkin was doing his best to discredit him.
”It quite does credit to your imagination. By the way, boy, have you been in the habit of reading dime novels?“
”I never read one in my life, sir.“
”Then I think you would succeed in writing them. For a boy of sixteen, you certainly have a vivid imagination.“
”I quite agree with my husband,“ said Mrs. Pitkin. ”The boy’s story is ridiculously improbable. I can’t understand how he has the face to stand there and expect Uncle Oliver to swallow such rubbish.“
”I don’t expect you to believe it, either of you,“ said Philip manfully, ”for you have never treated me fairly.“
”I think you will find, also, that my uncle is too sensible a man to credit it, also,“ retorted Mrs Pitkin.
”Speak for yourself, Lavinia,“ said Mr. Carter, who had waited intentionally to let his relatives express themselves. ”I believe every word of Philip’s story.“
”You do?“ ejaculated Mrs. Pitkin, rolling her eyes and nodding her head, in the vain endeavor to express her feelings. ”Really, Uncle Oliver, for a man of your age and good sense—-“
”Thank you for that admission, Lavinia,“ said Mr. Carter mockingly. ”Go on.“
”I was about to say that you seem infatuated with this boy, of whom we know nothing, except from his own account. To my mind his story is a most ridiculous invention.“
”Mr. Pitkin, did any one enter your store just after Philip left it to inquire after him?“
”No, sir,“ answered Pitkin triumphantly. ”That’s a lie, at any rate.“
”You will remember that Philip did not make the assertion himself. This was the statement of the thief who robbed him.“
”Yes, of course,“ sneered Pitkin. ”He told his story very shrewdly.“
”Mr. Carter,“ said Philip, ”I can show you or any one else the house in which I was confined in Bleecker Street, and there will be no trouble in obtaining proof of the fire.“
”I dare say there may have been such a fire,“ said Mr. Pitkin, ”and you may have happened to see it, and decided to weave it into your story.“
”Do you think I stole the money or used it for my own purpose?“ asked Philip pointedly.
Mr. Pitkin shrugged his shoulders.
”Young man,“ he said, ”upon this point I can only say that your story is grossly improbable. It won’t hold water.“
”Permit me to judge of that, Mr. Pitkin,“ said Mr. Carter. ”I wish to ask you one question.“
”To ask me a question!“ said Pitkin, surprised.
”Yes; why did you pay Philip in bills to-day? Why didn’t you give him a check, as usual?“
”Why,“ answered Pitkin, hesitating, ”I thought it wouldn’t make any difference to you. I thought you would be able to use it more readily.“
”Did you suppose I would specially need to use money instead of a check this week? Why break over your usual custom?“
”Really, I didn’t give much thought to the matter,“ answered Pitkin, hesitating. ”I acted on a sudden impulse.“
”Your impulse has cost me two hundred dollars. Do me the favor, when Philip calls next week, to hand him a check.“
”You mean to retain him in your employ after this?“ asked Mrs. Pitkin sharply.
”Yes, I do. Why shouldn’t I?“
”You are very trustful,“ observed the lady, tossing her head. ”If this had happened to Lonny here, we should never have heard the last of it.“
”Perhaps not!“ responded the old gentleman dryly. ”When a young gentleman is trusted with a letter to mail containing money, and that letter never reaches its destination, it may at least be inferred that he is careless.“
It will be remember that this was the first knowledge Mrs. Pitkin or her husband had of the transaction referred to.
”What do you mean, Uncle Oliver?“ demanded Mr. Pitkin.
Mr. Carter explained.
”This is too much!“ said Mrs. Pitkin angrily.
”You mean to accuse my poor boy of opening the letter and stealing the money?“
”If I was as ready to bring accusations as you, Lavinia, I should undoubtedly say that it looked a little suspicious, but I prefer to let the matter rest.“
”I think, Mr. Pitkin, we had better go,“ said Mrs. Pitkin, rising with dignity. ”Since Uncle Oliver chooses to charge his own nephew with being a thief—-“
”I beg pardon, Lavinia, I have not done so.“
”You might just as well,“ said Lavinia Pitkin, tossing her head. ”Come, Mr. Pitkin; come, my poor Lonny, we will go home. This is no place for you.“
”Good-evening, Lavinia,“ said Mr. Carter calmly. ”I shall be glad to see you whenever you feel like calling.“
”When you have discharged that boy, I may call again,“ said Mrs. Pitkin spitefully.
”You will have to wait some time, then. I am quite capable of managing my own affairs.“
When Mr. Pitkin had left the house, by no means in a good humor, Phil turned to his employer and said gratefully:
”I don’t know how to thank you, Mr. Carter, for your kind confidence in me. I admit that the story I told you is a strange one, and I could not have blamed you for doubting me.“
”But I don’t doubt you, my dear Philip,“ said Mr. Carter kindly.
”Nor I,“ said Mrs. Forbush. ”I feel provoked with Lavinia and her husband for trying to throw discredit upon your statement.“
”In fact,“ said Mr. Carter humorously, ”the only one of us that suspected you was Julia.“
”Oh, Uncle Oliver!“ exclaimed Julia, in dismay. ”I never dreamed of doubting Phil.“
”Then,“ said Mr. Carter, ”it appears that you have three friends, at least.“
”If,“ said Phil? ”you would allow me to make up part of the loss, by surrendering a part of my salary—-“
”Couldn’t be thought of, Philip!“ said Uncle Oliver resolutely. ”I don’t care for the money, but I should like to know how the thief happened to know that to-day you received money instead of a check.“
Without saying a word to Phil, Uncle Oliver called the next day on a noted detective and set him to work ferreting out the secret.
THE FALSE HEIR.
IN THE suburbs of Chicago, perhaps a dozen miles from the great city, stands a fine country house, in the midst of a fine natural park. From the cupola which surmounts the roof can be seen in the distance the waters of Lake Michigan, stretching for many miles from north to south and from east to west, like a vast inland sea.
The level lawns, the greenhouses, the garden with rare plants and flowers, show clearly that this is the abode of a rich man. My readers will be specially interested to know that this is the luxurious and stately home of Mr. Granville, whose son’s fortunes we have been following.
This, too, is the home of Mrs. Brent and Jonas, who, under false representations, have gained a foothold in the home of the Western millionaire.
Surely it is a great change for one brought up like Jonas to be the recognized heir and supposed son of so rich a man! It is a change, too, for his mother, who, though she dare not avow the relationship, is permitted to share the luxury of her son. Mrs. Brent has for her own use two of the best rooms in the mansion, and so far as money can bring happiness, she has every right to consider herself happy.
Not as happy as she anticipated. To begin with, she is always dreading that some untoward circumstance will reveal the imposition she has practiced upon Mr. Granville. In that case what can she expect but to be ejected in disgrace from her luxurious home? To be sure, she will have her husband’s property left, but it would be a sad downfall and descent in the social scale.
Besides, she finds cause for anxiety in Jonas, and the change which his sudden and undeserved elevation has wrought in him. It requires a strong mind to withstand the allurements and temptations of prosperity, and Jonas is far from possessing a strong mind. He is, indeed, if I may be allowed the expression, a vulgar little snob, utterly selfish, and intent solely upon his own gratification. He has a love for drink, and against the protests of his mother and the positive command of Mr. Granville, indulges his taste whenever he thinks he can do so without fear of detection. To the servants he makes himself very offensive by assuming consequential airs and a lordly bearing, which excites their hearty dislike.
He is making his way across the lawn at this moment. He is dressed in clothes of the finest material and the most fashionable cut. A thick gold chain is displayed across his waistcoat, attached to an expensive gold watch, bought for him by his supposed father. He carries in his hand a natty cane, and struts along with head aloft and nose in the air.
Two under-gardeners are at work upon a flowerbed as he passes.
”What time is it, Master Philip?“ says one, a boy about a year older than Jonas.
”My good boy,“ said Jonas haughtily, ”I don’t carry a watch for your benefit.“
The gardener bit his lip, and surveyed the heir with unequivocal disgust.
”Very well,“ he retorted; ”I’ll wait till a gentleman comes this way.“
A flush of anger was visible on the cheek of Jonas despite his freckles.
”Do you mean to say I’m not a gentleman!“ he demanded angrily.
”You don’t act like one,“ returned Dan.
”You’d better not be impertinent to me!“ exclaimed Jonas, his small gray eyes flashing with indignation. ”Take that back!“
”I won’t, for it’s true!“ said Dan undauntedly.
”Take that, then!“
Jonas raised his cane and brought it down smartly on the young gardener’s shoulder.
He soon learned that he had acted imprudently. Dan dropped his rake, sprang forward, and seizing the cane, wrenched it from the hands of the young heir, after which he proceeded to break it across his knee.
”There’s your cane!“ he said contemptuously, as he threw the pieces on the ground.
”What did you do that for?“ demanded Jonas, outraged.
”Because you insulted me. That’s why.“
”How can I insult you? You’re only a poor working boy!“
”I wouldn’t change places with you,“ said Dan.
”I’d like well enough to be rich, but I wouldn’t be willing to be as mean as you are.“
”You’ll suffer for this!“ said Jonas, his little bead- like eyes glowing with anger. ”I’ll have you turned off this very day, or as soon as my father get’s home.“
”If he says I’m to go, I’ll go!“ said Dan. ”He’s a gentleman.“
Jonas made his way to his mother’s room. She noticed his perturbed look.
”What’s the matter, my dear boy?“ she asked.
”What’s the matter, Jonas?“
”I wish you’d stop calling me your dear boy,“ said Jonas angrily.
”I–I forget sometimes,“ said Mrs. Brent, with a half-sigh.
”Then you ought not to forget. Do you want to spoil everything?“
”We are alone now, Jonas, and I cannot forget that I am your mother.“
”You’d better, if you know what’s best for both of us,“ said Jonas.
Mrs. Brent was far from being a kind-hearted woman. Indeed she was very cold, but Jonas was her only son, and to him she was as much attached as it was possible for her to be to any one. Formerly he had returned her affection in a slight degree, but since he had figured as a rich man’s son and heir he had begun, incredible as it may appear, to look down upon his own mother. She was not wholly ignorant of this change in his feelings, and it made her unhappy. He was all she had to live for. But for him she would not have stooped to take part in the conspiracy in which she was now a participant. It seemed hard that her only son, for whom she had sinned, should prove so ungrateful.
”My boy,“ she said, ”I would not on any account harm you or injure your prospects, but when we are alone there can be no harm in my treating you as my son.“
”It can’t do any good,“ grumbled Jonas, ”and we might be overheard.“
”I will be cautious. You may be sure of that. But why do you look so annoyed?“
”Why? Reason enough. That boy Dan, the under-gardener, has been impudent to me.“
”He has?“ said Mrs. Brent quickly. ”What has he done?“
Jonas rehearsed the story. He found in his mother a sympathetic listener.
”He is bold!“ she said, compressing her lips.
”Yes, he is. When I told him I would have him turned off, he coolly turned round and said that my father was a gentleman, and wouldn’t send him away. Ma, will you do me a favor?“
”What is it, Jonas?“
”Send him off before the governor gets home. You can make it all right with him.“
Mrs. Brent hesitated.
”Mr. Granville might think I was taking a liberty.“
”Oh, you can make it all right with him. Say that he was very impudent to me. After what has happened, if he stays he’ll think he can treat me just as he pleases.“
Again Mrs. Brent hesitated, but her own inclination prompted her to do as her son desired.
”You may tell Dan to come here. I wish to speak to him,“ she said.
Jonas went out and did the errand.
”Mrs. Brent wants to see me?“ said Dan. ”I have nothing to do with her.“
”You’d better come in if you know what’s best for yourself.“ said Jonas, with an exultation he did not attempt to conceal.
”Oh, well, I have no objection to meeting Mrs. Brent,“ said Dan. ”I’ll go in.“
Mrs. Brent eyed the young gardener with cold animosity.
”You have been impudent to Master Philip,“ she said. ”Of course you cannot remain any longer in his father’s employment. Here are five dollars– more than is due you. Take it, and leave the estate.“
”I won’t take your money, Mrs. Brent,“ said Dan independently, ”and I won’t take my dismissal from any one but Mr. Granville himself.“
”Do you defy me, then?“ said Mrs. Brent, with a firmer compression of her lips.
”No, Mrs. Brent, I don’t defy you, but you have nothing to do with me, and I shall not take any orders or any dismissal from you.“
”Don’t be impertinent to my—-“ burst forth from Jonas, and then he stopped in confusion.
”To your–what?“ asked Dan quickly.
”To my–nurse,“ faltered Jonas.
Dan looked suspiciously from one to the other.
”There’s something between those two,“ he said to himself. ”Something we don’t know of.“
MRS. BRENT’S PANIC.
THE CHAMBERMAID in the Granville household was a cousin of Dan, older by three years. She took a warm interest in Dan’s welfare, though there was nothing but cousinly affection between them.
Fresh from his interview with Mrs. Brent, Dan made his way to the kitchen.
”Well, Aggie,“ he said, ”I may have to say good- by soon.“
”What, Dan! You’re not for lavin’, are you?“ asked Aggie, in surprise.
”Mrs. Brent has just given me notice,“ answered Dan.
”Mrs. Brent! What business is it of her’s, and how did it happen, anyway?“
”She thinks it’s her business, and it’s all on account of that stuck-up Philip.“
”Tell me about it, Cousin Dan.“
Dan did so, and wound up by repeating his young master’s unfinished sentence.
”It’s my belief,“ he said, ”that there’s something between those two. If there wasn’t, why is Mrs. Brent here?“
”Why, indeed, Dan?“ chimed in Aggie. ”Perhaps I can guess something.“
”What is it?“
”Never you mind. I’ll only say I overheard Mrs. Brent one day speaking to Master Philip, but she didn’t call him Philip.“
”Jonas! I’m ready to take my oath she called him Jonas.“
”Perhaps that is his real name. He may have it for his middle name.“
”I don’t believe it. Dan, I’ve an idea. I’m going to see Mrs. Brent and make her think I know something. You see?“
”Do as you think best, Aggie. I told her wouldn’t take a dismissal from her.
Mrs. Brent was in her own room. She was not a woman who easily forgave, and she was provoked with Dan, who had defied her authority. She knew very well that in dismissing him she had wholly exceeded her authority, but this, as may readily be supposed, did not make her feel any more friendly to the young gardener. Jonas artfully led her indignation.
”Dan doesn’t have much respect for you, mother,“ he said. ”He doesn’t mind you any more than he does a kitchen-girl.“
”He may find he has made a mistake,“ said Mrs. Brent, a bright red spot in each cheek, indicating her anger. ”He may find he has made a mistake in defying my authority.“
”I wouldn’t stand it if I was you, ma.“
”I won’t!“ said Mrs. Brent decidedly, nodding vigorously and compressing her lips more firmly.
Soon after a knock was heard at Mrs. Brent’s door.
”Come in!“ she said in a sharp, incisive voice.
The door was opened and Aggie entered.
”What do you want of me, Aggie?“ asked Mrs. Brent, in some surprise.
”I hear you’ve been tellin’ Dan he’ll have to go,“ said the chambermaid.
”Yes,“ answered Mrs. Brent, ”but I fail to see what business it is of yours.“
”Dan’s me cousin, ma’am.“
”That’s nothing to me. He has been impertinent to Master Philip, and afterward to me.“
”I know all about it, ma’am. He told me.“
”Then you understand why he must leave. He will do well to be more respectful in his next place.“
”It wasn’t his fault, ma’am, accordin’ to what he told me.“
”No doubt!“ sneered Mrs. Brent. ”It is hardly likely that he would admit himself to be in fault.“
”Dan’s a good, truthful boy, ma’am.“
”What did he tell you?“
The moment had come for Aggie’s master-stroke, and she fixed her eyes keenly on Mrs. Brent to watch the effect of her words.
”He said he was at work in the garden, ma’am, when Master Jonas
”What!“ exclaimed Mrs. Brent, staring at the girl in dismay.
”He was at work in the garden, ma’am when Master Jonas—-“
”What do you mean, girl? Who is Master Jonas?“ asked Mrs. Brent, trying to conceal her agitation.
”Did I say Jonas, ma’am. La, what could I be thinking of? Of course I mean Master Philip.“
”What should have put the name of Jonas into your head?“ demanded Mrs. Brent nervously.
”I must have heard it somewhere,“ said Aggie, with a quick, shrewd look out of the corner of her eyes. ”Well, Dan just asked the young master a civil question, and Master Philip, he snapped him up rude-like. Mrs. Brent I think you’d better not make any fuss about Dan. It wasn’t so much his fault as the fault of Master Jonas–oh, dear! I beg pardon, I mean Master Philip.“
”Don’t repeat that ridiculous name again, Aggie!“ said Mrs. Brent. ”Your young master has nothing to do with it. You ought to know that his name is Philip.“
”I should say so!“ broke in Jonas. ”I ain’t goin’ to be called out of my name!“
”As to Dan,“ proceeded Mrs. Brent. ”I am willing to overlook his impertinence this time. I won’t say a word to Mr. Granville, but he must be more careful hereafter.“
”I’m sure I’m obliged to you, ma’am,“ said Aggie demurely.
When she was out of the room she nodded to herself triumphantly.
”Sure, I’ve got the old lady under me thumb, but divil a bit I know how. It’s all in the word Jonas. When I want a favor, all I’ve got to do is to say that word. I wonder what it manes now, anyhow.“
However, Aggie communicated to Dan the welcome intelligence that he would have no trouble with Mrs. Brent or Philip, but as to the way in which she had managed she kept that to herself.
”I want to think it over,“ she said. ”There’s a secret, and it’s about Jonas. I’ll wait patiently, and maybe I’ll hear some more about it.“
As for Mrs. Brent, she was panic-stricken. Uncertain how much Aggie knew, she feared that she knew all. But how could she have discovered it? And was it come to this that she and Jonas were in the power of an Irish chambermaid? It was galling to her pride.
She turned to her son when they were left alone.
”How could she have found out?“ she asked.
”Found out what, mother?“
”That your name is Jonas. She evidently knows it. I could see that in her eyes.“
”She must have heard you calling me so. I’ve told you more than once, ma, that you must never call me anything but Philip.“
”It is hard to have to keep silent always, never to speak to you as my own boy. I begin to think it is a dear price to pay, Jonas.“
”There you go again, mother!“ said Jonas, peevishly.
His mother had seated herself and spoke despondently.
”I am afraid it will all come out some day,“ she said.
”It will if you don’t take better care, ma. I tell you, it would be the best thing for you to go away. Mr. Granville will give you a good income. If I was left alone, there’d be no fear of its leaking out.“
”Oh, Jonas! would you really have me leave you? Would you really have me live by myself, separated from my only child?“
Cold as she was, her heart was keenly wounded, for, looking at the boy, she saw that he was in earnest, and that he would prefer to have her go, since thereby he would be safer in the position he had usurped.
AN IMPORTANT DISCOVERY.
MR. CARTER, can you spare me a couple of days?“ asked Philip.
”Certainly, Phil,“ answered the old gentleman.
”May I ask how you wish to dispose of the time?“
”I would like to go to Planktown to see my friends there. It is now some months since I left the village, and I would like to see my old friends.“
”The desire is a natural one. Your home is broken up, is it not?“
”Yes, but I can stay at the house of Tommy Kavanagh. I know he will be glad to have me.“
”It is strange that your step-mother and her son have left no trace behind them,“ said Mr. Carter thoughtfully. ”It looks suspicious, as if they had some good reason for their disappearance.“
”I can’t understand why they should have left Planktown,“ said Philip, appearing puzzled.
”Is the house occupied?“
”Yes. I hear that a cousin of Mrs. Brent occupies it. I shall call and inquire after her.“
”Very well, Philip. Go when you please. You may be sure of a welcome when you return.“
”In Planktown, though his home relations latterly had not been pleasant, Philip had many friends, and when he appeared on the street, he met everywhere glances of friendly welcome. One of the first to meet him was Tommy Kavanagh.
”Where did you come from, Phil?“ he asked.
”I am glad enough to see you. Where are you staying?“
”Nowhere, Tommy, at present. If your mother can take me in, I will stay at your house.“
”Take you? Yes, and will be glad enough to have you stay with us. You know we live in a small house, but if you don’t mind—-“
”What do you take me for, Tommy?“ Whatever is good enough for you and your mother will be good enough for me.“
”What are you doing, Phil? You don’t look as if you had hard work making a living.“
”I am well fixed now, but I have had some anxious days. But all’s well that ends well. I am private secretary to a rich man, and live in a fine brown-stone house on Madison Avenue.“
”Good for you, Phil! I knew you’d succeed.“
”Where is Mrs. Brent?“ Has anything been heard from her?“
”I don’t think anybody in the village knows where she is–that is, except her cousin, who lives in your old house.“
”What is his name?“
”What sort of a man is he?“
”The people in the village don’t like him. He lives alone, and I hear that he cooks for himself. He is not at all social, and no one feels very much acquainted with him.“
”I shall call upon him and inquire after Mrs. Brent.“
”Then, Phil, you had better go alone, for he doesn’t like callers, and he will be more ready to receive one than two.“
Philip enjoyed his visit, and was busied making calls on his old acquaintances. He was much pleased with the cordiality with which he had been received.
It was not till the afternoon of the second day that he turned his steps toward the house which had been his home for so long a time.
We will precede him, and explain matters which made his visit very seasonable.
In the sitting-room sat Hugh Raynor, the present occupant of the house. He was a small, dark- complexioned man, with a large Roman nose, and his face was at this moment expressive of discontent. This seemed to be connected with a letter which he had just been reading. Not to keep the reader in suspense, it was mailed at Chicago, and was written by Mrs. Brent. We will quote a paragraph:
”You seem to me very unreasonable in expecting me not only to give you the house rent-free, but also to give you a salary. I would like to know what you do to merit a salary. You merely take care of the house. As for that, there are plenty who would be glad to take charge of so good a house, and pay me a fair rent. Indeed, I am thinking that it will be best for me to make some such arrangement, especially as you do not seem satisfied with your sinecure position. You represent me as rolling in wealth. Jonas and I are living very comfortably, and we have nothing to complain of, but that is no reason for my squandering the small fortune left me by my husband. I advise you to be a little more reasonable in your demands, or I shall request you to leave my house.“
”Selfish as ever,“ muttered Mr. Raynor, after reading this letter over again. ”Cousin Jane never was willing that any one elso should prosper. But she has made a mistake in thinking she can treat me meanly. I am in a position to turn the tables upon her! This paper–if she dreamed I had found it, she would yield to all my demands.“
He laid his hand upon a paper, folded lengthwise, and presenting the appearance of a legal document.
He opened the paper and read aloud:
”To the boy generally known as Philip Brent and supposed, though incorrectly, to be my son, I bequeath the sum of five thousand dollars, and direct the same to be paid over to any one whom he may select as guardian, to hold in trust for him until he attains the age of twenty-one.“
”This will Mrs. Brent carefully concealed,“ continued Mr. Raynor, ”in order to save the money for herself and Jonas. I wonder she was not prudent enough to burn it, or, at any rate, to take it with her when she left Planktown. It is a damaging secret, but I hold it, and I mean to use it, too. Let me see, what is it best to do?“
Mr. Raynor spent some time in quiet thought.
It seemed to him that it might be well to hint his discovery in a letter to Mrs. Brent, and to make it the basis of a demand for a generous sum of hush- money–one thousand dollars, at least. He might have decided to do this but for an incident which suggested another course.
The door-bell rang, and when he opened the door with some surprise, for callers were few, he saw standing before him a tall, handsome boy, whom he did not recognize.
”Do you wish to see me?“ he asked. ”What is your name?“
”My name is Philip Brent.“
”What!“ exclaimed Mr. Raynor, in visible excitement, ”are you the son of the late Mr. Brent?“
”I was always regarded as such,“ answered Philip.
”Come in, then. I am glad to see you,“ said Mr. Raynor; and Phil entered the house, surprised at a reception much more cordial than he had expected.
In that brief moment Mr. Raynor had decided to reveal the secret to Phil, and trust to his gratitude for a suitable acknowledgment. In this way he would revenge himself upon Mrs. Brent, who had treated him so meanly.
”I have been wishing to see you, for I have a secret of importance to communicate,“ said Mr. Raynor.
”If it relates to my parents, I know it already,“ said Phil.
”No; it is something to your advantage. In revealing it I make Mrs. Brent my enemy, and shall forfeit the help she is giving me.“
”If it is really of advantrge to me, and I am able to make up your loss to you, I will do it,“ said Phil.
”That is sufficient. I will trust to your honor. You look like a boy who will keep a promise though not legally bound.“
”You only do me justice, Mr. Raynor.“
”Then cast your eye upon this paper and you will know the secret.“
”Is it a will?“ exclaimed Phil, in surprise.
”Yes, it is the will of the late Gerald Brent. By it he bequeaths to you five thousand dollars.“
”Then he did not forget me,“ said Phil, more pleased with the assurance that he had been remembered than by the sum of money bequeathed to him. ”But why have I not known this before?“ he asked, looking up from the will
”You must ask that of Mrs. Brent!“ said Mr. Raynor significantly.
”Do you think she suppressed it purposely?“
”I do,“ answered Raynor laconically.
”I must see her. Where can I find her?“
”I can only say that her letters to me are mailed in Chicago, but she scrupulously keeps her address a secret.“
”Then I must go to Chicago. May I take this paper with me?“
”Yes. I advise you to put it into the hands of a lawyer for safe keeping. You will not forget that you are indebted to me for it?“
”No, Mr. Raynor. I will take care you lose nothing by your revelation.“
The next morning Phil returned to New York.
AT THE PALMER HOUSE.
IT MAY be readily supposed that Phil’s New York friends listened with the greatest attention to his account of what he had learned in his visit to Planktown.
”Your step-mother is certainly an unscrupulous woman,“ said Mr. Carter. ”Doubtless she has left your old town in order to escape accountability to you for your stolen inheritance. What puzzles me however, is her leaving behind such tell-tale evidence. It is a remarkable oversight. Do you think she is aware of the existence of the will?“
”I think she must be, though I hope not,“ answered Phil. ”I should like to think that she had not conspired to keep back my share of father’s estate.“
”At any rate, the first thing to do is evidently to find her out, and confront her with the evidence of her crime–that is, supposing her to be really culpable.“
”Then you approve of my going to Chicago?“ said Phil.
”Most emphatically. Nay, more–I will go with you.“
”Will you indeed, sir?“ said Phil joyfully. ”You are very kind. I shrank from going alone, being a boy ignorant of business.“
”A pretty shrewd boy, however,“ said Mr. Carter, smiling. ”I don’t claim much credit, however, as I have some interests in Chicago to which I can attend with advantage personally. I am interested in a Western railroad, the main office of which is in that city.“
”When shall we go, sir?“
”To-morrow,“ answered Mr. Carter promptly. ”The sooner the better. You may go down town and procure the necessary tickets, and engage sleeping-berths.“
Here followed the necessary directions, which need not be repeated.
It is enough to say that twenty-four hours later Phil and his employer were passengers on a lightning express train bound for Chicago.
They arrived in due season, without any adventure worth naming, and took rooms at the Palmer House.
Now, it so happened that in the same hotel at the very same moment were three persons in whom Phil was vitally interested. These were Mrs. Brent, Jonas, otherwise called Philip Granville, and Mr. Granville himself.
Let me explain their presence in Chicago, when, as we know, Mr. Granville’s house was situated at some distance away.
Jonas had preferred a petition to go to Chicago for a week, in order to attend some of the amusements there to be enjoyed, alleging that it was awfully dull in the country.
Mr. Granville was inclined to be very indulgent, to make up for the long years in which he had been compelled practically to desert his son. The petition therefore received favor.
”It is only natural that you should wish to see something of the city, my son,“ he said. ”I will grant your request. We will go to Chicago, and remain a week at the Palmer House. Mrs. Brent, will you accompany us?“
”With pleasure, Mr. Granville,“ answered that lady. ”It is not dull here for me, still I shall no doubt enjoy a little excitement. At any rate, I shall be best pleased to be where you and your son are.“
”Then so let it be. We will go to-morrow.“
One secret wish and scheme of Mrs. Brent has not been referred to. She felt that her present position was a precarious one. She might at any time be found out, and then farewell to wealth and luxury! But if she could induce Mr. Granville to marry her, she would then be secure, even if found out, and Jonas would be the son of Mr. Granville, though detected as a usurper. She, therefore, made herself as agreeable as possible to Mr. Granville, anticipated his every wish, and assumed the character, which she did not possess, of a gracious and feminine woman of unruffled good humor and sweetness of disposition.
”I say, ma,“ Jonas observed on one occasion, ”you’ve improved ever so much since you came here. You’re a good deal better natured than you were.“
Mrs. Brent smiled, but she did not care to take her son into her confidence.
”Here I have no cares to trouble me,“ she said. ”I live here in a way that suits me.“
But when they were about starting for Chicago, Mrs. Brent felt herself becoming unaccountably depressed.
”Jonas,“ she said, ”I am sorry we are going to Chicago.“
”Why, ma? We’ll have a splendid time.“
”I feel as if some misfortune were impending over us,“ said his mother, and she shivered apprehensively.
But it was too late to recede. Besides, Jonas wished to go, and she had no good reason to allege for breaking the arrangement.
A SCENE NOT ON THE BILLS.
PHIL was in Chicago, but that was only the first step toward finding those of whom he was in search. Had he been sure that they were in the city, it would have simplified matters, but the fact that Mrs. Brent directed her letters to be sent to that city proved nothing. It did not make it certain that she lived in the town.
”We are only at the beginning of our perplexities, Philip,“ said Mr. Carter. ”Your friends may be near us, or they may be a hundred miles away.“
”That is true, sir.“
”One method of finding them is barred, that of advertising, since they undoubtedly do not care to be found, and an advertisement would only place them on their guard.“
”What would you advise, sir?“
”We might employ a detective to watch the post- office, but here again there might be disappointment. Mrs. Brent might employ a third person to call for her letters. However, I have faith to believe that sooner or later we shall find her. Time and patience accomplishes much.“
”Were you ever a detective, sir?“ asked Phil, smiling.
”No, Philip, but I have had occasion to employ them. Now how would you like to go to the theater this evening?“
”Very much, sir.“
”There is a good play running at McVicker’s Theatre. We will go there.“
”Anywhere will suit me, Mr. Carter.“
”Young people are easily satisfied,“ he said. ”When they get older they get more fastidious. However, there is generally something attractive at McVicker’s.“
It so happened that Philip and his employer took a late dinner, and did not reach the theater till ten minutes after the hour. They had seats in the seventh row of orchestra chairs, a very eligible portion of the house.
The curtain had risen, and Philip’s attention was given to the stage till the end of the first act. Then he began to look around him.
Suddenly he started and half rose from his seat.
”What is the matter, Philip?“ asked Mr. Carter.
”There, sir! look there!“ said the boy, in excitement, pointing to two persons in the fourth row in front.
”Do you recognize acquaintances, Philip?“
”It is my step-mother and Jonas,“ answered Philip eagerly.
”It is, indeed, wonderful!“ said Mr. Carter, sharing the boy’s excitement. ”You are confident, are you?“
”Oh, sir, I couldn’t be mistaken about that.“
Just then Mrs. Brent turned to a gentleman at her side and spoke. It was Mr. Granville.
”Who is that gentleman?“ said Mr. Carter reflectively. ”Do you think Mrs. Brent is married again?“
”I don’t know what to think!“ said Philip, bewildered.
”I will tell you what to do. You cannot allow these people to elude you. Go to the hotel, ask a direction to the nearest detective office, have a man detailed to come here directly, and let him find, if necessary, where your step-mother and her son are living.“
Philip did so, and it was the close of the second act before he returned. With him was a small, quiet gentleman, of unpretending appearance, but skilled as a detective.
”Now,“ continued Mr. Carter, ”you may venture at any time to go forward and speak to your friends–if they can be called such.“
”I don’t think they can, sir. I won’t go till the last intermission.“
Phil was forestalled, however. At the close of the fourth act Jonas happened to look back, and his glance fell upon Philip.
A scared, dismayed look was on his face as he clutched his mother’s arm and whispered:
”Ma, Philip is sitting just back of us.“
Mrs. Brent’s heart almost ceased to beat. She saw that the moment of exposure was probably at hand.
With pale face she whispered:
”Has he seen us?“
”He is looking right at us.“
She had time to say no more. Philip left his seat, and coming forward, approached the seat of his step-mother.
”How do you do, Mrs. Brent?“ he said.
She stared at him, but did not speak.
”How are you, Jonas?“ continued our hero.
”My name isn’t Jonas,“ muttered the boy addressed.
Mr. Granville meanwhile had been eagerly looking at Philip. There appeared to be something in his appearance which riveted the attention of the beholder. Was it the voice of nature which spoke from the striking face of the boy?
”You have made a mistake, boy,“ said Mrs. Brent, summoning all her nerve. ”I am not the lady you mention, and this boy does not bear the name of Jonas.“
”What is his name, then?“ demanded Philip.
”My name is Philip Granville,“ answered Jonas quickly.
”Is it? Then it has changed suddenly,“ answered Phil, in a sarcastic voice. ”Six months ago, when we were all living at Planktown, your name was Jonas Webb.“
”You must be a lunatic!“ said Mrs. Brent, with audacious falsehood.
”My own name is Philip, as you very well know.“
”Your name Philip?“ exclaimed Mr. Granville, with an excitement which he found it hard to control.
”Yes, sir; the lady is my step-mother, and this boy is her son Jonas.“
”And you–whose son are you?“ gasped Mr. Granville.
”I don’t know, sir. I was left at an early age at a hotel kept by this lady’s husband, by my father, who never returned.“
”Then you must be my son!“ said Mr. Granville. ”You and not this boy!“
”You, sir? Did you leave me?“
”I left my son with Mr. Brent. This lady led me to believe that the boy at my side was my son.“
Here, then, was a sudden and startling occurrence. Mrs. Brent fainted. The strain had been too much for her nerves, strong as they were. Of course she must be attended to.
”Come with me; I cannot lose sight of you now, my son!“ said Mr. Granville. ”Where are you staying?“
”At the Palmer House.“
”So am I. Will you be kind enough to order a carriage.“
Mrs. Brent was conveyed to the hotel, and Jonas followed sullenly.
Of course Philip, Mr. Granville and M. Carter left the theater.
Later the last three held a conference in the parlor.
It took little to convince Mr. Granville that Philip was his son.
”I am overjoyed!“ he said. ”I have never been able to feel toward the boy whom you call Jonas as a father should. He was very distasteful to me.“
”It was an extraordinary deception on the part of Mrs. Brent,“ said Mr. Carter thoughtfully.
”She is a very unprincipled woman,“ said Mr. Granville. ”Even now that matters have come right, I find it hard to forgive her.“
”You do not know all the harm she has sought to do your son. The sum of five thousand dollars was left him by Mr. Brent, and she suppressed the will.“
”Good heavens! is this true?“
”We have the evidence of it.“
The next day an important interview was held at the Palmer House. Mrs. Brent was forced to acknowledge the imposition she had practiced upon Mr. Granville.
”What could induce you to enter into such a wicked conspiracy?“ asked Mr. Granville, shocked.
”The temptation was strong–I wished to make my son rich. Besides, I hated Philip.“
”It is well your wicked plan has been defeated; it might have marred my happiness forever.“
”What are you going to do with me?“ she asked coolly, but not without anxiety.
It was finally settled that the matter should be hushed up. Philip wished to give up the sum bequeathed him by Mr. Brent; but to this Mr. Granville objected, feeling that it would constitute a premium on fraud. Besides, Mrs. Brent would have the residue of the estate, amounting to nearly ten thousand dollars. Being allowed to do what he chose with this money, he gave it in equal portions to Tommy Kavanagh and Mr. Raynor, who had informed him of the existence of Mr. Brent’s will.
Mrs. Brent decided not to go back to Planktown. She judged that the story of her wickedness would reach that village and make it disagreeable for her. She opened a small millinery store in Chicago, and is doing fairly well. But Jonas is her chief trouble, as he is lazy and addicted to intemperate habits. His chances of success and an honorable career are small.
”How can I spare you, Philip?“ said Mr. Carter regretfully. ”I know your father has the best right to you, but I don’t like to give you up.“
”You need not,“ said Mr. Granville. ”I propose to remove to New York; but in the summer I shall come to my estate near Chicago, and hope, since the house is large enough, that I may persuade you and your niece, Mrs. Forbush, to be my guests.“
This arrangement was carried out. Mrs. Forbush and her daughter are the recognized heirs of Mr. Carter, who is wholly estranged from the Pitkins. He ascertained, through a detective, that the attack upon Philip by the man who stole from him the roll of bills was privately instigated by Mr. Pitkin himself, in the hope of getting Philip into trouble. Mr. Carter, thereupon, withdrew his capital from the firm, and Mr. Pitkin is generally supposed to be on the verge of bankruptcy. At any rate, his credit is very poor, and there is a chance that the Pitkins may be reduced to comparative poverty.
”I won’t let Lavinia suffer,“ said Uncle Oliver; ”if the worst comes to the worst, I will settle a small income, say twelve hundred dollars, on her, but we can never be friends.“
As Phil grew older–he is now twenty-one–it seems probable that he and Mr. Carter may be more closely connected, judging from his gallant attentions to Julia Forbush, who has developed into a charming young lady. Nothing would suit Mr. Carter better, for there is no one who stands higher in his regard than Philip Granville, the Errand Boy.
FRED SARGENT’S REVENGE.
FRED SARGENT, upon this day from which my story dates, went to the head of his Latin class, in the high school of Andrewsville. The school was a fine one, the teachers strict, the classes large, the boys generally gentlemanly, and the moral tone pervading the whole, of the very best character.
To lead a class in a school like this was an honor of which any boy might have been proud; and Fred, when he heard his name read off at the head of the roll, could have thrown up his well-worn Latin grammar, which he happened to have in his hand just at that moment, and hurrahed. It was quite a wonder to him afterward that he did not.
As a class, boys are supposed to be generous. I really don’t know whether they deserve to be considered so or not, but some four or five only in this large school envied Fred. The rest would probably have hurrahed with him; for Fred was a ”capital good fellow,“ and quite a favorite.
”Bully for you!“ whispered Ned Brown, his right-hand neighbor; but Ned was instantly disgraced, the eye of the teacher catching the words as they dropped from his lips.
When school was over several of the boys rushed to the spot where Fred–his cap in his hand, and his dark hair blowing about every way–was standing.
”I say,“ said James Duncan, ”I thought you would get it. You’ve worked like a Trojan and you deserve it.“
”It’s as good as getting the valedictory,“ said Joe Stone.
”And that is entering into any college in the land without an examination,“ said Peter Crane.
Now Peter had run shoulder to shoulder with Fred and it does him great credit that, being beaten, he was thoroughly good-natured about it.
”I say, Fred, you ought to treat for this;“ and Noah Holmes, standing on tiptoe, looked over the heads of the other boys significantly at Fred.
”I wish I could; but here’s all the money I’ve got,“ said Fred, taking about twenty-five cents from his pocket–all that was left of his monthly allowance.
”That’s better than nothing. It will buy an apple apiece. Come on! Let’s go down to old Granger’s. I saw some apples there big as your head; and bigger, too,“ said Noah, with a droll wink.
”Well, come on, then;“ and away went the boys at Fred’s heels, pushing and shouting, laughing and frolicking, until they came to Abel Granger’s little grocery.
”Now hush up, you fellows,“ said Noah, turning round upon them. ”Let Fred go in by himself. Old Grange can’t abide a crowd and noise. It will make him cross, and all we shall get will be the specked and worm-eaten ones. Come, fall back, there!“
Very quietly and obediently the boys, who always knew their leader, fell back, and Fred went into the little dark grocery alone.
He was so pleasant and gentlemanly that, let him go where he would and do what he would, in some mysterious way he always found the right side of people and got what he wanted, in the most satisfactory manner.
Now Abel Granger was ”as cross as a meat axe.“ Noah said, and all the boys were afraid of him. If the apples had been anywhere else they would have been much surer of their treat; but in spite of their fears, back came Fred in a few moments, with a heaping measure of nice red apples–apples that made the boys’ mouths water.
Fred said that old Abel had given him as near a smile as could come to his yellow, wrinkled face.
”Treat ’em,“ he said, ”treat ’em, eh? Wal, now, ‘pears likely they’d eat you out of house and home. I never see a boy vet that couldn’t go through a tenpenny nail, easy as not.“
”We are always hungry, I believe,“ said Fred.
”Allers, allers–that’s a fact,“ picking out the best apples as he spoke and heaping up the measure. ”There, now if you’ll find a better lot than that, for the money, you are welcome to it, that’s all.“
”Couldn’t do it. Thank you very much,“ said Fred.
As the boys took the apples eagerly and began to bite them, they saw the old face looking out of the dirty panes of window glass upon them.
Fred loved to make everybody happy around him, and this treating was only second best to leading his class; so when, at the corner of the street turning to his father’s house, he parted from his young companions, I doubt whether there was a happier boy in all Andrewsville.
I do not think we shall blame him very much if he unconsciously carried his head pretty high and looked proudly happy.
Out from under the low archway leading to Bill Crandon’s house a boy about as tall as Fred, but stout and coarse, in ragged clothes, stood staring up and down the street as Fred came toward him.
Something in Fred’s looks and manner seemed especially to displease him. He moved directly into the middle of the sidewalk, and squared himself as if for a fight.
There was no other boy in town whom Fred disliked so much, and of whom he felt so afraid.
Sam Crandon, everybody knew, was a bully. He treated boys who were larger and stronger than himself civilly, but was cruel and domineering over the poor and weak.
So far in his life, though they met often, Fred had avoided coming into contact with Sam, and Sam had seemed to feel just a little awe of him; for Mr. Sargent was one of the wealthiest leading men in town, and Sam, in spite of himself, found something in the handsome, gentlemanly boy that held him in check; but to-day Sam’s father had just beaten him, and the boy was smarting from the blows.
I dare say he was hungry, and uncomfortable from many other causes; but however this may have been, he felt in the mood for making trouble; for seeing somebody else unhappy beside himself. This prosperous, well-dressed boy, with his books under his arm, and his happy face, was the first person he had come across–and here then was his opportunity.
Fred saw him assume the attitude of a prize fighter and knew what it meant. Sam had a cut, red and swollen, across one cheek, and this helped to make his unpleasant face more ugly and lowering than usual.
What was to be done? To turn and run never occurred to Fred. To meet him and fight it out was equally impossible; so Fred stopped and looked at him irresolutely.
”You’re afraid of a licking?“ asked Sam, grinning ominously.
”I don’t want to fight,“ said Fred, quietly.
”No more you don’t, but you’ve got to.“
Fred’s blood began to rise. The words and looks of the rough boy were a little too much for his temper.
”Move out of the way,“ he said, walking directly up to him.
Sam hesitated for a moment. The steady, honest, bold look in Fred’s eyes was far more effective than a blow would have been; but as soon as Fred had passed him he turned and struck him a quick, stinging blow between his shoulders.
”That’s mean,“ said Fred, wheeling round.
”Strike fair and in front if you want to, but don’t hit in the back–that’s a coward’s trick.“
”Take it there, then,“ said Sam, aiming a heavy blow at Fred’s breast. But the latter skillfully raised his books, and Sam’s knuckles were the worse for the encounter.
”Hurt, did it?“ said Fred, laughing.
”What if it did?“
”Say quits, then.“
”Not by a good deal;“ and in spite of himself Fred was dragged into an ignominious street fight.
Oh, how grieved and mortified he was when his father, coming down the street, saw and called to him. Hearing his voice Sam ran away and Fred, bruised and smarting, with his books torn and his clothes, too, went over to his father.
Not a word did Mr. Sargent say. He took Fred’s hand in his, and the two walked silently to their home.
I doubt whether Mr. Sargent was acting wisely. Fred never had told him an untruth in his life, and a few words now might have set matters right. But to this roughness in boys Mr. Sargent had a special aversion. He had so often taken pains to instill its impropriety and vulgarity into Fred’s mind that he could not now imagine an excuse.
”He should not have done so under any circumstances,“ said his father sternly, to himself. ”I am both surprised and shocked, and the punishment must be severe.“
Unfortunately for Fred, his mother was out of town for a few days–a mother so much sooner than a father reaches the heart of her son–so now his father said:
”You will keep your room for the next week. I shall send your excuse to your teacher. Ellen will bring your meals to you. At the end of that time I will see and talk with you.“
Without a word Fred hung his cap upon its nail, and went to his room. Such a sudden change from success and elation to shame and condign punishment was too much for him.
He felt confused and bewildered. Things looked dark around him, and the great boughs of the Norway spruce, close up by his window, nodded and winked at him in a very odd way.
He had been often reproved, and sometimes had received a slight punishment, but never anything like this. And now he felt innocent, or rather at first he did not feel at all, everything was so strange and unreal.
He heard Ellen come into his room after a few minutes with his dinner, but he did not turn.
A cold numbing sense of disgrace crept over him. He felt as if, even before this Irish girl, he could never hold up his head again.
He did not wish to eat or do anything. What could it all mean?
Slowly the whole position in which he was placed came to him. The boys gathering at school; the surprise with which his absence would be noted; the lost honor, so lately won; his father’s sad, grave face; his sisters’ unhappiness; his mother’s sorrow; and even Sam’s face, so ugly in its triumph, all were there.
What an afternoon that was! How slowly the long hours dragged themselves away! And yet until dusk Fred bore up bravely. Then he leaned his head on his hands. Tired, hungry, worn out with sorrow, he burst into tears and cried like a baby.
Don’t blame him. I think any one of us would have done the same.
”Oh, mother! mother!“ said Fred aloud, to himself, ”do come home! do come home!“
Ellen looked very sympathizing when she came in with his tea, and found his dinner untouched.
”Eat your tea, Master Fred,“ she said, gently. ”The like of ye can’t go without your victuals, no way. I don’t know what you’ve done, but I ain’t afeared there is any great harm in it, though your collar is on crooked and there’s a tear in your jacket, to say nothing of a black and blue place under your left eye. But eat your tea. Here’s some fruit cake Biddy sent o’ purpose.“
Somebody did think of and feel sorry for him! Fred felt comforted on the instant by Ellen’s kind words and Biddy’s plum cake; and I must say, ate a hearty, hungry boy’s supper; then went to bed and slept soundly until late the next morning
We have not space to follow Fred through the tediousness of the following week. His father strictly carried out the punishment to the letter No one came near him but Ellen, though he heard the voices of his sisters and the usual happy home sounds constantly about him.
Had Fred really been guilty, even in the matter of a street fight, he would have been the unhappiest boy living during this time; but we know he was not, so we shall be glad to hear that with his books and the usual medley of playthings with which a boy’s room is piled, he contrived to make the time pass without being very wretched. It was the disgrace of being punished, the lost position in school, and above all, the triumph which it would be to Sam, which made him the most miserable. The very injustice of the thing was its balm in this case. May it be so, my young readers, with any punishment which may ever happen to you!
All these things, however, were opening the way to make Fred’s revenge, when it came, the more complete.
Fred Sargent, of course, had lost his place, and was subjected to a great many curious inquiries when he returned to school.
He had done his best, in his room, to keep up with his class, but his books, studied ”in prison,“ as he had learned to call it, and in the sitting-room, with his sister Nellie and his mother to help him, were very different things. Still, ”doing your best“ always brings its reward; and let me say in passing, before the close of the month Fred had won his place again.
This was more easily done than satisfying the kind inquiries of the boys. So after trying the first day to evade them, Fred made a clean breast of it and told the whole story.
I think, perhaps, Mr. Sargent’s severe and unjust discipline had a far better effect upon the boys generally than upon Fred particularly. They did not know how entirely Fred had acted on the defensive, and so they received a lesson which most of them never forgot on the importance which a kind, genial man, with a smile and a cheery word for every child in town, attached to brawling.
After all, the worst effect of this punishment came upon Sam Crandon himself. Very much disliked as his wicked ways had made him before, he was now considered as a town nuisance. Everybody avoided him, and when forced to speak to him did so in the coldest, and often in the most unkind manner.
Sam, not three weeks after his wanton assault upon Fred, was guilty of his first theft and of drinking his first glass of liquor. In short, he was going headlong to destruction and no one seemed to think him worth the saving. Skulking by day, prowling by night–hungry, dirty, beaten and sworn at–no wonder that he seemed God-forsaken as well as man-forsaken.
Mr. Sargent had a large store in Rutgers street. He was a wholesale dealer in iron ware, and Andrewsville was such an honest, quiet town ordinary means were not taken to keep the goods from the hands of thieves.
Back doors, side doors and front doors stood open all the day, and no one went in or out but those who had dealings with the firm.
Suddenly, however, articles began to be missed–a package of knives, a bolt, a hatchet, an axe, a pair of skates, flat-irons, knives and forks, indeed hardly a day passed without a new thing being taken, and though every clerk in the store was on the alert and very watchful, still the thief, or thieves remained undetected.
At last matters grew very serious. It was not so much the pecuniary value of the losses–that was never large–but the uncertainty into which it threw Mr. Sargent. The dishonest person might be one of his own trusted clerks; such things had happened, and sad to say, probably would again.
”Fred,“ said his father, one Saturday afternoon, ”I should like to have you come down to the store and watch in one of the rooms. There is a great run of business to-day, and the clerks have their hands more than full. I must find out, if possible who it is that is stealing so freely. Yesterday I lost six pearl-handled knives worth two dollars apiece. Can you come?“
”Yes, sir,“ said Fred, promptly, ”I will be there at one, to a minute; and if I catch him, let him look out sharp, that is all.“
This acting as police officer was new business to Fred and made him feel very important, so when the town clock was on the stroke of one he entered the store and began his patrol.
It was fun for the first hour, and he was so much on the alert that old Mr. Stone, from his high stool before the desk, had frequently to put his pen behind his ear and watch him. It was quite a scene in a play to see how Fred would start at the least sound. A mouse nibbling behind a box of iron chains made him beside himself until he had scared the little gray thing from its hole, and saw it scamper away out of the shop. But after the first hour the watching for nothing became a little tedious. There was a ”splendid“ game of base ball to come off on the public green that afternoon; and after that the boys were going to the ”Shaw- seen“ for a swim; then there was to be a picnic on the ”Indian Ridge,“ and–well, Fred had thought of all these losses when he so pleasantly assented to his father’s request, and he was not going to complain now. He sat down on a box, and commenced drumming tunes with his heels on its sides. This disturbed Mr. Stone. He looked at him sharply, so he stopped and sauntered out into a corner of the back store, where there was a trap-door leading down into the water. A small river ran by under the end of the store, also by the depot, which was near at hand, and his father used to have some of his goods brought down in boats and hoisted up through this door.
It was always one of the most interesting places in the store to Fred; he liked to sit with his feet hanging down over the water, watching it as it came in and dashed against the cellar walls.
To-day it was high, and a smart breeze drove it in with unusual force. Bending down as far as he could safely to look under the store, Fred saw the end of a hatchet sticking out from the corner of one of the abutments that projected from the cellar, to support the end of the store in which the trap-door was.
”What a curious place this is for a hatchet!“ thought Fred, as he stooped a little further, holding on very tight to the floor above. What he saw made him almost lose his hold and drop into the water below. There, stretched along on a beam was Sam Crandon, with some stolen packages near him.
For a moment Fred’s astonishment was too great to allow him to speak; and Sam glared at him like a wild beast brought suddenly to bay.
”Oh, Sam! Sam!“ said Fred, at length, ”how could you?“
Sam caught up a hatchet and looked as if he was going to aim it at him, then suddenly dropped it into the water.
Fred’s heart beat fast, and the blood came and went from his cheeks; he caught his breath heavily, and the water, the abutment and even Sam with his wicked ugly face were for a moment darkened. Then, recovering himself, he said:
”Was it you, Sam? I’m sorry for you!“
”Don’t lie!“ said Sam, glowering back, ”you know you’re glad!“
”Glad? Why should I be glad to have you steal?“
”Cause I licked you, and you caught it.“
”So I did; but I am sorry, for all that.“
Fred had thought very fast while this conversation was going on. He had only to lift his head and call his father, then the boat would be immediately pushed in under the store, Sam secured and his punishment certain. There were stolen goods enough to convict him, and his mode of ingress into the store was now certain. This trap-door was never locked; very often it was left open–the water being considered the most effectual bolt and bar that could be used; but Sam, a good swimmer and climber, had come in without difficulty and had quite a store of his own hidden away there for future use. This course was very plain; but for some reason, which Fred could not explain even to himself, he did not feel inclined to take it; so he sat looking steadily in Sam’s face until he said:
”Look here, Sam, I want to show you I mean what I say. I’m sorry you have turned thief and if I can help you to be a better boy, I should be glad to.“
Again Fred’s honest kindly face had the same effect upon Sam that it had at the commencement of their street fight; he respected and trusted it unconsciously.
”Here!“ said he, crawling along on the beam and handing back the package of knives, the last theft of which his father had complained.
”Yes, that is right,“ said Fred, leaning down and taking it, ”give them all back, if you can; that is what my father calls `making restitution,’ and then you won’t be a thief any longer.“
Something in the boy’s tone touched Sam’s heart still more; so he handed back one thing after another as rapidly as he could until nearly everything was restored.
”Bravo for you, Sam! I won’t tell who took them, and there is a chance for you. Here, give me your hand now, honor bright you’ll never come here again to steal, if I don’t tell my father.“
Sam looked at him a moment, as if he would read his very soul; then he said sulkily:
”You’ll tell; I know you will, ’cause I licked you when you didn’t want me to; but you’ve got ’em all back, and I s’pose it won’t go very hard.“
”What won’t go very hard?“
”You sha’n’t go to prison at all. Here, give me your hand; I promise not to tell if you will promise not to steal any more. Ain’t that fair?“
”Yes,“ said Sam, a sudden change coming over his face, ”but you will!“
”Try me and see.“
Sam slowly and really at a great deal of peril, considering his situation, put his rough, grimed hand into Fred’s–a dishonest hand it was, and that more than the other thing made Fred recoil a little as he touched it; but that clasp sealed the compact between these two boys. It began Fred Sargent’s revenge.
”Now be off, will you, before the clerks come? They will see the things and catch you here. I’ll be round to your house soon and we will see.“
Even in this short time Fred had formed a general plan for saving Sam.
The boy, stretching himself out flat, slipped down the tranverse beam into the water, dived at once and came up under the bridge a few rods distant, then coolly passed down the river and swam to shore under a bunch of alder-bushes, by which he was concealed from the sight of the passers-by.
Fred sought his father, told him the story, then brought him to the spot, showed the goods which the boy had returned, and begged as a reward for the discovery to be allowed to conceal his name.
His father of course hesitated at so unusual a proposition; but there was something so very much in earnest in all Fred did and said that he became convinced it was best, for the present at least, to allow him to have his own way; and this he was very glad he had done when a few days after Fred asked him to do something for Sam Crandon.
”Sam Crandon?“ he asked in surprise. ”Is not that the very boy I found you fighting in the street with?“
”Yes, sir,“ said Fred, hanging his head, ”but he promises to do well, if he can only find work– honest work; you see, sir, he is so bad nobody helps him.“
Mr. Sargent smiled. ”A strange recommendation, Fred,“ he said, ”but I will try what can be done. A boy who wants to reform should have a helping hand.“
”He does want to–he wants to heartily; he says he does. Father, if you only will!“
Fred, as he stood there, his whole face lit up with the glow of this generous, noble emotion, never was dearer to his father’s heart; indeed his father’s eyes were dim, and his voice a little husky, as he said again:
”I will look after him, Fred, for your sake.“
And so he did; but where and how I have not space now to tell my readers. Perhaps, at some future time, I may finish this story; for the present let me say there is a new boy in Mr. Sargent’s store, with rough, coarse face, voice and manners; everybody wonders at seeing him there; everybody prophesies future trouble; but nobody knows that this step up in Sam Crandon’s life is Fred Sargent’s revenge.
THE SMUGGLER’S TRAP.
HUBERT had accompanied his father on a visit to his uncle, who lived in a fine old country mansion, on the shore of Caermarthen Bay.
In front of the house spread a long beach, which terminated in precipitous cliffs and rocky ledges. On the, afternoon of the day following his arrival, he declared his intention of exploring the beach.
”Don’t get caught in `The Smuggler’s Trap,’ “ said his uncle, as he mentioned his plan.
” `The Smuggler’s Trap?’ “
”Yes. It’s at the end of the beach where you see the cliffs. It’s a hollow cave, which you can only walk at very low tide. You’d better not go in there.“
”Oh, never fear,“ said Hubert carelessly, and in a few minutes he was wandering over the beach, and after walking about two miles reached the end of the beach at the base of the great cliffs.
The precipice towered frowningly overhead, its base all worn and furrowed by the furious surges that for ages had dashed against it. All around lay a chaos of huge boulders covered with seaweed. The tide was now at the lowest ebb. The surf here was moderate, for the seaweed on the rocks interfered with the swell of the waters, and the waves broke outside at some distance.
Between the base of the precipice and the edge of the water there was a space left dry by the ebb tide about two yards in width; and Hubert walked forward over the space thus uncovered to see what lay before him.
He soon found himself in a place which seemed like a fissure rent in a mountain side, by some extraordinary convulsion of nature. All around rose black, precipitous cliffs. On the side nearest was the precipice by whose base he had passed; while over opposite was a gigantic wall of dark rock, Which extended far out into the sea. Huge waves thundered at its feet and dashed their spray far upward into the air. The space was about fifty yards across.
The fissure extended back for about two hundred yards, and there terminated in a sharp angle formed by the abrupt walls of the cliffs which enclosed it. All around there were caverns worn into the base of the precipices by the action of the sea.
The floor of this place was gravelly, but near the water it was strewn with large boulders. Further in there were no boulders and it was easy to walk about.
At the furthest extremity there was a flat rock that seemed to have fallen from the cliff above in some former age. The cliffs around were about two hundred feet in height. They were perfectly bare, and intensely black. On their storm-riven summits not a sign of verdure appeared. Everything had the aspect of gloom, which was heightened by the mournful monotone of the sea waves as they dashed against the rock.
After the first feeling of awe had passed, Hubert ran forward, leaping from rock to rock, till he came to where the beach or floor of the fissure was gravelly. Over this he walked and hastened to the caverns, looking into them one after another.
Then he busied himself by searching among the pebbles for curious stones and shells. He found here numerous specimens of the rarest and finest treasures of the sea–shells of a delicacy of tint and perfection of outline; seaweeds of new and exquisite forms with rich hues which he had hitherto believed impossible.
In the hollows of the rocks, where the water yet lay in pools, he found little minnows; and delicate jelly fish, with their long slender fibers; and sea anemones; and sea urchins with their spires extended; and star-fish moving about with their innumerable creepers. It was a new world, a world which had thus far been only visible to him in the aquarium, and now as it stood before him he forgot all else.
He did not feel the wind as it blew in fresh from the sea–the dread ”sou’wester,“ the terror of fishermen. He did not notice the waves that rolled in more furiously from without, and were now beginning to break in wrath upon the rocky ledges and boulders. He did not see that the water had crept on nearer to the cliff, and that a white line of foam now lay on that narrow belt of beach which he had traversed at the foot of the cliff.
Suddenly a sound burst upon his ears that roused him, and sent all the blood back to his heart. It was his own name, called out in a voice of anguish and almost of despair by his father.
He sprang to his feet, started forward and rushed with the speed of the wind to the place by which he had entered the enclosure. But a barrier lay before him. The rolling waves were there, rushing in over the rocks, dashing against the cliff, tossing their white and quivering spray exulting in the air.
At once Hubert knew his danger.
He was caught in the ”Smuggler’s Trap,“ and the full meaning of his uncle’s warning flashed upon his mind as in his terror he shrieked back to his father.
Then there was silence for a time
While Hubert had been in the ”Trap,“ his father and uncle had been walking along the beach, and the former heard for the first time the nature and danger of the ”Smuggler’s Trap.“ He was at once filled with anxiety about his son, and had hurried to the place to call him back, when to his horror he found that the tide had already covered the only way by which the dangerous place might be approached.
No sooner had he heard Hubert’s answering cry than he rushed forward to try and save him. But the next moment a great wave came rolling in and dashed him upon the cliff. Terribly bruised, he clung to the cliff till the surf fell back, and then ran on again.
He slipped over a rock and fell, but instantly regaining his feet he advanced further, and in his haste fell into a hollow which was filled with water.
Before he could emerge another wave was upon him. This one beat him down, and it was only by clinging to the seaweed that he escaped being sucked back by the retreating surge. Bold and frenzied though he was, he had to start back from the fury of such an assault as this. He rushed backward and waited.
His eyes searched wildly around. He noticed that the surf grew more violent every moment, and every moment took away hope. But he would not yield.
Once more he rushed forward. The waves rolled in, but he grasped the rocks and withstood the surf, and still advanced. Another followed. He bowed before it, and clinging to the rocks as before came forth triumphant.
Already he was nearly halfway. He sprang upon a rock that rose above the level of the seething flood, and stood for a moment panting and gasping. But now a great wave came rolling in upon him. He fell on his knees and clung to the seaweed.
The wave struck. It hurled him from the rock. He rolled over and over. Blinded, bruised and half drowned, he felt himself dashed against the cliff. He threw his arms wildly about, but found nothing which he could seize. The retreating wave sucked him back. But a rock stayed him. This he grasped and was saved.
Then, hastily scrambling to his feet, he staggered back to the place from which he had started. Before he could get back another wave threw him down, and this time he might have been drowned had not his brother plunged in and dragged him out.
Of all this Hubert had seen nothing, and known nothing. He waited for some time in silence, and then called. There was no answer. He called again and again. But at that time his father was struggling with the waves and did not hear him. At last, after what seemed an interminable time, he heard once more his father’s voice. He shouted back.
”Don’t be afraid!“ cried the voice. ”I’ll get you out. Wait.“
And then there were no more voices.
It was about two o’clock when Hubert had entered the gorge. It was after three when his father had roused him, and made his vain effort to save him. Hubert was now left alone with the rising tide, whose waters rolled forward with fearful rapidity. The beach inside was nearly level and he saw that in an hour or so it would be covered with the waters. He tried to trust to his father’s promise, but the precious moments passed and he began to look with terror upon the increasing storm; for every moment the wind grew fiercer, and the surf rolled in with ever increasing impetuosity.
He looked all around for a place of refuge, and saw nothing except the rock which arose at the extremity of the place, at the foot of the overhanging cliffs. It was about five feet high, and was the only place that afforded anything like safety.
Up this he clambered, and from this he could survey the scene, but only to perceive the full extent of his danger. For the tide rushed in more and more swiftly, the surf grew higher and higher and he saw plainly that before long the water would reach the summit of the rock, and that even before then the surf in its violence would sweep him away.
The moments passed slowly. Minutes seemed in his suspense to be transformed to hours. The sky was overspread now with black clouds; and the gloom increased. At length the waves rolled in until they covered all the beach in front, and began to dash against the rock on which he had taken refuge.
The precious moments passed. Higher and higher grew the waters. They came rolling into the cave, urged on by the fury of the billows outside, and heaping themselves up as they were compressed into this narrow gorge. They dashed up around the rock. The spray was tossed in his face. Already he felt their inexorable grasp. Death seemed so near that hope left him. He fell upon his knees with his hands clasped, and his white face upturned. Just then a great wave rolled up and flung itself over the rock, and over his knees as he knelt, and over his hands as he clasped them in prayer. A few more moments and all would be over.
As hope left a calmness came–the calmness that is born of despair. Face to face with death, he had tasted the bitterness of death, but now he flung aside the agony of his fear and rose to his feet, and his soul prepared itself for the end. Just then, in the midst of the uproar of wind and wave, there came a sudden sound, which roused to quick, feverish throbs the young lad’s heart. It was a voice–and sounded just above him:
He looked up.
There far above him, in the gloom, he saw faces projecting over the edge of the cliff. The cry came again; he recognized the voice of his father.
For a moment Hubert could not speak. Hope returned. He threw up his arms wildly, and cried:
”Make haste! Oh, make haste!“
A rope was made fast about Hubert’s father, and he was let down over the edge of the cliff. He would allow no other than himself to undertake this journey.
He had hurried away and gathered a number of fishermen, whose stout arms and sinewy hands now held the rope by which he descended to save his son.
It was a perilous journey. The wind blew and the rope swayed more and more as it was let down, and sometimes he was dashed against the rocky sides of the precipice; but still he descended, and at last stood on the rock and clasped his son in his arms.
But there was no time to lose. Hubert mounted on his father’s shoulders, holding the rope while his father bound his boy close to him. Then the word was given, and they were slowly pulled up.
They reached the summit in safety, and as they reached it those who looked down through the gloom saw the white foam of the surf as it boiled in fury over the rock where Hubert had been standing.